Issue 200 - SafetyNet Journal 200Welcome to a milestone edition of SafetyNet – Edition number 200. It seems like yesterday that the first SafetyNet was sent out, but in fact it was July, 2002. We hope that the e-journal has provided you with useful and interesting information and in some small way assisted you in achieving a safer and healthier workplace. The editor.
200th edition of SafetyNetWhile the journal has changed quite a lot since the first edition on July 22, 2002, many of the issues for workers are the same. Interestingly, the first journal came out just after the OHS Reps Conference in 2002, which was held in July. WorkSafe week back then was not a national week held in October. Approximately 900 reps attended the conference that year, and we were very lucky to have world-renowned Rory O'Neill, editor of UK Hazards Magazine and the Risks online journal as our international speaker. We ran a competition to name the OHS Reps @ Work e-journal, with 'SafetyNet' getting the gong. Mr John Cole, HSUA HSR at Mayne Health Dorevitch Pathology, won the OHS Rep of the year.
The first edition reported that the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012 had just been endorsed at the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council, signalling 'a commitment by State and Federal Governments, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to join forces to reduce workplace deaths and injuries nationally'. Of great concern to unions is that there is still such a long way to go in addressing the five priority areas, which were to:
- Reduce high incidence/severity risks
- Improve the capacity of business operators and workers to manage OHS effectively
- Prevent occupational disease more effectively
- Eliminate hazards at the design stage
- Strengthen the capacity of government to influence OHS outcomes
We take this opportunity to thank the previous editors of SafetyNet: Cathy Beadnell, Ioan Thomas and John Kelly.
Time is running out to register for the event of the year October 27It's getting very very close…so if you haven't registered yet, you'd better get a move on. October 27 is now less than two weeks away – less than the time required to notify your employer of your intention to attend. However, if your employer is happy to give you leave to attend, register straight away.
The VTHC wants to remind those attending to get there in plenty of time as there will be a range of exhibition stalls with lots of valuable information to gather, as well as competitions to enter on the 25th anniversary of HSRs Conference.
More information and how to register, including a registration form and details on how to contact us.
What else is on during WorkSafe Week in Victoria?WorkSafe Victoria is keen to let people know that there are many activities and events taking place in this, the 18th year. "To help celebrate its 'coming of age' WorkSafe Victoria is making it bigger and better than ever before." There still seats available for health and safety committees, supervisors and others interested in health and safety. In a media release WorkSafe says that in the week of October 25 to 29 an "enormous range of topics will be presented at venues across the state, for beginners to experts in the field, small, medium and large sized business across every industry. Work Safe Week is the easiest and most popular way for Victorian employers, workers and others involved in health and safety to get practical information and solutions to common risks and hazards in their industry." There are free seminars on topics such as bullying; manual handling; trips, slips and falls; and many more - but if you want to go you must register. Go to the special WorkSafe website.
WorkSafe Week Australia-wide
The concept of a week dedicated to OHS has now been picked up around Australia, with events, forums, activities, etc in every state and territory. Safe Work Australia has a dedicated webpage which has links to the various regulators webpages. There are union-run or sponsored events all over Australia, so check out what's on in your area.
Interestingly, the European Week for Safety and Health at Work is also October 25 to 29. Their focus this year is "Safe maintenance", and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work says there will be hundreds of conferences, exhibitions, and training sessions held throughout Europe.
Read more about European Safety Week.
Remembering the Dead: 40th anniversary of West Gate Bridge disasterAt 11.50am on October 15 1970, 35 workers were killed when a section of the West Gate Bridge collapsed during construction. What is not so well known is that the surviving workers were sacked four days later and offered no assistance or support. When they returned to work almost two years later, the builder refused to re-hire the union shop stewards so their workmates went on strike for seven weeks.
