Issue 245 - SafetyNet Issue 245
The VTHC OHS Unit welcomes our subscribers to Edition 245 of the fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet. Unfortunately there's been another Victorian fatality since the last edition. If you'd like to comment on any of the items or have any queries, please contact us at email@example.com
Father's Day fatality
In a terrible tragedy for a young family on what should have been a celebratory day, a Melbourne man died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a petrol-fuelled generator at a bakery in Ferntree Gully. The man's wife and a co-worker discovered the 43-year-old man dead at the bakery about 7am on Sunday September 2. Another man, aged 23, was seriously ill and was taken to the Maroondah Hospital.
Early reports indicated that a generator hired to cover planned power cuts was operating inside with insufficient ventilation, causing poisonous carbon monoxide fumes to fill the building. A co-worker contacted the deceased man's wife when he was unable to get into the bakery – they subsequently found the two men unconscious on a rest room bed at the back of the building. The 43-year-old dead was pronounced dead on site and the 23-year-old man was taken to hospital in a critical but stable condition. The men had been working at the bakery since at least midnight. This is the second carbon-monoxide poisoning in a month – a man died as a result of using a patio heater indoors.
Sources: ABC News online; The Age Read more: Carbon monoxide WorkSafe Media Release Beware carbon monoxide
Asbestos newsACTU poll: Australians want government action
Almost a decade after asbestos was banned here, an overwhelming majority of Australians are concerned it remains a major health risk and want Federal government action to remove it from all homes and public buildings within two decades, according to a new poll commissioned by the ACTU.
Two-thirds of respondents believe the Government should set a target to have all asbestos removed from Australian homes and buildings by 2030. The new research comes after the release earlier this month of the report of a national inquiry into the removal of asbestos, which recommended the Government must investigate removing asbestos from public and commercial buildings in the next 18 years, as well as set up an audit of its existence in residential properties built before production ended in 1987.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the poll of 1022 people showed deep public concern about the prevalence of asbestos remaining in Australian buildings, leading to the death of 500 Australians each year from the asbestos disease, mesothelioma. 'These deaths don't need to happen and we are pleased the recent Asbestos Management Review, chaired by Geoff Fary, agreed with Australian unions and the wider public that asbestos must be removed from any environment where it poses a health risk,' she said.
ACTU Media Release: Australians overwhelmingly want government action to remove asbestos from homes and schools
Second Asbestos Summit and Asbestos Management Review Report: Sydney September 4
On September 4 the ACTU and Cancer Council Australia convened the second National Asbestos Summit. It was well-attended by unions, asbestos support and advocacy groups, legal firms and others. The first National Asbestos Summit in June 2010 issued a National Declaration: Towards an Australian Safe Asbestos Free Environment, which called for the elimination of asbestos related disease by 2030 and the establishment of a National Asbestos Authority. Partly as a result of the summit and the widely supported declaration, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, commissioned the Asbestos Management Review in October 2010.
The report was handed to Minister Bill Shorten on July 1, 2012, who spoke at last week's Summit. Minister Shorten announced the immediate establishment of immediate establishment of an Office of Asbestos Safety, which will prepare a costed response to all the recommendations. It will start work on community awareness and education. It will also begin the work to ultimately remove asbestos from the Australian built environment. This decision is a historic one, and will save many Australian lives.
Unions welcomed the response and urged the Opposition to stick to their promise to take a bipartisan approach (see
SafetyNet 244). However Opposition workplace relations spokesperson Eric Abetz said he was not sure about the need for a new agency. 'We do have Safe Work Australia, we do have established bureaucracy, so I'm somewhat agnostic about establishing a new bureaucracy which could potentially cost more money.'
Read more: National Asbestos Summit 2 with links to the Minister's statements.
Australian Mesothelioma Registry 1st Data Report
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) released its first data report today (September 13). It includes information on mesothelioma cases diagnosed during the period 1 July 2010 to 31 December 2011, notified to the Registry up to 31 August 2012. Asbestos exposure information is also presented, based on patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011 and who voluntarily responded to a questionnaire and took part in a personal interview up to 30 June 2012.
Because the AMR has
only been fully operational since July 2010, there is currently
insufficient information to draw definitive conclusions about past
asbestos exposures. However, over time, this knowledge will accumulate
and provide valuable insight into sources of asbestos exposure. The
Australian Mesothelioma Registry is fully funded by Safe Work Australia
and managed under contract by the Cancer Institute New South Wales in
association with the Monash Centre for Occupational & Environmental
Report: Mesothelioma in Australia 2011 Further background information on mesothelioma and the registry: Safe Work Australian newsletter (Issue 7, Dec 2011) [ pdf ]
Chinese recall of vehicles goes global
China's biggest car exporter, Chery, has widened a recall for vehicles and parts that contain asbestos, initially uncovered by Australian Customs authorities. A few weeks ago, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a recall for most Chery and Great Wall vehicles sold locally since 2009 (see SafetyNet 243 ). But now five more countries – Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Singapore – have been notified of the Chery recall after it was discovered cars with parts containing asbestos had also been shipped there. According to the Bloomberg news agency, Chery will recall a total of 18,875 vehicles in five countries, in addition to the 2250 recalled in Australia.
