I found time to read the rest of David Michaels’ latest book “The Triumph of Doubt“. It was loaded with information that is directly relevant to the Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) sector but more about the manipulation of facts and the stealth of lobbyists and influencers than on the hazards themselves. Here’s my take on some of his thoughts.
Two Australian case studies that would not have been out of place in a book like Michaels’, or even an Australian supplement to his book, were quad bikes and workplace mental health. Quad bike safety is the better fit with Michaels’ approach as many of the techniques of Zellner and Dynamic Research Incorporated, and the strategies of international all-terrain vehicle manufacturers, reflect the those strategies in the book.
David Michaels writes about chemicals, primarily, but many of his words hint that similar “doubt scientists” could be already in the psychological health and wellness sector, except these scientists are less about reacting to litigation and legislation than supporting and strengthening an industry in anticipation of increased regulatory scrutiny. “Pre-action”, perhaps?
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”
The Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea that lasted for three months in late 2009 was large but affected no countries directly and is certainly a long way from the Gulf of Mexico and BP. However there are enough similarities for considerable media attention to be focused on the investigative report into the incident that was handed to the Australian Government on 17 June 2010.
The Australian Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, acknowledged the receipt of the commission of inquiry’s final report but will not be releasing it yet.
Greens Senator Rachel Seiwert has said:
“The release of all information available to date is essential for the development of new regulatory and environmental procedures…. We need to be better prepared to respond to future disasters in our precious marine environment.”
Seiwert has at least acknowledged the global context of the report:
“Halliburton is reported to have carried out cementing work on both the Montara well and the US Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. The failure of this cementing has been linked in the media to both spills.”
Speculation is that the report will recommend a “single national regulator for off-shore drilling” according to the Australian Financial Review (AFR) on 19 June 2010 (p5. not available online). Continue reading “Montara oil spill report will provide clues for handling BP inquiry”
The ramifications for corporate America and particularly, the oil industry, from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are becoming clearer. In his 15 June 2010, address to the nation, President Obama stated his financial and operational expectations of BP prior to his meeting the company’s CEO, Tony Hayward on 16 June.
In essence, BP will be required to fund compensation for the families of dead and injured workers and those who are suffering economic hardship as a result of action which the President described as “reckless”. The distrust of BP was evident by the compensation fund, which is likely to be billions of dollars, being administered by a third party.
But the BP spill has changed the way that oil exploration and extraction will occur in American waters. Continue reading “Off shore drilling safety will change forever”
For years Australian OHS legislation has focused on establishing a “safe system of work”. This focus is inclusive and is an understandable approach to safety regulation but it has also generated a fair share of confusion. If a business does not have a documented safety management system, does it have a system of work? Yes it does but the lack of documentation makes it very difficult to describe, particularly if there is a performance benchmark such as “compliance”. Humans like to have a clean line of cause and effect or a linear, causative management process. So vague concepts like “system of work” can be challenging.
Prescriptive rules used to be the way that safety compliance could be met but that world is long gone. Its distance can be seen by looking at the Australian Government’s new model Work Health and Safety Act which compounds the vagueness by including “as far as reasonably practicable” wherever possible. All of this vagueness makes the lot of the business operator more complex and more costly as the business operator seeks clarity from others such as lawyers, OHS consultants, auditors and Standards organizations. Is it any wonder that safety is seen as an exorbitant cost? In essence, OHS regulators have outsourced the responsibility, and the cost, to employers. Continue reading “A safe (social) system of work”