Issue 221 - SafetyNet 221Welcome back to SafetyNet – Edition number 221. This is our first regular broadcast on the Thursday. The team at the VTHC OHS Unit hopes you find it interesting. Any comments, please email us!
OHS Reps Conference: 19 October. Almost last chance to register
Registrations for the 2011 Annual VTHC Health and Safety Reps' Conference close October 4. This is Victoria's biggest event during WorkSafe Week and this year it's on Wednesday October 19, once again at the Melbourne Convention Centre - 1 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf, 3006 (Crown side of the Yarra River).
This will be probably be the last conference under Victoria's current Occupational Health and Safety Act, and for this year at least, elected health and safety reps have the right to attend the conference on paid leave as it has been granted approval by WorkSafe Victoria under S69 of the Act.
Registrations are now open. To find out more and download a registration for, go to this page of the OHS Reps @ Work website. Expect to receive a confirmation email (or letter) within about a week of sending in your registration. You must bring this along on the day to check in. Only contact us if you don't receive anything after a week.
And don't forget there are lots of other events that week - more than 100 seminars and events across Victoria, Work Safe Week provides an easy way to learn the latest and prepare for the year to come. To register for other events happening during Work Safe Week visit the special Work Safe Week website
OHS Regulator denies claims of bullying
WorkSafe Victoria this week made headlines for the wrong reason: several of its own staff have spoken out about the bullying they allege they suffered, or are continuing to suffer while working for the regulator with the role of protecting workers. According to these workers, WorkSafe is a "toxic environment" with a "culture of fear". A staff member who recently resigned from WorkSafe, just one of 20 current and former employees, union workers and safety experts interviewed by The Age, said, "People are really scared to talk. How can we tell other people how to deal with bullying in their workplaces when we don't?'
Interviewed by the ABC, Community and Public Sector Union State secretary Karen Batt said, "We can go on the number of cases that have come into the union from the members who work at WorkSafe and it would be clear that there has been an increase over the last 12 months with over 20 defined cases of bullying that we are dealing with at the moment and over the past five years, that would be closer to 100. So I think that there are some issues that WorkSafe need to look at in relation to its operation."
Kate Walsh, a spokeswoman for the WorkSafe Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips, was reported in The Age as saying the watchdog's board was preparing an assessment about a range of 'organisational issues', including bullying, after the minister raised his concerns.
The VTHC and several affiliates have had on-going issues with how the regulator responds to bullying complaints – both internal and by workers in other workplaces. While allegations of bullying are far more difficult to deal with than, for example, unguarded machinery, we believe WorkSafe's processes have needed overhauling for a long time.
Read more: ABC The World Today Regulator accused of fostering culture of bullying The Age: Bullying alleged at WorkSafe Minister raised watchdog complaint SBS Report Workplace regulator accused of bullying
What can the HSR actually do/provide when given consent to be present at a meeting with management and an employee from the DWG when attempting to resolve issues? For example, is it a role of advocacy (i.e. interact/engage) or only as an observer? Our workplace has quite a few issues and this representative role of the HSR is being called upon more and more and I'm actively interested in becoming more knowledgeable of the actual process.
The OHS Act doesn't give any detail about what the role of the representative is in such interviews. What the Act does do is to give an elected rep the right to be present at ANY interview between a member of the DWG and the employer and/or an inspector (as long as the DWG member gives permission) on any matter involving OHS. Clearly, though, the intention is that any rep who is asked to be present, has a role to play.
WorkSafe's Employee Representation Guide provides the following explanation:
With the member's consent, an HSR may be present at an interview concerning health and safety between a DWG member and an inspector or a DWG member and the employer (or employer's representative).
Interviews such as these may occur, for example, in the course of inspections, after incidents, for return-to-work purposes or as part of issue resolution processes. The employee is entitled to have their HSR present at an interview with an inspector or the employer. The employee may wish to consult with the HSR before and/or after an interview."
From this advice you can surmise that the role of the rep in these circumstances is a representative for the DWG member - and as active or as passive as the member wishes them to be. It could involve taking notes, being a witness, speaking on behalf of the DWG member, or contributing to the interview.
