New OHS laws could change the management of quad bikes

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Dr Tony Lower has written an opinion piece in the December 2011 edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (not available without a subscription however a related media release is) about farm safety.  One statistic he quotes says:

“In tractors, rollover fatalities have decreased by 60% after the introduction of regulations requiring compulsory rollover protection structures.”

The very successful introduction of rollover protection structures (ROPS) in Australia was given a major boost by OHS regulators offering substantial rebates for the fitting of ROPS on top of the regulatory requirements.  A safety “spoonful of sugar” as it were. Continue reading “New OHS laws could change the management of quad bikes”

Inadequate risk assessment results in an injured worker and $99k fine

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There is increasing attention being given to the preparation of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) in Australian OHS laws.  Amongst many purposes, SWMS should provide a basic risk assessment of tasks being undertaken, usually, that day.  Often SWMS are too generic by being prepared days or weeks earlier, often SWMS miss the big risks by looking at the small risks.  A New South Wales Workcover news release on 9 December 2011 indicates the potential inadequacy of risk assessment.

The media statement reports on a $A99,000 fine against Bulk Maritime Terminals Pty Limited (BMT).

“On 17 September 2008 two employees were unloading 25 to 30 bulk bags of clay powder into a tanker truck for transportation. Each bag weighed approximately 900kgs.

One employee was using an overhead gantry crane to lift each bag from the floor of the warehouse to the height of the tanker. The second employee was harnessed to the top of the tanker truck to open the spout on the bag.

After being lifted off the ground, one of the bags fell off the crane hook, knocking the operator of the crane to the ground. Continue reading “Inadequate risk assessment results in an injured worker and $99k fine”

Quad bike manufacturers withdraw from the safety campaign

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The Weekly Times newspaper can feel justifiably chuffed that it has played a significant role in changing some of the attitudes on the safe operation of quad bikes.

It’s front page article on 23 November 2011 reports on a considerable backdown by quad bike manufacturers in Australia on the issue of rollover protection structures (ROPS) or crush protection devices (CPDs). (The cartoon is very funny also) Motorcycle manufacturers have been supporting a campaign and website through the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) but even recent media releases (FCAI MOVES TO DE-BUNK ATV ROLL-OVER PROTECTION MYTHS )  have been removed from the FCAI website  and the FCAI spokesperson has been “directed by ATV makers not to discuss the issue” according to the Weekly Times.  FCAI’s 2010 position paper on quad bike safety continues to be accessible.

New CEO

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that there is industry speculation that the sudden change in policy direction is due to the September 2011 appointment of a new CEO, Ian Chalmers. Continue reading “Quad bike manufacturers withdraw from the safety campaign”

Social obligation is lost on some

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In response to the Weekly Times’ articles on quad bike safety and the mandatory use of helmets, one letter writer in this week’s edition of the newspaper wrote:

“More state lunacy… Accidents happen, legislation cannot stop this. Free people have the right to decide such things for themselves.”

The letter writer has a strong belief that accidents happen and that nothing can be done to stop the harm, particularly through the application of legislation. This view is in the minority but is still spoken in some social circles, although the volume of such statements may have reduced over time.

The statement shows a misunderstanding of the cause of accidents and there is always a cause, or several. It is no longer socially acceptable to concede a workplace death as an Act of God or “shit happens”, although only recently in an expensive rail safety seminar, “shit happens” was said repeatedly. The letter writer’s statement is one of hopelessness, the antithesis of the values of the safety profession and OHS regulators.

Philosophers can argue the point more effectively but if one is to concede that “accidents happen”, that “shit happens”, then one should also not expect to be covered by workers’ compensation or compensated if injured in a public footpath or seek financial restitution if assaulted at a crowded nightclub or in a dark alley. What outrage would be felt if one was to lodge a workers’ compensation claim and the insurer’s response was “accidents happen, good luck with your disability”.

The “nanny state” epithet is short hand for lazy thinking, social ignorance and selfishness.

Safety often involves investigation, perhaps even “CSI:Safety” – Grissom in a fluoro vest. We must seek the root cause, in loss prevention terms, or contributory factors in the modern OHS and risk management context. From analysis comes insight and from insight comes prevention.

It is hard to imagine that anyone who may have lost a loved one in an industrial, or agricultural, incident could have written this letter to the Weekly Times. It is slightly easier to imagine that there are people in society who just do not care about the welfare of others and they write occasionally to the Weekly Times about the “nanny state”.

Kevin Jones

An example of how safety can be misperceived as expensive

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Today I received an email that had the intriguing heading of:

“Do you fully understand what the harmonisation laws mean to your organisation?”

As I don’t “fully understand” harmonisation and spammers don’t usually use OHS as a spam tool, I opened the email.  It was a promotion for an upcoming conference called Supply Chain and Logistics Safety 2012.  The harmonisation of Australia’s OHS was not in the title but was mentioned in the email body.

“Although some states appear to be delaying their timeline for harmonisation implementation, businesses in reality can’t afford to wait. You will not only need to meet the regulation, but devise strategies to prevent your bottom line being impacted.”

No one wants an impacted bottom line (there’s a cream for that) and my unease increased by the writer implying that the two major issues of OHS harmonisation was to comply – “to meet the regulation” – and to protect profits.   Continue reading “An example of how safety can be misperceived as expensive”