Issue 195 - SafetyNet Journal 195Welcome to SafetyNet 195 - news from Australia and around the world.
PM lists harmonisation as achievementOHS got a rare national airing during the Leaders' debate on Sunday July 25, when PM Julia Gillard, when asked for an example of 'standing against the mob' during her time in government, nominated the harmonisation of Australia's OHS laws. She said doing it 'took courage'. 'Businesses have been complaining for 30 years that they have different obligations in different states and at the same time not every individual worker had the same safety standards,' the PM said, 'Now, I have delivered that.' Ms Gillard added that although getting it done wasn't easy, believing in something passionately meant 'you will work through.'
At the time of the debate, the Opposition had not yet announced its position on OHS.
Ask RenataWe have a situation in my workplace: It has been over a month since any of us has had any meaningful manufacturing work to do. Despite management promises of no redundancies, this is having a profound effect on morale. I was wondering - do you have any information on stress related to under-employment?
Your situation sounds dreadful. Under-employment or meaningless employment is a well known and recognised stressor, as is job insecurity - see our information on stress. The WorkSafe guide Preventing work-related stress for employees in the private sector also makes it clear that work 'underload' is a stress factor.
The employer's general duty of care under S21 is to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, and the Act is now clear that this also includes psychological health. Therefore, this is a legitimate issue to raise with your employer/employer representative, with a view to improving the situation and reducing the risk the current arrangements/situation is posing for workers. If the employer does not respond, or is not prepared to do anything, then it's a legitimate issue on which to issue a PIN.
It will help if you can consult with members of your DWG prior to taking it up with management, and have some suggestions with regard to what can be done. There may be work that they have identified can be done, there may also be other possibilities (for example, some employers now pay for their workers to do regular volunteer work with recognised organisations; or there could be courses that people can take which are either work-related, thereby up-skilling them, a benefit to both the employer and the worker, or ... )
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.
Bullying and harassment hits papers againTwo female air-traffic controllers, who have allegedly been the victims of extreme bullying for five years are suing their employer for more than $2 million. The women are seeking damages from the Government-owned Airservices Australia for loss of current and future earnings and the loss of their chosen career. They claim the workplace was extremely hostile to pregnant women and mothers: the bullying and discrimination they claim they suffered included being refused access to training and professional development, being abused and belittled for being pregnant, being told that part-time employment was not welcome, the spreading of false allegations and being exposed to pornography distributed by management. The claim has been lodged in the Federal Court by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.
Sources: The Age The Herald Sun Read more on Bullying and Harassment
Australians' work/life balance worseningThe ACTU says a new national approach by businesses and governments is needed to improve work-family balance for employees. The Work and Life Index 2010 released this week shows the quality of family life for more than two million Australian workers is getting worse. The report shows the proportion of full time workers reporting dissatisfaction with their work and family balance has increased. Working women are the most unhappy with one in four saying they are dissatisfied and Gen X males (those aged 29 to 49) have the longest working hours and worst work-life balance compared to other men.
In launching the report, ACTU president Ged Kearney said working Australians are under too much pressure at work and families are suffering as a result. 'The pressure of work, casualisation and a lack of job security means workers are under enormous stress and their families are suffering,' she said. 'It's getting harder, not easier for working people and this is having a negative effect on children, our families and the whole Australian community.'
Ged added that the report was a timely reminder: 'In this election it is important to also remember that the Coalition has a terrible track record on supporting working families. The former Howard Government's WorkChoices took away the right of parents to request flexible work arrangements and undermined family-friendly award conditions such as penalty rates for weekend work, overtime and public holiday pay. Labor's new Fair Work IR laws have only been in operation a year. They have restored the right for employees to request family-flexible arrangements and provide a solid basis for further improvements in awards and national employment standards to help working families.'
How much should we work? Working hours, holidays and working life: the participation challenge, The Australian Work and Life Index 2010, [pdf] Barbara Pocock, Natalie Skinner and Sandra Pisaniello, Centre for Work + Life, University of South Australia, August 2010 ACTU Media Release
Ford urged to join asbestos registerLabour law firm Slater & Gordon, has urged Ford Geelong to lodge their details on the firm's asbestos register after a number of ex-employees developed an asbestos-related disease. Slater & Gordon asbestos lawyer Tracy Madden said the employees had worked at Ford in Geelong in a variety of professions including on the production line and in maintenance. She said the firm was presently investigating whether a female ex-employee had been exposed to deadly asbestos fibres at the factory. 'We would encourage anyone who worked with the company in Geelong to put their names and details onto our asbestos register.'
