Issue 213 - Safety Net Journal 213Welcome to SafetyNet 213, the first edition after Easter and the last for a few weeks (see 'Note to Subscribers' below)
Union NewsInternational Workers Memorial Day
Yesterday an event was held at the VTHC to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day. All over the world events were held to mark the day and remember the men and women who have died as a result of work. In Victoria, 20 men and women died as a result of traumatic events at their workplaces since April 28 last year. In addition to these there were several other workers who were killed whose deaths were not part of the official tally as their death involved a motor vehicle. Hundreds of other workers lost their lives due to work-related diseases – for example mesothelioma contracted as a result of exposure to asbestos. Go to this page of the website to read about the Victorian event. Read more on the international events.
There have been three fatalities in Victoria in April: on the 12th of the month a 55-year-old farm worker died after being crushed against a wall by a cow on a farm near Inverloch. Last Thursday, at Apsley near the South Australian border an excavator operator died when a tree he was working near fell onto the cabin of his machine. At the weekend at Hedley near Wilsons Promontory a 94-year-old farmer died in a quad bike crash on his property.Mothers Day Classic
For more than a decade, the Mother's Day Classic fun run and walk has provided communities with a great way to celebrate Mother's Day and raise funds for breast cancer research. It's a great day and the event has grown to be one of the major breast cancer fundraisers. All of us at SafetyNet encourage all union members and their families to get involved in this fantastic event this Mother's Day. This year, to highlight the continuing 'Equal Work, Equal Pay' campaign, the ACTU has set up a 'Women's Rights at Work' team, and is asking all those who are participating to register as part of the team. The Classic is being held all over Australia, in capital and regional cities and also a long list of other regional towns. Register on the Mother's Day Classic website first and then enter the Women's Rights at Work Team. ME Bank, the bank which grew out industry superannuation funds to provide a service for their members, is the event's major sponsor.
Read more: How to join the Women's Rights at Work TeamAsk Renata
We have employees who exclusively work from home as well as having some offices. We have an OHS audit checklist for our offices but have found that they are not as relevant to the home setting. Can you refer me to any good 'Working from home' audit checklists?
There is a growing trend for people to work away from the office using information technology. Because so much work can now be done by phone, on computers connected to the internet and other tools, being located in a central office can be unnecessary. However, research has shown that working from home can create a whole new set of stressful problems. These can face increased pressure from family, feelings of guilt unless they work long hours, and disruption of normal home life.
Go to this page on our website - there's a link to more information, including guidance for employers and workers that was developed overseas jointly by the UK government, industry and unions.
Normally we would suggest that if you have any OHS related queries or questions, send in an email through the Ask Renata function on the website - however as Renata is going on leave, you should direct your inquiries either to your union or to your local OHS regulator.GARDS newsletter
GARDS (Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support Inc) has released its latest newsletter, which is available to download from their website. Read about what GARDS has been up to, including events and fund raising activities.TWU calls for improved security at Qantas terminals
The Transport Workers Union has called for a complete upgrade of all security across Qantas operations, after a man entered and left a secured area at Tullamarine's Qantas terminal on April 7 without authorisation. The terminal was evacuated, causing delays in processing passengers. Qantas and Australian Federal Police (AFP) are investigating the incident. TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said the union has been increasingly scrutinising safety at terminals since the March 2009 death of a man in a bikie brawl at the Sydney Qantas terminal. He said TWU safety meetings at the time called on the airline to improve security at terminals. The latest incident comes as Qantas baggage-handlers around Australia's are contemplating industrial action over pay and conditions.International Union News
'No to transport violence' film launched
The International Transport Federation (ITF) released a new film to help fight workplace violence yesterday, 28 April, International Workers' Memorial Day. The four minute film aims to empower urban transport workers to say no to violence at work and can be seen on Youtube.
ITF inland transport section secretary Mac Urata explained: "This is the latest tool in our and our member unions' long running campaign against violence. We are determined that no one should have to work in fear of assault, harassment or bullying.The film will be complemented by the release of a special activists' guidance pack. This contains the latest version of an ITF booklet called It's part of our job but it shouldn't be, which sets out how workers can combat what is a growing problem worldwide, as well as case studies of how unions have confronted violence against staff."
The ITF says that violence against people working in urban transport is increasing around the world. It can be angry passengers sick of overpriced and privatised services, it can be drunken assaults or incidents by people under the influence of drugs, it can be bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace by passengers or by other workers or supervisors, it can be robbery and murder. The violence can be physical or psychological. It can be an isolated incident or a series of events. It can be visible or hidden. Violence has become part of the daily routine for transport workers, but it shouldn't be. It can be resisted. It can be beaten.
