Issue 192 - SafetyNet Journal 192Welcome to the 192nd edition of SafetyNet - the Victorian Trades Hall fortnightly OHS e-journal. Read items on security in the transport industry, work stress and heart attacks, and the latest news from our regulators.
Australian workers stressed when colleagues on leaveAccording to Randstad's Q2 Workmonitor report, over half of Australian workers become stressed and believe they have to work harder when colleagues take leave. And 65 per cent of workers believe their workload has increased in the past three months. 'Results show that organisations often don't plan adequately for employee leave, sending shockwaves of stress through an organisation particularly when business starts to pick up,' said Deb Loveridge, CEO of Randstad. 'Increasing workloads, lack of resources and stress as a result of having a colleague away for a week or so can have a serious impact on the health and wellbeing of fellow employees, and consequently result in lower morale and reduced productivity levels, especially within small businesses.' In addition, the report found that many Australians do not actually 'leave' their job even when 'on leave', with 39 per cent continuing to receive calls/emails. Overall, however, 'a majority of 70% succeeds well in keeping a balance between their work and private life. A similar % is also satisfied with the holiday allowance and the number of days they are able to enjoy each year.' The Randstad report is published four times per year, and surveys workers in 25 countries.
A summary of the Randstad Work Monitor, with a 'snapshot' of each surveyed country, can be downloaded from the Randstad website.
Women workers win paid maternity leaveAustralian working mothers will have better health and financial security after the historic passage through parliament of the first national paid parental leave scheme on June 17. ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the passing of the Bill by the Senate was the culmination of a 30-year campaign by working women and their unions. She said the Labor Government's 18-week scheme would be great for families and great for the economy by encouraging a higher participation rate of women in their most productive working years.
A new national standard that gives all women the right to take a period of paid leave will also be a major benefit to maternal and child health and development, she said. At the time Ms Burrow said, 'This is a truly great achievement for working women and the Rudd Government should be congratulated. It makes me immensely proud to be part of the Australian labour movement when we are able to deliver such important advances in working people's rights.'
"It is long overdue. Two-thirds of Australian women who have a baby currently get no paid parental leave. Parents have been forced to make a choice between having a child and paying the bills
The scheme will commence in 2011. It is to be publicly funded, and will provide the federal minimum wage (currently A$543.78 a week) rather than a percentage of the primary caregiver's salary. It will not be available to families where the primary caregiver has an annual salary above $150,000.
ACTU Media Release
And from the ILO: Questions and answers maternity at work
Maternity protection has been a primary concern of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since its creation, in 1919, when the first International Labour Conference adopted the first Maternity Protection Convention No. 3. A new publication on the state of maternity protection in the world ( Maternity at work) has just been released by the ILO. It sheds light on the progress made in the past 15 years in respect of the legal protection of key aspects of maternity protection at work. Read an interview with Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Employment Programme, about achievements made and persisting challenges for maternity protection, including the impact of the current economic and employment crises.
Ask RenataWhen is the VTHC OHS Reps' conference this year? Is there still going to be one?
The VTHC OHS Reps' conference will once again be held during Victoria's OHS Week, in October. The date is Wednesday October 27, and it's again going to be at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at South Wharf. It's going to be a bumper event as we will be celebrating a special anniversary: it was 25 years ago that Victorian workers won the right to elect health and safety representatives and so it's been 25 years that we've had reps with rights and powers in our workplaces.
Make sure you register to come (elected reps have the right to attend on paid leave under S69 of the Act but deputies and members of OHS Committees are also welcome). SafetyNet will have details of how to register closer to the date – because it's likely that this will be the second last time we will be able to hold such a fabulous event: the new nationally harmonised Act means this might not be a possibility after next year.
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 at the latest.
Woman dies from falling tree limbA female worker was fatally struck by a falling tree limb at a Woori Yallock vineyard last Thursday morning. The 42 year-old sub-contractor had been working on the vineyard rows before running towards a lean-to shed with other workers, to seek shelter from the severe weather. She was running under a line of trees separating vineyard rows when a large branch fell on her, causing fatal head injuries. The worker had only been in Australia for six weeks. 'Trees can drop branches at any time - particularly after being weakened by droughts or bushfires,' WorkSafe's Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Director Ross Pilkington said. 'Severe weather obviously increases risks for people working near trees – which is clearly what we've seen today. All we can do is ask employers to be aware of weather warnings, and where possible, keep a safe distance between trees and where people are working. Don't expose workers to possible injury or worse,' he said. WorkSafe had issued a warning for builders the day before when severe wind was forecast, to ensure construction work was properly secured. Weather conditions increased the risk that inadequately built structures and inadequately secured and braced scaffolds and walls could collapse, putting building workers and members of the public at risk.
