Issue 210 - SafetyNet 210
Welcome to SafetyNet 210. Keep up to date with OHS developments around Victoria, the country and the world
Your viewsWe want to know what you think!!Over the next month, staff at the unit will be re-applying for the WorkSafe Victoria grant which finances the OHS Reps @ Work website (and SafetyNet). We would appreciate hearing from our subscribers, and users of the website - have you found the website and/or the journal useful? How often do you use it? What do you use the information for? Would it be a loss to you if the resource were no longer available? We welcome any views (particularly positive ones!). Please email Renata with as much or as little comment as you like. You can remain anonymous, or go into the draw to win one of five special "25 yrs of HSRs" stainless steel sports drink containers. (If you'd like to go in the draw, we'll need your contact phone numbers).
Thank you all!
100th anniversary of International Women's Day
Last Tuesday, March 8, marked the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day with events held around Australia and the world. The first International Women's Day in fact commemorated a demonstration by women workers in New York in 1857. But what established the modern celebration of International Women's Day in history, was the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York on 25 March 1911 that killed 146 young women workers, most of whom were immigrants. From the ashes of that tragic event, the pursuit of social justice for women and men ignited that day continues be felt around the world.
Why do we keep commemorating the day? Over the past 100 years in Australia, union campaigns for women's rights have succeeded in introducing paid and unpaid parental leave, carer's leave and, to a small extent, family-friendly flexible working arrangements. Despite these advances, women workers are still more often working in precarious employment, doing dirty jobs and, in Australia, being paid about 18 per cent less than their male counterparts. According to an Australian Human Resources Institute survey released for International Women's Day, 62 per cent of respondents said they worked in an environment where the management is between 70 and 100 per cent male. Women are still being sexually harassed in our workplaces. In other parts of the world, women are still working in sweatshops. There is still a lot to fight for and much to improve.
In Australia, 100 years on, fires still occur in the textile industry. In January 2011 a fire occurred in a carpet factory in Preston. There was no loss of life in this fire, but about 90 workers have had either no wages or short working hours since the fire. The Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA), is organising an event next Friday 25th March at 11am at the Victorian Trades Hall Council to commemorate and ask for better health and safety protection for workers here in Australia and the world. Everyone is invited.
ILO Media Release: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and International Women's Day: 100 years on ACTU Media Release: 100 years of achievements but gender pay gap still too wide
Public Sector Union releases 'What Women Want' survey results
To coincide with International Women's Day, the CPSU, Australia's public sector union, released the results of its annual survey of women members, What Women Want. The CPSU survey of almost 10,000 women found two in five women believe accessing flexible hours or taking time out for family reasons would disadvantage their career, and in addition to this, many women (almost one in five) are working 10 or more extra hours each week. The survey also has revealed a dramatic increase in the number of women who are being contacted by their employers outside work hours. This has increased from 35% of women in 2008 to 44% last year.
Of great concern is that more than a quarter of women experienced bullying and harassment at work – most often in the form of 'being put down in front of others', with direct supervisors being the most likely to be the perpetrator of this type of bullying. More than half the women who experienced bullying do not report it. Reasons included fear it would make the situation worse, it would not be dealt with properly and that it would harm career prospects. These fears were somewhat confirmed by the fact that of those who did report bullying, only 12.2 per cent report having been satisfied with management's response.
CPSU Media Release What Women Want Survey, 2010-2011 Report [pdf]
UK's peak union council: Menopause an issue for women workers
Also on the occasion of International Women's Day, the TUC, UK's peak union council has published new guidance on how employers and union reps can work together to support women through the menopause at work. The TUC says that menopause is an important occupational health issue for the millions of women over the age of 50 currently in work, and it believes that employers need to recognise that women of menopausal age may need extra consideration, as changes during the menopause can affect how a woman does her work, and her relationship with her boss and colleagues. It says the publication, Supporting women through the menopause [pdf] will help union reps raise the issue of the menopause in workplaces, and ensure that employers are aware that poor working conditions can aggravate symptoms.
The guidance is drawn from the experience of UK union health and safety representatives and also important new research ( Women's Experience of Working through the Menopause) [pdf] published by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation (BOHRF) in conjunction with the University of Nottingham.
