If the reports constantly say that everything is perfect
someone is lying!

OSH has been a passion of mine since I became formally involved back in 1983.  I was working at Glenbrook, just south of Auckland, on the New Zealand Steel Expansion Project when I was elected Safety Delegate.  That meant I had to qualify as a Safety Supervisor.  I was involved in daily inspections, hazard assessment, establishment of Safe Working Procedures and the like.  For me, safety consciousness became a way of life which steadily extended into my off-site life.

I know that some of the workers on the site were annoyed when I kept nagging at them about one thing or another, but consider this.  When the project was started it was calculated statistically that five people would be killed by indistrial accidents during the term of the job.  That sounds fine if you say it quickly, but the reality is someone without a partner, some kids missing a parent, some parents missing a child.  It means someone having to deal with mortgages and the rest of the family finances without the construction workers' income.  It means hardship and pain.

Anyway, here are some articles I hope you will find instructive. Click on the title to download.

General Safety

What are we to make of safe behaviour programs?

Hopkins, A. (January 2006). What are we to make of safe behaviour programs? Safety Science, xxx(xxx): xxx-xxx.

Safe behaviour programs are currently a popular strategy for improving safety in large organizations.  This paper provides a critical look at the assumptions that underlie such programs and identifies some of their limitations.

Safe behaviour programs run the risk of assuming that unsafe behaviour is the only cause of accidents worth focusing on.   The reality is that unsafe behaviour is often merely the last link in a causal chain and not necessarily the most effective link to focus on, for the purposes of prevention.  One major drawback of these programs is that they miss critically important unsafe behaviour, such as attempts by workers to re-start processes that have been temporarily interrupted.  Conventional safe behaviour programs aimed at front line workers are also of no use in preventing accidents in which the behaviour of front line workers is not involved.

Given that it is the behaviour of management that is most critical in creating a culture of safety in any organization, behavioural safety observations are likely to have their greatest impact if directed upwards, at managers.

The paper concludes with an appendix about accident repeater programs that are sometimes introduced along with safe behaviour programs.

Strategies to promote safe behaviour as part of a health and safety management system

Fleming, M. & Lardner, R.; Chartered Occupational Psychologists (The Keil Centre): Strategies to promote safe behaviour as part of a health and safety management system (2002) Report ID: Contract Research Report 430/2002; Edinburgh (SCO): HSE.

Promoting safe behaviour at work is a critical part of the management of health and safety, because behaviour turns systems and procedures into reality.  On their own, good systems do not ensure successful health and safety management, as the level of success is determined by how organisations ‘live’ their systems.  This report provides the reader with an understanding of:

  1. the theory underpinning strategies to promote safe behaviour;
  2. the key elements of programmes to promote safe behaviour which are currently in use;
  3. how to use behavioural strategies to promote a wider range of critical health and safety behaviours;
  4. how to integrate behavioural strategies into a health and safety management system.

Safety Cases -- Success or Failure?

Wiliknson, P.; Manager Review Implementation Team, Offshore Safety Section, (Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources ): Safety Cases: Success or Failure? (2002); Canberra, ACT: National Research Centre for OHS Regulation.

This paper sets out the historical background to the development of safety cases as a tool to manage and regulate major hazard industries, primarily in the UK.  The main features of successful safety case systems are described and an assessment made of the successes and failures in their application.

Quantitative risk assessment: a critique

Hopkins, A.; "Quantitative Risk Assessment: a critique" (April, 2004) Canberra, ACT: Australian National University.

This paper sets out the historical background to the development of safety cases as a tool to manage and regulate major hazard industries, primarily in the UK.  The main features of successful safety case systems are described and an assessment made of the successes and failures in their application.

Diagnosing 'vulnerable system syndrome': an essential prerequisite to effective risk management.

Reason, J. T., Carthey, J. et al. (2001). Diagnosing 'vulnerable system syndrome': an essential prerequisite to effective risk management. Quality and Safety in Health Care, 10 (Suppl. 2): ii21-ii25.

This paper deals with the concept that many institutions, in their very structure and organisation, harbour practices and procedures which generate the probability of accidents.  Identification and modification of these organisational pathogens, it is asserted, can significantly reduce the occurrence and recurrence of disaster.