Source: WorkSafe Media release
ACTU OHS and Workers Compensation ConferenceSpeeches and presentations from the ACTU OHS and Workers Compensation conference held in Canberra on May 26 & 27 are now available to download from the ACTU website. These include: kNOw Cancer In the Workplace; The Roles of HoWSA, HoWCA and SWA, OHS Model Laws & Regulations and Senator the Hon Kim Carr's speech on nanotechnology.
Asbestos NewsQueensland: Audit reveals students and teachers exposure to asbestos
An independent audit and review recently completed in Queensland have found that due to negligence and significant flaws in enforcement, students and teachers are continuing to be exposed to asbestos.
Auditor John Gaskin has criticised the State Government for not enforcing its asbestos policies and procedures, and has made 13 recommendations, including training for principals and volunteers, a compliance regime for contractors, and a schools incident management plan.
The findings follow recent serious incidents at three schools in the Mackay region and one in Indooroopilly, including an instance where high school students were forced to shower in their uniforms after a ceiling containing asbestos collapsed.
Source: Courier Mail
AMWU seeking information from Garden Island workers
Final call for information: The AMWU wants to speak to people who worked at Garden Island Dockyard (Sydney) between 1970 and 1998 and who may be able to assist Turner Freeman Lawyers, which is acting on behalf of a woman who believes she developed mesothelioma from washing the work clothes of several family members who worked at the dockyard. Read more
TWU on safetyUnion seeks roundtable on security
The Transport Workers Union is calling for Safe Work Australia and appropriate state OHS authorities, Cash in Transit (CiT) companies, employees and security and safety experts to come together to discuss measures for increased safety in the industry. Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, said he would be requesting the deputy prime minister to convene the meeting through Fair Work Australia. The call was prompted after Chubb security guard Gary Allibon was shot dead during a recent robbery in Sydney. Included in the discussions will be the issue of whether security guards should wear bullet-proof vests.
TWU Media Release
TWU truck convoy
On another safety issue, the TWU organised a truck convoy to Canberra last Sunday June 20 scheduled to coincide with the latest Safe Rates Advisory Group meeting - attended by now Prime Minister Julia Gillard and industry stakeholders. The union called on the Federal Government to urgently implement Safe Rates immediately. The convoy included over 500 trucks. The union said that over 430 people died in 18 months in truck crashes on Australian roads, while deaths in the transport sector make up 25% of all workplace deaths. TWU NSW state secretary Wayne Forno said, 'We call for change now - for safe rates of pay in road transport to be legislated federally and enforced throughout the supply chain: from the head of the chain of responsibility - eg large corporate client - to the end of the supply chain where multiple levels of contracting out at lowest cost with no safe rate lead to truck drivers being pushed to their limits, 'dying to earn a living' and unsafe roads for everybody. Safe rates must be legislated urgently - for the sake of the whole community. This will make the road safer for everybody.'
The Safe Rates Advisory Group discussed the options for a national approach to truck drivers' pay and conditions to improve their safety, and will release a draft options paper setting out practical options for covering trucking employees and independent contractors in the transport industry, to address the impact of payment rates and safety methods. The issue of concern is that current pay and conditions methods can result in drivers working excessive hours to meet schedules, overloading their trucks and cutting back on vehicle maintenance. There will be a six week consultation period after the paper's release in early July.
TWU Media Release
Legionnaires' disease cases still increasingWe raised the alert in the last edition of SafetyNet that there have already been an alarming number of legionnaires' disease cases recorded this year. The number has now increased to 40, three resulting in death. The state's chief health officer Dr John Carnie has written to 4,000 businesses and authorities warning them that cooling towers must be properly maintained. Read more about the disease and what needs to be done.
