Issue 243 - SafetyNet 243
The VTHC OHS Unit welcomes our subscribers to Edition 243 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melbourne taxi driver murdered
In a terrible tragedy, an experienced taxi driver was stabbed and left on the road to die in Mount Waverley on August 1. The passenger responsible then stole the taxi and was killed when he slammed into a power pole at about 3am. Police called on the public to assist in the man's identification. This latest example of taxi violence has prompted discussions on how to improve safety for drivers. Melbourne's Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, said security cameras and safety screens should be immediately made mandatory in all taxis. Currently, it is compulsory for taxi operators to supply screens but it is up to drivers to decide whether they install them. Other options being canvassed are 'New York' style taxi shields, and a sign-in system for passengers. According to media reports, Premier Ted Baillieu when asked about an identity scheme for taxi passengers said 'nothing's off the table' but that the government would wait to hear from police about the circumstances of the tragedy before acting. 'The safety of drivers is paramount. We've said that from the start, we've said it for many years now and I think that would be the view of drivers and the view of the wider community,' he said. However drivers and their families are, understandably, frustrated by lack of action.
Read more: Stabbing death drives home the danger of road work The Age
A fellow worker had the flu and was refused to leave to go home. Can an employer refuse a worker from going home if they are sick?
No, in my opinion an employer cannot refuse to allow a worker who is ill to go home. The employer's response to the worker is unacceptable. It is an OHS issue for several reasons: an unwell worker is probably not in a 'fit' state to carry out his work, may have reduced concentration and may be involved in an incident at work or on the way home, and injure himself or others. In the case of the flu (or even bad cold) in particular, this is an infectious condition, and in my view, your employer is being very short-sighted insisting the worker remain at work. If a worker with the flu remains at work, then he could infect other workers and customers. I can speak from personal experience – I've come down with the flu, and my doctor told me to stay home as I am contagious!.
There have been several reports that this year's flu is a particularly nasty strain, and there are people with very severe cases. In fact, employers should be concerned with the costs of 'presenteeism', which is when workers who are ill and should be at home, go to or remain at work. Remember that under the OHS Act, employers have a duty of care to both employees and 'others' in the workplace.
If you are a member of a union, you should raise this issue with your union organiser as it's important to ensure that there are proper procedures in place so that any workers who feel too ill to remain at work are not forced to do so.
Read more: Flu worse this season; Presenteeism; and Duties of Employers
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!
Melbourne Postie asks for support
Anthony Veal has been a postie for Australia Post for 27 years, and loves his job and being outdoors, but says that for the last three winters, it's been miserable. According to Anthony, three years ago, Australia Post decided to cut costs and stop providing posties with Goretex wet weather gear which was the only thing keeping them dry when they are out in pouring rain. As the elected HSR at the Richmond Delivery Centre, and a postie who delivers the mail in the South Yarra area, he says he and his fellow workers now get 'soaked to the skin in 30 minutes' – with their boots and gloves no better. Anthony says Australia Post can afford to pay for what should be this basic gear: last year it announced its biggest profits in four years, and the CEO is paid millions annually.
Australians love their posties - so he is asking for everyone's help to make sure that Australia Post doesn't keep forcing them to work with inadequate gear. He is asking people to sign his petition to tell Australia Post to give posties proper wet weather gear. Anthony Veal's petition. Have your say on the OHS Reps @ Work forum
Minister releases and responds to Asbestos Management Review
The Honorable Bill Shorten MP, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation, has today released the Asbestos Management Review Report and Findings. In the Minister's speech he refers to the risks and tragedy of asbestos, and his own experiences as a union organiser. In the statement, Minister Shorten outlines the recommendations of the Review:
- That the Australian Government lead and advocate for all jurisdictions to agree to the development of a National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management inAustralia.
- That the Australian Government support and legislate for the establishment of a newnational agency to have responsibility for the implementation, review, refinement andfurther development of the plan.
- That the National Strategic Plan provide for investigation of the prioritised removal ofasbestos containing materials from government and commercial buildings by 2030.
- That the National Strategic Plan provide for a requirement that an asbestos content report(ACR) be undertaken by a competent assessor to determine and disclose the existence ofACMs in residential properties constructed prior to 1987 at the point of sale or lease, andprior to renovation, together with a property labelling system to alert workers and potentialpurchasers and tenants to the presence of asbestos.
