Issue 181 - SafetyNet Journal 181Welcome back to the first edition of SafetyNet for 2010. We trust that everyone had a happy and restful break, and look forward to a safe and healthy 2010.
First fatalities for 2010The first fatality for the year was on January 12 when a 60-year-old man was killed at the scene when computer equipment being removed from a truck in Laverton fell. WorkSafe believes the man was guiding a forklift driver who was to remove the computer equipment weighing some 200kg and standing about 2m high, from the back of a semi-trailer. The equipment was on castors and not mounted on a pallet.
WorkSafe Media Release
The second fatality occurred on January 15, when a 37yr old tradesman who was working on a mobile platform with wheels and guard rails fell to his death from the fifth or sixth floor at a building site in Dorcas St, South Melbourne. The man, who was a subcontractor at the Hickory Developments site, died at the scene despite attempts to resuscitate him.
Ask RenataHow many hours a day should I be driving as part of my job? Are there a maximum number of hours or kilometres?
There is no specific legislation in OHS legislation on this issue, and it's not possible to give a specific number of hours or kilometres that would be "ok" for people, because so many things need to be taken into account.
Many people drive as part of their jobs: driving heavy vehicles; delivering goods or services; getting from one place to another; etc. What an employer needs to do depends on what sort of driving/vehicles are involved.
For drivers of heavy vehicles there IS legislation: under the Victorian Road Safety Act, with working and rest hours now regulated for these drivers. The fatigue laws, implemented in September 2008, set revised work and rest limits for heavy vehicle drivers and require better management of driver fatigue.
Nevertheless, even when there is no specific legislation, the employer has a duty of care under Victorian OHS Act to provide and maintain a healthy and safe workplace, systems of work, plant and so on for all employees, so the employer must take a number of things into account to prevent fatigue, minimise risk of accidents, etc.
ACTU/Cancer Council Australia kNOw Cancer in the Workplace ForumAs reported in the last edition of SafetyNet, the ACTU will be making the elimination of workplace cancers a major health and safety priority of unions this year. The announcement was made at the joint ACTU/Cancer Council Australia forum on workplace cancer held in Canberra in December. Occupational exposures contribute to nearly 40,000 cancers in Australia every year. The presentations from the forum are now available to download from the kNOw Cancer in the Workplace website. These include:
- Scope of occupational cancer in Australia [pdf] - Professor Lin Fritschi, WA Institute for Medical Research
- Building coalitions to tackle workplace cancer [pdf] Larry Stoffman; Labour Environmental Alliance Society, Vancouver Canada
- Taking carcinogens out of the workplace: A win-win for workers and industry in Massachusetts [pdf] - Pam Eliason; Toxic Use Reduction Program, Massachusetts USA
Union launches Jetstar Pacific safety probeThe Transport Workers Union (TWU) says it is launching a concentrated investigation into alleged safety breaches by Jetstar Pacific. It follows the alleged termination of two employees after they blew the whistle on the airline, which is partly owned by Qantas. A new report by the Vietnamese Civil Aviation Authority is accusing the airline of being fraudulently and poorly maintained. TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says the union is planning to send representatives to Vietnam to verify the authority's findings.
Source: ABC Online
Union News - International
UK workers are giving away A$48.5 billion of unpaid overtimeOver five million workers across the UK gave away A$48.5 billion in unpaid overtime in 2009, a Trade Union Congress analysis of official statistics has revealed. The TUC study shows that 5.07 million people regularly worked unpaid overtime in 2009, a decline of 168,000 since 2008. Staff who did unpaid overtime worked an average of 7 hours 12 minutes a week, worth $9,563 a year - the highest amount since records began in the late 1990s - and an increase of $465 since 2008. TUC Media Release
Health and safety and aging workersA conference hosted by the union-run National Labor College in the US last year looked at how to address the health and safety implications of an aging workforce. The report of the conference presentations and discussions, involving US government agencies, unions, academics and others, are now available online. The report recommends attention to workplace environments to maintain 'work ability' as workers age, along with legislative fixes and research to fill in knowledge gaps for keeping workers healthy and productive. A very large slice of the US workforce is within the scope of the report's recommendations. The US Department of Labor uses age 40 as a starting point for being an 'older worker.' As Australia has an aging population, the report could be extremely relevant to our workplaces.
