Climate Change Green Paper – OHS role

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At the moment I am watching Senator Penny Wong  releasing the Australian government’s green paper into climate change reduction, focussing on an emissions trading scheme.  Some OHS professionals have disputed the relationship between environmental management and safety management.  In practice there has always been an overlap in the disciplines and increasingly in management pocesses, auditing and standards.

The Green Paper  has a direct OHS impact in the mining industry where fugitive emissions now need to be measured for climate change purposes as well as for health and safety compliance. Section 5.4 of the Summary of Preferred Positions states

The following sources would have minimum standards for emissions estimation methodologies imposed from the commencement of the scheme:
* electricity sector emissions (as required for the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme and the Generator Efficiency Standards program)
* perfluorocarbon emissions (from aluminium production, as is current business practice and used for the National Greenhouse Accounts)
* fugitive emissions from underground coal mines (as currently mandated by state safety regulations for the large majority of mines).

The issue of climate change and the government’s emphasis on business impacts means that we need to reassess some of our amentiies, facilities and work methods to accommodate increased risks from climate change.  The Green Paper describes several ways that climate change will change how we work.  For instance when assessing the integrity of our building facilities we need to reconsider the structural tolerances as the report says

In our built environment, a 25 per cent increase in wind gust speed can lead to a 550 per cent increase in damage costs for buildings, with risks to human safety, largely because building or engineering standards have been exceeded.

Business continuity is going to undergo a revolution in criteria to be considered far beyond what we experienced with increased terrorist risks.

Workplace Safety Inspector Ad

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WorkSafe Victoria has launched a new advertising campaign emphasising its role as an OHS inspectorate (click image below to view).  The emphasis fits that of WorkSafe’s CEO, John Merritt, who has pledged mre inspectorate resources and enforcement in the future.

The ad is clever in its structure by relieving the boss’ tension over an expected WorkSafe inspector visit and then reinforcing the surprise nature of many WorkSafe visits.  The ad is also very well acted but I wonder about the effectiveness of the message as a TV ad.  Not being privy to WorkSafe ad strategies, I would have thought that billboards in and around industrial sectors with the boss’ worried face may be more effective.

One small point though, the female worker being asked about office cabling is too stereotypical.  However I acknowledge that having a female machine operator may have distracted the focus from the main message.

Still from new WorkSafe inspector ad
Still from new WorkSafe inspector ad

OHS Law Review and the International Labour Organisation

Several submissions, from those currently publicly available, to Australia’s National OHS Law Review have referenced OHS conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It is early days in the process of assessing submissions and one would expect more details on ILO Conventions to come from submissions of the ACTU and ACCI, both members of the…

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Could sexual abuse by priests be a breach of OHS law?

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In early July 2008, serious accusations about the management of sexual abuse claims by the Australian Catholic Church came to the public attention.  Considerable debate on this current round is available in the Australian media but the ABC show Lateline started the running on the matter.  A useful starting point is an ABC news report on the initial claims.

This week I was conducting some OHS update sessions for a client in which I outlined that one of the objectives of Victoria’s OHS legislation is to

“protect the public from the health and safety risks of business activities”.

And there is a legislative obligation on employers to

“not recklessly endanger a person at a workplace”.

There is a further obligation on employees, in relation to workplace safety and the safety of the public to

“take reasonable care for self and others”.

I put the question to readers – could the sexual misconduct of priests be a potential breach of OHS law?

Coroner to investigate safety management of Beaconsfield mine

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A front page report in the The Australian on 9 July 2008 is reassuring safety professionals who had hoped for OHS management details from the Tasmanian Coroner’s inquest into the death of Larry Knight at the Beaconsfield mine.

According to the report

Coroner Rod Chandler yesterday ruled against the mine’s submission that he should simply adopt the findings of the official Melick report into the Anzac Day rock-fall in 2006 that killed Knight and trapped colleagues Brant Webb and Todd Russell underground for 14 days.

Mr Chandler also ruled against the mine’s fall-back position that any inquest should be limited to geo-technical issues.

Instead, he ruled he would also examine risk management at the mine, which was criticised by an expert’s report, the mine’s “financial situation” and the role of Tasmania’s work safety watchdog.

This puts the inquiry iinto the realms of the Sago mine investigation and many other mine fatality inquries.

The full inquest resumes on 22 July 2008.