Something fishy in Tasmania’s abalone industry

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Recently, SafetyAtWorkBlog received a long anonymous email concerning the death of David Colson, Tasmanian abalone diver who drowned in October 2007.  The Coroner completed his inquest into the death and released his investigation findings in early January 2010.  An earlier blog article on the findings can be found here

The correspondent pointed out that Allen Hansen, founder and managing director of Tasmanian Seafoods, the company that was to receive the abalone harvested by David Colson and Tony Burton, and a director the Tasmanian Abalone Council for an Export Award.  The award was in fact an Export Leadership Award.

There is no indication that workplace safety is a criteria in the awarding of the Export Leadership Awards.  The Award website describes Hansen as

“…truly an industry ‘builder’ and has made an outstanding contribution to developing the premier image of Tasmanian abalone.”

Attitudes to OHS in the abalone industry

The Coroner found that Allen Hansen’s company, Tasmanian Seafoods, did not have any procedures in place for when a boat did not return on time. Continue reading “Something fishy in Tasmania’s abalone industry”

Shipbreaking Explosion

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In September 2009 several workers were killed and burnt when cutting up an old tanker that still had chemical residue.  The National Labor Committee (NLC)  has released a a ten minute video interview with the NLC Executive Director, Charles Kernaghan.

According to an 11 January 2010 NLC notice:

“Eight more workers in Bangladesh were burned to death on December 26, 2009, when the ship they were dismantling exploded.   The workers had been told that the gas tanks on the Agate oil tanker had been cleaned.   It was a lie.   Continue reading “Shipbreaking Explosion”

Risk/Reward trade-off

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On 11 January 2010, the Tasmanian Workplace Relations Minister, Lisa Singh, announced a  new safety focus on the abalone industry following the findings of a coronial inquest into the death of David Colson in 2007.

There are several interesting elements to the Minister’s decision.  Firstly and, perhaps, most importantly, the decision shows the significant role that Coroners in Australia play in improving workplace safety.  For legislative change, it is difficult to see any more effective political motivator.

Also, the Coroner can express opinions based on evidence in a way that few other courts do. The findings are not yet publicly available. Continue reading “Risk/Reward trade-off”

Public Comments – Fishing and Legionnaire’s

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WorkSafe Western Australia has two documents currently open for public comment.   One concerns a draft code of practice  for the prevention of falls from commercial fishing vessels.  The other may have a wider appeal as it is a draft code of practice for the prevention and control of Legionnaires’ disease.

man_overboard coverThe man overboard code is an example of established hazard management and risk control options for a niche hazard in a niche working environment, however, it is often in these areas where procedural and technical processes are most easily recognised.  The draft code is in a format, and has a degree of clarity, that encourages discussion and examination.

Readers may find some useful information for those workers who work alone or in isolation, for those who need to undertake tasks at nighttime and in intense darkness, and for those workplaces that require a strict induction for new workers.

LEGIONNAIRES__Public_comment coverSimilarly, the Legionnaire’s code of practice builds on established risk management concepts and shows that businesses still need to prevent legionnaire’s infections even if there is a regulatory/licensing system in place for cooling towers.

On a formatting note, both these draft codes could have benefited from the regulators embracing more of the Web 2.0 concepts.  The PDF files do have some hyperlinks for some more information or emails but there could be a lot more effort put in to making the drafts a hub for the documents’ references.  For instance, mentions of legislation could lead to online versions so that those commenting online can flick back and forth from reference to topic.

[Just imagine how much more helpful a code of practice with such functionality could be to a small business – wiki + blog+ safety = better compliance]

In the Legionnaire’s draft there are tags on page 36 that could lead to the online text of the Acts referred to.  The tags are a good idea but could use increased functionality.

Lastly, the Legionnaire’s code references eight Australian Standards and publications.  It is a reasonable expectation that, for this hazard, industry submissions will be the majority and those parties already have the Standards.  However, if a broad consultation is required, many interested parties may find purchasing these Standards a substantial cost burden,  which SafetyAtWorkBlog calculated to be at least $A390 for the PDF versions.

Kevin Jones

River death leads to OHS prosecution

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The prosecution of a New Zealand adventure company, Black Sheep Adventures, over the death of Englishwoman Emily Jordan has received more press in England than in Australia but the case should be watched by all OHS professionals.

One report provides a useful summary of the fatal incident

“Emily Jordan drowned while riverboarding on the Kawarau river in New Zealand’s south island in April last year [2008].

The 21-year-old former Alice Ottley School (now RGSAO) pupil was travelling with her boyfriend after graduating from Swansea University with a first class degree in law.

The riverboarding company Black Sheep Adventures Ltd and its director Brad McLeod have been charged with failing to ensure the actions or inaction of employees did not harm Miss Jordan.”

The same article is an illustration of the importance of regular communication with the family of the deceased by the Authorities, even if the parties are on opposite sides of the globe.

The family established The Emily Jordan Foundation and a eulogy about Emily is available which provides a clearer understanding of what was lost in this tragedy.

Black Sheep Adventures have also been charged under the Health and Safety Employment Act 1992, with failing “failure to take all practical steps to ensure the safety of employees and the prevention of possible hazards.”  The company and its director have pleaded not guilty.

The Birmingham Post is continuing to cover the case including the start of the trial due for next week.

Maritime New Zealand who are prosecuting the company instigated a review of the river boarding industry in late 2008.

Kevin Jones