Queensland safety magazine released

The Queensland Division of the Safety Institute of Australia regularly produces a newsletter/magazine of consistent quality and the November 2010 edition is available online.

This edition includes an article by Warwick Pearse on the Montara oil spill.  Pearse did not have the luxury of access to the final reports or government’s response but he makes sound recommendations.

Kevin Jones

WorkSafe’s Homecoming Advertisements

‘Why is the most important reason for good workplace health and safety standards not at work at all?’ asks the Homecoming advertisement by implication.  Because the injured or killed worker will leave his/her family behind, or harm them if they are injured or killed.  S/he needs to think about them and the workplace H&S standard; about their pain and the OHS standard.  About them and his/her possibly unsafe behaviour at work so s/he can return home in one piece; return to them. And the imagery is of a patiently waiting young boy, waiting for his father at the front of the house holding a ball.  How desperate, lost and lonely that little boy would be if his father (in this case) was killed at work.  Your heart goes out to him and thereby an emotional driver has been activated.  And, in truth, tragically, such occasions do happen, too often.

Then the father appears and the boy smiles from ear to ear, we can feel the happiness permeating the ambrosia of human wellbeing.  Father has come home safe and sound, boy is happy, family is whole, healthy and safe.  I can’t remember, does mother peak smilingly from behind the corner as dinner simmers in the kitchen?  Your heart swells.  Good advert wouldn’t you say?

It’s very hard to change people’s behaviour.  It’s hard to get people to effectively achieve sustained improvements in anything.   Therefore, haven’t the marketers achieved a lot with this series of advertisements?

Let’s see:  first, are there likely to be any OHS improvements at work as a result of any of these ads?  I haven’t seen any, have you?  Think hard, what exactly has changed?

Secondly, have managers been touched by these ads so that they will now rush out and make dramatic OHS improvements?  Continue reading “WorkSafe’s Homecoming Advertisements”

Montara oil spill report finally released

On 24 November 2010, the Australian Government finally released the investigation report into the 2009 Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea that has similarities to the oil rig explosion of BP in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The Energy & Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, has sat on the report since the Board of Inquiry presented its findings in June 2010 even though there could have been industry-wide safety and design lessons.  Significantly, the report was released after the recent Federal election  and, according to the Minister’s media release, has found :

“At the heart of this matter is the failure of the operator and the failure of the regulator to adhere to this regime.  Montara was preventable.  If either – or preferably both – PTTEP AA or the Northern Territory Designated Authority had done their jobs properly and complied with requirements, the Montara Blowout would never have happened.”

For those readers in America and the Gulf of Mexico, these words may echo what they have heard only a few months ago.

The Government response supports the Report’s finding states:

“…that PTTEP AA’s widespread and systemic procedural shortcomings were a direct cause of the Montara incident.  In addition, the Report identified concerns relating to the integrity of the remaining wells (H2, H3, H4 and GI) at the Montara Wellhead Platform.  The Commissioner concluded that PTTEP AA did not achieve proper control of any of the five wells at the Montara oil field, and that PTTEP AA’s internal systems were insufficient to achieve a high quality of assurance in respect of well operations.” [link added] Continue reading “Montara oil spill report finally released”

Half price psychosocial hazard books

Rarely does SafetyAtWorkBlog recommend the purchase of books but Federation Press is offering 50% off any Willan Publishing titles through to 17 December 2010.  For those unfamiliar with this publisher, below are some of the titles that are relevant to occupational health and safety:

Safety Crimes by Steve Tombs and David Whyte

Workplace Violence by Vaughan Bowie, Bonnie Fisher and Cary L Cooper

Violence at Work by Martin Gill, Bonnie Fisher and Vaughan Bowie

There are many other titles concerning social issues which may be of relevance to some industrial sectors.

Kevin Jones

Note: SafetyAtWorkBlog occasionally receives review copies from Federation Press but with this special offer, a selection of books have been purchased.

CSR and public health

The recent conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) gave considerable attention to corporate social responsibility (CSR).  It could be argued that this shows the ASSE is years behind many others but it could also be argued that CSR has a practical longevity in workplace safety that may have faded in other CSR areas.

A recent article in Health Education, “Workplace health promotion within small and medium-sized enterprises” may provide some clues for forward planning on mental health, wellbeing and OHS.  The authors* write:

“There needs to be a clear distinction between activities focused purely on internal business management and those with a wider public health impact.  Consideration needs to be given to human resource policies and procedures, as these are beyond employees’ personal control, yet have a direct and indirect effect on their working life and the smooth running of the business they work for.”

This should give greater confidence to HR practitioners that the “soft sciences” of human resources are an important element of corporate wellbeing and profitability but there is also a clear indication from the article that various organisational elements need to “play well” with each other in order to achieve the potential benefits; Continue reading “CSR and public health”

Lord Young OHS review welcomed by UK’s HSE

The latest podcast by the Health & Safety Executive includes an interesting interview with the chair of the HSE, Judith Hackitt.

Hackitt admits that any review of occupational health and safety needed

“someone who could look beyond the remit of the Health and Safety Executive and look at what the other factors are out there that create the problems that we all know only too well that create all the nonsense and the myths.”

Lord Young certainly looks at other factors such as over-enthusiastic legal firms but it is hard to not think that someone other than Lord Young could have undertaken the review and come out with a more constructive plan of attack.  In many ways his report confirms the misperceptions of OHS.  Lord Young says, in his report:

“…the standing of health and safety in the eyes of the public has never been lower, and there is a growing fear among business owners of having to pay out for even the most unreasonable claims. Press articles recounting stories where health and safety rules have been applied in the most absurd manner, or disproportionate compensation claims have been awarded for trivial reasons, are a daily feature of our newspapers.”

