Did You Know…?

Alena Titterton writes:

Thought NASA was all about space travel? Think again.

Did you know that the number one goal of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate of NASA is to revolutionise aviation and enable a safe, environmentally-friendly expansion of aviation? The first objective in this goal is to increase safety by reducing the aircraft accident rate by a factor of five within 10 years, and by a factor of 10 within 25 years.

NASA has had some bad publicity on this score of late.


Air Safety: Responding to Toxic Flight Incidents

Alena Titterton writes:

Aviation safety has been put in the spotlight this week by Sydney Morning Herald revelations regarding incidents of fumes on aircraft flight decks at Qantas.

According to SMH, Qantas was issued with an improvement notice by WorkCover NSW in relation to two incidents, one on 28 July 2007, when the crew on a Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Auckland became aware of an odour on the flight deck. A Qantas flight engineer suffered watery eyes and laboured breathing after inhaling toxic fumes which resulted in a week away from work.

These recent aviation safety incidents highlight the importance of managing safety in design of aircraft. It has been reported that the issue arises as a result of a design flaw in jet aircraft which involves bleeding warm air off engines and pumping it straight into the cabin of the jet without any filtration. If the engine has an oil leak, the warm air that enters the cabin is laced with tricresyl phosphate, carcinogens and organophosphates. These chemicals are known to attack the nervous system and can result in brain damage.

This is not however, a new safety issue for the aviation industry in Australia or internationally. The Commonwealth of Australia’s Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee undertook an inquiry into the Air Safety and Cabin Air Quality in the Bae 146 Aircraft in October 2000 (the Senate Report). The Senate Report can be found here. The Senate Report stated that:

“Although the incidence of reports of fumes affecting BAe 146 flight and cabin crews has reduced in the last three years, there appears to be no real possibility of such occurrences being eradicated totally as long as air is brought into the jet aircraft by bleeding air from its engines.” (Ch 6, para 6.3 of the Senate Report).

It appears from the recent news coverage that the design flaws which contributed to cases of “aerotoxic syndrome” and toxic fume incidents in the Bae 146 Aircraft have been replicated in Boeing 747, 757 and 767 planes.

The recent toxic fume inhallation incidents provide an opportunity to renew the call to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to re-assess and monitor the issue of aerotoxic syndrome” and toxic fume inhallation under existing civil aviation regulations, as recommended by the Senate Report. Specifically, CASA and the aviation industry should consider whether current reporting requirements in respect of the operation of jet aircraft, specifically related to the effect of cabin and cockpit air quality, are adequate. CASA and the aviation industry in general should address the need for the following in relation to all jet aircraft which were identified by the Senate Report in relation to Bae 146 Aircraft (see Ch 6, para 6.33 of the Senate Report):

  1. a specific national standard for checking and monitoring the engine seals and air quality in all passenger jet aircraft;
  2. maintenance procedures, including specific maintenance procedures for ageing aircraft;
  3. specific, appropriate maintenance and operational procedures for jet aircraft which pay particular attention to the need to ensure that aircraft are maintained and serviced for a minimum operating time to ensure that faults resulting in oil leaks, fumes or smoke are repaired;
  4. the design of incident reports so as to reflect the history of the cabin air problem that was been encountered on the BAe 146 and has been encountered on other jet aircraft;
  5. sources of contamination in the cabin and cockpit environment in jet aircraft to be identified and further evaluated using appropriate sampling and analytical technology for the contaminants which, for example, might result from the burning of fuel and lubricating oil used in jet aircraft engines; and
  6. the need for companies operating jet aircraft in Australia to provide CASA with specific reports on the results of monitoring these matters within an appropriate timeframe, quarterly or bi-annually, in order that CASA can assess the operations of the aircraft.

Clearly, bleeding warm air off engines and pumping it into jet cabins without filtration is a foreseeable risk to the health and safety of both airline employees and non-employees travelling on the aircraft. The issue has to be managed from the design of aircraft through to maintenance, monitoring and reporting. A co-ordinated approach involving CASA as the aviation safety regulator, Boeing and other jet manufacturers, and airlines such as Qantas is required if this serious safety issue is to be resolved.

Beyond Slip, Slop, Slap for Local Councils

Holly Howison writes:

While beaches are one of the most popular areas for fun, recreation and tourism in Australia, especially with the onset of summer, beaches can often present a myriad of safety risks for local councils with control of beach areas. Each state and territory of Australia imposes duties of care on local councils in relation to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of both its employees, including council workers designated to beach areas and non-employees, including members of the public, surf life saving organisations and various contractors engaged to undertake works at the beach site.

