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Did the insulation program actually reduce fire risk?

Has the Garrett insulation scheme actually reduced the rate of installation caused fires? It’s a strange thing to say – well, it’s strange if you don’t think about it too hard. What we often forget is that Garrett’s insulation program dramatically increased standards in an industry where there were previously very few.

First off, some raw numbers. If we go fossicking over on the ABS site, we find some data about the numbers of buildings with insulation in Australia in 2008 – the year before the Garrett insulation program. We’ll use these numbers as our “before” data set.

61% of 5,218,000 dwellings – or 3,183,265 – had insulation in 2008 according to our favourite Bureau. According to Garrett’s department, there were also between 65,000 and 70,000 new installations done per year before the insulation program. Let’s split the difference and call it 67,500 installations.

We also know from Garrett’s department in the same letter than between 80 and 85 fires occurred every year because of insulation. That’s the numbers we need for the pre-Garrett program.

Moving on to the Garret program numbers, we know that during the program, 1.1 million installations were undertaken. So that’s our yearly installation rate and it pushes the number of houses currently with insulation up to 4.28 million homes.

We also know that 93 fires have been linked to the program.

There’s our “after numbers” we need to do the comparison.

With the 2008 figures on the numbers of fires, we don’t know how many of them were as a result of new installations and how many of them were caused by insulation that was already in the ceiling and may have been there for years. So what we need to do is differentiate between the fires caused by the insulation stock (the pre-existing insulation) and new installations.

To do this we’ll create three scenarios:

Scenario 1: 10% of fires were caused by existing insulation and 90% caused by new installations

Scenario 2: 50% of fires were caused by existing insulation and 50% caused by new installations

Senario 3: 90% of fires were caused by existing insulation and 10% caused by new installations

This gives us a range of all possible likely outcomes. If we measure the number of fires caused by new installs using these three scenarios for 2008, and for our known number of 93 for Garrett’s program, this is what we get.

fire3scenarios

From here, we can figure out how many fires there were per new installation in both 2008 (where there were 67,500 new installs) under it’s three scenarios, and with the Garrett program (where there was 1.1 million installs) – simply by dividing the number of installations undertaken by the number of fires attributable to new installations.

firerates3senarios

Under Scenario 1 where 90% of fires are attributable to new installations, 1 in 909 installs lead to fire. Under Scenario 2 it’s 1 in 1636 installs lead to fire while under Scenario 3 it’s 1 in 8182 installs.

Under the Garrett insulation program, the rate is 1 in 11,828 – a much smaller rate of fires than what existed before the program.

The Insulation Program Safety Multiple is simply the Garrett program rate divided by the 2008 rate – it shows how many times safer the Garrett program is compared to each of the three scenarios for 2008.

Interesting – that’s what the data says.

UPDATE:

I borked a link back up there earlier. Here’s where the 65-70K installations per year for the pre-Garrett period were mentioned by the Dept head.

http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/files/2010/02/Secretarys-opening-statement-220210.pdf

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  • 1
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    What is your definition of a “new install” in terms of time from installation to fire?

  • 2
    bobswinkle
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Possum. I had been thinking for the last two weeks this is EXACTLY the sort of analysis we need to be doing when judging Garrett. The aggregate numbers are never going to tell the story, it’s the ratio which matters.

    Quick question, is it possible to do a similar analysis on deaths? I’m guessing finding suitable statistics on workplace deaths and their relative industries would be too difficult right?

  • 3
    Bushfire Bill
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Playing Devil’s Advocate: why didn’t Garrett or his department make this claim when they had the chance?

    Something seems screwy there. What figures of yours are the ones you have least confidence in Possum?

  • 4
    bobswinkle
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I think the only questionable part here Bushfire is that we don’t yet know whether the current amount of housefires attributed are the only ones which are going to happen due to the program.

    Others may occur later which aren’t counted in the figures here.

    On the other hand the “Garrett not making this claim” line of thought I don’t think carries much weight. They lost track of the national dialogue, they could have made the claim and they just wouldn’t have been listened to. The safer option was to just pull the plug.

  • 5
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I think the only questionable part here Bushfire is that we don’t yet know whether the current amount of housefires attributed are the only ones which are going to happen due to the program.

    Yes that’s why I wondered what the definition is.

    If it is only a very short time frame, like a month, it may be that only 1% of fires are due to new installment rather than existing.

    If new installment means a year, we need to wait a year from the time all the installation has happened.