The widening recall raises concerns that quality control may be inadequate at Chinese car factories as the brands increase exports into developed countries amid intensifying competition at home.
Read more: Drive
In the last edition of the journal, Renata answered a question on regulations covering playgrounds. Two readers sent in further information people will find useful:
There are a number of Australian Standards which provide advice and would be considered 'state of knowledge' documents when considering what is 'reasonably practicable'.
There's the 4685 series, such as AS 4685.1-2004: Playground equipment - General safety requirements and test methods. There are also the draft standards on contained playgrounds, DR AS 3533.4.2: Amusement rides and devices - Specific requirements - Contained play facilities.
- Another reader sent in even more detailed information:AS 2555-1982 Supervised adventure playgrounds - Guide to establishment and administration
- AS/NZS 4422:1996 Playground surfacing - Specifications, requirements and test method
- AS 4422-1996/Amdt 1-1999 Playground surfacing - Specifications, requirements and test method
- AS/NZS 4486.1:1997 Playgrounds and playground equipment - Development, installation, inspection, maintenance and operation
- AS 4685 (Set)-2004 Playground Equipment Safety Set:
- AS 4685.1-2004 Playground equipment - General safety requirements and test methods (plus two amendments 2006 & 2008)
- AS 4685.11-2012 Playground equipment - Additional specific safety requirements and test methods for spatial network
- AS 4685.2-2004 Playground equipment - Particular safety requirements and test methods for swings (plus two amendments 2006 & 2008)
- AS 4685.3-2004 Playground equipment - Particular safety requirements and test methods for slides (plus one amendment 2006)
- AS 4685.4-2004 Playground equipment - Particular safety requirements and test methods for runways
Thank you to Bridget Muhrer, Risk Consultant (Victoria) and Scott Batina, Manager HSEQ Services (in WA) for taking the trouble to send in this very useful information. Renata responded as follow: 'Oh dear! I didn't think to check the Australian Standards! I know a little about a lot of things..and a lot about a few things... unfortunately not a lot about a lot of things!!'
If you have any OHS - related queries or questions, then why not send them in to Ask Renata and we promise you a quick and easy to understand response within a couple of working days at the latest. And it's free!
Wanted: NSW health and safety reps
Phillip Ho, a researcher based at the University of Western Sydney, is looking for OHS Reps in NSW who have attended the appropriate training this year in order to interview them. He is interested in getting a perspective on the expected effectiveness of provisional improvement notices. The researcher also wants to understand what factors that may enhance or hinder the effectiveness of PINs. Please contact Phillip before the end of September by email if you are able to be interviewed or if you have any questions.
Bullying rife in Victorian Public Service
A State government survey of thousands of Victorian public servants has revealed that 36 per cent had witnessed workplace bullying in the past year. 20 per cent said they had directly experienced bullying, but only 3 per cent had actually submitted a formal complaint. The
State of the Public Sector report was tabled in the Victorian Parliament in May by the State Services Authority, and sent to MPs last month. The report included the results of the
People Matter survey, to which 18,500 public sector employees responded (from the 62,600 who were asked to take part). The report says the results were 'highly reliable due to the large sample size'.
Karen Batt, the Community and Public Sector Union's Victorian secretary, said a bullying culture was emerging in the parts of the Victorian public service under severe stress, including prisons and youth justice, where there was highly complex work. 'Couple that with redundancies and the non-replacement of contract staff and the pressure in these areas is immense,' she told The Age.
Source: The Age A third of public service witness bullying
ACTU warns growth of insecure work is making workplaces less safe
The rise of insecure work in Australia over the past few decades has made employees less able to speak up for their rights and workplaces less safe. Speaking at the annual United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day at Cessnock, ACTU President Ged Kearney said a constantly changing workforce often meant that safe systems of work were not fully-implemented, and casual, contract and labour hire workers were also less likely to speak up if they thought something was unsafe because they feared the sack.
'The creeping rise of insecure work is a threat to mine safety. I am talking about labour hire, casualisation and contracting out, along with fly-in/fly-out or drive-in/drive-out,' Ms Kearney said, 'A lasting safety culture cannot be created with a mobile, temporary workforce. And it is well known that a lack of job security makes it more difficult for people to speak up for their rights, particularly about occupational health and safety. Industry studies point to a link between a lack of safety in mines and the growth of contract employment in the industry.'
