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.
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.
Positively correlated hazard-risk curve (e.g. asbestos, welding flash, falls from height)
“Bathtub” type hazard-risk curve (e.g. physical work)
Overhanging a load, especially a liquid load is probably a likely scenario. A question to consider. What is the bigger risk?
(a) Full tank?
(b) Half full tank?
The load is a 400l diesel tank with pump.
People in safety bemoan the success of so-called safety programs that have no real footing and are more likely to cause harm rather than good. So why does safety rubbish sell? The answer is that it is the same reason that hosts of other seemingly underwhelming products sell for excessive prices; or just downright dangerous things when well marketed are bought. Marketing improves the sales of a product beyond its otherwise justifiable level. That’s the idea of marketing. To sell something beyond it’s inherent utility or value. Why do mind-altering drugs sell? Why is fast-food consumed in great volumes. Why do people smoke? Just because something is traded does not mean it is useful or provides any benefit to the consumer; or if it provides some benefit at least not a benefit in proportion to the price.
An example of this in the safety world is leadership programs aimed at the new-age safety goal of zero harm. My view is that if it says leadership on the seminar brochure; don’t go. Ideally as a business leader you would find out that your work, all of it, makes a difference and you need to do it better. That would be fairly inconvenient. Hence an easier sell is that the threat to zero harm in the workplace is lack of compliance of the workers in the business. Everything is actually fine if people only behaved with care. Hence the leaders role is only to provide visible support to the ‘safety program’. Tell ‘leaders’ in the organisation that actually they don’t need to do anything different.
“Mmm” they muse, rubbing their chin. “That’s good. I thought for a minute that my work, which remarkably matters in every other respect to the business, would also impact every part of the organisation in terms of safety. Apparently not! It doesn’t seem too logical but it is convenient.”
The ‘safety program’ is actually run by the provider. It’s a widespread activity and concomitantly expensive. This is because the people who need to change are not a few leaders but actually the operatives in the business. This suits the actual leaders very nicely because they are already busy doing proper work; that is working on elements that keep the wheels turning such as delivering on strategy, finance and production imperatives. They can appear to be doing something and it only take a 20 minute walk-around every so often and devoting the first 1 minute of each board minute to the priority of safety.
It will be a massive load off for leaders to have a nice way to avoid changing their own work to make the business safer. With some help they’d be quickly capable of recognizing how their work affects safety but it would be one less job if it could be avoided.
Done properly a leadership program in safety would cost very little, but would involve more work for the leaders, more change, and would be well-outside the ‘rule enforcer’ capabilities of the providers. Hence there is very little capability to perform such a program and very little advantage in marketing it anyway. It would involve demonstrating and discussing with a business leader how their entire work affects safety downstream. It would involve imagination coupled with a deep understanding of the business, the practicalities of safety and a willingness to learn about the leaders work. Everything they do would matter. Not a walk around where they tell people who’s work they don’t understand how to do it. Not safety interactions for 20 minutes a week to show commitment, but infusing their own work with a better consideration of how it does and will impact safety.
Put simply, leadership in safety involves doing your own work better. But who will want to sell you a product that is relatively inexpensive and works well?
US Hospitals: The risk of death from hospital admission due to error or hospital acquired infection is about 1:60,000 hours exposure. See Is going to hospital more dangerous than smoking cigarettes?
Gaza conflict: The Gaza conflict has been ongoing for 37 days (putting aside some cease fires) having begun on 8 July 2014 with of the order of 1939 fatalities. The Gaza population is 1.816 million. The exposure time has been 1.2 billion hours. The fatality rate in this conflict has therefore been 1:832,000 hours.
Being in the Gaza conflict is ten times safer than being in a hospital (actually 14 times but ten seems like a convenient figure).
If you’re in a hospital, here’s a few tips, write your name on your body with a permanent marker, write your problem on the problem part of you body (especially if you have two of them and one is good), ask “have you washed your hands since the last patient – today even?”, and check “these medicines aren’t for the person in the next bed by any chance?”.
And see if you can get the doctors to put the masks on while doing operations.
Image source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80fux1DE1kQ
Is running with bulls a good idea? The Running of the Bulls website says that “Running with the Bulls in Pamplona is not safe. It is dangerous.” It seems like a fun sport for some people and obviously a lot of people like the challenge. How does the risk compare? The wise internet tells us that since 1924 15 people have been killed. Let’s say for the sake of argument: 20,0000 people compete every year over the eight days (who knows how many in 1924 – let’s say 10,000 over the history); it’s been 90 years while the statistics were counted; and it takes 4 minutes. That’s 60,000 hours of participation.
The exposure time per fatality is therefore 4,000 hours. Is that dangerous? Something you should do or something to avoid? The answer is that it’s fairly dangerous like the website says. It is four times greater than skydiving (16,000) and no comparison to driving a car (7.1 million hours) (see post link below).
BUT here is an interesting conundrum. If you are just injured by a bull, not killed, the hospital stay that follows might get you anyway. Actually if the hospital stay is any longer than one hour, then it is more dangerous. The hospital attendance risk worked out at 60,000 hours per ‘adverse event’ (not leaving alive due to an error); this could be due to wrong medicine, wrong operation, hospital-acquired infection, etc. So if you are injured, perhaps go for another run with the bulls as if you are going to tackle the risks of hospital attendance you might as well make it worthwhile.
Image from 3 hurt, 1 seriously, in Pamplona bull run
How many people take part in bullrunnings?
Dumb ways to die. The relative risks of driving, smoking, staircases, medical error and skydiving
‘Dumb ways to die’ was launched in late 2012. The campaign was about pedestrians and railways. It was popular; 79 million views on Youtube, and a multi-award winner in the advertising industry where popularity seems to be good enough.
With the 2013 statistics now available Transport Safety Victoria say that “…2013 saw more near miss incidents than in any of the previous four years.”
Dumb ways to die – novel – but useless
Dumb ways to die – why it won’t work
Dumb ways to die still not working
Source: Transport Safety Victoria 2013 Annual Statistics March 2014