Issue 239 - SafetyNet 239
Welcome to Edition 239 of the VTHC fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet. This edition has lots of new information on OHS and we trust that you will find it interesting and informative. If you'd like to comment on any of the items or have any queries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Wednesday morning a labourer was killed when he fell from the roof of a factory that was being renovated at Oakleigh South. He was found by workmates around 9am. WorkSafe inspectors went to the site in Coora Road, and initial indications are that the worker may have fallen up to 5m on to the floor of the building which was having its roof replaced. This was the seventh work-related death this year and the 24th since this time last year. While the investigation is at an early stage, WorkSafe's General Manager for Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger said working at height was a major source of serious workplace injuries and deaths. 'This is a tragedy for the man, his family and workmates. It should send a message to the entire community – employers and workers alike - that high safety standards must be in place, and applied, at all times. The right equipment and training, as well as supervision, risk assessment and equipment maintenance are fundamental parts of having a safe workplace.' Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Vale Paul Donald – HSR Melbourne University
It is with great sadness that we received the news last week of the passing of Mr Paul Donald, long-standing and extremely passionate health and safety representative for library staff at Melbourne University. Paul, a member of the NTEU, was committed to ensuring that he represented the interests of his DWG and those of anyone seeking assistance and advice, even if this meant communicating directly with the University's Vice Chancellor. For many years he was not only an HSR, but also a member of the University's OHS Committee. His efforts were often successful and he was a mentor for other HSRs as well. All of us at the VTHC OHS unit send our condolences to Paul's family and his many friends and colleagues. I will certainly miss Paul's persistence, good humour and friendship.
SA: Asbestos victims welcome court ruling
Following a win by a former worker at the Whyalla shipyards against BHP Billiton, the Asbestos Victims Association (SA) has said more people will be able to claim damages for asbestos exposure. The Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court this week upheld a ruling to award the former worker $20,000 in exemplary damages. It found the company failed to protect the worker from cancer while he worked at the shipyards in the early 1970s. Terry Miller of the victims' support group said it was an important legal win for victims. 'Not every claim will be able to be made for exemplary damages but it certainly opens the way now and it makes it, because of the Supreme Court decision, it makes it more easy (sic) to claim for that as well,' he said. Source: ABC News Online
Asbestoswise annual appeal
Asbestoswise is a volunteer run not-for-profit charitable organisation. It was formed in 2011 after the successful merger of Asbestos Information and Support Service (AISS) and Asbestos Disease Society of Victoria (ADSVIC). Asbestoswise provides information, support, advocacy, education and awareness to the community with focus on people with an asbestos related disease (ARD). The organisation relies on community support to fund its free services and has just launched its 2012 appeal – just a few dollars will assist in allowing it to continue its work. Go to the Asbestoswise website to donate online.
'Who in their right mind would buy asbestos?'
An interesting item in Kevin Jones' SafetyAtWork blog, written by Dr Yossi Berger, asks this question. In answer, Yossi writes: 'After all the publicity, the growing numbers of tragic mesothelioma sufferers in Australia, the lung cancers, the famous court cases, the Hardies' debacle. There are three main ways you can still buy asbestos in Australia.' He then lists the three: a small number of components; some types of gravel; and then 'the worst risk is associated with buying houses that have asbestos containing materials.' And advises 'So ask before you buy: is this building asbestos free?'
Read more: Who would buy asbestos?
I have a question regarding safety hard hat. I have a new hard hat made in July 2000 and the arrow points to the 7 - is the helmet still good?.
Hard hats, or safety helmets, do not last forever, and have a 'use by date' or a 'working life'. Section 3 of Australian Standard AS/NZ 1800:1998 details the "Care and Maintenance of Occupational Protective Helmets" and Section 3.4 covers the "Working Life". The Australian Standard specifies a three year replacement date from the date of manufacture*, but the harness/headband must be replaced every two years. This is particularly the case if the hat is used regularly.
You have said the hard hat is 'new' – however, depending on how it has been stored, there may still be a problem with it. If a hard hat has been stored in direct sunlight or sitting on a shelf exposed to heat (inside a locked car for example), the quality of the helmet will have deteriorated. There are instances of helmets shattering when used after being stored in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
*CORRECTION: this should be
'from the date of issue'
Read more on the site.
