Death in the workplace guide could have been much more helpful

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Workplace Health & Safety Queensland (WHSQ)has released an update of its guidance on how to handle the impacts of a death at work.  “A death in the workplace– a guide for families and friends” provides very useful information for a period when a family’s life will change forever and when thinking clearly will be difficult.

Like many guidances from OHS regulators, this one is very legalistic or procedural.  It explains the roles of police, coroners, OHS inspectors and others but it lacks a humanity that many would find reassuring in such a difficult time.

One of the issues that creates great anxiety is any delay in getting the body of their loved one back.  The Queensland guide discusses organising this through a funeral director but grieving people want a little more information.  The guide would have been improved by simply stating that there may be a delay in returning their loved ones and that a delay of a week is often the norm.

Often families choose not to know the details of the procedures because they are focussing on their loss.  Anyone who has had to organise a funeral after a sudden non-work related death knows how traumatic the process already is and how disruptive it can be to a family, without the involvement of government agencies, police and others.

If the readership of this guidance was families and friends it has the wrong tone.  It provides important information without understanding the context in which such a guide may be read.  WorkCover New South Wales’ guide for families recognises this context with “a word of introduction”. Continue reading “Death in the workplace guide could have been much more helpful”

Good Comcare content on effects of OHS harmonisation

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Australia’s Comcare was the first of the OHS regulators to provide an information session on Australia’s attempts to harmonise its OHS laws across many different jurisdictions and industry sectors.  The Melbourne seminar on 7 February 2011 could have been presented better but some useful information was available.

Content – Inspectorate

The most significant OHS information to come out of the event was that Comcare is making a serious attempt to move its enforcement from the investigatory model to inspectorate.  Michael Barnes acknowledged that this will be a considerable culture change for Comcare staff and, by extension, many Comcare clients.  This is a major change of emphasis as illustrated by Victoria’s WorkSafe that went through this exercise over the last five years or so.  This program will take many years to introduce and still more years to be accepted.

Basically the OHS “policeman” will have additional obligations to advise clients on ways to comply with OHS laws.  There has always been a tension when OHS inspectors, who often know the most appropriate control measure in work situations, are bound to not advise as they would be overstepping their authority. Continue reading “Good Comcare content on effects of OHS harmonisation”

Local safety article reflects bigger issues

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Workplace safety hardly ever gets a mention in the daily newspapers unless there is a big corporate name involved or a record fine.   Local newspapers often provide more coverage of workplace incidents because the local angle allows for the reporting of the social and familial impact of an incident within days of it occurring.

The 9 February 2011 edition of the Melbourne Times Weekly included a feature article – “Risky Business” by Genevieve Gannon.   The existence of any media mention of workplace safety is of note in itself but Gannon’s article, with assistance from the always-helpful WorkSafe spokesperson, Michael Birt, does not only focus on the fatalities (23 in 2010) but also on the maimings.   Around 70 people had life-threatening injuries in Victoria in 2010 and 20,000 were seriously injured. Continue reading “Local safety article reflects bigger issues”

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LiquidKeyboard may have substantial ergonomic benefits

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As an iPad user for well over 6 months, the iPad is a terrific device for reading but it is not the best for writing.  This may be due to having typed since the age of 14 on everything from a solid old Remington typewriter to an IBM golf ball electric typewriter and various keyboards over the decades.  Typing on glass is possible but the limited keyboard size on the iPad is a struggle.  But that struggle may be replaced by an even greater challenge.

The iPad, and many other devices, are bound by a QWERTY keyboard.  Others have argued that the QWERTY layout is outdated but it is possible to produce a presentable email holding an iPad in one hand and typing with the other.  It is likely that , over a short period of time, the shortcomings of that arrangement will create ergonomic problems.

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have not introduced an alternative to the QWERTY keyboard but rather tweaked it into a new layout.  LiquidKeyboard is the system and, in short

  • “A new keyboard that makes it easier to type on touch screen devices has been invented
  • LiquidKeyboard enables people to use both hands in typing in the traditional way
  • As soon as your first four fingers touch the surface – in one fluid motion – an entire keyboard is constructed using the QWERTY format”

As with many innovations, productivity is the main motivation or it may be that productivity is the language needed to gain broad media attention but the potential ergonomic benefits are just as interesting.   If ergonomics is “the science of designing the workplace environment to fit the user” then the ergonomic benefits of LiquidKeyboard are self-evident.  Just because the  use of  a virtual keyboard has not identified any hazards yet does not mean that research into alternative, more ergonomic methods is not warranted.  The forethought of Christian Sax and other researchers is to be applauded.

Kevin Jones

Is night shift reasonable practicable?

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Tony Carter, has provided some additional information about occupational fatigue after reading the fatigue article on this blog earlier today.

Carter was one of three authors of a 2007 article in The Annals of Occupational Hygiene entitled “Epidemiological Diagnosis of Occupational Fatigue in a Fly-In–Fly-Out Operation of the Mineral Industry” (abstract only available online).   The abstract says that:

“A disturbed diurnal rhythm at the beginning of night shift and a roster of more than eight consecutive days were identified as the primary contributing factors to occupational fatigue in this setting.”

It is fair to say night shift and eight consecutive days of work are the causes in this research but research without proposed controls is of little practical use.  Thankfully the study by Anthony Carter, Reinhold Muller and Ann Williamson provides some control suggestions – naps and changes to lighting.  Simple in concept but possibly difficult to implement.  How does a company provide naps in a production line operation?  Can production continue as lighting lux levels are reduced? Continue reading “Is night shift reasonable practicable?”