Yesterday, October 14, CFMEU Assistant Secretary Tommy Watson, a survivor of the tragedy, launched photo exhibition of the tragedy in the Old Treasury Building (at the top end of Collins St. Melbourne). The exhibition, and the sad memories it invokes, was discussed in an article in last Saturday's A2 section of the Age, Sorrowful crossing. One of the things the anniversary reminds us of is that health and safety have come a long way since 1970 but only after too many lives were lost and thanks to the role of unions. Tommy tells how two weeks before the collapse the 500 workers on the bridge called a safety meeting. "In those days, we didn't have legal rights around safety like we do today, we couldn't get an independent engineer to look at it," he recalls. "It was all on the boss's say-so and the engineer Jack Hindshaw assured us it was safe. His words were 'If it wasn't safe, I wouldn't be here.' Well, he died and took 34 men with him. I learned from that day, to never, ever take the boss's word on safety."
Relatives and friends of the men who died that day and of those who survived, remembered them at the foot of the bridge at 11.50am this morning and later at a special event at Science Works Museum. In addition to the Treasury Building exhibition, photographs taken by a detective on the scene, Frank Coates are on display at the Victoria Police Museum.
Read more about the Bridge, its building and its collapse on the Westgate Bridge Memorial website CFMEU Media Release
Asbestos newsUnion calling for action following school asbestos scare
The Education union, the AEU, is calling for a register of approved building contractors following the discovery of asbestos in a demolished wing at Albion North Primary School. With demolitions going on at schools across Victoria under federal and state building programs, the union said it was vital that the highest safety standards were maintained to protect students and staff. About 30 pieces of asbestos, some as large as the palm of a hand, were found at the school by a CFMEU official, despite an asbestos clearance certificate having been issued. WorkSafe has said it will issue a number of improvement notices requiring a cleanup, holes in the ground to be filled, fences to be made secure and other works. The Education Department has begun air monitoring.
Mary Bluett, AEU Victorian president, said: 'We need a register of approved companies to work in schools to ensure safety for students and staff. It's something that the Victorian Trades Hall Council has been seeking from the State Government and we think it's time for the State Government to step up to the plate and acknowledge the need for strong regulation to protect students and staff in our government schools.'
AEU Media Release
NSW researcher calls for asbestos register of contaminated sites
Professor Nico van Zandwijk, the inaugural asbestos diseases research institute director at the Bernie Banton Centre, is calling for a register of NSW landfill sites which contain asbestos 'to counter a third wave of the man-made plague'. He fears that future generations would have to deal with asbestos-related cancers contracted from environmental exposure, including contaminated landfill material being unearthed. The NSW Ombudsman is currently conducting an investigation into the handling of asbestos, following complaints about the management of asbestos in all its forms. A full report is expected before Christmas.
There are considerable difficulties determining sites with asbestos as when many old 'fibro' houses were demolished the waste was often used on site as fill. In addition, James Hardie also allowed the asbestos tailings from its factory at Camellia near Parramatta to be trucked all over the city from 1916 until the 1980s, when it was considered a popular 'clean' landfill.
The AMWU has supported the call by Professor van Zandwijk.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
Ask RenataI'm worried about the amount of hours that some of the employees are doing during a working day. Also is there any legislation regarding to the amount of days that a person can work without a day off?
The OHS legislation does not specify either the maximum number of hours or the maximum number of days that someone can be required to work without a break. This sort of 'regulation', if you want to call it that, is under the industrial system - the award, the Enterprise agreement or even in the Fair Work minimum standards. While these don't contain much detail, they reflect that the 'standard' working week is 38 hrs. See this page for info on breaks and a link to Fair Work Australia
Most EBAs will have maximum hours in a day (anything more is overtime) and so on and it's the EBA that establishes the working arrangements in a workplace.
However this issue is covered under the general duty of care the employer has under the OHS Act: to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes systems of work, hours of work, shifts, etc, etc.
The employer must identify hazards and then take action to either eliminate or reduce the risks associated with those hazards. Fatigue is a recognised hazard the employer must eliminate or control. See the Fatigue section of the website for some basic information on fatigue, including the More information page (which has links to WorkSafe publications on fatigue.
If you have any OHS related queries or questions, send in an email through the Ask Renata function on the website. You'll get an answer within a couple working days at the latest.
