Further quad bike safety information

In January 2003, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI)  issued the following media statement outlining its initiatives to reduce the injuries associated with quad bikes on farms in Australia.

SafetyAtWorkBlog is following up with the FCAI for further information on quad bike safety and any objections the FCAI has to roll-over protection structures.  An earlier article on quad bike safety is available HERE.

“The peak industry body representing the major motorcycle and All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) distributors has reinforced its support for on-going safety campaigns to help reduce ATV accidents.

The FCAI Motorcycle Group is concerned that a number of recent ATV accidents may have been the result of overloading or a lack of understanding of ATV operation.

The FCAI strongly recommends ATV operators should adhere to the following safety measures based on ATV manufacturers’ instructions:

  • always wear a helmet
  • do not carry passengers
  • do not exceed recommended maximum load and towing capacities
  • comply with the manufacturer’s recommended minimum user age for the vehicle
  • never operate an ATV under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • follow the manufacturer’s maintenance procedures

The FCAI advises ATV operators who do not have a copy of the manufacturer’s instructions to seek a replacement from their nearest dealer.

The FCAI said recognising the risks associated with overloading an ATV and the dangers of carrying a passenger could significantly reduce ATV accidents.

“Appropriate speed for conditions and avoidance of riding on steep slopes could also further reduce ATV accidents,” said Mr Peter Sturrock, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

An average of 10,000 ATVs have been imported annually into Australia over the past five years, according to figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

“Some ATVs are designed for competition and recreational riding but the greater majority of ATVs imported to Australia are agricultural ATVs sold directly to the farming sector,” Peter Sturrock added.

The FCAI Motorcycle Group has been actively involved in the promotion of ATV safety to consumers since 1997.

The Group committed $25,000 production costs to the first edition of a safety video “You and Your ATV” in 1998.

The video focuses on safe and responsible riding practices for ATVs and includes safe loading and securing methods.

More than 35,000 copies have been distributed free to ATV purchasers and owners.

The FCAI Motorcycle Group allocated $29,000 in 2002 to a second edition of the video.

The Group also provided expert advice and assistance to the development of an ATV Training Course for TAFE farm students.

The FCAI has also provided the services of its Motorcycle Manager Ray Newland to attend meetings of state and federal WorkCover Authorities for examination and progress of ATV safety issues.

In November of last year, the FCAI conducted a ‘field day’ for key national stakeholders involved with ATV safety.

The FCAI represents ATV importer/distributors Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Suzuki and Yamaha.”

NZ quad bike fatality

On 26 November 2009, a contract worker on a New Zealand dairy farm was found seriously injured after his quad bike “flipped over on to him”.  The details of the incident according to the New Zealand Police statement are included below.

A Department of Labour spokesperson said he was unable to provide any information about the incident other than that they are investigating.

Our sympathies go to Mr Wilson’s family and all those involved in the incident

“A dairy farm worker was been killed this morning in what appears to be a tragic quad bike accident.

Police were contacted around 7.35 this morning (Thursday, 26 November) when 40-year-old Rhys Mark Wilson, from Alton who is a sharemilker at a farm in Manutahi, near Hawera, was found in a gully on the farm by a co-worker. The worker had gone looking for Mr Wilson because the cows had not been brought in for milking.

CPR was administered and this continued when emergency services arrived on scene but they were unable to revive him.

OSH and police have carried out an investigation and it is believed that the accident happened around 5am when Mr Wilson was rounding up the cows for milking. He had gone down into a gully, probably to retrieve some stray cows and it appears that as he attempted to traverse a steep slope the quad bike he was riding flipped over on to him.

OSH has recovered the bike as part of its investigation and the Police are investigating on behalf of the Coroner.”

Grass Roots Safety

For over 40 years, the Australian State of Victoria has had several safety organisations that exist under the radar.  In the 1960s the Department of Labour & Industries supported the generation of safety groups but many groups simply appeared.

These groups are, what in contemporary times would be referred to as, networking groups.  The members were from a range of industries, often from a particularly industrial part of Melbourne of regional areas.  The groups met usually once a month sometimes in a factory canteen to talk about safety and to see if any members could suggestion solutions to particular problems.