If you have any OHS - related queries or questions, then why not send them in to Renata? Use the Ask Renata function on the website, and we promise you a quick and easy to understand response within a couple of working days at the latest. And it's free!
Workplace bullying review
As reported in the last edition of
SafetyNet, the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment is undertaking a review on workplace bullying, looking at the nature, causes and extent of workplace bullying and considering whether there are regulatory, administrative or cross-jurisdictional and international legal and policy gaps that should be addressed, and whether the existing regulatory frameworks provide a sufficient deterrent against workplace bullying. Public submissions close Friday, June 29, and the committee is also holding public hearings in capital cities in July and August.
For further information, contact the committee secretariat on (02) 6277 4578, email or visit the Committee's website Assistance in preparing a submission.
Bullying in Vic Police
According to a government survey, almost one third of Victoria Police members have witnessed bullying in the workplace, and one fifth have experienced it first-hand. This means that approximately 1250 of the 4200 police staff who completed the survey have witnessed bullying while in the force, while more than 900 say they have been bullied themselves. The survey was sent to 14,000 Victoria Police employees.
However, Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright told The Age that only a dozen formal complaints about workplace conflict were lodged with Victoria Police last year, and that the number of WorkCover claims over workplace conflict was falling. Police union secretary Greg Davies said the figures were a concern, but cautioned that it was sometimes difficult to define bullying. 'While it can be difficult at times to differentiate between a lawful instruction or order within a body like a police force and workplace bullying, clearly it is more prevalent than we would like to see,' Mr Davies told The Age.
Source: The Age
Firefighters Union shocked compensation claim rejected
The United Firefighters Union is shocked that a senior officer who blew the whistle on the cancer cluster concerns at a CFA training facility at Fiskville, west of Melbourne, has had his compensation claim rejected (first reported in December 2011 – see SafetyNet 226) At the time, the UFU called for state coronial inquiry into the chemical exposure at the site when at least 17 people claim they contracted cancer after having worked there in the 1970s and 80s. (SafetyNet 227). Former CFA senior officer Brian Potter spent years training there and has contracted a series of cancers and auto-immune diseases. Peter Marshall, UFU Victorian Secretary says the CFA failed to make a strong enough case to the insurer, on behalf of Mr Potter.
Welcome to Australia - Walk Together
'Welcome to Australia' is an organisation supported by 35 community groups which seeks to engage everyday Australians in the task of cultivating a culture of welcome in our nation. ACTU President Ged Kearney is an ambassador for the organisation and the ACTU has been supporting its campaign. This Saturday, June 23, the organisation is holding an event called "Walk Together" which, as part of National Refugee Week, is designed to support and celebrate the fact that although we've all arrived here via different pathways we share a common Australian journey.
In the union tradition, the event will involve a march from Parliament House beginning at
1pm and walking to Piazza Italia in Argyle Square in Lygon Street (down the road from Trades Hall). We urge you to join in.
Read more: Welcome to Australia website
International Union News
UK unions demand action over new workplace cancer study
Peak union council, the TUC has called for urgent action from the UK government to deal with the huge death toll from work-related cancer following research published this week in the British Journal of Cancer Supplement into the incidence of cancers caused by work in the UK.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The researchers have found that around 13,600 new cancer cases every year are caused by risk factors related to work. At the same time the research acknowledges that this is likely to be a conservative number and the real toll could be even higher. Of these thousands of workers, over 8,000 will be killed by the cancer they contract. This is a huge number, made all the more tragic by the knowledge that these deaths are preventable.
'If more action had been taken in the past to protect workers from known carcinogens such as asbestos, silica, diesel and mineral oils then many of the workers who will die this year from work-related cancers could have been saved. We must not let this terrible legacy continue. We should be making sure that carcinogens are removed from the workplace so that those working today will not develop cancers 20 or 30 years from now.
'No-one who reads this research can doubt that there is an urgent need for stronger safety regulation in the workplace, and for greater enforcement action against employers who take risks with their employees' health.'
