Issue 203 - SafetyNet Journal 203Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet. It's been another busy period at Trades Hall, with a number of activities organised for Asbestos Awareness Week.
Three fatalities in the past weekElectrician dies after electric shock; another seriously injured
A man died in hospital last Tuesday after receiving an electric shock on Saturday November 13, in one of two workplace incidents that week involving electricians. The 37 year-old man was carrying out repairs on a main switchboard at an office complex in South Bank when he received the shock.
The second incident involving an electrician occurred on Friday at Olympic Park in Jolimont. A man in his twenties sustained burns to his upper body after a live cable made contact with the metal frame of a switchboard he was working on.
Worker killed at Gippsland meatworks
Another worker died at the weekend after a crushing incident in a 'knocking box' used to kill cattle at a South Gippsland (Lance Creek) on Friday November 12. The worker was hosing out the box when the hydraulics were activated. The 32-year-old was flown to the Alfred Hospital in a critical condition with injuries to the head and upper body, but did not survive. WorkSafe Media Release
Sand quarry collapse kills worker
The third Victorian worker died in Nyora on Monday. The worker was operating an excavator when a sand wall collapsed, covering the cabin area, around 12.45pm. The worker died at the scene. His body was trapped in the excavator for some time as there were fears there would be a further collapse. Police and Work Safe investigators sought the advice of experts to assess the suitability of the area.
These three deaths bring the number of fatalities in Victoria this year to 23. Ian Forsyth, WorkSafe Victoria's Executive Director for Health and Safety said, 'In these three incidents, and in the workplace fatality which we saw sentenced (Wednesday), people went to work with the expectation of getting home safely at the end of the day. Employers must take more action to understand and control safety risks in their own workplaces.'
New Zealand mine disasterIt has now been declared that all 29 miners trapped underground following the explosion the Pike River coal mine near Greymouth on the South Island of New Zealand on November 19 are now dead after another massive explosion ripped through the mine on Wednesday. There had been continuing and unsuccessful attempts to rescue the men for the five days before the second explosion. Families were told that it would have been impossible for the men to survive the second blast which was much bigger than the original one. Pike River CEO Peter Whittall told families of the victims that the company would do what it could to recover bodies. Media reports state that many of the families were angry with how the rescue operations had been carried out.
Chief coroner Judge Neil McLean announced on Wednesday that he would open a special inquiry into the Pike River coalmine deaths. Prime Minister John Key said he expected there will be a series of inquiries, including from police and the Labour Department, on top of a commission of inquiry.
Andrew Little, Secretary of the NZ Engineering Printing and Mining Union (EPMU) representing the miners at Pike River, has said that their members at the mine, indicated that the mine had any more serious OHS problems than mines elsewhere in the country. They said that if they thought the mine was unsafe, they wouldn't have gone down the hole. Clearly underground mining is inherently risky, and the union has again repeated their call for the reinstatement of safety check inspectors in all mines. He said it will be crucial that the government's commission enquiry look in detail at the causes and what happened, including an examination of the health and safety procedures and the technology of the company.
EPMU Pike River Disaster News, Sydney Morning Herald , Stuff, ACTU statement of condolence
Asbestos newsAsbestos Week: November 22- 26
On Monday this week the VTHC, in conjunction with the asbestos support groups, launched Asbestos Awareness Week at the Trades Hall. Brian Boyd, VTHC Secretary, launched the week, making the point that asbestos was still a huge problem in Victoria because it was in 100s of 1000s of workplaces, in our homes, schools and public buildings. David Clement, of ADSVIC, but also representing AISS and GARDS, released the results of a survey distributed at the VTHC OHS Reps' Conference. The survey was completed by almost 300 participants and revealed that 72 per cent thought they had been exposed to asbestos, and 62 per cent thought their workplace either did not have a register or didn't know whether there was one. This illustrates the continuing danger of exposure to this deadly fibre. VTHC/Asbestos Groups Media Release
Margaret Kent, head of Slater & Gordon Lawyers Asbestos Unit, also used the launch of Asbestos Awareness Week to launch the firm's new asbestos register for apprentices and young workers exposed to the dangerous product at work. Ms Kent said the firm was concerned by reports that many young workers, particularly apprentices, were being exposed to asbestos products at work. 'You would have thought that with all of the information and knowledge that we have now about asbestos that there would be no excuses for young workers having their future health put in danger,' she said. 'It's horrifying to hear stories about how young people are being exposed to the deadly products because of a lack of training, and in some cases because of unscrupulous employers.' Workers who believe they may have been exposed can enter their details on the register online or by contacting the firm directly.
