UnionsWA looking for the WHS pot of gold

Recently WorkSafeWA released its annual workplace safety performance data. One of the most dramatic findings of the report was that

“Work fatalities average one death every 21 days…”

UnionsWA has used this finding to criticise the West Australian government for not signing up to the model Work Health and Safety laws. There is a logic jump that needs serious questioning.

Continue reading “UnionsWA looking for the WHS pot of gold”

New Zealand railways, red tape, politics and workplace deaths

cover of NZ RailOn 28 April 2013, New Zealand lawyer, Hazel Armstrong, published a 48-page book on how workplace fatalities and the management of the NZ rail industry has been related to politics and economics.

This is an ideological position more than anything else and the evidence is thin in much of this short book but there is considerable power in the description of the manipulation of occupational health and safety regulations and oversight during the political privatisation of the NZ rail sector.  Many countries have privatised previously nationalised, or government-owned, enterprises usually on the argument of productivity and efficiency increases.  Armstrong argues that these arguments were used to justify breaking the trade union dominance of the rail industry. Continue reading “New Zealand railways, red tape, politics and workplace deaths”

Workers Memorial Day ceremony, industrial manslaughter and red tape

ACTU President Ged Kearney addresses the event. (image: VTHC)

The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Ged Kearney, spoke briefly at the Workers Memorial Day ceremony in Melbourne Victoria on 29 April 2013.  Kearney reiterated the call for industrial manslaughter laws in Australia echoing the statements by the ACTU’s Michael Borowick yesterday and the ACTU media release. Continue reading “Workers Memorial Day ceremony, industrial manslaughter and red tape”

National Workers Memorial opens

Yesterday Australia opened its National Workers Memorial in Canberra.  The Workplace Relations Minister  Bill Shorten, spoke at the ceremony with, largely, an edited and reduced version of the speech he presented in Brisbane earlier last week.  The Canberra speech dropped  all the ANZAC Day references and spoke about the importance of remembering.

“By erecting this monument, we tie the lives and memories and families of thousands of Australians to this place.  We stand here in this place as a mark of respect from a civilised community as an expression of failure and regret.  That’s what all memorials are, and this one is no different.  This is a symbol of the mourning for those lost too early from our tribe Australia.” Continue reading “National Workers Memorial opens”

Australia set to open its National Workers Memorial

NWM HERO SHOT 2For several years Australia has been designing and constructing a National Workers Memorial.  This weekend, on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Australia holds its first national remembrance day at the new memorial on the banks Lake Burley Griffin in Australia’s capital city, Canberra.

The memorial has been coordinated by the National Capital Authority who has established a website for this memorial. The website will have live coverage of the inauguration ceremony at 11.00am AEST. Continue reading “Australia set to open its National Workers Memorial”

Australian IR Minister calls for dignity, respect and trust in workplace safety

Workers Memorial 2006 00328 April is the annual day of remembrance for those people who have died at work.  It has various names depending on local politics but the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, established by the International Labour Organization.  This year ceremonies are being held on many days around April 28.  On Wednesday 24 April, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, spoke at the remembrance ceremony in Brisbane.  The official speech is illustrative.

Shorten states an occupational health and safety principle:

“…we know [workplace deaths] are preventable. They are not accidents.

Let me repeat this: by far most deaths and serious injuries are predictable safety failures.

It’s not a systems’ failure or risk assessment failure, or hazard identification failure…and all those other handsome words without tears.

It is the failure that springs as a readymade monster from the knowing tolerance of small daily hazards at the daily tasks.” (emphasis added)

Even given the qualifications in the highlighted statement above Shorten believes workplace incidents are safety failures that occur due to a “knowing tolerance” of hazards.  The risk is not in the hazards themselves but in our tolerance of these hazards. Continue reading “Australian IR Minister calls for dignity, respect and trust in workplace safety”

CSB pushes for a more effective discussion on fatigue management

Occupational health and safety has many examples of addressing small or short-term issues rather than  facing the difficult and hard, but more sustainable, control measures. I was reminded of this by a recent media statement from the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in relation to fatigue management.

In 2007 the CSB recommended that, following the Texas City refinery fire,

“the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the United Steelworkers International Union (USW) jointly lead the development of an ANSI consensus standard with guidelines for fatigue prevention in the refinery and petrochemical industries.” [links added]

The progress of API and USW in developing the 2010 ANSI-approved Recommended Practice 755 (RP 755) has been reviewed by the CSB staff and they have found the following disturbing problems:

  • “The document was not the result of an effective consensus process, and therefore does not constitute a tool that multiple stakeholders in the industry can “own.” It was not balanced in terms of stakeholder interests and perspectives, and did not sufficiently incorporate or take into account the input of experts from other industry sectors that have addressed fatigue risks. Continue reading “CSB pushes for a more effective discussion on fatigue management”
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