If the situation is one of resolving an OHS issue, then the role of the rep is very important and it's the rep who may 'carry' the interview, with the member being the one to lend support by being able to provide the employer with first hand information. It's the rep, after all, who can proceed to take a number of options if the issue is not resolved at that point (eg calling an inspector, issuing a PIN, etc)
Don't forget that if you have any OHS - related queries or questions, send in an email through the Ask Renata function on the website. We haven't been getting lots of emails lately – so get your questions in.
ACTU launches new campaign
The ACTU launched a major national campaign this week to address the spread of casual, contract and other forms of insecure work in Australian workplaces. ACTU President Ged Kearney said about 40% of the workforce was in insecure jobs and the number is growing.
"Fewer and fewer Australians have the security of a permanent job," Ms Kearney said. "Casual jobs, short-term contracts, labour hire and other forms of insecure work prevent people from properly planning for their future or managing their household. Insecure workers have no rights to paid sick or annual leave, no certainty about their income or whether they will have a job next week, and no career path or sense of belonging to a workplace."
The Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign will be multi-layered, and involve workers in every industry across Australia. As the first step, the ACTU is asking Australians to join the campaign for secure work on the campaign's website. At the Sydney event the ACTU also launched a new report: Insecure work, anxious lives which documents the growth of insecure jobs in Australia.
Tasmanian asbestos victims win access to no-fault compensation
From October 31 this year, Tasmanian victims of workplace asbestos and their families will be entitled to "fair and timely" compensation after the Asbestos-Related Diseases (Occupational Exposure) Compensation Bill passed through Parliament. State Workplace Relations Minister David O'Byrne said "This is a landmark day for Tasmanian workers. [The laws] will provide no-fault compensation for people who've been exposed to asbestos in the workplace and are now suffering from debilitating and life-threatening asbestos-related diseases."
The Minister said though "Nothing can ever truly compensate workers and their families for the terrible pain caused by asbestos-related disease" the scheme, which will be self-funded through a four per cent levy on workers' compensation premiums, will provide workers and their families "with some comfort and access to good medical care during a very difficult and stressful period" Minister's Media Release
A prominent asbestos merchant is headed to Montreal's Parliament Hill as part of a broader counter-offensive to salvage the reputation of his killer industry. Baljit Chadha is fighting back after Canada's asbestos sector has absorbed a public-relations pummelling, both there and internationally, in recent months. The public-relations battle comes at a critical time.
The Quebec government is considering whether to help Chadha save one of Canada's last two asbestos mines, in the town of Asbestos, with an October 1 deadline looming on a decision. Chadha is now determined to dispel what he describes as myths about the contentious mineral, which he argues has been unfairly vilified by a highly organized "anti-asbestos lobby."
Read more: Global Montreal Asbestos industry planning PR campaign to dispel 'myths,' face down critics
Dark side of the two-speed economy exposed: report
A major new report launched by the Uniting Church has revealed that more and more of Australia's lowest paid workers are falling into a poverty trap every day, unable to pay bills, sliding deeper into debt and even cutting back on groceries and children's expenses. The Uniting Church investigated the plight of almost 400 cleaners in Victoria's big shopping malls, and has found that many of these workers are unable to enjoy even a basic standard of living. "This report shows there is a dark side to our two speed economy," said Louise Tarrant National Secretary of United Voice, the Cleaners Union. "At the same time as mining companies record staggering profits and projected investment, there are other Australians who have fallen into a poverty trap and sliding deeper into debt."
The report also condemns the working conditions of shopping centre cleaners, which it describes as reminiscent of the 19th Century, when the Church first denounced the mistreatment of vulnerable workers. Many shopping centre cleaners are under enormous pressure: half saying they are stressed about their workload, which has increased as cleaning contractors slash jobs and cleaners' hours in a bid to undercut competitors. Excessive workloads are contributing to a spate of injuries, heart disease, depression, nervous breakdowns and families being torn apart.