TUC Media Release Women and OHS
With the ongoing rains, we had part of our ceiling collapse the other day. The building dates from the 1950s, and I had a concern that there might be asbestos. The ceilings are grey and look like they've been sprayed on. What should I do?
Many buildings of that period contain asbestos in all sorts of places – in insulating materials, under tiles, in walls and so on. Almost all building material including cement, roofing, tiling, insulation, and paint from the 1930s right through the mid 80s contained asbestos in them. During the 50's and 60's what is referred to as 'popcorn' or 'acoustic' ceilings were very popular. The material was easy to apply, it was a good noise damping agent, and it hid imperfections in the ceiling. However, these ceilings create a huge problem today as they contain asbestos.
So, under the OHS regulations (Part 4.3 Asbestos), there must be a current register done by a competent person, which identifies ALL the asbestos. If there's no written register or the register is not up to date (it must be reviewed at least every 5 years), then the employer (or the person with management or control of the workplace) must arrange for a register to be done. No work should happen in the area until either the material has been confirmed to NOT contain asbestos OR it has been removed by a licensed asbestos removalist.
More information on Asbestos in workplaces and the Asbestos regulations
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.
Union calls for national inspections of tower cranes
The CFMEU has called for a national inspection of all tower cranes following a near disaster in Perth. Perth's second-tallest building, C2, was evacuated last week following the discovery of a potentially fatal flaw in a crane operating 52 floors above the ground. The CFMEU construction assistant national secretary, Lindsay Fraser, said that the jib of the 32 tonne crane was peeling away from the base and that an initial inspection revealed that a welded section at the base of the jib had cracked approximately 15 cm and torn away. At the time it was not known why or how this occurred, and work was being carried out to stabilise the crane to avert further danger. "This is a potentially dangerous situation and we want action taken to ensure that workers on other sites across Australia are not similarly affected," Mr Fraser said.
Another quad bike deathAs reported in SafetyNet last year, over the past ten years, an average of 13 people per year have been killed on quad bikes in Australia. Yet a Trans-Tasman committee established by regulators seems to be focussing on user and community education and training, helmets and accessories, rather than the root cause of the fatalities and incidents: the inherent danger of these machines and their proneness to roll-over. Over the long weekend an 11-year-old boy was killed in a quad-biking accident in Victoria's west. It appears the boy was riding on his family's property at Woorndoo, about 25 kilometres north of Mortlake, when he fell off. His father found him trapped under the bike about 6.50pm. Although paramedics worked to revive the boy, he died at the scene. WorkSafe is investigating the accident. In addition, there were three workers killed (including one in Victoria) in quad bike incidents in the previous past two weeks. Just last week the ABC reported that farm safety experts were calling for roll-bars to be installed on all quad bikes as research had indicated that doing so would reduce deaths on farms by 30 per cent. Despite this, our own WorkSafe's response is that people 'need to be more careful' and 'needed to be properly trained and supervised when using quad-bikes and needed to be aware of their limitations
Sources: The Age; The Daily Telegraph
WA announces asbestos inspection program in construction
WorkSafe WA has begun an inspection program looking at safety standards when dealing with asbestos in the construction industry. Inspectors will visit metropolitan and regional construction sites throughout March and April to ensure that both employers and employees are carrying out asbestos work in accordance with workplace safety and health laws. Acting WorkSafe Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the inspections would focus on raising awareness of the safety risks and ensuring that employers had the information required to comply with the laws. He said, "Unfortunately a lot of asbestos remains in WA, and we need to make sure that removal work is carried out only by workers who have the proper knowledge and skills to perform the task safely."
Attacks on Sydney bus driversSydney bus drivers this week resolved to extend bans on some routes in the city's outer west following a machete attack on a driver during a hold-up. The bans were initially implemented over two weeks ago (see TWU website ) and Transport Workers Union of NSW secretary Wayne Forno said it was the third attack on a bus driver in the past fortnight. All incidents have been in the Mt Druitt area of western Sydney. Drivers are calling for security guards on buses on certain routes or wire meshing to prevent people accessing the driver's space. The bus companies say they are investigating the drivers' calls. The NSW transport department last week agreed to contact Blacktown Council to fix bad lighting and clear refuse such as bottles from the area which can be used as projectiles.