  • 6
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Hold on there a second Poss! The MSM and the Opposition can’t let some facts get in the way of nailing (stapling?) this mass electrocuting murderer!

    More seriously, why didn’t we hear Garrett say this? Is his department so incompetent they couldn’t have done a quick check on the facts?

    Apparently not.

  • 7
    Bushfire Bill
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    If new installment means a year, we need to wait a year from the time all the installation has happened.

    I preface the following remarks as a Garrett supporter…

    Yes, 13x sounds a bit high at the moment, especially as at least some are under a year old. To my mind, there doesn’t seem to be a convincing explanation as to why the fire rate under the insulation scheme would be so low, either. I know Garrett’s standards were more stringent than in place previously, but up to 13 times more stringent? Seems like a big call.

    Also, “New Installs” could also be broken down into “New into existing homes” (retrofits) and “New into new homes” (greenfield installations).

    All-in-all I’d settle for a 1:1 correlation. That’d still shut them up.

  • 8
    bianconieri
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    This is just sad. Admit they stuffed up and move on.

  • 9
    Bushfire Bill
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    This is just sad. Admit they stuffed up and move on.

    The question being considered here is whether there was a stuff up. As far as I can see Possum’s post is the very first publication that has addressed the metrics of this issue.

    Others may have tried (including myself, in a half-hearted sort of way) but only Possum so far has come up with anything that attempts to address exactly what happened. Certainyl we have heard a lot about absolute numbers of deaths, fires etc., but no attempt – especially by the accusers at News Ltd. and the coalition – has produced anything of value at all. This is a start.

    My only quibble is with the (what seem to be) higher results than a back-of-the-envelope calculation would produce.

  • 10
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    BB

    Also, “New Installs” could also be broken down into “New into existing homes” (retrofits) and “New into new homes” (greenfield installations).

    True. That is another confounding factor. The bottom line is probably that the huge increase in activity just uncovered what was slowly happening anyway.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the death rate was fairly similar too using this type of analysis. Quite a few people get electrocuted or fall off/through roofs each year.

    My biggest complaint about the insulation program is that between 20-30% of the insulation was useless, esp the stuff sourced from overseas (at least according to the Insulation Council or whatever it’s called).

    That would mean an awful lot of that money may as well have been used to dig holes and fill them in.

  • 11
    ShowsOn
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the death rate was fairly similar too using this type of analysis.

    Rudd just said in the House that there were 4 worker deaths between 2000 – 2008 in the “insulation retrofitting industry”.

  • 12
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Well we now know the PM’s Office reads this blog :D

  • 13
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ll get back to you folks, I’ve just got to go and do a few things first.

  • 14
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the death rate was fairly similar too using this type of analysis.

    Rudd just said in the House that there were 4 worker deaths between 2000 – 2008 in the “insulation retrofitting industry”.

    SO

    At Poss’ rate of 70K per year installations, perhaps half would be new and half retrofits. So that would be 35K per year for 8 years, ie 300K for 4 deaths.

    Garrett had 4 deaths in 1 Million, so his death rate appears to be lower than before the program started.

  • 15
    oldskool
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    See, heres your problem Poss, you’ve gone looking for the truth, when the obvious “truthiness” of the MSM is all we really need!

  • 16
    imacca
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations and many thanks for this post Poss. Hopefully some of the Bolts and Shamahan types in the MSM will print apologies for the drivel they have been peddling.

  • 17
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Rudd and Garrett should have come up with this stuff a long time ago. The horse has bolted and they shut down the program already without looking into the details.

    You have to wonder about what Garrett’s underlings have been doing.

  • 18
    Aguirre
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    BB – I think the reason Garrett and his department didn’t go on about the relative numbers is that they ran the risk of looking callous. Great emphasis was given by both the opposition and the media to the deaths that occurred during the layout, with any link possible sought and used to link the two. To come out and say, “what are you talking about, it’s safer now” allows the focus to stick with the ‘tragedies’ and the Government dismissing them as ‘allowable’. It’s a risk.

    Garrett did the right thing. His first and strongest line of defence was to demonstrate that his department responded quickly to incidents, and that changes were made at the earliest opportunity to tighten the requirements. It shows he cares and is pro-active in responding to issues. It shuts off the ‘they don’t care’ talk from the start.

    It does leave him open to claims that he didn’t take enough care at the start of the scheme, but that’s the lesser of the two lines of attack. You can clean those things up later on, once you’ve established that you have a personal stake in what’s happening.

