Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who is Guarding the Guards?

A reasonable estimate of economic organization must allow for the fact that, unless industry is to be paralyzed by recurrent revolts on the part of outraged human nature, it must satisfy criteria, which are not purely economic

R H Tawney – Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) 1

imageThe recent resources boom in Australia saw a commensurate focus on workplace health and safety. It also created a perfect opportunity to generate transformational change using risk theory with a transdisciplinary evidence based approach. However, affirmation from many projects indicates significant regression with a resurgence of egocentric accident theory, which is antagonised by a plethora of complex and nebulous psychology based nostrums. This has constrained progress, shredded legitimacy and generated a concomitant increase in obscurantism and agnotology. 210

Corporate safety strategies and policies often embrace risk theory but it is a patina of good governance and corporate social responsibility. Further investigation at operational and tactical levels usually discovers a misalignment of strategy and atavistic accident theory prevails. It is flourishing throughout the resources sector and has been subliminally embraced by cohorts of evangelical safety crusaders and many project managers. 1113

Rampant unfettered neoliberalism has created a race to the bottom with a laissez faire doctrine and malevolent freedom to harm amidst a culture of casino capitalism and kleptocracy. Regulatory capture is also apparent and complemented by an embryonic gig economy generating contingent employment via an emergent precariat. It is exacerbated by a tyranny of insufferable bureaucracy, cause effect dogma and an unconscionable focus on reactive performance metrics, especially recordable injury frequency rates. 1428

Meanwhile, a cornucopia of displacement activities has been implemented. This includes zero harm, behaviour based safety programs, cultural surveys, incentive schemes and a concoction of abstract soft systems change management processes. It is compounded by a precarious over reliance on cosmetic lower order administrative protocols and the use of personal protective equipment. This is reinforced via intimidation and fear and inculcated using a relentless stream of corporate bilge and turgid sesquipedalian sludge masquerading as leadership, which begs the question……….Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 2945

Pear shaped

Kalafatis is a major producer and purveyor of pears and the company is distinguished as the pear giant of Australia. Every aspect of the business is handled by the consanguineous family and its superior crystal brand produce is renowned for its taste and quality. Its major client is Woolworths……The Fresh Food People and it faces regular quality assurance and food safety audits from the poker machine conglomerate. The company employs over 80 full time employees and during the harvesting season its workforce increases to almost 300 people. Seasonal workers are resourced using contingent labour hire companies and include vulnerable itinerants or backpackers holding temporary migrant visas. The managing director acknowledges fallibility but advocates a strong work ethic, which is corporate double speak for indentured servitude, peonage, intimidation and exploitation of helpless migrants. Vangelis, the Kalafatis patriarch, has since passed away but often reminisced about the early days with vivid descriptions of homesickness, pain and adversity. 4649

However, at a Kalafatis packing shed in Shepparton on 7th November 2015, it all turned horribly pear shaped and generated an inconceivable amount of suffering and hardship. An Irish backpacker received appalling injuries whilst cleaning beneath a moving conveyor belt, which was used to deliver pears for packing and distribution. The young girl lost all her hair and an ear was ripped off when the scalp was torn from her head after she became entangled in a packing conveyor rotating drive shaft. The victim was rushed to a local hospital, stabilised and then transferred via air ambulance to Melbourne for further treatment. 5052

Workers were frequently required to scrub beneath conveyor belts to ensure compliance with the rigorous food safety standards. Isolation of the equipment would inevitably curtail production and cleaning was usually performed whilst the conveyors continued operating. This involved exposure to unguarded rotating drive shafts and sprockets. The labour hire company T&R Contracting pleaded guilty in Shepparton magistrates’ court to breaching work place health and safety legislation. It received a $60,000 fine for failing to provide instruction and training. In January 2018 Kalafatis Packing also pleaded guilty to charges relating to the incident. However, before sentencing the local magistrate visited the facility with the defence and prosecution legal teams, WorkSafe Victoria representatives and the Kalafatis managing director. The delegation studied the significant changes to equipment and machine guarding costing over $200,000, which were recently implemented following the horrific incident. 5355

