Guarding – last line of defence

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Guards around power tools or over moving parts of equipment (e.g. covers over compressor pulleys) are there for seriously good reasons. Injuries and deaths from people getting cut or caught in machinery keep happening all the time.

It’s a common misunderstanding that bits of clothes caught in moving machinery can’t be that dangerous, after all cloth rips doesn’t it? Wrong.

A loose bit of overall sleeve caught in between a pulley and pulley belt is unlikely to rip. It will have an arm or hand mangled in a micro second. Nip points on equipment can catch skin.  A de-gloved hand, where a pinch of skin is caught in machinery and the skin is ripped off the hand is as ugly as it sounds.

Do regular checks of things like angle grinders and moving parts of equipment to make sure the guards originally fitted are still in place and doing the job they have to.  People will remove guards.

Have a policy that when guards are removed to do repair or maintenance work on equipment the guards are refitted as soon as those sort of jobs are done.

Monitor use of power tools in the workshop.  Stop any work being done with power tools when the guard has been removed.

Don’t consider that a guard isn’t necessary if an operator is using some other sort of personal protective gear (e.g. using protective eye gear with a bench grinder that has no fitted shield in front of the grinder wheel).  Treat safety as a thing that works best in layers. Murphy’s Law never rests.  One level of safety protection will always fail at the wrong time.

Do regular checks on all guards on tools and equipment.  Make it a specific check. Include an evaluation of whether equipment that can catch clothes or part of a body is properly guarded.  Modern equipment designers are generally pretty good at making sure guards are fitted where they need to be, older gear is not so well designed.  If it seems entirely possible for a person to get caught by a moving bit of equipment look at having a guard made and fitted: use a specialist to do that.

Readers are at liberty to use this stuff as they see fit, but acknowledgement of the author and the source (i.e. SafetyatWorkBlog) is expected. Contact Kevin Jones first if ya wanna use it. Cheers.

Col Finnie

A slap on the wrist – Varanus prosecution

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The West Australian government has finally decided to prosecute Apache Energy over the Varanus Island explosion in 2008.  Many people are asking if the effort is worth the bother as the maximum penalty possible is a measly $A50,000.

Comparing the disruption to the state’s gas supply to the Esso-Longford explosion, which generated a Royal Commission in Victoria, it illustrates the difference in having an explosion in an isolated area, that does not kill or injure, and that allows a government to ensure domestic gas supplies.  One could argue that a major difference was also that WA did not rely solely on a single gas source.

According to one media report

Apache spokesman David Parker said it would vigorously defend the matter. “The explosion was an unfortunate and unforeseen event”.

Explosions often are unfortunate and usually unforeseen but adequate maintenance requirements of pipelines are foreseeable, just not often profitable.

Apache Energy, a subsidiary of the US energy giant Apache, has not been the most transparent and helpful corporate citizen as it has taken Federal Court action that impedes the government’s investigations.

Kevin Jones

More on the Varanus pipeline can be read by searching for “Varanus” in the search function to the right of this blog page

Worst Case Scenarios and Pandemics – 2005 interview

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In 2005 I had the great opportunity to spend some time with Peter Sandman, a world renowned risk communicator.  We spoke about worst case scenarios and risk communication in those times of avian influenza and smallpox threats.  The interview has gained additional poignancy in this time of swine flu.  

Although the audio is “noisy” as Collins St in Melbourne had more traffic on a Sunday morning than I expected, I think some readers may find this excerpt very useful at the moment.

Click on the magazine’s cover image below to download the interview transcript.

[For Peter Sandman’s current commentary on swine flu, see and especially]

or Peter Sandman’s current commentary on swine flu, see and especially 


Kevin Jones

6i11 cover

The new generation of foolhardy reporters

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In 1975 five Australian reporters were killed while covering the armed dispute between the Indonesian military and, what used to be called “freedom fighters”, the Fretilin in East Timor.  An indication of how circumstances can change is that José Ramos Horta, the current President of East Timor was a founder and former member of Fretilin, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor.

Since that time, in particular, in Australia, the issue of safety of media employees has gained considerable attention, primarily through the work of the journalist’s union, the MEAA, and the international Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma

But there are a new generation of freelancers and writers who come to reporting from outside the tertiary journalism courses (this writer included) who do not have the benefit of accessing the wisdom and advice of experienced reporters.  These writers (I do not apply the term journalist  even to myself) see the excitement of reporting from exotic locations and areas of conflict.  New technology of recording and distribution only encourages them because it makes the reporting process easier or, at least, makes it easier to provide content, the quality of the content is often questionable.

A new book is being released in Australia concerning the Balibo Five and the author spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  Tony Maniaty, who was in Indonesia at the time and spoke with the Australian reporters, touches on the risks to which the new generation of reporters are willingly exposing themselves.   His comments are timely and reinforce the importance of what used to be called listening to the wisdom of elders but now seems to be mentoring.  His comments apply to all occupations and professions.

A feature film is being made about this period and the events surrounding the Balibo Five.  Maniaty attending the shooting of the film and spoke about this in a Youtube video, ostensibly for the promotion of his book. 

Kevin Jones



Lack of restraint – Australian approach, Singapore deaths

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sa0200906[1]_Page_1The Northern Territory OHS  authority issued a guidance this week about unrestrained travel in work vehicles, a practice many of us stopped some time ago.  Obviously not everyone has.

The NT guidance is a curious document as it strongly advocates that employers assess the hazards of unrestrained travel and decide the appropriate control measures.  This advice is in line with legislative requirements and safety management protocols but clearly the authority has much clearer advice.  The document is headed 

“No seat – No belt – No ride”

The assessment has been done and the heading gives the best advice.  In OHS profession speak – if there is no seat for a passenger and/or no seat belt then NT OHS says allowing someone to travel on or in the vehicle is not acceptable.

Australia can often be glib about workplace incidents as it always looks past its region for comparisons from the US or Europe rather than looking at its immediate neighbourhood.  

Singapore’s Strait-Times reported in May 2009 about the real consequences of unrestrained travel after

“…three foreign workers sitting in the back of a lorry died after it crashed into the back of a trailer. A fourth man in the front seat also died.”

The article goes on to list the law changes that Singapore has introduced but, more interestingly, tells how much more complicated the issue is than in Australia due to the level of foreign labour.

Kevin Jones