The Minister concluded, 'With this Review we have brought good people together. And we shall listen to them with forensicpassion…So we must act, to protect.' The full report will be available on line shortly
Ministerial Statement Asbestos Management Review
Latest Mesothelioma figures for Australia
On August 3, Safe Work Australia released a statistical report with data on the number of persons diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1982 and 2008, as well as the number of deaths due to the disease between 1997 and 2007. In 2008 there were 661 new cases of diagnosed in Australia. The number of new cases decreased from a previous peak of 652 new cases in 2003 to 591 new cases in 2006, initially suggesting a decreasing trend. However, the number of diagnoses reported in 2007 reached a new peak of 668 cases. This increase between 2006 and 2007 was mainly due to the increase in diagnoses for men (from 487 to 561 new cases respectively). In 2008, the age-standardised incidence rate of new cases of mesothelioma was 2.9 per 100,000 population. The rate has increased over time, from 1.2 cases in 1982 to a peak of 3.2 in 2003. In 2008, the highest age-specific incidence rate of new cases occurred among men aged 85 years and over: 48 cases per 100 000 population aged 85 years and over.
In 2007 there were 551 deaths attributed to mesothelioma. Data on the number of deaths are available for the years 1997 to 2007. Reflecting the increase in incidence of new cases diagnosed, the overall number of deaths resulting from mesothelioma generally increased over the period between 1997 and 2007, reaching a maximum of 551 deaths in 2007.
Safe Work Australia Report: Mesothelioma in Australia Incidence 1982 to 2008 Mortality 1997 to 2007
ACCC issues alert on asbestos in car gaskets
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is monitoring a recall of approximately 23,000 Great Wall and Chery motor vehicles with engine and exhaust gaskets containing asbestos. The asbestos is bound into gaskets in the engine and exhaust system and does not present any risk to consumers during use of the vehicle. The ACCC warns that consumers should not perform do-it-yourself maintenance that might disturb these gaskets.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said, 'Asbestos is a prohibited hazardous substance and these engines and exhaust systems should only be worked on by qualified personnel using appropriate safety procedures. The automotive service industry is experienced in managing this risk, as cars sold in Australia before 2004 often had gaskets that contained asbestos.' Ms Rickard added 'However, consumers and automotive repairers must be made aware that the risk may be present in these much newer vehicles. This is the focus of the recall campaign.'
Customs and Border Protection officers detected asbestos in imported spare parts, triggering a safety investigation also involving the WorkCover Authority of NSW, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the ACCC and the supplier of the cars, Ateco Automotive Pty Ltd. Source: ACCC
Five asbestos factsFrom the US Asbestos Diseases Awareness Organisation ( ADOA )newsletter these five facts on asbestos:
- Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and there is no safe level of asbestos exposure
- Only 55 countries have banned asbestos. The United States and Canada are the only two industrial western nations not to ban asbestos
- Top 5 asbestos producers reported by USGS: Russia (1,000,000), China (400,000), Brazil (270,000), Kazakhstan (214,000) and Canada (100,000) (in metric tons)
- Top 5 asbestos users reported by USGS: China (613,760), India (426,363), Russia (263,037), Brazil (139,153) and Indonesia (111,848) (in metric tons)
- More than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases
Union issues alert on imported shed containing asbestos
The CFMEU has issued an alert advising its members that asbestos was found in pre-assembled structures imported from Indonesia for installation at local building sites. The alert was issued after the union learnt that the Bechtel Construction Pty Ltd site on Curtis Island near Gladstone, Queensland, had imported sheds built from converted shipping containers. They were assembled in Indonesia and supplied by the international company METITO Pty Ltd to house the Motor Control Centres for the Sewage Treatment Plant. The internal linings of the sheds consist of Asbestos Cement Sheeting / Tiles on the walls, floors and ceilings. This has been confirmed by testing.
'As we are all aware the importation of asbestos products has been banned through the Customs Act in Australia since 31 December 2003,'said CFMEU QLD/NT Safety Officer Andrew Ramsay. 'The asbestos in these sheds came to light after a fire in one of the switch boards caused the sheeting to be broken and exposed the fibres to the workers involved. The Union is concerned that many electricians may also have been exposed during fit-out of these sheds before the alarm was raised.'
CFMEU Construction National Office is alerting members around Australia, particularly on remote job-sites, of the possibility of illegal dumping of this type of converted shipping container for use as offices or sheds on those sites. The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) believes at least 90 of its members were exposed to asbestos. The union threatened to take Bechtel to the Federal Court over Bechtel withholding wages from ETU members who took matters into their own hands and downed tools. ETU state secretary Peter Simpson slammed Bechtel for the serious breach of health and safety. Read more: CFMEU Alert: Beware imported sheds with Asbestos ETU Latest News
Worldwide campaign against Canadian mining and export of asbestos
Please sign the petition created by Louise Williams, an active Victorian campaigner. The petition is addressed to both the Australian and Canadian governments, and demands that the Canadian Government rescind their recent loan guarantee of $CAN58 million which would have enabled the Jeffrey Mine to continue production and export of deadly asbestos. Sign the petition and pass it on to your networks.
