Issue 194 - SafetyNet Journal 194Welcome to SafetyNet 194. In the past two weeks, there has been more tragedy in Victoria. But in this edition we also have a competition for subscribers with prizes to some very funny shows.
Industry in crisis: dock fatality sparks national shutdownA 41 yr old father was killed on Wednesday last week on the Appleton Dock in Melbourne. The incident, which is under investigation by WorkSafe, occurred as the worker was rigging a steel drum to a lifting device with a steel beam, similar to a gantry crane. It appears that the hydraulic jacks did not operate in unison, causing the three-tonne steel beam to fall on the worker. This is the third dock fatality this year, the second at POAGS operations and the third at Appleton Dock in 7 years. The Maritime Union of Australia shut down all P&O Automotive and General Stevedoring (POAGS) wharves from midday Wednesday for 24 hours in all 15 ports. 'The industry is in crisis,' said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. 'It's the third fatality on the wharves in five months - and we said last time we lost a worker in March we needed urgent action to overcome the lack of safety on the job.' Mr Crumlin said there was a yawning gap and inadequacies in state and federal safety legislation covering the nation's wharves, especially in bulk and general operations, after years of neglect and deregulation under the Howard Government years. While the Government has supported the formation of a Safe Work Australia (SWA) Stevedoring Temporary Advisory Group (TAG) in May with government, employer, union and Safe Work Australia representatives, the MUA had already called for a strengthening of the current terms of reference of the group before this latest tragedy.
This was the 13th workplace fatality in Victoria this year, and the sixth in Melbourne (another worker lost his life yesterday - see below). In the past 12 months, five Victorian workers have died in incidents where items have fallen on to them.
MUA media release; WorkSafe media release; The Age
Another fatalityWorkSafe inspectors are investigating the 14th workplace fatality of 2010 and the second in eight days, after a 51 year-old man was crushed while carrying out repairs on a 4WD yesterday evening in Dandenong. The incident occurred when the front of the vehicle was on a ramp and the rear jacked up with a hydraulic trolley jack. WorkSafe understands the vehicle dropped and rolled back, crushing the man.
'Given the nature of this kind of repair work, there's always a risk of severe injury or fatality,' Manufacturing and Logistics Director Ross Pilkington said. 'However, there's a number of ways to stay safe while working under a suspended vehicle. If you're using a lifting device, make sure it's suited to the work you're trying to perform. Always put backup measures in place so that if something goes wrong, you'll be safe.
'For example, if you're using a jack to raise a vehicle, put a vehicle stand in place as a backup. Where possible, always use chocks to prevent wheels rolling or moving. Finally, remember to regularly inspect equipment and make sure the safe working load is clearly displayed,' he said.
Ask RenataCan a person vote for themselves in the DWG election for a health and safety representative?
Under the OHS Act, every member of the DWG has a right to nominate for the position of HSR or deputy HSR, and every member has the right to vote. However, the practicality of this may depend on how the DWG members decide to hold the election. If, for example, there are only two nominations, and the DWG decides that they will elect the rep using a simple show of hands, then it can be assumed that each of the people standing for election will vote for themselves, so then it's not necessary for them to actually vote.
If however, the election involves either more than one rep and/or deputy reps, then it's likely that the election process will be a bit more formal, and involve the DWG members filling out a ballot form. In this situation, then everyone should vote, including all the people who are standing for election.
And don't forget: once elected, reps should make sure they register to do the Initial 5 day training course as soon as possible. It's strongly recommended that reps do the course either at their union (if they offer it) or at the VTHC Training Centre. The Centre's new Training Program, with courses now scheduled to the end of March 2011, is now available on the website.
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.
AsbestosNational Asbestos Summit June 28 & 29
The final resolution from the National Asbestos Summit which was held in Sydney last month is now available on the OHS Reps website. The ACTU, CCA and AMWU are in the process of sending a letter to the Prime Minister as per the Summit discussion and agreement.