Tarrant said, "Cleaners are under enormous pressure, often doing the jobs of two or three people. There have been heart attacks, nervous breakdowns, depression and marriages torn apart. Importantly, cleaners say this crisis is also affecting their work: they can't do their jobs properly, which is a real concern for the cleanliness and hygiene in our big shopping malls."
Posties stood down
The Communications Workers Union says that 43 of their members employed by Australia Post have been 'stood down' from two Victorian Delivery Centres (Airport West & Mt Waverley) for refusing to deliver by the Separate Bundle Delivery (SBD) method. More are being threatened every day. As reported in SafetyNet 219, the SBD is a new delivery system which requires posties to sort mail from different bundles outdoors, while straddling their motor-bikes. The previous system involved posties checking and sequencing the mail in a Delivery Centre before going out to deliver from a single bundle.
The posties are opposed to this new system on health & safety grounds: expert reports have identified nine major health and safety risks associated with SBD, including increased fatigue and exposure to traffic and UV radiation. Australia Post is sending posties home when they refuse to deliver the mail in this dangerous manner, whilst at the same time letting their replacements (when they can find them) deliver in the traditional manner!
The union is asking for support, including signing a petition. Go to the CWU website to give your support.
Firefighter cancer law 'a step closer'
The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011, introduced to Parliament by Greens MP and employment and workplace relations spokesperson Adam Bandt , has been endorsed by a Senate committee' and had its second reading in the Lower House last Monday. The Bill presumes cancers firefighters contract are work-related under federal laws and places the burden of proof on employers. However, the Bill proposes qualifying periods for firefighters to qualify: five years for primary brain cancer and leukaemia; 10 years for primary breast and testicular cancer; and 15 years for primary bladder, kidney and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Senate committee also recommended the types of cancers under the draft legislation be expanded to include a number of other cancers: multiple myeloma, primary site lung cancer in non-smokers and primary site prostate, ureter, colorectal and oesophageal cancers. As reported previously in SafetyNet, the Unified Firefighters Union (UFU) has been campaigning on this issue for the past five years. "Now it is incumbent on every MP to enact legislation to protect the protectors," UFU secretary Peter Marshall said. "Firefighters have no option to avoid being exposed to toxic soup when they save lives and properties."
The UFU has launched a campaign asking for support from the public to send messages to their politicians URGENTLY support the Fair Protection for Firefighters Bill. The union says they have just two weeks to get this support before the Bill gets voted on.
Send your message and read more about the issue on the Protect your firefighters website
Two workers seriously injured
Two men have suffered serious injuries after they were crushed while unloading aluminium sheets from a shipping container in at a Douro Street graphic supplies company in North Geelong last Thursday. The four-metre long sheets tipped onto the two men while they were loading them onto pallets, resulting in the workers being trapped for nearly an hour.
The men, one aged in his early 20s and the other in his late 30s, who are employed by a labour hire company, were airlifted to the Alfred Hospital with serious injuries. WorkSafe went to the scene to investigate and issued a prohibition notice, immediately suspending operation until a safe system of work could be established.
Work-related Grief Support
OHS Reps @ Work would like to alert reps to two Victorian organisations helping families who lose someone due to a work-related death:
Work-related Grief Support: a free support service for people living in Victoria who have been bereaved by the work-related death of a loved-one.
Bette Phillips is the Family Support Services Coordinator for the program. No matter how long ago the death happened, if you would like to talk to someone, our service is available.
Industrial Deaths Support and Advocacy Inc. (IDSA)
Supported by WorkSafe Victoria, IDSA is an organisation established to assist people whose loved ones have died at work, whether in industry or in any other type of workplace. Most people involved with IDSA have first-hand experience of the loss associated with a workplace death. All help from IDSA is free and confidential.
Ph/Fax: (03) 9654 3353 or (03) 9309 4453 Mob: 0414 763 143 or contact them via email. IDSA Website
Overheated staff want ministers to 'cool it!'