This says more about the UK media than it does about the OHS laws themselves.  Lord young is very light on his recommendations to curb or counter the inaccurate reporting by the media.  He recommends combining food safety and OHS:

“Promote usage of the scheme by consumers by harnessing the power and influence of local and national media.”

He should have gone further but that would require looking at issues such as accuracy in reporting and the UK media is notorious for beat-ups and entrapment.  UK newspapers feed on the “Yes Minister” absurdities of bureaucracy and when health and safety relates to children, in particular, they go all out. Continue reading “Lord Young OHS review welcomed by UK’s HSE”

Australian OHS expert in advisory role on Gulf oil spill

Australian Professor Andrew Hopkins is currently in the United States advising the Chemical Safety Board in its investigation of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Several months ago it was rumoured that Hopkins would be part of the Commission of Inquiry, a rumour quickly denied by Hopkins and others.

According to a media release from FutureMedia, Hopkins will

“…spend several months working at the Board’s office in Denver as well as interviewing company managers in both the US and in London, where BP is headquartered.”

Hopkins has been interviewed by many media outlets in relation to the Gulf Oil Spill and BP’s safety culture due to his investigation of the Texas Oil Refinery explosion at a BP facility in 2005.  Continue reading “Australian OHS expert in advisory role on Gulf oil spill”

Avoiding the OHS training dead-end

[Ed: There has been a terrific response to Col Finie’s post on training and OHS qualifications both on and off the SafetyAtWorkBlog.  Col provides a further article below]
Brett’s point is critical for mine.

[“I reiterate my point that practical experience is the key, because if you do not use that “core body of knowledge” on a regular basis, then you will most likely forget what you have learned, or at a minimum it may become redundant.”]

It goes to the heart of what has to drive the core body of knowledge and accreditation.

Every qualification is no more (or less) than a catalyst for future learning.  I heard someone mention there is a rule of thumb that any qualification, at any level, becomes redundant within 5 years after completing it if it isn’t supplemented with on-going learning.

Clearly the question of a minimum qualification to start the passage of on-going learning has to be informed by the complex thing of describing a core body of knowledge.  A complex project can only be dealt with properly by dividing into discrete bunches of key issues.  And ideally, that division should be done with as few preconceived ideas as possible.

For mine I think there have been some preconceived ideas brought to the project table that look like they are sending the project into a “solutions cul-de-sac”.  Continue reading “Avoiding the OHS training dead-end”

What academic qualifications are needed to be a safety professional?

The Safety Institute of Australia has been investigating the development of a “core body of knowledge” for OHS in Australia for some years.  Recently the institute released a discussion paper on the proposed accreditation idea for OH&S professionals.  There is some similarity to moves in other countries such as the UK and to the situation in Canada.  Regular contributor Col Finnie comments below:

“……after a read of [the SIA document I] got very confused.   As far as I can see the accreditation thing seems to not paying any regard to the VET (vocational education) sector, and all the OH&S related quals.   Before I make any comment on the proposed accreditation paper I thought I should look for some clarification from people who are more aware of the nitty gritty.  To that end I posted a topic on the SIA Educators forum [members only].   But to reach a bigger audience I have provided a reproduction of the SIA member’s forum post here.

It’s part question, part observation of what seems to be an anomaly in the way the accreditation conversation seems to be heading.  I’m keen to see what you people reckon.   Continue reading “What academic qualifications are needed to be a safety professional?”

Major rethink on Australian Standards needed

A recent download of a “free” guide from the Victorian Building Commission on retrofitting a home for bushfire protection raised the ongoing nonsense of Australian Standards costs.  Sure enough, this free guide is only notionally so; if you don’t hand over $100  then the guide has limited use.

The guide I got, “A guide to retrofit your home for better protection from a bushfire”, is packed with useful info, up to the point you need the nitty-gritty.  Time and time again the reader is sent off to AS 3959 – Construction of buildings in bush-fire prone areas.  Being in OH&S-World we get used to that little double-blind.  Happens all the time with regs and codes and all sorts of guidance stuff.  And it is ridiculous. Its gotta change.

As best as I know a massive cost of development of Australian Standards is born by the participating development organizations.  They are the ones that foot the salary bill to have their staff go off to meetings to formulate the Standards.  Sure, there is going to be lots of other costs, but from what I can see this critical contribution to the development of Australian Standards is a cost to the businesses and government agencies taking part (ultimately a community cost) and the double whammy comes when you want to buy a Standard.

The fact that such an important bit of guidance on protecting homes from bushfire is essentially diminished by the need to spend $100 to get the Standard really slams home the point that change has to happen.

For mine, all PDF downloads of Australian Standards should be free.  A cost recovery cost for a hard copy seems fair enough. I don’t know about the experience of others, but it borders on embarrassing to be giving a punter help on this or that OH&S issue and then have to add “Oh and I think you have no choice but to fork out $XXX for this Standard.”  I hate that, and where I can I avoid it.  But clearly there’s times when it’s impossible.

Perhaps it’s time to get fair dinkum about improved standards of safety, and fair dinkum in way that truly cuts the bullshit?  And that means nationally developed Standards become the nation’s product; PDF copies free to anyone who needs to use ‘em.

Col Finnie
col@finiohs.com