Issue 190 - SafetyNet Journal 190Welcome to SafetyNet 190 - read about the latest research on shiftwork, WorkSafe's prosecutions and a national Asbestos Summit.. and of course much more. Last week some of our subscribers received the journal multiple times - we apologise (again!). Hopefully we have sorted out the problem!
Activities for repsACTU OHS/Workers' Comp ConferenceSafetyNet has just returned from the annual ACTU OHS & Workers' Compensation Conference, this year held in Canberra (May 26 & 27). Topics covered OHS harmonisation - where we're up to and what next; Workers Compensation - moves to harmonise; Cancer in the workplace; Nanotechnology; Training and more. A range of guest speakers including Senator Kim Car and senior Safe Work Australia and WorkSafe members addressed the gathered union officers. Check out the next edition of SafetyNet for more information.
Asbestos: Advance notice of Summit June 28 & 29
A diverse group of organisations, including unions, the Cancer Council and asbestos interest groups is organising a national Asbestos Summit on Jun 28 & 29 in Sydney, NSW. The summit will be exploring the current state of asbestos exposure, disease levels and regulation in Australia, seeking to identify the gaps and discussing what can be done to address those gaps. More information and details will be provided in the next edition of SafetyNet.
Do you use power tools?
The CFMEU has asked us to encourage users of power tools to fill out a quick online survey which only takes about two minutes to complete. Bosch Blue Power Tools (a CFMEU sponsor) has a commitment to improving safety in Australian worksites – specifically in relation to reducing power tool related injuries. To this end they have created a survey for distribution amongst Australian tradies who use power tools – to establish the true level of power tool related injuries on worksites. Once the results are in, the company is planning a campaign to change dangerous work practices on sites. The survey concludes at the end of June
Guidance on Behavioural Safety
Britain's Trade Union Congress (TUC) has published Guidance for workplace reps on Behavioural Safety. Behavioural safety, or 'behaviour based safety', is the name given to a number of types of programmes that aim to improve safety by changing the behaviour of workers. It is unacceptable because it takes the emphasis off employers reducing hazards at the source and on to individual workers. As the TUC points out, such programs reverse the hierarchy of control, which is mandated by OHS legislation. Employers have a duty to eliminate or control the hazard/risk at source. Programs which seek to 'modify employee behaviour' put undue emphasis on providing PPE or relying solely on training workers. While providing adequate training and supervision is important, the elimination of hazards is critical. TUC's new online guide adds: 'Many behavioural safety programmes also are linked to punishing 'bad' behaviour, such as if a worker has an injury or rewarding 'good behaviour' such as an 'accident free' period.' The VTHC also has a guide for reps. Read more
Question:Are there any regulations covering flooring?
We have concrete floors and management have removed all the old "duck boards" which had some give in them and expect us to walk up and down all night on the bare concrete floors. I have discussed rubber matting, but the manager says they don't look good and we should look at getting new boots and insoles.
While there's nothing specific in regulation (OHS legislation is 'outcome based' and therefore has 'general duties' placed on employers and others, without going into very many specifics, except in some cases, like chemicals), your employer has the general duty of care under Section 21 to provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment, safe systems of work, and so on.
Also, the employer has duties under Sections 35 & 36 to consult with affected workers and their health and safety reps on any proposed changes that may affect the health and safety of employees including changes to the workplace, the plant, substances or other things used at the workplace or the way work is performed.
So, your employer SHOULD have consulted prior to removing the duckboards: by not doing so, he is in breach of S35 & 36.
The duckboards were there for a reason - it's a health and safety hazard to be standing for long periods, and standing on hard, very cold surfaces like concrete, increases the hazard and therefore the risk (Read more: Working Standing Up)
The Compliance Code for Workplace Amenities and Work Environment assists by providing advice on what the employer SHOULD/NEEDS to do to comply with the general duties of the Act. On Floors it says:
142. Employees who are required to undertake static standing work need to be protected from the discomfort and jarring effects of direct contact with concrete, masonry or steel floors.
How to comply
143. The choice of floor surfaces or covering will depend on the type of work undertaken, the materials used during the work process, the likelihood of spillages and the need for washing.
144. Where the nature of the work process permits its use, employers need to ensure that floor insulation is provided at workstations where employees are required to stand on concrete, masonry or steel floors. The insulation may consist of any suitable material such as carpet, cushion-backed vinyl, shock-absorbent underlay, anti-fatigue matting, grates or duckboards.
It is clearly 'practicable' to provide better flooring - it 'not looking good' is not an adequate excuse to not address the hazard at source. Suggesting insoles should be a last resort, as it is trying to control the hazard at the wrong end, that is, at the employee end.