One group, the Western Safety Group encompasses the western suburbs of Melbourne, a zone of concentrated manufacturing plants and one which includes a major zone of chemical production.  (In my youth I would try to catch lizards in the buffer zones around the plants)

A risk with any grass roots association is to reach a level of sustainability without becoming a commercial entity.  WSG and  the Central Safety Group have achieved this in different ways.  In each WSG meeting, which usually runs for around one hour during the day, there is a 10 to 15 minute window for sellers of new OHS products and services to sell their wares.  This is a pragmatic solution to the reality that an OHS network’s membership list could be lucrative.

The Central Safety Group has a different approach because it has developed a different character.  The CSG, of which I am a Life Member, has conducted its meetings in the centre of Melbourne and with the decline of manufacturing and industry in the city and inner suburbs, the membership has moved from an industrial to managerial approach.

CSG does not allow for the promotion of OHS services and products and is much the better for it.  Allowing commercialism into a community or networking group makes it a trade show or exhibition and defeats the purpose.

These two groups, and there are others, have had a fluid membership that has probably topped no more than about 80 members at a time but this is an advantage.  Members appreciate the face-to-face discussion.  Meetings have minimal formality and foster camaraderie even amongst industrial competitors.

Mostly the safety groups that have lasted have done so by maintaining an independence from the OHS regulator although most groups have at least one member who works with WorkSafe Victoria.  Although some of the groups have existed for decades, there is no mention of them on the WorkSafe website although WorkSafe has made several attempts to create a safety group directory and a meeting of Safety Group secretaries almost 10 years ago began discussions with WorkSafe to establish a single webpage listing.

The groups are also, largely, independent from the larger safety organisations although those safety organisations have made moves to support safety groups.  Moves that have been mostly rebuffed.

Over the last few year the Western and the Central Safety Groups have established websites (CSG’s will be functioning in December 2009) as the most efficient way to communicate with members in between the monthly meetings.

Such networking groups have huge advantages over professional associations who have such a broad range of issues to consider.  The safety group “model” talks about safety and funds itself from annual membership fees of much less than $A100 in most circumstances.

In some circumstance “small is beautiful”, welcoming, professionally satisfying and productive.  Victoria’s safety groups are a good example of groups of like-minded OHS professional helping each other out rather than trying to climb the greasy pole.

Kevin Jones

Truck safety talkback

On November 25 2009, NPR’s show Talk of the Nation conducted some discussions with truckers on their safety needs for the first part of the program.  (Audio is available HERE)

The emphasis was on the conduct of drivers in vehicles and trucks but there is some discussion on the VORAD forward radar system applied to one of the tucks.  It was refreshing to hear from a user of this technology which sounds almost like an advanced proximity system that has become common in aircraft.

There is considerable time spent with William Cassidy, the Managing Editor of Journal of Commerce.  Cassidy discusses the pressures to speed and, thankfully, mentions some of the organisational pressures, such as paying by the mile.

One talkback caller says that fatigue from driving a car is different from driving a truck.  Although a truck cabin may be full of more distractions than the cabin of a car, the caller says that the constant distraction equates to greater attentiveness.

Logic does not necessarily apply to driving but if we accept the caller’s position on truck driving being less fatiguing because of increased vigilance, would riding a motorcycle be even safer because of the need for the rider to constantly maintain balance?

Cassidy talks about the importance of perspective in considering these issues, the same reason for everyone’s common sense being slightly different.

He also discusses the “hours of service” rules, driving and rest limits that may be familiar to those of us outside the United States.

Dan Little, owner of the Little & Little Trucking Company, says that education at high school level would be the most successful measure for increasing safety for truck drivers.  The US has a system of driver education in the school system that few other countries have so truck awareness in this context may be useful.

Placing the responsibility on an individual is a popular perspective and one that we can see reinforced on a daily basis but by focusing too much on this perspective reduces the need to innovative design of motor vehicles.  It also necessary to consider any viable alternative freight transport options.

Many listeners will also be familiar with some of the discussion about the reliability of regulatory data collection.  It is an argument that is echoed in many Western countries, particularly on the issue of uniformity of rules, consistency and harmonisation.

Little’s complaints about fatigue assessment by regulators is an argument that each country that is introducing fatigue regulations needs to consider.  The comments also indicate the type of perspective that regulators will need to counter or integrate in their enforcement strategies.

