New structure needed for Australia’s OHS policies

A day out from Australia’s election and the discussion has been sidetracked by the death last night of prominent Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, but occupational health and safety (OHS) continues to be mentioned obliquely by some of the candidates. The other day, Bill Shorten’s OHS mentions were reported on. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and one of his Ministers, Michaelia Cash, also made mention of safety and OHS overnight.

Alice Springs, AUSTRALIA – Sep 29, 2017: 3 trailer Australian road train driving along Stuart Highway near Alice Springs in Northern Territory, Australia

Regardless of who wins tomorrow’s election, inspirational leadership is needed to apply a revised structure on how the government influences and regulates OHS, especially in the transport sector.

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More voices raised about quad bike safety

According the Weekly Times newspaper on May 8 2019 (paywalled), Mojo Motorcycles remains committed to the Australian quad bike market. Polaris acknowledges that

“…. ATVs will go the way of the dodo.”

The Farmsafe and National Farmers Federation (NFF) Workforce Committee, Charles Armstrong, has, in Farmonline National, described the threats by Honda and Yamaha as

“….. an astonishingly infantile reaction from otherwise respected multinational companies.”

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Honda and Yamaha dig in over quad bike safety

“Just carrying on doing more reviews is not going to take us very far. We now have to make a start and that’s going to require legislation,”

These words were spoken by the head of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, Andrew Tyrie, but could easily have been a quote from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in relation to its recent review of the safety of quad bikes.

Improving the safety of quad bikes, or what used to be called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) until everyone accepted that they don’t travel safely over all terrains, has been a contentious issue in Australia for well over a decade. The issue appears in the media regularly after each death or near miss involving a quad bike rider.

Last week the issue appeared in the media for a different reason. Yamaha and Honda have both advised their dealers that if the ACCC safety recommendations and safety standard become law, they will

“….. be force[d] to cease selling utility ATVs in Australia” (Yamaha)

“… withdraw from the ATV market in Australia.” (Honda)

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Release of authoritative quad bike safety report is still not enough for the Federal Minister

On April 6 2018 Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert released the report into Quad Bike safety prepared by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). The report makes unsurprising safety recommendations, many of these have been coming for years. The surprise is the Minister’s decision to begin another round of consultation:

“The Government is inviting stakeholders to review and comment on the ACCC’s recommended safety standard.”

The previous paragraph in the Minister’s press statement acknowledged:

“Extensive consultation has been undertaken including with technical experts, farmers, the recreational and tourism sector, consumer groups, health and medical experts, industry and government bodies. The majority of stakeholders support a new mandatory safety standard. The ACCC’s report highlights how these safety measures including installing an operator protection device can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, particularly from rollover incidents”

An indication of the level of “extensive consultation” can be seen through the process the ACCC has been running since at least November 2017. The only possible reason for this extraordinary decision is the political desire to release the ACCC report prior to the Federal Election, only just announced as occurring on May 18, 2019.

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Conspiracy accusations over rail construction project

On March 17 2019, a community radio program and podcast “The Concrete Gang” broadcast some comments about occupational health and safety (OHS) on a rail construction site in Victoria, Australia, believed to be the Aviation Rd, Laverton site. SafetyAtWorkBlog attempted to factcheck the accusations.

Construction company McConnell Dowell is providing construction services on various sites for the Level Crossing Removal Project. According to The Concrete Gang:

“… McConnell Dowell level crossing removal have had a few dramas out there what we’ve got is we’ve a live train and they’re trying to put a level crossing in while there’s a live train going.  They normally do what we call a shutdown which is an occupation where they shut down the line and they’re lifting concrete beams and build a bridge.  Well McConnell Dowell in their wisdom are trying to do it between 10-minute stops…”

“….the workers on the job have got issues because they’re obviously lifting precast elements over trains and there’s obviously no safety…”

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