Harmonisation of OHS legislation latest newsIt has been reported that NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has written to Prime Minister Julia Gillard requesting two changes to the proposed Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act - to retain both the right of third parties such as unions to prosecute and the reverse onus of proof on employers in its laws. NSW had previously agreed, in December last year, to adopt the model Act, which does not currently contain these provisions. In NSW over the past 10 years there have been about 20 union-initiated prosecutions, including the James Hardie asbestos case.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the NSW Government's announcement that it will seek to preserve higher protections for workers currently in state legislation supports the union position that a national workplace safety system should put employee welfare above all else. He said the ACTU has been campaigning since the beginning to ensure that workers did not lose out, and that the proposed national system should always have included a right for third party prosecutions over serious accidents and an onus on employers to prove they provide a safe workplace.
'We have always said that harmonisation of the various state and territory systems provided a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ensure that workplace standards were lifted to world's best practice,' said Mr Lawrence, 'As they stand, the draft national laws would reduce rights and protections for workers in a number of states. This is unacceptable. Workplace health and safety laws must put the interests of employees first, not those of business.'
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald and ACTU Media Release
More Australian workers precariously employedLast week the ACTU released a major report providing evidence that casual, part time and contract work is gradually overtaking permanent full time employment as the standard type of job for the majority of working Australians. The report, "Shifting Risk – Work and Working Life in Australia" [pdf], by Mike Rafferty and Serena Yu at Sydney University's Workplace Research Centre examines work and working life in Australia before and after the global financial crisis. It identifies a series of major transformations, including:
- Growing inequality in Australia: despite strong increases in the productivity of workers since the 1980s, returns to labour as measured by real wages growth, has lagged significantly. Conversely, the returns to capital (business) have grown markedly and profit share is at record levels.
- Casual, contract and precarious employment is now the norm: the increase in precarious jobs and in particular the rise in the casual work force to 2 million Australians is proof of what is happening in Australian workplaces today. Growth in non-standard forms of employment is outstripping standard full time employment, defined as a working week in excess of 35 hours attracting paid leave benefits. The greatest growth has been in full time casual and part time jobs.
While the ACTU points to the increase in financial pressure this is causing families, studies have linked 'precarious' employment to higher rates of occupational accidents and ill-health and greater exposure to workplace risks. Professor Michael Quinlan, who gave a presentation entitled "The OHS Implications Of Contingent Employment" to one of our earlier OHS Reps Conferences, has done a lot of work in this area.
Read more: ACTU media release
Decent Work Day – October 7Last Thursday, October 7, was World Day for Decent Work. In a media release issued on the day, the ACTU said, 'On World Day for Decent Work today, Australian unions restate their pledge to remain vigilant to ensure that decent work standards are maintained and spread both at home and internationally. This includes campaigning for decent work to be delivered to all sections of the Australian economy and workforce, including newly-arrived migrant workers and outworkers.'
'For many Australians, their job is satisfying, and provides economic security, they have the opportunity to use their skills to the fullest, and they are treated with respect at work,' said ACTU President Ged Kearney. 'But there are still areas of the workforce where this is not the case, and Australian unions will campaign to ensure that decent work is delivered for all,' she said, referring to the findings of the 'Work and Working Life in Australia' report released earlier in the week (see item, above).
The Decent Work Agenda is a global campaign to promote jobs that are productive, deliver a fair income, security and equality, social protection, and rights at work.
ACTU Media Release
Fair Work Commission protects award safety netFair Work Australia last week decided not to vary the modern retail award and to preserve a minimum three-hour call out. The ACTU said the decision will protect the wages of hundreds of thousands of casual workers around Australia. ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the decision should put to rest once and for all a push by employers to wind back an essential award condition for all casual workers.
The Full Bench of FWA refused an employer appeal against an earlier rejection of an application to vary the modern retail award to reduce the minimum shift from three hours to two. A minimum shift of at least three hours has been the historical standard, and was reinforced by award modernisation which made the three hour minimum the national standard for modern awards.
