Issue 242 - SafetyNet Issue 242
The VTHC OHS Unit welcomes our subscribers to Edition 242 of the fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet. If you'd like to comment on any of the items or have any queries, please contact us at email@example.com
What is the requirement for displaying/archiving Health and Safety Committee meeting minutes? Should they be able to be publicly viewable? Or should they be only viewable by password on the company intranet?
Neither the Act nor the Regulations say anything specific about what happens to minutes of the Health and Safety Committee, nor what status they have (legally or otherwise). However, note the following:
- It is up to the committee itself (AT LEAST HALF of whose membership must be employees, and, where possible, these should be the elected HSRs/deputy HSRs) to determine its own procedures (section 72). This would include any matters relating to the minutes, etc.
- The employee members of the committee are there to represent the employees more generally (whether or not they are formally HSRs) and part of what is expected is that there will be consultation. For this reason, it would be normal to expect that the minutes of the committee would be seen as generally 'open' and available for any employee to see. However, how this is done would depend on what the committee decides. It may also be that there may be matters from time to time, which are discussed and are 'in confidence' - normally this too is agreed by the members of the committee, and these matters are not recorded in the minutes if the minutes are to be generally available.
- The minutes must be agreed by the members of the committee before they are distributed/displayed.
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!
Insecure work an OHS risk for workers
A new report released this week by Safe Work Australia Australian Work-related Injury Experience by S'x and Age, 2009-2010 examines the work-related injury experience of male and female workers across different age groups. The report has revealed that casual workers (those without leave entitlements) are 50% more likely to be injured at work, with casuals reporting 54 injuries per million hours worked compared with a rate of 35 for those with leave entitlements. It also found that high rates of injury occurred in the accommodation and food services industries, which have high levels of casual work.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the report provided solid proof that insecure work leads to unsafe working environments, and confirmed evidence given to the
Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, which found casual, labour hire and contract workers were less likely to speak up about occupational health and safety risks. 'The fear, vulnerability and powerlessness experienced by workers engaged in insecure work mean they are less likely to raise health and safety concerns, they accept poor conditions and exploitation, and therefore face greater risks of injuries and illness,' said Ms Kearney. 'The Howe Inquiry spoke to labour hire workers, for example, who told them they felt unable to report bullying, injuries, or any OHS risk, for fear that exercising their rights would lead to the loss of shifts or the loss of a job altogether. Simply, these workers often don't receive the training, or even up-to-date information about health and safety policies and procedures.'
Media Releases: Safe Work Australia Higher injury rates for casual workers ACTU New research confirms insecure work is a health and safety risk to workers Secure Jobs Better Future website
Faster diagnosis of mesothelioma
News this came this week of a new a breath test using an electronic nose to help diagnose malignant mesothelioma in its early stages. The non-invasive test was created by a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales. The device was designed to distinguish between benign and malignant disease and to detect disease early. It has the potential to save many lives. 'If you catch it earlier your chances of actually giving people the right treatment to stop it spreading are actually better,' according to study team leader, Associate Professor Deborah Yates. Conventional techniques for distinguishing between benign and malignant asbestos-related disease are inaccurate, invasive and difficult for the mostly elderly patients with the illness.
Associate Professor Yates and her team analysed breath samples from 20 patients with malignant mesothelioma, along with 18 people with asbestos-related diseases and 42 control subjects in the study published in the European Respiratory Journal.
Patients with malignant disease, asbestos-related diseases and control patients were correctly identified in 88 per cent of cases. The authors say exhaled breath profiling can accurately distinguish between each of these groups of patients using the carbon polymer array electronic nose, a technique that could eventually translate into a screening tool for high-risk populations. Source: News Medical E-nose detects malignant mesothelioma.NSW Govt releases draft Asbestos plan
The NSW Government has released for public comment a draft asbestos plan to better manage the handling of asbestos in the community. The NSW state-wide asbestos plan is seeking to 'secure the safe management of asbestos to reduce the incidence of asbestos-related diseases in NSW' by targeting actions around the four priority areas: Research, Risk communication, Prevention and Coordination.