Just as Australia's heading into warmer weather, news comes through of UK bakery union, the BFAWU, launching a campaign for the introduction of a maximum workplace temperature to protect workers from cooking on the job. The union's 'Cool It!' campaign was launched at the TUC's Congress. BFAWU general secretary, Ronnie Draper, commented: 'It is high time that government, whatever colour, recognises the misery that is heaped upon UK workers by working in extremely hot temperatures. We have to get across the message that we are not seeking legislation that stops the job, but desperately need a consistent approach to control measures being triggered.' He added: 'This major campaign will build on the major initiatives that we have run in the past, and will embrace the work that John McDonnell MP, our parliamentary group members, and the Trade Union Coordinating Group (TUCG) unions are currently conducting.' An Early Day Motion from UK Labour MP John McDonnell 'calls on the government to provide clear, coherent and enforceable requirements for employers about how to combat heat in the workplace, including the introduction of a maximum working temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees Celsius for those doing strenuous work.'
The VTHC regularly gets calls during our summer from people working in temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius, with one person last year reporting that the temperature in the auto repair workshop reaching over 50 degrees on one of our typically hot days. The same problem arises here – employers not taking any action to prevent the temperature rising in the first place, and having no plans in place for what to do if it gets too hot.
UK unions will fight cuts
UK's unions have reaffirmed their commitment to fight cuts in their regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, and attacks on safety laws. Delegates to TUC's Congress unanimously supported construction union UCATT's motion critical of the government's decision to lop 35 per cent off HSE's budget by 2015. The annual TUC conference was told longstanding financial pressures mean HSE's enforcement activities have already fallen to an all-time low. The unions are also concerned with dramatic cuts in inspections, which mean many sectors including the notoriously hazardous agriculture and quarrying industries, will no longer receive unannounced inspections. The decision to axe HSE's telephone Infoline also concerned unions.
Read more: Risks 524
France: 3000 occupational lung cancers per year
French researchers from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health have found that approximately 3000 new cases of lung cancer in that country are directly attributable to occupational exposures in industries such as mining, metal manufacturing and viticulture. Men who worked in these sectors were nearly twice as likely as others to contract the deadly disease.
The research was based on nearly 6500 lung cancer victims and controls, as well as lists of occupations known or suspected of having an association with lung cancer which were first drawn up in 1982, and continually revised since then. The occupations with known associations were also included ceramic making, asbestos or granite production, iron and steel founding, electroplating, coke plant workers, asphalt workers, roofers and painters. Of those occupations with a suspected association, cancer levels in men were higher for butchers and meat workers, carpenters and transport workers, and for women, the dry cleaning/laundering sector.
Risk of Lung Cancer and Occupational History: Results of a French Population-Based Case-Control Study, the ICARE Study. [abstract] Florence Guida, et al, France, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 53, Issue 9, September 2011.
Nano firms are putting workers at big riskAccording to research done by the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), many major companies working with nano particles are doing little or nothing to protect their staff - and some are using 'safety' measures that are making matters worse. The researchers surveyed 78 international companies working with nanoparticles and found many are unsure about the right way to protect those handling the materials, or how to dispose of them. Cassandra Engeman presented the group's findings at August's Fifth International Symposium on Nanotechnology, Occupational and Environmental Health, held in Boston, USA. She said 87 per cent of the companies surveyed had a basic health and safety programme, although less than half the firms had a nano-specific programme. Almost one-in-eight, 13 per cent, reported having no safety programme at all. More than 60 per cent of the companies said they monitored work areas for nanoparticles. But when they were asked for details about how they were dealing with potential contamination, a significant number said they were using methods, such as sweeping or vacuuming, that are more likely to disperse nanoparticles into the air than they are to clean them up. It is a problem that should have been well-understood at the outset, not least because it replicates mistakes made by the asbestos industry decades earlier. Engeman said the survey shows there's still a long way to go when it comes to workplace safety and nanotechnology. She added the views of workers are 'missing from the discussion.'
Source: Risks 523 New Haven Independent .