    All the talk now – Poss’s examination of the rates of incidents and the demonstration that proper care was taken – is done in the light of Garrett’s narrative so far, which is that of a minister who was active and responsive during the layout.

  • 19
    Tri$tan
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    This is a good analysis… but we really need to know what the curve looks like from time installed to time of fire. If most the fires occur within the first few months of installation then this is looking great. However, if most the fires don’t occur for a year, this is looking dodgy.

    Without this inclusion, the article is still valid starting point, but it answers no question.

    (in this respect deaths are easier to manage, though with lower number the natural variance will be higher, and therefore harder to be sure of the change).

  • 20
    Tri$tan
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Also, Aguirre, I agree with you 100% on the tactics being totally right.

    I’m actually doing my PhD in health and safety management, so think deeply about such things. You can’t be see to champion a ‘reduction’ in deaths – though in reality a reduction in deaths is a good thing.

    The massive problem I see is in the execution of the tactic. I hear Garret talking all this risk management mumbo jumbo (though mostly getting it jumbled – being a safety risk nerd).

    What people don’t want to hear is ‘implimented risk managment measures’ or ‘we did more than was previously done’. They want to hear a story. A narrative. Tell the people what was done before and where the problems existed. Then tell them what you did ontop to ensure that this situation was improved (and why you logically thought it to be solved).

  • 21
    btdg
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Wow, just wow. Interesting analysis, and I’d love to see further analysis on this issue. Even if it proves this analysis flawed in some way (due to missing variables or whatever). Isn’t this the sort of analytical work that paid newspaper journalists should be doing though? I mean, people whose day job it is to bring us news? Wouldn’t that be more productive than just re-writing AP or Reuters copy or whatever it is that ‘journalists’ do nowadays? Incredible that no other media outlet has thought to do this analysis – it should have been a starting point for any serious reporting on the issue.

    It also raises an important question for future government research though. What level of industrial injury or death is tolerable for a government looking to expand a major program. It appears in this case, for example, that the government ‘knew’ that when installing insulation there was a death rate of about 1 for every 70,000 installs. Without new safety regulations, the 1 million installs would have been expected to cause 10-12 deaths. Is it appropriate to have ANY non-zero death rate for industrial accidents, when the government is involved (from both the political perspective, and from a moral perspective)?

    I guess the question may still remain as to whether it was still innappropriate for the government to significantly ramp up an industrial process known to cause deaths, without first improving safety requirements to eliminate the possibility of death (under normal circumstances). Not sure how I feel about this – but either way, the issue has just got a lot more complex.

  • 22
    Tri$tan
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Thinking about it further, there might be a reason for this:

    The government said they provided extra training and ‘required’ extra controls. But it seems they didn’t have an auditing process to see if the controls are in place (even the ‘threat’ of an audit will improve implimentation).

    For example, when the government awards a major infastructure project they include conditions for health and safety, and Audits by Federal Safety Officers.

    Here is seems a bit more like the government paid the cash, provided the training, but didn’t check the training was effective instalation was actually being carried out as per the training. You don’t need a massive number to provide deterents.

  • 23
    Scotty J
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    i wouldn’t mind knowing the number of children killed by domestic violence since the Baby Bonus. It uses the same logic an unregulated government handout to “dodgey” parents. Using the same logic on Peter Garrett then Peter Costello was an incompetent treasurer and should have been sacked!!!!!!!!

  • 24
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Rudd and Garrett should have come up with this stuff a long time ago.

    Yes true, but the problem is it reached a point where the medai had decided on the narrative: the scheme was “bungled”. At that point Govt of either persuasion will only struggle in vain to turn it around.

  • 25
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Tri$tan

    You can’t be see to champion a ‘reduction’ in deaths – though in reality a reduction in deaths is a good thing.

    I disagree with that. Atul Gawande is esaily the most famous doctor in the field of surgical safety and he is well known for championing the “Check list” which reduces the risk of the wrong operation/wrong side/wrong patient scenario happening resulting in less patient deaths from mistakes.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/30/opinion/30gawande.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

  • 26
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    ah “wrong operation/wrong side/wrong patient”

    Do surgeons ever think to write on a leg “cut this one off” prior to amputations?

  • 27
    vp
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Grog,

    I had an operation on my heel a while ago (under general). They asked me which one? and put a great big mark on it. Standard procedure, I believe.

