Australian Government moves on quad bike safety

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Just before Christmas in 2009, Dr Yossi Berger speculated for an information network about the safety of quad bikes.  He called it QuadWatch.  Over two years later, on 13 July 2012, Australia’s Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced his own QuadWatch.

In the 2009 Croaky Blog, Dr Berger suggested

“a network could be called QuadWatch and it would become a clearing house for all needs related to quad bikes, particularly in relation to safety standards.  All training needs, advice about accessories, advice about the correct machine for a certain job or terrain could be handled by such regional cells.”

Shorten described the new QuadWatch as

“… a community based network bringing together farmers, community groups, emergency services and local government.

Shorten’s QuadWatch is broadly consultative but is a little different in its communication strategy.  Establishing websites in support of a political strategy have not had the greatest success in the last few years under the Federal Labor Government and QuadWatch is not the end point in the safety debate.

It is worth deconstructing the Minister’s media release a little.

Continue reading “Australian Government moves on quad bike safety”

Serious quad bike incident in New South Wales

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SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that an Irish backpacker was working on a farm near Gravesend in New South Wales in late May 2012 and received serious back injuries when the quad bike, from which he was spot spraying weeds, rolled on an embankment. The man was taken to hospital after contacting the farmer for assistance.

A spokesperson from WorkCover NSW has confirmed that

“….a 26 year old male worker was injured on a property at Gravesend near Moree …. on Thursday, 31 May.  Initial enquiries indicate that the worker was spot spraying weeds on the property and has suffered back injuries from a quad bike incident when he attempted to ride out of a gully.”

At this time, Workcover was unable to say whether

  • the worker had received any motorcycle or quad bike training.
  • the quad bike had any attachments or modifications.
  • the worker was wearing a helmet or other PPE at the time.

It is understood that the worker had been on the farm for only a few days.

We have been unable to find any media or online references to this incident.

On 24 May 2012, a week before the incident above, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AM program ran an interview about the quad bike related fatality of an 11-year-old boy in 2011.

A longer audio interview on quad bike safety was conducted by ABC Rural in September 2011.  The participants were Tony Williams of WorkCover NSW and John Lambert of the Forensic Engineering Society of Australia but the most significant quality of the interview was the solid understanding of agricultural safety shown by the interviewer.

Kevin Jones

Motivation needed from Prime Minister on OHS laws

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In July 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard mentioned OHS harmonisation in an election debate.  She said that OHS harmonisation was one of her achievements but less than two years later, at the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) Congress, there is no mention of harmonisation in her speech.  The only mention of safety was in terms of truck drivers:

“And we’ve moved to protect the rights of cleaners.  We’ve moved to improve the laws for outworkers. We’ve moved so that a truck-driving cabin being a workplace […] can be a safer workplace, so that truck driver gets back home that evening.”

The Prime Minister audience was trade unionists and perhaps they need motivation and support and acknowledgement for their efforts in difficult economic and political times but there is a big move from harmonising the OHS laws across a country to determining a truck cabin as a workplace (which it has been for decades in some States).

The 2012 ACTU Congress included industrial manslaughter on its agenda.  Its OHS and Rehabilitation policy stated:

“Congress  affirms  that  industrial  manslaughter  should  be  an  offence  under occupational health and safety legislation or other legislation as most appropriate. The elements of the offence should be:  A worker dies in the course of employment or  at a place of work or is injured or contracts a disease, injury or illness in the course of employment and later dies;  The  conduct  (by  way  of  act  or  omission)  of  a  person  caused  the  death,  injury  or illness; and  The person was reckless or negligent about causing serious harm or death to the worker.”

Industrial manslaughter seems a poisoned political concept but it remains a potential motivator in Australia even though it is a reality in the UK.  Without motivation from the Prime Minister, other issues will fill the void.

Kevin Jones

What is behind guest blog articles?

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Over the last 12 months, SafetyAtWorkBlog has received many unsolicited “guest posts” and almost all of these include links back to commercial sites that have some relationship to the author.  I consider this advertising and reject the posts.  However the writers and, sometime, public relations agencies could be coming cleverer.  The following article is not about workplace safety per se but if safety professionals and others are going to rely on safety information available on social media, Facebook, blogs etc. it is essential they can have faith in the reliability of this information.  Below is a record of a brief search for such reliability in a blog article submission, a search for reliability that all blog owners should consider.

An unsolicited guest post was submitted to SafetyAtWorkBlog by Brooke Kerwin on 6 March 2012.  A sample article was requested with a brief profile of the author.  An article was received entitled “Employees in Automobile Industry Face Changing Safety with Technology“.  The article ( that “I have written specifically for your blog”) contained three links – two to category links within the SafetyAtWorkBlog and one to distracteddrivinghelp.com.  The third link actually related to the subject matter of this article but as there was no profile provided for Brooke Kerwin, I searched for the name through the internet.

On March 8 2012, Brooke Kerwin had a guest post published at Rethinking Patient Safety.  That article had one link to the Rethinking Patient Safety blog, a link to National Patient Safety Week and a third link to distracteddrivinghelp.com. Continue reading “What is behind guest blog articles?”

The fact that quad bike use is dangerous needs a fresh communication strategy

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Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety has released new information about deaths and injuries associated with quad bike use in Australia for 2011. His report lists media reports that

“There were at least 23 quad bike related fatalities and 56 major injuries, many of which are likely to be life‐changing…”

He also continues to keep pressure on the quad bike manufacturers:

“It is an absolute insult to quad bike users and particularly to those families that have lost loved ones in rollovers that the manufacturers and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) simply continue to defend the indefensible. There is an urgent need to address this issue through better design of the quad bikes themselves and also ensuring crush protection devices are fitted”

But the severity of the risk and potential consequences of using quad bikes is well established.  This article is going to look at a couple of other issues raised by Dr Lower’s media release (not yet available online) and the Media Monitors report. Continue reading “The fact that quad bike use is dangerous needs a fresh communication strategy”