Issue 216 - SafetyNet Journal 216We welcome all our subscribers, and others, to the latest edition of SafetyNet. It has not been a good fortnight in Victoria, with news of two fatalities and several workers seriously injured in workplace incidents.
A man was electrocuted and another suffered life threatening injuries after the cherry picker they were working in struck overhead powerlines in Spotswood last Thursday (July 14). The man, aged 35, died at the scene while the other man, aged 20, was taken to the Alfred Hospital in a critical condition. WorkSafe believes the men, who worked for McKay Plumbing, were undertaking routine maintenance work on the roof of a building when the cherry picker struck powerlines.
Paramedic team manager Matthew Culka said the cherry picker burst into flames as a result of the accident and was stuck in the extended position when paramedics arrived. The power could not be turned off immediately delaying the MFB's efforts to bring the basket down and ambulance officers' access to the men.
Unfortunately, there was another work-related fatality in Victoria this week. On Tuesday a 44-year-old farmer was killed in an accident involving a tractor on a farm in Yarrawonga.
WorkSafe inspectors returned to the farm on Wednesday to continue their investigation into the death which occurred while the man was loading fertiliser from a cage fitted onto the forks of a tractor into a hopper. It is believed that a 71-year-old was driving the tractor, with the younger man working inside the cage. WorkSafe spokesperson Michael Birt said the tractor reversed and the cage fell approximately 3m to the ground; the man died on impact.
"Farmers are very much over represented in fatalities and the most serious injuries," said Mr Birt. "Since July 1 last year, there have been 21 deaths including five farmers on farms."
The death of these two workers brings Victoria's workplace death toll for the year to ten, compared to 13 last year.
Late this week there were two more serious incidents, both of which have led to workers sustaining life-threatening injuries. The first occurred on Wednesday afternoon in Templestowe where a 25yr old worker was buried in dirt up to his ears when the trench he was working in collapsed. His life was literally saved by his workmates, who dug him out and performed CPR while waiting for the ambulance. His injuries include fractured ribs, a collapsed lung and leg injuries.
The second incident occurred in Spotswood yesterday morning, when a car, which had clipped the back of a rubbish truck, then ploughed into a group of workers standing on the nature strip. Four of the workers were taken to hospital, one in a serious condition. Apart from the four injured workers, there were a number of others, and though not physically hurt, they were left extremely shaken by the incident.
Sources: WorkSafe Media Release; The Age, The Herald Sun
Harassment and bullying rife for some workers
According to a Victorian survey released on July 11, nearly half of part-time workers (46 per cent) were bullied and harassed or witnessed this behaviour in the workplace. The survey revealed that the groups most likely to be subjected to bullying or harassment were part-timers (23 per cent), women (23 per cent) and people aged 35-54 (24 per cent). Overall, 37 per cent either experienced bullying or were aware of such behaviour and 19 per cent personally experienced intimidation, bullying or harassment. Not-for-profit employment rights community legal service JobWatch commissioned the survey of 1,037 workers last month. JobWatch executive director Zana Bytheway estimated the number of calls to the service related to bullying, intimidation and harassment had doubled over the past 11 years. She commented that since the introduction of 'Brodie's Law' in Victoria last month, "bullying was foremost on everyone's mind".
Source:JobWatch Media Release [pdf]
Chrysotile exposure and death from lung cancer and asbestosis
Researchers in China undertook research to describe mortality in workers exposed to chrysotile asbestos, and determine exposure–response relationships between asbestos exposure and mortality from both lung cancer and asbestosis. 586 workers in an asbestos textile factory were followed from 1 January 1972 to 31 December 2006, and were given a structured questionnaire to collect personal information and exposure data. The researchers used paired concentration samples from the workshops to convert dust concentrations to fibre concentrations. Individual cumulative asbestos exposure was estimated as the product of fibre concentrations and duration of employment in each job.