ACTU Media Release
Union research reveals Hotel workers exploitedResearch done by the hospitality union, the LHMU and the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition has found that there are room attendants at five-star hotels whose take-home pay for a week's work is less than some guests pay to stay one night at the hotels. Most room attendants are female and from an overseas background, and up to half have work-related injuries. They are often afraid to speak up and many end up working unpaid overtime when the time allocated to clean the rooms they've been given is insufficient.
The report, Heartbreak Hotels: The Crisis Inside Melbourne's Luxury Hotels [pdf], was based on a survey of 330 room attendants who work at 23 of our best hotels, was launched last Wednesday by former Victorian premier Joan Kirner. 'Many of the things that Victoria is renowned for, like events and festivals and sporting venues, would be impossible to hold or stage at the quality they are if we didn't have migrant people and international student visitors doing the work that is so low-paid that other people won't touch it,' Mrs Kirner said.
LHMU Media Release
Crown Casino union wins work-life balance improvementsThe LHMU and Crown Casino have reached last minute agreement on the new EBA in time to avert planned industrial action. The parties have agreed to an increased pay offer of 4% over three years. But in addition, the EBA, Australia's largest single-union agreement, will now include measures to help employees cope with working at a 24-hour complex, including commitments by Crown to:
- use its "best endeavours" to reduce weekend work for those employees who sought reductions;
- reduce the incidence of six-day work stretches;
- seek to reduce to two the number of different start times within a weekly roster;
- give casuals seven days notice of their rosters, subject to operational requirements; and
- give employees the right to fix dates of their choice for two of their annual RDOs.
LHMU Victorian assistant secretary, Ben Redford, said the in-principle deal also provides for casual workers to convert to part-time after two years.
Read more: Crown members win landmark deal and Update 23
Protection against discrimination strengthenedThe Sex and Age Discrimination Bill 2010, tabled in Parliament by Attorney-General, Robert McClelland two weeks ago, is promised to strengthen existing protections for all workers against age and sex discrimination, as well as sexual harassment. The changes will ensure that protections from sex discrimination apply equally to women and men; extend protection from discrimination on family responsibilities grounds to both women and men in all areas of work; establish breastfeeding a separate ground of discrimination (no longer a subset of sex discrimination); and provide greater protection from sexual harassment for workers and students.
The Attorney-General also introduced the new dedicated position of Federal Age Discrimination Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). While the AHRC can already tackle age discrimination issues, the AG said that the position was warranted due to Australia's ageing population.
Attorney-General's Media Release; The Bill and Explanatory memorandum can be accessed and downloaded from the 'ParlInfo' website
Union welcomes Tasmania's tougher mine safety lawsThe Australian Workers Union Tasmanian secretary, Ian Wakefield, says the Tasmanian State Government's announcement of dramatically improved mine safety standards, at the site of the Beaconsfield rock fall, is particularly poignant. 'AWU members and officials still feel the raw pain of Tasmanian mine tragedies,' he said. The union welcomed the Government's response to the Coronial findings in relation to both the Renison and Beaconsfield fatalities. The new bill, tabled this week by the Minister for Workplace Relations, David O'Byrne, provides a safety framework specifically for the mining industry including new workplace health and safety regulations dealing with specific mining industry hazards; specific standards for ventilation in underground mines; and the requirement for mine operators to establish consultation arrangements with workers.
'We hope that the new measures will play a role in minimising the future exposure of workers to unnecessary hazards and their families to the traumatic consequences of workplace accidents and fatalities,' Ian Wakefield said.
AWU Media release and Tasmanian Govt media release
Meanwhile, Chile celebrates – but mining unions demand better laws
All of the 33 miners trapped for 69 days in a San José mine after an explosion on 5 August have how been rescued, with the last one emerging to cheers and chants of 'one more miner' just before 12pm yesterday, Australian time. The rescue went at a faster pace at the end than at the start – but each rescue was still treated as the first, both for the sake of the relatives present and also for safety, with the metal capsule regularly checked periodically to make sure it was undamaged.
