The asbestos Triffid goes national

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The union campaign on the eradication of asbestos from the island of Tasmania has entered the national political arena in Australia.  On 29 October 2010, the Australian Minister for Workplace Relations, Chris Evans, announced that Geoff Fary, Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council for Trade Unions, will chair the newly established “Asbestos Management Review” (AMR).

The appointment and chairmanship are an acknowledgement that the trade union movement is the major advocate for occupational, public and environmental safety concerning asbestos in Australia.

Fary will be leaving his ACTU role in November 2010 to take up the new position.

One concern with the AMR, even in its early development is the task of raising awareness.  Chris Evans stated that:

“It is critical that we develop a comprehensive understanding of the scope of the problem and set clear targets as to how we address issues relating to awareness, management and removal of asbestos.”

There is the risk of inactivity on any issue that seeks to raise awareness.  As I wrote twelve months ago:

“The asbestos safety advocates should drop “awareness” from the week’s title because awareness equates to “aspirational targets”, former Prime Minister John Howard’s way of promising much and delivering nothing.  Just as everyone accepts that smoking causes lung cancer and climate change exists, people know that asbestos can kill.  Move away from awareness-raising to action.” Continue reading “The asbestos Triffid goes national”

Asbestos prosecution highlights community risks

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A recent asbestos-related prosecution by WorkSafe Victoria illustrates the prevalence of asbestos as an environmental, public and occupational problem.

According to a media statement on 5 November 2010,

“Joshua Luke Marshall, operating as Affordable Demolitions and Asbestos Removals, told two separate homeowners he was licensed by WorkSafe to carry out asbestos removal work, although he didn’t hold a licence….”

“…The first incident was in January 2009, when Mr Marshall was hired to remove asbestos cement sheeting from a house in Corio.

Mr Marshall was halfway through the job when a WorkSafe inspector arrived at the property in response to an anonymous complaint.

“What our inspector found when he walked onto the property was unbelievable,” Continue reading “Asbestos prosecution highlights community risks”

Lord Young OHS review welcomed by UK’s HSE

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The latest podcast by the Health & Safety Executive includes an interesting interview with the chair of the HSE, Judith Hackitt.

Hackitt admits that any review of occupational health and safety needed

“someone who could look beyond the remit of the Health and Safety Executive and look at what the other factors are out there that create the problems that we all know only too well that create all the nonsense and the myths.”

Lord Young certainly looks at other factors such as over-enthusiastic legal firms but it is hard to not think that someone other than Lord Young could have undertaken the review and come out with a more constructive plan of attack.  In many ways his report confirms the misperceptions of OHS.  Lord Young says, in his report:

“…the standing of health and safety in the eyes of the public has never been lower, and there is a growing fear among business owners of having to pay out for even the most unreasonable claims. Press articles recounting stories where health and safety rules have been applied in the most absurd manner, or disproportionate compensation claims have been awarded for trivial reasons, are a daily feature of our newspapers.”

This says more about the UK media than it does about the OHS laws themselves.  Lord young is very light on his recommendations to curb or counter the inaccurate reporting by the media.  He recommends combining food safety and OHS:

“Promote usage of the scheme by consumers by harnessing the power and influence of local and national media.”

He should have gone further but that would require looking at issues such as accuracy in reporting and the UK media is notorious for beat-ups and entrapment.  UK newspapers feed on the “Yes Minister” absurdities of bureaucracy and when health and safety relates to children, in particular, they go all out. Continue reading “Lord Young OHS review welcomed by UK’s HSE”

Australian OHS expert in advisory role on Gulf oil spill

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Australian Professor Andrew Hopkins is currently in the United States advising the Chemical Safety Board in its investigation of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Several months ago it was rumoured that Hopkins would be part of the Commission of Inquiry, a rumour quickly denied by Hopkins and others.

According to a media release from FutureMedia, Hopkins will

“…spend several months working at the Board’s office in Denver as well as interviewing company managers in both the US and in London, where BP is headquartered.”

Hopkins has been interviewed by many media outlets in relation to the Gulf Oil Spill and BP’s safety culture due to his investigation of the Texas Oil Refinery explosion at a BP facility in 2005.  Continue reading “Australian OHS expert in advisory role on Gulf oil spill”

SafetyAtWorkBlog is one of the top 25 workplace blogs for 2010: LexisNexis

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I am proud to inform you that the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation Law Community has chosen SafetyAtWorkBlog as on of it  “2010 honorees for the Top 25 Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issue“.

LexisNexis stated that:

“A winner last year as well, SafetyAtWorkBlog by Australian Kevin Jones is an excellent foreign OSHA and workers’ compensation product that features news and analysis of workplace issues on the other side of the globe.  This straight forward Blog provides insight and informative content into international worker safety developments, marrying the law, business processes, medicine, and social concerns into thought provoking commentaries.”

In the blogosphere and in OHS there are few opportunities for kudos for writing about workplace safety issues.  Many OHS organisations only communicate with members yet the profession is far larger than any one organisation.  I write the SafetyAtWorkBlog because safety needs interpretation, sometimes even translation, and, perhaps even more importantly, that voice needs to be independent.  The award from LexisNexis gives me hope that I am on the right track.

Please check out the other honorees at the LexisNexis site as several are new and are great sources of information

Kevin Jones FSIA