  • 28
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Part of the problem is that most people just don’t realise how many people die from accidents at work every year. Excluding road accidents, 295 people died from a work-related accident in 2006-7 in Australia.

    By my calculations, 5% (ie 15) of those were electrocuted.

    http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/swa/AboutUs/Publications/FatalitiesWork-relateddeaths.htm

  • 29
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Yes we are meant to mark the side pre-op. Try marking an X on your left heel and then accidentally pressing your heel on your right calf. The X is now also on the right side.

    Happens all the time.

    (Just kidding, it very rarely happens)

  • 30
    jenauthor
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering when the figs would emerge … interestingly, the anti-Rudd brigade are conspicuously silent.

  • 31
    vp
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I was lucky, Diog, it was my right heel :)

  • 32
    Diogenes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    vp

    There have been cases in the US where a patient deliberately rubbed out the mark and put it on the other hoping they WOULD operate on the wrong side and they’d get a million dollar payout.

  • 33
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh geez, dare I say it, Only in America…

  • 34
    Acerbic Conehead
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    vp (28). Did that operation on your heel cost you an arm and a leg?

  • 35
    scorpio
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    What I find interesting is that the established installers were quite happy to have blame deflected to so-called “cowboy” operators ie new kids on the block and who of course were moving onto their turf in competition with them.

    If you look closely at the number of fires attributed to insulation prior to the program starting and after, then it is apparent to me that the safety record of the established operators prior to Garrett’s new standards/training etc being applied, left a lot to be desired and would in fact be worse than that of the new operators.

    The whole thing has been muddied by vested interests, using the Liberals and the media, to protect their own patch of turf.

    This would include Operators and manufacturers of local made batts trying to maintain market share against imported product and trying to eliminate competition from aluminium foil and other paper-based & fibre insulation suppliers/manufacturers.

    The fossils and partisan hacks in the media had a wealth of material to work with here and could have filled many column feet in multiple issues covering “all” the aspects of this rather than just treating it as a “political” issue!

  • 36
    scorpio
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    This is a comment I put on PB last night and even though it only refers to Victoria, it none the less has an interesting link that should have been a good starting point to follow the prior trail of the link between the installation of insulation and building/house fires!

    Something of interest that I picked up from another site. It applies only to Victoria but would most probably be applicable to other States as well!

    These fires highlighted in recent days might take on a different perspective when “all” the information is out.

    In Victoria alone there was 32 in 2005, 36 in 2006, and by June 2007, there was 21 fires caused by downlights alone.

    If you extrapolate that to “all the States, there would have been a considerable amount of fires caused by that alone prior to the insulation program.

    It may well be that the number of fires since the program started last year is not that much out of the ordinary in comparison with the previous average and there appear to be more factors besides insulation behind them also!

    Don’t expect “anyone” in the media to do a bit of research and shoot gaping holes in the Coalition and Greens, “get Garrett” campaign.

    http://www.indice.com.au/market-overview/images/SKMBT_C55009032410361.pdf

  • 37
    fen
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    The lack of balanced reporting on this issue by most media outlets has been accompanied by a distinct lack of investigative reporting into any of the issues.
    Thank you Possum for providing the ground work for some intelligent discussion.
    The sound bites from parties with vested interests and their use in making well worn political points has been brain numbingly dull.

    Insulation is mandatory in all new homes and continues to be. New homes don’t qualify for the scheme because they are required by the BCA (Building code of Australia) to meet a certain level of insulation. Despite the mixed messages on its value, it is mandatory because it is a good thing. There would be a lot of people out there who would have had their house insulated under the scheme and will notice the difference to their homes.

    Downlights have been a major cause of fires in houses – usually caused by overheating when covered with insulation. The building codes and /or standards were updated a few years back to require that downlights in confined roof spaces are shielded. The number of downlight related fires should reduce accordingly.

  • 38
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    On doing a similar analysis with fatalities in the industry, unfortunately it’s not possible (for me anyway) because of the lack of insulation industry specific fatality statistics. I just can’t find those numbers anywhere – they’re always mixed in with other industries.

    Bushfire Bill,

    The figures here are all pretty good. The ABS figures are rock solid, the number of insulation installations for previous years were stated at the Senate committee bu both the department and industry bodies. Similarly, the number of fires per year due to insulation has been tabled in the committee as well.

