Are turban’s as safe as helmets?

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A safety colleague of mine, Daniel Lo, posed an interesting question in a SafetyAtWorkBlog comment

“Are there any scientific studies of the crash impact that a turban could take compared to that of a regulated helmet?”

I would extend that to hard hats, motorcycle helmets and bicycle helmets. 

Let me pose a scenario that may help focus discussion. If I was wearing a turban and someone hit me on the head with a hammer, would I receive the same level of harm as if this happened whilst I was wearing a hardhat?

Daniel has posed a terrific question and I hope someone can help.

 

There are a lot of issues related to the wearing of turbans instead of helmets.  I think a good brief discussion of the issue of Turbans and helmets can be found at http://www.helmets.org/turbans.htm 

Another issue occurred in Canada where the riding of a motorbike with a turban instead of a helmet was discussed in court.  The argument was that a turban could unwrap in high winds.  The article did not discuss the issues of a turban as a safe replacement for a motorcycle helmet.

Basic information about turbans can be found at the SikhWiki

Working Alone in the Sex Industry

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One of the strongest qualities that a consultant has is to provide a new perspective on an existing process. For over 10 years, I provided OHS advice to the Victorian sex industry. It started in response to a call for first aid advice from a dominatrix in Melbourne. I provided advice on the best treatment for scorch marks on nipples and how to best clean a leather paddle which may have had a small amount of the client’s blood in the seams.

My work culminated in drafting a book on OHS in the adult sex industry for CCH Australia. The company was restructured and my book was dropped. However much of the information in the 40,000 words already written is still valid and I was happy to allow part of it to be reproduced by RhED in the latest issue of their magazine for sex workers.

The strength of any OHS publication and guideline from the government is its applicability to those occupations on the fringes of society.  The sex industry inhabits that fringe but few governments have provided OHS advice for the sector, although I admit that Australia is a leading provider of sex industry safety information.

In Red magazine, I have interpreted the Western Australian OHS guidelines on working alone to the sex industry. The guidelines were surprising useful.

As with many health work sectors or fringe industries, workers and employers don’t often look beyond the advice that is available from their industry association or government department. As such information from OHS regulators doesn’t always get to the industries where it is best needed. More guidelines in the sex industry need to come from a coalition of government departments. For instance, in Victoria, safety in the sex industry overlaps the Department of Human Services, the Department of Justice and the WorkCover Authority.

Safety in the sex industry seems to rely on consultants like myself (and you could count them on one hand) or organisations like RhED, the Inner South Community Health Service, and the Scarlet Alliance, to pull together these disparate safety guidelines in to a suitable package.

(For those interested in the sex worker industry, $pread Magazine in the US sometimes has useful safety tips and case studies)

UPDATE – 6 October 2008

RhED has posted an interesting profile on sexworkers in Victorian brothels.  The statistics provide a very useful background to some of the information above.

UPDATE – 9 January 2008

The Red magazine article on working alone is now available online.

Kevin Jones

Who manages safety – employers or inspectors?

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Over the last few days at the Tasmanian inquest into the death of Larry Knight, several geotechnical consultants and experts have been going through their reports to Beaconsfield Mine management.  These assessment reports were undertaken before the collapse that caused Larry Knight’s death.  The impression from media reports is that mine management listened to, or read, the recommendations and made a decision. That decision seems to have not given the technical advice the weight that hindsight now shows was insufficient but hindsight does that and Coroners understand this.

Also safety decisions are made by the employer in consultation with their workforce and external experts, where necessary.  Beaconsfield Mine management did this.  The decision to mine on that fateful day obviously proved wrong but perhaps the decision was understandable.

The Australian on 12 August 2008 reported that senior technical consultant Frans Basson admitted that the mine was technically “in breach of his written recommendation to management”.  I found this extraordinary as “breach” is a term more often applied to when a rule is broken.  It seems that the mine management chose not take on the recommendation of a consultant.  That happens all the time but to give the decision more significance than this is, perhaps, a little unfair.  Let’s hope this was lawyer’s hyperbole.

How to describe the comments by former Mt Lyell engineering supervisor and ex-parliamentarian, Peter Schulze is more of a challenge. Inaccurate is probably the most generous term.  At a Tasmanian Legislative Council committee on 13 August 2008, Peter Schulze criticised “all these experts who pontificate with the benefit of hindsight” about mine accidents.  Okay, the wording is extreme but he makes a similar point to mine above.