Master Builders support national asbestos unit
The Master Builders Association has supported the Summit's call for a national asbestos unit, saying it would raise community awareness asbestos and develop a long-term national strategy to deal with the deadly substance. Master Builders' CEO Wilhelm Harnisch said, 'Master Builders agrees with the AMWU and ACTU that a national approach is needed to properly address the legacy of widespread asbestos use in Australia. The projected figures for deaths from asbestos-related diseases are disturbing.' He said the MBA would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with government, unions and other stakeholders to develop an appropriate national strategy for the longer-term management of asbestos in Australia. He cautioned however, that accelerated removal of asbestos from buildings could expose workers involved in the removal, transport and disposal to risks to their health. MBA News item
International investigation: Dangers in the dust
A joint investigation by the BBC and an international consortium of international journalists, Dangers in the dust – Inside the Global Asbestos Trade is now available on the website of The Center for Public Integrity. The site has an overview and articles specifically on Russia, India, Brazil, the United States, Mexico and China. In the overview, Exporting an Epidemic, Jim Morris writes 'A global network of lobby groups has spent nearly $100 million since the mid-1980s to preserve the market for asbestos, a carcinogen now banned or restricted in 52 countries. Scientists say asbestos may cause up to 10 million deaths by 2030, with a mounting toll in the developing world.' Asbestos is banned in the European Union, and now Australia, and though it is still legal in the United States, the industry has paid out $70 billion in damages and litigation costs, and its use is limited to car and aircraft brakes, gaskets and a few other products. Morris says, 'The industry has found new markets in the developing world, however, where demand for cheap building materials is brisk. More than two million metric tons of asbestos were mined worldwide in 2009 — led by Russia, China, and Brazil - mostly to be turned into asbestos cement for corrugated roofing and water pipes. More than half that amount was exported to developing countries like India and Mexico.' Read more Dangers in the dust – Inside the Global Asbestos Trade Website
WA reps won't have the same powersWestern Australia the first jurisdiction to implement the model OHS Act: well, at least a version of the model Act. While the employers are claiming that the differences are 'minor' or 'too few', Unions WA doesn't see it that way.
There appear to be four areas where the WA Act varies from the national model Act:
- While the penalties will increase, they will still be lower than in other states
- health and safety representatives will not be able to issue a cease work in the case of immediate risks to health or safety
- the union right of entry will be dealt with under industrial law
- the reverse burden of proof in discrimination matters will not be introduced.
According to Anne Bellamy, Director Health Safety and Workers Compensation at WA's employer group the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 'Western Australia will adopt the national model legislative package with some minor changes. The provisions in the model Act that are not adopted in WA are not fundamental to improving safety.'
However, reps in Victoria, who have had the right to call a ceasework since the OHS Act was introduced in 1985, know that having the power to do so can save lives. The other differences are also causing unions in WA concern.
Stress Down DayToday, Friday July 23, is Lifeline's Stress Down Day. Each year, Lifeline commissions a survey to find out how stressed people are. This year, 90 per cent of Australians say they are stressed - that is, nine out of every ten Australians are stressed. This is an increase of 3 per cent over last year's results, which is significant. Amanda Wheeler, the CEO of Lifeline, commenting on the results of the survey, said, 'One of the really interesting things is how work is a leading cause of stress,' adding that 74 per cent of people who work finding it stressful and 23 per cent find work very stressful. Like last year, this makes work the main stressor for people who responded to the survey. 'People spend more time in a work environment and the work-life balance isn't what it used to be, going back a couple of decades.'
And yet, what the organisation has provided is advice on how to manage stress - rather than taking the union approach of eliminating or reducing the hazard at source; that is, identifying the work-related stressors and eliminating or controlling them. This is what is required under OHS legislation, and this is what employers and reps should be addressing in workplaces around Australia today. So, while the organisation does a great job assisting people through their 24 hours crisis support service, urging people to 'stress down' and learn how to manage the stress in their lives is really addressing the problem from the wrong end.
Read more on how to address Stress in the Workplace. Lifeline Stress Down Day Website
MoneyHelp: financial counselling, debt advice serviceMoneyHelp is a non-profit service funded by the Victorian Government providing free, confidential and independent financial advice to Victorians facing or experiencing job loss, reduced working hours or mortage/rental stress.