Sweden: Paid exercise time works for firms
Employers in Victoria are being urged by our occupational health and safety regulator WorkSafe to get involved with the personal health and well-being of their staff. Our experience has been that many of these programs promote lifestyle changes, for example, urging workers to exercise and eat healthily. But UK's Risks e-journal reports that Swedish experience suggests that if firms really want to see the benefits of a fitter workforce, they should give them paid time at work to take the exercise. Researchers from Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet found working out during paid office hours can lead to higher productivity for companies. 'This comes on the one hand from people getting more done during the hours they are at work, and on the other hand, from less absenteeism owing to sickness,' Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz and Henna Hasson, the researchers behind the study, said in a statement.
The study involved a large Swedish dental organisation, with employees from a total of six workplaces being divided up into three groups. The first group was asked to spend 2.5 hours on physical activity, spread across two sessions a week. The second group had the same decrease in work hours but did not have to undertake exercise, and the third group worked their usual 40 hours work a week. All employees retained the same salaries. The workload of the practice, in this case the number of patients treated, remained the same while study was being carried out. The study showed that all three groups were able to maintain or even increase their production level during the study compared with the corresponding period the previous year. Those who exercised also reported improvements in self-assessed productivity - they felt they got more done at work and had a greater capacity for work, as well as being absent from work less often.
Source: Risks 523 Read more: Local Sweden
WorkSafe Victoria releases 2011 Annual Report
Greg Tweedly, Chief Executive of WorkSafe Victoria, last week released the regulator's 2011 Annual Report. He said that in 2010/11 WorkSafe had been able to demonstrate that the fundamentals of its scheme are strong, maintaining support and benefits for injured workers, whilst providing sustainable and competitive injury insurance for employers. He specifically mentioned that Victoria had achieved the lowest injury rate on record for the fourth year in a row and that in 2011/12, Victorian employers will also benefit from having the lowest average premium rate in Australia. He said, "Our achievements this year occurred with the hard work and commitment from Victorian workers, employers, Agents, stakeholders and the community. "
WorkSafe Victoria 2011 Annual Report
Harmonisation: Victoria calls for delay
While some jurisdictions are introducing the harmonised Act and regs, Victoria has yet to introduce the Bill into parliament, with the Minister for WorkCover (also the Assistant Treasurer) Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips, yesterday calling for a 12 month delay. The call is not a surprise, given that last week the Minister expressed the position that the Regulatory Impact Statement released by Minister Evans "fails to include critical details on the impacts for Victoria" and indicated that Victoria would need to do further analysis of the Commonwealth RIS and consider whether a separate Victorian RIS would be required.
In yesterday's statement, the Minister confirmed that Victoria will not be in a position to proceed (with harmonisation) until a Victorian-specific RIS had been undertaken and evaluated. Work has already begun on a supplementary independent RIS, expected to take several
months. The Minister confirmed however, the government's commitment to "the principle of OHS harmonisation."
WorkSafe's Annual Report (see above) released last week, had expressed similar concerns:
'Our current Act and regulations were taken up as the basis for discussions about what model should apply nationally. Our laws and our approach to administering them strike the right balance between enshrining safer work practices, without unnecessarily jeopardising business efficiency or productivity. The challenge is to ensure the benefits harmonisation delivers to multi-state businesses are not at the expense of small and medium sized businesses which make up a large portion of our State economy.
Further research will take place to better quantify the benefits to all Victorian businesses before Victoria commits to the national model laws and regulations. We will continue to work to identify areas of the reform process where we can capture benefits, especially as they relate to multi-state employers.'
Minister's Media Releases: Important information missing in Commonwealth Regulation Impact Statement for National OHS harmonisation and Victoria calls for delay to national Occupational Health and Safety harmonisation
Harmonisation: Other news
In harmonisation news from around Australia:
Western Australia, last week formally advised the Federal government that it will be unable to meet the timeframe and that is no longer possible for the state to implement the harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws by 1 January 2012.
Commerce Minister Simon O'Brien has written to Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, seeking a reconsideration of the implementation date, on the grounds that Western Australia has 'not been given enough time to analyse the full impact of the model Work Health and Safety Regulations'. O'Brien said, 'WA has been left with an impossibly short period of time in which to analyse the impact on businesses of introducing a new set of laws, and this could have a devastating impact on our small business sector in particular.'