He also echoes some of the recent criticisms of the OHS regulator in Tasmania, Workplace Standards. By inverting some of his comments reported in The Advocate on 14 August 2008, he believes that current inspectors are under-skilled in the mining sector and under-paid and that there are not enough.  I would support him in his calls for additional enforcement resources but he is confused over the role of the inspectorate.

The primary responsibility for safety in a workplace is held by the employer – the controller of the workplace and main beneficiary of its productivity.  Peter  Schulze says that 

“The inspectorate tends to isolate itself from accidents and comes in to blame the company … rather than being a party (to safety procedures and checks) and accepting some responsibility.”

Why on earth should a government department accept any responsibility for the operations of a privately-run business when there is legislation that states the responsibility rests with the employer?

Peter sees the system as being adversarial.  There are clear roles for the differing elements in a workplace but conflict is resolved through negotiation, consultation and resolution.  An adversarial climate in a workplace indicates a dysfunctional workplace but this does not mean the regulatory system is at fault.  Safety management systems are a systematic management of a workplace with the aim of improving safety.  Management is the key and this rests with the employer.

Using workers compensation claims as exit strategies

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There have been two instances in Australia in the last week where workers compensation claims have made the news. The first was in relation to the suicide attempt by Tasmanian politician, Paula Wriedt.  She has revealed that after the break-up of her marriage she had an affair with one of the government chauffeurs, Ben Chaffey.

According to one media report, Chaffey has argued

“that his employment became untenable as a result of the relationship and his employer’s response to it.  He is seeking a severance payment thought to be about $A140,000 to compensate for this, and for stress and harm suffered.”

It is also reported that he has been on “stress leave” for several months.

The other case involves unfair dismissal action being taken by public transport ticket inspector, Glenn Hoyne in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) against his dismissal by Connex.  Hoyne made accusations on a Melbourne talkback radio show about Connex setting quotas for issuing ticket infringement notices and that inspecting was a revenue-raising exercise only.

Connex investigated the claims and described the allegations as “bribery, blackmail or extortion”.

Hoyne took leave in December 2007 and submitted a workers compensation claim due to work-related stress.  The situation was clearly tense.

The AIRC Deputy President, Brian Lacy, described Hoyne’s actions as not a threat to Connex but

“some sort of industrial claim, albeit misguided, for a severance payment.”

These two cases illustrate how murky human relations, and human resources, can be.  Both parties are seeking recompense for actions that are work-related and both actions will result in a resolution.  But neither will generate any real preventive action.  One claim has been described as a pitch for a severance payout and the other is stress from a broken work-related relationship and the employer’s response to a sexual relationship.

When did people begin to expect a monetary payout above their entitlements for leaving a job that they didn’t like or for when a relationship with a work colleague ended?

A law firm newsletter from 2005 reported on a case of a stress claim, which may provide a counterpoint to the situations above:

“The employee claimed, and was successful in establishing that his stress was directly caused by his employer’s failure to keep him informed of changes in the workplace. In essence, the prospect of redundancy was seen as a sufficient causative factor in the employee’s work related injury.”

The newsletter goes on to advise

“employers must assess the circumstances and sensitivities of individual workers when making management decisions in order to avoid stress claims being made or where claims are made, to avoid liability for such claims.”

Maybe this is the only safety management lesson we can learn from the unhappy ticket inspector and the stressed-out chauffeur, manage your people well.

Don’t rely on alarms

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The Australian media has been following the investigation into the crash of a light aircraft that was travelling to Benalla on July 28, 2004.  There was a report on 5 August about a family who will be suing Queensland Rail over the serious bashing of a relative.  Different stories, different states, different modes of transport, but both stories of sadness.

Both stories illustrate an important reminder for the management of safety in workplaces and in public – alarms are there for a reason.

According to media, Barbara Lillicrap, the widow of bashing victim, Scott Lillicrap, said witnesses had pushed the emergency button at the station at least three times, but rail officers believed it to be a prank and ignored it.

A newspaper report says that air traffic controller Stuart Hodge said that an alert was sounded when the plane veered off course before approaching Benalla Airport.  Mr Hodge said false alarms were common and there was a culture among air traffic controllers to ignore them.

These two reports also need to remind safety professionals that alarms are simply audible signs to which people need to respond, or at least acknowledge.  An ignored sign is a useless control measure and if this is likely to occur, then a higher order of control measure needs to be implemented to control the hazard.

(Don’t get me started on signs at level crossings!)