Read more: Slater & Gordon media release [pdf] More information on Asbestos
Another mine deathThe death of a worker at a mine site on the West Australian Goldfields yesterday has angered the Australian Workers Union. The worker was injured when he fell more than 15 metres down a shaft at Norseman Gold, south of Kalgoorlie and died on the way to hospital.
Australian Workers Union spokesman Paul Asplin says the mine site has been the subject of numerous safety complaints. 'Any death in the mining industry today is just one too many,' he said. 'This mine has been the subject of many complaints with not only to this union, but we've referred these matters through to parliament.'
The death is being investigated by police, Worksafe and the Department of Mines and Petroleum.
Source: ABC Online
NSW worker killed by forkliftThough this fatality occurred in NSW, the hazards, forklifts and poor traffic management procedures, are present in many Victorian workplaces. WorkCover NSW is currently investigating the incident, which occurred two weeks ago, in which a 69-year-old plumbing contractor was struck while walking along a road between buildings at a south coast paper mill. It seems the driver's view was restricted due to the load being carried. Reps in similar workplaces continually raise the hazards related to forklifts.
WorkCover OHS general manager, John Watson, said that forklifts and other mobile plant always have the potential to put workers and others at risk. 'Effective traffic management procedures must be in place where forklifts are in operation, including zones to separate pedestrians and forklifts during loading and unloading,' he said, adding that drivers must travel at safe speeds and have a clear view.
NSW WorkCover Media Release Read more on Forklift Safety
MoneyHelp: reminderWe alerted readers to MoneyHelp in the last SafetyNet - Reps might consider putting up a flyer letting their fellow workers know about this new service: a non-profit service funded by the Victorian Government to provide 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; and
- 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.
Contact the Industry Liaison Officer, Danielle Archer, until recently the Young Unionists Network Officer at the VTHC.
International Union newsUK Research on mental health in teaching
A research report that found the pressures piled on teachers are so severe some staff have considered suicide, has been made available online. The survey for UK teaching union NASUWT found a lack of support from schools and their management teams was leading to stress, burnout and depression. The survey report, based on interviews with teachers and school managers, reveals teachers are suffering from a range of stress related symptoms including heart palpitations, lack of sleep, eating problems and depression. The stress was caused by factors including bullying school management, a 'tick-box culture', targets and difficult pupils, the survey found. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: 'The research commissioned by the NASUWT highlights the need for access to support, counselling and specific health interventions for the workforce. The research also confirms the need to tackle the root causes of stress in schools, such as the impact of the high-stakes accountability regime on the well-being of school leaders, teachers and other staff.'
Teachers' Mental Health: A study exploring the experiences of teachers with work-related stress and mental health problems - Research report for the NASUWT . Read more on stress
Source: Risks 467.
European Unions update priority list of chemicals
On 13 July, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) released the updated version of its Priority List of chemical substances of very high concern. This list includes 334 substances or group of substances ordered by priority, and has 29 new entries compared to the first version published in March 2009. The trade union organisation wants a maximum of them requiring authorisation under REACH.
Read more (includes link to Priority List) Read more on Hazardous substances
BWI – ILO New Materials for Health and Safety Training in Construction
Building Workers International Health and Safety Director, Fiona Murie, is co-author (together with Professor Richard Neale of Glamorgan University) of the ILO's new training package on Health and Safety in Construction.
The overall aim was to compile a comprehensive international Occupational Safety & Health (OS&H) training package, made available in the public domain by the ILO. The training package is relevant to a global audience and applicable in a variety of legislative environments and construction projects, and is tailor made for the construction sector. The materials address the main 'participant groups' within the sector: Construction Clients; Construction Project Management Teams; Construction Contractors; Construction Workers and Trade Unions. The materials consist of :
- Tutors' Guide - the core of Construction OS&H, it explains the content of the package and how to use it.
- Knowledge Base – providing the sources and reference materials of all the content of the package in a digital form. The Knowledge Base also includes Downloads of some of the main sources of information.