The ITF's No to Violence campaign has mobilised transport workers and their unions to demand change: holding employers and governments to their responsibilities to ensure workers' safety; and working with them to come up with innovative solutions and make changes in regulation; ITF campaign materials on violence at work have encouraged unions to approach the issue with workers so they can talk openly about violence, report and confront it.'
No to Violence campaign
UK: Olympic site blockaded in blacklist protest
Union protesters have blocked the entrance to London's Olympic site in support of victimised construction worker Frank Morris. The Enfield-based electrician was shifted from his job at the prestigious media centre at the Olympic site after blowing the whistle on the use of an illegal blacklist on the construction project. The Consulting Association's list was used particularly to target construction safety activists. In an ongoing campaign, 30 trade unionists on 7 April stood at the main gates of the Olympic site and prevented vehicles and trade passing through. RMT London regional organiser Steve Hedley, who addressed the protesters, said the show of strength had been 'good natured and very lively,' insisting that trade unionists would 'not take the blacklisting lying down.' He added: 'We will continue to fight the illegal blacklist. This is an issue of human rights as well as trade union rights and the RMT will be in the forefront of the campaign.' A Blacklist Support Group spokesperson said union members were being blacklisted across Britain. He told the Morning Star newspaper: 'The Olympics is the most high-profile construction project in the world... Let's show the construction firms that we got some self-respect.' Source: Risks 502
Exposure to plastic linked to cancerA recent Canadian study has found a possible link between occupational exposure to plastic and renal cancer. The study looked at 1097 renal cancer cases in four countries between 1999 and 2003, and found an association between cumulative occupational exposure to styrene - a type of plastic, also known as vinyl benzene - and kidney cancer.
According to the researchers, styrene-manufacturing operators, tank cleaners and tank operators of copolymers manufacturers, auto body repairmen who utilised polyester resins, and plastic boat manufacturers who processed unsaturated polyesters were those with occupational exposure to styrene. While they found an increased renal cancer risk associated with acrylonitrile and styrene exposure, these findings would need to be replicated in other populations.
Renal Cancer Risk and Occupational Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Plastics (abstract). Sara Karami PhD, et al, Canada, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 53, Issue 2, February 2011.
Finding expected and unexpected cancers
The trade union movement has argued consistently the number of occupational cancers has been systematically under-estimated in studies. Unions maintain modern exposure patterns, the predominance of studies paid for and controlled by industry and systematic failures to evaluate risks to women, temporary workers and other potentially high risk groups, have suppressed the numbers and stymied effective preventive efforts.
Occasionally, though, a study is thorough and independent enough to find the usual suspects and several types of cancer not normally associated with work. Unions point to a 2009 Nordic Occupational Cancer project (NOCCA) analysis, published in Acta Oncologica, which looked at 2.8 million cancers among 15 million people, aged 30-64, in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Occupational information was obtained from the national censuses over four decades from the 1960s to 1990s. The authors say the large number of cancers available for analysis provided the opportunity to evaluate possible occupational associations with rare cancers - and it turned out many of these affected women. In an accompanying commentary, Aaron Blair of the US National Cancer Institute noted: 'A number of expected associations were observed, eg. mesothelioma among plumbers, seamen and mechanics with asbestos exposures; lip cancer among fishermen, gardeners and farmers engaged in outdoor work; nasal cancer among woodworkers; and lung cancer among miners exposed to radon and silica.' He added, though, that the real value of the study is the new associations it unearthed. 'Finding established associations is reassuring, but uncovering new leads for future investigation is the main objective of a project such as this. This was also accomplished,' he observed. 'For example, some of the interesting new findings that deserve further attention include cancer of the tongue and vagina among women chemical process workers; melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer (among men and women), and ovarian cancer among printers; fallopian tube cancer among packers and hairdressers; penis cancer among drivers; and thyroid cancer among female farmers.'
- HESA news, 11 April 2011.
- Eero Pukkala, Jan Ivar Martinsen, Elsebeth Lynge, Holmfridur Kolbrun Gunnarsdottir, Pär Sparén, Laufey Tryggvadottir, Elisabete Weiderpass, Kristina Kjaerheim. Occupation and cancer - follow-up of 15 million people in five Nordic countries , Acta Oncologica, January 2009, vol. 48, No. 5: 646-790.
- Accompanying commentary from Aaron Blair.
- Global Unions occupational cancer campaign.
