The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

October Process Safety Beacon

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, October 02, 2013

This months Process Safety Beacon highlights the dangers associated with electrical equipment in coal mines.

The Beacon highlights how an electrical spark at the Senghenydd Colliery in Wales caused an underground explosion resulting in 439 miners losing their lives.

The explosion at Senghenydd on October 14th 1913 was the worst workplace disaster in the history of UK mining.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the pit disaster.

Hyponatremia Risk in Australia

Graham Marshall - Monday, September 02, 2013
As we come into early Spring in Australia, and the temperature begins to climb again, now is the time for organizations to be reviewing controls in place for work in hot weather.

One area that is often not considered by organizations is the risk associated with Hyponatremia – a potentially fatal condition caused when levels of sodium in the body become dangerously low.

Symptoms of hyponatremia can appear similar to those of heatstroke.

They include headaches, fatigue, restlessness, irritability and confusion. 

If untreated, seizures or coma leading to brain damage and even death can occur.

You've probably heard about Hyponatremia in relation to death's at nightclubs annd "raves" associated with the use of illegal drugs like ecstasy.

The primary cause of Hyponatremia is overhydration due to consumption off too much water.

This occurs when the body takes in more water than it excretes, diluting the body's normal levels of sodium.

Under normal conditions, a healthy adult would need to consume more than nine litres of water a day to become overhydrated. 

Workers who are not properly acclimatised to their environment are at increased risk, as sodium levels can drop further through perspiration during moderate physical work.

To manage the risk posed by Hyponatremia, there are some basic steps which can be undertaken.

Firstly, it is necessary to ensure that new workers are given sufficient time to adjust to hot working conditions offshore.

This is particularly important for workers who usually live in a different climate. 

Secondly, if the consumption of electrolyte drinks is promoted at work, ensure the correct concentration levels are met based on the environment and workload. 

Thirdly, consideration should also be given to the total dissolved salts in the drinking water at the work location, as levels will vary depending on the water source.

For more information and further guidance in managing work in hot environments, operators may refer to the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) document ‘Heat Stress Standard & Documentation Developed for Use in the Australian Environment.’

Contact the AIOH to obtain a copy.

Carcinogenic Diesel Fumes in Mines

Graham Marshall - Thursday, July 25, 2013

Diesel exhaust fumes were reclassified as a carcinogen to humans in June 2012.

That change has implications for the mining industry as many mines use diesel engines in some form or other.

The law in Australia requires that:

+  Mine operators ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health of workers;

+  Fumes from diesel plant in underground parts of a mine are minimized as far as reasonably practicable;

+  Management systems to control diesel pollutants in the underground parts of a coal operation are in place; and

+  All mines should have a documented strategy to control diesel emissions with the objective of minimizing people’s exposure to the lowest level reasonably practicable.

For full details and recommendations see SB13-03 Diesel Emissions in Mines and other safety bulletins published by the Resources Safety Department in NSW.

Whats All the Fuss about Unconventional Gas

Graham Marshall - Monday, May 13, 2013
Women in Mining and Resources WA (WIMWA) is holding an event on 7th June sponsored by the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum.

Titled "Unconventional Gas - What's all the fuss about?", the event promises to be an interesting evening of information and networking.

See the advert below for further details.

You never know, they might just disprove some of the environmental rubbish currently promoted by the Greenies about fracing!

Dangers with Use of Disc Cutting Saws

Graham Marshall - Saturday, April 06, 2013

The dangers associated with the use of disc-type cutting saws is highlighted in the APPEA safety alert shown below.

The critical issue of visually inspecting the cutting saw prior to start-up is illustrated; as is the need to report and "tag-out" any faulty equipment so that it cannot put other workers at risk.

Included here is a link to a JSA on the use of disc-tools.

Big Three Miners Spend Big in WA

Graham Marshall - Friday, April 05, 2013

Australia's miners are reportedly going to spend over $US200 billion on capital investment in new and existing projects over the next seven years.

And over 50 per cent of that budget forecast is projected to be spent in WA.

And this doesn't include oil and gas expenditure.

The Commonwealth Bank estimates that the combined capital expenditure in WA of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals will top $US107 billion between 2013-20.

CBA expects that though total capital expenditure by the big three was just $US97 billion in the period 2000-2010, it will reach $US289 billion for the period 2011-2020.

For our WA safety business, it is nice to see that the forecasts are dominated by expected investment in the Pilbara Region.

Simple Steps to Prevent Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hearing loss due to exposure to industrial noise is the number one disability in the World; which is sad since it is so easily prevented.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when sounds which are greater than 85-decibels (dB) damage the delicate, sensitive structures within the human ear.