NIOSH update. Society for Occupational and Environmental Health conference report [pdf]
'Covert' coping with job conflict ups heart riskAccording to recent research from Sweden, walking away or letting things pass may be an unhealthy way to deal with unfair treatment on the job. The study, led by Dr. Constanze Leineweber of the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, found that men who reported using such "covert" coping strategies were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease over the next 10 years. The researchers examined 2,755 men participating in a workplace study in Stockholm from 19932 to 1995. Their average age was 41, and none had suffered a heart attack previously. By 2003, a review of Swedish national records showed that 47 had either suffered a heart attack or died from heart disease. The researchers found that men who reported using covert strategies to cope with conflict or unfair treatment were at about double the risk of heart attack or heart-related death. Also, when the researchers examined only the two strategies that reflected immediate response to such incidents: "going away" during the encounter or letting things pass without saying anything -- they found men who said they often used these coping strategies had six times the risk of heart attack or heart-related death, even after adjustments for factors like age, high blood pressure, work-related demands, and level of autonomy on the job. When the researchers took into account the level of conflict at the workplace, those who used these two covert coping methods were still at four times the risk.
Source: Chemwatch Bulletin Reuters Health, 24 November 2009
Reducing work allergens improves quality of life
Long-Term Exposure and Health-Related Quality of Life Among Patients With Occupational Rhinitis. Liisa K Airaksinen, et al, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 51, Number 11, November 2009.
Funeral Industry Workers: Higher Leukaemia RiskA recent study, published in the journal of the National Cancer Institute has found that long durations of exposure to formaldehyde used for embalming in the funeral industry is associated with an increased risk of death from myeloid leukaemia. In the study, researchers from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., investigated the relationship between mortality to work practices and formaldehyde exposure levels among these professionals. In a case-control study among funeral industry workers who had died between 1960 and 1986, researchers compared those who died from lymphohematopoietic malignancies and brain tumours with those who died from other causes. Lifetime work practices and exposures to formaldehyde were obtained by interviews with next of kin and co-workers. The researchers discovered that the number of years of embalming practice and related formaldehyde exposures were associated with statistically significantly increased mortality from myeloid leukaemia, with the greatest risk among those who worked in embalming for more than 20 years. "This study adds supporting and complementary data to other epidemiological evidence of an association between formaldehyde exposure and risk of myeloid leukaemia," the authors write. "Further studies of leukaemia risk in relation to specific embalming practices and exposures, as well as similar specific exposure studies in other professional groups that are exposed to formaldehyde and that have an increased risk of leukaemia, should help to clarify our understanding of cancer risks related to formaldehyde."
Science Daily, 23 November 2009
Changes at WorkSafeAt the end of 2009, it was announced that John Merritt, who has been Executive Director of WorkSafe Victoria since 2001, had been appointed by an independent panel as CEO of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Victoria. Mr Merritt is on leave and will not be returning to WorkSafe. The VTHC OHS Unit thanks Mr Merritt for the support he has given both the VTHC and OHS Reps over the past few years, and wishes him well in his new position.
Safe Towns and Safer Work Zones inspection campaigns begin soonWorkSafe has announced that it will be targeting employers in Seaford, Bacchus Marsh, Heidelberg, Portland, Williamstown, Bayswater and Sale from February to May. WorkSafe has said that no fines will be issued during the campaigns, but will be issuing Improvement and Prohibition Notices where necessary.
WorkSafe Media Release
Useful materialsAll of these are from WorkSafe Victoria
- A handbook for the franchise industry - Managing health and safety in food retail This harmonised handbook was developed by the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) Small Business Network. It was developed with the assistance of the Franchise Council of Australia (FCA).