WorkSafe going to Bairnsdale
WorkSafe has announced that small businesses in Bairnsdale will receive visits from WorkSafe inspectors from 16 - 20 May. The workplace visits are part of an intensive campaign to improve workplace safety in Bairnsdale and ensure injured workers have opportunities to get back on the job.
Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees and those which have not been visited in at least 12 months will be targeted by safety inspectors while specialists from WorkSafe's Return to Work Division are visiting businesses where there have been past injuries.
WorkSafe's Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture program Director, Ross Pilkington, said basic safety issues could generally be made at little or no cost and even improve productivity. "It's a good opportunity for employers, supervisors and workers to take some time-out to review their situation. Slips, trips and falls and manual handling injuries account for about 60% of all workplace injuries, they're not high profile in the community, but have an enormous personal and community cost."
Mr Pilkington said safety was not just about what WorkSafe did, but was about employers, workers and the wider community taking ownership of it.
WorkSafe Media Release
A major current project of NICNAS (the National Industrial Chemicals Notifications and Assessment Scheme) is to progress reforms resulting from recommendations from the Existing Chemicals program Review (ECR). The recommendations were made following an extensive public consultation program. The reforms are designed to enhance mechanisms to assess existing chemicals of concern and also provide greater access to information about chemicals in use in Australia. Union representatives on NICNAS have been extremely supportive of these reforms. Recommendations from the review that are currently being implemented involve consultation, technical and legislative work.
Recommendations on which Implementation is currently focussed include:
- developing a risk based framework for the prioritisation and assessment of chemicals on theAustralian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS), taking health and environmental criteriaand indicators of exposure of the Australian community and environment into account
- finalising the framework for new assessment products and associated mandatory powers to gather information, and
- streamlined secondary notification conditions.
From WorkSafe Victoria -
a guidance note: Safe use of angle grinders which aims to provide practical advice on controlling hazards.
an information sheet: Fall protection for roof work, which outlines new requirements for truss and batten erection and external edge protection in the construction industry.
Comcare to prosecute ADF
Comcare has launched Federal Court proceedings against the Australian Defence Force (ADF), for failing to ensure the health and safety of an officer cadet (son of a then Federal government senator). Comcare work health and safety general manager Neil Quarmby said the cadet was seriously injured when he fell from an inflatable boat and struck the propeller during an exercise at a NSW lake in February 2010. "In Comcare's view, basic measures should have been taken, including the installation of a propeller guard and carrying out a better risk assessment of this activity," he said.
In the past few years the ADF has been fined over the the heat-stress death of a trooper and the allergy-related death of a high school cadet. It has also entered into an 'enforceable undertaking' for failing to ensure the safety of six other cadets, who became lost in the bush during an orientation exercise.
China: Work disease risk for 200 million
An estimated 200 million workers in China are under threat from occupational diseases, a senior trade union official has warned. Tang Chun, an occupational disease expert with the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said the country had some 16 million business where workers were exposed to hazardous environments. 'The number of new cases concerning occupational disease has been rising in recent years and the 2010 figure, due to be released by the Ministry of Health in April, will undoubtedly pass the 2009 figure of 18,128,' he told
China Daily. A total of 722,730 cases were reported from 1949 to 2009, and 146,500 lives had been lost to occupational disease, he said. About 90 per cent of the cases were related to pneumoconiosis, caused by inhalation of dust. The
Law on Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases stipulates that employers should provide free health checks for those working in hazardous conditions and should inform them of the results. 'But a majority of small- and medium-sized private enterprises, which account for almost 90 per cent of the country's corporate units, fail to provide such services,' Tang said. 'The number of cases revealed would have been shocking if the service had been available for all labourers in those enterprises.' Migrant workers account for a large number of cases as they work in the most hazardous industries, especially mining, processing of construction materials and electronic manufacturing, he said.
China Daily. Source: Risks 502
Nearly 1,600 workers at the General Motors Halol plant in India at General Motors India plant in the state of Gujarat have entered the second month of strike action. Workers manufacturing the popular GM Cruze and Aveo vehicles are paid under a dollar an hour. There is no collective contract. Half of the workforce is casual. They are only paid half of the wages of permanent workers: 47cents versus 92 cents an hour. Management is unilaterally demanding a 20 percent increase in daily production goals. Over 269 auto workers at the GM Halol plant are suffering permanent spinal cord injuries due to constant heavy lifting without ergonomic health and safety standards. Management is suspending and relocating striking workers while hiring non-union "scabs." The workers are protesting against the intensive workloads, better occupational health and safety standards and an end to wage related discrepancies.