Vulnerability and arrogance
Long time health and safety advocate and national OHS coordinator for the Australian Workers union, Dr Yossi Berger has written an article in the SafetyAtWork blog about the vulnerability of workers and the arrogance of managers. As Kevin Jones writes, the 'article expresses a perspective that … is an easy one to forget in social media debates and OHS policy development – the social impact of poor working conditions and safety on a worker's family.
Read more: Vulnerability and arrogance
Pressure for Quad Bike rollover protection heats up
Following the Federal Government's establishment of QuadWatch ( SafetyNet 241 ) the issue has had a high profile in the media, with a story on Channel Ten's The Project (Segment 6, August 6) and calls by international and local farm safety experts who attended the annual Farm Safety Conference in Mount Isa, Queensland, August 1-4 to implement measures. These include mandating the installation of crush protection devices which could potentially reduce the number of quad bike deaths by 40%. The manufacturers' response continues to be that these devices would increase the risk, however the experts say their advice is based on 'faulty science'. Until a few years ago, a high number of farmers died when their tractors rolled over: Australia has had outstanding success in reducing tractor rollover deaths by 70%, which was achieved by installing rollover frames on tractors. Other recommended measures include the development of an Australian Design Rule for quad bikes; stopping the sale of child-sized quad bikes and ensuring that helmets and education form part of a comprehensive prevention package to reduce the impact of injury. Sources: The Project; Workplace OHS.
International Union News
Canada: Further evidence insecure workers at risk
Recent Canadian research supports recent Australian findings that transient work puts workers at risk. According to new research from the Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health, complex employment relationships, gaps in the regulatory system and job insecurity can leave low-wage temp agency workers more vulnerable to workplace injuries. Researcher Ellen MacEachen found temp agencies don't have control over the worksites to which workers are sent, and often don't fully know the risks. 'This is not about bad apples,' MacEachen said. 'It's about a structural weakness in the regulatory system that leaves temp agency workers without the same protection as regular workers.' The study included legal and documentary analysis, as well as focus groups and interviews with agency workers, temp agencies, client employers and key informants, such as inspectors and policymakers. It found temp agency efforts to prevent injuries are largely ineffective. It concluded this is because the agencies don't know or control the workplace, low-waged workers are reluctant to speak out for fear of losing their job placement or the chance of been taken on permanently, and because agencies and their workers have little power to demand improvements. The study also concluded client employers have little incentive to improve safety for temp agency workers. 'Low-wage temp agency workers are less well protected than workers in a standard employment relationship,' MacEachen said. 'Our research identifies ways that legislation and policies need to catch up with the reality of today's work conditions.'
Source: Risks 567 At Work, Issue 69, IWH, Summer 2012 and related research presentation: The management of OHS and return-to-work issues in temporary work agencies
UK: HSE seeks public view on OHS legislation exemptions
In what seems to be a dangerous move to deregulation, the UK's regulatory body, the HSE has launched a public consultation on proposals to exempt some self-employed people from health and safety legislation. The proposals were developed to give effect to a recommendation in the report, "Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation" by Professor Löfstedt, to exempt from health and safety law those self-employed whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others. This is a deregulatory measure, and consequently, no alternatives to regulatory activity have been considered. Read more: HSE Public consultation
Research on Provisional Improvement Notices in NSW from an OHS Rep perspective
A researcher based at the University of Western Sydney seeks to interview OHS Reps in NSW who have attended the appropriate training this year to gather perspectives on the expected effectiveness of provisional improvement notices. The researcher also seeks to understand what factors that may enhance or hinder its effectiveness. If you are interested to participate in the study or have further questions, please do not hesitate to email for further information. The study concludes on the 31st of August.
Research highlights role of bystanders in bullying
New research from Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University sheds light on the roles bystanders play in workplace bullying. To better understand how co-workers can impact conflict, Dr Megan Paull of Murdoch's School of Business and her partners created 13 'types' – ranging from the aggressive
Instigating Bystander to the Submitting Bystander, who ends up becoming a substitute for the victim. Middle spectrum types include the
Manipulating Bystander, Abdicating Bystander, Defending Bystander and Sympathising Bystander. 'Bystanders are not incidental, but are an integral part of the context of bullying, with some siding with the bully or victim, either actively or passively,' Dr Paull said. 'People don't always appreciate the impact of their actions, or inactions.'