Of the 226 deaths (14.6 per 1000 person-years) over the 35-year follow-up, 51 were from lung cancer (3.29 per 1000 person-years) and 37 from asbestosis (2.39 per 1000 person-years). A significant exposure–response relationships with either lung cancer or asbestosis (p<0.001) was observed in the final model. The study confirmed strong associations between exposure to chrysotile asbestos and lung cancer and asbestosis, in which clear exposure–response relationships were observed.
Qian Deng, et al Exposure–response relationship between chrysotile exposure and mortality from lung cancer and asbestosis. Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oem.2011.064899 [abstract]
Italy: Eternit trial update
This week the five French lawyers appeared in person in the final claimants' session to underscore the international nature of the Eternit trial against the foreign defendants Louis de Cartier and Stephan Schmidheiny - who stand accused of having caused one the largest environmental and human disasters. Up to this point they had been represented by Italian lawyer Sergio Bonetto, who will also be speaking, representing Afeva (the Association of the Relatives of Asbestos Victims), focusing on the dangers due to the concentration of asbestos fibres. The trial will then resume mid-September with the defence lawyers.
In the meantime the 'noise', so feared by the Eternit owners as they tried to keep the matter 'local', is spreading internationally. Not only are Italian articles being translated and spread on the Internet but art has also become a spokesperson for the disaster. A play, The Translator's Dilemma will be staged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. The play, by Jessica Philippi for the Scandal Theatre, is being staged with the support of ADAO (Asbestos Desease Awareness Organisation) a US association fighting against killer asbestos. It is the story of a translator who unveils an international scandal led by the executives of an asbestos multinational that has caused the death of thousands of people. It is a fictional story but as François Mauriac, the Nobel Prize Winner once said, "every invented tragedy mirrors a tragedy which was not invented".
Asbestos info from the UK
Recent material developed by the UK's OHS Regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE): Working with asbestos - Frequently asked questions
National Asbestos Management Review
The Asbestos Management Review Issues paper has now been released for public comment. The Australian Government last year tasked Mr Geoff Fary, previously an ACTU Assistant Secretary, to make recommendations for the development of a national strategic plan to improve asbestos awareness and management. Mr Fary has been asked to report on:
the enhancement of education and public awareness;
the efficacy of asbestos import and export controls;
asbestos removal, handling, storage and disposal;
mandatory reporting and disclosure where asbestos is detected; and
mandatory collection of data and reporting on associated health issues.
The VTHC, other peak councils, unions and Asbestos diseases support groups will be developing submissions. When the VTHC submission is complete, we'll put it up on the website for interested people to read and consider. Submissions close 5pm Friday 9 September. The report must be provided to government by 30 June 2012.
To download the Issues Paper, Submission Cover Sheet and Response form, go to the Asbestos Management Review website
How do I go about addressing an issue at a different worksite where the members of my DWG do deliveries? The worksite has a ramp at its entry up and down which we must push a fully loaded trolley. The ramp is steep and long. It's probably always been considered "too hard" . It's an area WE work in BUT it's under another organisation's control. Any suggestions?
Under Section 23 of the OHS Act, an employer has a legal duty to make sure that the health and safety of OTHER people (not employees) is not put at risk from anything the employer, his business or his workers might do.
So in this case, the ramp is creating a risk to the workers who have to push patients up and down it.
Also, under Section 26 whoever has management or control of a workplace ('to any extent') that person (company) must ensure that workplace and the means of entering or leaving it are safe and without risks to health (so far as reasonably practicable).
The level of duty is in relation to matters over which the 'person' has management or control - the higher the level of control, the higher the duty. So, again, it's quite clear that the management/owners of that workplace have duties in relation to this ramp.
Take the matter up with your employer - and ask them to raise it with the employer or person with control at the other worksite. Hopefully something positive will result – if not, then it is possible for an HSR to issue a PIN on any person who has contravened a section of the Act.
We haven't been getting many queries coming in lately – so remember, if you have any OHS related queries or questions, send in an email through the Ask Renata function on the website. We can guarantee an answer within a short time.
