Road safety needs a systems approach to investigations

A company vehicle is a workplace.  This is not a radical statement, or shouldn’t be.  A worker driving the company vehicle is at work, transporting themselves or some goods somewhere as part of the work process. Yet most traffic accidents in Australia are not assessed to determine whether they are work-related and action is rarely taken by the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators who seem comfortable with their secondary information gathering role in traffic accidents.

With the failure of the trade union movement’s efforts to maintain the existence of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, others are stepping up pressure on Australia’s government to address some traffic accidents as work-related. And there is some important local independent research that seems to support this push.

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Safety in licencing is not limited to fishing

On 26 May 2017, NT WorkSafe announced that Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd was charged over health and safety breaches that resulted in the electrocution of Ryan Donoghue.  Enforcement of occupational health and safety breaches should be welcomed but Donoghue died in 2013!  Why so long?

NT WorkSafe regret the delay:

“The location of the vessel meant the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and NT WorkSafe potentially had jurisdiction to investigate.”

“The preliminary findings from our investigation were handed to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland after we received legal advice that they had jurisdiction,” Mr Gelding [Executive Director of NT WorkSafe] said.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland completed their investigation on 3 March 2015 and decided not to prosecute. The Northern Territory Coroner held an inquest into the accident in April 2016 and referred the matter to NT WorkSafe for consideration.

Why so long? Jurisdictional arguments and enforcement variation.  But didn’t Australia establish a National Compliance and Enforcement Policy in 2011?   Yep,

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Both parties claim a win in a stoush that changed a couple of words

The court case between the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) and WorkSafe Victoria has been resolved and, according to both parties, they both won.  According to WorkSafe Victoria:

“The Supreme Court proceeding issued by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and other quad bike manufacturers against WorkSafe Victoria was dismissed just prior to a trial that was listed to commence yesterday.

The manufacturers had wanted the Supreme Court to rule that WorkSafe’s public announcements about quad bike safety were unlawful. The challenge has been dismissed and will not proceed to trial.”

According to FCAI’s media statement:

“In the Supreme Court proceedings, WorkSafe Victoria specifically declined to pursue a claim that the fitment of an OPD is an appropriate way of reducing the risks to operators of an ATV overturning. It has produced no data or other evidence to support its claim that OPDs will “save lives”.

The revisions now made by WorkSafe Victoria are welcomed by the ATV industry as an important clarification to correct previous reporting that, as a result of its March 2016 announcement, OPDs had become mandatory on Victorian farms. That was not the case, as WorkSafe Victoria has now acknowledged, as a result of the legal proceedings taken against it.”

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OHS and Tim White

The latest in our series of profiles on researchers who are involved with occupational health and safety research is Dr Tim White.  He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). His most recent appointment was as Lecturer and Researcher in Mechanical Design at UNSW.

After 10 years of working casually as a consultant while also holding salaried positions, Dr White founded Forensic Mechanical Engineers in 2013 and now works full time as a forensic engineer and expert witness. He is based in Bathurst, NSW but travels extensively for work, often flying himself to regional locations.

What attracted you to looking at workplace health and safety? Did you fall into it or always have an interest?

I feel like I just fell into it, although now that I look back, I suppose that my career progression was reasonably intuitive. A farming background prior to my first engineering degree (and subsequent time in industry) meant that I was never going  to be content doing the same thing as most of my peers. Although it was not a main consideration at the time, the PhD and progression into academia was what ultimately equipped me with the ability to now work flexibly in a role where I feel as though I am – clichés aside – doing something interesting as well as making a difference.

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The OHS benefits of a single lunchtime meeting

Being a member of a local safety group provides nuggets of occupational health and safety (OHS) information from speakers and members in a broad range of industries and occupations.  The May 2017 meeting of the Central Safety Group at which Wayne Richards spoke provoked several OHS thoughts about safety, leadership and culture. One was that Transdev…

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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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Ads for quadbikes show the safety changes

As a companion piece to SafetyAtWorkBlog’s recent article on quad bike safety it is worth looking at the latest hardcopy edition of The Weekly Times, an influential agricultural newspaper in Australia.  It is useful to look at how quad bikes are being depicted in the advertising and some of the content, as online versions have different adverts.  The content will vary, of course, from edition to edition but a snapshot sample is interesting.

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Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars

Over the last couple of weeks in Australia, the arguments over the safety of quad bikes (sometimes called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)) has become messy. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is in favour of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs) but the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) is not. Doctors and farmers are calling for a five-start safety rating for quad bikes. One researcher says such a scheme is ready to go. The manufacturers’ industry representative, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says no it’s not but here’s a new helmet to wear.

Around all of this is remarkable silence about legal action launched against the Victorian occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, WorkSafe, by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BRP over WorkSafe’s interpretation of a legal safety duty.

All the while farmers in some States are continuing to access generous safety rebate schemes. Continue reading “Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars”

Safe Driving affected by leadership

New Australian research into work-related driving shows how organisations mishandle the risks.  The first paragraph of the research clearly shows the significance of the hazard:

“Road traffic injury is the leading cause of work-related death in Australia. It has been estimated that one-third of all work-related deaths occur while driving for work purposes.  This emerging public health issue is not unique to Australia, with work-related traffic deaths estimated to account for 22% of work fatalities in the United States and 16% in New Zealand.  Despite this, many organisations employing individuals to drive a vehicle as part of their work are unaware of the factors that may act to reduce work-related traffic injury and deaths.”

This research illustrates the need to integrate the functions of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professionals, Risk Managers and Fleet Managers within organisations and across government agencies to address a significant public health issues in a more effective manner.

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When is a workplace, not a workplace

(Not Reedy Flat)

On 20 February 2017, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media statement about several recent fatalities.  Below is the first couple of paragraphs with some highlighted text:

“Two men were killed and another suffered critical head injuries in three separate incidents at the weekend.
On Saturday, a man in his late 30s died when his quad bike overturned on a property at Reedy Flat, near Ensay, in east Gippsland. It has not yet been determined if the property is a workplace or a hobby farm.” (emphasis added)

Why was the status of the farm mentioned and how is this relevant?

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