Read more: Murdoch University News Research shows workplace bullying involves us all
Work can be damaging in late pregnancy
According to new UK research, working after eight months of pregnancy could be harmful to the baby. Women who worked after they were eight months pregnant had babies on average around 230g lighter than those who stopped work between six and eight months according to the study, published in the July
Journal of Labor Economics. The University of Essex research, drawing on data from three major studies, found the effect of continuing to work during the late stages of pregnancy was equal to that of smoking while pregnant. Past research has shown babies with low birth weights are at higher risk of poor health and slow development, and may suffer from a variety of problems later in life. The study found that stopping work early in pregnancy was particularly beneficial for women with lower levels of education, suggesting that the effect of working during pregnancy was possibly more marked for those doing physically demanding work. Prof Marco Francesconi, one of the authors of the study, said the (UK) government should consider incentives for employers to offer more flexible maternity leave to women who might need a break before, rather than after, their babies were born. He said: 'We know low birth weight is a predictor of many things that happen later, including lower chances of completing school successfully, lower wages and higher mortality. We need to think seriously about parental leave, because - as this study suggests - the possible benefits of taking leave flexibly before the birth could be quite high.' The study also suggests British women may now be working longer into their pregnancies.
Source: Risks 567 Emilia Del Bono, John Ermisch, and Marco Francesconi. Intrafamily resource allocations: A dynamic structural model of birth weight, Vol. 30, No. 3, pages 657-706, July 2012. Medical Daily
WorkSafe Blitz targets Shepparton
Shepparton small businesses are this week the target of a week of workplace safety inspections, 13-17 August. Specialised WorkSafe Return to Work Inspectors also took part to ensure workplaces with workers' compensation claims were meeting their obligation to help injured workers with return to work planning. Return to Work Inspectors targetted both small and medium sized businesses. WorkSafe Group Leader for Shepparton, Simon Brown said a 'no excuses' approach would be taken to poor safety practices.
WorkSafe has also announced that Return to Work Inspectors will be visiting Laverton, Hoppers Crossing and Werribee employers throughout August to ensure they are meeting their return to work obligations for injured workers. WorkSafe is hosting a free Return to Work Co-ordinator Workshop in Sanctuary Lakes on 21 August to help those dealing with injured workers. Those attending will hear from a panel of return to work experts who will talk through how to overcome barriers in order to achieve a successful outcome. The event will be held at from 9am to 11.30am at Sanctuary Lakes Resort, Greg Norman Drive (off Point Cook Rd), Sanctuary Lakes 3030. WorkSafe is encouraging Employers to register to the event by going to this page WorkSafe Media Release Safe Towns targets Shepparton
Basic safety failings on many building sites
WorkSafe inspectors are finding high risk construction work being performed on up to 20 construction sites every week without a suitable safety plan which can help save lives, prevent injuries and get work done more efficiently. WorkSafe's Construction Manager, Alan Beacom said in most cases the work was also being done unsafely.
A review of three months of WorkSafe's construction site inspections found 226 sites where work had to stop because SWMS were absent, inadequate or not being followed. WorkSafe inspectors are about to begin a state-wide, 'Back to Basics' campaign focusing on safety planning for high risk construction work.
WorkSafe Media Release Basic planning missing on building sites.
WorkSafe warns of dangers of trenches
Following an incident last Saturday when a trench collapsed on a worker at a Pakenham housing site, WorkSafe Victoria has warned the construction industry of the dangers associated with trenches. The trench collapsed on a plumber as he connected a sewer. According to WorkSafe construction manager Allan Beacom, it was fortunate a fellow worker raised the alarm and he was not seriously injured. 'Broken limbs, asphyxia and crush injuries are just some of the serious injuries that can occur when a trench collapses,' he said. Injuries on construction sites cost the industry $17m a year, according to WorkSafe estimates. Beacom urged industry operators to review safety practices. He said wet weather and ground moisture affected soil stability, which placed workers at greater risk for trenches a metre or more in depth. Beacom suggested having engulfment protection, developing a safe work method statement (SWMS) and keeping materials and plant well away from the edge of the trench. WorkSafe Media Release see if you can find this & the previous one too.
WorkSafe media release Trenches,
Vic Government launches bullying campaign
One year after the introduction of 'Brodie's law' that sought to outlaw serious bullying, a campaign launched last week by the Victorian Government is urging workplaces to take a stand against bullying and report such behaviour to authorities. According to the Department of Justice, the 'Take a stand against bullying' campaign will see information about bullying and bullying laws distributed to more than 8,000 schools, workplaces and police stations across Victoria. Launching the campaign at Lifeline headquarters, Attorney-General Robert Clark said, 'Everyone has the right to feel safe in our community and no one should be forced to put up with the fear and degradation of persistent bullying. To stamp out bullying behaviour, authorities rely on information from the community so if you or someone you know is being bullied, report it.'
