This post is receiving a lot of attention from around the world so, although, at the moment, the workplace safety issues have diminished, it is interesting to note that The Australian newspaper for 12 June 2008 reports that the Premier, Alan Carpenter, has acknowledged that he may need to invoke emergency powers to seize control of electricity and gas supplies.
This is an extraordinary development that indicates the infrastructure fragility of Western Australia.
The supply disruption is now also receiving federal government attention as it begins to affect Australia’s ability to supply China’s insatiable appetite for Australian minerals and energy.
Alcoa Australia is the latest company to announce a “force majeure” as a result of the Apache Energy pipeline explosion.
It is phenomenal to see how an event that in OHS terms is a “near miss” has the potential to weaken a country’s economic growth.
Phil Matier spoke on KCBS radio on 9 June 2008 about the changes that Oakland Police Department is making to its motorcycles to make them louder. There is an argument that in some way this makes the vehicles safer.
It’s a bizarre report and should be listened to while bearing in mind a new Australian report on the increase in tinnitus in young people. Perhaps American kids need to increase the volume of their iPod earphones whenever a Oakland motorcycle cop rides by.
According to a report released on 10 June 2008 by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau,
“passengers’ health is not greatly at risk through air travel and widespread infections are unlikely.”
On the cases that have been reported of infection, the ATSB says
“such transmission was primarily due to the crowding together of a large variety of people in a confined space, not specifically due to aircraft cabin conditions.”
It goes on to say
“Perhaps of greater concern is the opportunity for infection to spread in airport terminals, where passengers who are travelling to or from many destinations are gathered together.”
At the moment Qantas Airways has a reputation of being a safe airline, principally because its planes do not fall out of the sky. But there is a further definition of a safe airline and that is one whose management actively minimises the risk of infections and pandemics both in the aircraft and the terminal.
Important lessons were learnt from the “dry-run” on modern pandemic from SARS but this focussed on the air traveller and the aircraft and did not include the airport terminal. Perhaps as well as the safety airline, Australia needs to establish the safety airport.
Boy, web-conferencing is becoming more attractive.
On 8 June 2008, a US 60 Minutes report on combustible dust joined the conga-line of critics of the Occupational Safety And Health Administration. The tone of the report is set by the reporter, Scott Pelley’s introduction stating that it is OSHA’s responsibility to avoid the explosions. For OHS practitioners and professionals this is a peculiar statement as it is usually the employer’s responsibility for workplace safety.
The 60 Minutes report illustrates the difficulty that OHS inspectors face when visiting workplaces. Can an inspector be expected to identify ALL the hazards present in a workplace? This is a constant problem for OHS regulators, employers and sadly, the Courts.
The accusation in the 60 Minutes report is that inspectors had no information or training on the explosive hazards of dust. Training is not the solution for everything and an inspector’s state of knowledge should have identified dust as a potential hazard. Even if the hazard was identified in terms of an inhalation risk, or housekeeping, the explosive risk would be reduced if housekeeping was applied properly.
OSHA clearly stated the responsibility of workplace safety being on the employers. The missing element of the entire 60 Minutes report is that the site operators and employers who have experienced dust explosions were not interviewed.
More information on the February 2008 explosion at the Imperial Sugar plant mentioned in the report is available by clicking HERE
For those of you who find dust explosions exciting a video of a dust explosion in a silo is available HERE
For those employers or inspectors who did not do high school science, a schoolroom example of the combustible hazards of dust can be found HERE
Workcover South Australia has released some online videos that include stories of people who have been injured at work and how important it has been to regain a quality of life.
The stories illustrate the importance of a supportive workplace and encouraging relatives. These videos are part of a broader package of information but some may find the stories useful to show others as a motivator for safety improvements
The stories are available for viewing HERE