UK: OHS review ignores injury risks faced by workersThe UK's Trade Union Congress last week expressed concern regarding the review to OHS legislation announced by the newly elected conservative government. The review will 'investigate concerns over the application and perception of health and safety legislation, together with the rise of the compensation culture over the last decade'. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'This will not be an open and frank review aimed at achieving better regulation. Instead it is an attempt to undermine the already limited protection that workers have by focusing on the needs of business. We are also surprised the Government is addressing the 'compensation culture' again as successive reports show there is no such thing and claims have been falling over the past ten years.' He added, 'Rather than focusing solely on the 'needs of business', the Government should protect workers by increasing inspections and enforcement action against employers who put their staff at risk by ignoring existing laws, as well as introducing a legal duty on directors to protect their workers.'
TUC Media Release
101 Trade Unionists Murdered in 2009There has been a dramatic increase in the number of trade unionists murdered: 101 unionists were murdered in 2009 - up 30 per cent over the previous year. The latest Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights, published last week by global union confederation ITUC, also reveals growing pressure on fundamental workers' rights around the world due to the impact of the global economic crisis on employment. Of the 101 trades unionists murdered, 48 were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 12 in Honduras, six in Mexico, six in Bangladesh, four in Brazil, three in the Dominican Republic, three in the Philippines, one in India, one in Iraq and one in Nigeria. Colombia has for years been the most dangerous country in the world to be a unionist: twenty-two of the unionists killed there were senior trade union leaders and five were women. The rise in violence in Guatemala and Honduras also followed a trend developing in recent years. A further ten attempted murders and 35 serious death threats were recorded, again mostly in Colombia and Guatemala. Furthermore, many trade unionists remained in prison and were joined by around hundred newly imprisoned in 2009. ITUC general secretary Guy Ryder commented: 'This year's ITUC survey shows that the majority of the world's workers still lack effective protection of their rights to organise trade unions and bargain collectively. This is a major factor in the long-term increase in economic inequality within and between countries. Inadequate incomes for much of the world's workforce helped cause the global economic crisis, and is making it much harder to put the economy on a path of sustainable growth.'
ITUC news release The survey, video and multimedia resources can be accessed and downloaded from this ITUC page. Source: Risks
England: Fewer heart attacks in after smoking banThere were 1,200 fewer hospital admissions for heart attacks in England in the year after July 2007, when the smoking ban came in, according to a major study. The Bath University team analysed English hospital admissions between 2002 and 2009. The study, commissioned by the Department of Health and published in the British Medical Journal, is the largest to date on the effects of smoke-free legislation anywhere in the world. First author of the latest paper, Dr Michelle Sims, said: 'After the implementation of smokefree legislation there was a statistically significant drop of 2.4 per cent in the number of emergency admissions for myocardial infarction. This implies that just over 1,200 emergency admissions for myocardial infarction were prevented over a 12 month period.' This was much more modest than that reported in some areas where similar bans have been introduced (eg a 17 per cent decrease in heart attack admissions in Scotland).The fall recorded in England was an important one, said co-author Dr Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group. 'Given the large number of heart attack attacks in this country each year, even a relatively small reduction has important public health benefits,' she said.
Michelle Sims and others. Short term impact of smoke-free legislation in England: retrospective analysis of hospital admissions for myocardial infarction, BMJ Online first, June 2010.
Source: Risks 460
Campaign to target Victorian farmsWorkSafe Victoria has announced it will be targeting Victorian farms over the next year in a statewide operation to reduce the high number of deaths and injuries. The campaign, beginning 1 July, will target the most common causes of death and serious injury on farms, including tractor safety; machinery maintenance; quad bikes; training and supervision; and the use of machinery for its intended purpose.
As part of the campaign, WorkSafe will issue Improvement and Prohibition Notices requiring safety improvement work to be carried out, or which prevent work if there is an immediate risk to someone's health and safety.
Seven of the 12 work-related deaths reported to WorkSafe since 1 January have happened on farms, and there have been 25 work-related deaths on Victorian farms since the start of 2005. Apart from the high death toll, WorkSafe figures show that there are at least 500 serious injuries every year on Victorian farms, but since most farmers are self-employed, the number of injuries to those outside of the workers compensation system is not known. Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Machine related injuriesWorkSafe has highlighted the high number of injuries occurring during installation, maintenance and repair of machinery and equipment, saying that even though employees involved in such work make up about 25 per cent of workers in the manufacturing, they account for nearly 60 per cent of machinery and equipment-related workplace injury claims.