As part of any local council’s duty of care potential risks to health, safety and welfare of employees and other persons must be identified and assessed and then measures implemented to either eliminate or control those risks. Key OHS risks in a beach environment include:

  1. injuries sustained by members of the public in the water and surrounding park areas;
  2. injuries sustained by workers and contractors undertaking maintenance and cleaning activities, including maintenance of footpaths, walkways and access areas to and from the beach;
  3. exposure to UV by workers/contractors;
  4. assault and violence by members of the public against council employees/contractors; and
  5. use of unsafe plant and equipment.

Local councils must implement, develop and review on an ongoing basis proper OHS Management Systems to manage safety in the beach environment and minimise the potential exposure to liability under the relevant OHS legislation. Such Systems must include comprehensive policies and procedures relating to both general and specific OHS issues, including training for council workers in relation to OHS risks and the application of the OHS Management System. To support the OHS Management System, a robust program of risk management must also be implemented and reviewed by the local council to identify and assess risks in the beach environment and in relation to beach activities. Such a program would include a full beach safety audit and development of a beach safety strategy in consultation with the relevant Surf Life Saving organisation. Safety at the beach extends beyond Slip, Slop, Slap for local councils with employees and other persons potentially exposed to an array of risks.

Upcoming Safety Event

Alena Titterton writes:

Katherine Morris will be speaking at the annual AusRail conference in December 2007. AusRail is Australasia’s largest rail event and brings together the rail industry internationally. Katherine will be speaking about the impact of the new model rail safety legislation on industry. For further information about the conference, please click on this link.

Australian Dangerous Goods Code 7 Released

Alena Titterton writes:

The 7th Edition of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG7) has been released and is now available for purchase. ADG7 is scheduled for implementation in 2008. There will be a transition period where the 6th Edition of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code, published in 1998, will continue to apply.

According to the National Transport Commission, key features of ADG7 include:

  1. Minimum insurance coverage of $5 million for each placarded trailer, which accommodates trailers in vehicle combinations owned and insured by different companies;
  2. License exemption for certain herbicides and pesticides transported in Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) up to 3,000 kg/l in total;
  3. Stronger Chain of Responsibility provisions;
  4. Including specific duties on consignors to prevent the movement of goods too dangerous to be transported;
  5. Emergency Information Panels on IBCs and all placard loads are still required to ensure easy incident response identification;
  6. Concessions for small quantities of dangerous goods transported solely for personal use, or by trades people in the course of their business;
  7. Concessions for small quantities of dangerous goods in mixed retail distribution loads; and
  8. Technical updates from UN15 recently ratified by the UN.

Copies of ADG7 are available through CanPrint.

Upcoming Safety Event

Alena Titterton writes:

“Implementing A Legal Due Diligence Framework For Your Organisation” will be the topic of a session presented by Michael Tooma and Holly Howison at the Safety Institute of Australia (NSW Division) Inc Safety Conference 2007 on 25 October 2007.

Click here to download the program.

Importance of a Legal Due Diligence Framework

Holly Howison writes:

Occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation in all states and territories of Australia imposes strict obligations on entities and their directors/managers to ensure that people are not exposed to risks of harm arising from their work activities. The Board of Directors of each entity needs to ensure compliance by their relevant entity with these legal obligations. Consequently, the Board of Directors needs to be actively involved in the development and implementation of OHS management systems and to establish processes and procedures that allow them to satisfy their function of overseeing compliance with OHS legal obligations via a Due Diligence Framework.

A proposed Due Diligence Framework seeks to achieve compliance with the OHS legislation by:

  • Setting standards for the occupational health and safety management system(s) of the entity as a whole, or for each of the entity’s divisions;
  • Setting standards in relation to resourcing (including allocation of designated OHS personnel) and training requirements (including training in the OHS management system at least annually, induction training on OHS risks and obligations and refresher training on OHS risks and obligations on an annual basis), to ensure the adequate implementation of those systems;
  • Providing a mechanism for ongoing auditing and review;
  • Setting minimum reporting requirements by relevant departments/divisions to the Board of Directors on the performance of the relevant management system and OHS performance via monthly board reports, OHS statistics reports, audit summary reports; and
  • Developing incident response procedures for critical incidents which allows the Board of Directors’ members to monitor the response and the preparation of significant OHS incident notification reports to the Board of Directors.

A Due Diligence Framework seeks to ensure that an organisation’s occupational health and safety management system(s) is effectively implemented and continually monitored and improved to achieve the highest level of OHS performance and ongoing legal compliance. The Due Diligence Framework will also ensure that information in relation to OHS performance and compliance is provided to and considered by the directors/managers of the relevant organisation. Essentially the purpose of a Due Diligence Framework is to enhance the ability of members of a Board and senior management teams to establish that they exercised all due diligence to systematically ensure compliance by an organisation of its OHS legal obligations.