Speeding in roadside worksites

I have a confessions to make.  I stick to the speed limit and in over 25 years of driving cars and riding motorcycles, I have never had a speeding ticket.  That may make me sound like a grumpy old fart but I can’t see how it can be worth putting yourself and others at risk for little return….

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Sugar Vat Explosion

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According to Australian news reports, several explosions have occurred at the Pioneer sugar mill in Queensland.  Two people have been seriously injured and 14 are currently trapped

According to firefighters there was a low pressure explosion in a 1,000 litre sugar vat at 9am on 20 June 2008. 

“After the vat exploded it fell over and pushed over another 1,000 litre sugar vat. The ‘mud’ that spilt from the vats ran into an adjoining lab facility and nine staff members were evacuated.”

Shiftwork risks

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For fixed periods over the last two years I have been working morning or night shift for a multi-national business information company.  I know shiftwork fairly well although I have never worked rotating shifts and the longest shift worked is around nine hours.  That may well categorise me as a wimp to those oil-rig workers, firefighters, bakers and miners out there, but…..

being an OHS professional I have been very watchful of my own health when working shiftwork.  On full night shift it took my digestion weeks to break the routine of over forty years.  My weight has increased but no chronic illnesses yet.  My biggest risk comes from fatigue in the drive to and from work though I have to admit that at 2.30 in the morning in Melbourne, I could use my cruise control on the suburban streets as the traffic is so light.

I have also been more keenly aware of the studies and reports on shiftwork and the health risks associated with it.  Often these reports garner considerable media coverage and, as is the way with media, some contrary articles never get a run.  Below is a selection of links to articles that highlight increased risk or the reduction of risk in relation to shiftwork:

Epidemiological Diagnosis of Occupational Fatigue in a Fly-In–Fly-Out Operation of the Mineral Industry

Simple Schedule Changes Could Improve Shift Worker Health

U of T research finds shift work linked to organ disease

This is a selection of the most recent and show the difficulties posed to OHS professionals and managers in handling this emerging risk.

For the moment, I am taking the issue of shiftwork out of my personal concerns.  I will focus instead on the health, fitness and fatigue issues applying the logic that the hazard variable over which I have the most control is myself.

Varanus Island and Worker Safety

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The safety of workers at the Varanus Island pipeline has been questioned through emailed photos of the explosion site and the accompanying email.  The images have not been confirmed by Apache Energy.

The email, reported by The Age and perthnow, says the “big bang” had occurred because the pipe had corroded “to the thickness of a match stick”.

It was also reported to include the following comments from a worker

“We ran for our lives, really really really scary. Does not feel good to be back here so soon (5 days later) The place is quiet, no noise, nothing. Just us hitting spanners ect (sic). Not sure if I really wanna be here when it’s up and running, which will be months away, a lot of damage.”

Minimising stress hazards by managing better

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Wendy MacDonald, from Latrobe University’s Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, discussed the possible breach of OHS legislation by the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s dismissal of the risk of working excessive hours by public servants, recently on ABC radio.

The podcast can be accessed HERE

By identifying the links between excessive working hours and the increase in cardiovascular problems due to stress, the report echoes other posts in safetyatworkblog but also adds a new dimension to the Victorian government’s WorkHealth strategy.  If the link of excessive working hours to stress-related conditions is proven, and I think the evidence is already there, then there is an obligation under OHS law to control the hazard at the source, to eliminate the hazard. 

I wait to see the WorkHealth publications that advise managers to reduce workload to “healthy” levels, to ensure that adequate leave is taken to ensure people are “fit for work” and that they cap working hours to a safe level.