ACTU welcomes rogue employer crackdown
Rogue employers who illegally exploit vulnerable migrant workers illegally should feel the full force of tougher penalties to crack down on these rorts, say unions. The ACTU has welcomed the Federal Government's plans to get tough on employers, following a new report into the impact of illegal work in Australia.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the recommendations of the Howells Report for a regime of tough civil penalties for employers who use illegal migrant labour should be adopted by Government. "The only winners from illegal work are unscrupulous employers, but current laws are clearly not working as a deterrent. Illegal migrant workers take away jobs from Australians, undermine wages and conditions of legal workers, and undermine workplace health and safety standards," Ms Kearney said.
"But illegal work also exploits vulnerable migrant workers who have moved to Australia, but cannot exercise their rights. We know these workers are more susceptible to mistreatment and are less likely to raise concerns about ill-treatment and underpayment because of their precarious status. In the worst cases, illegal work can involve labour trafficking, forced labour and even slavery."
ACTU Working Australia Census
The Working Australia Census, an initiative of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to gather accurate information about what it's like to be an Australian worker in the 21st century, has now closed. Over 41,000 workers took part in the survey, and the ACTU thanks everyone who participated and shared their voice. Reports will become available soon – and will be reported in SafetyNet.
Unions and OHS - new resource
The UK's Trade Union Congress (TUC) has released a new article on The union effect - How unions make a difference to health and safety.
- Helps reduce injuries at work
- Leads to reductions the levels of ill-health caused by work
- Encourages greater reporting of injuries and near-misses
- Makes workers more confident Helps develop a more positive safety culture in the organisation
- Saves the economy many millions of pounds
TUC The union effect - How unions make a difference to health and safety
Perceived job insecurity bad for health
Finnish researchers from the University of Tampere analysing interactions between job insecurity and temporary employment and health have found that perceived job insecurity can lead to adverse health effects in both permanent and temporary employees.
1071 people were surveyed at age 30 and age 42. Exposure to temporary employment during this 12-year period was gathered through a job-time matrix and measured as the score of 6-month periods. Exposure to job insecurity was measured according to the perceived threat of unemployment. Health at follow-up was assessed on the basis of self-rated health, sleep quality and mental health. In addition to sociodemographics and baseline health, the analyses were adjusted for exposure to unemployment, non-employment and self-employment during the 12-year period.
Of those surveyed, 26 per cent had been exposed to temporary employment. The researchers concluded that while the findings suggest findings suggest that perceived job insecurity can lead to adverse health effects in both permanent and temporary employees, its effect is greater on permanent employees. They recommend that policies should aim to improve work-related well-being by reducing job insecurity, and should be aimed at both permanent and temporary employees.
Virtanen, P, Janlert, U and Hammarström, A: Exposure to temporary employment and job insecurity: a longitudinal study of the health effects .full Occup Environ Med 2011;68:570-574 doi:10.1136/oem.2010.054890
The 2011 WorkSafe Victoria Awards
The WorkSafe Victoria Awards are now open – and there have been a few changes since last year. While WorkSafe has maintained some of the same categories, including the very important "Health and Safety Representative of the year" and "Health and Safety Committee of the year", the awards are in a different format with the process for nomination revised. Victorians are able to nominate or enter online, view the nominations and cast a vote. The VTHC urges workers to nominate their health and safety reps in particular, as this is one chance to recognise the hard work and dedication of many reps. In another change, this year awards also include a series of 'Return to Work' awards.
The Health and Safety Awards:
Best health and safety initiative in a small business
Best solution to a workplace health and safety issue
Health and safety committee of the year
Health and safety representative of the year
OHS management system of the year
The Return to Work Awards:
Occupational rehabilitation provider achievement
Return to work coordinator excellence
Treating health practitioner achievement
Worker return to work achievement award
For more information go to the WorkSafe Awards website
Nationally reported fatalitiesTen fatalities were reported to Safe Work Australia in March, according to the agency's latest Notified Monthly Fatalities Report [pdf]. Of the ten, two workers were electrocuted, three were killed in vehicle incidents (not on a public road), and one each died by drowning, being hit by a falling object, being hit by an unattended vehicle, being trapped in machinery and underground cave-in.