Australian workers are also being exposed to these known carcinogens – unions here too are urging government to review our chemicals legislation to ensure that these substances are eventually banned. TUC Media Release
IARC concludes diesel a carcinogen
A panel of scientific experts convened by the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that diesel engine exhaust is a Group 1 carcinogen – that is, carcinogenic to humans. Previously, the IARC classification for diesel exhaust was "probably carcinogenic to humans," but with the publication of additional epidemiological and toxicological studies over the last 20 years, the expert panel determined there was sufficient evidence to change the compound's cancer designation. The IARC panel wrote:
"The scientific evidence was reviewed thoroughly by the Working Group and overall it was concluded that there was sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of diesel exhaust. The Working Group found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer (sufficient evidence) and also noted a positive association (limited evidence) with an increased risk of bladder cancer." IARC Press Release [pdf]
However, in a tactic not unlike those of tobacco or asbestos companies, just prior to IARC's announcement, the U.S. based Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) issued a statement about clean-diesel technology. The trade group suggests in its statement that the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board say that diesel exhaust has few biological effects. IARC officials were unable to comment on the statement given its vague nature, but responded by saying that the expert panel had reviewed hundreds of studies, and suggested that if such a study claiming "few biologic effects" was in the literature, they would have reviewed it.
Source: The Pump Handle Science Blog
IARC Monographs - volume 105, Diesel and gasoline engine exhausts and some nitroarenes.
Maternal exposure to solvents and birth defects
Using data from the population-based National Birth Defects Prevention Study (USA), a group of US researchers in the fields of public health, epidemiology and birth defects examined the relation between maternal occupational exposure to aromatic solvents, chlorinated solvents and Stoddard solvent during early pregnancy and neural tube defects (NTDs) - anencephaly, spina bifida and encephalocoele - and orofacial clefts (OFCs) - cleft lip ± cleft palate and cleft palate alone. They looked at cases delivered between 1997 and 2002 which were identified by birth defect surveillance registries in eight states; non-malformed control infants were selected using birth certificates or hospital records. They found that exposure to chlorinated solvents was associated with increased odds of NTDs, especially spina bifida. However the data showed no solvent class was strongly associated with OFCs.
Tania A Desrosiers, et al Maternal occupational exposure to organic solvents during early pregnancy and risks of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts [Abstract] Occup Environ Med 2012;69:493-499 doi:10.1136/oemed-2011-100245
New WorkSafe campaign targets $1 billion problem
Assistant Treasurer (and Minister for WorkCover) Gordon Rich-Phillips, launched a new campaign last week, targeting a $1b problem. According to WorkSafe, Victorian employers are paying almost $1b a year to treat injuries such as broken bones, crook backs, sprains and torn ligaments. Statistics reveal musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs), which include slips, trips and falls, and dangerous manual handling, continue to be Victoria's leading source of workers' compensation claims. More than 15,000 new cases of workers being seriously injured every year from routine tasks such as moving, lifting and lowering objects and from preventable slips, trip and falls. The campaign seeks to use 'humour-with-an-edge' to highlight how easily these expensive and hard-to-treat injuries can be prevented.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release and SafetyExpress Newsletter – with news from manufacturing, logistics, agriculture and retail industries.
WorkSafe Wodonga construction blitz
A 24-hour safety blitz in Wodonga resulted in WorkSafe inspectors identifying 27 safety issues at 43 sites. Inspectors from across the state visited the region in a coordinated approach aimed to undermine the 'mates-network' which often warned of approaching WorkSafe inspectors. WorkSafe construction division group leader, Steve Peters, said tradesmen often called their mates working elsewhere. Over the 24 hour period, 12 safety improvement notices were issued for matters such as traffic control, electrical issues, falls from height, housekeeping and temporary fencing. Another 15 issues were dealt with by voluntary compliance. The safety blitz coincides with a WorkSafe campaign, to tackle housing construction safety practices and get tradies talking about safety and do more to look after their employees, themselves and their mates.
