Workplace bullying awareness increases in Australia

A reader has advised that there has been an increase in calls to WorkCover NSW concerning workplace bullying, following the sentencing of four men earlier this week in Victoria.

WorkSafe Victoria has confirmed that its advisory service is receiving 30 calls a day on the issue where the regular rate was 10.  WorkSafe also says that the calls are taking longer than regular OHS calls.  This is to be expected when dealing with psychosocial hazards.  Also, if callers are not up-to-date on the OHS criteria for bullying, it may take additional time for inspectors on the advisory line to discuss the matter. Continue reading “Workplace bullying awareness increases in Australia”

Insulation debate shows flaws in OHS harmonisation plans

On an Australian current affairs program on 11 February 2010, the Environment Minister was asked questions over the deaths of insulation installers.  Watching the interview was both fascinating and uncomfortable. (Video and transcript is available)

The interviewer, Kerry O’Brien, kept the focus on the deaths of the installers, a position that humanises the insulation installation debate and move the focus away from the public service and policy development. Continue reading “Insulation debate shows flaws in OHS harmonisation plans”

Recent workplace incidents

Below is a quick summary of some workplace incidents that have occured in Australia.  Often these sorts of incidents can be useful in reinforcing safe work practices to employees and clients.

The Metropolitan Ambulance Service in Victoria reports the following work-related incidents

Angle Grinder Blade

“…(a) 55 year old man… told us he’d been working with an angle grinder when the blade snapped off and hit him in the left side of his chest.  The wound to his upper chest was quite deep but thankfully a towel had been used to slow the bleeding before we arrived.” Continue reading “Recent workplace incidents”

Missed OHS issues in insulation debate

The future of Australia’s Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, is uncertain as he struggles for credibility in the wake of furious political attacks.

In the various media discussions there are hints of other issues, some related to OHS in Australia, that demand attention.

Australian Standards and safety planning

Chris Bowen, Minister for Financial Services defended Garrett’s handling of the foil insulation issues by referring to the role of the Australian Standard.  Bowen says the installation of the foil insulation meets the appropriate Australian Standard and that meeting the criteria of the Australian Standard was a prerequisite for government grants being made available. Continue reading “Missed OHS issues in insulation debate”

Workplace deaths lead to reforms but not of workplace safety

Australia’s Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has provided a clear indication that, although Julia Gillard may understand OHS, his department does not.

In 2009, several installers of domestic insulation died.  One died from heat stress from working in the ceiling space, another was electrocuted as the metal staple he was using to install foil insulation pierced an electricity cable.  Now the political heat is on the Australian Government because it was their climate change policy that led to a boom in unregistered and inexperienced insulation installers. Continue reading “Workplace deaths lead to reforms but not of workplace safety”

Vehicle crane safety alert

The Queensland Government has issued a safety alert of the purchasing and use of vehicle-based loading cranes (VLC).  The alert has originated from two deaths where the operator of the cranes were struck by the booms.

The safety advice offered by the government is sound – follow manufacturer’s instructions, provide suitable training – but it focusses on the lower order of control methods without asking the hard question – whether the design of such a crane is unsafe?

From the information in the alert it seems peculiar that such a crane should be on sale at all.   Continue reading “Vehicle crane safety alert”

Social networking and OHS

Less than two days ago, someone established a Facebook page in order to seek justice for Brodie Panlock.  At the time of writing the page has over 2,800 supporters, mostly young.  The page is being moderated very closely so that any inflammatory comments are jumped on very quickly.  The site has a maturity that is showing the best elements of social networking sites.

The moderators are referring to the site as a petition but this is not the traditional petition where reams of paper are presented to a politician on the steps of Parliament, although it may come to that.  What the Facebook page is showing is the modern (perhaps young) take on generating support for a cause through the technologies with which the supporters are most familiar. Continue reading “Social networking and OHS”

OHS and the death of Brodie Panlock from bullying

On 8 February 2010, four workers at Café Vamp, a small restaurant in Melbourne Victoria, were fined a total of $A335,000 for repeatedly bullying, or allowing bullying to occur to, 19-year-old Brodie Panlock.  Brodie jumped from a building in September 2006.  Her family watched Brodie die from head injuries three days later.  They were unaware that Brodie was being bullied at work. Continue reading “OHS and the death of Brodie Panlock from bullying”

“Respect Agenda” – seriously?

Recently the Victorian Premier, John Brumby reshuffled his Cabinet and created a new portfolio the “Respect Agenda”.  The Minister with responsibility for the portfolio is ex-footballer Justin Madden.  Very little has been revealed about the agenda, which has been launched after a major international kerfuffle over serious racist attacks against Indian students.  It is likely to be relevant that 2010 is an election year for Victoria.

It is useful to consider these political pledges in the light of the workplace-related suicide of Brodie Panlock in 2006. Continue reading ““Respect Agenda” – seriously?”

Biomarkers for musculoskeletal disorders

Slips, trips and falls are often the neglected “bastard son” of occupational health and safety but the can cripple and can, literally cost an arm or a leg.

The traditional approach to control these hazards have been to make  the working environment safer by mopping up spilled liquids, for instance, or be using a piece of equipment such as a stepladder, or in the long-term or in the beginning of a project, to design out hazards.

We also know that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) make occur suddenly, and dramatically and painfully, but one’s body has accumulated weaknesses over time.  The UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has released a research report that indicates a new approach to MSDs or at least a start. Continue reading “Biomarkers for musculoskeletal disorders”