Unions have called on the Chilean government to introduce effective health and safety legislation. The unions, from the mining, metals, and energy sectors, have produced a manifesto holding the government responsible for safety lapses inside the San José mine. The manifesto says flaws in the existing safety laws include excluding workers and their trade unions from participating in safety matters. Unions also accuse the government of being unwilling to engage in tripartite dialogue to improve mine safety conditions, including refusing to discuss ratification of ILO's safety in mines convention. The initiative has the support if ICEM, the global union federation for the sector. A 4 October letter from ICEM to Chile's government calls for a revamp of its preventive safety practices. It has been reported that the Chilean President has promised that the laws will be strengthened.
Relatives of 27 of the 33 miners have filed compensation lawsuits against both the government and the firm, Campañia Minera San Esteban Primera, seeking a total of US$12 million.
Read more: ICEM news report and letter to the Chilean government [pdf].
Union fears Harbour Bridge cancer clusterThe NSW Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union fears there may be a possible cancer cluster related to the use of lead paint among Harbour Bridge workers. There have been least eight known cases, five of whom have died, among workers involved in painting and maintaining the bridge for more than 10 years. This included scraping off lead paint, initially with little protective equipment. The union fears that there may be even more cases. The CFMEU state secretary, Mal Tulloch, said the workers had suffered a range of cancers, including lung, bone marrow and kidney cancer. Kidney cancer has been associated with elevated levels of lead in animals. The Roads and Traffic Authority has said it will investigate the claims immediately.
In 2000, a stop-work order was issued on sections of the bridge by the Environment Protection Authority following union concerns that carcinogenic paint particles were being released during grinding and sand blasting.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
TWU remembers heavy vehicle fatalitiesMid-November is the second anniversary of the Quinlan/Wright report, Remuneration and safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry: A Review Undertaken for the National Transport Commission, which found a direct relationship between rates of pay and safety in road transport. Since the release of the report, more than 300 people have been killed in heavy-vehicle crashes.
The TWU is commemorating the anniversary, and is continuing the Safe Rates campaign with candlelight vigils in Canberra (October 18) and Sydney (November 15).
International Union newsEuropean unions support Belgian (EU) Presidency calls for nano register
In a proposal made by the Belgian EU presidency last month, Europe should make consumer information on the presence of nanomaterials mandatory and maintain a register to trace these materials back to their source. Further, it said that the EU should develop a regulatory framework quickly to avoid a situation where differing national policies disrupt the market as occurred with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) says there are continuing concerns that the relatively new science of nanotechnology is not being covered by EU legislation. It points out that although such materials are already used in products, little is known about their potential effects on human health. There is overwhelming support for a register among stakeholders, and France is considering taking unilateral action on nanomaterials at national level. ETUI supports the initiative of the Belgian Presidency to ensure safety of workers along the life cycle production.
Read more: ETUI HESA News
News from India
1 - Death from Pesticides and Bullets
A report commissioned by the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) and released 1 October 2010 details extensive human rights violations at the Tata-controlled Powai Tea Estate in Assam, India. In Cold Blood: Death By Poison, Death By Bullets [pdf] examines the death in May this year of 25 year-old Powai worker Gopal Tanti, who collapsed at work while spraying pesticides. Mr Tanti was denied medical treatment and left to die in the field. The investigation reveals that workers on this estate habitually spray and handle highly toxic chemicals without minimal protective clothing and other essential precautionary measures. The investigation shows that even after Gopal Tanti's death, these practices continue.
2 - Hunger striking silicosis widows fight on
A hunger strike by 22 silicosis widows has forced a district official to make a compensation gesture of 100,000 rupees (A$2320) for each victim. The women, who are backed by a mining union and the Mine Labour Peoples' Campaign (MLPC), had protested for three days, demanding the workers' compensation the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had directed be provided by the state government. An NHRC delegation had visited Jodhpur as a result of a complaint from MLPC about the plight of sandstone quarry labourers in the district suffering from the debilitating and deadly dust disease silicosis. News of the ad hoc payment came within hours of the chief minister Ashok Gehlot meeting with the women. The campaigners are still pressing for the full compensation payments. NHRC has given local officials a November deadline to come up with the payments or be dragged before the commission. MLPC's Ran Sengupta commented: 'The victims have to be compensated according to the Workmen's Compensation Act. But as most of these people have been labourers in small quarries in the district, no records are available as to who their employer was.' He said since the NHRC visit, more workers had died of silicosis. 'In fact, there are more than 800 people who have worked in such mines and there could be many more who could have died of the disease,' Sengupta said.