    The only number with any real “give” in it is the number of fires caused by new installs under the program. Currently, the largest number I can find is 93 – that number was given by the Dept head to the senate committee here:
    http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S12843.pdf

    I’ve treated this “93″ number as all being proven to be as a result of insulation installed under the program – effectively taking a worse case scenario.How Kruk, the head of the Dept actually described this number was:

    “Senator BARNETT—Thank you for that. How many house fires have been linked to the program? Can you advise the committee of an updated figure? How many police investigations are currently taking place with respect to the program?

    Ms Kruk—I will give you the most recent data that I have. As at 19 February, 93 fires have been linked to the insulation program. The second part of your question—

    Senator BARNETT—Police investigations.

    Ms Kruk—I am not in a position to give you more advice on police investigations. A number of those are the subject of investigations, in some instances by the fire authority, who give a preliminary indication as to whether the fire is in effect linked to insulation or whether there are other causes with the fire. So there can be the various forms of investigation underway.”

    So those 93 are only “linked” to the program and not all of them are actually known as having caused the fires.

    But the reason I used the numbers that were most likely to disprove the point I was making is because that’s why I always do. If given a number of sets of data to analyse to make a point, I always choose the data set that is the least friendly to the point I’m making.

    It means that if you can prove it with the least friendly data, there is a much greater likelihood of you being right – all the risk is on the upside of one’s argument, not the downside.

    Now – the problem we have here is that the number of fires will increase over the next 6 months. The question is by how much?

    Previously, the proportion of all insulation based fires that were likely the result of recent installations runs around 30% – that’s from people I talked to yesterday including fire services, industry reps and a retired forensics bloke.

    The reason I ran it under three scenarios is so I could be certain of the absolute possible min and max values.But let’s just take the most likely rate of 30% to get numbers for previous years. If we chart the Insulation Program Safety Multiple against a theoretical number of house fires caused by the insulation program – this is what we get:

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/files/2010/02/forbb.PNG

    As you can see – for Garrett’s program to be more dangerous in terms of fire house outcomes that the previous program, the number of known house fires caused by the program has to get over 400.

  • 39
    shadowminister
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    There were 93 fires from 37 000 houses with installed insulation, or about 0.3% per year, and with over 1% being left electrically live.

    If you insulated all the houses in Aus this would give a rate of about 30 000 fires, 120 000 live roofs and 1000 deaths.

    Hardly a ringing endorsement.

  • 40
    Eponymous
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    The ‘linked to’ point is a little slippery for me.

    Anyone sure of what it means? Is it 93 houses that have had fires were also insulated under the scheme.

    OR

    Have fire services determined that the cause of these fires was faulty insulation?

    Kruk’s quote above suggests more of the former than the latter.

  • 41
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Shadow Minister went:

    There were 93 fires from 37 000 houses with installed insulation, or about 0.3% per year, and with over 1% being left electrically live.

    That is simply not correct.

    From the opening statement of the Secretary of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts at the Senate Committee public hearing on Monday, 22 February 2010:

    “over 1.1 million homes have been insulated with the average house expected to save up to $200 a year off their electricity bills”

    http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/eca_ctte/eehp/submissions.htm

  • 42
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    That’s right Eponymous.

    The number of fires actually caused by new installations could be substantially less than 93. At the moment, 93 would appear to be the upper limit – although that will grow over time.

  • 43
    vajras2000
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Our house was insulated in the last days before the NSW gov’t removed their $300 rebate at the end of June 2009 – we received the federal rebate of $1600 in August.

    In Sept, i discovered it was a dodgy install as at least 20m2 was short-installed and, of course, reported the installer to DEWA. We requested an audit and for the coy to be prosecuted for short-changing and overcharging both us and, by default, all taxpayers (am yet to hear back re: prosecution; am not holding my breath on that one!).

    In Nov, the audit was completed and our house was deemed to be both “unsafe” (fire hazard with all downlights a hazard) and “non-compliant” – the auditor told us we were very lucky not to have gone up in smoke.

    My point in writing this background is that i would question the number of fires “officially” counted.

    The auditor said he had personally inspected about 300 homes in our region and that there had been 42 fires within this 300 – and this is only on the Central Coast of NSW!

    i, too, would like to see further breakdown of where and in what type of home fires have occurred.

  • 44
    Tri$tan
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Diogenes, I’m a human factors guy – doing my PhD in this and mining infact. I love the error reduction stuff you mention, but it’s not the same thing.

    Garret is dealing with actual deaths.

    Our Dr Hero is dealing with ‘statistical’ deaths. He is also not in charge of funding surgery, and not answerable to the general (unfortunately largely emotional, unforgiving and uneducated) public.

