Work/life balance needs to grow into sustainability

Just as government is reigning in the excesses of the financial sector over the last decade or so, there is a strong movement to pull back on the workload excesses. Some of this is through the work/life balance movement.

In terms of occupational health and safety, this movement has a strong base that is reflected in a lot of OHS legislation where individual employees have a responsibility to ensure they are working safely and not putting themselves at risk. This can be a very difficult obligation when one is working in an organisation that does not grant safety or mental health or its social obligations much weight.

Just as government is reigning in the excesses of the financial sector over the last decade or so, there is a strong movement to pull back on the workload excesses.  Some of this is through the work/life balance movement.

In terms of occupational health and safety, this movement has a strong base that is reflected in a lot of OHS legislation where individual employees have a responsibility to ensure they are working safely and not putting themselves at risk.  This can be a very difficult obligation when one is working in an organisation that does not grant safety or mental health or its social obligations much weight. Continue reading “Work/life balance needs to grow into sustainability”

Heat stress (in the middle of Winter)

For those in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment, the risk of heat stress for workers is an extremely low priority but in Australia, even in the cooler parts and suburbia, the Summer temperatures are tipped to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next few weeks.  Away from the urban and coastal centres, temperatures of 45 degrees C and higher will be common.

The Queensland Government’s OHS regulator has released new guidance on heat stress.  As it was only released on January 5 2010, it is the most current information.  The guidance seems aimed at rural workers and particularly those industries which may have a transitory labour force from cooler climates.

The guidance is useful in that it recommends some engineering solutions instead of just PPE.  For instance,

  • “creating some shade structure (tarp, umbrella) or at least find a tree for outdoor workers’ rest breaks
  • automating or mechanising tasks that require heavy or physical activity
  • reducing radiant heat emissions from hot surfaces and plant e.g. by insulation and shielding.”

Although it would have been good to see some mention of reassessing the need to work in heat at all as discussed elsewhere in SafetyAtWorkBlog.

The Queensland guidance recommends the following heat stress control measures:

  • “use sun protection – hat, sunscreen and light sun-protective clothing
  • drink at least one litre of cool water an hour when working in the sun
  • take breaks during the day in cool shaded areas to enable a rapid return of core temperature to normal
  • acclimatise to outdoor work gradually
  • have eaten during the day to ensure their energy and salt levels are maintained.
  • avoid alcohol, caffeine and drugs which can increase urine output and therefore fluid loss.”

Kevin Jones

NZ announces inquiry into the safety of farm vehicles

The New Zealand Department of Labour (DoL) has announced a period of public consultation on its OHS guidance on the safe use of off-road vehicles.  The process will include a review of “Safe Use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms: Agricultural Guideline” publication.

Interestingly the DoL says  it

“is looking to extend this publication to apply to the agricultural, forestry and adventure tourism industries.”

There is a potential for a considerable broadening of OHS issues but this may be hampered by the scheduling of the public consultation.  The DoL public commentary period closes on February 13 2010. Both Australia and New Zealand are in Summer holiday mode and many companies are closed down for several weeks in January or operate on a skeleton staff.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has commented on this trend for short consultative periods over the Christmas break previously. Continue reading “NZ announces inquiry into the safety of farm vehicles”

Changing political support of workplace safety in the US

Occupational health and safety used to be above political argy-bargy.  It was accepted that the safety of workers was a core importance to the management of any business.  Often it operated as a subset of industrial relations and popped its head up occasionally, usually when new of revised legislation was due.  Rarely has workplace safety been a catalyst for political controversy.

In the United States, the last political fight was over the ergonomics  rule under a Republican Bush presidency in 2001.  According to one media report:

“The president has directed Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to find a less expensive way to protect worker health.” Continue reading “Changing political support of workplace safety in the US”

Sandman lecture online

In November 2009, Peter Sandman delivered the Berreth Lecture at the annual conference of the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC).  Significantly Sandman was asked not to present on risk communication but about his experiences in risk communication and how he came to prominence in the field.

The NPHIC has made the 65-minute video of his lecture available on-line. Sandman has the audio available through his website. The speech notes are also available but, as is his wont, Sandman diverges from the “script” frequently.

Continue reading “Sandman lecture online”

Migrant workers’ deaths on Christmas Eve

According to the Toronto Police, four workers died on December 24 2009 when the swing stage they were working on collapsed.  A fifth man, Dilshod Marupov, is in hospital.

Media reports have identified the five workers as migrant workers and although the swing stage was at the thirteenth floor of an apartment complex, no-one was wearing safety harnesses. Continue reading “Migrant workers’ deaths on Christmas Eve”

Legal professional privilege and safety management

The Safety Institute‘s OHS Professional magazine for December 2009 included an article (originally published in an OHS newsletter from Piper Alderman for those non-SIA members) about the application of legal professional privilege using a New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission decision as its basis (Nicholson v Waco KwikForm Limited).  The case received considerable attention by OHS law firms. Continue reading “Legal professional privilege and safety management”

HSE Chair’s review of 2009

Judith Hackett, Chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reviews the performance of the agency in the December podcast produced by the agency.  Transcript is available online

The podcast provides a positive outlook for the HSE which one would expect.  Hackett talks about the need for the HSE to dispel the myths that have been promoted throughout the media and the lack of credibility of the regulator discussed by many in the UK, such as Jeremy Clarkson.   Continue reading “HSE Chair’s review of 2009”

Safety is more than common sense

“Common sense” is a phrase regularly used to describe workplace health and safety.  More often than not the term is used dismissively.  This is part of the reason that the OHS profession struggles for legitimacy and why there is a constant sense of frustration in the profession and OHS regulators. Continue reading “Safety is more than common sense”

Orewa College explosion update

The New Zealand Department of Labour has released a media statement about the prosecution reported on yesterday but

“The Department will not name either the parties or the specific charges until the charges reach court.”

This may be an indication of the political sensitivities of the prosecution.

A representative of the Orewa College Board of Trustees, Phil Pickford,was interviewed by New Zealand Radio on 21 December 2009.  The interview is available online.

Pickford states that he is proud of the OHS systems that are in place at Orewa College and places Orewa in the top 10% of schools for OHS performance.

It is difficult for anyone to make public statements on an OHS prosecution without knowing who has been charged and with what.

From SafetyAtWorkBlog’s perspective, regardless of any action taken by the DoL, it would have been expected that both the school and the Education Department would have undertaken their own investigations in to the death of one of their own employees, if for no other reason than to stop a similar occurrence in other schools.

A TV report of the explosion from mid-2009 is available online.

Kevin Jones