- Theme Summaries - Construction OS&H has 15 Theme Summaries, in digital form, which are extensively illustrated and provide the whole educational content of the programme.
- Theme PowerPoint Presentations (PPPs) – There's PPP for each Theme Summary, providing the main means by which the information in the Themes will be presented.
The Training materials web pages are available on this ILO webpage and are linked to ILO SECTOR's main construction sector page
Employers and trade brochure on wood dust
Wood dust is a major health risk for the 2.9 million workers in the wood and furnishing sector in the EU. It can cause respiratory problems, diseases of the skin and various types of cancer. The European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries have just published a 52 page "brochure" setting out some concrete ideas to help minimise workers' exposure to wood dust. Read more and download the brochure.
Lighter workload can extend work lifeA Dutch review of eight studies has found that if employers want their older, more experienced workers to delay retirement, then they should lighten their workload, be concerned for their health, give them greater flexibility and generally appreciate them more. The eight longitudinal studies showed that important factors for early retirement were poor health, being single, high physical work demands, high work pressure, low job satisfaction, and lack of physical activity in leisure time. In addition, focus group participants reported shift work, social support, and appreciative leadership style also as factors.
Influence of Health and Work on Early Retirement [abstract] . Tilja van den Berg, et al, The Netherlands, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 52, Issue 6, June 2010.
In ConstructionFree training for leading hands
WorkSafe Victoria is running a series of free training course Safety Skills for Leading Hands in a bid to drive construction industry injury rates down. 'Construction sites with trained leading hands are less likely to lose workers to injury,' WorkSafe's Acting Construction Director Allan Beacom said. 'This is a chance for companies to train up leading hands on health and safety. It's free and it's good for business – so why not take advantage of it?'
Safety Skills for Leading Hands is for leading hands who supervise crews of two to ten workers. The course covers how to find and fix health and safety issues, using safe work method statements, and raising safety issues with crews or bosses. The course is funded by WorkSafe Victoria and developed and delivered by the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia (MPMSAA) and Plumbing Trades Employees Union of Australia (PTEU).
The courses are available without charge until December: either on demand at locations around Victoria or at set courses. To attend the free, one-day course, or to book an on-site course for your organisation's leading hands, call (03) 9356 8902, or email email@example.com Bookings are being taken for courses being held on August 11 and 26, and September 9 and 26 at the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre, at 306 Albert Street, Brunswick, Melbourne.
WorkSafe media Release
Use the right tools campaign
WorkSafe has also recently launched a campaign aimed at encouraging construction workers to "use the right tool for the job". WorkSafe said that tools used on construction sites across Victoria every day are involved in a third of all construction worker injuries. 'Ladders, scaffolds, nail guns, saws and grinders feature all too often in injury claim reports, and as a result we're seeing tradies off work, for about a month on average, with nasty yet preventable injuries like serious cuts, broken bones, and sprains and strains.' Inspectors will be visiting job sites to ensure suitable and well-maintained tools are being used for particular tasks.
HWSA launches construction campaigns
The Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) has announced that inspectors will be visiting construction sites across the country to ensure scaffolding complies with Australian Standards, as part of an ongoing campaign. The "advisory" visits will raise awareness and improve the ability of contractors, employers and workers to identify, assess and control scaffolding hazards.
Supply Chain campaignWorkSafe and the Supply Chain Industry Alliance have joined forces to create a series of resources that encourage workers to speak up about safety: workplaces can use the resources to create their own 'speak up' campaign. 'This project is a great example of WorkSafe and industry using their collective knowledge to target a challenging issue,' says Jason Howard, Operational Strategy Manager for WorkSafe. 'We're hoping it sets a precedent for other industries to follow.'
A fear of speaking up about unsafe practices is a barrier to improving workplace safety in the supply chain industry. But organisations that do empower workers and contractors to speak up can gain important information about how to improve health and safety performance, productivity and workforce morale.
Read more [pdf] Posters [pdf]
Automotive workshops on noticePainful shoulder, lower back and knee injuries suffered by tyre fitters are the focus of information and inspector visits from WorkSafe Victoria. WorkSafe is distributing new guidance on preventing musculo-skeletal injuries amongst tyre fitters to automotive workshops across Victoria. At the end of the year, inspectors will be visiting workshops across the state to make sure they've taken steps to stop workers getting injured.