International Union news
Britain's TUC outraged: regulator to slash workplace inspections
The TUC's regular e-journal Risks reports that the unions are outraged that UK's OHS regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, has plans to reduce unannounced workplace inspections by a third. A leaked letter from HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger, obtained by the union-backed Hazards magazine and the BBC, outlines plans to discontinue inspections in entire sectors of industry, including some where it admits 'significant risk' remains. The unannounced 'knock on the door' has traditionally formed a key aspect of the HSE's approach to enforcement, and is credited with helping to reduce workplace deaths, injuries and work-related ill-health. The TUC has warned that in addition to the loss of regulator effectiveness due to reduction of proactive visits, rogue firms will be able to ignore safety rules with impunity if the official safety watchdog slashes the number of inspections. Risks 497
Chile: Unions demand mine safety action
On 18 October 2010 - 4 days after the last of 33 Chilean miners emerged from over two months underground at the San Jose copper mine - President Sebastián Piñera pledged in an interview to overhaul within 90 days the country's mine safety structures and ratify the International Labour Organisation's Convention 176 on mine safety. But ICEM and IMF, the global union federations representing mining unions, say nearly five months later, none of this has happened. On 2 March, a commission established by the Chilean parliament determined that the mine owners were responsible for the collapse of the poorly reinforced tunnels, and that the country's mine safety agency had failed to enforce its own rules. ICEM and the IMF are calling for messages to the Piñera government demanding they make good their promise. They say Chile's miners need to know that Piñera's pledge was a commitment, not a publicity stunt. Send the Chilean government a message from this IUF page, ICEM alert.
Shift workers 30% more likely to be overweight
According to a new Universitiy of Queensland study, which collected health information from female nurses from Australia, New Zealand and the UK, shift work increases an employee's chances of being overweight or obese by up to 30 per cent. About half of the almost 2500 participants were day workers, and the other half were shift workers.
While on average, 25 per cent of Australian women are overweight and 17 per cent are obese, the study found 32 per cent of participants were overweight and 27 per cent were obese. Only one per cent was underweight.
However, despite nearly 60 per cent of participants being overweight or obese, 61 per cent reported a good diet.
The researchers also found shift workers were 1.5 times more likely to be overweight or obese than day workers, even after adjustments for individual lifestyles and age. Shift workers were also more likely to have low levels of physical activity, smoke and have a poor diet. These results were consistent with several studies of both men and women in other occupational groups.
The researchers noted that at this stage the study did not consider stress, sleep, circadian factors and metabolic changes.
e-Cohort Study. Isabella Zhao, et al, Australia, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 53, Issue 2, February 2011.
Burden of death and disease due to chemicals
A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study published in the journal
Environmental Health has systematically reviewed all available information on the burden of disease attributable to chemicals.
Globally, in 2004 the burden of disease involving selected chemicals or their mixtures amounts to 5.7 per cent of the total burden of disease (or 86 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years - DALYs), and 8.3 per cent of deaths, or 4.9 million. The largest contributors include indoor smoke from solid fuel use, outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke, with 2.0, 1.2 and 0.6 million deaths annually. These are followed by occupational particulates, chemicals involved in acute poisonings, and pesticides involved in self-poisonings. However these assessments covered only a limited number of chemicals or their mixtures for which data were available, including for example chemicals involved in acute poisonings, occupational lung carcinogens and particulates, outdoor and indoor air pollution mixtures, lead, asbestos and arsenic. Chemicals with known health effects, such as dioxins, cadmium, mercury or chronic exposure to pesticides could not be included in this article due to incomplete data and information. So while the known burden of disease is high, this is likely to be an underestimate, as the burden of disease from chemicals which could not yet be assessed at global level remains unknown.
Prüss-Ustün, A, Vickers, C, Haefliger, P, and Bertollini, R: Knowns and unknowns on burden of disease due to chemicals: a systematic review Environmental Health 2011, 10:9 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-9
Getting a bad job is more stressful than unemploymentIt is a well-known that being employed provides health benefits over being unemployed. However what the work is like, including its psychosocial characteristics, can also influence health. Researchers from the Australian National University used longitudinal data to investigate whether the benefits of having a job depend on its psychosocial quality (levels of control, demands and complexity, job insecurity, and unfair pay), and whether poor quality jobs are associated with better mental health than unemployment.
