Issue 240 - SafetyNet 240
Welcome to Edition 240 of the VTHC fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet. We have a competition for reps, in this edition as well as lots of new information on OHS. 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 (don't hit REPLY!)
Man seriously injured in fall
A Kilmore man is in hospital in a serious condition after falling 2.4m at a housing development at Doreen on the morning of June 26th. WorkSafe is investigating the incident which happened at a site in Midland Rd. While the investigation is at an early stage, WorkSafe understands he was on top of a house frame marking the location of roof trusses. The Director of WorkSafe's construction division, Allan Beacom, said working at height was a major source of serious workplace injuries and deaths, particularly in the construction sector. 'WorkSafe is running projects targeting basic hazards in the domestic construction sector, which will look at ensuring people are using the right equipment and that they have the right training to do the job safely.' Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Ambulance union warns on fatigueThe leak of report commissioned by Ambulance Victoria (AV) last week confirms the fears of the Ambulance Union: Victorian paramedics are working while severely fatigued, with levels equating to a blood alcohol reading of more than twice the legal limit. In the report paramedics say they are afraid for the safety of patients due to how tired they are. AV received the confidential report more than two and a half years ago. Steve McGhie, Secretary of the Ambulance Employees' Union, said '(The) report is absolutely damning of the rosters and the consultants said there had to be changes made in six months, and almost three years later nothing has been done.' Paramedics in regional stations in Bendigo, Morwell and Benalla are the most overworked, while a Provisional Improvement Notice issued by an HSR at Thomastown based on the view that the roster led to unsafe work practices was recently upheld by WorkSafe. Mr McGhie said the union believed a similar roster operated at several stations and the (WorkSafe) decision could provide other paramedics with the impetus to make a complaint. Source: The Age
Nurses' Health and Safety Reps Conference
The ANF will be holding its annual conference for health and safety representatives on July 26th. The conference has now been held for a number of years and its success has been growing. Sessions will include: People skills for success; HRS making a difference – real case studies from real HSRs; Consultation vs Information; Issue Resolution: the Regulator's approach; and more.
The ANF uses the occasion to announce its annual HSR of the Year Award. Check the next journal to find out who the winner was.
Nominate yourself or your HSR for a WorkSafe award
The ANF will be nominating the finalists for the union's HSR of the Year Award to the WorkSafe Awards. The VTHC is encouraging workers to think about nominating their own HSR (or HSRs nominating themselves!) and also their OHS Committees if they think they are deserving of an award for their efforts and (very often) dedication. Putting in a nomination is easy - Go to the WorkSafe Awards Homepage
Competition for HSRs
- An elected HSR or deputy?
- A union member?
- A fan of the Western Bulldogs?
If you answered YES to all three – you might be interested in our competition! The prize is an invitation to the WorkSafe/Western Bulldogs Coaches Review Breakfast on July 17 at the Southern Change Rooms, Etihad Stadium. The event will take place from 7.15am to 9am and provides a unique opportunity to hear first-hand from the Bulldogs senior coach, Brendan McCartney; gain some insight into the development of the playing group, and much more.
PLEASE only enter if you are sure that you will be able to attend. Send in your details (name, contact number and email address) to email@example.com by midday Friday July 6th (tomorrow). The name of the winner will be drawn out of a hat (the only fair way to do it!)
Migrant workers rights campaign launch – July 10
The Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women' Coalition (VIRWC) is launching a campaign next week to encourage the Federal Government to ratify the Migrant Workers Convention. The VIRWC is a not for profit organisation that works to build the capacity of member organisations to operate effectively and independently through: Sharing advice and expertise; Building the leadership skills of women; Linking them to resources/organisations; Improving the capacity of members to advocate and speak on their own behalf; Representing the views/issues of members to government, the media, public/private bodies, and decision makers through Policy, Advocacy and Education.
The event will be held at the Trades Hall on Tuesday July 10 at 11.30am. Speaking at the event will be ACTU President Ged Kearney, State MP for Altona Jill Hennessy, and Executive Director VIRWC Melba Marginson. Light Refreshments will be served.