WorkSafe wants to reduce this toll and is holding a free workshop on July 6 from 8.30am-3pm at the Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre, Cnr Bell Street & St Georges Rd, Preston. This is an opportunity to have your say and influence WorkSafe's approach to the issue. To secure your place, register via email, by Wednesday 30 June. For further information, contact Alex Buckle on (03) 8663 5023.
More information [downloads as document]
NSW steps up fight against bullyingWorkCover NSW is stepping up the fight against workplace bullying with a new nine-month awareness campaign launched by the Minister for Finance Michael Daley last week. Over the past two years WorkCover NSW has investigated 1,165 complaints relating to workplace bullying and its data indicates there have been 2,400 workers compensation claims made for workplace bullying costing more than $60 million during this time period. The campaign, targeting the retail, hospitality, manufacturing, health and education sectors, will consist of workplace advisory and compliance visits, public workshops and partnerships with industry bodies.
Ministerial Media Release [pdf]
Comcare Self-insurer licences renewedIn unfortunate news for many workers, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission last week renewed licences for several national corporations covered by the Comcare scheme. Border Express Pty Ltd, Australian Postal Corporation, TNT Australia Pty Ltd and Transpacific Industries Pty Ltd had their licences renewed for a four-year period – meaning that these corporations remain under Comcare for OHS purposes as well.
In granting the licence renewal for Australia Post, the Commission reserved the right to reconsider its decision if necessary in light of the current Senate Committee inquiry about the employer's return-to-work system, which is due to report soon. With regard to Transpacific Industries, Peter Henneken, chair of the SRCC, said the Commission has put in place arrangements to encourage a significant improvement in their injury prevention performance.
SafeWork Australia nanotech research reportsTwo research reports on engineered nanomaterials were published last week as part of the Nanotechnology Work Health and Safety Program, which is managed by Safe Work Australia. Toxikos Pty Ltd completed research into information provision for An Evaluation of MSDS and Labels associated with the Use of Engineered Nanomaterials. 50 Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) and 15 labels for products containing engineered nanomaterials were evaluated. Key findings in the report include:
- Most of the 50 MSDSs did not provide sufficient information to inform a work health and safety risk assessment for nanomaterials contained in the product.
- All MSDSs evaluated for carbon nanotubes described them as hazardous substances, but nearly all of the MSDSs described the hazards of carbon nanotubes to be equivalent to that of graphite – which does not align with current knowledge on their more serious potential health effects.
- Exposure standards presented on most MSDSs are those for the bulk form of the material, with no qualification about its relevance or application to nano-sized materials.
- Though most of the labels examined included the term nano within the product name or product description, they simply reflected the content as presented on the MSDSs including the inadequacies in relation to hazard classification.
- The labels did not contain additional cautionary notes regarding the suspected hazards of engineered nanomaterials.
The second report, done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is Developing Workplace Detection and Measurement Techniques for Carbon Nanotubes. This report investigates possible approaches for detecting airborne particles that are formed as a result of emissions from carbon nanotubes.
Safe Work Australia Chair, Mr Tom Phillips said that the findings of these reports will be used to inform the revisions of the model Codes of Practice for MSDS and labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals: 'This research will aid Safe Work Australia's development of the model work health and safety laws, including model work health and safety Regulations and model Codes of Practice, to be released later this year for public comment.'
The findings support the serious concerns expressed by unions: while the use of engineered nanomaterials is increasing at an alarming rate, neither employers nor workers can rely on MSDS to give them the correct information to ensure that adequate control measures are implemented.
Regulator considering future of EndosulfanAustralia's regulator of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, the APVMA, is reviewing studies on the insecticide Endosulfan, which has now been banned in the United States because it poses an unacceptable risk to farm workers and wildlife. In fact, Endosulfans are banned in more than 60 countries, but in Australia they are still used on a number of vegetable, fruit and nut crops. Nick Heath from the World Wildlife Fund says Australia should ban the chemical. In response, the APVMA states: 'is not aware of any current evidence suggesting a similar occupational health and safety risk to Australian farm workers. Tight controls placed on endosulfan in Australia in 2005 addressed this risk. Recent advice from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing has confirmed that these controls adequately protect human health.' The review of studies should be complete within the next two weeks.
Source: ABC Online APVMA Media release
Useful MaterialsThe Parliamentary Library has published a 36-year chronology on the process of harmonising Australia's workplace safety and workers' compensation systems.