- Alert - Asbestos lagging used as carpet underlay and pipe lagging This alert was developed in response to it becoming known that some asbestos lagging had in the past been to manufacture carpet underlay.
- Health and Safety Solutions - note: Feb 5 - WorkSafe appears to have removed these from their website
- Hazardous Substance - Health Surveillance Report This form should be used to report any health surveillance for hazardous substance exposure performed under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007.
- Home care – Occupational health and safety compliance kit - The kit describes the seven most common hazardous tasks that cause workplace injuries in the home care sector. It includes seven Health and Safety Solutions to outline ways to control the risks associated with these tasks, and a range of other information to help employers comply with their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. The new materials were developed in consultation with stakeholders, including DHS, Municipal Association of Victoria and the Australian Services Union.
- WorkSafe Positions
WRMC ReportIn December of last year, the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council (WRMC) endorsed for publication the Comparative Performance Monitoring Report [pdf], 11th edition. The report is a comparison of occupational health and safety and workers' compensation schemes in Australia and New Zealand and measures progress against national strategies. The incidence rate of injury and musculoskeletal claims between the base period (2000-01 to 2002-03) and 2007-08 decreased by 18% - but this is significantly slower than the rate required to meet the long-term improvement target of at least 40% set out in the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012. Victoria recorded a 24% improvement – which just meets the required rate.
This and previous reports can be downloaded from the WRMC website.
$500,000 fine for tank cleaning company fatalityAltona North company Depot Vic Pty Limited (formerly Hyde Park Tank Depot Pty Ltd) was convicted and fined $500,000 on December 16 last year over an incident in August 2007 in which a worker was overcome by chemical fumes and died in a large empty tank.
The company, which cleans and repairs storage tanks for the chemical industry, pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and another of failing to properly train and instruct its employees. The WorkSafe investigation of the death revealed the company's training and application of appropriate safety standards were inadequate and that it failed to provide or maintain supervision of workers. Failures included concentration of the chemical methylene chloride at 100,000 ppm (considered to be "acutely lethal" at a concentration of 20,000 parts per million, and "immediately life threatening" at 50,000 ppm); no MSDS for the chemical; no permit system for working in confined spaces; and more.
Read more: WorkSafe media release Feature article Death on the job: Working in tanks on OHS Reps @ Work done at the time of the tragedy, highlighting that the death was preventable and should never have occurred.
Loss of fingers leads to second prosecutionA Victorian labour-hire company, Compass Recruitment Australia Pty Ltd, has been fined $90,000 for failing to ensure a host employer provided safe work procedures or an adequate induction after a worker had three fingers severed by a poorly guarded machine. This was twice as much as the fine imposed on Diamond Valley Pork Pty Ltd, the host employer, in July 2009. The fingers of the worker's right hand were severed while pulling meat away from the out-feed chutes of a poorly guarded machine.
The Magistrates Court found that labour-hire company failed to verify and monitor the suitability of the induction, information, instruction, training and supervision provided by the host employer, and failed to require the host employer to conduct risk and job-safety assessments.
WorkSafe's Acting Executive Director, Stan Krpan, said following the conviction: "Every year thousands of people working under [labour-hire] arrangements are injured and die. It is not enough to just act as a matchmaker. Labour-hire firms must actively engage in the recruitment and placement process and ensure the people they are doing business with meet their respective obligations."
WorkSafe media release WorkSafe Guide for Labour-hire Employers
Another worker loses fingersOnce again a company is found guilty and fined after an incident where a worker lost parts of four fingers on his left hand while operating an unguarded "brake press". The Epping company, Kaleya Engineering Pty. Ltd. (trading as Kaleya Filters) which manufactures commercial air conditioning filters made from aluminium frames and filter media, was fined $40,000 plus costs.
Non-compliance with Notices: Company & director finedL. K Earthmovers Pty Ltd, and its director William Leonard Kenny, have both been found guilty and fined a total of $9000 plus costs for not complying with four Improvement Notices issued in November 2008. Three of the notices related to inadequately guarded quarry machinery, and the fourth related to an extremely dangerous work practice whereby workers were placed at risk of either falling into the jaws of a crusher or falling over the edge of the crusher bin to the ground (a 2.5 metre drop). WorkSafe gave the company a period of three months to comply, and only issued charges after subsequent follow-up attempts were not responded to.
