Look for evidence in online OHS content 4

In occupational health and safety, as with any profession, it is useful to ask for evidence. When on a work site, it is important to always ask “why?” Why do you do your work task that way? Why are you not wearing the PPE that everyone else is wearing? Why are you working such late hours?

But in the publishing and internet world it is equally important to ask for evidence from safety commentators. The SafetyAtWorkBlog has an editorial policy and practice of linking back to original material, articles or court cases, if they are available online, or providing some other references so that readers can source the original material, the evidence on which an article is based or a comment made. This type of editorial policy and practice is missing from many blogs leading, as a result, to the perception of a lack of authority. The latest example of this is the 30 Days of OHS campaign by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).

The 30 Days of OHS campaign is a new strategy for the SIA and it should be applauded for trying something new.  But the initial editorial practice for the early campaign contributions is shaky. For instance, the 12 October 2011 article on resilience says

“..in a recent survey….” and

“..research has clearly shown…”

The author, Rhett Morris, has told SafetyAtWorkBlog that the survey mentioned was undertaken for a client. (Morris has provided a copy of the survey which is available HERE).  When contacted by SafetyAtWorkBlog Morris had not been advised that the article had been accepted for the campaign let alone it being online.  He also stressed that the article is a 400-word extract from a much longer article, a fact that the SIA should have included in order to provide a better context for the article.  There is clearly more dialogue required between the SIA and contributors. More…

Examining core values may benefit safety Reply

Contemporary safety training is increasing discussing the core values of employees and managers.  This focus can be very confronting for many people as core values are rarely discussed or even acknowledged, yet they could be central to the modern approach to safety management and safety compliance.

New safety legislation in Australia applies a common obligation across jurisdictions and industries to consult about health and safety, to communicate, to listen.  But personal and corporate OHS obligations are well established so will the reiteration of these obligations in the consultative process have the impact expected?  Does this conversation make safety more important, more “front of mind?

A better result may come from discussing core values in the workplace safety and health context.  Some may look for these core values to be exposed via expensive training courses and awareness gurus but the first step could be to simply ask one’s self, or discuss with one’s partner, the question “what are my core values?” or “what do I believe?” or “what is most important to me?” More…

OHS reviews need to leap forward to relevance 9

Several times recently people have suggested that common sense is an adequate control measure for some workplace hazards.  The United Kingdom’s politicians have been talking about common sense and OHS for several months but perhaps we can apply the broad concept of commonality, implicit in the UK’s advocacy of “common sense”, to OHS information so that people and businesses feel empowered to educate themselves on how to work safety and without risks to health.

Australia’s (seemingly) derailed review of OHS legislation is based on removing red tape but a major focus of OHS reviews in England is

“…putting common sense back at the heart of Britain’s health and safety system…”

Even though reducing bureaucracy is part of the UK review, common sense is certainly the political mantra being applied to the review, being under taken by Professor Ragnar E Löfstedt for the Department of Work and Pensions, as seen by a recent speech by Prime Minister David Cameron to the Conservative Party conference, when discussing the empowerment of local councils:

“…one of the biggest things holding people back is the shadow of health and safety.  I was told recently about a school that wanted to buy a set of highlighter pens. But with the pens came a warning.  Not so fast – make sure you comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.  Including plenty of fresh air and hand and eye protection.  Try highlighting in all that.”

According to an audio interview with one of the members of the Löfstedt review, Andrew Bridgen MP, the report is due to go to the Minister, Chris Grayling, at the end of October 2011.

In the interview, Bridgen states that people:

“…use health and safety as an excuse not to do things they don’t want to do.”

But the UK is struggling with what to do in response.  There has been a strong campaign by the OHS regulator, Health and Safety Executive, to tackle the “elf ‘n’ safety” myths but this will take a long concerted effort and is likely never to succeed completely.  Many in the media like reporting about seemingly silly local government and regulatory decisions.  This helps depict government as the “fun vampires“.

However the current situation in England, and its echoes in Australia, illustrates the importance of planning for the long term.   More…

Nail gun incident results in $25k fine and lifelong blindness 2

Western Australia recently prosecuted a company over an incident where a worker was blinded in one eye by a nail that ricocheted from a nail gun.  According to a WorkSafeWA media release:

“The injured contractor was using a nail gun to attach steel holding straps to roof timbers. The nail gun had been purchased 12 months earlier, and came with an operating manual that provided safety instructions.

One of the safety instructions was that the nail gun was “for use with timber to timber fixing or materials of similar or lesser density”, but Mr Vlasschaert and the contractor had been using the nail gun to attach steel straps for 12 months without incident.

On the day of the incident, the contractor had experienced several ricochets where the nail had failed to go through the steel straps and instead flew into the air. Mr Vlasschaert asked him if everything was alright, and contractor said it was, so he had been left to carry on the work.

Soon after this conversation, the contractor was struck in the eye by a nail that had ricocheted, resulting in the permanent loss of sight in his left eye.”

The worker mistook his sunglasses as safety glasses.  Protective eyewear was available in the employer’s car at the domestic building site.

This prosecution, which resulted in a $A25,000 fine, highlights several relevant OHS issues. More…

Politicians are exploiting proposed OHS laws for their own benefit 3

South Australia’s Industrial Relations Minister, Rob Lucas, stated in the Adelaide Advertiser on 3 October 2011 that

“The Liberal Party has always supported strong work safety laws which protect workers at work sites.”

This may be the case within the limitations of that sentence but the conservative political parties have not always been supportive of the basis for safety management, the creation of evidence through authoritative research.  According to a 2003 submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions

“After the election of the Liberal/National Coalition in 1996, the Federal Government decided that:

  • the NOHSC budget must be cut by $5.9 million each year;
  • a further 5% cut was imposed across the board; and
  • redundancies had to be covered from within the NOHSC budget.

This represented a cut of $6.6 million (35-40%) to the NOHSC annual budget……

The April 1996 NOHSC decision on allocation of its $14 million budget cut OHS research and information, and education and training. National standards work was also decreased. These areas are central to a national approach to OHS.” [emphasis added]

Around the time of these severe budget cuts Australia had begun moving to a system of national uniformity in OHS.  The impact of this political decision hamstrung the research efforts of NOHSC just as the uniformity momentum was increasing.  As the National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation has written

“A notable development in standard setting in Australia during the 1990s was the movement towards national uniformity in standards in regulations and codes of practice. The process was overseen by the former NOHSC, which in 1991 established a tripartite National Uniformity Taskforce, which identified several key first order priorities for achieving national uniformity: plant, certification of users and operators of industrial equipment; workplace hazardous substances; occupational noise; manual handling; major hazardous facilities; and storage and handling of dangerous goods.

NOHSC developed standards in the first six of these areas, and the jurisdictions were well on the way towards adopting these standards by the end of 1996, although it should be noted that jurisdictions were quite inconsistent in their adoption, particular in choosing whether to implement the standards in regulations or codes of practice, in their drafting styles and, in some cases, the substance of provisions. The national uniformity process was not complete when the Howard government came to power in 1996, and that government first significantly down-sized and then abolished NOHSC, with the result that the move towards national uniformity slowed dramatically after mid-1996.”

Rob Lucas seems to ignore the history of his own party’s decision. More…