Quad bike safety is showing a political shift

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A young boy has died in a quad bike incident on an Australian farm last weekend.  What the boy was doing at the time of the incident is unclear and whether the quad bike was a work vehicle or recreational is also unclear, but the current sensitivities of the issue of quad bike safety have raised media attention once more.

In this week’s edition of The Weekly Times, the motorcycle manager of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Rhys Griffiths, seems uncertain of the type of safety measures being considered for quad bikes by manufacturers.  He is reported as saying

“…. research and development spending and direction was a “closely guarded secret of each manufacturer”.

“My guess is they may be spending money on things like active suspension, which helps the stability of the ATV. But a roll bar or crush bar is probably not under development.”

Since quad bike safety advocates began producing robust research to add to the existing safety evidence, the FCAI seems to have been on the back foot a little by reacting instead of proposing change.   Continue reading “Quad bike safety is showing a political shift”

Business groups have different stances on harmonisation issues

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The politics of the Australian print media may be illustrated by an article in The Australian Financial Review (AFR) (only available through subscription or hard copy) on 27 July 2011 that, essential contrasts yesterday’s article in The Australian.

Today’s AFR article places the Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) in contrast to the ACCI and the NSW Minerals Council over the implementation timetable on OHS harmonisation.  Mark Goodsell of AiGroup said in the AFR that all parties have been able to voice their concerns throughout this three year review process:

“So we would be very disappointed if there was a fracturing of commitment to harmonisation or if the timetable was pushed out.”

The objection to an extension of time places AiGroup in opposition to the WA Government’s Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien. Continue reading “Business groups have different stances on harmonisation issues”

Harmonisation timetable stoush

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The Australian newspaper has reported serious threats to the Australian Government’s timetable for the harmonisation of OHS laws.  A threat to the government’s strategy was always possible from the fact that State government’s were likely to change from predominantly Labor Party States to Conservative parties over the period of harmonisation.  The Australian says that the threat is becoming a reality.

Western Australia, an unhappy participant in harmonisation, has begun questioning the deadline of 1 January 2012 for the introduction of harmonised OHS laws.  The WA government has been a consistent critic of some of the element s of the process but, to some extent, the latest statement from West Australia’s Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien could be interpreted as a willingness to sign up to the changes if more time for implementation is granted.

O’Brien and the WA government may be receiving some support from political colleagues in Victoria going by the comments from the Victorian Government.  In an almost unique acknowledgement of the harmonisation process a spokesperson said:

“The focus of developing a national OHS framework should be not on harmonisation for harmonisation’s sake, but rather on achieving beneficial outcomes, both for the nation as well as Victoria…..In addition, any harmonised national OHS framework must not result in increased compliance costs and more onerous regulations.”

The mention of national interest aligns well with WA’s objections. Continue reading “Harmonisation timetable stoush”

Fatigue dispute illustrates ideological clash

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The Australian newspaper reports today (26 July 2011) of a clash between the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU) and BHP Billiton over fatigue management.  Fatigue management is one of the workplace hazards scheduled for a draft code of practice under the OHS harmonisation process.

The CFMEU believes that the current mining-related guidance  is inadequate.

“The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union says the government buckled under industry pressure and abandoned plans for binding industry standards that would minimise the risk of workers doing successive 12-hour shifts and then driving long distances on public roads.”

The flaw in the CFMEU’s campaign is that it has been selective in its choice of fatigue documentation.  Looking at the industry sector rather than the hazard or risk limits the hazard control options.  In the current case the CFMEU is not acknowledging many of the fatigue guidancesand documents that are available from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland or from some of the other States and even from overseas as this Safe Work Australia document from 2006 shows.

In fact the narrow selection of guidance in this instance makes a strong case for greater collaboration in the development of information across industry sectors and State jurisdictions – one of the aims of harmonisation. Continue reading “Fatigue dispute illustrates ideological clash”

Draft mining OHS documents cause concern

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The draft OHS documents for mining  in Australia seemed like a fairly rudimentary release in Australia’s move to harmonisation of its safety laws but several issues have appeared in the media since the draft’s release.

The CEO of the New South Wales Minerals Council, Nikki Williams, found something other than the carbon tax to discuss during the council’s annual safety conference.

Although her audience is principally NSW miners, Williams does have a national perspective.

“Each State is drafting their new laws individually and using different models. There are missing components and a large number of inconsistencies.

If this process continues unchecked, the prospect of genuine legislative reform that will deliver a world leading mining regulatory framework appears very remote.

“We are deeply disappointed that this has not been resolved and question why the core WHS regulations couldn’t be developed to effectively regulate all mining states.”

In some ways, Williams’ words show a misunderstanding of the laws. The laws are intended to manage mining, not the companies, not the States, not the workers. The safety of the mining process is the target. It is possible to focus on the safety of a process or industry without considering the politics, at the outset. Continue reading “Draft mining OHS documents cause concern”