John Holland fined $180,000
The Federal Court has fined John Holland Pty Ltd $180,000 after finding an "entirely foreseeable" communication breakdown lead to a Queensland worker's death.
In May 2008, workers at John Holland's Dalrymple Bay Coal terminal were moving concrete blocks using jinkers (trolleys) pushed by a front-end loader. An operator had to walk ahead of the load and use a remote control to steer the jinkers. The remote did not have a braking mechanism, which meant the operator, who could not be seen by the front-end-loader driver, had to instruct the driver via radio when to stop. At one point the path of the load was obstructed by some wooden scaffolding planks; the operator radioed the driver to stop and he and a co-worker began to clear the planks. The instruction had not been received however, and the load continued to move towards them. In trying to move out of its path, the operator's leg got caught amongst the planks, and despite his co-worker running to signal the driver, the first jinker ran over the operator, fatally injuring him.
In March last year, the CFMEU objected to John Holland Rail's inclusion as a finalist in the Safe Work Australia Awards. The union said, "no contractor should be listed for a safety award when there is a recent fatality on their books, or even on the books of a related company." The company was removed from the awards list prior to the ceremony.
Source: OHS Alert
Another deadly year for journalistsThe International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is demanding more action from governments and the United Nations to protect media workers. The call came as IFJ announced a grim total of 137 journalists and media personnel had been killed during 2009. The number of targeted killings at 113 is one of the highest ever recorded said the IFJ, despite calls by the United Nations for governments to put an end to impunity. The Philippines, Mexico and Somalia are designated the most dangerous countries for journalists.
IFJ news release.
European Commission to tackle 'chemical cocktails'EU environment ministers have asked the European Commission to assess the need for EU legislative action to protect human and animal health from exposure to multiple chemicals. 'Chemical cocktails' refer to the combined effects of chemicals that appear safe in isolation but when absorbed together may carry health risks, such as declining sperm counts, increased rates of cancer in adults and autism in children. People and animals in their infancy are said to be particularly vulnerable to the combined effects of chemicals.
In their last meeting in 2009, EU-27 environment ministers adopted a number of conclusions [pdf] on the combined effects of chemicals. Ministers said that assessments for individual chemicals are not sufficient to evaluate risks and asked the Commission to adapt EU legislation to take into account so-called 'chemical cocktails'.
USA: Poisoned BP workers get $100m payoutA federal jury in Texas has ordered UK-based multinational BP plc to pay US$100 million to 10 workers affected by a 2007 chemical release at its Texas City refinery. BP spokesperson Ronnie Chappell said the company was 'shocked and outraged' by the verdict and would appeal. 'We believe the evidence showed that BP did not cause harm to anyone on April 19, 2007. The verdict, and punitive damages award in particular, is utterly unjustified, improper and unsupportable.' The cases occurred at the same refinery where 15 workers died in a March 2005 explosion, which led to over US$2 billion in compensation payouts and the USA's largest ever safety fine. 'They're like an ostrich with its head in the sand,' said Tony Buzbee, the workers' attorney, of BP. 'They don't understand the meaning of responsibility.' The workers said they were exposed to chemicals while repairing two refining units damaged in a plantwide 2005 shutdown prior to Hurricane Rita's strike on the Texas Coast. They said BP had a poorly maintained workplace and lacked sufficient monitoring to detect toxic chemicals or warn workers of a release. BP countered that the plant did not release a toxic substance, and the company had no control over the 'odour event' that stemmed from another unidentified party's negligence. Tony Buzbee represents another 133 workers suing BP over the chemical release. Originally his clients asked BP for $5,000 each in damages, Buzbee said, but went to trial when BP wouldn't budge from a $500 settlement offer to each worker.
Source: Risks 438 Buzbee Law Firm news release