More activity needed on safe driving at work

In Australia a driver can achieve a “full”, unrestricted licence for driving a car from one’s early 20s following a test conducted by a State regulatory authority.  This driver’s licence is renewed each ten years but without any retesting or assessment of competency, even though the road rules, environment, traffic volumes, car design and personal technology would have changed in that time.

Should an employer allow an employee to drive a company or work-related vehicle without determining a driver’s suitability and level of driving competence?

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Evidence says don’t rely on manual handling training as it doesn’t work

Everyone knows the safe lifting techniques – keep your back straight, keep the load close to your body and bend your knees – because they have done the proper  training.  Well scrap that training!  According to new guidance from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ):

“The research evidence shows that providing lifting technique training is not effective in minimising the risk of injury from manual tasks.”

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Safety Roadshow provides good OHS tips

Last week Australia benefited from a safety roadshow based around screenings of the Deepwater Horizon movie and post-film discussions with Cheryl MacKenzie who was appointed as the lead investigator by the US Chemical Safety Board, and by Peter Wilkinson, an adviser to CSB’s investigation of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The seminars were popular with full sessions in some capital cities.

The format of such seminars is attractive as the film can be used as an icebreaker and/or the pivot point for discussions.  MacKenzie and Wilkinson’s discussion focused on oil and gas safety scenarios but there was enough non-specific information for take-aways.

More such events would be a good idea perhaps using a range of the available safety-related documentaries that are released, almost, ever year such as

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Dangerous personalities making work unsafe – really?

Pages from dangerous-personalities-making-work-unsafe-1Australian recruiting firm, Sacs Consulting, has released the findings of a survey entitled “Dangerous Personalities making work unsafe“.  Such surveys are predominantly marketing exercises and usually, as in this case, there is a limited amount of data available but the results are often broadly distributed and add to the discussion about workplace safety.

The headline itself is a red flag to occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals who are old enough to remember the debate about “blaming the worker” for OHS breaches, injuries and illnesses.  Most safety managers and corporate safety programs are applying a “no blame” philosophy to combat the worker focus but the reality is that workers are still being blamed and being dismissed for safety breaches.  The Sacs Consulting survey confirms the growing worker focus by looking at the personal rather than the organisational.

The Sacs study found:

“…that some people still ignore OHS rules and act unsafely in the workplace, whereas others value their own safety and that of their colleagues so actively that they try to improve the safety of their workplace. Using personality and values testing, the study was able to predict whether an individual is more or less
likely to be safe at work.” (page 1) Continue reading “Dangerous personalities making work unsafe – really?”

One is never too young to learn about safety but we may be too old to change

Recently a colleague of mine expressed regret that occupational health and safety in Australia is no longer occupational. Occupational health and safety (OHS) established its parameters in its title but now most of Australia is bound to Work Health and Safety laws. Work is more than a workplace and so the discipline, the OHS profession, became more complex. Some would say that it has always been complex and that many OHS professionals failed to see the bigger picture, the broad social context of workplace health and safety.

Children 6582I was reminded of my colleague’s regrets when someone on a construction site recently asked for my opinion on some pictures of her son, at a childcare centre, hitting some nails into a block of wood. The boy (pictured right, at home) was wearing safety glasses, albeit a little large; the “work area” was separated from the rest of the children and the boy was supervised at all times by a child care worker. I was told that some of the parents had expressed concern that such an activity should not be happening in a childcare centre due to the potential risk to other children.

Continue reading “One is never too young to learn about safety but we may be too old to change”

Fall prevention in Australia needs a major overhaul

Below is a guest post from long time SafetyAtWorkBlog reader, Marian Macdonald.

“If you need to use that, you’ll almost certainly die,” says fall prevention expert Carl Sachs, pointing to a guardrail on the rooftop of a multi-storey Melbourne office block.

Fixed to flimsy aluminium flashing, the guardrail flies in the face of several mandatory and voluntary standards but Sachs says non-compliances are more the norm than the exception on Australia’s rooftops. The problem, he says, is that height safety equipment installers need no training or qualifications and nobody is checking that their work really is capable of saving lives.

“Australians wouldn’t accept unqualified electricians wiring our houses but, as it stands, all you need is a ute, a credit card and a cordless drill to install the safety gear that stops us falling off skyscrapers,” he says.

