Dust suppression innovation research 1

Many areas of Australia are flooded, sodden or just very wet in the middle of this Southern Hemisphere Summer.  Many workplaces had been expecting to be wetting down worksites and roadways to suppress the dust.  Instead the water carts are garaged due to mud.  But the environmental and occupational hazard of dust remains a hazard.

On 13 January 2010, it was announced that the Australian Coal Association Research Program will provide almost a quarter of a million dollars over two years to research the suppression of dust by synthetic means.  This is a good initiative and one that could benefit many mining and non-mining workplaces but the issue of dust suppression with material other than water has raised environmental and health issues in the past.

Some background to the research report mentioned by Dr Nikki Williams of the NSW Minerals Council in her media release is available from this link to the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW).   More…

NZ Farmers rep enters quad bike safety debate 5

An opinion piece was published in the New Zealand Herald on 12 January 2011 concerning quad bikes.  There are several points raised by Donald Aubrey, vice-president of Federated Farmers and chairman of the Agricultural Health and Safety Council that can be disputed.

“In the hands of the untrained or the over-confident they can be deadly. And quad bike safety is far from being a problem exclusive to the agricultural sector.”

From the outset Aubrey’s position is clear, the problem with quad bike safet is not design-related, it is lack of training and over-confidence.  Training for quad bike riding has existed for many years and injuries continue to occur.  At what point should more effective controls be introduced? More…

NZ Coroner presses for changes in quad bike safety 13

One of New Zealand’s coroners, Ian Smith, has set a safety challenge to the OHS regulatory and quad bike distributors.  In the coronial findings (not available online) into the 2008 death of 21-year-old beekeeper, Jody Santos, Coroner Smith has recommended to the Ministers for Transport and Labour:

“The Court endorses the new educational and enforcement programme being proposed by the Department of Labour, but considers that both Ministries undertake an immediate investigation to consider the mandatory installation of:

(i) The compulsory wearing of helmets when operating ATVs in any circumstances; and

(ii) The installation of a roll bar on all A TVs/quad bikes; and

(iii) The installation of lap belts on all ATVs/quad bikes.”

The Department of Labour (DoL) specifically requested that the Coroner remove the mandatory installation recommendation.   More…

Quad bike safety issues continue with no end in sight 20

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been following the discussions about safety of all-terrain vehicles and quad bikes for some time.  This is because the use of these vehicles encapsulate so many of the issues that workplace safety needs to deal with:

  • Safe design
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Hierarchy of controls
  • The line between private activity and work activity
  • Personal responsibility
  • The “nanny state”
  • Regulatory safety guidance
  • Industry-based codes of practice

On 19 December 2010, the New Zealand Sunday Star Times ran a feature article on quad bikes, written by Amanda Cropp (I can’t find the article online but please send a link if you can) entitled “Risky Business”.  The article is a fair summation of many of the perspectives and attitudes to quad bike safety.

For those readers who like statistics, Cropp writes that

“The annual ACC [Accident Compensation Corporation] bill for quad bike-related injuries is around $7 million, and Hobbs’ claim was among 2533 in 2009, a sizeable increase on the 457 new claims accepted in 2000.” [link added] More…

How much significant information do workplace fatalities provide? 5

Workplace fatalities are terrible, lingering tragedies that generally don’t teach anything new about OHS failures.  I couldn’t find anything new in the frightening detail in the article below (dated 14th December 2010) or in scores of Google searches of industrial/occupational fatalities; though disease fatality epidemiology can be  informative.

If all workplace fatalities in Australia were stopped overnight, most workers wouldn’t notice a single improvement in their own workplace.  They’d still be working in the same cluster of hazards, useless risk assessments and a regular sprinkling of near misses and daily shortcuts.  Despite regulators’ and politicians’ shrieks of dismay at workplace deaths, such fatalities don’t represent the main OHS problem at work.

If any regulator was informed in advance – in some detail – that in a particular industry there would be three fatalities in the next three months (or even intolerable risk) they wouldn’t know how to prevent them.  Example?  Think of the insulation program, which still has some way to go and a few more surprises in store.  Example?  Over the next six months there are likely to be 3-6 quad bike-related fatalities in Australia, mostly as a result of rollovers.

Or think of the value of risk assessments:  example?  Consider the 60,000-80,000 barrels (10,000 tons) of the most dangerous hexachlorobenzene (HCB) waste stockpiled and being repackaged (ultimately, drum to drum) by workers in a primitive work process at Botany Bay Industrial Park, Sydney.  One of the world’s largest stockpiles of such dangerous wastes that no one around the world is prepared to handle.   This is the only place I’ve ever had to wear two layers of protection to inspect. What has the regulator done? More…