The managing director claimed that since the improvements no other operation in the entire Goulburn Valley could compare to the Kalafatis packing shed. This quest for moral high ground merely implies that similar risks are evident at many other facilities. Moreover, Kalafatis is recognised as the pear giant of Australia and an influential member of the Apple and Pear industry association. The defendant’s legal team pleaded extenuating circumstances and alleged it was an isolated incident and subsequent improvements went over and above the need for deterrence. The conviction of Andonis Kalafatis back in August 2004 was conveniently disregarded. He was a director with Anspac Cold Storage when a forklift operator collapsed from carbon monoxide poisoning whilst stacking pallets at a nearby cold storage facility in Shepparton. 5658

The magistrate acknowledged the company had taken the incident at its pear packing shed very seriously and recognised their extreme remorse and guilty plea. It had also raised the factory standard above the industry benchmark and its response was considered exemplary. Since the incident occurred an anonymous review on a migrant worker website offers a somewhat different perspective with descriptive accounts of intimidation and austerity. The plant manager allegedly behaved like Adolf Hitler and threw fruit at a lady who challenged his authority. The accommodation for itinerant labourers included a five bedroomed house with six girls sleeping in each room and one television set was provided between the 30 occupants. If the house was full several migrants or backpackers would sleep in the garden and their rent was reduced accordingly. 5960

In the Shepparton magistrates’ court the organisation received a $50,000 fine with $22,000 costs to cover the WorkSafe Victoria investigation with no formal conviction recorded. In 2014 the State of Victoria produced 89% of Australia’s pears with a value exceeding $125 million. The excruciating pain, suffering and psychological trauma endured by the victim and her immediate family is inconceivable. Following an appeal the penalty was increased to $150,000 in the Shepparton County Court and a conviction was recorded. This unfortunate but preventable incident left the young lady permanently disfigured but the supply of superior crystal pears to a poker machine conglomerate continues……Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s; You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s. When will you pay me? Say the bells of Old Bailey. When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch. 6167

Deceptive bends

The Ichthys project located in the Browse Basin some 220 kilometres off the Western Australia coast is one of the most significant oil and gas ventures in the world costing approximately US$40 billion. It is the largest discovery of hydrocarbon liquids in Australia and initial estimates indicate the field contains more than 12 trillion cubic feet of gas and 500 million barrels of condensate with an operational life of almost 50 years. 6869

During June and July in 2017 Inpex engaged the services of DOF Subsea who hired elite diving teams to conduct essential repairs on the Ichthys ocean floor pipeline. It was the deepest commercial dive in Australian history and required saturation diving to depths of 273 metres. This involved compliance with National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority prescribed regulations, supplementary diving operations and other guidelines. However, up to seven divers have since reported debilitating nervous complaints, consistent with acute high pressure neurological syndrome. 7077

Initial symptoms include compression arthralgia, which produces excruciating joint pains in the knees and shoulders followed by cognitive impairment, hallucinations, nausea, headaches and delirium tremens. These conditions often subside quite quickly but several of the divers experienced prolonged and enigmatic emotional disorders. The compression or blowdown schedules for deep saturation dives over 240 metres usually exceed 20 hours. Diving logs must be documented and the organisation is required to maintain records for at least seven years. 7881

It is alleged the hired divers endured an extremely unusual rapid descent over five or eight hours. This was completed in accordance with US Navy diving schedules which provide exclusive and alternative blowdown guidelines for emergency situations such as submarine rescues or retrieval of nuclear warheads. The regulatory authority was notified of the incident over five months later and the victims have become pariahs. Many are terrified of losing their diving licenses and livelihoods and traditional delay, deny and die tactics have emerged with the rejection of workers’ compensation claims. The DOF Subsea vision is to be a world class integrated offshore company delivering marine services and subsea solutions responsibly. Inpex remains absolutely committed to protecting the health and safety of its employees via its credo…….Anzen dai ichi, which is Japanese for whatever it takes. 8287

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