Read more: ACTU Media Release
Australian Greens propose fairer work arrangements
In recognition of the increasing pressures on Australian workers, the Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt this week introduced into Federal Parliament legislation aimed at a better work–life balance for Australians. In introducing the bill Mr Bandt noted that flexibility had been more or less a 'one way street' in favour of employers.
The Fair Work Amendment (Better Work/Life Balance) Bill 2012 includes a proposal giving workers who have been in their job 12 months enforceable rights to request flexible working arrangements, including the number of hours they work, the scheduling of those hours and the location of work. The Bill proposes extending the existing right of some carers to request flexibility to all carers who are looking after another person. If the legislation were to pass, Fair Work Australia would have the ability to hear and determine any disputes if an employer refuses a request. Source: WorkplaceOHS.
Quad bike Safety discussion paper
There have been a number of items in past journals on the dangers and tragic consequences of quad bikes, with many safety experts calling for action and the establishment of Quad Safe. With 10 lives lost already this year due to quad bike related injuries, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten last week called for public comment on design and engineering controls to improve quad bike safety. The Minister released a discussion paper for public comment, and emphasised the importance of improving quad bike safety in Australia.
Minister Shorten's Media Release To view the discussion paper and provide comment, go to this Safe Work Australia page
International Union News
U.S: Union Members Remember 9/11 by Rebuilding the World Trade Center
The AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, has posted the following on their site on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks: 'As millions of Americans took a moment this morning to remember the tragedy that occurred 11 years ago on Sept. 11 in New York City, Virginia and Pennsylvania, military veterans who've found careers through the Ironworkers, Laborers (LiUNA), Heat and Frost Insulators and Bricklayers (BAC) unions are rebuilding the World Trade Center in New York.' There's a short video where a number of young veterans, now union members and working on the World Trade Center site, say what it means to them. There are also a number of contributions from other unions. AFL-CIO Now
India: dozens killed in fireworks factory explosion
Last Wednesday a blaze at the Sivakasi fireworks factory in Tamil Nadu killed dozens of workers – with reports of the deaths varying from 33 to 54, with over 55 injured. Up to 300 people were in the factory when the fire broke out. India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government, and sought a report on the explosion. This was following a complaint from Anup Kumar Srivastava, a social activist, and RH Bansal, a human right activist. They have alleged that no safety measures were ensured in Sivakasi by the government despite 90 percent of the country's firecrackers being manufactured there. The complainants have requested a detailed inquiry and compensation to victims and families of the deceased. Sources: The Age; DNA India
Bangladesh: Labour organiser murdered
Though the tiny office of Aminul Islam, a labour organiser, was hidden amongst the garment factories producing cargo pants or polo shirts for brands like Gap or Tommy Hilfiger, workers found it, and came to him with problems: unpaid wages, abusive bosses. Mr Islam fought for their rights. According to
The New York Times, the security forces found him too. His phone was tapped, the police regularly harassed him, and domestic intelligence agents once abducted and beat him. Then he disappeared on 4 April this year. Days later, his family discovered that he had been tortured and killed. Five months after his death, the murder is still under investigation, with police saying they have made little progress.
It is unclear if Mr. Islam was killed because of his work, and it is possible that he was killed a different reason. But his labour advocacy had collided with powerful interests in Bangladesh, which is the second leading exporter of clothing in the world, after China. Cheap, non-union labour is essential to the export formula in Bangladesh, where the minimum wage for garment workers is $37 a month. Unions are almost nonexistent in apparel factories. Read more: The New York Times Fighting for Bangladesh Labor, and Ending Up in Pauper's Grave
Commitment to play fair in future Olympics
A joint human rights communiqué signed this week by the governments of the UK, Russia, Brazil and Korea, the countries holding the current and next three summer and winter Olympics, has been welcomed by international unions. The communiqué adds to the pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ensure companies linked to the games respect workers' fundamental rights, a key demand of the Play Fair campaign run by unions and NGOs since the 2004 Athens games, the unions say. The UK's TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'By endorsing so strongly the UN Declaration of Human Rights, these four governments have committed themselves to protecting the rights of workers building the facilities, staffing the Games and making the sports equipment and memorabilia to decent wages, equal pay and safety.' He added: 'The IOC and governments in Olympic host countries are now on notice. Make the next three Games sweatshop-free, healthy for all, and free of worker exploitation.' Source: Risks 578 TUC News Release
Chemical common in antibacterial hand soaps may impair muscle function
A recent US study has found that triclosan, an antibacterial chemical commonly used in hand soaps and other personal-care products, hinders muscle contractions at a cellular level, slows swimming in fish and reduces muscular strength in mice. The researchers, from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado and published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that triclosan impairs heart and skeletal muscle contractility in living animals.