The MoneyHelp service includes:
- a free phone financial counselling service, including interpreter services - 1800 149 689. (Monday-Friday, 9.30am-5.00pm);
- a comprehensive information website
- an Information Brochure including a budget planner to help to take action
Practical information includes: debt payment options; hardship programs, Centrelink entitlements, how to approach creditors; and some handy tips and tools to help sort out money. As well as providing assistance to workers and families, MoneyHelp can also assist community service providers, businesses and industry groups by providing a self-help online tool; promotional materials; and more.
The service's new Industry Liaison Officer is Danielle Archer, who until recently was the Young Unionists Network Officer at the VTHC.
Union again calls for Safe Rates after road toll increasesWith yet another report confirming that economic factors has a direct impact on the massive death toll in the road transport industry, drivers are calling for the urgent implementation of Safe Rates across Australia. Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, said there is often no recourse over conditions or rates of pay, and far too often, the only control over the situation a truck driver has is to make up time and their rate of pay is through unsafe practices.
"The NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre has said that crash rates are up by 25 per cent, and it has also confirmed the industry is 'driven by incentives and continuous pressure that require them to drive faster'," Mr Sheldon said. The union is calling for an independent tribunal. In terms of regulations, a fatigue in long haul trucking policy proposal is currently being discussed as part of the harmonisation of OHS regulation at the Strategic Issues Group (SIG).
TWU Media release
Union bans slings at desal plantThe CFEMU has put a ban on the use of 'soft slings' at South Australia's desalination construction site after a 35-year-old worker was crushed to death and another injured on July 16. The soft sling being used on a crane broke while lifting a large steel beam, which fell on the men. According to the CFMEU the company was using slings instead of chains to avoid scratching the beams, avoiding the need for any rework and cutting costs. The use of chains is standard practice, and the union and workers are right to be angry when standard practice appears to have been sacrificed for cost savings. SafeWork SA is investigating the incident.
Source: CFMEU Media release Read a discussion on the incident on SafetyAtWork Blog: Root cause is always found in decisions, not things
Friends of the Earth nanotech jobReminder: NGO and active campaigner on nanotech, Friends of the Earth, has a job going for someone with a keen interest in the politics of science and technology to work for precautionary management of nanotechnology's environment, health and social challenges. This role is focussed on alliance building and outreach, communications, policy work and volunteer management. Key goals are to raise the profile of nanotechnology issues within civil society and to help create opportunities for growth of the Nanotechnology Project. Confidence to engage critically with the technical and political dimensions of science and technology issues is essential.
More information on the position, the full selection criteria and how to apply [pdf] Applications close Friday 6 August 2010.
Exhaustion trebles work death riskWork-related exhaustion can be deadly for industrial workers, a new Finnish study has concluded. Researchers found industrial employees who are under 45 years of age were almost three times as likely to die as other workers. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) scientists said their findings indicate there is an urgent need for action to prevent work-related exhaustion among younger employees. The study of 7,000 forestry workers did not find a similar early death association for older workers. Among the mildly or seriously exhausted younger worker, the most common causes of death were tumour (34 per cent), accident (26 per cent), suicide (26 per cent) and coronary decease (22 per cent). The study recommended that work-related exhaustion can be prevented by improving general working conditions and ensuring workloads are not excessive.
Trade Union News from Finland. Burnout as a predictor of all-cause mortality among industrial employees: A 10-year prospective register-linkage study, Journal of Psychosomatic Research volume 69, issue 1, pages 51-57, July 2010 [abstract]. Source: Risks
Bladder cancer and paintersThe International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified occupational exposure as a painter as 'carcinogenic to humans', based mainly on increased risks of bladder and lung cancer. A meta-analysis, including more than 2900 incident cases or deaths from bladder cancer among painters reported in 41 cohort, record linkage and case–control studies, was conducted by researchers in IARC's Monograph Section to compare the results of the different study designs and the potential confounding effect of smoking as well as other occupational exposures. The summary relative risk for bladder cancer in painters was 1.25 overall and 1.28 when including only smoking adjusted risk estimates. The elevated risk persisted when restricted to studies that adjusted for other occupational exposures. According to the authors, the results "remained robust" when stratified by study design, gender and study location. In addition, their analyses suggested that the risk increased with duration of employment. The authors concluded that the results support the IARC position that occupational exposures in painters are causally associated with the risk of bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer risk in painters: a meta-analysis Neela Guha, et al, Occup Environ Med 2010;67:568-573 doi:10.1136/oem.2009.051565
National OHS reform infoWorkSafe Victoria has launched an area on its website dedicated to national health and safety reform. While It will evolve over time, it currently includes the background of the national model laws and some FAQs.
