Victims of industrial crime

On May 13 2019 the Australian media published articles based on research (released after embargo) conducted by the RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice and about victims of crime which those advocating for Industrial Manslaughter laws should seriously consider.

The Age newspaper reports

“Victims of crime felt let down by the system when offenders pleaded guilty to a less serious charge and did not proceed to trial ‘‘ because they wanted the opportunity to tell their story’’ , …..”

and that

“One victim interviewed during the research said they felt left out of discussions with the OPP when charges in their case were downgraded from murder to manslaughter for a plea of guilt …”

Occupational health and safety (OHS) seems a little ahead of the game here as relatives of deceased workers have been integrated into OHS consultation in both Queensland and Victoria. Relatives had a very strong voice through the Senate Inquiry into Industrial Deaths. Victim Impact Statements have been possible in the Courts for many years but Industrial Manslaughter laws add an additional depth to the participation of victims of industrial crime, and an additional risk of false promises.

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More voices raised about quad bike safety

According the Weekly Times newspaper on May 8 2019 (paywalled), Mojo Motorcycles remains committed to the Australian quad bike market. Polaris acknowledges that

“…. ATVs will go the way of the dodo.”

The Farmsafe and National Farmers Federation (NFF) Workforce Committee, Charles Armstrong, has, in Farmonline National, described the threats by Honda and Yamaha as

“….. an astonishingly infantile reaction from otherwise respected multinational companies.”

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Honda and Yamaha dig in over quad bike safety

“Just carrying on doing more reviews is not going to take us very far. We now have to make a start and that’s going to require legislation,”

These words were spoken by the head of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, Andrew Tyrie, but could easily have been a quote from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in relation to its recent review of the safety of quad bikes.

Improving the safety of quad bikes, or what used to be called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) until everyone accepted that they don’t travel safely over all terrains, has been a contentious issue in Australia for well over a decade. The issue appears in the media regularly after each death or near miss involving a quad bike rider.

Last week the issue appeared in the media for a different reason. Yamaha and Honda have both advised their dealers that if the ACCC safety recommendations and safety standard become law, they will

“….. be force[d] to cease selling utility ATVs in Australia” (Yamaha)

“… withdraw from the ATV market in Australia.” (Honda)

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Doubts raised over the value of workplace wellness programs

In some Australian workplaces, wellness programs seem to be a dominant interpretation of occupational health and safety (OHS). This is being encouraged through the support of the OHS regulatory agencies. According to one expert, the benefits of workplace wellness programs remain under-researched and what research there is requires validation. Recently Zrui Song of Harvard Medical School said this to the ABC’s Norman Swan:

“There has been a couple of decades of evidence, largely observational in nature, studies that are from single institution or single workplace interventions focused on workplace wellness. And by and large this body of evidence has suggested that the return on investment for workplace wellness programs can be quite large. However, this body of evidence has been limited. They have been limited by the ability to show causal effects of workplace wellness programs…”

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Dust clouds on kitchen benchtops

The Victorian Premier, the Minister for Workplace Safety, Dr Ryan Hoy and others at the silicosis announcement

The Victorian Government has announced that various safety initiatives are being taken on the silicosis risks associated with products described as synthetic stone. This initiative is an important first step in reducing the exposure of workers to silicosis but there are some curiosities in the announcement and WorkSafe Victoria’s accompanying Information Sheet.

The core elements of the government’s action are:

  • “A state-wide ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust
  • Free health screening for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons
  • A tough new compliance code for businesses working with silica
  • An awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone”.
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