Slater & Gordon Media Release
WA Researchers warn meso rate yet to hit peakPerth researchers this week said that Western Australia is yet to see the peak of asbestos-induced cancer, noting that home renovators are not taking proper precautions. Bruce Robinson, director of the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, said these DIY home renovators were the third wave of mesothelioma sufferers - putting themselves and others at risk. WA Today
New Asbestos Resource launched
A new website aiming to be a one-stop-shop for information about asbestos was also launched in Perth during Asbestos Awareness Week. The website is the product of collaboration between medical and public health researchers along with journalists and historians who have formed the Australian Asbestos Network. The site is unique for its storytelling about asbestos and for relating the history of asbestos mining and manufacturing in Australia. In addition it contains medical information about asbestos-related diseases and public health information on how to minimize exposure.
Research identifies 'tumour marker'
Also this week, the Asbestos Diseases Research Unit (ADRI) announced it had identified a 'tumour marker' it says will allow doctors to individualise and improve treatments for mesothelioma sufferers. ADRI director Professor Nico van Zandwijk says that because the rate of growth of tumour cells can differ significantly from one patient to another it is difficult to effectively treat mesothelioma. The tumour or blood markers can reflect the aggressiveness of the disease and so assist in tailoring the treatment. Read more: Interview on the ABC's World Today ,Sydney Morning Herald
Working With Asbestos Seminar Dec 1 – La Trobe Valley
Just out of the official Asbestos Awareness Week is a free seminar in Sale next week which will cover working with asbestos in building & construction, in the workplace, and during home renovations. Speakers include the Geelong Trades & Labour Council (GTLC), GARDS, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. WorkSafe will also be in attendance.
Wednesday 1st December, 9.30am - 3pm; Wellington Room, Port of Sale Civic Centre, 70 Foster Street, Sale Bookings and Enquiries: GTLC on 03 5133 7684 or by email
ACTU calls for national awareness campaign
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said this week's national Asbestos Awareness Week is a timely reminder that up to 20,000 Australians will be affected by asbestos-related diseases over the next two decades, but more needs to be done to highlight its dangers. Last week's report (see below) by the NSW Ombudsman not only gave a snapshot of the extent of the problem, but backed calls by unions for a coordinated plan and agency to deal with the eradication of asbestos as a national level.
NSW Ombudsman releases timely report
Last week the NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, released the report: Responding to the asbestos problem: The need for significant reform in NSW [pdf] done for the NSW Parliament. In it the Ombudsman warns that the number of asbestos-related deaths in NSW will soon dwarf the annual road toll, but there 'is no single government agency responsible for coordinating the management and containment of asbestos, there is no state-wide government plan for dealing with asbestos, there are gaps in asbestos legislation and funding to deal with these issues is inadequate.' Recommendations of the report:
- An Asbestos Coordination Authority (ACA) be established and adequately funded
- A comprehensive public awareness program for all sections of the community
- An Asbestos Act be introduced to facilitate effective measures to appropriately address asbestos issues in NSW
- The NSW government develop a state-wide plan for dealing with asbestos
- Adequate funding be allocated for implementing the state-wide asbestos plan
Queensland school: threat of stopwork
Three unions are threatening industrial action due to fears staff at a north Queensland school were exposed to asbestos. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh admitted that an asbestos scare at another school north of Brisbane was handled badly. The Queensland Teachers Union (QTU), the Queensland Public Sector Union (QPSU) and the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) are threatening industrial action if the government does not remove asbestos from buildings at Atherton State High School, southwest of Cairns. The source of the concern is the school's staff room, listed in Education Queensland's asbestos register, has had work done to its ceiling disturbing material likely to contain asbestos. The Brisbane Times
Brisbane: work on City Hall again halted due to asbestos
Construction work at Brisbane's City Hall was put on hold for the second time in a week in order to allow an independent asbestos audit to be conducted on the site. Electrical Trades Union state organiser Peter Ong said safety advisers from the Builders Trade Group conducted a walk through of the site yesterday and found a number of cases where asbestos was exposed. 'We've come up with some three pages of safety issues on site, the main one being the asbestos inside the building and the way it has been handled to date by the asbestos removal contractor,' he said. 'We knew there was plenty of asbestos in there but we always had concerns with the contractor doing the removal.' Brisbane Times
Ask RenataI'm an elected health and safety rep and I've been having problems with PINs. I issued a PIN on an OHS issue about which I had unsuccessfully sought resolution of through consultation. My employer appealed against the PIN - but the problem turned out to be a 'technical' error. I had mistakenly requested compliance within 7 days (as opposed to the required 8 days). The inspector agreed it was a mistake and suggested I withdraw the PIN. What should I have done?
