“well you’re ?%$* out of luck”: Some thoughts on fatal injuries as a plaything for journalists.

“well you’re ?%$* out of luck”*.  This is a quote from Bernard Keane of Crikey as per the image below.  It’s not a particularly clearly articulated statement.  There could be some debate about what it means.  My reading is that it was an attempt to convey in the negative Crikey’s opinion of my suggestion that Crikey consider a retraction of this article.


My interest in it began here with a tweet from Kevin Jones.   It lead me to the Crikey article.  The article sought to create a link between the presence of the ABCC and workplace fatalities.  [Side notes: For some worthwhile reading on safety have a look at Kevin Jone’s blog. And see some history about the ABCC here.]

Crikey’s claim seemed to me to be a long bow.  This prompted me to conduct some research.  The graph below from the latest report from Safe Work Australia illustrates workplace traumatic fatalities across all injuries.

Safe Work Australia 2016, Work Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2015, Safe Work Australia, Canberra.

It shows that the rise in construction fatalities that followed the ABCC’s introduction in 2005 occurred more broadly.  It seems to me that the relationship suggested between the ABCC and construction safety may be the result of a confusion between causation and coincidence.

Consideration should be given to retraction of the article in my view for two reasons:

(a) Misdirection about the causes of workplace injuries can never be helpful.  It distracts efforts from useful interventions.

(b) And further, these statistics represent real people who lost their lives.  They are not a plaything to bolster a political augment with claims that are on shaky if any footing.


  • Expletive deleted


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Jobandeep Singh Gill imprisonment over Beckett family deaths – another predictable cross roads crash

Here is another example of a trap set by road neglect.  A cross road that looks like a straight road.  A driver falls into this trap and four people die.  The parties responsible for this arrangement?  The government.

These cross roads look like continuing roads from both directions.  It is easily fixed.  An offset intersection would do.  It is cheap especially in relatively flat land and in a rural area with little infrastructure to work around.

“A truck driver has been sentenced to 10 years in prison over the deaths of four members of the same family in a collision in Melbourne’s south-east last year.

Jobandeep Singh Gill, 28, failed to stop at an intersection at Catani in February 2014, hitting a sedan carrying five members of the Beckett family.”

ABC News

The crash was predictable.  The four members of the Beckett family were victims of a predictable event.  So is the next one.

In Victoria we waste money on advertising that blames drivers.  The Transport Accident Commission (the compulsory insurer) has been wasting money on advertising since 1989.  All it amounts to is “barracking” for less accidents.  Like barracking for a horse to win a race.

The advertising does not work.  Some claim it works temporarily.  No one claims it works 20 years later.

But if advertising money in 1989 had fixed this intersection by making it “offset” it would have been still effective in 2014, the Beckett’s would most like still be alive, and Gill would not be in jail.

Here’s another one where a truck nearly destroyed a school bus.




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Pyalong crash animation


Pyalong crash animation from 7 News.

Pyalong animation2 Pyalong animation3 Pyalong animation4 Pyalong animation5

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Wire rope termination East Link Melbourne




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Wire road barrier “ramps” need investigation – 4 fatalities in one crash

Four people have died as a car became airborne and hit a tree at Pyalong, Victoria, Australia.  The crashed car is in the rearground having left the road and hit a tree.

I think this officer of Victoria Police is onto something.

(a) Running the front of a car into something brings into play all the design features intended to absorb impact.

(b) BUT in this case the vehicle roof has hit the tree meaning that none of the front-impact design helps.  Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police, Robert Hill:  “It has struck … the commencement of a wire road barrier. It then travelled airborne for some distance and then has crashed into a tree after rolling.”  “The roof of the vehicle has actually struck the tree.”

(c) Why does a car become airborne?

(d) By the path of the markers the left hand side of the vehicle would have run up the termination of the wire rope “safety” barrier where it meets its anchor.

(e) We shouldn’t be building “ramps” like this beside rural roads.


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Australian Open Tennis. Heat safety rules inconvenient? Just change them.

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.  So do Tennis Australia.  Both use the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index.

The Sports Medicine Australia guidelines say at 30C WBGT to consider postponement as the risk is extreme.  But Tennis Australia raise this to 34C WBGT.  Moving the goalposts is obviously more convenient for the conduct of the tournament but is it safe/reasonable to operate outside the guidelines?


>26C Wet Bulb Globe Temperature

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

Tennis Australia: No guideline.  Presumably don’t worry.

>30 C Wet Bulb Globe Temperature

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

Tennis Australia: Changes to scoring formats (complicated – see the guidelines) OR A ten minute break between second and third sets in best of three.

>34 C Wet Bulb Globe Temperature

Tennis Australia: Suspend play.

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Physical activity – a different kind of hazard. What’s the right amount of work?

Physical activity is unlike some other hazards.  Reducing many hazards in their magnitude is always – as a goal – a good idea.  Some hazards are related to risk in such a way that less exposure to the hazard is always preferred.  Examples are hazards such as exposure to asbestos, or welding flash.  No one needs any level of asbestos or welding flash.  If zero can be achieved then that is good.  The risk-exposure curve begins at the “zero” origin conceptually something like the first figure below.

However physical activity is necessary in some amount.  An overly sedentary lifestyle is viewed as being less than ideal.  Hence the risk-exposure curve does not begin at the origin.  Zero exposure does not equate to zero risk.  The relationship is conceptually a bathtub type curve where risk rises with both too little and too much physical activity.  The challenge is to avoid excesses of both kinds.  Thus there will be examples of physical work where reducing the demand is not only not necessary but not helpful.

Risk - positive

Positively correlated hazard-risk curve (e.g. asbestos, welding flash, falls from height)

Risk - bathtub

“Bathtub” type hazard-risk curve (e.g. physical work)

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