WorkSafe Media Release Wodonga blitz delivers strong safety message
Guidance on Safe handling and use of carbon nanotubes
The potential risks from exposure to carbon nanotubes have been identified and examined in a number of research studies. To help people work safely with carbon nanotubes, Safe Work Australia commissioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to develop the guidance document Safe Handling and Use of Carbon Nanotubes [pdf] The document describes two approaches to managing the risks:
- Risk management with detailed hazard analysis and exposure assessment, and
- Risk management by using Control Banding
Either or both of these methods may be used, depending on the circumstances. The guidance in this document is applicable to other forms of carbon nanofibres, such as carbon nanorods and carbon nanowires. It is also applicable to products containing carbon nanotubes and other forms of carbon nanofibres where these nanomaterials may be released during handling.
Industrial chemicals news
Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme
A reminder that of the joint Department of Health and Ageing and Department of Finance and Deregulation review of the industrial chemical regulator NICNAS. The public discussion paper, outlining potential options for reforming the regulation of industrial chemicals will assist in providing comment, which closes Friday July 27, 2012. If anyone would like to raise any issues or would like information on the VTHC position, please email Renata at email@example.com with NICNAS in the subject.
Discussion Paper: Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)–June 2012 [pdf] More information, including Stakeholder Submission Form, on the Office of Chemical Safety website
Fast track review of existing chemicals - Stage One
NICNAS last week published on its website the list of chemicals to be assessed in Stage One of implementing the Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and Prioritisation (IMAP) framework. These 3,000 chemicals have been selected for assessment in Stage One based on the following characteristics agreed by stakeholders as priorities for early consideration:
- chemicals for which NICNAS already holds exposure information
- chemicals identified as a concern or for which regulatory action has been taken overseas, and
- chemicals detected in international studies analysing chemicals present in the blood in babies' umbilical cords.
NICNAS will commence the assessment of the Stage One chemicals in July 2012, and 800 of these chemicals have been identified for assessment in 2012-13. The regulator has said it welcomes the provision of information by introducers and users of the Stage One chemicals. A template for the provision of information will be available on the NICNAS website. For further information refer to the website: Existing chemicals on AICS and IMAP Implementation Stage 1.
WorkSafe WA has co-produced five short safety videos on workplace falls, manual tasks, hazardous substances, asbestos and new workers.
Tatura company fined for placing worker at risk
Tatura Milk Industries Limited was this week fined $20,000 for a November 2010 incident in which it put an apprentice at risk by allowing him to crawl along two aluminium planks over a suspended ceiling in the dark while trying to remove a live bird. The Shepparton Magistrates' Court heard the worker, who was instructed to help retrieve a bird from the ceiling cavity, had to crawl along the planks and use a torch to see. Despite Tatura Milk Industries knowing the task was being carried out, it failed to undertake a risk assessment for the job, which would have required fall protection.
Although the worker wasn't hurt, the company was placed on an adjourned undertaking (without conviction) for 12 months with a special condition to pay $20,000 into a court fund to be used for community projects. They were also ordered to pay $4,678 in legal costs.
Monday's prosecution came after two other businesses, contracted by Tatura Milk Industries to carry out maintenance work at the site, were convicted and fined last month after another apprentice fell through the same ceiling on 15 November 2010.
Metal fabrication company, O&P Gregory Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $11,000 and self employed plumber, Rodney James Coe was convicted and fined $4000 on 19 June. The O&P Gregory apprentice suffered injuries when he went into the ceiling cavity under the supervision of Coe to carry out works, but fell through after it collapsed.
WorkSafe's Acting Health and Safety Operations General Manager, Jarrod Edwards, said falls from height were a major source of serious injury or death. Source: WorkSafe Media Release
$200,000 fine and prosecution for electrocution
A Bayswater North company has been convicted and fined $200,000 after a worker was electrocuted while operating an electric press to mould rubber gaskets and seals. On June 7 CRP Industries Pty Ltd pleaded guilty at the Melbourne Magistrates Court to one charge of breaching sections 21(1) and (2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. The company admitted it failed to provide a safe working environment for its employees and failed to provide a safe system of work. The incident occurred in October 2010, when a 26-year-old man received an electric shock while changing a press plate on an electric press and touched a live wire.
WorkSafe's investigation found there were no written procedures which anticipated the risk of electric shock and the need to isolate the power supply before doing the job. There were also no warning signs.
