AFETY In Action and Materials & Manual Handling held in Melbourne last month showcased around 350 exhibitors. The main attraction of the event for many attendees however, remained the thousands of practical solutions to workplace safety challenges, according to organiser, Marie Kinsella of Australian Exhibitions & Conferences. “Our research tells us people come to Safety In Action for two reasons: to find suppliers of the equipment they need right now and to look for new solutions to their safety challenges,” says Kinsella.

“It’s exciting to see fresh approaches to old chestnuts emerging and that’s why we included some new features at this year’s show.” Three new feature areas: freight safety; warehouse and logistics safety; and technology safety joined manual handling; electrical safety; and building and height safety as focal points at this year’s show.

Kinsella says the added feature areas reflected safety’s rise to prominence in an increasing range of industries. “We’re not just talking about safeguards against the hazards faced by heavy manufacturing any more,” she says. “Of course, there will always be a demand for gear such as high visibility clothing that’s needed every day but the show’s composition is changing to include an even more diverse range of solutions, like on-site physiotherapy services, ergonomics and safety management software.”

Duty to consult

“Today, regulators and industry alike are increasingly shining the spotlight on areas like safe work at heights, manual handling and fatigue. At the same time, new levels of industrial automation have ushered in a fresh crop of sophisticated electronic and programmable safety solutions,” says Kinsella.

Also, recognising that compliance with the law is an important part of any safety solution, Safety In Action and Materials & Manual Handling hosted free daily WorkSafe seminars addressing consultation. An important part of the new Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act, the “duty of employers to consult”, became law on 1 January 2006. The WorkSafe seminars were designed to explain what this duty means to both employees and employers.

The threat of terrorism, new workplace safety laws and high profile accident investigations feature at Safety In Action Conference. Now in its ninth year, the Conference, which is hosted by the Safety Institute of Australia, continues to draw large numbers of occupational health and safety professionals – around 1,000 delegates heard more than 100 Australian and international speakers address 12 special interest streams over three days.

Among the topical themes are Emergency Services (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Pandemic and Beyond), which will be the focus of Emergency Services Commissioner, Bruce Esplin. In advance of his speech, the commissioner says it was time the wider community became more proactive about facing its threats.

“In recent decades, emergency services have been so capable in handling emergencies that a false impression that emergency management is the concern of the professionals may have been created,” says Esplin. In the wake of terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, Rutgers University’s Lee Clarke will call for a fresh approach to disaster management, calling for greater public involvement and better communication.

Albeit in different circumstances, WorkSafe executive director John Merritt, will also call for greater cooperation between workplace safety professionals, workers and employers. Reflecting on the new Occupational Health and Safety Act, which includes a duty to consult, Merritt will report on its roll-out and how the regulator has responded to the Maxwell Report with concrete steps towards greater accountability and transparency.

In fact, the new legislation has prompted an entire stream on consultation. Principal sponsor WorkSafe Victoria will be prominent among the speakers and Merritt is a key participant in another stream taking a broader look at OHS laws. Called The Law in Practice – Perspectives & Answers, the stream will include what promises to be a lively discussion on the expectations of regulators, employers and unions.

New safety paradigm

The OHS profession itself will also face challenges to the behaviour-based approach to safety, with US-based speaker Larry Hansen of L2H Speaking of Safety, leading the charge. Previewing his address, Hansen says professionals needed to “let go of the past” and embrace new safety paradigms. “Safety excellence is not about ‘changing’ employee behaviours. Safety excellence is all about changing the business process.”

Source: Construction Contractor