Read more: Department of Justice news release. Worksafe How We Can Help ; SafetyAtWork Blog
Safe Work Australia
FAQ on WHS Act and Strata Titles Bodies Corporate
Addressing a misconception that has been raised a number of times not only in relation to the Work Health Safety Act, but also from users of the Ask Renata http://ohsrep.org.au/ask-renata/index.cfm service on the website, Safe Work Australia has released an FAQ: The facts for strata title bodies corporate and their committees http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/News/Pages/TN02082012.aspx . The FAQ clarifies that the laws do not apply to strata bodies responsible for wholly residential complexes, unless they are also direct employers. This means, for example, that contrary to some recent claims, volunteer corporate body committee members and strata managers cannot be fined $600,000 and/or jailed for five years for failing to ensure the safety of residents working from home. Nor does the Body Corporate of wholly residential units have duties of a 'PCBU' if a maintenance person, gardener or plumber is engaged to carry out odd jobs at the complex. Strata Title Bodies Corporate and the Work Health and Safety Laws: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS [ pdf ]
Resource kit for volunteers
The Strata Title FAQ follows the release by Safe Work of a air of the Safe Work website. The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten welcomed the launch of the new resource which is part of the Australian Government's ongoing commitment to assist volunteers and organisations who engage them understand the new work health and safety (WHS) laws. This initiative was the result of round table meetings hosted by Mr Shorten with representatives from peak volunteer organisations earlier this year and is designed to help remove uncertainty about how the new WHS laws apply. It complements Safe Work Australia's volunteer telephone assistance line and email enquiry line and includes:
- a guide for volunteers
- a guide for organisations that engage volunteers
- a fact sheet, and
- a PowerPoint presentation and podcast.
Volunteer Resource Kit
Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) Updated
Safe Work Australia has updated the Hazardous Substance Information System (HSIS) online database, with a new look which will 'make the HSIS more accessible to the Australian public'. However, the functionality and content of the database remains the same. The HSIS database contains advisory information on some of the hazardous properties of chemicals and substances, and lists the current exposure standard (if any) that applies to substances.
More information on the HSIS.
Japan: Opposition to nuclear power growing
With the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the past week, people in Japan have continued to oppose the restarting of nuclear plants following the Fukushima disaster of a few months ago. On the back of an anti nuclear rally that attracted almost 200,000 people, a petition containing almost 8 million signatures has been presented to the Japanese government. Late last month, it emerged that workers at the stricken Fukushima reactor were made to work in hazardous radiation conditions. Source: AAWL Mini news
USA: Landmark legislation for temporary workers in Massachusetts
The US Blog
The Pump Handle, has reported that a recent bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature should finally secure some important rights for temporary workers.
The Temporary Workers Right to Know Act, to come into force in January 2013, aims to 'end the all-too-common exploitation of temporary workers'. It would require temporary staffing agencies to provide employees with a written job order containing information about the staffing agency and worksite employer; the job requirements (including any special clothing, tools, and training necessary, and any costs that will be charged to the employee); details about when and how much the employee will be paid; and details about any fees the employee will be charged, such as for meals or transportation. It would also regulate the fees that staffing agencies and worksite employers can charge temporary workers, including requiring written contracts for goods or services charges and prohibiting the imposition of fees or costs that reduce workers' pay to below the minimum wage. The trend in the US, as it has been in Australia, is for increasing numbers of workers to be employed as 'temps' – here we refer to them as casual workers, agency workers, contract workers and so on.
Read more: The Pump Handle Blog Landmark legislation for temporary workers in Massachusetts
Philippines follows Uruguay in ratifying ILO Convention on Domestic Workers
Last week the Philippines became the second country after Uruguay to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention – ILO Convention 189
Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The ratification will have a significant impact on the rights and the conditions not only for over 3.4 million domestic workers in the Philippines but worldwide, since C189 needed a second ratification to enter into force, after the government of Uruguay ratified it on 26 April 2012. The Philippines is the first Asian country to commit itself to the respect and the implementation of the new ILO labour standard that was adopted at the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva on 16 June 2011. The adoption of a Convention and of a Recommendation, which are aimed at extending fundamental labour rights to an estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, represents a landmark step in the fight against discrimination and abuses.
Read more: ITUC Media Release Human Rights Watch Uruguay First to Ratify Convention
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