If you have an issue or problem you would like some advice on, then If you have an issue or problem you would like some advice on, then Ask Renata . You'll get an answer within a couple working days.
Are your air-conditioning units properly maintained? Risk of legionnaires' disease
According to the Health Department, there has been a jump in legionnaires' disease cases this year: 34 so far this year, compared with 17 during the same time last year. Legionnaires' disease is a serious and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia caused by the bacteria legionella. Victoria's chief health officer, Doctor John Carnie, has written to businesses and state authorities reminding them of their obligation to properly maintain cooling towers, which can be linked to the bacteria. There are specific requirements under regulations made under the Health Act.
Health and safety reps in buildings with air-conditioning units should request to see the maintenance reports, or ask their employer to get copies of these from the building management company.
Source: ABC Online
Southern Safety Group – for Health and safety reps
The 'Southern Safety Group' is a not-for-profit group holding monthly meetings in Dandenong ( last Monday of the month from 3-4.30pm). A range of topics and guest speakers attend the meetings which are free for members or $5 for non-members. Membership is $25 per year. At the next meeting, 31 May, Peter Sommers from Merck will be presenting on the GHS (the Globally Harmonised System of Classification & Labelling of Chemicals). The venue for meetings of the SSG is 42 Greens Rd, Dandenong. All welcome. More information: The SSG website.
Job in OHS and Risk ManagementWe don't usually do this... but we've been contacted by a large furniture retailer with a large store in Richmond, Victoria, asking us to alert our OHS network that they are looking for an OHS/Risk (Loss Prevention) Manager.Their wish list is that the person should have:
- Previous safety and security experience.
- Exposure to stock control and inventory systems relative to loss prevention
- Understanding of basic accident prevention legal demands
- Fundamentals of fire codes and knowledge of fire fighting
- Computer skills, to a level that ensures capability of achieving loss prevention goals
- Ability to establish and maintain safe environments for visitors and co-workers
- An interest in improving people's safety consciousness
International Anti-Piracy CampaignAn industry-wide coalition of organisations has launched a global e-petition demanding concrete action to end piracy. Designed to persuade all governments to commit the resources needed to end the increasing problem of Somalia-based piracy, the petition is intended to deliver at least half a million signatures to governments by World Maritime Day on 23 September. The petition calls on nations to: dedicate significant resources and wk to find real solutions to the growing piracy problem; take immediate steps to secure the release and safe return of kidnapped seafarers to their families and work within the international community to secure a stable and peaceful future for Somalia and its people. The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has set up specific End Piracy Now pages where visitors can sign the petition, find out more about piracy and read real life case studies.
ITF Media Release
BHP apologises for worker's death
In December 2007 Scott Rigg, 35 died at BHP Billiton's acid plant at their mine in outback South Australia, when a 75-kilogram fibreglass nozzle fell on top of him. The BHP Billiton Olympic Dam Corporation has pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a safe workplace. The Industrial Court heard safety standards were not followed: fibreglass nozzles were not supposed to be lifted out of a humidifier while workers were doing repairs inside it, but the work schedule was changed contrary to safety policy because a crane crew was running late. Mr Rigg died when a nozzle broke and fell during crane operations above him. A lawyer for BHP Billiton read a public apology in court.
Source: ABC online
16% of Australians work shiftworkAccording to the latest ABS statistics, 16 per cent of all Australians (about 1.4 million workers) usually worked shift work in their main job. The male/female ratio is 17 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Of those regularly working shift work, 15 per cent (or more than 200,000) worked a regular night or evening shift. The highest prevalence of shift work for men is in the mining industry, while for women it is the health care and social assistance and accommodation and food services industries. Well over one third of workers (38%) usually work overtime or extra hours.
ABS Media Release and the Working Time Arrangements (cat. no. 6342.0) can be downloaded from the ABS website.
Effects of shiftwork can be reversed
A new study has found that while the effects of shift work on sleep may persist for a long time after giving up shift work, they are not permanent. Shift workers are more likely to suffer from "premature awakening" and other sleep problems than day workers, but the symptoms can be reversed, a new study has found. The study, by French and Welsh researchers, began in 1996, and assessed the work and sleep patterns of more than 3000 workers and retirees born in 1934, 1944, 1954 and 1964. It followed two in three workers up five years later, and a further 40 per cent again in 2006. They found that the main effect of shift work on sleep was premature awakening, followed by difficulty getting back to sleep, and difficulty falling asleep. The researchers said that the sleep problems seemed to be a reversible consequence of shift work rather than a cause of shift work intolerance. The most common sleep problem - premature awaking - eased as a result of giving up shift work, but recovery was a slow process.