The plan was developed by the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) group, established by the NSW Government in August 2011 to enhance the management of asbestos across the state. The interdepartmental committee, chaired by WorkCover's Acting CEO Julie Newman, forms one part of the government's response to the NSW Ombudsman's 2010 report
Responding to the asbestos problem: The need for significant reform in NSW. The Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce urged the community to provide feedback on the plan before the submission period closes on 17 August 2012.
Minister's Media Release [
To download the draft, and find out more about HACA, go to the NSW WorkCover website
India: Workers left to suffer after mining asbestos
A delegation of 10 mineworkers from a remote area of Rajasthan has travelled to the Indian capital New Delhi to meet government health officials. The delegation was a part of the Mine Labour People's Campaign, which is campaigning to get medical care and compensation for workers. In 2007, about 150 workers had been examined by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), but almost 100 were not notified that they had signs of asbestosis. In these five years, 22 of these workers have died. The campaign to ban asbestos in Asia, and in the rest of the world continues. Source: AAWL Mini news
UK: New scheme excludes half of asbestos victims
A new UK tariff scheme designed to plug a loophole that denies many asbestos victims compensation will not cover half of those affected, a campaign group has warned. The new fund, announced this week by DWP minister Lord Freud to provide payouts to asbestos disease victims where an employers' liability insurer cannot be traced, is limited to new claimants suffering from mesothelioma. The minister said: 'We have worked tirelessly together with the insurance industry to agree this package of measures on behalf of those who face this terrible disease.' But the Asbestos Victims Support Groups' Forum says the scheme is flawed, excluding those suffering from asbestosis, pleural thickening and asbestos-related lung cancer. It says these make up 50 per cent of all asbestos diseases. Forum chair Tony Whitston said: 'We must welcome this first movement on untraced insurance which provides compensation for mesothelioma sufferers, but we are disappointed at the reduced amounts payable, and we are bitterly disappointed at the exclusion of so many people who suffer from diseases such as asbestosis or lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.' He added: 'The cost of including all asbestos victims is not prohibitively expensive: it would cost less than 20 per cent more to provide cover for all asbestos victims. There is no financial justification for excluding so many people and there is certainly no fairness and justice in doing so.' He said the forum is 'urging Lord Freud to make the scheme available to all asbestos victims.' Source: Risks 566 Read more: Asbestos Forum news release [ pdf ]
ANF HSR of the Year
The Victorian Branch of the Australian Nursing Federation last week held its annual Health and Safety Reps Conference – as usual a very interesting and enjoyable day. Ms Lee Thomas, ANF Federal Secretary, announced the ANF's HSR of the year: Ms Liz Barton, a nurse at Golf Links Road, Peninsula Health. According to Ms Thomas, one of Liz's greatest achievements as an HSR occurred when building works commenced in the Palliative Care Unit in October 2011. Management had commenced this process without consultation with HSRs. 'Knowing that it is a legal requirement for the employer to consult with HSRs over issues which affect employees' health and safety, Liz brought this issue to management and demanded that HSRs be consulted prior to any work continuing.'
Liz had identified a number of issues, including a decision having been made earlier in the year to replace and rewire call bells and duress bells in the bathrooms – made with no consultation at the time or since; positioning of alarms and decisions on infection control – of which created or increased risks to workers. Liz met with management and the Chief Engineer, resulting in the works being stopped and issues addressed. Despite the successful resolution of these issues, and the highlighting of consultation obligations, Liz is currently working on an issue whereby Peninsula Health has purchased beds which are unsuitable for patients and staff and which do not adequately fit in the rooms.. the purchase of which was, you guessed it, done with no consultation!