WorkSafe's General Manager of Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said effective procedures and training of workers was a fundamental obligation for all employers, and must be a priority for directors, managers and supervisors. 'Employers need to systematically manage risks to ensure they provide a safe place of work. (They) must ensure the highest level of protection,' she said. 'As this case shows, the courts take these issues seriously. Apart from the effect on the individual, a conviction and fine can have significant financial consequences for companies and the people who lead them.'
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Worker fined following nail-gun incident
A 34-year-old labourer was convicted and fined at the Wodonga Magistrates' Court last week after shooting an apprentice with a nail gun, fracturing his arm. The man pleaded guilty to one charge under Section 25 of the OHS Act 2004. He has been ordered to pay $3000 in monthly instalments of $200. On 22 September 2011, the labourer fired a 38mm long nail into a third-year apprentice's arm. The nail penetrated his bone and required surgery to remove it. He returned to work on restricted duties for five weeks after the surgery. This prosecution is the second nail gun-related conviction in 12 months. In September last year, a roof tiler received a suspended four-month jail sentence after shooting an apprentice with a nail gun causing him to lose sight in one eye.
WorkSafe's General Manager for Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said improper use of nail guns was unacceptable in the workplace. 'Nail guns are high-risk/ high-consequence equipment which have resulted in 1190 claims reported to WorkSafe over the past 10 financial years, that's about two each week.' Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Horsham company fined over silo incident
Horsham company Laharum Bulk Handling Company Pty Ltd was this week fined $50,000 after a worker's leg became entangled in an unguarded sweep auger, causing a detached calf muscle and cuts requiring about 100 stitches. Pleading guilty to one charge under the 2004 OHS Act, the company admitted it failed to provide a safe working environment for its employees.
In September 2010, the worker was helping move canola from a silo into the truck. He switched on a mobile auger, the conveyer and the sweep auger and entered a silo. He entered the silo to lift the sweep auger by its handle to help it to 'bite' into the grain. As he stood between the edge of the sweep auger and the wall of the silo, his right leg became caught in the sweep auger. WorkSafe's investigation found the company failed to provide any guarding for the sweep auger, failed to ensure workers did not get too close to the sweep auger while it was operating and failed to ensure it could not be operated while someone was inside.
Following a WorkSafe notice, the sweep auger was fitted with a solid mesh guard and a metal guard was also installed, reducing entanglement risks. In addition, a wheel was installed instead of the sweep auger handle, removing the need for employees to approach it whilst it was rotating. Controls were also properly labelled and further controls installed inside the silo.
Lisa Sturzenegger said the horrific incident showed how employers had to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the safety of their employees. 'Dangerous machinery will be a major focus for WorkSafe in the next financial year. This incident shows what can happen and how simple measures can prevent the incident happening.'
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Afghanistan: Children bonded to kiln work
Children as young as five work as brick makers in Afghanistan's kilns, as poverty and debt keep their families in low-wage bonded labour. Fifty-six per cent of the brick makers in Afghan kilns are children, most of whom started working at the age of seven or eight. By the age of nine, almost 80 per cent of children in brick maker households are working, according to the survey, which looks at labour practices at kilns in the Afghan provinces of Kabul and Nangarhar. Tackling the issue is far more complex than just banning child labour in the kilns, according to a new ILO report Buried in Bricks. 'At five years old, many children begin assisting their elder siblings and fathers in the kiln and at eight, most bonded children are clocking in nearly twice as many hours as the legal adult limit in many European countries,' the report says. It calls brick making in Afghan kilns 'one of the worst forms of labour, for children in particular'. The report has come out in the tenth year of the ILO's World Day Against Child Labour (June 12). But for many parents in Cambodia, and many other parts of the world, sending their children to work is an economic necessity.
ILO Media Releases Working a childhood away in Afghanistan's kilns and From a child's eye: Working in the hot sharp salt fields of Cambodia
India: Workers killed in explosion
11 workers were killed and several sustained serious burn injuries in a major explosion on June 13, at RINL Visakhapatnam steel plant, Andhra Pradesh, India. Safety at the steel plant came under serious scrutiny in recent times following an accident on May 1, 2012, when two contract workers were burnt to death in an explosion in the plant. According to official estimates in public sector steel units alone, 155 workers lost their lives and 1,070 workers were injured in accidents from the year 2006 to 2010.
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