TV report into SafeWorkSA’s performance

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On 20 May 2010, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation televised a story on the South Australian 7.30 program about the supposedly poor investigative performance of SafeWorkSA.  The article was framed by a mother’s grief, the grief of Andrea Madeley over the loss of her son, Daniel.

The story was some weeks coming as the story’s production began around the time the ABC were filming at the Workers’ Memorial service in Adelaide a month ago.  The story promised to be a hard-hitting criticism of the State’s OHS regulator but the latest Industrial Relations Minister, Patrick Conlon, handled himself well and what could have provided a provocative national context to the story, the harmonisation of OHS laws, dampened the impact.

Both Yossi Berger and I have written about the findings of Coroner Mark Johns on this blog.  Yossi agrees that OHS regulators are almost all too slow to implement control measures to prevent recurrences of injuries and death,  I thought the Coroner was poorly informed.

The lasting image of the 7.30 storywas the young boy talking at Adelaide’s memorial about his loss of a relative – the way he kept talking while he sobbed and cried.

All OHS regulators must improve their game in empowering employers and workers to prevent injury and death.  Coronial criticisms are unlikely to affect changes in safety management by themselves.  Crying boys are also unlikely to affect lasting change, but it is almost a certainty that the harmonisation of OHS laws will change very little.

Kevin Jones

Source data from within the quad bike safety stoush

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SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to contact the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries’ Rhys Griffiths this afternoon seeking clarification of the FCAI’s withdrawal from quad bike safety discussions reported yesterday.  Prior to withdrawing, a document was read to the quad bike safety working group.  The document has not been released publicly but below is the gist.

Further down the page is an edited version of the letter that the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (AgHealth) has reportedly sent to “290 rural motorcycle dealers”.  According to Rhys Griffiths being quoted in The Weekly Times, this letter

“”…basically says dealers could be looking at law suits for not fitting devices on ATVs…  This is in direct contradiction to the manufacturers’ recommendations, so the dealer is caught in the middle.” Continue reading “Source data from within the quad bike safety stoush”

Quad bike manufacturers walk out of safety working group

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In early 2010, Australia’s Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) established a trans-Tasman working party to look at the safety issues of quad bikes, often called all-terrain vehicles.  The working group is in the final stages of its report and a major motorcycle industry representative has not liked the findings and has apparently withdrawn from the working group.  A report on the increasing tensions was published in  this week’s The Weekly Times.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that the quad bike industry representative has walked out in protest.

Let’s look at what HWSA said about the working group in May 2010:

“HWSA Chair, John Watson, said every farming fatality leads to immeasurable suffering in close-knit rural communities and these figures are not acceptable.
“The working group is expected to deliver solutions to safety problems associated with use of quad bikes on farm properties and raise awareness of practical risk controls,…
“The group will look at issues that include design, safety equipment, training and instruction, aftermarket accessories, safe use and point of sale,….
“The joint program of work will be delivered through an Industry Solutions Program where industry and regulators work together to address high risk safety issues – an initiative that has successfully provided practical solutions to a number of issues across many industries.
“The working group is focused on producing tangible and sustainable safety outcomes across the farming and agricultural industry where quad bikes are commonly used….”
Of significance in that media release is that Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) Andrew McKellar said

“It is our objective that all quad bike users are well informed of the manufacturer’s recommendations in relation to the safe use of these vehicles…”

The sticking point in the working group was, according to The Weekly Times, that

“”…the committee was expected to back the recommendation to “consider fitting an anti-crush device”, the strongest position yet for roll-over protection.”

The committee did recommend this and apparently the FCAI walked.  Attempts have been made to contact the FCAI to confirm their action and their objections. Continue reading “Quad bike manufacturers walk out of safety working group”

Compliance or Confidence?

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A reader has been inspired by recent articles discussing OHS compliance to contribute their own article on some of the issues raised:

“Compliance”, while being a way forward in OHS, misses the mark. We should ask the question: Why do regulators want compliance anyway?

Compliance, or conformance as is alternatively used, is a means to an end. Not an end in itself. In haste to improve the world via compliance we sometimes forget that.

Compliance presumes that rules laid down by regulators are a “good enough” way to achieve safety. Compliance’s foundation is the minimum-standard. Foundations cannot be anything like the maximum-standard because best practice regulation knowledge backs up our common sense that maximum standards would be bad and expensive. But wouldn’t it be comforting to be able to encourage and get more than just the minimum?

Some who have felt the stick end of compliance might think some regulators believe their rules and guides are the only path to safety. But the fact is that even the best codes & regulations have flaws; they do change. Furthermore, exemptions get provided, position papers and codes of practice get written to fill the gaps. And they get re-written. Sometimes the reasons for a rule are lost in time. Shamefully, sometimes valid reasons never existed. Sometimes rules are written to serve the purposes of some over others or to empower authority. We can know this because COAG and the OBPR have to warn against it. Continue reading “Compliance or Confidence?”

Regulating The Great Leap Forward (Into The Bleeding Obvious)

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Col Finnie has provided the following article in response to OHS compliance checklists:

It’s gotta be time to bite-the-bullet.  The wish-fulfilment approach – that people will apply some sort of system to how they look after safety because that’s the only sensible way to do it – well, that’s not working, particularly it seems, in the small business area.

Time to regulate for the obligation to have something that can, at very least, lay the foundation for a comprehensive systematic approach.  Seems just a bit whacked to me that a demonstrable systematic approach is required once a worker is injured (with the return-to-work obligations) and yet there is nuthin’ for the prevention stuff.

Getting a slapping from a magistrate for having no safe work procedures (as one part of a systematic approach) would work as an incentive if people were busted as often as they are for road traffic naughtiness; but we know that frequency of OHS busts are just not going to happen.

The Great Leap Forward (Into The Bleeding Obvious) would have to be regulated in a smart way.   Continue reading “Regulating The Great Leap Forward (Into The Bleeding Obvious)”