New quad bike poster establishes a safe operation benchmark

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In July 2011, it was noted that the quad bike manufacturers had revised the wording of  their poster about quad bike safety.  The website that provided an online version of that poster is now under redevelopment.  However Australia’s Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) has released its own poster outlining the basic elements of quad bike safety in Australia and New Zealand.

The poster advises that:

BEFORE YOU BUY

Find out whether a quad bike is the best vehicle option for your farm.

Fatigue management is getting clearer but is competing for attention

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As a discipline for study, fatigue still seems to be in its early days and this presents a challenge for safety professionals and researchers.  Everyone knows what fatigue is because at some time we all suffer it, but try to define it and it is different things to different people.

Transport Safety Victoria (TSV), a division of the Department of Transport, brought together three speakers on the issue of fatigue management in early August 2011.  The public seminar provided a good indication of the complexity of the occupational issue of fatigue management.

The first revelation in the seminar came from Dr Paula Mitchell who stressed that fatigue cannot be self-assessed.  Researchers are struggling to create a widely accepted indicator for fatigue.  There is no blood alcohol reading device for fatigue and the Independent Transport Safety Regulator in July 2010 expressed caution on the application of the bio-mathematical fatigue model. Continue reading “Fatigue management is getting clearer but is competing for attention”

Quad bike safety is showing a political shift

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A young boy has died in a quad bike incident on an Australian farm last weekend.  What the boy was doing at the time of the incident is unclear and whether the quad bike was a work vehicle or recreational is also unclear, but the current sensitivities of the issue of quad bike safety have raised media attention once more.

In this week’s edition of The Weekly Times, the motorcycle manager of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Rhys Griffiths, seems uncertain of the type of safety measures being considered for quad bikes by manufacturers.  He is reported as saying

“…. research and development spending and direction was a “closely guarded secret of each manufacturer”.

“My guess is they may be spending money on things like active suspension, which helps the stability of the ATV. But a roll bar or crush bar is probably not under development.”

Since quad bike safety advocates began producing robust research to add to the existing safety evidence, the FCAI seems to have been on the back foot a little by reacting instead of proposing change.   Continue reading “Quad bike safety is showing a political shift”

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”