Survey shows continuing increase in mobile phone use while driving

The use of a mobile phone while driving can be very dangerous for other vehicles, pedestrians and drivers themselves.  New communications technology has been devised to accommodate the less-new technology of mobile phones but in itself hands-free technologies are masking the risk.

Although this hazard is across the driving community, there is particular relevance for workplace drivers as their status complicates the arguments against talking or texting while driving and provides additional control measures. Continue reading “Survey shows continuing increase in mobile phone use while driving”

Inadequate support under a vehicle costs one life and £90,000

Newspapers regularly report of home mechanics being trapped or killed while working under their cars and the jack slips.  This type of event is less likely in workplaces because workshops have hoists or pits  where work can be undertaken under a fairly stable vehicle.  However not all vehicle repair happens in a workshop.

On 26 January 2010 a judge in the Old Bailey in England fined a vehicle maintenance company, Aviance UK Ltd, £90,000 over the death of Mohammed Taj in March 2008 after being crushed under a baggage tug at Heathrow Airport. Continue reading “Inadequate support under a vehicle costs one life and £90,000”

Comcare comments on quad bike advisory

Considerable discussion has resulted in the quad-bike safety fraternity following the blog article about Comcare’s safety alert on 22 January 2010.  Below is an official comment on the article.

“Comcare is aware that a number of organisations in the Federal jurisdiction use quad bikes and are concerned some may be using them inappropriately without necessarily understanding the risks. Continue reading “Comcare comments on quad bike advisory”

Australia’s Comcare issues safety alert on quad bikes

On 22 January 2010 Comcare issued a safety alert concerning the use of quad bikes (available on the Comcare website from 25 January 2010):

“Employers who own and operate quad bikes should be aware of the hazards and potential safety risks.

Following some recent accidents while operating quad bikes, a draft Code of Practice is currently being developed by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and Distributors [FCAI] relating to the ‘Use of All Terrain Vehicles in the Workplace’.

Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) has also formed a working party comprising of OHS Regulators and industry representatives to look at strategies to improve quad bike safety. Continue reading “Australia’s Comcare issues safety alert on quad bikes”

Something fishy in Tasmania’s abalone industry

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

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”

Forklift death and safety posters

Twelve days in 2010 and Victoria has experienced its first workplace death and it was due to the use of a forklift.  A 60-year-old man was crushed after a load being removed from a truck by forklift fell.

According to WorkSafe Victoria:

“…the man was guiding a forklift driver who was to remove the computer equipment weighing some 200kg and standing about 2m high, from the back of a semi-trailer.  The equipment was on castors and not mounted on a pallet.”

As part of WorkSafe ongoing campaign on forklift safety, it has issued two safety posters.  Originals should be available through the local WorkSafe Victoria offices.

Risk/Reward trade-off

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”

NZ announces inquiry into the safety of farm vehicles

The New Zealand Department of Labour (DoL) has announced a period of public consultation on its OHS guidance on the safe use of off-road vehicles.  The process will include a review of “Safe Use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms: Agricultural Guideline” publication.

Interestingly the DoL says  it

“is looking to extend this publication to apply to the agricultural, forestry and adventure tourism industries.”

There is a potential for a considerable broadening of OHS issues but this may be hampered by the scheduling of the public consultation.  The DoL public commentary period closes on February 13 2010. Both Australia and New Zealand are in Summer holiday mode and many companies are closed down for several weeks in January or operate on a skeleton staff.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has commented on this trend for short consultative periods over the Christmas break previously. Continue reading “NZ announces inquiry into the safety of farm vehicles”

John Holland prosecution

The John Holland Group has featured several times in the SafetyAtWorkBlog in 2009.  Any organisation as large as this Australian conglomerate who promotes their commitment to safety and whose Board Chair, Janet Holmes a Court, has such a high profile is going to draw media scrutiny.  In fact, the evolution of the John Holland safety culture and the struggle to maintain such a culture as a company grows in profitability and complexity would make a fascinating case study.

On 18 December 2009, Comcare released details of its latest successful prosecution of John Holland.  This time the company was fined $A180,000 over the death of a worker, Mark McCallum, at the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal in Queensland in May 2008.  According to the media statement:

“Justice Collier stated that “It is clear that, despite the efforts taken by the respondent to implement a safe working environment, the operation involving the transportation unit was flawed in its original conception. The dangers were obvious from the start, relatively simple to avoid, but unrecognised and unaddressed in a manner which raises the objective gravity of the offence in these proceedings towards the higher end of the scale.” [emphasis added]

When a judge determines that the process was flawed from the very start, one’s expertise in managing an established practice safely should be critically reviewed.  Such fundamental failures in a safety management system should cause any company to realise something is wrong in the way it is addressing safety needs, particularly in an economic climate that is bursting with new infrastructure projects for which one is competing.

The circumstances of the fatality are that

“A team of five John Holland workers were involved in moving large precast concrete decks to the end of a jetty under construction.  The precast concrete decks were being transported on two jinkers that were being pushed by a front end loader.  During this procedure, a worker’s foot became trapped under wooden scaffolding planks on the jetty, and he was fatally injured when he was run over by the wheels of the jinker.”

The Federal Court judgement listed the safety deficiencies that John Holland acknowledged

“The respondent acknowledges that:

(a) its work method statement did not adequately identify the risks associated with the relevant work process, and did not adequately identify suitable control measures to remove or minimise those risks; and

(b) it did not carry out a plant hazard assessment with respect to the front and rear jinkers, which may have identified a requirement for a remote braking system or other controls on the jinkers for use by spotters and others; and

(c) it did not have in place a formal system whereby employees were certified as being competent in the use of jinkers; and

(d) it did not have in place a formal protocol or procedure for the use of radios to ensure that the transmitter of a radio message was able to be informed that the message had been received by its intended recipient and understood; and

(e) it did not have sufficient communication mechanisms in place to ensure that employees working out of sight of the loader operator and the rear spotter were able to communicate directly with spotters and the loader operator; and

(f) it did not ensure that an observer of a trainee jinker operator was also issued with a radio to directly communicate with the other members of the transportation crew responsible for the propulsion of the load; and

(g) it did not provide workers who were working out of sight of the loader operator or rear spotter with any form of alarm or safety device, other than a radio to alert other workers of the occurrence of an emergency situation; and

(h) it did not ensure that the clearance of obstacles in the path of the loader was done in a timely or effective manner, thereby requiring the front jinker operator to perform that duty during the progress of the transportation unit and whilst out of the line of sight of the loader operator.”

Mark McCallum’s death gained even greater media attention when unions challenged John Holland’s nomination for a safety award shortly after McCallum’s death.

Kevin Jones