The Effects of Age and Shiftwork on Perceived Sleep Problems: Results From the VISAT-Combined Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Study. [abstract] Philip Tucker, et al, Wales, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 52, Issue 4, April 2010.
Blood lead levels tied to nerve diseaseA recent study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, has strengthened evidence linking long-term lead exposure to the risk of developing the fatal neurological condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. A doubling of blood lead levels led to almost a doubling of the chances of developing ALS - even when the investigators accounted for markers of bone breakdown - suggesting that it was not the ALS causing the higher lead levels. Dr Freya Kamel, a staff scientist at the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), said the findings 'tighten up' the evidence that higher lead exposure may contribute to ALS in some people. ALS seems to arises from a combination of genetic susceptibility and certain environmental exposures, Kamel explained. But exactly what those genes or toxic exposures are remains 'very much up in the air,' she said, adding the best evidence on toxic exposures is, so far, for lead exposure. Blood lead levels are generally thought to reflect recent exposure to the metal. But Kamel said that in people with no obvious source of current lead exposure, stored lead released from the bones may be the main driver of blood lead levels - particularly in older adults, whose bone mass may be breaking down faster.
Source: Risks 457
Mobile phones and cancerResults of a 13-nation Interphone study involving more than 5000 cancer cases, the world's biggest study into phone use and cancer, were released last week. Countries participating in the study included Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The study found disturbing but inconclusive evidence of a danger to heavy mobile phone users: adults using mobiles for more than 30 minutes per day had an average 40 per cent increased risk of developing glioma, the commonest type of brain cancer. But the study's authors also said there was no overall increased cancer risk from mobile phone use. While the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) welcomed the release of the study's findings, with some now claiming mobile phones are safe, two Australian experts, neurosurgeon Charlie Teo and Professor Bruce Armstrong, urged caution. Professor Armstrong of the University of Sydney's School of Public Health led the Australian part of the survey. Microwave News, an online publication which has been reporting on the potential health and environmental impacts of electromagnetic fields and radiation for almost 30 years, has a detailed discussion of the study's results.
Commentary: Call me on my mobile phone. . .or better not? - a look at the INTERPHONE study results Rodolfo Saracci and Jonathan Samet, International Journal of Epidemiology, May 2010
Sources: The Australian; WorkplaceOHS
Stressed workers suffer more strainsUS researchers have found that workers who are more stressed and who perceive their workloads to be high are more likely to suffer from postural stress. 80 office workers were required to undertake two typing tasks – one 'low-demand' task of typing a text for ten minutes delivered in a relaxed voice, and the other a 'high-demand' task of proof reading and correcting typographical errors during transcription. The instructions were given in a stern tone, and the workers were informed they were being evaluated for speed and accuracy.
The workers' mood, state, keyboard force and posture alterations were measured. The "high workstyle group" typed significantly more words in both tasks and with greater keyboard force. The high-workstyle employees had more awkward arm posture and suffered greater postural strain than the "low workstyle group" and found the high-demand task more stressful and demanding. In other words, they had higher overall levels of biomechanical and psychological stress.
Workstyle in Office Workers: Ergonomic and Psychological Reactivity to Work Demands [abstract]. Cherise Harrington, and Michael Feuerstein, US, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 52, Issue 4, April 2010.
Inspectors in Victoria's ski fieldsConstruction companies preparing Victoria's snowfields for the upcoming ski season received surprise visits from WorkSafe inspectors last week. Inspectors checked up on construction and maintenance work being carried out on four of Victoria's major snowfields - Mt Buller, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plains and Falls Creek. "The ski season opens in the first week of June – so right now there's a frenzy of construction activity underway to make sure everything is ready," Acting Executive Director for Health and Safety Stan Krpan said. Inspectors issued 14 improvement notices in response to workplace health and safety breaches, and have planned follow up visits to ensure improvements have been made. Issues identified included insufficient fall protection for people working at height, people working without personal protective equipment, faulty machinery and lifting equipment, and lack of training. Inspectors issued a prohibition notice to a company using imported scaffolding, which wasn't constructed in accordance with Australian standards. The company was required to stop using the scaffolding immediately.
WorkSafe Victoria Media Release
Safe Work Australia: latest reports1 - Notified Fatalities Statistical report - July to December 2009 [pdf]
There were 71 work-related fatalities (63 workers and 8 bystanders) reported to work health and safety jurisdictions in the second half of 2009. Five industries accounted for two-thirds (66%) of all notified work-related fatalities - Agriculture, forestry & fishing (21% ) workplace; Construction (15%); Manufacturing (13%); Transport & storage (10%); and Mining (7%).
