The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on 14 June 2011 (not freely available online) that Senator Jacinta Collins has publicly stated that an International Labour Organisation (ILO) occupational health and safety convention will be signed by the current Government in conjunction with other conventions on maritime labour, asbestos and part-time work. The announcement that “Australia will ratify four ILO Conventions this year” was made at the recent International Labour Conference.
Most of the AFR article focussed on the labour relations impacts of the conventions but RMIT’s Professor of Law, Breen Creighton noted that
“Ratifying a convention has no effect in Australian law unless the Australian parliaments legislate to give effect to the international obligations.”
Senator Collins’ speech identifies the OHS protocol as the “Optional Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention”.
A brief discussion on this protocol occurred on this blog in late April 2011 when the ratification was mentioned during the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
Pressure is increasing on the manufacturers of quad bikes in Australia and from a variety of sources.
The Weekly Times newspaper continues, almost fortnightly, to report on the safety debate about the use and design of quad bikes. The 9 June edition has a double-page spread on the issue with many direct quotes from “players” in the debate. The fact that a national rural newspaper has devoted this level of column inches is indicative of the controversy. The Australian metropolitan dailies have not followed this lead but, as we have seen in previous blog posts, major New Zealand papers have covered the issues.
Some Australian government departments are applying the cautionary principle under legislative occupational health and safety (OHS) obligation and have restricted the use of quad bikes pending risk assessments. SafetyAtWorkBlog has heard that one department, New South Wales’ National Parks & Wildlife Service, has passed through the assessment phase and will be fitting Crush Protection Devices (CPDs) to their quad bikes by the end of August 2011.
A source close to the debate has told SafetyAtWorkBlog that
- There is an increased likelihood for coroners’ inquests in a number of states;
- The quad bike industry has begun formally misrepresenting the value of CPDs in posters, of which several have been provided to quad bike distributors; and
- The industry continue to assert that research shows CPDs cause more harm than good but provide no evidence of this. More…
At the end of May 2011, The Weekly Times newspaper reported that the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment
“has enforced limited use of ATVs by staff while it conducted a risk assessment on their use.”
SafetyAtWorkBlog has learned that a New South Wales government department has taken similar action through to August 2011.
SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to contact the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries’ Rhys Griffiths this afternoon seeking clarification of the FCAI’s withdrawal from quad bike safety discussions reported yesterday. Prior to withdrawing, a document was read to the quad bike safety working group. The document has not been released publicly but below is the gist.
Further down the page is an edited version of the letter that the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (AgHealth) has reportedly sent to “290 rural motorcycle dealers”. According to Rhys Griffiths being quoted in The Weekly Times, this letter
“”…basically says dealers could be looking at law suits for not fitting devices on ATVs… This is in direct contradiction to the manufacturers’ recommendations, so the dealer is caught in the middle.” More…
In early 2010, Australia’s Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) established a trans-Tasman working party to look at the safety issues of quad bikes, often called all-terrain vehicles. The working group is in the final stages of its report and a major motorcycle industry representative has not liked the findings and has apparently withdrawn from the working group. A report on the increasing tensions was published in this week’s The Weekly Times. SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that the quad bike industry representative has walked out in protest.
Let’s look at what HWSA said about the working group in May 2010:
“HWSA Chair, John Watson, said every farming fatality leads to immeasurable suffering in close-knit rural communities and these figures are not acceptable.
“The working group is expected to deliver solutions to safety problems associated with use of quad bikes on farm properties and raise awareness of practical risk controls,…
“The group will look at issues that include design, safety equipment, training and instruction, aftermarket accessories, safe use and point of sale,….
“The joint program of work will be delivered through an Industry Solutions Program where industry and regulators work together to address high risk safety issues – an initiative that has successfully provided practical solutions to a number of issues across many industries.
“The working group is focused on producing tangible and sustainable safety outcomes across the farming and agricultural industry where quad bikes are commonly used….”
Of significance in that media release is that Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries
(FCAI) Andrew McKellar said
“It is our objective that all quad bike users are well informed of the manufacturer’s recommendations in relation to the safe use of these vehicles…”
The sticking point in the working group was, according to The Weekly Times, that
“”…the committee was expected to back the recommendation to “consider fitting an anti-crush device”, the strongest position yet for roll-over protection.”
The committee did recommend this and apparently the FCAI walked. Attempts have been made to contact the FCAI to confirm their action and their objections. More…