Source: Risks 476 Times of India
UK unions welcome plans to extend right to flexible working
Commenting on plans announced at the end of September by the UK Government to extend the right to request flexible working to parents of all children and to consult on extending it to all workers, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said. 'Extending the right to request and improving parental leave arrangements will help make Britain a more family-friendly place to work. Unions have always negotiated good flexible arrangements with progressive employers but some businesses need a push.' He added, 'Experience shows the best way to achieve cultural change is to offer flexible working to all workers and the TUC will press for a universal right when the Government consults on this later in the year.' In the UK, the right to request flexible working is currently available to parents of children up to the age of 16, parents of disabled children up to age 18 and carers.
TUC Media Release
Spanish metalworker death spurs global action
Workers protest, hold minute of silence in Spain, Colombia, Canada, Chile and Brazil after a worker died on September 5 at a Gerdau plant in Spain.
Following the death of a worker at a steel plant plant in Spain on September 5, workers and their unions at Gerdau plants around the world took united action demanding improvements in workplace health and safety. The 28-year-old subcontracted metalworker died on September 5 after being trapped at chest level between one car and a casting piece at the Sidenor Gerdau plant in Basauri, Spain. As a result, workers at all the company's plants in the country stopped work for one and a half hours on 6 September, holding demonstrations at the front gates of the plants. In Colombia, Gerdau workers in Tuta and Duitama held a minute's silence, as did workers at Canadian plants at Selkirk, Manitoba, Whitby and Cambridge, Ontario and at Chilean plants in Aza, Matco, Armacero and Salomón Sack. A minute of silence was also held at a number of plants in Brazil, and bulletin on the issue was distributed to members. According to IMF, the global union federation for the sector: 'Since the creation of the Gerdau Global Workers' Committee in 2006 the workers, supported by the International Metalworkers' Federation, have been trying to gain recognition from the company of the global committee so as to discuss improving workplace health and safety at all Gerdau plants.'
IMF news release .
The lastest on StressCost of work-related stress
Research released last week has found that excessive pressure at work is costing Australia's economy $730 million a year due to job-stress related depression – much of which is preventable. The research, Estimating the Economic Benefits of Eliminating Job Strain as a Risk Factor for Depression, was funded by VicHealth and led by Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne from The University of Melbourne School of Population Health and Dr Kristy Sanderson from the Menzies Research Institute, Tasmania.
The study found that 'job strain', where workers have little control over their job, but who are under high pressure to perform, accounts for 17 per cent of depression in working women and 13 per cent in working men. The $730 million job strain price tag includes lost productive time, employee replacement costs, government-subsidised mental health services and medications for depression. It equates to $11.8 billion over the average working lifetime, with the biggest loss accruing to employers. The report raises questions about the current workplace culture in Australia and underlines the need to develop strategies that can be applied in all workplaces to make them healthier, happier and more productive environments that nurture good health rather than cause ill-health.
Download the report from the VicHealth Website (both the full report or a summary are available)
Hair provides proof chronic stress and heart attack linked
Researchers at the University of Western Ontario have provided the first direct evidence using a biological marker that chronic stress is linked to heart attacks. Stressors such as job, marital and financial problems have been linked to the increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease including heart attack. But to date there has been no biological marker to measure chronic stress. Drs. Gideon Koren and Stan Van Uum developed a method to measure cortisol levels in hair providing an accurate assessment of stress levels in the months prior to an acute event such as a heart attack. Cortisol, is considered a stress hormone, its secretion increasing during times of stress. Usually measured in serum, urine and saliva, it only shows stress at the time of measurement, not over longer periods of time. It is, however, also captured in the hair shaft. With hair growing about one centimetre per month, taking a hair sample six cm long, stress levels for six months can be determined by measuring the cortisol level in the hair.