RSVP 9235 7762 or 9654 1243 or email Jane or the VIRWC
Calls for Gina Rinehart to help victims
In an article in The Australian Financial Review (June 28) former rock star and activist, and current Labor Minister Peter Garrett called on Gina Rinehart to help victims of asbestos mining in companies established by her father, Lang Hancock. Hancock discovered and developed the Wittenoom blue asbestos mine in the 1930s in the Pilbara – with the first mining involving workers detonating rocks and chiselling out the asbestos, which was then hand-packed into sacks and shipped to Fremantle. Mrs Rinehart has been the beneficiary of the Wittenoom mine, even though her father sold the mine to the company that would become CSR in 1943. Mrs Rinehart's wealth is estimated to be $29.17 billion, making her the richest woman in the world. Hancock founded the company Australian Blue Asbestos, against which there are several court actions seeking compensation for victims.
The Perth division of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia reports that between 50 and 70 people arrive weekly for health checks. Many of these either worked or lived near the mine, or handled the asbestos in the ports or as tradesmen. The president of the society is former Wittenoom miner Robert Vojakovic, who says that most of the first-generation miners have died, many from asbestos-related diseases, many of the second generation are sick, and now the third generation are starting to feel the effects. He agreed with Minister Garrett: 'Rinehart should realise that all her riches came out of Wittenoom. She should show some gratitude for that, particularly to those who worked there.' Source: The Australian Financial Review
Victorian asbestos diseases support and advocacy group Asbestoswise has launched an email bulletin service to which anyone interested may subscribe. Its latest bulletin July 2 Snippets has a number of interesting articles including an item on new surgery being trialled in the US.
NSW released draft Asbestos Plan
WorkCover NSW has announced that a state wide Asbestos plan is currently being developed by its Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) in consultation with industry, unions, asbestos diseases groups and the community.
The draft NSW state wide asbestos plan is divided into four priority areas:
- risk communication
The plan identifies initiatives, actions, responsibilities and timeframes to address each of the four priority areas. Public comment on the draft NSW state wide asbestos plan is open until 5 pm AEST Friday 17 August 2012. It can be downloaded from this page of the NSW WorkCover website.
Indian workers protest against asbestos plant
Workers and villagers in Vaishali, India have been protesting for the past two years in opposition to the construction of an asbestos plant. The campaign has come under considerable pressure, including the asbestos company burning down its own factory in order to blame and criminalise workers. In an unprecedented move, five Indiat Left Parties have come together on unified demands to close down the plant.
Read more: the Ban Asbestos Network of India's Press Release and letter to the Chief Minister. Source: AAWL Mini News
Petition against reopening of Canadian asbestos mine
Montreal: A government loan announced last Friday is set to revive one of Canada's last asbestos mines, assuring exports of the fireproofing and insulating fibres for another 20 years. The province of Quebec has said it will put up Can$58 million (A$57.7 million) toward renovating and reopening the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, after it was shuttered last year due to financial setbacks. Private investors led by Balcorp Ltd. will kick in another Can$25 million (A$24 million). The Jeffrey Mine and the nearby Thetford Mine were Canada's last two operating asbestos mines. Their closures marked the first time in 130 years that Canada, which once dominated world production, had suspended production of the mineral. According to the last figures available, Canada exported 750,000 tons of asbestos in 2006. India, Indonesia and the Philippines, among others, have been major importers of Canadian asbestos. Critics say asbestos exposure claims more than 107,000 lives around the world each year.
Louise Williams, an Australian, says 'I am one of these victims - I have mesothelioma in linings of peritoneum and pleura. My father died of this horrible aggressive and very painful cancer.' Louise is seeking to rally Australians against this decision which, she says, is one of pure greed. She has launched a petition and is urging people to sign it, saying, 'Real change happens when everyday people like you and I come together and stand up for what we believe in. Together we can reach heaps of people and help create change around this important issue.'
Are there different PPE requirements for domestic and commercial building sites if you are an architect conducting a site visit?
Victoria's (or any other state's) OHS legislation does not specifically mandate what type of PPE is required - under the general duty of care, the employer must provide and maintain so far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. To do this, hazards and risks must be identified, and then controls implemented to eliminate the risk so far as reasonably practicable, or minimise them. The hierarchy of control must be followed - that is to begin at the source.
PPE must be used where even after the controls have been implemented, there are still risks to the worker/s. Hard hats, safety boots, masks, high visibility vests, gloves, hearing protection devises, and so on, may need to be used in certain circumstances and in certain workplaces. What actually needs to be used will depend on the particular hazards, and the particular workplaces.
Building sites are hazardous and there may be any number of hazards present, and there is often a 'standard' set of PPE required - eg hard hats and safety boots – which would be at least the norm, plus in some circumstances there may need to be more (eg noisy - ear protection; welding - masks and safety glasses; traffic – high viz clothing).