I believe the inspector should have accepted the PIN and asked the employer to address the issue. Section 65 of the Act makes it clear that a PIN is not invalid 'merely because of a formal defect or irregularity in the notice unless the defect or irregularity causes or is likely to cause substantial injustice.'
If everyone agreed that the there was a substantive OHS issue, then this should have been addressed.
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.
Workers have the right to speak up: Ark TribeArk Tribe, who had been charged for refusing to attend a compulsory interrogation with the ABCC (section 52), was acquitted this week – had he been convicted, he would have faced six months in jail. Both Ark and his union, the CFMEU, believed he was simply standing up for his rights when he raised safety problems at a Flinders University construction site in 2008, and then refused to attend the ABCC meeting, to which he would have had to attend alone, without any legal representation. National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction and General Division, Dave Noonan, said, 'We have been fighting this for 18 months, and this is terrific news for Ark and his family. It proves what a shambles the ABCC is. A worker has been dragged through hell for what? The Government must now recognise the Australian Building and Construction Commission to be a shambles and move to abolish it once and for all.'
ACTU President Ged Kearney, who attended the rally in support of Ark Tribe outside the Adelaide Magistrates' Court Wednesday morning, said the failure of this high profile prosecution was a major rebuff for the ABCC and the discriminatory laws it oversees.
Current ABC Commissioner Leigh Johns said that he sympathised with building and construction workers who resented the existence of a 'compulsory examination process' that didn't apply in other industries, but that given the 'level of industrial unlawfulness in the building and construction industry, especially in Victoria and Western Australia .. the continued use of section 52 is, regrettably, necessary'. However, Johns said there would be fewer section 52 examinations if employees and unions provided 'their side of the story' on health and safety matters voluntarily and early in investigations.
CFMEU Media Release , ACTU Media Release Adelaide Advertiser
December release for Model regulationsSafe Work Australia has now confirmed that the draft model Work Health and Safety Regulations and priority model Codes of Practice will be released for comment in December. The public consultation period will last for four months, as originally planned, after which a final "Regulations package" is handed to the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council for approval, most likely in June 2011.
It is crucial that as many interested reps and workers send in comment and, while the package will be long and very complex, the VTHC and some unions will do everything possible to facilitate input by providing material which you will be able to use. In addition, we will ensure that our submission is placed on this website. The material will most likely be available towards the end of February next year. For up to date information on the progress on the Model OHS legislation, go to this new page on the OHS Reps website.
Fatigue/hours of work bulletin from AMWUThe National office of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) has released a bulletin It's No Accident [pdf] which is on fatigue, working shifts and long hours. It provides information and advice on shift lengths, hours of work and more.
ACTU calls for curb on CEO salariesA new analysis of remuneration at Australia's 50 largest companies reveals the typical CEO is taking home almost 100 times that of the average worker. Not only that, but these companies gave their CEOs an average 17.2 per cent pay rise over the 2009-10 financial year, more than three times the increase received by the average worker.
Executive PayWatch 2010 [pdf], an analysis of the annual reports of the companies that comprise the ASX/S&P 50, shows that the total remuneration flowing to Australia's top bosses increased by an average $943,000 last year. Average full time weekly earnings increased by about $3,200, or 5.2 per cent, over the same period. Since 2001 executives' base pay has risen by 130%, compared to a 52% increase in average weekly earnings.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Executive PayWatch 2010 report highlighted the blatant hypocrisy of big business executives in pushing for industrial relations deregulation that would cut the pay, conditions and rights of Australian workers. 'The numbers in this report tell a story of greed and inequality,' Ms Kearney said.
