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”

Occupational injury statistics for France released

France has released OHS statistics for 2007.  The document is currently only available in French.  My schoolboy French translation of the introduction says France is experiencing most workplace incidents in the construction industry. Continue reading “Occupational injury statistics for France released”

Politics and safety in California

Workplace safety, as is any legislation, is subjected to the political whims and decisions of whichever political party is in power at the time.  In Australia, John Howard’s conservative government almost halved the already meagre budget of the National OHS Commission, stopping many of the programs of national OHS uniformity that are now being resurrected by the Labor Government of Kevin Rudd.

On 14 January 2010 an investigative report into the operation of Cal-OSHA by KCET says that there was a marked change in the enforcement policies of Cal-OSHA shortly after the election of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California. Continue reading “Politics and safety in California”

Workplace skin cancer risk remains high

The July 2004 edition of SafetyATWORK magazine contained an interview with Sam Holt the CEO of Australian company Skin Patrol.  The fascinating service of Skin Patrol was that they travelled the outback of Australia with a mobile skin cancer testing unit.  That is a big area to cover but with the increasing incidence of skin cancer and the acceptance of ultraviolet exposure as an OHS problem, the service seemed timely.

(The interview is available HERE)

SafetyAtWorkBlog was contacted by Skin Patrol in early December 2009 as it was releasing the findings of a survey of 1,000 outdoor workers.  Its survey has these key findings:

  • 2.5 times the national reported incidence of malignant melanoma
  • One in 10 patients had a lesion highly suspicious of skin cancer
  • 26% of patients were diagnosed with moderate to severe sun damage
  • 70% of patients diagnosed with a lesion suspicious of skin cancer were aged 40 years or greater
  • Over 90% of workers who attended the Skin Patrol clinic because they were worried about a particular spot or the condition of their skin had not had their skin checked in the past 12 months prior to the onsite clinic.

The company’s media release also states:

“The incidence of melanoma for all Australians currently sits at 46 in 100,000, however for those that work outdoors that figure jumps to 100 in 100,000.”

The risks from exposure to ultraviolet are well established and our understanding of the risks have changed considerably within one generation.  The Australian culture has changed to one of sun-worshipping to one where the wearing of hats is enforced at school, hard hats have wide brim attachments, and outdoor work is undertaken in long pants and long-sleeved shirts.  Occupational control measures have been introduced.

Of course, particularly in the construction industry, principle contractors still struggle in a getting compliance with the UV-protection policies but that’s the case for many OHS policies.

Skin cancer risks through high UV exposure are well-established OHS Issues but the reality still does not mean that controlling the hazard is easy to manage.  Culturally we still want to have a tanned complexion even if it is sprayed on.  Tanned skin is still synonymous with good health even though the medical evidence differs.

Skin cancer risks in the workplace are simply another of those workplace hazards that are ahead of the non-workplace culture and that safety professionals need to manage.  The attraction with this hazard is that there is no disputing the evidence.

Kevin Jones

Australian OHS statistics just released

Safe Work Australia has released a couple more of its annual statistical reports about workplace injuries and fatalities.

The report that covers 2006/07 ( Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2006-07) included this information in the Summary of Findings

“[In 2006–07]…a total of 453 work-related traumatic injury fatalities in Australia during 2006–07.   In 2006–07, just over half (237) of all work-related injury fatalities resulted from road crashes.

Of the 453 people who died of work-related injuries, 295 (65%) died of injuries sustained while working, …a 9% increase over the previous financial year.

In addition to the Working fatalities; 93 workers died from an injury sustained while travelling to or from work … and 65 people died of injuries received as a result of someone else’s work activity.”

There was also a report on notifiable incidents which covers 2008/09.  There are disparities in these statistics so it is important to read the reports and the research limitations, by the summary includes the following:

“In 2008–09 there were 177 notified work related fatalities — 151 workers and 26 bystanders.

  • Most fatalities were of men — 158 in total. There were 17 fatalities of women (including 11 bystanders) and sex was unknown for 2 other fatalities.
  • Four industries accounted for seven out of every ten notified work-related fatalities — 26% of fatalities occurred at a workplace primarily engaged in Agriculture, forestry & fishing; 18% in Construction; 15% in Transport & storage; and 9% in Mining.
  • The most common causes of the fatalities were Vehicle accidents (54 fatalities); Being hit by moving objects (34 fatalities); Falls from a height (20 fatalities); Being hit by falling objects (16 fatalities); and Drowning/immersion (14 fatalities).”

This report also includes details of “bystander fatalities” which are defined as “deaths of members of the public, such as passers-by or visitors to workplaces — including children — who die as a consequence of another person’s work activity.”  The report provides a good amount of details on these, and other, fatalities:

There were 26 bystander fatalities notified in 2008–09. These included:

  • 9 bystander fatalities caused by vehicle accidents, of these 6 occurred when cars and trucks collided.
  • 6 bystander deaths due to drowning. Of these, 3 occurred while white-water rafting and 2 occurred while snorkelling or diving.
  • 4 bystander deaths that occurred when the person was hit by a vehicle, of these, 2 deaths occurred while the vehicle was reversing.

Kevin Jones

Australian research figures into quad-bike deaths and injuries

A SafetyAtWorkBlog reader drew our attention to a research report on quad bike safety by one of Australia’s most well-known researchers into agricultural safety, Lyn Fragar.

The report entitled “ATV Injury on Australian Farms – The Facts – 2006” details a compilation of police, hospital and injury data from many years concerning ATVs or quad bikes.  Recommendations and observations are made but curiously the design of the vehicles is not considered as a contributory factor in rollovers and rollover protection structures are not mentioned.

Kevin Jones