So in answer to your question - what PPE is needed and by whom - depends on the particular site and the hazards/risks. For 'visitors' such as architects, etc, they would need to have the minimum needed for those circumstances – so, if there's a danger of falling objects, a hard hat. If there are hazards such as nails, objects falling on feet, then safety boots, if there's traffic on the site, then a high viz vest and so on. More information on PPE
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 previous editions of
SafetyNet, the House Standing Committee on
Public submissions closed on Friday, June 29. A number of unions, as well as both the ACTU and the VTHC, have made submissions to the Inquiry, as bullying is a serious and growing issue for many workers. Go to this page on the website to take a look at our submissions. 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
Forklifts – always a hazard
Forklifts are common in many workplaces, but too often the risks associated with them are not adequately controlled, leading to potentially serious and even tragic incidents – always preventable. This was brought home last week when a NSW worker was killed after he was crushed by a forklift at Flemington Markets on Parramatta Road, Homebush West. The NSW police, after attending the incident at about 5.20am early Tuesday morning, reported that the forklift driver was trapped under his vehicle. He died at the scene.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald More information on Forklift Safety
OHS Reps @ Work wins award
For a second year in a row, the OHS Reps@Work website has won award from the Skin and Cancer Foundation in the category 'Industry Associations, Professional Bodies, Unions'. We seek to promote skin health and prevention of work-related skin conditions, including skin cancer, and promote the activities and resources of the Foundation. The June edition of the Foundation's newsletter 'Skin Deep' [pdf] is available to download from their website.
International Union NewsUnions slam 'Sea of Shame'
On June 25th, the Day of the Seafarer, trade unions from Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine, working with the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation), released a report they hope will help shame governments into action over the shocking condition of shipping on the Black Sea.
The report: Black Sea of Shame (which can be downloaded here) is intended to help unions raise the issue with their national governments. Beginning on June 25, they plan to sound the alarm over the dire state of affairs in the area, alleging that ancient shipping, rock bottom and unpaid wages, assaults, sinkings and corruption are widespread. ITF maritime coordinator Steve Cotton commented: "This is a true catalogue of shame. Our inspectors and our member unions are dealing with the human costs of unsafe and ageing shipping, and managements who consider crews a dispensable luxury, to be paid at whim and undeserving of basic protections, including insurance against death and injury."
ITF Media Release
The risks of the very smallA new literature review from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has concluded there are serious gaps in our awareness of the potential risks involved in handling nanomaterials at work, and serious shortcomings in the way that those risks are communicated to workplaces. This is a position fully supported by Australian unions.
EU-OHSA says we facing nanotechnology in our everyday life in many products and applications, and although health and environmental hazards have been demonstrated for some manufactured nanomaterials, they are used in food, cosmetics, textiles, paints, sporting goods, electronics, detergents, and many health and fitness products. They are also present in many workplaces. There are over 1,000 consumer products listed, produced by more than 500 companies in 30 countries. 300,000 to 400,000 jobs in the EU deal directly with nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials are handled in many more workplaces down the supply chain; 75% of them are small and medium-sized enterprises.
In reviewing current research on the subject, EU-OSHA found that communication of the potential risks posed by such materials is still poor, with a majority of Europeans (54%), not even knowing what nanotechnology is. Even in workplaces where manufactured nanomaterials are found, the level of awareness is low. For example, 75% of workers and employers in construction are not aware they work with them.
Read more: EU-OSHA Press Release The risks of the very small Literature Reviews: 'Risk perception and risk communication with regard to nanomaterials in the workplace' and 'Workplace exposure to nanoparticles' Workplace Law - Health and Safety Firms not addressing nanomaterials risks at work
Another study links night work to breast cancer
A new study has reinforced concerns that women on night shifts can face an increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers at Inserm, the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France, compared the careers of 1,200 women who had developed breast cancer between 2005 and 2008 with the careers of 1,300 other women. In total, over 11 per cent of women had worked nights at some time during their career. Reporting their findings online last week in the International Journal of Cancer, the authors conclude the risk of developing breast cancer was 30 per cent higher in women who had worked nights compared to women who had never worked nights. This increased risk was particularly marked in women who had worked nights for over four years, or in women whose working rhythm was less than 3 nights per week, because this led to more frequent disturbances between night and day rhythms. The link between night work and breast cancer seemed to be more marked in women who had worked at night prior to a first pregnancy. 'Our work has corroborated the results of previous studies and poses the problem of taking night work into consideration in public health management, especially since the number of women working atypical hours is on the increase,' said lead author Pascal Guénel. A Danish study published in May found women who had worked nights at least three times a week for at least six years were more than twice as likely to have the disease as those who had not.