The ACTU has condemned the WA Government for putting politics before the state's workers. ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said the WA Government had had two years to work towards agreement on the new laws, set to come into effect from the start of next year, but had instead employed stalling tactics to avoid its responsibilities. "Premier Colin Barnett must explain to the workers of WA why he believes they should not have the same protections at work as the rest of Australia," Mr Borowick said. "Hardly a week passes without workers in WA's resources sector being injured, which only reinforces why the state must be a part of nationally harmonised OHS laws. If workers in this state are not given the same protections as the rest of Australia, then lives will undoubtedly be at risk." ACTU Media Release
The ACT last week became the third jurisdiction to pass the Work Health Safety Bill – but in the process, removing the right of unions to bring their own prosecutions against employers, as they currently have the right to do there. This differs from the NSW decision, to maintain this right under the new legislation. The third jurisdiction to pass the bill is Queensland.
Draft codes released for public comment
Safe Work Australia this week released for public comment the second set of draft model WHS Codes of Practice developed to support the model WHS Act and Regulations. Of particular interest to HSRs are the draft Codes on Bullying and Fatigue. The Draft Codes and Issues Paper are available on the Safe Work Australia website
The public comment for draft model Codes of Practice has two closing dates. Codes 1 – 6, which are regarded as 'critical' to be in place by 1 Jan 2012 by jurisdictions have a closing date of Friday, 18 November 2011. These are:
First Aid in the Workplace
Managing Risks in Construction Work
Preventing Falls in Housing Construction
Managing Electrical Risks at the Workplace
Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals
Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace
The closing date for the remaining draft model Codes of Practice is Friday, 16 December 2011. These are Safe Design of Building and Structures; Excavation Work; Demolition Work; Spray Painting and Powder Coating; Abrasive Blasting; Welding and Allied Processes; Safe Access in Tree Trimming and Arboriculture; Preventing and Managing Fatigue in the Workplace and Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying.
WorkSafe warning: Mouse plague safety hazards
Victoria's increasing mouse population is moving into haystacks potentially making them unstable, WorkSafe warns. A wet winter along with rummaging rodents is turning stacks and individual bales into a serious hazard where mice have dug into and eaten the stacks, undermining their stability and solidity.
"If you see evidence of mice, particularly displaced hay that they've dug out of a stack, take great care when working on or near it," the director of the Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Division, Ross Pilkington, said. "Stacks of bales are solid when they're made, but infestation with mice means they can become unstable and fall. "Removing one bale at a time and being aware of the potential for upper layers to shift or give way in the centre will help ensure no one is hurt."
WorkSafe Media Release
HWSA on Quad Bikes
The Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) - Australia and New Zealand has announced the development of new support tools to help farmers and dealerships improve quad bike safety. This follows continuing injuries and deaths involving these vehicles. A point-of-sale brochure, poster and pre-purchase checklist have been already released to help farmers buy the safest vehicle for their needs. These and the industry strategy can be downloaded on the HWSA website. The Acting Chair of the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) Peter Dunphy said the products were among a package of measures to be implemented in the coming months. "Quad bikes are an important and popular piece of farm equipment, but they present serious safety risks in the event of an incident," Mr Dunphy said, "This is highlighted by the more than 140 quad bike deaths on Australian farms since 2000. Dealerships play a key role in contributing to workplace safety outcomes and with these tools they can provide advice to farmers on what to be aware of before purchasing a quad bike."
Read more: HWSA Media Release [pdf ]
From Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, a Safety Alert Safe use and guarding of meat processing machinery the purpose of which is to highlight the risks associated with using small meat processing machines for slicing, mincing, grinding or tenderising meat and meat products. The Alert was issued after it was found that a number of imported meat slicing machines exposed operators to a serious risk of injury.
Appeal against 450k fine rejected
Victorian Appeal Court judges this week dismissed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) against a $450,000 fine on a towing company as a result of a worker being crushed to death. The DPP submitted a heavier sentence of $800,000 to $1 million was warranted given Nationwide Towing and Transport Pty Ltd had failed to comply with an undertaking following a similar incident in 2005 where no-one was injured, and failed to undertake a risk assessment and train its drivers satisfactorily. Chief Justice Marilyn Warren and two other justices rejected the appeal, finding the sentence was "not manifestly inadequate".