It’s a concern echoed by, plumbers, building surveyors, facility managers and builders.

Paul Naylor of the Master Plumbers Association of NSW, says plumbers risk deadly falls daily.

“Whilst due diligence principles can be applied and all care taken to ensure that height safety systems are adequate, without some form of regulation or certification, workers are placed at risk of serious injury everyday due to a lack of knowledge and regulation specific to fall prevention,” Mr Naylor says.

Continue reading “Fall prevention in Australia needs a major overhaul”

New workplace safety laws set to pass in South Australia in October

South Australian Independent Member of Parliament, John Darley, has been negotiating on that State’s Work Health and Safety laws for many months.  On 17 October 2012, according to a media release from SA’s Premier Jay Weatherill and Workplace Relations Minister Russell Wortley, Darley agreed to support the passing of the laws after achieving some amendments.  Those amendments involve changes to

  • height limits,
  • duty of care,
  • the right to silence, and
  • the right of entry.

Tammy Franks, a Greens MLC, was able to achieve an expansion of the number of days available for OHS representative training.

A spokesperson for John Darley told SafetyAtWorkBlog that another change was for any WHS codes of practice to undergo a small business impact assessment in consultation with the Small Business Commissioner.  Darley’s spokesperson said that the MP had met with Business SA after it changed its position on the WHS laws.  The amendment above is likely to address the small business concerns that BusinessSA raised in its letter to its members earlier this month.  The flip-flopping of BusinessSA on workplace health and safety laws was always curious and it is likely to put the organisation at a negotiating disadvantage once the laws passed.  It may try to claim a mini-victory through the small business change but the change appears to have occurred due to Darley’s efforts and not through any relationship with the South Australian Government. Continue reading “New workplace safety laws set to pass in South Australia in October”

New OHS info on Working Alone and Occupational Violence

One of the most difficult safety management challenges is the control of hazards associated with working alone.  The most effective control is to not work alone, but the difficulty comes because this option requires expenditure.

WorkSafe Victoria recently released an information sheet on this hazard and listed the following hazard control options:

  • Buddy system
  • Environmental design
  • Communication or location systems
  • Alarms
  • Movement records
  • Training
  • Knowledge sharing

WorkSafe wisely says that most workplaces will require a combination of these options to control the hazard of working alone.

Trying to reduce the hazards of working alone is a terrific indication of the economic health of a business, the level of safety commitment of a business owner or manager, and the state of safety knowledge in the company. Continue reading “New OHS info on Working Alone and Occupational Violence”

Forklift incidents continue

One of the the most hazardous pieces of equipment in modern workplaces is the forklift.  Sadly it is also one of the most useful.  A recent prosecution in Western Australia provides an example of many of the serious risks in using forklifts:

  • untrained or undertrained drivers
  • unsafe decisions by employers
  • the safety role of seatbelts
  • labour hire management and staff supervision
  • driving with forks elevated
  • training certification.

Other related issues are the employment of

  • transient labour, and
  • young workers.

According to a WorkSafe WA media release, the basic facts of the incident are

Flexi Staff supplied two casual labourers to the Beds Plus warehouse in Kewdale in February, 2008. The two men were British citizens on a working holiday in Australia. [links added]

It was not part of their labouring job to operate forklifts, and neither had any experience or qualifications or High Risk Work licences. Continue reading “Forklift incidents continue”

Operational Risk Management – a timeless book, sadly

For several years now Mark Abkowitz’s book “Operational Risk Management” has been sitting on my “to-read” shelf.  Given my recent wish for a case study approach to leadership and given the Fukushima nuclear issues, the book caught my attention.

Books that analyse disasters are far superior to watching real-time disasters because the distress is minimised, the analysis can be dispassionate and time can provide a more detailed context.  (The quickness of production of some of the books about the BP/Gulf of Mexico suffered from the curse of topicality)  Books provide a distance that the constant exposure to “disaster porn” does not.

Operational Risk Management looks at many at many disasters from the last 30 years but the disasters are not only industrial and process disasters, although Chernobyl and Bhopal are covered. Continue reading “Operational Risk Management – a timeless book, sadly”