The researchers analysed seven 'waves' of data from 7,155 respondents of working age (44,019 observations) from a national household panel survey. Overall, the unemployed had poorer mental health than those who were employed. What they also found, however, is that the mental health of workers in the worst jobs was as low as that of the unemployed. The researchers concluded that the health benefits of becoming employed were dependent on the quality of the job. Moving from unemployment into a high quality job led to improved mental health, however moving from unemployment to a poor quality job was worse for mental health than remaining unemployed. In other words, getting a bad job can be more stressful than unemployment
Butterworth, P, et al The psychosocial quality of work determines whether employment has benefits for mental health: results from a longitudinal national household panel survey [abstract ] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oem.2010.059030 Source: MedPage Today Bad Job Can Be Worse than No Job at All
Fake smiles a hazardThe 'have a nice day' fixed grin required of many hospitality and other service staff could be seriously bad for their health according to a study published in the Academy of Management Journal It seems fake smiles can actually depress mood and harm health. The researchers examined a group of bus drivers who are required to be positive and courteous demeanour as part of their job description. Lead author Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University, said the findings suggest customer service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. 'Employers may think that simply getting their employees to smile is good for the organisation, but that's not necessarily the case,' he said. 'Smiling for the sake of smiling can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal, and that's bad for the organisation.' The study is one of the first of its kind to examine emotional displays over a period of time while also delving into gender differences, Scott said. The results were stronger for the women bus drivers. 'Women were harmed more by surface acting, meaning their mood worsened even more than the men and they withdrew more from work,' Scott said. The fake smile is an employment pre-requisite for many in the service sector, particularly retail and hospitality staff. Even call centres require a fixed smile when dealing with callers, despite the workers being visible only to their supervisors.
Brent A Scott, Christopher M Barnes. A multilevel field investigation of emotional labor, affect, work withdrawal, and gender, Academy of Management Journal, volume 54, number 1, February 2011 [abstract ]
Asbestos and colorectal cancerA group of French researchers have recently completed a retrospective morbidity study of 2024 subjects occupationally exposed to asbestos, over a six year period to analyse the dose–response relationship between occupational asbestos exposure and risk of cancer. The results, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, not only confirmed the established relationship between asbestos exposure and pleuropulmonary and peritoneal cancers, but also suggests a causal relationship between asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer.
Bénédicte Clin, et al: Cancer incidence within a cohort occupationally exposed to asbestos: a study of dose–response relationships [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oem.2010.059790
And on asbestos deaths: Safe Work Australia has released a Comparison of Workers' Compensation Arrangements for Asbestos Related Disease in Australia and New Zealand (2011). This publication is an addendum to the Comparison of Workers' Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand (2011) and has been prepared to provide information specifically related to workers' compensation arrangements covering asbestos-related diseases. Like the main Comparison the addendum is current as at 30 September 2010. The publication can be downloaded as a Word or pdf document from the SWA website.