'Tyre fitting is clearly very physical work. It's not surprising that tyre fitters are more likely to suffer from a musculoskeletal injury than any other kind of injury,' WorkSafe's Manufacturing and Logistics Director Ross Pilkington said. 'Simply fitting and removing wheels can involve lifting and lowering tyres onto the vehicle, and awkward postures as you bend and twist to align it. Because each vehicle may require this to be done up to eight times, over time, injuries are going to happen,' he said.
WorkSafe media Release
Three new Nano publicationsSafe Work Australia Chair, Mr Tom Phillips AM, this week announced the release of two research reports on engineered nanomaterials and a nanotechnology risk assessment tool. Mr Phillips said the reports would provide a reliable source of information to help protect the health and safety of people working with nanomaterials. While the VTHC agrees that the information would be useful in workplaces, the problem remains that until such time as it is clear to both workers and employers that nanomaterials are in fact in the workplace, this information cannot be applied.
- Engineered Nanomaterials: Investigating substitution and modification options to reduce potential hazards (RMIT) In a review of the evidence on the effectiveness of workplace controls to prevent exposure to engineered nanomaterials it was found that little focus has to date been placed on use of substitution or modification for nanotechnology work health and safety purposes. Therefore, Safe Work Australia commissioned RMIT to undertake a survey of the current substitution/modification practices used in Australian nanotechnology-related activities and a literature review in order to determine the potential substitution/modification options that may reduce the toxicity of engineered nanomaterials used in Australia.
- Engineered nanomaterials: Feasibility of establishing exposure standards and using control banding in Australia - Research report by Monash University The focus of this report is to investigate the feasibility of establishing group-based Australian National Exposure Standards for engineered nanomaterials and using control banding for engineered nanomaterials in Australia.
- Work Health and Safety Assessment Tool for Handling Engineered Nanomaterials. This assessment tool has been developed for use by organisations, to document practices and procedures, and work health and safety regulators or occupational hygienists when visiting nanotechnology organisations.
Comcare prosecutes LinfoxLinfox, the giant logistics company now a self-insurer under Comcare, has been fined $150,000 following an incident in WA where are worker was seriously injured in a forklift crash. In December 2007 the Linfox employee was driving a fork truck loaded with a 32-tonne container inside a congested shed when the load struck a stack of stationary containers, and the vehicle overturned. He suffered severe and permanent injuries to his abdomen and limbs, and may still lose his right leg. Linfox acquired the site in 2006, and a newly appointed a new site manager identified a number of safety risks just a month before the incident, including a culture of speeding in mobile plant; dilapidated forklifts; and congestion. At the time of the incident, however, a planned expansion of the site had not been completed, and a formal hazard identification of the worker's tasks had not been undertaken. Consequently, the link between congestion at the site and the risk of the fork truck tipping had not been identified and no action taken.
NSW firm ordered to take out ads on OHS breachesJustice Frank Marks, in the NSW Industrial Court, has ordered a project manager, a contractor and a subcontractor to take out advertisements outlining the details of their OHS breaches. The men had all failed to ensure the safety of a non-English-speaking worker, who sustained serious back and leg injuries when he fell from unsafe scaffolding.
In 2007, a sole-trading project manager on a residential renovation engaged Southern Cross Plastering to undertake plasterboard and gyprock work. The company subcontracted East Sun Building Pty Ltd, which employed a number of non-English-speaking workers to work on the project. The scaffolding had originally been built for working on the ceiling, then partially dismantled and while Southern Cross had instructed contractors not to use it, East Sun had not informed its workers. It also failed to carry out a risk assessment prior to commencing work, did not provide safe work procedures or adequately supervise its workers. The injured worker could neither read nor understand English. The company had failed to sign or return safe work documents supplied by Southern Cross, and was unable to provide any documentation relating to the injured worker's employment or competency.
East Sun, Southern Cross and the project manager were ordered to pay for newspaper advertisements (in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Spanish and English) to warn others of the risks involved in residential building. All parties were also fined, with East Sun receiving the largest fine of $80,000.