The VTHC congratulates Liz and wishes her luck in the next step to recognition – the ANF has nominated her in the WorkSafe Annual Health and Safety Awards.
MUA seeks support from the wider community
The Maritime Union of Australia is seeking the urgent support of the public to save the hatchman or cargo space lookout to protect wharf workers' safety. The MUA says that after a lengthy union campaign to raise safety standards, Safe Work Australia has commenced drafting a new code of practice for stevedoring safety. In a recent bulletin, it says, 'While this is an excellent opportunity to improve safety on the waterfront, employers are pushing for the hatchman position to be scrapped. Safe Work Australia, the government body developing the code, is currently seeking public comment by 3 August.' It is asking for a massive 'show of support' to give them the best possible chance of protecting safety standards in the new code – do this by spending a few minutes to provide feedback. MUA Bulletin
New, free SunSmart online course for indoor workers
A new, free online course has been developed by Cancer Council Australia. The course – A SunSmart Balance for Vitamin D and Skin Cancer Prevention – is aimed primarily at indoor workers, many of whom can suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. It can be accessed from this page of the Cancer Council website. The course takes workers through a series of modules that will explore why UV is a hazard and sources of UV; how they can protect themselves from UV while gaining enough for helping vitamin D levels; risk factors for skin cancer; how to prevent skin cancer; and how to check the skin for signs of skin cancer.
ACT construction safety inquiry
A 21 year-old worker was killed at a construction site in the ACT on Saturday July 21 after he was struck by a 39 metre boom. Two other workers were injured in the incident. The fatality was the fourth workplace death in the ACT since last December, three of which have occurred on construction sites.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union ACT assistant secretary Jason O'Mara said while this incident was unrelated to the three other building industry deaths, it should prompt broader consideration of workplace dangers. 'Something needs to change … maybe we need to look at workplace fatigue and time pressure on jobs,' he said. Mr O'Mara described the nature of the incident as 'almost unheard of'.
On the following Monday, the territory's Attorney-General Simon Corbell announced a major investigation into industry practices, saying that too many companies are trading off the safety of their workers for extra profits. He said the inquiry would probably be held under the Work Health and Safety Act with a panel of investigators who would have the power to call for documents, receive evidence and question people. Witnesses' evidence would be protected from defamation or other legal action. Sources: The Canberra Times; ABC News Online
Major sunscreen brands misled by non-nano claims
NGO Friends of Earth (FoE) last week launched ACCC complaints accusing two Australian companies – Antaria Limited and Ross Cosmetics – of misleading and deceptive conduct for marketing nano sunscreen ingredients as 'non-nano' and 'nanoparticle-free'. Some of Australia's biggest sunscreen brands are affected, including products such as
Cancer Council Classic, Invisible Zinc Junior and
Coles Sports and Woolworths Clear Zinc. The complaint against Antaria is being supported by a range of groups including the Public Health Association, the Australian Education Union, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Victorian Trades Hall Council. One company Mukti has recalled its affected product in response to the revelations. FoE is seeking support for its campaign to have compulsory labelling of nano ingredients in sunscreens and cosmetics, in line with the EU and now New Zealand.
Read more and Take action
The Australian Human Rights Commission has released a new research paper,
Encourage. Support. Act!: Bystander approaches to sexual harassment in the workplace, which examines he role bystanders can play in preventing and reducing the incidence of sexual harassment. Written by Associate Professor Paula McDonald from QUT in Brisbane and Dr Michael Flood from the University of Wollongong,
Encourage. Support. Act! also examines the role bystander intervention strategies are already playing in other areas such as whistle blowing, racial harassment, workplace bullying and anti-violence. 'Bystander approaches focus on the ways in which individuals who are not the targets of the conduct can intervene in violence, harassment or other anti-social behaviour in order to prevent and reduce harm to others,' Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick said.
