Risk assessment report – insulation

Risk assessments are crucial for operating a safety management system built on consultation with employees and relevant experts.  This should be borne in mind over the next few days while the Australian Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, continues to be grilled over what he knew about the risks associated with the government’s insulation scheme and when he knew.

In terms of workplace safety, the Minter Ellison report says little of direct relevance.   Continue reading “Risk assessment report – insulation”

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Workers’ compensation for travel time injuries will need resolving

Following on from BHP Billiton‘s shift to employees over contractors, a media report on 21 February 2010 illustrates changes in shift lengths that one union says may increase fatigue in the workplace.

BHP Billiton says the company has a fatigue management policy and procedure that can allow for the flexibility of the new shift options but the CFMEU is very concerned about the safety impacts of the shift options.  The Mining Industry Road Safety Alliance illustrates a major flaw in the process that is often reflected in issues of shiftwork and fatigue management  in other industries – increased risk in travelling to and from work. Continue reading “Workers’ compensation for travel time injuries will need resolving”

Increasing demand on standards should cause the Australian Government to plan longterm

In August 2009, SafetyAtWorkBlog reported that Standards Australia had been hit hard by the global financial crisis.  To our knowledge, circumstances have not changed but a report in the Australian Financial Review (not available online) on 17 February talked positively about the future of the organisation that publishes the Australian Standards, SAI Global.  Australian Standards are widely used by business and safety professionals.

The report says the company, SAI-Global

“…posted a 33 per cent rise in first-half net profit to $13.7 million on the previous corresponding period, beating analysts’  forecasts by more than 10 per cent.” Continue reading “Increasing demand on standards should cause the Australian Government to plan longterm”

Unsuitable PPE

Information is trickling out about Paul Quinlivan’s decision to repeatedly not wear PPE.  A common reason for workers to not wear personal protective equipment is that it does not suit the individual.  Quinlivan says he kept removing his goggles because they kept fogging up.

Goggles must retain their visibility for them to function.  Fogging up may indicate that the goggles are the wrong type for the work being undertaken or for that work environment.  Frequently business want one type of PPE to be applicable to a range of circumstances and this may not be a reasonable expectation. Continue reading “Unsuitable PPE”

Public relations, OHS and a workplace death

In October 2009, Matthew Fuller was electrocuted while installing metal foil insulation in the roof of a house in Queensland.  He was a subcontractor for a registered insulation installation company called Countrywide Insulation.

Countrywide and its owner have been heavily criticised in the Australian media.  But Countrywide has “hit back” at critics with a media release on 16 February 2010, the only content on its webpage.  The release has a contact number for a representative of the Phillips Group public relations company.  The text of the release is below and is an interesting study in what is omitted and timing. Continue reading “Public relations, OHS and a workplace death”

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New OHS resources on workplace bullying

The Australian Capital Territory has released a package of new OHS material on workplace bullying.  The package includes

  • “advice on responsibilities under the Work Safety Act 2008 with regard to bullying
  • a Checklist for Employers
  • Guidance on how to take a risk management approach to workplace bullying, as is required by the Work Safety Act 2008
  • Guidance on how to implement a complete Complaint Resolution process in respect of workplace bullying
  • two new training programs available from the Office of the Work Safety Commissioner – Workplace Bullying Awareness for workers and Prevention and Management of Workplace Bullying for more senior staff Continue reading “New OHS resources on workplace bullying”

Unsafe worker gets his job back

The front page story in the The Australian newspaper has generated many emails and phone calls to SafetyAtWorkBlog from irate safety professionals.

The nub of the story is that Fair Work Australia has reinstated a worker who was sacked because of consistently unsafe work practices.

It is important to remember that the decision by Fair Work Australia is undertaken under the Fair Work Act 2009 and not occupational health and safety regulations.  In the case of Norske Skog Paper Mills (Australia) Ltd the relevant OHS legislation would have been New South Wales.

The story revolves around the dismissal of an employee not the unsafe actions of that worker. Continue reading “Unsafe worker gets his job back”

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Small business OHS shortcomings

The home insulation debate in Australia is fragmenting.  Workplace safety is one of the chunks of debate heading in an unknown direction (political safety goggles anyone?)  The Australian newspaper included an article on 19 February 2010 that, although coming from the insulation sector, illustrates a dominant misunderstanding by small businesses.

The proprietor has run many businesses in a range of industries but he clearly has little understanding of his OHS obligations as he denies any responsibility for the death Matthew Fuller, an employee of the firm he contracted to undertake insulation installations, QHI Installations.  The proprietor states the reason is that “we did not employ him.”   Continue reading “Small business OHS shortcomings”

Forklift incident leads to amputated foot and $60,000 fine

All workplace incidents result from a combination of actions and circumstances that come together at a specific point in time that can result in injury or damage.  WorkSafe Victoria reported on 17 February 2010 about a company that was successfully prosecuted, and fined $A60,000, after a worker had his foot crushed under a forklift.  The worker’s foot was later amputated.

Below is a summary of the incident taken from a WorkSafe media release (not yet available online):

“A Kilsyth company was convicted and fined $60,000 on Monday after a forklift driven by a 22-year-old man tipped over, crushing his foot which was later amputated.

The worker was not licensed to drive a forklift – nor was he wearing a seatbelt when the forklift tipped in December 2008. Continue reading “Forklift incident leads to amputated foot and $60,000 fine”

Reviewing Today Tonight’s insulation exclusive

As an example of “tabloid TV” the Today Tonight (TT) report broadcast on 17 February 2010 concerning children assisting workers to install insulation, was very good.  It probably benefited from my own appearances remaining brief.

The topicality of a story on the home insulation industry could not have been higher yesterday as a Senate inquiry into the Australian Government’s environment and job creation scheme held hearings in Melbourne.  TT led its show with the scandalous report.

The video of a young boy handling large bags of insulation on a roof is disturbing; the unprotected handling of the insulation material by the young boy is similar.  That the children were allowed to be on the roof by the homeowner and parents is a parental supervision issue and outside the scope of this blog.  That the workers allowed them to be present and did not tell the children to get down is more disturbing and a clear breach of the workers’ OHS obligations. Continue reading “Reviewing Today Tonight’s insulation exclusive”