Lessons from Longford: The Esso Gas Plant Explosion

Hopkins, A. (2000). Lessons from Longford: The Esso Gas Plant Explosion. Sydney, NSW: CCH Australia Ltd.

This book is not, to my knowledge, available on line.  Even university librarians had quite a time finding this one.  They found me a copy somewhere in Canberra.

Pity!  This book should be compulsory reading for safety people and management in any outfit which has a head office somewhere and a worksite somewhere else.  Honestly ... it is can't-put-down reading.

Causal factors in construction accidents

Loughborough University & UMIST, Causal factors in construction accidents (2003) Report ID: 156; Norwich (UK): Health & Safety Executive.

Although the British construction industry is one of the safest in Europe, one third of all work fatalities happen in construction and construction workers are six times more likely to be killed at work than employees in other sectors. A similar situation exists for non-fatal accidents.

Although previous research has led to a good understanding of the extent and pattern of accidents in the construction industry, there has been only limited objective analysis of the full range of contributory managerial, site and individual factors.  With this background, the study had the following aims:
1. To collect rich, detailed data on the full range of factors involved in a large sample of construction accidents.
2. Using this information, to describe the processes of accident causation, including the contribution

Safety and Health in Construction: An ILO Code of Practice

Safety and Health in Construction: An ILO Code of Practice (1992); Geneva (CH): ILO.

This is an ILO Code of Practice focussed on the development of safe work practices in the construction industry.  Much is covered (or superseded) by current Western Australian law but the general relevance remains.

In accordance with the decision taken by the Governing Body of the ILO at its 244th Session (November 1989), a meeting of experts was convened in Geneva from 12 to 19 March 1991 to draw up a code of practice on safety and health in construction.  The meeting was composed of 21 experts, seven appointed following consultations with governments, seven following consultations with the Employers' group and seven following consultations with the Workers' group of the Governing Body.  After VI examining and finalising the text, based on a draft prepared by the Office, the experts adopted this code.

The practical recommendations of this code of practice are intended for the use of all those, both in public and the private sectors, who have responsibility for safety and health in construction.  The code is not intended to replace national laws or regulations or accepted standards.  It has been drawn up with the object of providing guidance to those who may be engaged in the framing of provisions of this kind; in particular, governmental or other public authorities, committees, management or employers' and workers' organisations in this industrial sector.  Local circumstances and technical possibilities will determine how far it is practicable to follow its provisions.  Furthermore, these provisions should be read in the context of conditions in the country proposing to use this information, the scale of operation involved and technical facilities.

The text of the code was approved for publication by the Governing Body of the ILO at its 250th Session (May-June 1991).

Safe Place vs Safe Person: A dichotomy, or is it?

Dell, G. (1999). Safe Place vs Safe Person: A dichotomy, or is it? Safety Science Monitor, 3.

Fully developed comprehensive safety management systems emphasise both engineering solutions and administrative controls in the mitigation of accidental injury or damage risk.  Companies with immature safety systems will often make performance gains whether their emphasis is placed on engineering or administrative control measures.  Those that rely on administrative controls alone may achieve some short term gains, whereas those who use administrative controls to enhance multi-faceted engineering preventive measures gain maximum benefit from their safety systems.

However, there are some realworld examples of injury and/or damage potential, where engineering solutions are not yet available or are cost prohibitive.  In these instances, the companies involved have no alternative than to rely on administrative controls and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) for protection.  Safe Place versus Safe Person arguments are a distraction, since the issue should be on which controls are available, appropriate and cost effective.

This paper suggests that immature safety systems probably attain greater benefit from available resource investment in engineering controls, but that highly sophisticated systems which have already invested significantly in safe place mechanisms, such as aviation safety, gain effective use of available resources by looking to additional safe person solutions.

Measuring Perceptions of Workplace Safety: Development and Validation of the Work Safety Scale.

Hayes, B. E., Perander, J. et al. (1998). Measuring Perceptions of Workplace Safety: Development and Validation of the Work Safety Scale. Journal of Safety Research, 29(3): 145-161.

A 50-item instrument that assesses employees’ perceptions of work safety, the Work Safety Scale (WSS), was constructed and validated using three independent samples.  The results showed that the WSS measures five factorially distinct constructs: (a) job safety, (b) coworker safety, (c) supervisor safety, (d) management safety practices, and (e) satisfaction with the safety program.

