Reputable Australian government body announces first farm safety survey

There is a lot of silence on the quadbike safety front.  An Australian industry code of practice seems overdue, the findings of a New Zealand inquiry into farm safety are yet to be finalised and released…… But the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) has today announced its first survey into farm safety and it will include questions on quad bikes. Continue reading “Reputable Australian government body announces first farm safety survey”

Shift work research findings are grounds for big concern

A scientific symposium held in Canada in April 2010 has raised some serious concerns about the health impacts of shift work.  Some of the evidence has existed for a while but collecting it all together makes one wonder how companies can justify shift work in the face of such high risks to workers’ health.

From the evidence presented at the symposium, workers will be tired at work when working shift work and are more likely to be injured than those on day shift.  Some workers have an increased risk of breast cancer.  Foetal growth in some pregnant women may be impeded.  Circadian disruption may encourage the growth of tumours and an international agency is convinced sufficiently of the risks to determine that shift work itself is probably carcinogenic.

The Occupational Cancer Research Centre and the Institute for Work & Health should be applauded for making the evidence presented at the symposium publicly accessible.   Continue reading “Shift work research findings are grounds for big concern”

Mining Minister’s safety claims challenged

Two days ago, Ian Macdonald, the New South Wales Minister for Mineral Resources opened the annual conference of the NSW Minerals Council. It was  a dour presentation but delegates said that the Minister is not the most exciting public speaker.  Macdonald announced a new research program into safety culture, an announcement that did not get much response from the conference delegates, although the project is significant.

The day after opening the conference the Minister releases

“the State’s first Coal Mine Safety Audit Report of over 290 coal mining operations in NSW.”

Did he not think that such a report would have been important to launch at a conference of over 400 NSW mining delegates which included several CEOs of NSW mining corporations? Continue reading “Mining Minister’s safety claims challenged”

New Mesothelioma Registry and government answers asbestos questions

The Australian Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard, this morning launched the latest Australian Mesothelioma Registry.  SafetyAtWorkBlog took the opportunity to ask Safe Work Australia some specific questions about asbestos and government policy.  Their responses are below.

The government has awarded the contract for the new Australian Mesothelioma Registry to a consortium led by the Cancer Institute of NSW. Continue reading “New Mesothelioma Registry and government answers asbestos questions”

The fragility of evidence – suicide example

Workplace fatality data is an essential ingredient in benchmarking safety performance for business and government.  Suicide statistics are equally important in the social and public health context.

The editorial in the current issue of the Medical Journal of Australia has some interesting comments on how suicide statistics have been collected in Australia over the last decade.

“….a great deal of caution must be employed when interpreting trends in suicide in Australia during the past decade, Continue reading “The fragility of evidence – suicide example”

Minister says public service safety performance is lamentable

“….I would ….suggest that government (as employer and dutyholder, and as policy maker) can, and should, be an exemplar of OHS best practice.  By taking the lead in the systematic management of occupational health and safety, government can influence the behaviour of individuals and firms upon whom duties are imposed by the OHS legislation.”

In 2004, Chris Maxwell QC wrote the above words in his review of the OHS legislation in Victoria. According to a report in the Australian Financial Review (only available by subscription or hard copy) on 6 April 2010, the Minister for WorkCover, Tim Holding, seems to share some of Maxwell’s view.   Holding is reported to have said in a speech that

“The truth is that the performance of workplace safety in the Victorian public service continues to be lamentable Continue reading “Minister says public service safety performance is lamentable”

The first workers’ compensation harmonisation meeting a sham: unions

“The conference inside is a bit of a sham” claimed Brian Boyd, Victorian Trades Hall Secretary at the first meeting into the harmonisation of Australia’s workers compensation laws.

“It’s really another hidden agenda about trying to harmonise workers comp after we fully know already, they’ve messed up harmonisation of OHS.”

Continue reading “The first workers’ compensation harmonisation meeting a sham: unions”

Government can do much better on level crossing safety

The Victorian Government is likely to say the Auditor-General’s report into “Management of Safety Risks at Level Crossings“, released on 24 March 2010, supports the government’s initiatives.  This is true but the report says much more than just describing the State Government’s efforts as “satisfactory”.  (If my child’s report card said satisfactory, I would be talking to the teacher about why the performance was only “satisfactory”)

The report summary says the following:

“The rate of progress in improving safety and reducing accidents has been satisfactory.  There are, however, elements of the risk management framework and its application that can be improved.”
These elements are specified as
  • “improving how the committee is informed of the views of the rail managers, who run train services and maintain the infrastructure, about their risks and priorities
  • assembling information that will allow the committee to effectively manage and monitor the delivery of the Towards Zero strategy
  • improving the understanding of what causes level crossing collisions.” [link added]

Clearly the Parliamentary committee is not getting the full risk story from the rail managers. Continue reading “Government can do much better on level crossing safety”

Blog data by region

February 2010 was the first month for SafetyAtWorkBlog to achieve well over 10,000 readers.  Thanks for all your support.

Also in February 2010, the ClustrMaps widget was installed.  Every month or so the graphic representations on the world map will be reconfigured to show the countries from which the blog is being read.  There are no privacy concerns with this as the only data we can access is country stats but those stats may be of interest to readers so a pie chart has been produced.

The readership ratios are bound to vary in relation to issues in those regions.  For instance, if this data was available for the period where we wrote about the Icepak explosion, the New Zealand numbers would be higher.

If one takes the monthly readership of 10,000, it is easy to get an idea of real numbers.

Maybe Australia is looking in the wrong direction on harmonising workers’ compensation

South Australia has pledged to increase competition in its local workers’ compensation scheme in the hope of improving (some say fixing) it.  Most other Australian States have a competitive structure with private insurers.  In a couple of years, those insurers will be battling it out to achieve national coverage as the Federal Government moves to harmonise the State systems.

New data from Canada shows that perhaps Australia needs to take a deep breath and nationalise workers’ compensation for the good of the injured workers and business.

A February 2010 report from the Institute for Work & Health has concluded that

“The public administration of workers’ compensation in the Canadian systems provides a strong economic benefit to employers, arising from the lower administrative costs of a single public agency compared with the costs arising in a competitive insurance market. Continue reading “Maybe Australia is looking in the wrong direction on harmonising workers’ compensation”