Fatigue dispute illustrates ideological clash

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The Australian newspaper reports today (26 July 2011) of a clash between the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) and BHP Billiton over fatigue management.  Fatigue management is one of the workplace hazards scheduled for a draft code of practice under the OHS harmonisation process.

The CFMEU believes that the current mining-related guidance  is inadequate.

“The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union says the government buckled under industry pressure and abandoned plans for binding industry standards that would minimise the risk of workers doing successive 12-hour shifts and then driving long distances on public roads.”

The flaw in the CFMEU’s campaign is that it has been selective in its choice of fatigue documentation.  Looking at the industry sector rather than the hazard or risk limits the hazard control options.  In the current case the CFMEU is not acknowledging many of the fatigue guidancesand documents that are available from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland or from some of the other States and even from overseas as this Safe Work Australia document from 2006 shows.

In fact the narrow selection of guidance in this instance makes a strong case for greater collaboration in the development of information across industry sectors and State jurisdictions – one of the aims of harmonisation. Continue reading “Fatigue dispute illustrates ideological clash”

Government department fined $285k over prison van death

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In January 2011 WorkSafe indicated its intention to prosecute the Department of Corrective Services and others in relation to death of Mr Ward.  A $A285,000 penalty was imposed on 7 July 2011.

SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on the WorkSafe actions at the time but an excellent clearinghouse for information on this case is the  website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners program which examined the 2008 death of  Mr Ward in Western Australia.

The Four Corners website has a considerable amount of background information on the case, including the coroner’s findings, which some readers may find confronting and, as the ABC says “This report contains images of the deceased which may disturb Aboriginal viewers”.

Mr Ward was being transported to Perth in the rear of a prison transport vehicle following a traffic offence.  The vehicle’s air-conditioning system was not operating, the temperature within the rear of the vehicle increased so much in the Western Australian heat that, according to one commentator, Mr Ward was “cooked”.  When Mr Ward’s body was being removed from the prison van at the hospital “the air from the van was “…like a blast from a furnace”” according to one witness.  The coroner found that  “no effective air-conditioning was being supplied to the rear pod of the vehicle.”

There are many management issues involved with this unnecessary death but some will be familiar.   Continue reading “Government department fined $285k over prison van death”

Farming federation calls for mandatory fitting of safety devices to quadbikes

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On 12 June 2010, SafetyAtWorkBlog noted the spokesperson for the National Farmers Federation, Duncan Fraser, supporting the voluntary fitting of roll protection devices to quadbikes in specific circumstances.  On 20 June 2011, the New South Wales Farmers Federation’s Industrial Relations Committee Chair Graham Morphett has spoken in favour of  “the mandatory fitting of roll bars” to quad bikes.

This is an extraordinary blow to the quad bike manufacturers who are set against rollover protection structures (ROPS) or crush protection devices (CPDs) for quad bikes.

Morphett’s comments deserve a little more analysis.

“Quad bikes can be extremely unstable on uneven farm terrain. Manufacturers have a responsibility to improve the design of the vehicles to ensure their safety.  No quad bike should be sold without a roll over bar,” he said

SafetyAtWorkBlog has criticised manufacturers for not developing new designs that counter, what some research has described as the propensity to rollover.  Morphett echoes this position.

Perhaps more significantly Morphett believes that  new quadbikes Continue reading “Farming federation calls for mandatory fitting of safety devices to quadbikes”

Quad bike poster distracts from the evidence

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Not only are quadbike manufacturers resisting the inevitable, they have gone on the attack with posters being distributed that criticise the installation of crush protection devices (CPD)s, safety devices increasingly being recommended by safety advocates, farm safety specialists and government departments in Australia.

According The Weekly Times on 16 June 2011, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Polaris and Kawasaki and others are promoting a safety message through the poster (pictured right).  This position was hinted at in Dr Yossi Berger’s comments on a previous blog posting.

The major rural newspaper reports a curious position that may indicate that criticism of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) may be misplaced.

“FCAI motorcycle manager Rhys Griffiths said it was the manufacturers’ decision to put the posters up, and “we had no part in printing it”.

The FCAI was “yet to go public with our message other than to have the industry position paper available”.” [links added]

There is no mention of this poster campaign on any of the manufacturers’ website mentioned above.

The FCAI may claim not to gone “public” on this poster campaign but the industry position paper is, at first glance, damning of the roll bar options available.  However a close reading of the industry paper on rollover protection structures shows a large number of equivocations and conditional statements.  There also seem to be blanket conclusions from some comparisons of dissimilar ROPS.

The debate continues and seems to be evolving into the public relations arena.  This is very unfortunate as the evidence, the issue of the safety of riders of quadbikes in the workplace, can become clouded by spin.  Up to this point the arguments have been about the research evidence.  The poster is an unhelpful distraction.

Kevin Jones