Each of these scales has a high degree of internal consistency across the three samples.  Supervisor safety and management safety practices were the best predictors of job satisfaction.  In addition, supporting previous research, supervisor safety and management safety practices were significantly correlated with reported accident rates.  Coworker safety and supervisor safety were strongly linked to employee’s compliance with safety behaviors.  WSS subscales were logically related to job stress, psychological complaints, physical complaints, and sleep complaints.  Implications of the results are discussed.

It's not the fall that kills you ...

Falls remain one of the biggest killers in construction/maintenance work.  Sadly, it is small companies that are the biggest offenders.  Just walk around any suburban area where building/renovation work is being done and you'll see a lot of temporary staff.  No doubt, the builder (and the owner) would tell you that doing it by the book would be prohibitively expensive.  I can only ask, "What value do you put on a worker in a wheelchair?"

Code of Practice: Safe Working on Roofs

Code of Practice: Safe Working on Roofs (1999); ACT Workcover.

This Code of Practice sets out guidelines to prevent injury to persons engaged in work on roofs.  It applies to the planning, preparation and conduct of work for the installation, maintenance and removal of roof coverings and the movement of persons working on roofs of single storey residential buildings.  This Code does not apply to emergency service personnel, including the state emergency service, fire, police and ambulance personnel during emergency operations.

Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls at Workplaces

Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls at Workplaces, Commission for Occupational Safety and Health (WA) (2004); Perth, WA: Government of Western Australia.

This code of practice is a revised and updated version of the WorkSafe Western Australia Commission’s Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls at Workplaces published in 1997.  (The Commission is now known as the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health.)

Representatives from employer organisations, trade unions, Government and people with knowledge and expertise in occupational safety and health have undertaken the revision, ensuring that the interests of all parties at the workplace have been considered.  This revised code is intended to provide practical guidance on meeting the requirements in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 relating to prevention of falls at the workplace, including those that came into operation from 1 July 2001.

Will Your Safety Harness Kill You?

Weems, B. & Bishop, P. (March, 2003). Will Your Safety Harness Kill You? in Occupational Safety & Health, 27(3): pp.86-90. Retrieved October 10, 2006 from http://www.cdc.gov./eLCOSH/docs/d000568/d000568.html.

Suspension trauma death is caused by orthostatic incompetence (also calledorthostatic intolerance).  Orthostatic incompetence can occur any time aperson is required to stand quietly for prolonged periods and may beworsened by heat and dehydration.  It is most commonly encountered inmilitary parades where soldiers must stand at attention for prolonged periods.  Supervisors can prevent it by training soldiers to keep their knees slightly bent so the leg muscles are engaged in maintaining posture.

What happens in orthostatic incompetence is that the legs are immobile with a worker in an upright posture.  Gravity pulls blood into the lower legs, which have a very large storage capacity.  Enough blood eventually accumulates so that return blood flow to the right chamber of the heart is reduced.  The heart can only pump the blood available, so the heart’s output begins to fall.  The heart speeds up to maintain sufficient blood flow to the brain, but if the blood supply to the heart is restricted enough, beating faster is ineffective, and the body abruptly slows the heart.

In most instances this solves the problem by causing the worker to faint, which typically results in slumping to the ground where the legs, the heart, and the brain are on the same level.  Blood is now returned to the heart and the worker typically recovers quickly.  In a harness, however, the worker can’t fall into a horizontal posture, so the reduced heart rate causes the brain’s blood supply to fall below the critical level.

Suspension trauma can kill in minutes.  This paper describes the workings of the trauma and its effects.  It deals with rescue and recuperation procedures and makes recommendations for harness design.

Self-Propelled Roadblocks

Winston Churchill once said, "Dogs look up to yer; cats look down at yer; pigs just treat yer as equals!"   These fellas are the marsupial version of my Dad's pigs!   They certainly don't pay you much attention.

You'll find these blokes from coast to coast, and if you see one of these roadsigns, take it seriously.   If you hit a wombat which is peacefully dozing on the nice warm tar seal in the middle of the night you'll lose the transmission out of your vehicle!   They're solid and low slung and they don't move much when your car hits them.

You'll be standing at the edge of the road looking at pieces of your car scattered hither and yon.   Meanwhile, the wombat -- with a less-than-entertained look on his face -- will be snuffling and shuffling his way off into the bush.