Australian Human Rights Commission News release Encourage. Support. Act! Is available on the Australian Human Rights Commission website
The Conversation: Future of Work series
Of interest to SafetyNet subscribers is a new series on
The Conversation that looks at the ongoing evolution of the workplace. Recent articles have covered issues such as whether technology is a tool or a 'time thief' and its effect on work-life balance; the increase in casualisation and the precarious nature of employment; and the transient workforce in mining.
The Future of Work
Fly in Fly out workers – sick and tired
The latest in the series is an article by Olav Muurlink from Griffith University on 'fly in fly out' (FIFO) workers in the mining industry. According to the article, 'the mining industry is single-handedly transforming the nature of shift work in Australia' as it is now the industry with the highest proportion of men who work shifts (52%). A Griffith University team, funded by the federal government's Australian Research Council and the CFMEU Mining and Energy division, is conducting one of the largest longitudinal studies of the social, physical, and psychological impacts of shift work: the Australian Coal and Energy Survey (ACES). The study involves over 2500 miners and over 1900 of their partners. Preliminary results indicate that many workers don't feel in control of the changes, and they don't feel safe. Over a third say they had no choice but to accept shift work. Almost 60% had no say at all over the amount of hours they work, two thirds say they have no say over the types of shift or which set of shifts they work, over 70% have no say over start and finish times. Read more: Despite wealth for toil, FIFO workers find themselves sick and tired
UK: Victimised over safety? That will be £1,200 please
UK workers victimised for raising safety concerns will soon have to pay £1,200 ($1,812) if they want to seek justice at an employment tribunal. UK Unions are calling the move, announced last week by the government, 'a disgrace'. National union body TUC said the plans to introduce fees for tribunals covering employer safety and employment law abuses will price low-paid workers out of justice and will mean workers will feel less able to raise safety problems at work. Changes scheduled to take effect in mid 2013 include measures that mean anyone who believes they 'suffer a detriment, dismissal or redundancy for health and safety reasons' may be required to pay an initial fee of £250 ($377) and a further £950 ($1435) if the case goes to a tribunal. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'It is vital that working people have fair access to justice, but introducing fees for tribunals will deter many - particularly those on low wages - from taking valid claims to court. Many of the UK's most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.' He added the government move means 'workers will be more likely to be mistreated at work as rogue bosses will be able to flout the law without fear of sanction.' Source: Risks 565
One in five worker pay for their own PPE
A survey released last week by the UK's peak union council has revealed that despite laws that employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) free of charge, more than one in five workers are being forced to pay for it out of their own pocket. PPE includes protective clothing, helmets and goggles designed to protect workers from injury, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals, and infection. More than one in 10 (11.6 per cent) of those who responded to the TUC questionnaire said that although their work required them to wear safety equipment of some kind, their employer failed to provide or pay for this. A further 8.9 per cent were made to pay for any replacement equipment if their original PPE was damaged. In total more than one in five (20 per cent) of respondents to the survey said that they had to pay for providing or replacing all or some of the equipment they needed for their work. TUC Media Release
Report finds cancer risk for coal workers
A six-year probe into cancer rates at one of Australia's largest coal loading terminals has found workers are getting cancer at nearly three times higher than average. According to an item on the ABC, workers at the Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) Kooragang Island coal terminal in Newcastle were told of the report last week. According to Professor John Attia of Newcastle University, and one of the report's authors, 'There is a 1.7-fold increase in the risk of cancer compared to state and national average and a 2.8-fold increase in the risk of cancer compared to the local comparison population at Carrington. We can't really pinpoint what might be causing this effect but statistically speaking, it is a strong effect so there is something about the site that might be causing this effect.'
