Pimp your administrative controls

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Safety risks increased, or created, by distraction are a problem as relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS) as it is across society. There are analogue solutions – remove the distracting devices – and technological solutions that are often embedded in the distracting device. Sometimes there are other solutions and one is being trialled at a small intersection in Melbourne.

These illuminated tactile pavers have been embedded in the footpath applying the logic that as people are looking down at their phone screens, a bright contrasting floor level background should attract their attention. These footpath lights are synchronised with the pedestrian traffic lights, basically bringing the traffic signals within the peripheral vision of pedestrians.

Several variations on this concept have been trialled around the world for traffic and pedestrian control but they may be more usefully applied in some workplaces, especially where passive hazard signs have become normalised.

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Hopefully prevention of mental injuries at work will emerge in this Royal Commission

LtoR: Professor Bernadette McSherry, Prof. Allan Fels, Penny Arnytage, Dr Alex Cockram

The first week of media coverage of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health is very thin on the roles and impacts of workplaces and work activities on people’s mental health, but it is part of the conversation.

The Public Hearings on July 4-5 had Prevention and Early Intervention as their theme. Prevention as occupational health and safety (OHS) people would apply was mostly absent. Prevention, in OHS terms, is usually about the elimination of a risk or hazard whereas the impression from the discussion in the Royal Commission over the last few days is that mental health is something that appears, strikes an individual (with ripples to relatives), is treated and a new psychological normal, a functional/social normal is established. Analysis of the social, occupational and environmental precursors, elements that OHS investigations are obliged to consider, seems missing, at the moment.

According to the Commission’s transcript Chair Penny Armytage said on July 2, 2019:

“We start these hearings with a wide lens. Not in hospitals or clinics, but in our homes, our sporting fields and our workplaces.”

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To OPD or not to OPD? That is NOT the question

The current debate and lobbying campaigns over quad bikes in Australia have become less about safety than about product design integrity. The opposition to operator protection devices (OPDs) has been so loud that it has dominated the quad bike safety discussion. So, last week I decided to visit a local quad bike dealer to talk to the sellers not about OPDs but about Safety. I found that some vehicles have safety integrated into their design and operation.

I have learnt that the best conversations happen during the weekdays when shop assistants and managers have the time to devote to someone who may be a potential buyer but is, at least, someone genuinely interested in the product, in this case quad bikes and side-by-side (SXS) work vehicles.

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New President and new approaches to unionism

ACTU Executive with Michele O’Neil second from left

Day One of the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Congress was memorable for a couple of reasons.  The appointment of Michele O’Neil, pictured right, as the President was a notable achievement, one made more memorable as she denied any desire to move onto a political appointment. The other memorable event was a string of shopfloor representatives outlining their innovative approaches to the recruitment of members and the creation of (sub)unions for hospitality workers, hairdressers and indigenous workers in the Northern Territory.

Workplace safety was mentioned a couple of times in passing but occupational health and safety (OHS) seems to becoming more a thing that is, rather than a thing that is named.  If we look for it, we find it.

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Trade unions, jobs, safety and the future

The recently appointed Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Sally McManus, made a major speech at the National Press Club on 21 March 2018.  It was forecast to lots of media outlets the morning prior to the speech with selected quotes from McManus, flagging how significant the trade union movements consider this speech.

She made her pitch by reiterating the Australian belief in fairness, the “fair go” and said this is based on two things – “having a job you can count on, and fair pay.” Having a “safe job” was sort-of mentioned in the speech but usually in political terms.  It will be interesting how this speech fits with the anticipated speech for International Workers’ Memorial Day in just over a month’s time.

Six trade union achievements were mentioned but workplace health and safety was not

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