More on David Michaels’ book – “statistics are people with the tears wiped away”

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?

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USA joins the red tape review rollercoaster

Melania Trump plagiarised a Michelle Obama speech.  Following the signing of an Executive Order to reform regulations, perhaps President Trump could echo these words from a similarly-themed Executive Order of President Bill Clinton in 1993:

“The American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them, not against them: a regulatory system that protects and improves their health, safety, environment, and well-being and improves the performance of the economy without imposing unacceptable or unreasonable costs on society: – regulatory policies that recognize that the private sector and private markets are the best engine for economic growth: regulatory approaches that respect the role of State, local, and tribal governments; and regulations that are effective, consistent, sensible, and understandable. We do not have such a regulatory system today”

President Trump has set the United States bureaucracy a task that has already been undertaken by the

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The challenges for Trump’s (Plan B) Labor Secretary could be huge and disruptive

Following the resignation of Andrew Puzder, President Trump has nominated Alexander Acosta to be the new Labor Secretary.  The United States media, generally, has been supportive of the nomination particularly in comparison to Puzder. However, there was a particular line in the President’s media conference that may indicate his approach to safety legislation and regulations.

“We’ve directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and call for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure and that means plant, equipment, roads, bridges, factories.” (emphasis added)

President Trump’s plans for cutting regulatory red tape was forecast during his election campaign when he stated that regulations:

“…  just stopping businesses from growing.”

President Trump or his Labor Secretary nominees have not mentioned occupational health and safety (OHS) specifically but the

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New documentary of the politics of OHS regulation in the United States

Two years ago, Rachel Maddow in the United States reported on the performance of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) under President George W Bush revealed by the Washington Post.  Cavelight Films is in the process of completing a film, Cost of Construction, First video below) which looks at the big OSHA and political context as it relates to the safety performance on a major construction project in Las Vegas.

From the trailer above, and additional information available through the Cavelight website, the film  illustrates the dubious societal value of basic capitalist approaches to workplace safety. Continue reading “New documentary of the politics of OHS regulation in the United States”

Montara oil spill report will provide clues for handling BP inquiry

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”

Off shore drilling safety will change forever

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”

A safe (social) system of work

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”