Okay, I don’t smell but am I safe?

King Gee recently released a range of work clothing that is manufactured using a technique that reduces the wearer’s body odour.   A sample was sent to SafetyAtWorkBlog unrequested.   For those tradespeople with a body odour issue, the clothing may be a godsend, maybe more so for the people they have to work with.   The new clothing has received at least one media mention.

The issue that has stopped me from wearing the sample shirt is that the “odour-killing” properties are due to a process of:

“…. engineering molecules at the nanoscale …[that] transforms the very fibers of the fabric to provide unsurpassed odour elimination.”

Nanotechnology is a recent technology that is being applied widely but without a detailed consideration of the possible health effects to the user, the environment and to those who manufacture nano-materials. Continue reading “Okay, I don’t smell but am I safe?”

Two workplace incidents – zookeeper and jockey

On 1 February 2010 a zookeeper at the Werribee Zoo was pinned for several minutes under a gate weighing around 200 kilograms.  The Metropolitan Ambulance Service reported that

“…the woman in her 20s was pinned under a gate weighing more than three hundred kilograms, for approximately three minutes.”

According to Paramedic Brett Parker,

“Thankfully a number of staff were nearby and three men managed to lift the gate off her body.  Incredibly when we arrived the woman was upright and talking, but she was in significant pain.  Given the potential for spinal injury we gave her pain relief medication before fitting her with a neck brace.” Continue reading “Two workplace incidents – zookeeper and jockey”

Work harder? You must be mad

On 24 January 2010, the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, encouraged all Australians to increase their “productivity growth“.  But what if increased productivity could result in developing a mental disorder?

The February 2010 edition of the  Harvard Mental Health Letter includes a report that lists the following key points:

  • “Symptoms of mental health disorders may be different at work than in other situations.
  • Although these disorders may cause absenteeism, the biggest impact is in lost productivity.
  • Studies suggest that treatment improves work performance, but is not a quick fix.”

Will the Australian Government review its policy on mental health?  Will the Prime Minister accept that productivity and mental health are both long term problems that need strategies that extend beyond his next term in office? Continue reading “Work harder? You must be mad”

Level crossing investigation reports

The Victorian Auditor-General is conducting an investigation into the “management of safety risks at level crossings”.  Victoria’s Coroner is also investigating several, of the many, deaths at level crossings.

According to the Auditor-General’s website the level crossing report will be tabled in Parliament next month.  It is understood that the three nominated level crossing hearings of the Victorian Coroner will commence sometime in 2010. Continue reading “Level crossing investigation reports”

Internet addiction in the workplace

If the prevention of depression is better than trying to treat it, how should a safety manager proceed when permissible work practices may be contributing to mental health problems in some workers?

A new UK study announced today says “that excessive internet use is associated with depression”.  The researchers say that

“…some users have developed a compulsive internet habit, whereby they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.  The results suggest that this type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health.” Continue reading “Internet addiction in the workplace”

Near miss but no government action

On 28 January 2010, three men walked away from the helicopter that crashed in Northern New South Wales on the lip of a 1,000 metre cliff.  The Australian media covered it fairly extensively.  What is curious about this air crash is that there is no government investigation into the possible cause of the crash.

OHS professionals advocate the inclusion of “near misses” in any investigation program so such a lack of interest seems peculiar.

One media report said that both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) will not be investigating.  (The company that owned the helicopter is in Queensland). Continue reading “Near miss but no government action”

Dipping into workplace violence

Jeff Sparrow recently gained considerable media attention with his book that reflected on violence in society.  Yossi Berger once described occupational health and safety as a “kind of violence” in his book of that title.  There is a lot of research  into occupational violence, much of it from the United States which, to some extent, has an unrepresentative view of this hazard.

An interesting, and brief, discussion on the matter is a chapter in the book “Perspectives on Violent and Violent Death” published by Baywood Publishing.  The existential perspective of one particular chapter may make it impractical for safety management purposes but as a background article for provoking thought, it is very good.

Without this chapter I would not have found the work of C E Newhill* into client violence in social work or that of C L Charles.  Charles identified some factors that have contributed to the “anger epidemic” which may provide some clues on understanding occupational violence.   These are listed below:

No guard = hand injuries + $50k penalty

Machine guarding is one of the most effective and longstanding control measures for occupational hazards.  Sometimes safety people even get excited about them.  Equally safety people, regulators and magistrates, get angry when the guards are left off.

One company in South Australia on 1 February 2010 received two penalties for similar hand injuries that occurred only days apart in 2007.   Continue reading “No guard = hand injuries + $50k penalty”

Does OHS training work?

Businesses thrive on the concept of return on investment (ROI) but it has been very hard to apply this to training in workplace safety and SafetyatWorkBlog can only provide clues to this relationship.

Training is an important component in any company’s safety management program but it will not solve all OHS ills, regardless of  the claims of some training providers.  Specific training to achieve licences is one type of training where skills become directly practical but other training, such as First Aid, Health & Safety Representative (HSR) training or general OHS training, is more difficult to quantify. Continue reading “Does OHS training work?”

Operating cranes without a certificate costs $13,500

Only a day or two after writing about fines applied in Victoria over ignoring improvement notices from OHS inspectors, a similar case has been reported by SafeWork South Australia.

According to SafeWorkSA:

“Gillman-based Adelaide Ship Construction International Pty Ltd was fined $13,500 after pleading guilty to failing to comply with three Prohibition Notices issued by SafeWork SA.

The court heard how in September 2006, the shipbuilder’s managing director continued to operate a mobile crane and elevated work platform after removing the yellow “Do Not Use” tags placed on them by inspectors.

The Prohibition Notices were issued as a result of the lack of inspection records and logbooks for the machinery, and the managing director being unable to produce a certificate of competency to operate the crane.”

Continue reading “Operating cranes without a certificate costs $13,500”