Australia releases official statistics into work-related injuries

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Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in early November 2011 has revealed that 18.5% of people injured at work in 2009-10 received no OHS training prior to the incident.

The basic findings of the 2009-10 data are not all new as a December 2010 media release shows but the new report, “6324.0 – Work-Related Injuries, Australia, 2009-10” does include new data on OHS training.

Most of the OHS training data is included in table 13 but other tables should not be overlooked.  Table 3 shows that of those injured in 2009-10:

“82% (522,400) had received occupational health and safety training in the job prior to their work-related injury or illness occurring…”

and that 18.5% did not.

A legitimate question is “what is meant by occupational health and safety training?”   Continue reading “Australia releases official statistics into work-related injuries”

Australia inactive on environmental tobacco smoke

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Safe Work Australia has released a couple of packages of draft codes of practice in line with the Australian Government’s OHS harmonisation strategy but where is the code that addresses the established risk of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or second-hand smoke?  This is a question that was asked during the recent Safe Work Australia week by Smoke Free Australia, an alliance of employee and health groups.

Smoke Free’s media release stated that

“….thousands of Australians are working in areas contaminated by highly toxic, carcinogenic tobacco smoke – and Safe Work Australia has done nothing to prevent it”

Stafford Sanders, the coordinator for Smoke Free Australia, was struggling to understand why ETS had not been given prominence in the new draft codes of practice given that second-hand smoke is a known killer. Continue reading “Australia inactive on environmental tobacco smoke”

Workplaces are under-prepared for first aid incidents

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The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has reported that

“Less than 10% of people are aware they need to cool burn wounds for 20 minutes in cool water as a first aid measure.”

Research* published in the AMA’s Medical Journal of Australia, in October 2011, found that

“Unprompted, 82% of (7320) respondents said they knew to cool the burn with cool or cold water but 41.5% said they didn’t know for how long cold running water should be applied.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog has followed the issue of first aid treatment for burns and the evidence for burn creams.

The application of the recommended treatment for burns continues to be a contentious issue in practice in Australian workplaces.  Part of the reason could be that first aid treatment in many workplaces is seen as little more than a “bandaid treatment” because this is the first aid treatment most seen and most received.  But this perception does not site well with the evidence for burn treatments.

The first aid (band aid) treatments in most workplace is quick and usually does not interrupt work.  To properly treat a burn, a worker must stop work for twenty minutes.  Most workplaces where burns are likely to occur, for instance, construction sites, manufacturing, food preparation, are unlikely to welcome a stoppage of one worker for twenty minutes.  Can one imagine a burger flipper at a fast food restaurant standing with a hand under a running tap for twenty minutes?  It would be unlikely that this absence could be covered. Continue reading “Workplaces are under-prepared for first aid incidents”

Bullying has many causes and too many avenues of appeal

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On 18 October 2011, there was a brief discussion on workplace bullying in the ACT Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).  The question to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, stemmed, ostensibly, from a recent WorkSafe ACT assessment of Canberra restaurants and food retailers.  The assessment identified that:

“… only 66 per cent of food outlets were compliant with workplace bullying regulations.”

Such a statement needs considerable explanation to be of use in safety management but it led to a further question from Greens MP Meredith Hunter, one which indicates the confused status of workplace bullying control options.

“Minister, what consideration has the ACT government given to bullying as a ground for discrimination under the ACT’s Discrimination Act, which would give complainants and respondents to bullying complaints access to the Human Rights Commission’s investigation and conciliation functions and clear remedies for victimisation of a person making a complaint?”

It is unreasonable to expect that a Code of Practice on workplace bullying drafted under OHS laws would have the capacity to control the hazard, or provide sufficient guidance, when there are other avenues for restitution that are far more involved, such as discrimination and human rights commissions and tribunals. Continue reading “Bullying has many causes and too many avenues of appeal”

Media releases are all positive for Safe Work Australia Week

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Further to yesterday’s blog post that mentioned Australia’s Minister for Workplace Relations, Chris Evans, it is worth noting his new media release (not yet available online) in support of the 2011 Safe Work Australia Week.

On 23 October 2011,  Minister Evans said all the “right” things:

“National Safe Work Australia Week, an annual initiative of Safe Work Australia, is an opportunity for all Australians to think about how to improve work health and safety in their workplace and in their community,” Senator Evans said. “Each and every worker deserves to go to work each day and return home safely each night.”

Senator Evans said workers deserve the same decent safety standards across Australia.

“This is why the Gillard Government is committed to harmonising Occupational Health and Safety laws by January 2012,” Senator Evans said.  “The new laws will cut red tape and ensure that all workers have equal protections regardless of where they live and work.  They will apply not only to employees, but also to contractors and their employees, subcontractors, labour hire workers, apprentices and volunteers.  These reforms are vitally important for the safety of employees in an increasingly mobile labour force.”

Significantly, the continued refusals by Western Australia and Victoria to implement the OHS reforms prior to 1 January 2011 are not mentioned but it is understandable for the Minister to try to set the positive tone of Safe Work Australia Week.

On 21 October 2011, the Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips, fails to mention OHS harmonisation in his media release which is his prerogative but it would have been better to address the elephant in the room – OHS harmonisation.

The harmonisation deadline is only a couple of months away and it would have been good to see some urgency on the issue from this prominent speakers.

Kevin Jones