Noisy Buggers in the Post-COVID world

Guest Post by Melody Kemp

In my more bizarre moments, I can imagine the cockpit conversation:

‘Hey Bill, there’s the blue and white house. We turn left here’
‘Bob, Copy. Over.’

Of course, it’s nonsense to think that the complexities of aircraft take-offs and landings would depend on visual cues, rather than complex technology, weather and fuel economy.  In fact, it’s the very technology that allows communities to track and identify aircraft and the noise level as they pass overhead.

But I have to admit that, particularly at night, when I see the queue of aircraft waiting to approach, their starboard and port lights blazing into our living room, it’s hard not to go out and shake an impotent fist at the crew.

As I completed this third paragraph, a Jetstar plane flew overhead. I measured the roar at 76DbA, another app told me it was slightly less than 1000 feet above my roof.  As it continues to descend, it passes over the densely populated parts of the city that follow the Brisbane River, including New Farm and Doomben, well known to race goers. What was that old saying about don’t scare the horses?

I work at home. My concentration and the paragraphs I write, come in lumps divided by the passing of planes. Some, like the Flying Doctor prop-jets, make, in objective terms, little noise (around 58dBA), but if one is sensitised to the noise in general, they become yet another psychological hazard. Evidence for aircraft noise exposure being linked to poorer well-being, lower quality of life, and psychological ill health is reflected by the responses to my questions and Facebook comments posted by concerned residents (some are included below)

Continue reading “Noisy Buggers in the Post-COVID world”

Model for improving safety reporting

A lot of safety professionals “froth up” about aviation safety. Challenging occupational health and safety (OHS) concepts have originated in this sector so it is worth keeping an eye on aviation safety research.  A new article has been published called “A holistic approach to evaluating the effect of safety barriers on the performance of safety reporting systems in aviation organisations” (not Open Access, sorry) by Muhammad Jausan, Jose Silva, and Roberto Sabatini from RMIT University’s, School of Engineering – Aerospace and Aviation Discipline.

Jausan, Silva and Sabatini developed a new model that

“… can help to determine the cumulative effect of organisational, working environment and individual barriers on the performance of a safety reporting system in an aviation organisation.”

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Two apocryphal Santa safety tales

Safety Lesson 1 – Check Santa’s Constitution

As a child I lived across the road from a carpet factory.  This huge factory had a wide paddock next door that, for a time, had two golf fairways and greens and a chicken farm.  This paddock was the scene of the annual Christmas Party and, although my parents had no association with the factory, some of the neighbourhood kids wangled our way into the work’s Christmas Party.

One year the company chose to have Santa arrive by helicopter.  We could hear the noise from some way off and a landing site in the paddock had been roped off.  It didn’t take long for the noise from the children, already hyperactive on sugary drinks in a hot Australian Summer, to match the helicopter’s noise as the children ran to the roped area.

The helicopter lands, the propellers wind down as the children’s cheering increases.  Continue reading “Two apocryphal Santa safety tales”

Confusion over bullying and sexual discrimination on display in air traffic controller media reports

The Australian media is providing considerable coverage to the legal claim by two female workers against Airservices Australia over bullying and sexual discrimination.  Airservices Australia is a government organisation that control aircraft movement over Australian airspace.

The details of the harassment mentioned in the media are quite offensive and have no place in the modern workplace.

There are a couple of OHS related issues that pertain to the legal action and the media articles.  Firstly, the media struggles to differentiate between sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and workplace bullying.  Bullying has the most direct relationship to occupational health and safety but the others generate stress in the workplace and therefore the impacts, if not the actions, fall within the OHS purview.  The Australian Financial Review (AFR) (page 7, not available online) has a headline “Flight controllers sue for sexual discrimination” yet the article reports on bullying.   Continue reading “Confusion over bullying and sexual discrimination on display in air traffic controller media reports”

An executive decision leads to over six deaths

“Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket”.  The first time we hear such a saying is likely to be from our parents or our grandparents but it could equally apply to all the applications of risk management.  Clearly someone at Sundance Resources forgot this wisdom when its board members boarded a plane in Africa to visit a mining site.  The plane crashed and all on board died.

The remaining Sundance executives quickly acknowledged the error in media conferences shortly after the incident even though the decision was understandable.  In safety and workplace parlance, the board took a “shortcut” in safety, an act that would have been soundly disciplined for most workers.

Everybody takes shortcuts at work and sometimes these shortcuts lead to injury or death.  It is easy to say that the cause of an incident is a specific decision, the shortcut but it was not only the Sundance executive’s decision that contributed to the death.  In this instance the board entered a plane that later fell from the sky.  If they had made the same shortcut but on a different plane the outcome would have been very different.

Deaths always have a context to them and present a variety of “what-ifs” when we investigate.  A specific combination of events/decisions/actions/shortcuts lead to a death.  The Sundance shortcut was clearly the wrong decision, at the wrong time, in the wrong place and with the wrong mode of transport but there are more contributory factors that will become evident when the wreckage is fully recovered. Continue reading “An executive decision leads to over six deaths”

Recent workplace incidents

Below is a quick summary of some workplace incidents that have occured in Australia.  Often these sorts of incidents can be useful in reinforcing safe work practices to employees and clients.

The Metropolitan Ambulance Service in Victoria reports the following work-related incidents

Angle Grinder Blade

“…(a) 55 year old man… told us he’d been working with an angle grinder when the blade snapped off and hit him in the left side of his chest.  The wound to his upper chest was quite deep but thankfully a towel had been used to slow the bleeding before we arrived.” Continue reading “Recent workplace incidents”

Near miss but no government action

On 28 January 2010, three men walked away from the helicopter that crashed in Northern New South Wales on the lip of a 1,000 metre cliff.  The Australian media covered it fairly extensively.  What is curious about this air crash is that there is no government investigation into the possible cause of the crash.

OHS professionals advocate the inclusion of “near misses” in any investigation program so such a lack of interest seems peculiar.

One media report said that both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) will not be investigating.  (The company that owned the helicopter is in Queensland). Continue reading “Near miss but no government action”

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