Conference videos provide optimism and nerves

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Several years ago I assisted the Safety Institute of Australia in providing introductory video profiles for many of their conference speakers.  The intention was to provide a teaser for the content of conference presentations and to introduce more obscure speakers.  The strategy is continuing with several pre-conference videos being made available on-line.

Conference teasers in 2011 include Professor Niki Ellis and Australian lawyer, Andrew Douglas.

Andrew Douglas

Andrew Douglas says that safety professionals need to be careful of jargon as it can create an impenetrable elitism that may run counter to the aim of the profession.  Part of the risk of professional jargon is that it may support an inaccuracy that creates considerable damage.

Douglas identifies “zero harm” as an example of a phrase or concept that con become popular, perhaps dominant, even though it may  be unsupported by OHS laws.  Because the laws and the reality of workplace safety is that there will always be people who are hurt or injured at work, “zero harm” is unattainable and those who utter the “mantra of zero harm”, as Andrew Douglas describes it, lose any OHS credibility. Continue reading “Conference videos provide optimism and nerves”

Safe Work Method Statements and independent positions

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Over the last few months most Australian OHS regulators, and many labour law firms,have been conducting workshops and public seminars on Australia’s plans to harmonise its OHS legislation.  In those workshops, the consultative process and timeframes have been described by some as a “nightmare”, which is not exactly inspiring participants who are seeking clarity from the confusion.

Significantly, others are encouraging the audience to advocate specific positions in potential submissions.

Recently, concerns were raised over the revisions to Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) provisions.  It was suggested that SWMS have the potential to bloat beyond several pages due to the need to include “associated risks”.  Most safety management systems and OHS professionals would already have include secondary, ancillary or associated risks as part of the job safety analyses and SWMS. Continue reading “Safe Work Method Statements and independent positions”

People enter the quad bike ROPS debate

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A week on from Australia’s The Weekly Times using its front page to open a debate about roll over protection structures (ROPS), the debate has continued in the letters and op-ed pages of The Weekly Times.

Dr Yossi Berger of the Australian Workers Union asks the valid question in his opinion piece – should all the responsibility for quad bike incidents be placed on riders or can manufacturers do better?  If injuries and deaths on quad bikes continue to occur after rider-focused control measures have been advocated and encouraged for many years, isn’t it time to look at more than PPE and administrative controls?  As Albert Einstein is alleged to have said:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Rhys Griffiths of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries says in his piece that the quad bike manufacturers are frustrated that low-cost, in safety-speak, administrative controls are not being applied by riders or endorsed by safety regulators.  The control measures recommended are likely to have positive safety impacts but these could be improved further by the integration of a ROPS.  However Griffiths says that :

“Roll Over Protection Systems are not the answer”.

I agree but safety is rarely about “the” answer.  Better outcomes are mostly achieved by a combination of controls that can accommodate the varying work characteristics. Continue reading “People enter the quad bike ROPS debate”

Evidence on the need for safe job design

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One reader has provided an example of recent research that supports the previous SafetyAtWorkBlog article on the importance of quality and safety in job creation.

In the March 2011 online edition of the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal, Australian researchers have analysed data concerning “the psychosocial quality of work”.  According to an accompanying media release (not available online yet) they found that

“The impact on mental health of a badly paid, poorly supported, or short term job can be as harmful as no job at all…” Continue reading “Evidence on the need for safe job design”

Creating jobs is a waste unless those jobs are safe

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Coming out of recession or, at least, a global financial crisis seems to mean that the creation of jobs is the only driver of economic growth.  Governments around the world seem obsessed with employment creation but rarely is the quality of the employment ever considered.

The drive for jobs at the cost of other employment conditions such as safety was illustrated on 11 March 2011 in an article in The Australian newspaper.  New South Wales’ election is only a short while away and, as it is widely considered to be an easy win for the conservative Liberal Party, government policies are already being discussed.

“Industrial relations spokesman Greg Pearce, a former partner at Freehills, said he was aware that concerns about the workplace safety system had emerged in the legal profession.

But the Coalition’s main goal was to minimise uncertainty to encourage job creation.”

The push for jobs is also indicative of short-term political thinking. Continue reading “Creating jobs is a waste unless those jobs are safe”