Source: Risks 562 Florence Menegaux and others. Night work and breast cancer: a population-based case-control study in France (the CECILE study), International Journal of Cancer, published online ahead of print 26 June 2012. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.27669 [abstract]. Inserm news release. Science Daily
Standing at work is bad for a pregnancy
Standing for long periods at work while pregnant may curb the growth of the developing foetus, new research indicates. Dutch researchers, who published their findings online last week in the journal
Occupational and Environmental Medicine, assessed the foetal growth rates of 4,680 women from early pregnancy onwards between 2002 and 2006. Midway through their pregnancy, the women were asked about their work conditions and the physical demands of their jobs, including whether these included lifting, long periods of standing or walking, night shifts and long working hours. Nearly four out of 10 (38.5 per cent) of the women spent a long time on their feet and 45.5 per cent had to walk for long periods. Heavy lifting was part of the job for just 6 per cent, while around 4 per cent worked night shifts. The results showed that physically demanding work and long working hours were
not consistently associated with restrictions on overall size or birthweight, or with premature birth. Working up to 34 or 36 weeks of pregnancy also had no adverse impact on foetal development. However, women who spent long periods on their feet during their pregnancy, in jobs such as sales, childcare, and teaching, had babies whose heads were an average of 1 cm (3 per cent) smaller than average at birth, implying a slower growth rate. Those who worked more than 40 hours a week had smaller babies than those who worked under 25 hours a week. Previous research has indicated that long working hours may increase the risk of birth defects, premature birth, stillbirth and low birthweight.
Source: Risks 562 Claudia A Snijder, et al Physically demanding work, fetal growth and the risk of adverse birth outcomes . The Generation R Study, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 27 June 2012, Online First doi 10.1136/oemed-2011-100615. More on the occupational hazards of standing.
WorkSafe Safe Towns to visit Shepparton
WorkSafe inspectors will visit small businesses in Shepparton from 13th to the 17th of August to check on health and safety compliance as part of an ongoing campaign across regional Victoria. Businesses in the area are encouraged to attend a breakfast briefing on Wednesday, July 11 to know more about what health and safety and return to work inspectors will be looking for when they arrive.
WorkSafe representatives will attend the breakfast, hosted by Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to discuss with businesses what they can do to make their workplaces safer and how to ensure they are complying with the law. Businesses will also be taken through what to expect if they receive a visit from a WorkSafe Return to Work inspector. WorkSafe Acting Operations General Manager, Jarrod Edwards, said the breakfast was a good opportunity for businesses to review their situation and make improvements before the visits.
The breakfast briefing is scheduled for Wednesday, 11 July at 7.30am, at GV Hotel, 223 High Street, Shepparton. Bookings are essential and the cost is $10 per person. To register, contact John Guilmartin from the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 0407 503 886 or emailWorkSafe Media Release Safe Towns Campaign to target Shepparton
$50,000 fine and prosecution following fall
A Victorian employer has been fined $55,000 in the Magistrates Court for safety breaches, after an unsupervised apprentice fell from a roof and sustained life-threatening head injuries. Melbourne Clipfit Glazing Systems Pty Ltd (Clipfit is currently in liquidation) was a manufacturer of commercial windows and doors. The company also manufactured frames used for overhead glazing, such as glass roofs in shopping centres.
Clipfit engaged Clavarino Pty Ltd, trading as C & D Glass to undertake glazing at the Watergardens Shopping Centre, work done by an apprentice employed by C & D. On 19 June 2007, the apprentice fell from a glass roof that was under construction. He was in hospital on life support for two weeks and suffered head, back and collar bone injuries.
Neither the Clipfit supervisor or any C & D supervisor were on site at the time. Clipfit was charged with breaching the OHS for failing to provide and maintain for a working environment that was safe and without risks to health. Further, Clipfit failed to adequately inform, instruct, train and supervise its employees in a safe means of performing the task. Clipfit at all relevant times retained control over the glazing activities of C & D and its employees at the site.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecutions Database
Court of Appeal doubles fatality fine to $500,000
A major hirer of industrial equipment, Coates Hire Operations Pty Ltd, which had been been convicted and fined after a worker died when an elevating work platform rolled down the tray of a truck, tipped and crushed him has had the fine doubled to $500,000. Last week Victoria's Court of Appeal increased the fine from the $250,000 penalty originally imposed by the County Court in 2010 and subsequently appealed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The prosecution followed the death of a 44-year-old Cranbourne South man who was crushed at a Coates' Hire business at Dandenong in February 2007. The Court of Appeal said Coates Hire had two relevant prior convictions and should have been doubly vigilant to ensure no further breaches occurred. It also found the company failed to enforce and disseminate its own safety procedures. The Court of Appeal affirmed the County Court's finding that Coates had shown a 'disregard for the safety of its workers', and that the breach equated to a very high degree of culpability.