Common causes of NIHL result from exposure to noise from chainsaws, hammer-drills, bull-dozers, powered lawn-mowers, motorbikes, diesel trucks, and factory machinery.

The Keys to preventing NIHL include:

+   Remain aware of noise as a hazard and take measures to protect yourself from high noise (above 85 dB);

+   If possible, remove or relocate noisy equipment from the working zone;

+   Limit the period of exposure to noise above 85 dB; and

+   If you must work in a noisy environment, always wear appropriate hearing protective devices, including earplugs, ear-muffs or noise-cancelling head-phones.


Barminco Sacks 15 Employees over Health and Safety. Really?

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The case of Barminco in Western Australia sacking 15 of its employees for doing a silly dance routine during a break highlights how organizations can routinely use "health and safety" reasons to justify a Management decision made for other reasons, not associated with safety at all.

Other common examples of the way "health and safety" reasons are used to justify a range of management decision are highlighted below.

In the first example, a hotel which used to supply room service meals to an guests in a short-stay apartment block next door has said that it was no longer possible to offer this service because of "health and safety" reasons.

In a second example, a Chinese Restaurant refused a patron the use of finger bowls, again citing "health and safety" reasons.

In a third example, a local swimming pool told patrons picking up children that they had to wear plastic shoe-covers prior to entering the pool area for "health and safety" reasons.

And in the fourth example, a large department store told a shopper that they had to remove a shoulder-carried backpack for "health and safety" reasons.

In all four cases, there are no health and safety regulations which could possibly be interpreted as a reason for failing to deliver food, failing to provide finger bowls, demanding the use of shoe-covers or demanding that backpacks be removed.

Rather, in each case it is an individual company policy and - not a legal health and safety requirement.

And in all cases, Management should clearly state their real reason for a decision rather than hiding behind the health and safety excuse.

In the first two examples, it is probably a decision based on the economics of supplying the service that is at the heart of the Management decision.  In the case of the swimming pool, it is probably something to do with a lack of cleaners to wipe the floor.  And in the case of the Department Store, it is probably something to do with either shop-lifting reduction or an attempt to avoid accidental breakage.

In the case of Barminco, I believe it is clearly the embarrassment and reputation impact of the video rather than any real "health and safety" reason for the sackings.  But citing Health and Safety allows the Management to take the moral high ground.

And as a HSE Professional, this willingness by decision-makers to hide behind "health and safety reasons" is unhelpful to real safety promotion programs.

WA Mining Fatalities in 2012

Graham Marshall - Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Mining Sector in WA was fatality-free in 2012 - the first time this has been achieved since Mining accident statistics began to be recorded in 1896.

The fatal injury frequency rate has also been reduced by 81 per cent over the past decade.

These are significant positive results and it is particularly pleasing when you consider the industry employs close to 100,000 workers.

WA employs 63 Mines Inspectors who perform around 2,400 site visits per year.


Over the past three financial years, the department has temporarily halted operations of 418 sites over safety concerns.

And we're happy to have played some small part in this cultural change.  It's now more than 15-years since I was first engaged by WMC Resources (now part of BHP Billiton) during the days of the elimination of fatalities task force in WMC.

Peter Plavina and Chris Bradshaw at WMC were early pioneers and an inspiration to me!

Is Barminco Over the Top?

Graham Marshall - Friday, March 01, 2013

Are the management of Barminco at Agnew gold mine correct in their decision to sack and ban for life 15 employees for performing a silly rendition of the Harlem Shake Dance on site?

The dance has become a hit on You Tube.

The dismissal letter sent to each of the sacked workers shows Barminco considered the stunt a safety issue and a breach of its "core values of safety, integrity and excellence".

But is Barminco Management being too heavy-handed over this?  And is it really a "health and safety" issue for the company?

As the You Tube video shows, there is certainly a failure by some workers to wear their personal protective equipment.

But a transgression over the use of PPE is fairly minor in the scheme of risk management and would normally warrant a verbal warning and some coaching and mentoring for a "first offence".

I reckon that if Barminco Management are honest, they are using the excuse of "Health and Safety" as a way of getting rid of these guys rather than stating their real concerns over the potential negative reputation impact of the video.

And that is what bothers me as an HSE professional - when managers - or workers - use "health and safety reasons" as an excuse for poor decision-making.

I can't honestly see how a decision to sack employees under this circumstane can possibly help to develop a mature safety culture based on trust and mutual respect at Barminco.

It does seem a little overkill to me and way beyond the "risk" involved.

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