OHS Harmonisation news
Keep your eyes on the OHS reps website as next week we intend to put up some pages to assist reps and interested workers submit comment on the draft OHS Regulations and Codes of Practice. There are two weeks left in which to provide comment.WorkSafe Victoria mid-year results
WorkSafe last week released its mid-year results, reporting its lowest injury rate on record but also warning that greater efforts would be needed to keep the state's workplaces safe. WorkSafe Chair, Elana Rubin, said while claims increased in recent months in line with expectations as economic conditions continue to strengthen, more needs to be done with Victoria's employers and workers to keep improving safety. "We achieved the lowest injury rate on record, but in the past six months, we've seen an increase in the total number of hours worked which brings with it a greater risk of injuries." She said WorkSafe would continue to target the most common injuries, particularly in the construction sector and on farms which traditionally have the highest death and serious injury rates. WorkSafe Media ReleaseWorkSafe visits to Daylesford and Hepburn
WorkSafe Victoria inspectors will be visiting and Daylesford and Hepburn from 21-25 March. WorkSafe has said the inspectors will be helping local businesses get a better understanding of their health and safety needs to reduce the likelihood of injuries. Members of WorkSafe's Return to Work team will also be visiting businesses where someone has been hurt at work and checking return to work plans. WorkSafe figures for the five years to the end of June last year, show that 180 people working for businesses based on Hepburn Shire suffered injuries serious enough to lodge workers compensation claims. The Director of WorkSafe's Manufacturing and Logistics Division, Ross Pilkington, said, "The cost of treating the 180 people hurt in Hepburn Shire over the past five years was more than $3.1m, but the injury costs go greater affecting individuals, families and local organisations whose members can be put out of action for a while. By giving people advance warning of the visits, we're setting an exam and giving people time to look up the answers. Before they're visited by inspectors, we want Daylesford and Hepburn businesses to sit down with their workers, identify any safety issues, and work out what can be done to eliminate them." WorkSafe Media ReleaseWorkCover NSW investigating amputation
WorkCover NSW is investigating after an incident last week where a 29-year-old man had his feet amputated in a wood chipper. Reports indicate the worker was feeding wood into the wood chipper when a small piece became stuck. The worker is then reported to have been using his feet to push the piece of wood through the chipper before they came into contact with the moving blade, amputating them at the ankle. NSW WorkCover Media Release
Comcare OHS Awards - Reminder
A reminder that nominations for the 2011 SRCC Safety Awards, designed to reward and recognise excellence in workplace health and safety, rehabilitation and return to work achieved by employers and individuals covered under the Comcare scheme, are now open. Categories include Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue, Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety (two awarded: Employee, eg health and safety rep, and Employer). Nominations close 18 April, 2011.Useful Materials
From WorkSafe Victoria, three Alerts and an information sheet:
Nitrocellulose in spray booths which highlights the dangers of using nitrocellulose in booths.
Ammonia in gas cylinders after a cylinder mistakenly filled with anhydrous ammonia exploded, requiring a workplace to be evacuated.
Effective emergency response plans highlighting the importance of having an effective emergency response plan in case emergency services cannot respond to an incident following reports that inspectors were increasingly finding construction sites without emergency plans.
Preventing falls from quarry faces This information sheet provides advice for employers on how to control the risk of falls from active or inactive quarry faces.
From WorkCover NSW:
Front end loaders and their attachments on tractors: A guide on health and safety standards - WorkCover explains that though the Industry Solutions Program identified that front end loader attachments that are designed for use on a tractor are potentially hazardous to operate, there was no practical guidance on their design and use. Consequently this industry guide was developed and published.
Public information on Ag/Vet chemicalsThe Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has made it easier for the public to access information on the regulation of pesticides and veterinary medicines. Three main initiatives have now been completed. Enhancements to the APVMA website have improved the quality and accessibility of regulatory information. These enhancements are ongoing in response to user feedback. In addition, changes have been made to the Contact Us page of the website to make it easier for stakeholders to direct their questions to the appropriate area of the APVMA. Finally, the electronic Ask a Question system on the website has been replaced with a simpler and more responsive process. People who need information can now simply email the Public Affairs team using the email@example.com address for a quick and effective response. The Ask a Question facility remains on the APVMA website but will be removed at the end of March 2011. More information: APVMA website
Company fined $180k for death of rigger
In October 2007 a 22 yr-old WA worker was killed when a 375 kg section of crane mast fell on him as a result of extremely unsafe work practices. The company, D & G Hoilsts & Cranes Pty Ltd, and two of its directors, were last week convicted and fined a total of $180,000 "The Court was told that the slinging practice used was inherently dangerous because it relied heavily on the packing straps supporting the load," WorkSafe WA acting commissioner Lex McCulloch said, following the ruling. McCulloch said the case illustrates that company directors are obliged to directly intervene where unsafe work practices are taking place. He added, "The Court found that it would have been practicable for safe work practices to have been in place, which may well have prevented this tragic loss of a young life." WorkSafe WA Media Release
UK: HSE Work At Height video
Although based on UK figures, this video from the UK's OHS regulator is useful for those involved in working at height who carry out building and plant maintenance activities. Note that there are also specific falls regulations in Australia which must complied with.