Issue 207 - Safety Net Journal 207
Welcome to the second edition of SafetyNet for 2011. This is another relatively short edition – but we'll probably be going back to fortnightly schedule soon.
Appalling conditions in abattoirs exposed
Sunday Age carried a long article exposing the terrible dangers to workers in Australian abattoirs – something well known to the workers themselves and their union, the
Australian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU). The meat industry has one of the highest injury rates in Australia, and this is reflected by the high workers compensation premium the industry must pay. While in the past two years WorkSafe has successfully convicted meat companies for amputations of fingers, thumbs and arms, the AMIEU says the regulator needs to scrutinise the meat industry more closely. 'WorkSafe need(s) to be game to prosecute, not just talk to people,' said the union's national secretary Graham Bird. According to the union, abattoir work is now harder, longer and faster than it used to be before tallies were scrapped during the industry's deregulation of the late 1990s, with 'too much emphasis on speed, and on how much production goes through, and not enough emphasis on the health and safety of the workers doing the job'.
News just in: a 27-year-old man had his arm amputated between the shoulder and elbow while operating a meat mixing and mincing machine at a Poowong (South-east of Melbourne) meatworks at about 8am Thursday morning. News.com.au
It seems too that not only meat workers are at high risk in abattoirs, but all workers. On Friday afternoon last week an 18 year old apprentice fitter was found dead in the cool room roof space of the Harvey Beef, Western Australia's largest abattoir. He had been crushed by machinery, and may have been dead for several days prior to being found. The abattoir's 300 workers were sent home after a co-worker found the young man's body, and the operations at the abattoir have been suspended. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union State secretary Steve McCartney said he had written to WorkSafe WA demanding a full and open investigation.
First fatality in Victoria for 2011
In the first work-related fatality in Victoria this year, a 53year old man was killed on Wednesday this week at a Kilsyth metal fabrication. He was working alone unloading a shipping container when a sheet of steel fell on him, crushing him. It is believed the steel had been lifted by crane out of the container. A number of other sheets had already been removed. Workmates lifted the steel sheet from the injured man and attempted CPR until an ambulance arrived. However, he died later. A team of WorkSafe Victoria inspectors and investigators went to the site to investigate further.
Ross Pilkington, director of WorkSafe's Manufacturing and Logistics Division, said while the investigation was at an early stage, the possibility that loads could shift in transit had to be anticipated and prepared for before unloading. 'If it can move, it can kill. The danger is magnified if the object and those working with it are in a confined space where there is less room to move,' he said. 'A safe system of work needs to be established even if a job has been done hundreds or even thousands of times before.'
WorkSafe Media Release. Relevant WorkSafe guides: Guidance on unpacking shipping containers & Guidance on the safe loading of trucks.
Crushing was in the top three most common causes fatalities at the workplace according to the September SafeWork Australia Fatality Report (see below).
Union calls on action following death
On January 23, a 35 yr-old truck driver became stranded on his first drive to a new destination. His truck bogged in the hot red West Australian earth, 75 kilometres from the nearest town. According to the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the bankrupt company he worked for, a Toll subcontractor, dispatched the driver without a water tank, satellite phone or even a map. Even worse, he had not received proper training. He walked 48 kilometres for 8 hours in searing 44 degree heat before collapsing. The union has launched a campaign: An industry not so full of cracks and cruelty and is asking people to send a letter of condolence.
Heat stress warning
The OHS regulator in South Australia, SafeWork SA, this week issued a warning urging workplaces to ensure they have measures in place to cope with the sudden burst of high temperatures being experienced in that state. SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director, Bryan Russell said, 'Employers must ensure a safe working environment, and managing such an obvious and foreseeable hazard as hot weather is a necessary part of that.' With temperatures likely to soar all over Australia, the advice should be heeded by employers everywhere. Earlier this week temperatures in Melbourne reached almost 40 degrees, and both the VTHC and WorkSafe's Advisory line were swamped with calls and enquiries. The VTHC recommends that reps raise the issue with their employers and seek to improve cooling of the workplace, and also negotiate and agree on a Workplace Heat Policy that can kick in automatically when the temperature soars.
