Professional sportspeople are workers, so make them safe

Player Reaches To Catch Ball In Australian Rules Football GameThere is no doubt that football fields are the workplaces of professional football players and their support staff. So they are covered by occupational health and safety (OHS) and/or work health and safety (WHS) laws but what does this mean in relation to OHS regulators, and the sportspeople’s employers? Recently Eric Windholz looked at this particular issue.

Windholz recently published “Professional Sport, Work Health and Safety Law and Reluctant Regulators” in which he states:

“The application of WHS law to professional sport is almost absent from practitioner and academic discourse. An examination of the websites of Australia’s WHS and sport regulators reveals none contains WHS guidance directed to professional sports.” (page 1, references are included in the paper)

The example he uses to show this apparent lack of interest, even by the Victorian OHS regulator, WorkSafe Victoria, is the Essendon Football Club supplements saga.  Windholz writes

“Had these events occurred in the construction, manufacturing or transport industry, for example, it is difficult to imagine WHS regulators not intervening. Yet, WorkSafe Victoria initially was reluctant to investigate choosing to defer to ‘more appropriate bodies’. It only commenced an investigation when compelled by a request from a member of the public.” (page 2)

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Helmet debate misses the point of safe design

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Workplace safety is rarely simple or easy.  It has become a standard recommendation in Australia recently for quad bike riders to wear helmets.  Quad bike manufacturers recommend the wearing of helmets and some OHS regulators are making it mandatory but this should not be the end of the safety discussion.  The Weekly Times newspaper on 21 September 2011 describes the current arguments occurring over the type of helmet to be worn.

It is common for workplaces to experience disputes or discussions over personal protective equipment (PPE).  These discussions are necessary to ensure that the best, the most suitable, PPE is used to control a hazard.  Sometimes safety eyewear can be heat-resistant sunglasses, sometimes this should be goggles.  Sometime head protection comes from a hard hat, sometime from a bump cap.  PPE should never generate new hazards when trying to control another.

The current discussion indicates has arisen over the wearing of motorcycle-style helmets while following a herd of dairy cows during an Australian summer.  Dairy farmers say that the wearing of helmets in these conditions is absurd and farmers will choose to ride quad bikes un-helmeted instead. Continue reading “Helmet debate misses the point of safe design”

Australian Football’s corporate approach to OHS

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Recently the CEO of the Australian Football League (AFL), Andrew Demetriou addressed a breakfast gathering in Melbourne on the issue of “OHS in the AFL”.  He spoke almost entirely about policy initiatives without specifically addressing occupational health and safety but after a while we came to understand he was speaking of OHS from his senior executive perspective rather than the level where traditional control measures are implemented.

This was a legitimate approach to OHS but one that is rarely heard, perhaps because the AFL is a unique sporting body.  There was no mention of concepts dear to the hearts of CEOs such as Zero Harm or Safety Culture.  In fact there was hardly even a mention of Leadership.

Continue reading “Australian Football’s corporate approach to OHS”

Two workplace incidents – zookeeper and jockey

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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”

Big fine for go-kart death

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The AAP and others are reporting a big fine over the death of Lydia Carter whilst driving a go-kart at a work function held in Port Melbourne in 2006.  The significance of the $A1.4 million fine is that the company, AAA Auscarts Imports Pty Ltd,  is not a large or multinational corporation.

Ms Carter was wearing a seat belt that did not fit properly and safety barriers on the track had been incorrectly installed.  

Judge Duncan Allen said 

“There is no doubt in my mind that (Auscarts) not only was fully aware of the risk, but was fully aware of the ways to reduce them” 

“The company showed a gross disregard concerning the safety of employees and the public.”

For OHS professionals this case, which ended today (12 May 2009) in the Victorian County Court, will generate a fair degree of attention because of the fine’s size.  However, from the information currently available, the case seems one of the go-kart company having a work environment that was unsafe for customers, the company being aware of this and not doing enough to fix it.

SafetyAtWorkBlog is also looking  into how Ms Carter’s death has changed her employer’s organisation, what effect it had on her colleagues, what policy changes have been made, amongst other matters.

The judgement will also be made available as soon as possible.

Kevin Jones