Workers are developing a mix of cancers including melanoma, prostate and colorectal. The report recommends an expert review of the site, advice be taken on a cancer screening program, and workers be encouraged to see their doctors. The company has said it is taking the report seriously and will implement all recommendations. Read more: ABCOnline
Stressful work may harm female hearts
US researchers recently examined the relationship between job strain, job insecurity, and incident cardiovascular disease over 10 years of follow-up among 22,086 participants in the Women's Health Study. The analysis demonstrated that women who have high levels of work stress appear to have a greater cardiovascular risk than those with lower-stress jobs. Both active jobs and those with a high level of strain were associated with a 38% greater relative risk of having a cardiovascular event through 10 years of follow-up, according to Michelle Albert, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues.
High job strain, in particular, was associated with higher rates of nonfatal myocardial infarctions (MI) and coronary revascularization. Source: Medpage today Slopen N, et al Job strain, job insecurity, and incident cardiovascular disease in the Women's Health Study: results from a 10-year prospective study. PLoS One 2012; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040512
Further studies highlight risk to workers of shift work
- Shift work increases heart risk
A group of mainly Canadian researchers undertook a systematic search of major bibliographic databases, contacted with experts in the field, and reviewed reference lists of primary articles, review papers, and guidelines in order to synthesise the association of shift work with major vascular events. They looked at a total of 34 studies covering over two million people and reported their findings in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The researchers concluded that shift work is associated with myocardial infarction, coronary events, and ischaemic stroke. Although the relative risks were relatively modest, the authors noted that the frequency of shift work in the general population meant that the overall risks are high. Conversely, they also found that shift work is not associated with increased rates of mortality (whether vascular cause specific or overall). Manav V Vyas, Amit X Garg, and others. Shift work and vascular events: systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ 2012;345:e4800
- Shift work linked to low back pain
Australian researchers who recently completed a two year longitudinal study of over 900 nurses have linked shift work and obesity to low back pain (LBP), which increases absence rates and could cost our economy $9 billion a year in direct and indirect costs. All the nurses were LBP free at the beginning of the study, and it was found that shift workers were at higher risk than non-shift workers of developing the pain over time. They also found that the risk was aggravated for those shift workers who were overweight or obese and for those who had lack of control over their job.
Source: OHSAlert Isabella Zhao, et al, The Effects of Shift Work and Interaction Between Shift Work and Overweight/Obesity on Low Back Pain in Nurses: Results From a Longitudinal Study. [abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environment Medicine, Volume 54, Number 7, July 2012.
The Safety Express Newsletter the last fortnightly newsletter for the manufacturing, logistics, agriculture and retail industries. It will now be produced bi-monthly, with the next edition in September.
NSW Anti-bullying kit
WorkCover NSW has developed anti-bullying tool to assist employers to eradicate what it says is a $100 million workplace problem. The NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce launched the Bullying Prevention Kit last week, saying that there had been more than 4700 workers' compensation claims linked to bullying and harassment, at a cost of nearly $100 million, in the last three financial years in NSW.
The kit includes six guide sheets (management commitment; consultation; policy and procedures; training and supervision; reporting bullying; and injury management), and a colour-coded self-assessment tool to help employers determine whether their bullying prevention systems are 'doing well', need improvement, or require immediate action. The kit also includes a series of 'advice sheets' to help employers determine when to review their bullying policies and identify bullying-related problems before they escalate.
Safe Work Australia
Formaldehyde classification amended
Based on the NICNAS (National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme) Priority Existing Chemical Assessment Report for formaldehyde (done in November 2006), Safe Work Australia has updated the entry in HSIS for formaldehyde to reflect recommended changes in classification. The update includes a change to the carcinogen classification from category 3 (limited evidence of a carcinogenic effect) to category 2 (may cause cancer by inhalation) and is made in accordance with the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances [NOHSC:1008(2004] 3rd Edition. The full classification is available on HSIS.
