How much significant information do workplace fatalities provide?

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? Continue reading “How much significant information do workplace fatalities provide?”

West Australian farmer found dead under his quadbike

WorkSafe WA has reported on a quad-bike related death of a 68-year-old man in the evening of 12 December 2010.  Details are scarce as OHS inspectors have only been able to attend the scene this morning.

The WorkSafe media release (soon to be available online) states:

“WorkSafe is investigating the work-related death of a 68-year-old man on a farm at Crooked Brook, near Dardanup south of Bunbury, last night.
The farmer was believed to have left his house to move cows from one paddock to another.  When he did not return, a family member went to look for him and found him under an upturned quad bike.”

Details of the type of terrain, safety features of the quad bike and the type of PPE on site were not available at the time of writing. Continue reading “West Australian farmer found dead under his quadbike”

Aussie politician risks head injury in photo op

The issue of quad-bike safety continues to be controversial in Australia.  This debate is not helped by inconsistent safety messages on television.  Many of the news bulletins in Australia on 2 March 2010 showed the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, riding, seemingly for the first time, a quad bike on his trip to central Australia.  Sometimes he is wearing a helmet and at other times, not.

Video available on the ABC website shows parts of an apparent induction on how to operate the quad bike.   Continue reading “Aussie politician risks head injury in photo op”