With the heavy rains (and more) over this summer, water has entered parts of our workplace. We've noticed a funny smell, with wet carpets and so on. Could this be a problem in terms of health and safety?
If carpets or floors become wet and are not properly dried out, there's a chance that mould will form. Mould outdoors is not much of a problem; however mould growth indoors can have harmful effects on both property and the health of the people inside. As well as posing health risks to people in the building it invades, mould can gradually damage building materials and furnishings and even cause structural damage. As with any identified hazard, the employer has a duty under the Act to eliminate the risks so far as reasonably practicable, or minimise them if it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate them. Read more
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.
Fire in Melbourne's north creates asbestos risk
A large fire that gutted a large warehouse in Pascoe Vale, in Melbourne's northern suburbs, took 50 firefighters almost 2 hours minutes to bring under control last night (Thursday), as there are fears it contained asbestos. The facade of the building exploded and inside walls collapsed, causing debris, potentially containing asbestos, to be strewn around, and forcing the evacuation of nearby homes on three street frontages. The warehouse had previously been home to a large hardware chain, and the damage could exceed $1million. The cause is still unknown, but the police were last night treating it as suspicious.
Millions pledged for NSW asbestos mine clean-up
According to reports on the ABC the NSW government has pledged $6.3 million for remediation work at the Woodsreef asbestos mine, in the state's north-west. Three months ago a scathing report was released by the state's Ombudsman which highlighted the threat the site posed to the nearby township of Barraba. The remediation work would remove the 75-metre silos of asbestos tailings, demolish the eight-storey building full of asbestos, establish air monitoring and restrict access to the mine.
Merchants of Death from Quebec Seducing Indian Government & Companies
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) condemns the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the Indian Merchants' Chamber at the beginning of the 2011 trade mission to India, organized by a asbestos trade promoter like the Government of Quebec, Canada. The MoU was signed on 31st December, 2011.
A Quebec government's trade mission led by Clement Gignac, Economic Development Minister is currently in India (January 30 - February 4). This mission comprises of a representative of Baljit Chadha's Balcorp Ltd, which has been exporting Canadian chrysotile asbestos for 15 years and which heads the consortium of investors interested in the expansion of Jeffrey Asbestos Mine in Quebec. BANI has sent a letter to the Quebec Premier Jean Charest seeking that he not provide fiscal support for the asbestos mines in Quebec.
Read more BANI Blogspot
Europe: Work hazards vary for men and women
The physical hazards facing men and women at work differ, a European survey has found. The 5th European Working Conditions Survey, undertaken by the Dublin-based think tank Eurofound, found a third of men (33 per cent) were exposed to vibration at work, but just one in 10 (10 per cent) of women worked with vibrating tools or machinery. The survey also found men (42 per cent) were far more likely than women (24 per cent) to be required to carry heavy loads. However, almost three times the number of women (13 per cent compared to 5 per cent) were required to lift or move people as part of their work. Similar proportions of men and women work in tiring positions (48 per cent and 45 per cent respectively), or make repetitive hand and arm movements (64 per cent and 63 per cent), which are also the most common physical hazards. The survey found the proportion of European workers exposed to physical hazards had not dropped in 20 years. Eurofound summaries on gender differences and physical hazards. Source: Risks 491
Latest data on non-intentional farm-injury-related deaths
A new report into non-intentional farm-injury-related deaths Farm Injury Related Deaths in Australia 2003–2006, prepared by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety using information sourced from the National Coroners Information System has found that in that period there were 326 non-intentional farm-injury deaths. The leading agents of death for adults were tractors (57), quad bikes/all-terrain vehicles (23) and farm utilities (23). The number and rates of fatalities in agriculture has continued to decline over the past 20 years, from an average of 146 per year in 1989–92, to 82 per year in the current study period. Farmsafe, an organisation seeking to improve farm safety, said in a Media Release that while the data suggests good progress in improving the health and safety record of the agricultural sector, it also clearly reflected that the most common agents of non-intentional farm injury fatalities (tractors, quad bikes, dams/water bodies and farm utilities) have well defined solutions that are available to prevent death and serious injury.
