New WHS Regulations present a challenge to quad bike manufacturers

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In late 2009, SafetyAtWorkBlog discussed the relevance of plant safety regulations and the hierarchy of controls to quad bikes.

“The Hierarchy of Controls has some questionable OHS applications to psychosocial hazards but it applies very well to “traditional” hazards, those involving plant.  The Hierarchy also emphasizes that the first step in any hazard control is to consider whether the hazard can be eliminated.  But what happens when the designers of equipment and plant know that a design can be made safer but do nothing to improve it?”

Several of the 662 pages in Australia’s new Model Work Health and Safety Regulations due to be officially released on 26 September 2011 mention plant safety and the hierarchy of controls.

Section 214 – “Powered mobile plant – general control of risk” states

“The person with management or control of powered mobile plant at a workplace must in accordance with Part 3.1 [Managing Risks of Health and Safety], manage risks to health and safety associated with the following:

(a) the plant overturning; Continue reading “New WHS Regulations present a challenge to quad bike manufacturers”

Helmet debate misses the point of safe design

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Workplace safety is rarely simple or easy.  It has become a standard recommendation in Australia recently for quad bike riders to wear helmets.  Quad bike manufacturers recommend the wearing of helmets and some OHS regulators are making it mandatory but this should not be the end of the safety discussion.  The Weekly Times newspaper on 21 September 2011 describes the current arguments occurring over the type of helmet to be worn.

It is common for workplaces to experience disputes or discussions over personal protective equipment (PPE).  These discussions are necessary to ensure that the best, the most suitable, PPE is used to control a hazard.  Sometimes safety eyewear can be heat-resistant sunglasses, sometimes this should be goggles.  Sometime head protection comes from a hard hat, sometime from a bump cap.  PPE should never generate new hazards when trying to control another.

The current discussion indicates has arisen over the wearing of motorcycle-style helmets while following a herd of dairy cows during an Australian summer.  Dairy farmers say that the wearing of helmets in these conditions is absurd and farmers will choose to ride quad bikes un-helmeted instead. Continue reading “Helmet debate misses the point of safe design”

Work Health and Safety Regulation Impact Statement could do better

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[Originally submitted as a comment to a “safety costs” article]

I’ve spent a coupla hours dipping into what looked to me like the important bits of the WHS reg RIS, and I gotta say it don’t add up. I’d also say that the RIS does, in general terms, do what it should do, in terms of making the reasoning processes it uses relatively clear. The merit of the conclusions is up for debate of course, but at least the RIS seems to have made a fair fist of explaining how the conclusions were reached.

For mine there are 2 key flaws.

1. The options to the proposed reg (chapter 4 pg. 19) are just not sufficient. I don’t think it’s at all reasonable to provide 2 “options” which are: do nothing or make the regs. Roger, it might be reasonable to conclude that a big public consultation exercise has happened with the WHS Act, so why revisit a lot of other options? But the fact is the COAG RIS guidelines say a “range of options” should be included, and it’s common practice in RISs to at least have a few genuine alternatives to consider. (See link to the guidelines: ).

The agreement (as it is) by jurisdictions to put the WHS Act into operation doesn’t come with an all-or-nothing conclusion that the WHS regulations is the only option. We have to acknowledge that when it comes to Regulations, we are getting down to tin-tacks when it comes to statutory obligations; it’s that thing about Regulations “giving practical effect to an Act.” That means a big effort is needed to get it right as far as options go. Continue reading “Work Health and Safety Regulation Impact Statement could do better”

There is a whiff of media manipulation on recent allegations of bullying at WorkSafe Victoria

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WorkSafe Victoria has been heavily criticised in the media over recent days about “revelations” of workplace bullying within the authority, a government authority that has the role of regulating workplace safety, a role that includes reducing the risk of bullying.

It would be easy to only look at the newspaper articles of this week but the issue has been bubbling away for some time.  WorkSafe has always struggled with addressing workplace bullying in its own staff, the community and other government agencies.  But this is not unique.  A 2010 report on bullying in the Victorian public sector showed a high incidence of workplace bullying across the public service going back to 2005.  What makes the WorkSafe situation different is that the hazard of workplace bullying is being alleged in the organisation who should know best how to control it.

The Age has reported previously on bullying in the public service previously in 2005.  The Age reported then that

“The Government’s own research, based on a survey of 14,000 public sector workers, found that more than one in five had been bullied or harassed by colleagues or managers in the past year. A further 40 per cent had witnessed others being abused.”

Karen Batt, a long-serving State Secretary of the Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU), has been outspoken on workplace bullying every time the matter has been raised in survey reports and the media for many years.  The recent Age articles quote her extensively and The Age’s publisher, Fairfax, has even posted recent audio of Batt’s opinions.

But it is important to ask why the issue of workplace bullying at WorkSafe has reappeared, now,  in late September 2011. Continue reading “There is a whiff of media manipulation on recent allegations of bullying at WorkSafe Victoria”

Religious wisdom on workplace safety

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It is rare to visit the Bible when thinking about occupational health and safety but this week Australia’s Uniting Church, its Creative Ministries Network and the United Voices trade union released a report on the working condition of shopping centre cleaners.  In the report “Cutting Corners” there are many references to the Bible’s and the Church’s thoughts and actions on labour issues.

For instance, according to the report:

“…God is ‘against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan’ (Malachi 3:5).”


“…the Prophet Muhammad underlined the importance of the just wage by saying, ‘give the employee his wages before his sweat has had time to dry’.”

The Uniting Church has strong arguments to justify its involvement in social equity matters.

“Cutting Corners” was a broad report based on hundreds of telephone interviews with cleaners.  The major safety-related findings of the survey were:

“The key violations borne by shopping centre cleaners constitute a litany of injustices, from low rates of pay, pay that is not commensurate with their Continue reading “Religious wisdom on workplace safety”