Is the sun good for us or bad?

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Exposure to ultraviolet light is a risk for outdoor workers, particularly, that need to be managed well.  The best way to manage this is a point of debate in OHS management circles but I thought the medical argument on skin cancers and melanoma was over.  Apparently not.

According to an article at BMJ Online, Associate Professor Scott Menzies says

“Sun exposure is clearly a major cause of this disease [melanoma]”.

Sam Shuster is not so sure.

“We need to know much more before we can balance the biological books on ultraviolet radiation, even if we can now close the chapter on melanoma.”

When you are discussing occupational safety with your occupational physician (assuming you have one) bring these articles to their attention so that any skin cancer management program you operate is as valid and robust as it can be.  In OHS, a contemporary state of knowledge is an important base.

Beaconsfield Coronial Inquest Walkout

On 22 July 2008 the Tasmanian Coroner continued with his inquest into the death of Larry Knight at the Beaconsfield mine on 25 April 2006. Shortly after the start the legal team representing the mine walked out. Newspaper, radio and TV have covered this extraordinary development. Other reports in SafetyAtWorkBlog told of the lawyers’ attempts…

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Australian Level Crossings – Part 2

The Victorian Government’s investigation into level crossing safety is continuing. Yesterday the Parliamentary Committee on Road Safety ran a seminar on technological issues related to level crossings. Today (22 July 2008 ) I attended the morning session of a seminar on Fail-Safe technologies. The meat of today’s seminar was to be an open and frank…

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OHS in the 1970’s

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Matthew Knott’s article in the Australian newspaper (21 July 2008 ) included telling comments from  Barry Willis, a 64-year-old former maintenance worker at Amberley air force base.  The article says

“workplace health and safety was non-existent: open cans of chemical sealant were stored in the refrigerators where the men kept their lunch.”

I have been critical of the military in the past as they are usually well-sourced on OHS and often speak proudly of their approach to safety.  Yet just as with the BlackHawk Inquiry findings criticising the safety culture, Barry Willis saw no safety culture in the 1970s.

At the risk of sounding like an old grump, working in that decade was under a different set of cultural rules.  Modern OHS legislation was being considered by most Western jurisdictions and industrial diseases were coming to the fore.  In the early 1980’s I worked in industrial relations concerning award restructuring.  One of the first elements to be restructured was allowances, many of them accurately described as “danger money” – removing roadkill, working at heights, confined spaces and a range of other hazards.

It can be argued that modern salary levels incorporate allowances for hazardous work but the issue of immediate compensation for a dirty or hazardous job, hopefully, has had its day.

Sadly, for people like Barry Willis, the consequences of a hazard, known or discounted, continue and the struggle for acknowledgement and compensation continues.

Corrosion at Varanus Island

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In mid-July 2008, the West Australian Liberal Party detailed leaked correspondence concerning the maintenance program at the Apache Energy facility at Varanus Island.  In the letter from July 2007, the director of petroleum and major hazard facilities, Richard Craddock, said

“The Five-Year Integrity Review report does not objectively demonstrate that the … pipeline complies with the conditions of … licence PL17, the variations under PL17 and the primary technical standard AS2885.”

The letter identified several areas of attention – pipeline integrity, corrosion and safety management.

A spokesman for Energy Minister Fran Logan said the issues raised were about a mainland pipeline however he also said that the Department of Industrial Relations “did raise the issues that were raised with Apache.”

Economic forecasts by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA said the pipeline explosion on Varanus Island had lead to a $6.7 billion reduction in business production and a $2.4 billion negative impact on the general WA economy.   

Other reports are emerging over interdepartmental disputes in the area of enforcement of pipelines.

Other reports on the Varanus Island explosion are available in this blog by search “Varanus” in the search field on this page.