The NICNAS PEC assessment can be downloaded from the NICNAS site
New codes of practice now available
Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, in his role as chair of the COAG Select Council on Workplace Relations, has urged jurisdictions to implement the twelve new codes released by Safe Work Australia (nb: the Select Council replaces Workplace Relations Ministers' Council (WRMC), which ceased to exist in September 2011, but continues to pursue the WRMC's obligations). Eight of the Codes of Practice are available:
- First aid in the workplace
- Construction work
- Preventing falls in housing construction
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace
- Safe Design of Structures
- Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace
- Managing electrical risks at the workplace
The remaining four model Codes (Excavation work; Spray painting and powder coating; Abrasive blasting; and Welding processes) are in the 'final stages of design' and will be available shortly. The model Codes can be downloaded from this page of the Safe Work website.
Faster review of industrial chemicals
A new framework to provide a faster, more flexible and transparent approach to assessing the impact of industrial chemicals on human health and the environment was last week launched by the Federal Government. The Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and Prioritisation (IMAP) framework has been designed to accelerate the assessment of industrial chemicals. It uses a staged approach to examine the largely unassessed industrial chemicals listed on Australia's national inventory, the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS). IMAP was developed by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), the Australian Government regulator for industrial chemicals, in close consultation with community, industry and government stakeholder groups. The VTHC was an active participant as an ACTU representative.
The objectives of the IMAP framework are the identification and rapid assessment of existing chemicals of concern, leading to enhancements in chemical safety information flow and chemicals management. It is a more flexible and transparent approach to the assessment of the large number of chemicals on the national inventory and is responsive to the needs of industry, community and government. Stage one commenced on 1 July, will run over four years and involve the assessment of about 3,000 chemicals for which NICNAS already holds information about their quantity or use in Australia, chemicals identified as a concern or for which regulatory action has been taken overseas, and chemicals reported in international studies analysing the blood in babies' umbilical cords.
Media Release Read more about IMAP - including a description of the framework and fact sheets. NICNAS Matters Newsletter [ pdf ]
From the UK's occupational health and safety regulator, the HSE: Management of the risks from legionella in cooling towers and evaporative condensers
Company fined $200,000 following fatality
Earlier this week trolley collection company Kakos Trolley Services Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $200,000 in the County Court as the result of the death of elderly man who was run over by a reversing vehicle at a shopping centre loading dock. The shopping trolley collection car and trailer, which reversed over the elderly man, did not have a warning beeper, flashing lights or rear view camera that might have alerted the driver. The driver's view was further blocked when the ramps on the back of the trailer were raised. The incident occurred in November 2008 when two Kakos employees had just finished unloading trolleys from the vehicle's trailer at a Southland Shopping Centre loading dock, used by workers and customers. The workers were reversing the shopping trolley collection vehicle out of the loading dock when it struck the man who died in hospital three days later.
After the incident, Kakos made a range of safety improvements, including installing reversing beepers and cameras to all of their vehicles. WorkSafe's acting General Manager for Health and Safety Operations, Jarrod Edwards, said the prosecution highlighted the dangers of vehicles colliding with pedestrians. 'Where it is not an option to ensure pedestrians and vehicles are fully separated, it is essential that appropriate warning systems are in place to minimise the risk of collision,' he said. Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Prosecutions target dangerous machinery
Two businesses have been fined a total of $35,000 at the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court after a contractor had his thumb crushed in an unguarded machine.
The worker's thumb was crushed on 29 September 2010 while operating an unguarded operating press after a safety device that stops the machine from working when guarding is removed was taken off. Campbellfield manufacturing company, Greg Sewell pleaded guilty to failing to provide instruction, training and supervision and was fined $30,000 without conviction.
