Twice in early April 2014, 7.30, a current affairs program of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ran two lead stories about occupational health and safety – home insulation-related fatalities and the risks of working at heights. The latter of these provided only a glimpse of a complex OHS issue and only touched on the matter of the self-certification of anchor points where compliance does not necessarily equate to safety. This issue has been taken up by the Working at Heights Association (WAHA) on 11 April 2014. In a media release WAHA stated:
“In the wake of last night’s ABC 7.30 Report on falls from height, the Working At Heights Association has a warning: “If you’re counting on a harness attached to an anchor system to save your life when you fall from a roof, you need to know that many roof anchors don’t meet the most basic safety standards.”
WAHA has conducted some “drop tests” of common anchor points that are currently in use in Australia and that meet the relevant Australian Standard AS/NZS5532 – Manufacturing requirements for single-point anchor device used for harness-based work at height. They found that
“In the tests, 100kg loads dropped through 2 metres tear single-person anchors away from their mounts, while 150kg loads for two-person-use hit the ground, smashing the weights. Only one out of the five anchors tested pass.”
This is a matter of enormous concern as anchor points are an essential element of fall protection. A lot of attention has been given to fall protection harnesses over the years with some new product types but all of these rely on the integrity of a firmly secured anchor point that can withstand the high forces involved in stopping someone falling to their deaths. More…
The Weekly Times scored an exclusive this week about a new model of Polaris quad bike which incorporates a roll cage or rollover protection structure (ROPS) in its design. The significance of the Sportsman Ace is, according to the newspaper and the manufacturer, a “game changer” because it seems to counter the arguments of the quad bike manufacturers against such design changes in submissions to government and in public campaigns. They have stressed that more effective control of a quad bike comes from driver training and behaviour and that ROPs may itself contribute to driver injuries and deaths. The Polaris Sportsman Ace, to be released in the United States this week and Australia next month, seems to prove that quad bikes can be redesigned to include safety features, an action that manufacturers have been extremely reluctant to do.
A major critic of ROPs on quad bikes in Australia has been the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI). SafetyAtWorkBlog spoke to a spokesman for the FCAI who explained that the Polaris Sportsman Ace is not an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) but a UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle). More…
Occupational health and safety has many examples of addressing small or short-term issues rather than facing the difficult and hard, but more sustainable, control measures. I was reminded of this by a recent media statement from the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in relation to fatigue management.
In 2007 the CSB recommended that, following the Texas City refinery fire,
“the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the United Steelworkers International Union (USW) jointly lead the development of an ANSI consensus standard with guidelines for fatigue prevention in the refinery and petrochemical industries.” [links added]
The progress of API and USW in developing the 2010 ANSI-approved Recommended Practice 755 (RP 755) has been reviewed by the CSB staff and they have found the following disturbing problems:
- “The document was not the result of an effective consensus process, and therefore does not constitute a tool that multiple stakeholders in the industry can “own.” It was not balanced in terms of stakeholder interests and perspectives, and did not sufficiently incorporate or take into account the input of experts from other industry sectors that have addressed fatigue risks. More…
On 19 October 2012 in a video address to an Australian forum on quad bike safety, the US Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Robert Adler stated
“We at the US CPSC are monitoring your activities closely with the hope that what you learn can help us back here in the United States.”
That places considerable attention on the safety initiatives and negotiations in Australia but also may indicate that the United States is struggling to achieve change in this area.
On October 17 2012, the Weekly Times devoted its front page, a double page spread and its editorial to the safety of quad bikes, or All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). The editorial called on the Government to
“…mandate all ATVs are fitted with roll-over protection ..[and to] provide a rebate to allow retro-fitting of roll-over protection to existing ATVs.”
ABC News provided an excellent summary of the issues associated with quad bike safety in its news report on 17 October 2011 and showed some scary images of young children riding quad bikes.
Following the forum, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten issued a media statement outlining to the outcomes. It stated:
“The Minister said he has asked Safe Work Australia to report on the key findings of the quad bike issues paper and today’s forum, and that he would direct Comcare*, the Commonwealth workplace safety regulator, to immediately implement the following:
- Comcare will work with scheme employers to review their use of quad bikes and consider possible substitution with less hazardous equipment. More…
Two articles in two days concerning OHS advertising may seem a little much but in 2008 Australia’s Advertising Standards Board (ASB) received complaints about one of the graphic ads used by WorkSafe Victoria at that time. WorkSafe had identified a need to shock teenagers about workplace risks but some television viewers found them disturbing.
WorkSafe Young Workers Campaign
A couple of the complaints reflect some of the comments posted by readers to the SafetyAtWorkBlog.
“These ads may be appropriate for industrial oh&s training programs, but not for the general community, for whom they serve no purpose other than to shock and horrify.”
“I was injured at work were I lost my entire eye ball, I think work place safety is very important, to spread the word is vital, however the scene of burnt flesh is going to upset and remind people who were injured at work the horror they suffered, I know I can’t watch it, and I wasn’t burnt.”
The ASB Case Report includes details of focus group surveys undertaken by WorkSafe Victoria in developing the advertisements. These details illustrate some of the marketing thinking of WorkSafe. More…