Second conviction for reckless endangermentWorkSafe this week announced that a company had become the only the second in Victoria to be convicted for recklessly endangering the health and safety of its workers. Breakwater-based printing company Express Promotions was convicted in the Geelong Magistrates' Court and fined a total of $280,000. 'The Court was told that company management didn't just fail to identify the risks – they actually knew workers were in danger, but didn't step in to adequately protect them,' WorkSafe's Executive Director for Health and Safety Cath Bowtell said. The conviction related to a July 2008 incident where a 37 year-old printer had three fingers on his left hand crushed after it became trapped between the rollers of an inadequately guarded printing press.
Apparently it was common practice for workers to bypass the guarding on the printing press in order to operate and clean it. Workers had never seen any written instructions on how to safely operate or clean the press. While company management had emailed staff, telling them not to override guarding, there was nothing in place to make sure these instructions were enforced. Ms Bowtell said, 'This wasn't just a one-off issue – employees had bypassed guarding on the press for years, often to meet production pressures. Other than sending an email to all staff, the company did nothing to stamp out this behaviour.'
This first successful prosecution for reckless endangerment was that of Orbit Drilling in April this year.
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Europe: EU-OSHA newsStrain injuries most common occupational disease
A new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has concluded that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) remain the most common occupational disease in the European Union and workers in all sectors and occupations can be affected. The situation mirrors that in Australia. The findings, following on from the Agency's previous research, include 'a detailed insight into the causes and circumstances behind MSDs,' says EU-OSHA. 'The report highlights the main issues and aims to provide a well-founded evidence base, helping policy makers, actors at enterprise and sector level, as well as researchers and those who record, prevent and compensate occupational diseases in the European Union to set the agenda for the next years.'
Source: Risks 461; OSH in figures: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the EU - Facts and figures.
Spending on OHS an investment, not a cost
EU-OSHA's 2009 Annual Report emphasises the long-term value of workplace health and safety in difficult economic times, and encourages employers to find alternatives to redundancy. The Director of EU-OSHA, Jukka Takala, said. 'Spending on workplace health and safety should be seen as an investment and not a cost'. The report warned against organisations 'abandoning long term benefits for short term gains, by reducing their health and safety budgets in difficult times. With 80% of European managers reporting workplace accidents as the main concern, we cannot afford to make cuts in workplace health and safety.' Highlights of EU-OSHA's work in 2009 include the ESENER survey, the Risk Assessment campaign and the European photo competition.
Media Release and Summary of report (in various languages)
India: Ministers demand better compensation for victims of BhopalIndian government ministers this week delivered a report which has recommended increased compensation for thousands of victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. They met following widespread anger over the light sentences received by seven former employees of American company Union Carbide, which was responsible for the disaster. The ministers are also calling for the extradition from the US of the former head of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson.
The 1984 Bhopal disaster was the world's worst industrial accident. More than 3,000 people were killed by the gas leak and up to 15,000 more died of subsequent illnesses. The government has been under pressure from survivors who are still seeking help more than 25 years after the disaster.
California proposes regs to rid consumer products of the riskiest chemicalsCalifornia regulators this week proposed regulations that would force manufacturers and importers to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in everyday consumer products. California's proposal would be the most ambitious program in the nation to regulate toxic substances and encourage greener alternatives. Driven by revelations of lead in children's toys and jewellery, hormone-mimicking chemicals in plastic baby bottles and controversial flame-retardants in furniture, state officials drafted a set of rules aimed at products with chemicals that have been linked to illness or abnormal development. Maziar Movassaghi, acting director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, said, 'We want to capture the products most prevalent in the society that contain chemicals that are very toxic.' He added, 'They're under our kitchen sinks, in our children's closets and in our bathrooms. We don't want California to become the dumping ground of products that can't be sold in Europe or Canada or Japan.'
Read more: Environmental Health News
Colombian coal mine explosionThe latest toll from a fierce explosion in the underground shafts of a coal mine near Colombia's capital Medellin last Thursday night has now reached 73 - recovered after many days of rescue and recovery efforts. Not all miners have been recovered, as there may have been 80 in the mine at the time. Two injured miners had been able to escape. The explosion occurred during the night shift-change. The explosion, apparently due to an accumulation of gas, occurred in the San Fernando mine in northwestern town of Amaga June 16, when the miners were working in a tunnel at the depth of 2,600 metre. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who met with the families of the trapped miners last weekend, ordered an investigation into the incident.
Source: Sify news