During the study, the researchers collected hair samples three cm long from 56 male adults who were admitted to hospital suffering heart attacks. A control group, made up of 56 male patients who were hospitalised for reasons other than a heart attack, was also asked for hair samples. Heart attack patients had higher hair cortisol levels than the control group. The prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, smoking and family history of coronary artery disease did not differ significantly between the two groups, although the heart attack group had more cholesterol problems. After accounting for the known risk factors, hair cortisol content emerged as the strongest predictor of heart attack. 'Stress is a serious part of modern life affecting many areas of health and life,"'says Dr. Koren.
The research is published online in the journal Stress. Science Daily, 4 September 2010 Read more on Stress.
More effects of shiftworkRecent research has found the exposure to too much light at night (LAN) is linked to weight gain. Researchers from Ohio State University found mice exposed to either bright (LL) or dim (DM) LAN have significantly increased body mass and reduced glucose tolerance, compared with mice in a standard (LD) light/dark cycle, despite equivalent levels of calorie intake and total daily activity output. They also found that when mice consumed food differed – suggesting that low levels of light at night disrupt the timing of food intake and other metabolic signals, leading to excess weight gain.
The researchers concluded, the data was 'relevant to the coincidence between increasing use of light at night and obesity in humans.'
Laura K. Fonken, Joanna L. Workman, James C. Walton, Zachary M. Weila, John S. Morrisb, Abraham Haim, and Randy J. Nelson. Light at night increases body mass by shifting the time of food intake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [abstract]
Noisy work doubles heart disease riskNew research has shown that persistently noisy workplaces more than double a worker's risk of serious heart disease. Published online last week in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the study looked at a representative sample of more than 6,000 US employees, aged from 20 upwards, who had been part of the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2004. The survey involved detailed household interviews, including lifestyle and occupational health, medical examinations, and blood tests. Participants were grouped into those who for at least three months endured persistent loud noise at work, to the extent that it was difficult to talk at normal volume, and those who did not.
Workers in persistently noisy workplaces were between two to three times as likely to have serious heart problems as their peers in quiet workplaces. This association was particularly strong among workers under 50, who made up more than 4,500 of the total sample. They were between three and four times as likely to have angina or coronary artery disease or to have had a heart attack. The blood tests of these workers did not indicate particularly high levels of cholesterol or inflammatory proteins, both of which are associated with heart disease. But diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure of the artery walls when the heart relaxes between heartbeats, was higher than normal, a condition known as isolated diastolic hypertension, or IDH. This is an independent predictor of serious heart problems. The authors speculate that loud noise day after day may be as strong an external stressor as sudden strong emotion or physical exertion. They conclude: 'This study suggests that excess noise exposure in the workplace is an important occupational health issue and deserves special attention.'
Wen Qi Gan, Hugh W Davies and Paul A Demers. Exposure to occupational noise and cardiovascular disease in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First 5 October 2010; doi 10.1136/oem.055269 [abstract]. Source: Risks 477
Welders beware – even short-term exposure hazardousGerman researchers measuring the biological effects of welding have found even short-term exposure to fumes can cause a significant decline in lung function. Three types of welding were studied: shielded manual metal arc welding with alloyed material (MAW-a), metal active gas welding with alloyed material (MAG-a), and shielded manual metal arc welding with unalloyed material (MAW-u). Six healthy male welders applied each of the three techniques for three hours, in a booth with a fume-exhaustion system, at one week intervals. The researchers examined changes in lung function, "inflammatory markers" in blood and exhaled breath condensate (EBC) after each shift and again after six and 24 hours. All three techniques led to a significant increase in chromium and nickel in blood and urine, and nitrate in EBC. However more concerning was the finding that lung function - measured by forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume, and peak expiratory flow - was impaired.