    It’s aways a difficult line to tread. But by saying we are ‘happy’ with a reduction in deaths when you are the person (percieved) to be in a position to prevent them – the implication is that some number of deaths are acceptable. (In realisty, if you read some of the greatest writers on the subject we are really commonly trading deaths for deaths. Read Wildalsky).

    Personally, I would have advised him to state the following:
    1. We don’t accept any number of deaths in the industry as acceptable.
    2. The previous safety measures in the industry was x.
    3. We believed, from expert advise, that we needed more safety measures. Therefore, on top of these we added x, y, z and a, b, c to ensure they were implimented.
    4. At the time, all parties involved believed that these extra measures would be enough to ensure against deaths and fires.
    5. It proved that the additional measures did improve safety on top of what it would have been without any intervention.
    6. However, there still appeared gaps, which we cannot accept. An improvment is not enough. We are investigating how the measure we had in place, in some instances, failed, and improving them to ensure that the same issues cannot re-occur.

    The reality is much greyer…. but that’s what I would have advised.

  • 45
    Nick
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Eponymous@42, just to make it clearer:

    “As at 19 February 2010, 93 fires have been formally linked to insulation installed under the discontinued Home Insulation Program,” a spokesman for Mr Garrett said.

    “This means the address where the fire has been reported has been verified as an address where insulation has been installed under the program.”

  • 46
    Diogenes
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Tri$tan

    If you want to see an example of how not to do, look at this beauty from the front page of the Tiser. We have an INCREASE in the number of suicides happening after people are discharged from mental services in SA, at the same time that suicide overall is dropping.

    MORE than 40 people died soon after leaving South Australia's mental health system last year, documents state.

    The 2008-09 report, obtained by The Advertiser , shows most incidents were suicides, prompting criticisms that there is a tragic shortfall in acute-care beds and follow-up support services.

    To which the CEO of SA Health says;

    "We can't police everyone who's discharged. The people with the highest risk we admit to hospital.

    "The people with intermediate risks get visits (at least) daily. The lowest risk are cared for by a GP.

    "That's how the risk management process works."

    Garrett looks like an angel of compassion compared to that.

    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/in-depth/people-the-state-left-to-die/story-fn2sdwup-1225834057797

  • 47
    Cat
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    What I find amusing/frustrating about a lot of this (beyond the halogen hell mentioned below) is that Abbott and the media are holding Garrett personally responsible but not the companies that did the dodgy installations. The chairman of Toyota is making grovelling apologies to, and having a new one ripped for him by, Congress because of the manufacturing faults in his company’s cars. In Australia in the current environment Kevin Rudd would have to deliver the apology because the support the government has given to Toyota to build a hybrid! It is absurd.

    The other thing that is not mentioned is that halogen downlights are at the centre of most of the fires. I sleep unworried under my insulation because it was laid by an off duty fireman working a second job (in July last year – long before the current fuss). He checked inside the home to see where there would be electrical wiring in the roof and commented on the lack of halogen downlights. When I asked him why he said that halogen downlights keep firemen in jobs. He claimed that home fires (particularly outside of winter) had become increasingly rare until halogen downlights became fashionable and then the rate of ceiling fires jumped substantially. He said that was the most important thing for installers to look for because the already dangerous lights would be real problems if the insulation was laid over it.

    So why are we not condemning the dodgy installers along with Better Homes and Gardens and others who tout downlights as all the rage and then at the back of the queue Garrett and Rudd?

  • 48
    Mark Heydon
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the weakest part of your figures is that you have arbitrarily set the range of the proportion of fires due to new installs as 10% to 90%. Given that new installs consist (in your numbers) of 67,500 out 3,183,265, or 2.12% of the installed base, why would 10% be the lowest proportion of fires due to new installs? There is no basis for your 10%-90% range.

    If new installs result in their proportional number of fires, then the fires per new install is 1 per 38,593 (= 2.12% x 82.5 / 67,500) and the recent experience is 3 times worse than previous.

    Unless you have some knowledge about the relative fire causing-ness of recent versus non-recent insulation, then I don’t think you can draw any meaningful conclusions.

11 Trackbacks

  1. ...] Politics, elections and piffle plinking Skip to content « NSW Newspoll – Keneally up but same old story Did the insulation program actually reduce fire risk? » [...

  2. ...] has a very interesting argument and analysis that says ‘no’. Well, at least, ‘probably [...

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