Newsagents tell me that the Sunday Telegraph published by News Limited this past Sunday weighed 920 grams. This is an unsafe weight to deliver using traditional delivery means.
As I blogged on November 20, 2006, the Nery report, commissioned by the ANF, found unsafe work practices which stem from the handling of heavy newspapers. According to the report, current work practices are unsafe. The report documents unsafe work practices which stem, in part, from having to handle heavy newspapers. Any newspaper above .6 kilogram in weight is considered to be heavy. Consider this quote from the Executive Summary the report:
The Results section of this report (page 10) has outlined significant ergonomic risk factors associated with the newspaper delivery tasks. These risk factors are particularly related to dimensions of the weekend papers (Advertiser and Sunday Mail) when combined with the repetition, volume and manual handling aspects of the delivery process. In particular, there are significant risks associated with the delivery/throwing of the larger dimensioned and heavier Saturday Advertiser and Sunday Mail newspapers.
David Nery, the respected author of the Nery report was clear:
The current situation, in my view, is unsafe and modifications to the weight, dimensions and volume of papers distributed per person need to be reduced to provide a safe system of work.
Late last year, News Limited issued a rebuttal to newsagents, based on their own expert study. Their report, or what has been published to newsagents at least, is years late and lacking in detail and professional scope compared with that of David Nery. The News Limited rebuttal is in the from of a letter telling newsagents that they are responsible for OH&S issues relating to newspaper delivery. They claim that Nery is wrong and that it is safe to deliver heavy newspapers.
News Limited controls the weight and dimensions of the product being delivered. They also control most of the economic terms relating to newspaper home delivery: delivery fees, cover price and requirements about obligations on newsagents to accept customers. These economic terms determining whether newsagents can reasonably split a heavy product into two.Newsagents need to revisit the Nery Report in the context of the fat Sunday Telegraph. If I still had a home delivery business and were in a position to influence industry response I would:
- Re-engage David Nery for a response.
- Talk with Worksafe and other state government OH&S bodies for an opinion.
- Talk with insurance companies to determine liability on the insured should an injury claim be made relating to this issue.
- Assemble a team of experts to research and guide a whole of industry response. The team would include an appropriately skilled lawyer, OH&S expert, medical expert, a newspaper deliverer and a newsagent.
- Discuss with the federal government funding opportunities to help newsagents pay for the necessary research and advice in navigating such a complex issue.
- Set a timeline for progress on this.
- Seek agreement from News Limited to engage nationally given that they are dealing with it internally nationally.
It may be that the process results in a negotiated middle ground position between News and newsagents. If it doing nothing wrong, News should have nothing to hide and therefore be prepared to actively engage.