Source: OHS Alert
EPA prosecutes for Moorabbin waste stockpileEarly last month, a company responsible for stockpiling about 100 tonnes of liquid waste in a Moorabbin factory was convicted in the Moorabbin Magistrates' Court. Eco-Chem Pty Ltd breached its EPA Victoria licence and a clean up notice by storing the extensive volumes of dry cleaning waste chemicals. The company was fined $25,000, and ordered to pay $265,000 compensation and EPA costs of more than $42,000. Its license only allowed a maximum of two tonnes of waste chemicals at the factory site in Ebden St, Moorabbin. The penalty parallels that handed out to director Daryl John Owens, who was convicted earlier this year and ordered to pay more than $330,000 in fines and compensation for the same charges. EPA chief executive officer John Merritt said no company or its directors had the right to walk away from environmental problems they caused. 'This company has neglected its responsibility and left an expensive mess for others to clean up. That is not appropriate and this case needs to serve as a reminder to others that EPA can and will hold you accountable for your actions if you do the wrong thing by the environment or the community.' All the drums have since been removed from the site.
EPA Victoria, 7 July 2010
From the UK's HSESome excellent material for managers and supervisors: Know where you stand: essentials
The HSE says these are questions that an owner/manager should be asking to start/check that the business is managing for health and safety. The answers to them will give an indication about what the business needs to do next. The page provides links to more information. This will lead to a list of actions that need to take place.
US NewsOil spill: BP also negligent on health at the workplace
With the huge environmental disaster, very little attention has been given to the consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on workers' health. It should be remembered that the explosion on 20 April 2010 killed 11 workers. According to provisional data, the operations being conducted to cap the well and halt the oil leak resulted in 186 accidents and 80 cases of illness among workers during the first six weeks of the operations. The majority of the workers involved in the operations are employed by subcontractors on precarious terms. David Michaels, who heads the US federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said, 'The organizational systems that BP has in place, particularly those related to worker safety and health training, protective equipment, and site monitoring, are not adequate for the current situation or the projected increase in clean-up operations. (...) I want to stress that these are not isolated problems. They appear to be indicative of a general systematic failure on BP's part, to ensure the safety and health of those responding to this disaster.'
Read more: HESA News (ETUI)
The Infectious Diseases Society of America is urging that influenza vaccination become mandatory for healthcare workers and others in healthcare settings, and has recommended that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revise their guidelines to reflect this.
China: Electronics industry abuse revealedAccording to a new report, workers in China's growing electronics sector are enduring poor labour and safety standards in the country's deregulated Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The labour standards report released by risk intelligence and rating firm Maplecroft, says with increasing unionisation, worker protests and management initiative, wages and working conditions are being addressed, with some positive results albeit with cost implications for business. An example is Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, which employs 800,000 workers in China. The firm resorted to installing nets around a major facility after 10 workers jumped to their deaths. Every month employees at the firm would sign a 'voluntary overtime affidavit' waiving the 36-hours a month legal overtime limit, so that they could earn a living wage. An international outcry led to the company increasing pay rates (SafetyNet 191).
According to Maplecroft's report, the SEZs are well-known for their ability to attract foreign investors because of tax incentives and a large pool of cheap labour. However, it says SEZs are also subject to a prevalence of labour rights violations due to weak enforcement. This can be attributed to underfunded, untrained and sometimes corrupt local labour departments not having the resources to monitor workplaces properly, the Maplecroft report said. 'China is rated extreme risk in Maplecroft's Working Conditions Index and is ranked 7th [most risky] out of 196 countries,' said Maplecroft labour rights expert, Monique Bianchi. A Foxconn plant in India was temporarily shutdown this week, after some 250 workers fell sick. Spraying of pesticide could be the reason, and local authorities were investigating the incident, the Taiwanese company said in a statement.
Maplecroft news release Source: Risks 467
Pakistani workers strike amid state repressionOn the 20th of July, over 100,000 power loom workers in Faisalabad took strike action, closing down over 20,000 worksites. In spite of local ordinances that forbids gatherings, and a massive police presence that attacked the demonstration, the workers took over the centre of town. The strike was organised by the Labour Qaumi Movement, with the main demand of the workers being the implementation of a 17 per cent increase in the minimum wage as recommended by the government for the private sector.
In a separate industrial matter, over 10,000 workers from the ship breaking industry in Gadani, Balochistan province, staged a strike and demonstration over better pay and conditions. The ship breaking industry is one of the most dangerous industries in Pakistan with workplace injuries and deaths very common. Many ships contain large amounts of asbestos and other toxic substances.