Neuroscience – something new in OHS or a new twist on an old idea?

I received the promotion below from the Safety Institute of Australia.

The invitation is to the National Health & Safety Conference.

The first item is Neuroscience.  Really?  At the Safety Institute conference?

A promotion reads the science behind “…how workers make conscious safety decisions”.

Is it new or a recasting of an old idea?  Is it (a) new observations, calculations, research, etc by the neuroscience community that can help guide design decisions?  Or is it (b) a recasting of a blame the victim model – the same idea in disguise?

My point of view?  I was onto the role of neuroscience in OHS well before 2018.

Here’s my 2013 article:

Safety implications of the neuroscience of plasticity and the work athlete



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Australian Open Tennis 2018: Money and TV still beats health and safety

Playing and working in heat is “hot topic” in the media for at least a few days every year at the Australian Open Tennis.  It affects players but also other people working and volunteering at the tennis; umpires, line umpires and children “working” as ball retrievers and ferrying sweaty towels to and fro the players.

Sports Medicine Australia publish heat guidelines summarized below.

Tennis Australia used to publish policies – now it just seems to say that “policies are in place”.  Both use the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index.  Tennis Australia also used regular “dry bulb”.

The Sports Medicine Australia guidelines say at 30 WBGT to consider postponement as the risk is extreme.  But Tennis Australia raise this to 32.5 WBGT – AND – it has to be above 40C as well.

Moving the goalposts is obviously more convenient for the conduct of the tournament but is it safe/reasonable to operate outside the guidelines?

Gael Monfils 2018

Image: Herald Sun

Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Sports Medicine Australia: Tennis Australia:
>20 WBGT


Moderate to high risk No guideline.

Don’t worry mate, act cool?


>26 WBGT


High to very high risk

Risk of thermal injury is high/very high.  Limit intensity.  Limit duration to less than 60 minutes per session.

No guideline.

Don’t worry mate, act cool?


>30 WBGT Extreme risk

Risk of thermal injury is extreme.  Consider postponement to a cooler part of the day or cancellation.

No guideline.

Don’t worry mate, act cool?


>32.5 WBGT AND  >40 celcius Extreme risk

As above

“Policies are in place”

>32.5WBGT combined with >40C

“Policies are in place”.  Whatever they are.  The policies used to be public.


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UK Rail, signals passed at danger still too high

The UK Office of Road and Rail released its annual safety report last month.

Signals passed at danger was 247.  The number of signals passed at danger has remained thereabouts 250-300 for the last nine years.

The relative risk is measured based on distance exposure.  It is referenced at September 2006 – this is “100%”.  Again over the past nine years there’s little obvious trend outside the 40-60% range.  The latest figure is one of the lowest, but it also looked that way in 2011.


UK Rail SPAD 2006 - 2017 - with box


UK Rail SPAD 2006 - 2017 - with risk box

Source: Marked up chart from: Office of Rail and Road, UK 2017, “ORR’s Annual Health and Safety Report of Performance on British Railways: 2016-17, July 2017, p. 41.

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Ride on forklift crash – legal case

Verdict summary – Shane Brown v Pencon Australia Pty Ltd – S CI 2015 05568

I was involved in a case recently about a ride-on stand-up reach fork truck or more often called in Australia a forklift.  This type of truck is typically used in warehousing.


“On 6 June 2017, a civil jury of six found that an employer was not liable for an injury … he sustained while operating a stand-up forklift. The plaintiff alleged that his foot slipped from the forklift pedal and became crushed between the forklift and the wall of the employer’s premises….

It was alleged that the employer was liable in both negligence and for breach of statutory duty (the Occupational Health & Safety Regulations 2007) in relation to, among other things, its failure to provide a safe system of work and allowing the plaintiff to operate the forklift in wet conditions.

The jury found that there was no negligence on the part of the defendant which caused injury to the plaintiff. The jury also found that there was no breach of statutory duty on the part of the defendant.”

A jury does not give its reasons.  The summary is here.

Among the issues relevant to ride on fork trucks are:

  • ride on fork trucks are generally “one wheel drive”
  • this wheel also provides the braking
  • deceleration is by reversing the motor
  • braking is by a conventional brake operated in reverse (normally applied but deactivated by standing on the pedal)
  • speed and braking standards of forklifts (e.g. US standard B56.1)
  • the trucks generally do not have a door
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Plane Crash Essendon Fields Melbourne

This morning a plane crashed into a shopping centre built near the end of an airport runway at Essendon Fields, Melbourne, Australia.

This crash area was relatively recently simply a flat area of grass near the end of the runway.

A good outcome crashing into grass is not assured, but it’s usually better than a building.



Before the shopping centreessendon1945-3


Images from

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Dreamword – better to keep the ride

Ardent now say they will demolish the ride in this release to the Australian Stock Exchange.


I see that there may be good reasons for this decision.  Perhaps those close to the victims prefer that it be demolished.  Perhaps it has no commercial future as a place where patrons could find enjoyment.

But closing the ride while keeping it basically intact for at some time would better.  The demolition could be unhelpful in regard to learning from this accident.  Losing the ability to review this situation so soon relies on the initial accident analysis being perfect.  It might be perfect but then again it might not.  Secondly even if it is perfect, a demolition removes the opportunity for anyone else to read the reports on this accident with the benefit of standing in front of the machine in question.  In terms of preventing accidents, much more would be gained by others in the amusement ride industry or broader engineering accident analysis community if they have the chance to see the machine.  I spend most of my time looking at incidents that are several years old. Still having systems in place is generally a big help.

See Speculation about accidents is helpful, it’s just not enough (e.g. Dreamworld)

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Speculation about accidents is helpful, it’s just not enough (e.g. Dreamworld)

“Speculation is not helpful”.  Regarding accidents, YES, or NO?

On the NO side.  The Safety Institute says no. “Safety Institute of Australia calls for calm in relation to Dreamworld tragedy“.  Kevin Jones argues a similar theme.

I say YES. I see the point of the Safety Institute article.  I think it is to caution against jumping to a conclusion.  But the phrase “speculation is not helpful” caught my attention.
But when trying to work something out, speculation is helpful.  More than that, it’s vital.  Speculation is where it begins.  Possibilities need to be eventually evaluated – tested with science, engineering, logic, facts, analysis – but the process begins with ideas, guesses, hypotheses, questions, hunches – speculation.  A narrowing or testing of these possibilities is then needed.

While it is not a good idea to jump to a conclusion, it is a good idea, to consider many possibilities about where to jump in the end.  Speculation is what is needed, it’s just not enough on it’s own.


This photo is from The Straits Times @STForeignDesk

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