OHS and the death of Brodie Panlock from bullying

On 8 February 2010, four workers at Café Vamp, a small restaurant in Melbourne Victoria, were fined a total of $A335,000 for repeatedly bullying, or allowing bullying to occur to, 19-year-old Brodie Panlock.  Brodie jumped from a building in September 2006.  Her family watched Brodie die from head injuries three days later.  They were unaware that Brodie was being bullied at work. Continue reading “OHS and the death of Brodie Panlock from bullying”

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“Respect Agenda” – seriously?

Recently the Victorian Premier, John Brumby reshuffled his Cabinet and created a new portfolio the “Respect Agenda”.  The Minister with responsibility for the portfolio is ex-footballer Justin Madden.  Very little has been revealed about the agenda, which has been launched after a major international kerfuffle over serious racist attacks against Indian students.  It is likely to be relevant that 2010 is an election year for Victoria.

It is useful to consider these political pledges in the light of the workplace-related suicide of Brodie Panlock in 2006. Continue reading ““Respect Agenda” – seriously?”

Biomarkers for musculoskeletal disorders

Slips, trips and falls are often the neglected “bastard son” of occupational health and safety but the can cripple and can, literally cost an arm or a leg.

The traditional approach to control these hazards have been to make  the working environment safer by mopping up spilled liquids, for instance, or be using a piece of equipment such as a stepladder, or in the long-term or in the beginning of a project, to design out hazards.

We also know that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) make occur suddenly, and dramatically and painfully, but one’s body has accumulated weaknesses over time.  The UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has released a research report that indicates a new approach to MSDs or at least a start. Continue reading “Biomarkers for musculoskeletal disorders”

Don’t get sidetracked by depression marketing

Over the last couple of months, SafetyAtWorkBlog has written several articles on the psychosocial workplace hazard of depression, stress and anxiety.

Science Friday is a regular feature of the NPR  program, Talk of the Nation in the United States.  Last Friday, it focussed on depression.  Its speakers talked about how the diagnosis of depression has changed over the decades, sometimes to match the range of depression medications available.

Importantly there is a differentiation between depression and mental health. (Psychosocial disorders doesn’t seem to be a term used outside of OHS)  Depression is slowly becoming the collective term for sad, melancholy, unhappy, miserable, anxious……….  It is very important for workplace safety professionals to try to pierce the fug of depression marketing so that one is not distracted into the trap of treating workers for a personal problem rather than preventing the hazard through changing organisational attitudes. Continue reading “Don’t get sidetracked by depression marketing”

Okay, I don’t smell but am I safe?

King Gee recently released a range of work clothing that is manufactured using a technique that reduces the wearer’s body odour.   A sample was sent to SafetyAtWorkBlog unrequested.   For those tradespeople with a body odour issue, the clothing may be a godsend, maybe more so for the people they have to work with.   The new clothing has received at least one media mention.

The issue that has stopped me from wearing the sample shirt is that the “odour-killing” properties are due to a process of:

“…. engineering molecules at the nanoscale …[that] transforms the very fibers of the fabric to provide unsurpassed odour elimination.”

Nanotechnology is a recent technology that is being applied widely but without a detailed consideration of the possible health effects to the user, the environment and to those who manufacture nano-materials. Continue reading “Okay, I don’t smell but am I safe?”

Two workplace incidents – zookeeper and jockey

On 1 February 2010 a zookeeper at the Werribee Zoo was pinned for several minutes under a gate weighing around 200 kilograms.  The Metropolitan Ambulance Service reported that

“…the woman in her 20s was pinned under a gate weighing more than three hundred kilograms, for approximately three minutes.”

According to Paramedic Brett Parker,

“Thankfully a number of staff were nearby and three men managed to lift the gate off her body.  Incredibly when we arrived the woman was upright and talking, but she was in significant pain.  Given the potential for spinal injury we gave her pain relief medication before fitting her with a neck brace.” Continue reading “Two workplace incidents – zookeeper and jockey”

Work harder? You must be mad

On 24 January 2010, the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, encouraged all Australians to increase their “productivity growth“.  But what if increased productivity could result in developing a mental disorder?

The February 2010 edition of the  Harvard Mental Health Letter includes a report that lists the following key points:

  • “Symptoms of mental health disorders may be different at work than in other situations.
  • Although these disorders may cause absenteeism, the biggest impact is in lost productivity.
  • Studies suggest that treatment improves work performance, but is not a quick fix.”

Will the Australian Government review its policy on mental health?  Will the Prime Minister accept that productivity and mental health are both long term problems that need strategies that extend beyond his next term in office? Continue reading “Work harder? You must be mad”

Level crossing investigation reports

The Victorian Auditor-General is conducting an investigation into the “management of safety risks at level crossings”.  Victoria’s Coroner is also investigating several, of the many, deaths at level crossings.

According to the Auditor-General’s website the level crossing report will be tabled in Parliament next month.  It is understood that the three nominated level crossing hearings of the Victorian Coroner will commence sometime in 2010. Continue reading “Level crossing investigation reports”

Internet addiction in the workplace

If the prevention of depression is better than trying to treat it, how should a safety manager proceed when permissible work practices may be contributing to mental health problems in some workers?

A new UK study announced today says “that excessive internet use is associated with depression”.  The researchers say that

“…some users have developed a compulsive internet habit, whereby they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.  The results suggest that this type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health.” Continue reading “Internet addiction in the workplace”

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Near miss but no government action

On 28 January 2010, three men walked away from the helicopter that crashed in Northern New South Wales on the lip of a 1,000 metre cliff.  The Australian media covered it fairly extensively.  What is curious about this air crash is that there is no government investigation into the possible cause of the crash.

OHS professionals advocate the inclusion of “near misses” in any investigation program so such a lack of interest seems peculiar.

One media report said that both the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) will not be investigating.  (The company that owned the helicopter is in Queensland). Continue reading “Near miss but no government action”