ACTU Media Release
Inflexible hours, weekend work linked to obesityApproximately 25 per cent of Australia's adult population is obese, and Australian researchers have found that inflexible hours and weekend work are contributing to the problem. In 2004, the research team, led by Dr Christopher Magee of the University of Wollongong's School of Psychology, began to examine the long-term impact employment-related factors such as work hours, job autonomy, security and flexibility had on a worker's body mass index (BMI). At the beginning of the study, 18.1 per cent of the 1670 participants were obese (BMI >29), 46.1 per cent were overweight (BMI 25-29) and 35.8 per cent were lean (BMI <25). After four years, about 14.6 per cent of participants had lost weight, 34.5 per cent had gained weight, and 50.9 per cent weighed roughly the same.
They also found that men were significantly less likely than women to have gained weight, and married workers were less likely to have lost it. None of the work-related factors examined were associated with decreased BMI, but inflexible and weekend work "significantly predicted" increased BMI.
Occupational Factors Associated With 4-Year Weight Gain in Australian Adults [abstract]. Christopher Magee, et al, Australia, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 52, Issue 10, October 2010.
Job strain heart risk for womenWomen with high job strain have a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those in less demanding posts, a new study suggests. Researchers from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital have found women have an 88 per cent raised risk of a heart attack, and more chance of strokes and damage requiring coronary artery bypass surgery. The study found overall women who report having high job strain have a 40 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and the need for procedures to open blocked arteries, compared to those with low job strain. Job strain is defined as having a demanding job that provides limited opportunity for decision making or to use creative or individual skills. The study also found job insecurity was associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity - but not directly with poor cardiovascular health. The researchers followed 17,415 healthy women for more than 10 years.
Lead researcher Natalie Slopen said: 'Women in jobs characterised by high demands and low control, as well as jobs with high demands but a high sense of control are at higher risk for heart disease long term.' Study co-author Dr Michelle Albert said the study suggested job stress had both a short and long-term effect on cardiovascular health. She added: 'From a public health perspective, it's crucial for employers, potential patients, as well as government and hospital entities to monitor perceived employee job strain and initiate programmes to alleviate job strain and perhaps positively impact prevention of heart disease.' The findings were presented to the American Heart Association.
American Heart Association news release From Risks 483
Shiftwork is bad for you – what a surprise!Research from the University of British Columbia (UBC) Canada have found that workers who work night shifts and rotating shifts are almost twice as likely to be injured on the job as those working regular day shifts. The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, examined data on more than 30,000 Canadians and compared results between workers involved in different types of shiftwork from 1996-2006. It shows that while the overall rate of work injuries in Canada decreased during this time, the rate of injuries did not decline for night shiftworkers.
The study also found that the risk of work injury associated with shiftwork was more pronounced for women, especially if they work rotating shifts. 'The disruption of normal sleep patterns due to shiftwork can cause drowsiness or fatigue, which can lead to workplace injuries,' said lead author Imelda Wong, of UBC's School of Environmental Health. 'Our research shows that people working rotating and night shifts are more likely to experience an injury than those who work regular day hours.' The researchers suggest that because women are more likely to be responsible for childcare and household work, they may have more difficulties adjusting to shiftwork and maintaining regular sleep schedules. 'As more and more workers become involved in non-daytime shiftwork, we may see an increase in injuries, especially among women,' said co-author Chris McLeod. 'Regulatory agencies and employers need to consider policies and programmes to help reduce the risk of injuries among shiftworkers.'
Wong IS, McLeod CB, Demers PA. Shift work trends and risk of work injury among Canadian workers. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 2010, online first. Science Daily. From Risks 482
Work chemicals linked to male breast cancerResearch published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine has linked common workplace chemicals to an increased risk of male breast cancer. Researchers investigated occupational risk factors for male breast cancer, using a case control study conducted in eight European countries. They found male breast cancer incidence was particularly increased in motor vehicle mechanics, who were twice as likely to develop the disease. There was a clear 'dose-effect' relationship - the risk of developing the cancer increased with duration of employment. The male breast cancer risk was also increased in paper makers and painters, forestry and logging workers, health and social workers, and furniture manufacture workers. The authors note: 'These findings suggest that some environmental chemicals are possible mammary carcinogens. Petrol, organic petroleum solvents or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are suspect because of the consistent elevated risk of male breast cancer observed in motor vehicle mechanics.' They add: 'Endocrine disruptors such as alkylphenolic compounds may play a role in breast cancer.' The paper concludes: 'The elevated risk of male breast cancer among motor vehicle mechanics points to a role of PAH and petrol or petroleum solvents in breast carcinogenesis, which needs to be investigated further in studies of male or female breast cancer. For the first time in male breast cancer, we have shown that endocrine disrupting chemicals could affect breast cancer risk. These results support growing evidence that breast cancer may be linked to exposure to environmental pollutants, and should encourage further studies on this issue.'