WorkSafe Victoria reports that, midway through a one-year farm safety campaign, it has issued almost 300 Improvement notices. Safety issues identified by inspectors included missing guarding on grain augers, wool presses, mulchers, sprayers, and slashers; forklifts without seatbelts; pallet racking being overloaded; quad bike operators without helmets; and tractors without roll-over protection.
A host employer in Western Australia was recently convicted and fined $50,000 for the death of a farm worker supplied by a labour hire firm. In November 2006 the man working alone at a grain growing farm near Miling, riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on the host employer's farm when he rode into a wire gate. He was found lying on the road the next morning by a truck driver. The man had not been wearing a helmet. He suffered serious head injuries and died in hospital two days after the incident. The labour hire firm was also convicted and fined $30,000.
SafeWork Australia Fatality Report
SafeWork Australia's recently released Notified Fatalities Monthly Report for the third quarter of 2010 reports that 35 people were killed in that quarter, 17 per cent higher than the same period last year. Of the 35 killed, two were 'bystanders', the rest workers. The three most common causes of death were being hit by a falling object (8 fatalities), falls from a height and crushing (6 fatalities each). SafeWork Australia Report.
WorkSafe Victoria: Case studies for all of the 2010 award's finalists have been uploaded onto the web.
Queensland employer opts for enforceable undertaking
Enforceable undertakings, a relatively new 'tool' in the regulator toolbox, are becoming more common, with Boeing Training & Flight Services Australia Pty Ltd (Queensland) agreeing to spend more than $100,000 on safety and community initiatives to avoid being prosecuted for a worker's fall. The fall occurred in May 2008, while the worker was giving a group of fire fighters a "familiarisation tour" of the company's Brisbane site. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigated the incident and decided to prosecute the employer for breaching the State's Workplace Health and Safety Act. The regulator accepted Boeing's proposal of an enforceable undertaking, instead of prosecution.
Global Continuing union campaign against sandblasting jeans
In an ongoing campaign, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) is calling for a ban on sandblasting jeans, which it says can cause silicosis and even death. Its General Secretary, Patrick Itschert, reports that 550 former jeans sandblasting workers have been diagnosed with silicosis in the Turkish textile industry since 2005, and 46 have died from it. Sandblasting is used to give jeans the fashionably faded look. Read more
USA: EPA Launches Tool - 10,000 health and safety studies on chemicals publically accessible
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has introduced a new web-based tool which gives the public easy access to more than 10,000 health and safety studies on industrial chemicals submitted to the EPA under the
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Under TSCA, companies are required to submit health and safety studies when they show there may be a substantial risk, when chemical testing is required, or to facilitate EPA's review of new chemicals. This information is now publicly available in the Chemical Data Access Tool where users can search for the name of a chemical or for a particular health or safety concern.
EPA Press Release
USA: Report on OSHA identifies 7 Priority Reforms
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) was introduced in 1970 to 'assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions.' Yet according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2009 more than 4,000 workers died on the job and 3.3 million workers were injured or made ill by their work. The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production conducted a year-long analysis of successes and failures of this 40-year history and last week released a report identifying seven high-priority strategies needed to improve the country's workplaces. The suggested reforms include comprehensive workplace injury and illness prevention programs that tap worker and employer knowledge and proven approaches to quality assurance to systematically identify and control workplace hazards. The report also identifies strategies that other agencies and organizations can pursue to improve safety and health at work without waiting for changes to the federal OSHA. These include promoting "Prevention through Design" initiatives to design-out hazards and make jobs, products and materials inherently safer.