Redline Towing and Salvage Pty Ltd, sub-contracted by Coates to pick up and deliver plant and employer of the man killed, was convicted and fined $130,000 in 2010. Dandenong Heavy Haulage Pty Ltd also transports plant on behalf of Coates, was convicted and fined $50,000 in 2010 in relation to the incident.
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Training not provided to worker who was crushed to death
Victorian employer, Turi Foods Farming Division Pty Ltd, has been fined $40,000 by the Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to breaching s23(1) (duties to non-employees) of the OHS Act over the death of a worker who was fatally crushed between an elevated work platform and the ceiling of a shed. The court found the worker had not received adequate training. In October 2009 Turi had contracted Bannockburn Excavations Pty Ltd to clean the inside of some of its chicken sheds. The Bannockburn worker had had not received adequate training on the use of the platform and no operating manual was provided. Further, no SWMS or JSA was performed.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecutions Database Turi Foods
Employers fined $105k after fridge crushes worker's foot
Two Victorian employers were last week fined a total of $105,000 for failing to maintain systems of work that were safe and without risks, after a 350kg fridge fell on a worker's foot. The incident occurred in March 2010: the Challenge Recruitment Ltd forklift driver was using the grabs of a forklift to unload the fridge for Coca-Cola Amatil (Aust) Pty Ltd when it fell.
In separate Magistrates Court proceedings, Coca-Cola and Challenge Recruitment pleaded guilty to failing to have a traffic management plan, a designated driver zone, or a system to separate forklifts from pedestrians. Coca-Cola and Challenge Recruitment were fined $75,000 and $30,000 respectively.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecutions Database: Challenge Recruitment and Coca-Cola Amatil
John Holland & Thiess: Enforceable undertaking
Two of Australia's biggest construction companies have entered in to a $225,000 enforceable undertaking after two concrete panels, each weighting 11.3 tonnes, fell from a contractor's truck in October 2006. No one was hurt in the incident near the Eastlink tollway project at Ringwood, which was being built by the companies which were in a joint venture. John Holland and Thiess subcontracted other companies to transport the concrete panels which were used as sound barriers.In lieu of prosecution by WorkSafe Victoria, John Holland and Thiess have accepted an enforceable undertaking - an alternative to prosecution in some cases which can result in a quicker resolution of an issue, but with a direct safety outcome. The companies will spend up to $225,000 to research best-practice for contractor engagement and management. The companies will engage a WorkSafe-approved independent health and safety experts and report back to WorkSafe on their findings within six months. Guidance materials will be developed as part of the process and be posted on the companies' websites and distributed to industry stakeholders to promote awareness. If the research project costs less than $225,000, the difference will be donated to Monash University's Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research.
WorkSafe Media Release.
US: Republicans vote against mine safety reforms
Pump Handle blog reports that a couple of weeks ago, families of the 29 men who were killed on April 5, 2010 at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine travelled to Washington DC to urge lawmakers to improve the US's mine safety law. The West Virginians met with Republican and Democratic Members of Congress and asked for four simple reforms targeted at the mining industry's worst companies. They weren't asking anything for themselves, but for new laws to help deter unscrupulous employers from causing another disaster and causing other communities to suffer the same pain and loss the UBB families have endured. All they were asking for initially was for the House Education and the Workforce Committee to merely demonstrate its interest in passing a law targeted at companies that value profits more than human life. There wasn't a bill pending debate, but simply an amendment offered to the Committee's third quarter activities report.
Democrat Congressman Miller simply proposed the following: "Before the end of this Congress, the Committee will consider and report legislation to improve safety and whistleblower protections for miners, and increase accountability for dangerous mine operators." After discussion on the tragedies in mining and debate about 'binding language' the motion was defeated by a party-line vote (16-22). Twenty-two Republicans on the Committee opposed it. Sixteen Democrats on the Committee supported it.
The Pump Handle House Republicans say 'nay' to new mine safety reforms, no questions left about which side they're on
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