While this number is two fewer than in March 2010, the total number from 1 July 2010 to 31 March 2011 was 107 work-related notified fatalities, seven more than in the same period in the previous financial year.
In the nine months to March 2011, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector accounted for the most deaths (26), followed by construction (21), manufacturing (18), transport and storage (13) and mining (6). 17 bystanders, that is, not workers, were killed.
From WorkCover NSW, a quad-bike safety poster [pdf], outlining "what you need to know" before purchasing one of the vehicles.
Model mining regs out for public comment
Safe Work Australia Chair, Mr Tom Phillips AM, has announced the commencement of the public comment period for model work health and safety legislation relating to the mining industry.
To support the Model Work Health and Safety Act, Safe Work Australia, in conjunction with the National Mine Safety Framework (NMSF), recently released draft model Work Health and Safety Regulations, model Codes of Practice and an Issues Paper for public comment.
The draft model Codes of Practice released include:
Work Health and Safety Management System
Managing Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials
Strata Control in Underground Coal Mines
Roads and Other Vehicles Operating Areas
Inundation and Inrush Hazard Management
Emergency Response at Australian Mines
The Mine Record
Further draft model Codes of Practice and a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement will be released on 29 July 2011.
For more information on how to submit comments as part of this process or for more information on the model work health and safety laws, go to the Safe Work Australia website
Safe Work Australia Media Release
Proposed National Rail Safety Law for public comment
National Transport Commission chief executive Nick Dimopoulos said that national rail safety laws were released this week for public consultation will slash red tape and boost OHS outcomes. "Australia currently has seven rail safety regulators across eight states and territories, all with their own rail safety laws," Dimopoulos said. "With a third of the rail industry operating across state and territory borders, it's time Australia developed a truly national system of rail safety regulation. The proposed Law will streamline the requirements for interstate operators and allow them to spend less time on red tape and more time on managing safety and getting the job done." He added that it would also provide 'greater clarity about the requirements for assessing worker competence and create consistency in the communication requirements between train drivers and network control officers across the country.'
The NTC and the National Rail Safety Regulator Project Office will hold information forums on the proposed Law throughout Australia, including regional cities and towns during July and August.
The public consultation period will close on 12 August 2011.
NTC Media Release – with links to information on the forums and the proposed Law and Regulatory impact statement.
Hardware company fined $80k
Tait Timber and Hardware Pty Ltd last week pleaded guilty in the Frankston Magistrates Court to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace after a worker was hurt when a forklift was being used inappropriately. Magistrate Ross Betts convicted and fined the company $80,000 (plus costs of $2,787) for the breach. He said the OHS breach was serious, the injury severely affected the injured man and his family and that had the company not pleaded guilty, he would have fined it $120,000.
WorkSafe told the court that a forklift was being used to pull a fence post out of the ground at Tait Timber and Hardware's Somerville outlet in March 2009. Two workers attached a chain to a fence post and the forklift, but the chain broke as the machine moved forward causing it to whip back and hit one man knocking him two to three metres. The worker suffered multiple rib fractures, a collapsed lung, bruising to the heart, chest and torso. He was in hospital for two weeks and did not return to work for about three months.
WorkSafe's investigation found that other types of equipment would have been more suitable to dig out or remove the post at a cost of around $400; it was neither an industry standard, or an acceptable system of work to use a forklift to attempt to tow, pull or drag in the circumstances of that day; and the entry where the work was being done should have been closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
NZ: Sole inspector on watch
The Pike River Royal Commission, looking into the tragedy that killed 29 workers, including two Australians in November last year, this week heard that the New Zealand Department of Labour has only one inspector to check mine safety. Department Inspector Michael Firmin told the commission that 'ideally there should be four, plus a chief mines inspector'.