The device had been removed by co-accused, sub-contractor Leslie Grinter, who had been engaged by Greg Sewell Forgings to carry out work and training at the site. Mr Grinter spent 10 minutes removing the device on the day of the incident then trained the worker to work the press without the guard. Mr Grinter later told WorkSafe investigators he was aware the press was being used by the worker without the interlocked guard. Mr Grinter was fined $5000 in May after pleading guilty to failure by a self-employed person to ensure people are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Regional Director Shane Gillard said removing guarding from a machine was a recipe for disaster and urged businesses to revisit safety practices around machinery before it was too late. 'Guarding is there to protect workers from being seriously hurt or killed, yet we frequently come across incidents where someone has suffered a serious injury that could easily be prevented,' he said. The two prosecutions coincide with a 12-month campaign targeting dangerous machines. Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Esso prosecuted after Longford gas leak
Esso Australia Pty Ltd has been convicted over workplace health and safety charges for the second time after incidents at the Longford gas plant in Gippsland. Despite a leaking underground pipe having been repaired on 6 November 2009, the pipes were not safely isolated allowing the escape of 650kg of highly flammable gas. In addition, the team carrying out the repairs was incorrectly told the pressure in the pipe was at a very low level (five kilopascals) when it was actually at 6300 kilopascals. A vapour cloud was created when a valve was opened, with the high-pressure gas causing a hose to flail about and bruising a worker's ribs.
Esso was convicted and fined $40,000 after pleading guilty to failing to provide adequate training or supervision to its employees in relation to the draining and depressurising of gas pipes. Outside court, WorkSafe's acting General Manager for Health and Safety Operations, Jarrod Edwards, said major hazards facilities required a greater level of risk control because of the potential impact on the wider community.
Esso was convicted and fined $2million in 2001 after a 1998 gas explosion at Longford killed two men, injured eight and severely affected Victoria's gas supplies for several weeks. 'The 1998 explosion changed the way sites of this type operate and are licensed. Apart from the penalty imposed in this case, the company's licence to operate was amended last year to include a condition requiring safety improvement work,' Mr Edwards said. WorkSafe Media Release
WA fatality fine $90,000
In a case which illustrates the different levels of fines across Australia, a Western Australian retailer has been fined only $90,000 after a female worker died in 2010 when she fell 2.75m through a store ceiling. Personal Buying Service Pty Ltd, trading as Betta Electrical & Gas, pleaded guilty in Mandurah Magistrates Court to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the death of a worker. WorkSafe WA said the store's showroom ceiling was 2.75m in height, half the height of the warehouse on the premises. Stock and boxes were stored in the area between the showroom ceiling and the warehouse roof on a chipboard shelf, which staff accessed using a 1.8m ladder, standing on stock boxes or by placing a two-step ladder on top of stock boxes. In September 2010, two store workers went to the back of the store to look for a washing machine box. A female worker placed the step ladder on top of an empty box and climbed onto the shelf to pass down empty boxes. She fell through the showroom ceiling and died. Even though WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said 'Falls are almost always readily preventable and it need not be difficult or costly to ensure that safe systems of work are in place at all times,' and 16 WA workers had died from falls in the past four years, the fine was only $90,000. WorkSafe WA Media Release
Global: HIV still a major obstacle to employment security
A new ILO-backed report launched by the Global Network of People living with HIV at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. shows that HIV-related stigma and discrimination is still widespread in the world of work. According to the report, Evidence Brief on Stigma and Discrimination at Work: Findings from the PLHIV Stigma Index http://www.gnpplus.net/en/news-and-events/key-events/gnp-at-aids2012/1805-evidence-brief-on-stigma-and-discrimination-at-work-findings-from-the-plhiv-stigma-index , over 30 million people living with HIV old enough to work still face a high level of discrimination preventing or limiting their access to jobs. The study, developed with support of the ILO, provides a global snapshot of HIV-related stigma and discrimination impacting work. Alice Ouedraogo, Head of the ILO Programme on HIV/AIDS, said 'One way of improving the situation is for more countries to implement the ILO Recommendation on HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, 2010 (No. 200) … the first international human rights instrument to focus specifically on HIV in the world of work.' The Recommendation provides that there should be no discrimination or stigmatisation of workers, particularly job applicants and job seekers in either access to employment or occupation; terms and conditions of work; or, the right to remain in employment. Read more: ILO Media Release
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