Kevin Jones

Asbestos Awareness Week – journalist conversation

On 25 November 2009, the Victorian Trades Hall hosted a conversation on asbestos and corporate management between two well-respected Australian journalists and writers, Matt Peacock and Gideon Haigh.  Over the last few years both have produced excellent books focusing on the role of James Hardie Industries in the asbestos industry in Australia.

The books, Killer Company and Asbestos House, respectively, provide different perspectives on the conduct of James Hardie Industries, the various board members and the support provided to the company over many decades by various Australian and State governments.

While SafetyAtWorkBlog is producing articles about the event, below is a one minute video sample of the event where Matt Peacock is talking about the PR mastery of James Hardie Industries.

Kevin Jones

Leaderboard 2

Understanding the new world of the CEO

OHS professionals are very keen on advocating a change in workplace culture as a base requirement for safety improvements.  They also regularly quote the need for “top-down” leadership (however that is defined) to generate the  cultural change.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has already may some comments about leadership today but an interesting article has been brought to our attention that, although it doesn’t discuss safety, talks about how the role of chief executive officers over the last decade and some of the agents of change.

The  Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology released an article on 23 November 2009 concerning the selection of CEOs and succession planning.  The article says that the days of the “imperial CEO” has gone as (US) legislation has required a the process of complaisance to be shared.  Perhaps there really is “no I in TEAM”.

Randall Cheloha summarises the variety of forces and obligations that now must be considered when running a corporation.  Occupational Safety is not included but could have been.

“There are more constituencies to satisfy. In addition to major shareholders, financial analysts, employees and former executives, some companies, particularly those that received large government bailouts, have directly or indirectly been asked to change directors and add new players to their boards to represent the new constituencies, including the federal government and unions.”

Not only have the constituencies multiplied but the demands have changed as well.  Many of the groups suddenly have the ear of the executives and realize from past experience that the window of opportunity may not last.  The risk is that they go in too hard and too fast and create their own resistance.

Australian corporations had a habit of always looking overseas for CEOs, implying that the local executive pool was deficient.  That has changed recently where well-qualified local candidates are getting serious consideration and, some, appointments.  The SIOP article refers to the weakening of corporate culture by feeling the need to look outside for candidates.  Cultural continuity is equally valid and safety is part of that.

Hopefully the days of CEOs taking pride in nicknames such as “toecutter” or “the axe” have gone the way of “razor gangs”.

There is the risk of “cronyism” with internal CEO appointments but that risk is minimised if the cultural work on the company has already been undertaken.

Australian conferences have recently been pushing for “CEO days” where CEOs talk about the importance of safety and culture in their organisations.  To some extent, the safety professionals in the audience are the wrong audience.  Perhaps it is the CEO conferences that need to hear from a safety spokesperson who can use bad OHS management as a case study of how executive decisions created a toxic culture that led to injury and death.  Sadly, such case studies are not hard to find.

Kevin Jones

Leadership – research, mental health and what true leadership is.

Scandinavia produces some of the best research into OHS issues.  However, due to the social structure of Scandinavian countries, the research has little direct and practical application outside the region.  The research is best taken conceptually as it will need to be evaluated closely to determine local applicability.

(TIP: whenever an OHS researcher says “recent Scandinavian studies show….” remind the researcher which country they are in and ask them to explain the practical application in the local context)

In early 2009, there was a bit of media attention about research that found, according to researcher Anna Nyberg

“Enhancing managers’ skills – regarding providing employees with information, support, power in relation to responsibilities, clarity in expectations, and feedback – could have important stress-reducing effects on employees and enhance the health at workplaces.”

In October 2009 Anna Nyberg’s thesis on the issue was released.  According to the abstract to her thesis

“The overall aim of this thesis was to explore the relationship between managerial leadership on the one hand and stress, health, and other health related outcomes among employees on the other.”

Nyberg’s thesis details the needs for some adjustments in the research to allow for “staff category, labour market sector, job insecurity, marital status, satisfaction with life in general, and biological risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”  These adjustments are important to remember when reading any of the media statements about Nyberg’s research.