National OHS Reform webpage
The SafeWork Strategic Issues Group (SIG) is meeting next week to do further work on the draft model regulations, including Noise, Manual Tasks, Hazardous substances, and confined spaces. It will also be considering fatigue in long-haul trucking and a proposed stevedoring technical advisory group.
The SIG has a lot of work ahead of the scheduled release of the model regs and codes for public comment in October this year, and will meet again on July 29 & 30.
Targetting Melton small businessesWorkSafe Victoria is urging small businesses in Melton to carry out safety checks in advance of inspector visits next month. Small businesses in Melton will be targeted between 2-6 August as part of WorkSafe's Safer Work Zones campaign, which focuses on small business safety.
WorkSafe Media Release
Useful MaterialsFrom WorkSafe Victoria:
A new Guidance note Unpacking shipping containers - for employers, workers, importers, labour hire companies and container freight station operators involved in unpacking shipping containers, to assist to develop safe work practices.
Two new Injury Hotspots: Young workers in warehousing and storage and The Horse racing industry. The Hotspots pinpoint where and how people get hurt in these industries and provide practical solutions. These and all the other Hotspots are available from this page of the WorkSafe website.
From WorkSafe WA Two safety alerts
One on forklifts [pdf] after a worker was struck by a carriage - which fell from a forklift's tines - and sustained multiple injuries.
The second after finding that many employers in the powder coating industry were using hazardous powders without understanding the related health issues or control measures. TGIC Usage in Powder Coating [pdf]
From: WorkCover NSWThe Come Home Safely Kit has been translated into 14 different languages (Arabic, Cantonese, Dinka, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Mandarin, Sinhalese, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese) and provides information for workers on how to identify workplace hazards, reduce risks and prevent injuries.
And WorkCover NSW has reminded employers of the dangers of flammable liquids after a workers sustained burns to 40 per cent of his body while decanting a flammable liquid when a spill ignited. NSW media release
WorkSafe Victoria's amended prosecution guidelinesWorkSafe's general prosecution guidelines set out WorkSafe's criteria for and approach to all prosecutorial decisions and are issued pursuant to WorkSafe's statutory obligations under the legislation it administers. The newly amended guidelines can be downloaded from the WorkSafe website
Cold storage giant fined $60,000 for forklift failingsCold Storage Pty Ltd - part of the global Swire Group which includes Cathay Pacific and Swire Pacific –has been found guilty and fined total of $60,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. The prosecution related to a March 2008 incident at the company's Clayton-based warehouse, when a forklift was driven into the path of a worker operating a pallet mover. The worker was struck in the left leg by the slip sheet attachment on the forklift, and suffered breaks to both bones in his lower left leg above the ankle, and an open wound.
'The inspector who attended the scene noticed straight away that although there were marked walkways for pedestrians, they weren't being used, WorkSafe's Manufacturing and Logistics Director Ross Pilkington said. 'Forklifts and other mobile plant were actually being driven through the walkways - putting workers and others at risk of serious injury, or even death.'
Following the incident, WorkSafe issued prohibition notices preventing the use of the plant involved in the incident until it was made safe; and an improvement notice which required the workplace to put a system in place to separate mobile plant from pedestrians and other mobile plant.
The prosecution has led WorkSafe to again call on employers to take action to separate people and forklifts. 'Despite years of communicating the message that people and forklifts don't mix, workplace behaviour does not reflect the fact that these machines will seriously hurt or kill if they hit someone – regardless of the speed at which they travel,' Mr Pilkington said. Workplaces need to go beyond drawing lines on the ground, and physically separate people from forklift operations.'
Source: WorkSafe Media Release