2 - Mesothelioma in Australia: Incidence 1982 to 2006; Mortality 1997 to 2007 [pdf]
New Cases: There were 579 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in Australia in 2006 – translating to a rate of 2.7 per 100,000 of population. Though this figure is considerably higher than the 156 reported in 1982, the earliest data available, it is a reduction from the figure of 649 new cases reported in 2003. The large majority of new cases involve men: since 1982 accounting for between 80% and 90% of new cases.
Deaths: There were 551 deaths in 2007 attributed to mesothelioma. Data on the number of deaths due to mesothelioma are available for the years 1997 to 2007. The overall number of deaths as a result of mesothelioma generally increased over the period between 1997 and 2007: reaching a maximum of 551 deaths in 2007.
SWA Chair, Mr Tom Phillips said, 'The use of asbestos products has been regulated since the late 1970s, however it is important that we track progress of this disease as we continue to see the effects of asbestos exposure.' The new Australian Mesothelioma Registry, launched last month, should provide a more detailed and accurate source of information on mesothelioma and related asbestos exposure than in the past. The long latency between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis of mesothelioma (of 20 to 40 years), means the incidence of mesothelioma is unlikely to peak until approximately 2017.
SWA Media Release
3 - Occupational Disease Indicators report [pdf]
The report has been published to support the priority of the National OHS Strategy 2002–12 to more effectively prevent occupational disease, indicates that between 2000–01 and 2006–07, five of SWA's eight priority disease groups decreased. These were: musculoskeletal disorders; mental disorders; infectious and parasitic diseases; contact dermatitis; and cardiovascular diseases. The incidence rate of the remaining three priority disease group (noise-induced hearing loss, respiratory diseases and occupational cancers) neither increased nor decreased significantly. In Victoria, however, the rate of noise-induced loss increased, and the rate of musculoskeletal injuries reached a plateau.
Mr Phillips noted the decrease saying that it is important to monitor and observe these changing trends. But he warned, 'There is often under-reporting of occupational diseases through workers' compensation as many diseases have long latency periods, while for other diseases, the link between cause and effect can be difficult to establish. Safe Work Australia is continuing to undertake research on the types of hazards currently found in the workplace that may cause occupational disease and the measures taken to reduce the impact on workers.'
SWA Media Release
- From WorkSafe Victoria: Earthmoving equipment used as a crane on the selection and safe use of earthmoving equipment - such as excavators, backhoes, front-end loaders and other plant that can be used in a similar manner to a mobile crane - to lift and transport freely suspended loads. The guide includes advice on lifting capacity, exclusion zones and approved attachments.
- From SafeWork Australia: National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls in Housing Construction - contains specific guidance for all those who work in this industry, including information for adopting a risk management approach for all work at height in the residential construction sector, as well as detailed guidance when working at two metres and above. The Code will provide guidance to the residential sector of the construction industry until the national Work Health and Safety Act is implemented on 1 January 2012.
- From WorkCover NSW: Safety Alert - Safe use of portable ladders [pdf], after two incidents, one resulting in a fatality, where painters who were working from portable ladders at a height of approximately five metres, fell and suffered serious injuries.
Turkey: Unions necessary to prevent mine disastersRecent deadly accidents in Turkey's coal mines are a direct result of a lack of proper precautions and strong workers' union, according to an expert in the field. Three methane explosions have occurred in three different mines in the last six months, while all three workplaces had no trade union, Fikret Sazak, an expert from the Maden-Is trade union, which organizes among mining sector workers, said in an interview published in Monday's edition of the Milliyet. Almost 50 workers were killed in the three explosions, with many more injured. Sazak, who has been training mine workers for years, said the existence of a trade union in mines would result in regular safety inspections.
Read more: Daily News and Economic Review
China: suicide toll climbing
A Foxconn Technology worker tried to kill himself on Thursday, becoming the 13th person to commit suicide or attempt to do so this year at the massive factory in Shenzhen that makes high-tech products for industry giants such as Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard. Ten workers have killed themselves in Shenzen, and an eleventh at another plant. This behemoth company employs a small army of employees, over 300,000 in its Shenzhen factory alone. Allegations of the management's military style conduct and inhumane treatment of employees was brought to light by two reports from the China Business News earlier this year. Labour groups are saying that the suicides have exposed harsh working conditions, and that the very public form of the suicides suggest they may have a protest element.
Sources: Shenzhen Post; Sydney Morning Herald