There were five studies within the thesis and, according to the abstract, they found the following:

“Attentive managerial leadership was found to be significantly related to the employees’ perceived stress, age-adjusted self-rated health and sickness absence due to overstrain or fatigue in a multi-national company.”

“Autocratic and Malevolent leadership [in Sweden, Poland, and Italy] aggregated to the organizational level were found to be related to poorer individual ratings of vitality…. Self-centred leadership … was related to poor employee mental health, vitality, and behavioural stress after these adjustments.”

“… significant associations in the expected directions between Inspirational leadership, Autocratic leadership, Integrity, and Team-integrating leadership on the one hand and self-reported sickness absence among employees on the other in SLOSH, a nationally representative sample of the Swedish working population.”

“… significant associations were found between Dictatorial leadership and lack of Positive leadership on the one hand, and long-lasting stress, emotional exhaustion, deteriorated SRH [self-reported general health], and the risk of leaving the workplace due to poor health or for unemployment on the other hand.”

“In the fifth study…a dose-response relationship between positive aspects of managerial leadership and a lower incidence of hard end-point ischemic heart disease among employees was observed.”

But what can be done about the negative affects of poor leadership on health, safety and wellbeing?  The thesis is unclear on this, other than identifying pathways for further research in this area.

The SafetyAtWorkBlog  recommendations, based on our experience, are below

  • Carefully assess any training provider or business adviser who offers leadership training.
  • Ask for evidence of successful results in the improvement of worker health and wellbeing, not just a list of client recommendations.
  • Look beyond the MBA in selecting senior executives.  If you expect executives to establish and foster a positive workplace culture, they need to have to be able to understand people as well as balance sheets.
  • Remember that the issue of leadership as a management skill is still being investigated, researched and refined.  It is not a mature science and may never be, so do not rely solely on these skills.
  • Some say that leadership cannot be taught and cannot be learned.  Some say that leadership, as spruiked currently, is not leadership, only good management.  Leadership only appears in times of crisis and manifests in response to critical need, not in response to day-to-day matters.

This last point needs a reference – page xiii of “Seventh Journey” by Earl de Blonville

“… leadership cannot be taught.  If it is being taught, it may just be management, rebadged at a higher price.  The second discovery was that leadership is not about the leader, which will confound those with a needy ego.  There were two more things that revealed themselves to me: leadership is all about paradox, which is why it resists attempts to tame it into a curriculum, and at its core leadership is lonely, requiring the strength that could only come from a grasp of its intrinsic paradox.”

Kevin Jones

New Australian discussion paper on nanotechnology

Nanotechnology research papers are often very technical and highly unlikely to discuss the occupational health and safety impacts of the technology’s use.  The papers often rely on someone else to explain the relevance of the research.

But on 24 November 2009, Dr Fern Wickson of the University of Bergen spoke in Brisbane about nanotechnology challenges and released a discussion paper entitled “What you should know about nano“.

According to an accompanying media release from The Australia Institute Dr Wickson’s paper included several recommendations:

  • Mandatory reporting on all products containing nanotubes and other nanomaterials
  • A parliamentary inquiry into nanoST
  • Health surveillance and environmental monitoring of high potential exposures
  • Adopting a precautionary approach to the commercialisation of the technology in cases where the potential for harm has been demonstrated, significant uncertainties remain and social benefits appear marginal.

The reasons for the recommendations are explained in the paper but the paper is, refreshingly, intended to

“…introduce and engage its audience in the experiment that is nanoscale sciences and technologies, particularly from the perspectives of consumer and environmental protection and occupational health and safety.”

The links and footnotes are excellent sources of original research material including the recently released (but not available online without a fee) paper

Bergamaschi, E (2009). ‘Occupational exposure to nanomaterials: present knowledge and future development’, Nanotoxicology, 3:3, pp. 194–201.

Enrico Bergamaschi’s research paper, according to an abstract, recommends that

“…given the limited amount of information about the health risks associated with occupational exposure to engineered NP, the precautionary principle suggests to take measures to minimize worker exposures. Implementing appropriate engineering controls, using personal protective equipment, establishing safe handling procedures, together to monitor worker’s health, are all strategic elements of a risk management programme at workplace.”

Plenty to read and even more to think on.