He was asked by James Wilding, counsel assisting the commission, whether companies were notified in advance of any mine inspections. Firmin replied that he visited large mines roughly every three months, and that his visits were always planned. However, he said he never received phone calls from employees raising concerns.
When asked, "Does the department have phone numbers that are published that are available for people to ring if they have concerns about health and safety?", he replied: "Umm, I guess it's in the phonebook. Probably the only place."
Lack of nano regulation 'a danger'
A new report from the US has warned that health is being put at risk by the growing list of products on the market containing nano materials. More than 1,300 products now claim to incorporate engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), and the US-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) says none of these products have undergone a pre-market safety assessment. Its report, Racing ahead: US agri-nanotechnology in the absence of regulation, argues ENMs must be regulated and tested prior to commercial release. 'Many nanomaterial applications are classified as confidential business information, and those that are known have had little to no publicly available testing by regulatory authorities for human health, safety or environmental effects,' commented IATP senior policy analyst Steve Suppan. 'We know from academic studies that ENMs present hazards that merit regulatory review.' He added: 'As nanomaterials in internationally traded goods increases, administrative, technical and budgetary constraints are keeping US and international agencies well behind the pace and variety of product commercialisation.' According to Suppan, the lack of regulation and 'austerity budgets for regulators' mean a White House order to protect human health, worker safety and the environment from ENM hazards is not being realised.
Europe: "Healthy Skin@Work"
The European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) this month launched a pan-European "Healthy Skin@Work" campaign, which seeks to raise public and political awareness on the challenges of occupational skin diseases at European and national level. It aims at creating a dermatological prevention service system for the benefit of exposed individuals in high risk work environments throughout the European Union.
An important objective of the campaign was achieved in September 2010 through the adoption of the European framework agreement on the prevention of health risks in the hairdressing sector, also referred to the Declaration of Dresden (See: Safe Hair website ). The EADV says it is a unique tool in terms of providing practical recommendations for the implementation of prevention standards pertaining to a number of complementary spheres of action.
According to the WHO, occupational skin diseases (OSD) are the leading cause of occupational illnesses (up to 27 per cent of all diseases worldwide). OSD can affect workers in almost all sectors and occupations. In Europe, they are the second most common work-related health problem and one of the most important emerging risks related to the exposure to chemical, physical and biological risk factors. In addition, increased exposure to solar UV radiation, occupational non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is becoming a rising problem. OSD cost up to € 5 billion (A$ 6.71 billion) per year due to loss of productivity and cause extensive suffering for workers as they can result in detrimental socioeconomic and psychological consequences, including job loss and long-term unemployment.
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work Media Release
USA: BP faces renewed blast criticism
BP and its former chief executive Tony Hayward are facing further accusations of insensitivity regarding the victims of the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico disaster. Hayward first came under fire for public relations gaffes after a BP oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year. The explosion killed eleven workers, but ill-advised Hayward statements including telling a reporter that there was 'no-one who wants this thing over more than I do - I'd like my life back.' Now, in a videotaped deposition of Hayward obtained by The Daily Caller, the former BP CEO says he's sorry, but admits he can't remember the names of the rig's victims. He only gets one name right: Karl Kleppinger. The company comes off even worse in the deposition, which includes details of a legal pleading filed by BP referring to the 11 victims as 'callous, indifferent and grossly negligent in causing this explosion.' It was filed in April 2011 on the one-year anniversary of the accident, after Hayward had already left his post. The plaintiffs' attorney accuses Hayward of lying in his testimony to Congress, when he said the company was conducting a 'full and complete investigation.' Hayward denies lying, but admits he never read the Presidential Commission's report on the oil spill, which found that 'most of the mistakes and oversights... can be traced back to a single over-arching failure, a failure of management.'
The Daily Caller Source: Risks 513