Sara Villeneuve, Diane Cyr, Elsebeth Lynge and others. Occupation and occupational exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in male breast cancer: a case-control study in Europe, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 67, pages 837-844, 2010 [abstract]. Hazards Green jobs,safe jobs blog From: Risks 483
Eleven people have been injured in nail gun incidents across Melbourne since the start of May, including five in September. Two of the 11 injured had five-centimetre nails lodge in their head, while another pulled out a nail that entered near his eye. This rash of incidents has prompted Ambulance Victoria to issue a warning
Ambulance Victoria Media Release
For construction workers and holiday houses
WorkSafe Victoria has warned that tradesmen working on holiday houses could be at risk by pressure to get jobs done before Christmas. The warning follows an incident at Waratah Bay in South Gippsland Friday morning when a painter fell more than four metres after a trailer-mounted elevating work platform tipped over on a slope behind a holiday house. The 41-year-old Traralgon man has suspected spinal injuries.
WorkSafe's Executive Director for Health and Safety, Ian Forsyth, said training, supervision and working safely would maximise the chances of people making Christmas. 'Make no mistake, this is a high-risk time of year. Had a delivery driver not come by allowing the alarm to be raised, this man could easily have been there for hours waiting for help to arrive.'
WorkSafe Media Release
Useful MaterialsFrom the NSW Department of Primary Industries
A bulletin: Bullying and Victimisation in the Workplace [pdf], in response to a "noticeable increase" in complaints made to the Mine Safety Operations branch of Industry & Investment NSW. The DPI advises mine operators to carry out a risk assessment in relation to bullying and victimisation, and implement grievance resolution mechanisms and bullying-related counselling and return-to-work plans.
Carter Holt Harvey convicted after timber mill deathA division of a major Australasian forestry company has been convicted and fined for safety failures after a female worker died at its Morwell wood processing plant in 2008. The 35 year old worker was killed when a one and half tonne timber pack hoist fell on her as she was dislodging a jammed piece of timber. A hoist system, used to stack timber into packs, stopped moving when it became jammed by a piece of timber. The worker used a sledge hammer to dislodge the timber which was preventing the hoist from moving - causing the hoist to fall on her. Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts Australia Pty Ltd, now part of BSG Holdings Pty Ltd was this week fined $120,000.
'Timber milling is high risk work, so employers need to be providing the highest possible level of protection for their workers,' WorkSafe's Executive Director for Health and Safety, Ian Forsyth, said. 'We'd expect a company which is part of a major player in the forestry industry to be leading the way on health and safety – clearly this wasn't the case,' he said.
Prosecution after safety notice lapseBayswater sheet metal fabrication and manufacturing company TAC Metal Industries Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Ringwood Magistrates' Court to two charges of failing to comply with improvement notices issued by a WorkSafe inspector. The company was placed on an adjourned good behaviour undertaking for 18 months, without conviction. They were also ordered to pay $10,000 to the court fund.
The prosecution followed a visit from a WorkSafe inspector to the company in October 2009. The inspector issued two notices requiring specific safety improvements to be made within a set timeframe. During a follow-up visit in November, the inspector found the safety improvements had not been made within the required timeframe. One month later in December, the company still hadn't undertaken the safety improvements required by the notices.
USA: The story of (electronic) stuff'The story of stuff' project has become an international phenomenon. The project's short and witty video analysis of how we produce stuff in a wasteful, damaging and unsafe fashion, has in less than three years been viewed over 12 million times. And it has spawned offspring, the latest of which is 'The story of electronics'. In under eight minutes, the video lets you 'learn about the electronics industry's 'design for the dump' mentality.' The 'stuff' team say: 'Join us in championing product take back to spur companies to make less toxic, more easily recyclable and longer lasting products.' The story of electronics film has been produced with groups campaigning around the world with unions and electronics workers suffering cancer and other ill-effects resulting from workplace exposures. The groups are also prominent in the campaign to stop dumping of toxic e-waste on developing nations.
The story of electronics. The original story of stuff . Find a group working on electronics health and safety and e-waste issues. Huffington Post.