Kevin Jones

Safety awards and the new media option

In yesterday’s article on Kerrin Rowan, mention was made of how important local community support is.  A reader has drawn our attention to a front page article in the Plains Producer newspaper of 9 October 2008 (not available online)

It reminded us of the significance local newspapers have in the rewarding the achievements of local citizens and that the front page article, inversely, illustrates how almost all daily metropolitan newspapers ignore OHS and RTW award winners.  There seems to be no mention of Kerrin in the online site for The Adelaide Advertiser.

But then safety awards seem not to be newsworthy.  Daily newspapers seem to see safety awards as a marketing tool and throws them all in the PR basket, even those worthy of greater attention. Kerrin’s story is one of the few exceptional rehabilitation stories and yet even with this level of “human interest”, such a story is ignored.

The newspapers are happy to receive the advertising revenue for a half page ad inserted by the OHS regulator congratulating the award winners but no one in the newspaper publishers seems to see any newsworthiness in the award winners.

Perhaps it is time for the OHS regulators to give up trying for the attention of the traditional media and go Web 2.0 with blogs, Twitter and Youtube.  Although, SafetyAtWorkBlog would still be looking for the human interest.  Recently we did not report on some OHS award winners for OHS management systems, principally because it is difficult to describe explain such a system in an article.  What could be done is to report on the significance of the award for the winners but that does not assist readers with OHS solutions, one of the aims of our blog.

OHS people and blog readers like pictures and video.  They like to use the technological capacity of the internet in a combination that traditional media cannot match.  OHS regulators and award conveners could do more to support the newer media by a prompt turnaround in video or images from the awards night.  These are already produced before, or on, the awards nights but often take over a week, if at all, to be accessible to the media.  The new media and its readers want immediacy and immediacy allows the community to share in some of the exhilaration felt by the award winners.  Topicality is tenuous.

Some OHS awards have been running for over ten years but still gain no traction in the metropolitan newspapers.  Our advice is to embrace the new media and see where it leads.

Kevin Jones

Serious injuries can occur regardless of good OHS intentions

SafeWork South Australia has illustrated a situation that is common in Australian workplaces – no matter how hard one tries to ensure safety, things can still go wrong.  In a court case on 20 November 2009, four farm operators were fined over a foreseeable incident that cost a 20-year-old the sight in one eye as well a fractured skull and paralysis, from falling three metres.  According to a SafeWorkSA media release

“The incident occurred in May 2006 as the farmhand, aged in his early 20’s, was working on a large stock crate prior to mustering sheep for shearing. The crate had been borrowed from a neighbour. The farmhand had to stand on a small platform three metres off the ground and operate a manual winch to lower a ramp within the crate.
During this task, the winch handle forcefully struck the man in the face, after which he fell from the platform to the ground. This resulted in skull fractures and the loss of sight in his right eye, and spinal damage, which left him paralysed.”

The farmers had preventative management measures in place prior to the incident and have made considerable changes to the workplace to enable the worker to return to work.

The comments of Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke in his judgement are worth noting

“While (they) believed they were being comprehensive in their safety improvements, they appear not to have given the same attention to the stock crate as to their own plant and equipment, probably because it was occasionally borrowed to them.”

The defendants were fined $A28,000, a hefty fine compared to some given out in the same jurisdiction.  This figure was after a higher than usual 30% penalty reduction.  Industrial Magistrate Lieschke applied the discount because of an “exceptionally high level of demonstrated contrition”.  The magistrate puts it this way

“General deterrence does require a substantial penalty due to the prevalence of serious injury from the obvious danger of unprotected work at height, and due to the need for employers to take a structured risk assessment and control approach to all work processes and plant.

As first offenders the defendants are each exposed to a maximum fine of $100,000. In my opinion a notional total penalty based on a starting point of a fine of $40,000 is appropriate after taking account of all the above circumstances. After reduction by 30% this results in an aggregate penalty of $28,000. This in turn results in a fine of $7,000 for each defendant.

I also record a conviction against each defendant.”

SafeWorkSA advised SafetyAtWorkBlog that they did prosecute the owner of the stock crate but that, in February 2009 also heard by Industrial Magistrate Lieschke, the charges were dismissed.
Also, the injured worker, Kerrin Rowan, received a worker achievement award from WorkCover in 2008 and clearly the support from the local community is important.