Jim Ward is hardly known outside the Australian trade union movement but many people over the age of thirty, or in the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession, may remember the person Esso blamed for the Esso Longford explosion in 1998. Just after the nineteenth anniversary of the incident that killed two workers and injured eight other, SafetyAtWorkBlog interviewed Ward about the incident but, more significantly, also about how that incident changed his world view.
For some time now Jim Ward has been the National OHS Director for the Australian Workers’ Union. Here is a long interview with Ward that provides a useful perspective on OHS while Australia conducts its National Safe Work Month.
[Note: any links in the text have been applied by SafetyAtWorkBlog]
SAWB: Jim, what happened at Longford, and what did it mean for you.
JW: So, on 25 September 1998, I got up out of bed and went to work, just as I’d done for the previous 18 years of my working life, at the Esso gas plant facility at Longford in Victoria.
There was nothing unforeseen or untoward about that particular day. But due to, as one judge elegantly described it, “a confluence of events”, it turned out to be the most significant day of my life.
Last year Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ contribution to occupational health and safety (OHS) was celebrated in Australia. At the event, a publisher was promoting Hopkins’ upcoming autobiography. The book is not an autobiography, it is better.
The book is called “Quiet Outrage – The Way of a Sociologist” and was released in March 2016. Don’t be surprised if you have not heard of this new release. The publisher, Wolters Kluwer, seems to have done next to nothing to promote this book even though Hopkins’ works have been a major seller for the company. Hopkins writes that 90,000 copies of his books have been sold around the world – an extraordinary achievement for an Australian sociologist. Continue reading “Quiet Outrage inspires”
Any new book by Andrew Hopkins is a cause for excitement. The latest book co-written with Associate Professor Jan Hayes* focusses, primarily, on two pipeline disasters in the United States but has sufficient information and thoughts for those OHS professionals outside this sector and jurisdiction.
“Nightmare Pipeline Failures: Fantasy planning, black swans and integrity management” is a typically slim volume written in Plain English that benefits from the broad knowledge of its authors. Readers of Hopkins’ early books will get all of the cross-references. In some ways, this book can be seen as almost a case-study of Hopkins’ work on mindfulness and high-reliability organisation, as the themes of management perspectives, activity and decision-making occur repeatedly in this book. Continue reading “New book on pipeline safety has OHS lessons for all”
On 8 August 2011, the Australian Financial Review (not available online) reported on a letter from the head of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Agency (NOPSA), John Clegg, that criticised the Western Australian government’s regulatory regime for offshore petroleum exploration. The crux of the letter was that WA does not require energy companies to develop a “safety case” for their offshore operations.
The letter referred specifically to the Varanus Island pipeline explosion under the control of Apache Corporation. The AFR paraphrased the letter:
“…Clegg said….that given WA legislation at the time of the Varanus Explosion it was “doubtful” that Apache Corporation, the US operator of Varanus, had any obligation to adhere to a “safety case”, the crucial tool for management of oil and gas field safety.”
The “safety case” requirement for complex processing industries originated after the inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster of 1988 and has become a default safety management process in many jurisdictions around the world. (UK’s Health & Safety Executive has some excellent background resources on this)
The political arguments between State and Federal jurisdictions will be a major impediment to safety reforms in this industry sector – a tension to which few in the Eastern Australian States may give adequate attention. The tension echoes the continuing conflict over OHS harmonisation laws. Continue reading “Politics slows the safety regulation process in Australian oilfields”
The Australian government has indicated that it will release a report into the Montara oil spill after the general election. However the Australian election result remains in doubt and, therefore, still no report.
The frustration over this stalling has begun to appear in the very conservative Australian newspaper, The Australian Financial Review (AFR). Once the business and financial community start complaining, a government knows something is serious.
In the AFR editorial on 1 September 2010 (not available online),
“The Borthwick report is likely to make some tough recommendations on safety procedures to prevent another spill. The inquiry heard extraordinary evidence that crucial work programs on the rig were sometimes scrawled on a whiteboard. PTTEP has a promised to review its procedures in the light of the deficiencies raised at the inquiry, but the government should look further afield. It is hard to imagine that PTTEP was a totally isolated case.” Continue reading “Pressure grows for the release of oil drilling investigation”