The $450,000 fine was imposed last year following the death of the worker, 30, in January 2007. He had climbed into an excavator cabin while it was sitting on a fully tilted trailer and was crushed to death when, as the 20-tonne excavator moved down the slope, it slid forward. The trial judge concluded that the company's unloading methods were unsafe, requiring the worker to drive the excavator from the trailer with its tracks hanging over the side. He also found the trailer was inappropriate for the task.
The Appeal Court found the sentence was not "unduly light" and "within the range of fines imposed in cases involving a fatality ". The sentence demonstrated "sufficient adherence to deterrence ", they found. After the incident, Nationwide provided OHS training, ensured driver incidents were logged and reviewed and fitted trailers with rubber matting. (DPP v Nationwide Towing & Transport Pty Ltd ,VSCA291, 27/09/2011)
EU: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
A new publication (September 2011): New risks and trends in the safety and health of women at work - A summary of an Agency report from the European Risk Observatory, can be downloaded from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU OSHA) website. Previous research done by the Agency on gender issues at work found that inequality both inside and outside the workplace had an effect on the health and safety of women at work.The current report adds some interesting data on past research, including:
While the concentration of female employment in a few sectors seems to be increasing rather than decreasing over time, it seems that jobs done by men may be even more segregated than those done by women - meaning that women are more likely to work across occupations and jobs than men, despite being concentrated in some professions
Informal work is increasing among women, which raises OSH concerns as these types of jobs are more to be likely unstable, unprotected and precarious.
The jobs in which women work are strongly dependent on their age and origin, rather than on their education levels. While younger women work preferentially in hospitality and retail, older women tend to work in health care and education. In sectors where an increasing proportion of workers are ageing, such as health care, specific policies should be developed to address the health and safety risks of these workers and enhance their work ability and wellbeing.
Women are more likely to suffer from multiple discrimination at the workplace. This may be due to gender, age, ethnic background, disability and sexual orientation, while migrant women also face discrimination based on their origin or class.
Women are more exposed to slips, trips and falls and to accidents linked to violence and are increasingly affected by MSDs and stress, questioning the misconception that women's work is less physically and mentally demanding..
The Agency officially launched the OiRA project - a multinational, collaborative endeavour to develop easy-to-use and cost-free web tools aimed at micro and small organisations - at the at the ILO Conference on OHS in Istanbul. According to tge Agency, proper risk assessment is the key to healthy workplaces, yet carrying out such risk assessments is challenging, particularly for micro and small enterprises which lack the resources or the occupational safety and health know-how to do so effectively. To facilitate the process, EU-OSHA has developed a comprehensive yet easy to use and cost-free web application, the OiRA - Online interactive Risk Assessment tool. OiRA helps micro and small organisations to put in place a thorough step-by-step risk assessment process – from the identification and evaluation of workplace risks, through decision making on preventive actions and the completion of these actions, to continued monitoring and reporting. More information – the OiRA website
USA: Teenage workers lose legs in 'lucky county'
Two 17 year old boys working together last August 4 at the Zaloudek Grain Co. in Oklahoma, USA, were operating a large floor grain aguer when something went terribly wrong. One teenager's legs became trapped in the auger, and when the other went to his friend's aid his legs also were pulled into the heavy machinery. Emergency rescue personnel had to cut apart the 12-inch metal auger in order to free the young men. They were flown 100 miles to Oklahoma City for surgery. It has since been revealed that their employer failed to maintain workers' compensation insurance. Oklahoma Department of Labor has fined the company $750 for failing to comply with workers' compensation law, the maximum fine allowed in the scenario under current law. Without workers' compensation insurance in place, there are now questions about how the young men's surgical, hospital and long-term rehabilitation expenses will be paid. Six weeks after the incident, one of the young workers remains in the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City; the other worker was hospitalized for four weeks.
Read more: The Pump Handle August 11 and September 16