Internal Exposure, Effect Monitoring, and Lung Function in Welders After Acute Short-Term Exposure to Welding Fumes From Different Welding Processes. [abstract] Peter Brand, et al, Germany, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 52, Issue 9, September 2010.
Inspectors issue over 160 notices in MilduraWorkSafe inspectors visited 98 Mildura workplaces over a five day period as part of the 'Safe Towns' campaign, which targets small businesses that may never have been visited by a WorkSafe inspector, or that have a high incidence of workplace injury or illness.
Inspectors issued 163 improvement notices, which required workplaces to make improvements on health and safety issues ranging from storage of dangerous goods, to forklift maintenance. 'Although we wrote to the businesses and told them we would be visiting, we still had to pull them up on a high number of health and safety issues,' Manufacturing and Logistics Director Ross Pilkington said. 'In many cases, the safety solutions were straightforward.'
WorkSafe Media Release
National HWSA projectsHWSA (Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities) has a number of national projects either begun or about to begin. Jurisdictions have begun auditing construction sites to boost workplace safety law compliance. The campaign is part of a coordinated national enforcement program focusing on compliance with AS 1576 - Scaffolding (including data collection and analysis).
Another 2010 HWSA project of interest is the Worker Safety on or Near Public Roads Campaign. The project, being coordinated by WorkCover NSW, will involve inspectors auditing workplaces across the country to focus on compliance issues, with an analysis report due at the conclusion of the campaign.
NICNAS announces changes to rules for new Nano chemicalsThe National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has announced it is introducing new administrative processes effective 1 January 2011 for the notification and assessment of industrial nanomaterials that are considered to be 'New Chemicals'. The amendments amend the exemption categories to ensure that nano-forms of new chemicals will not be permitted under exemption categories where human and/or environmental exposure can reasonably be anticipated. There will also be changes to the information required to be lodged for the permit and certificate categories to ensure that NICNAS receives adequate information on nanomaterials and any potential hazards
Read more: The October Chemicals Gazette can be downloaded from the NICNAS website or directly download the relevant page [pdf]
BP responds in bid to 'restore shareholder value'New BP chief executive Bob Dudley has responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig catastrophe by announcing the establishment of a new safety division with 'sweeping powers and expert staff that will be embedded in the employer's operating units. Dudley said the Safety & Operational Risk Function would have the authority to intervene in all aspects of BP's technical activities and report directly to him.
BP's health and safety record is appalling, with both the Deepwater disaster, which killed 11 workers, and the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion, which killed 15, being widely attributed to BP's 'lack of safety leadership'. Dudley has said the establishment of division was vital to restoring the trust of employees, governments and customers, specifically mentioning the need to restore shareholder value.
BP Press Release
China: Bosses use stand-ins to evade mine dangersMine bosses in China are using stand-ins to get around a rule requiring them to go down the country's notorious hazardous mines. In July, premier Wen Jiabao ordered that 'leaders' must go into mines with workers. But recent Chinese media reports allege that at least one mine was appointing substitutes to take the place of these 'leaders'. Under the rule, the mine leaders must go below ground with miners or be considered 'absent without leave' and face fines of up to 80 per cent of their annual income. And if an accident does occur when no management-level shift leader is present, the enterprise will be fined up to five million yuan. However, a number of mine fatalities in which mining officials were unharmed have fuelled scepticism about the practical application of the rule. China Labour Bulletin said 'the rationale behind the government's plan is obvious: mine managers are much more likely to pay attention to safety and order an evacuation of the mine in times of danger if their own life, rather than just the lives of the workers, is at risk.' It warned however there must be more fundamental changes if mining is to get safer. 'Currently, the vast majority of coal miners are poorly educated, unskilled migrants who have no formal employment contract with the mine and are paid solely on a piece rate basis. This situation needs to be changed, with miners given rigorous and extensive training, wages based on skill levels and safety awareness rather than output, and long-term contracts that will ensure they have a vested interest not only in their own safety but in that of their co-workers and the entire mine community as well.'
Source: Risks 476 China Daily. China Labour Bulletin.