New documentary of the politics of OHS regulation in the United States

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Two years ago, Rachel Maddow in the United States reported on the performance of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) under President George W Bush revealed by the Washington Post.  Cavelight Films is in the process of completing a film, Cost of Construction, First video below) which looks at the big OSHA and political context as it relates to the safety performance on a major construction project in Las Vegas.

From the trailer above, and additional information available through the Cavelight website, the film  illustrates the dubious societal value of basic capitalist approaches to workplace safety. Continue reading “New documentary of the politics of OHS regulation in the United States”

Of stunning, short-lived cactus flowers and quad bikes

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The smoke from the mine:

It has been a frighteningly bad month in the mining industry internationally.  OHS meetings I attended during this period have been hushed as a result of the New Zealand tragedies.  Discussions about OHS have become more pertinent and more accurate – for the time being.  But this, like stunning but short-lived cactus flowers, will quickly disappear.

Because I’ve had close involvement with the Beaconsfield Gold Mine rockfall that killed Larry Knight, and years earlier with the Esso Longford explosions and fires in Victoria, the CrossCity tunnel fatality in Sydney… and many other tragedies or near misses, such events, like a sudden cramp, re-focus my thinking on current issues.  Another OHS failure that we didn’t stop.

Quad bike safety:

One such issue I’ve been involved in for some time has been the quad bike safety issue. The fatality statistics I have on these machines in Australia show that over the last 10 years 13 people (on average) are killed per year.  130 people, most of whom, the industry will have you believe, were ‘mis-users’ of the machines (see below).  The trend is up not down.

I have just resigned from the TransTasman Quad Bike safety committee created by the regulators last year.   The OHS and quad bike interest group in the community may be interested in some of the difficulties I see with the current work on this issue.

The obvious and useless in practice:

I think a much greater degree of transparency and openness – including a high level public conference – ought to take place.  And neither the regulators nor industry will be interested in that; Continue reading “Of stunning, short-lived cactus flowers and quad bikes”

OHS harmonisation documents released for public comment

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Late on 7 December 2010 Safe Work Australia released draft OHS regulations and Codes of Practice for public comment.  The documents released are:

According to a Safe Work Australia media release, not yet available online:

“As part of the development of the Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), Access Economics on behalf of Safe Work Australia, is surveying businesses across a range of sizes, industries and regions in an effort to obtain data on anticipated compliance costs and safety benefits of the model Work Health and Safety Regulations.   Continue reading “OHS harmonisation documents released for public comment”

Neglect by company directors found to have contributed to death of worker

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It is always fascinating to hear of directors of companies being found personally guilty for workplace health and safety breaches because it seem to happen so rarely.

The latest instance in Australia occurred on 3 December 2010 following a 2007 death of a 22-year-old rigger named Luke Aaron Murrie.  Below is WorkSafe Western Australia‘s media release on the case.

“A Malaga hoist and crane company has been found guilty of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing the death of a worker.

Two Directors of the company were also found guilty of breaching a section of the Occupational Safety and Health Act dealing with offences that occur with the consent or connivance of a Director or are attributable to the neglect of the Director. Continue reading “Neglect by company directors found to have contributed to death of worker”

Election failure, missed opportunities on bullying

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Within the last week, Victoria’s State Premier, John Brumby, lost an election allowing the conservative parties in the Australian State to gain power, narrowly, after over a decade in isolation.  Election pledges are now only of historic interest but let’s look at a couple.

The crime of workplace bullying

According to the Australian Financial Review on 2 November 2010 (not available without subscription), John Brumby pledged to have a legal review into the “creation of the offence of bullying under the Crimes Act”.  The Victorian Chamber of Commerce & Industry‘s (VECCI) Steven Wojtkiw opposed the pledge because existing OHS laws were sufficient.  Taking the election context away for a moment indicates a  challenge for those anti-bullying advocates.  Wojtkiw is quoted as saying

“To introduce a greater level of legislative prescription in the area may only add to the increasing complexities already being confronted by employers in managing a modern workplace.”

It could be argued that if industry had already introduced an appropriate approach to reducing the likelihood of bullying in the workplace John Brumby would never have felt the need to make such a pledge.  In many cases, anti-regulation laissez-faire business lobbyists could reduce the “insidious elements of the nanny state” by doing right by their workforce in the first place.

Bullying and harmonisation

Michael Tooma of Norton Rose is quoted in the same article but Tooma uses Brumby’s pledge as an example of another but different nail in the coffin of Federal OHS reform.   Continue reading “Election failure, missed opportunities on bullying”