'Triclosan is found in virtually everyone's home and is pervasive in the environment,' said Isaac Pessah, principal investigator of the study. 'These findings provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health.' Triclosan is commonly found in other products such as deodorants, mouthwashes, toothpaste, bedding, clothes, carpets, toys and trash bags. The chemical has been detected in waterways and aquatic organisms ranging from algae to fish to dolphins, as well as in human urine, blood and breast milk.
Workers in the health sector, who continually use antibacterial washes, should check the ingredients of products purchased and used by looking at the labels and the Safety Data Sheets. Such hand washes are also increasingly being used in schools.
Read more: Science Daily
From WorkSafe Victoria: a new
Guidance Note on Pallet racking maintenance providing advice on the safe operation and maintenance of pallet racking in warehouses and storage areas in other workplaces.
From Safe Work Australia: two new fact sheets providing information on the health effects resulting from exposure to vibration from common sources in the workplace. Information is included on the levels of exposure which are known to cause health effects, and suggested control measures which can be put in place.
From the UK's HSE: Falls –
Common work at height tasks
From NICNAS, the final Priority Existing Chemical report No. 35 on Diisononyl Phthalate (DINP) is available to download from this page of the NICNAS website.
WorkSafe under media spotlight
Victoria's OHS regulator has been under the media spotlight over the past two weeks with both major Victorian newspapers, The Age 'Safety Watchdog just wants to chase the big boys' and 'Mother still hopes for justice' and The Herald Sun ( 'Families demand action on workplace charges') running lengthy articles on the same day (September 3). In the articles it was claimed that evidence considered revealed that:
- WorkSafe has shifted its prosecution focus from small and medium sized companies to large ones, despite the majority of fatalities occurring in the former;
- there had been fewer successful prosecutions (100 down from a high of 134 three years ago);
- the number of WorkSafe visits has fallen 'notably' since 2009-10;
- total fines were down by $1.7 million; and that many fines were not ever paid as companies went into liquidation to avoid payment;
- only one in two investigations resulted in prosecutions
VTHC Secretary, Brian Boyd said the Baillieu Government's decision to slash $471 million from the WorkSafe budget over the next four years would cause health and safety standards to suffer. 'We will have a spike in serious injuries across the board, having a workplace death every 17 days is already unacceptable.'
Bullying and workplace 'culture'
This week, the ABC's 7.30 program ran an item on workplace bullying: Lawyers question workplace bullying protections which examined the shocking experience of a young man at a Shepparton farming machinery firm. He had been doing a two week trial, hoping to be offered a diesel mechanic apprenticeship. He said that at first he loved the job, but after a few days started feeling uncomfortable about the workplace culture and the behaviour of a third-year apprentice mechanic. On his ninth day, that apprentice sprayed him with solvent and then set him alight. The young man had to call his father for help. According to the program, before heading to hospital, they confronted the owner and manager, Martin Haeusler, who they say made no effort to report the incident to police or WorkSafe, as the law requires.
WorkSafe, which investigated the incident at length, decided it would not prosecute either the employer or the individual worker involved for breaches under the Occupational Health and Safety Act because of the police charges. The third-year apprentice pleaded guilty to assault charges and was given a $500 fine and 12 month good behaviour bond - and is still in the job.
Safety Alert issued following near tragedy
Last week WorkSafe Victoria issued a safety alert after a 950kg steel beam fell from a mobile crane's synthetic fibre slings (also known as soft slings) striking an occupied elevating work platform, narrowly missing workers. The Alert warns 'Soft slings can fail if they are used inappropriately or if they have not been maintained in a safe condition,' the alert says.
It says soft slings are susceptible to damage through exposure to chemicals, UV light and dirt; poor storage and handling processes; sharp edges on loads and obstructions they contact under load; and excessive load weights.
Alert: Soft sling fails during lift
WorkSafe to blitz Swan Hill
SafetyNet reminds small businesses that the next WorkSafe Safe Towns blitz will be taking place in Swan Hill from 17-21 September. WorkSafe's General Manager for Health and Safety Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said, 'Our statistics show that over the past five years, there have been more than 580 reported injuries in the Swan Hill region, costing over $15.5 million in medical costs, wages and other expenses.'
SA passes WHS Bill
In a very close vote earlier this week, the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) bill passed through the South Australian Parliament. The proposed starting date is January 1, 2013. However, both the Opposition and a number of employer organisations, such as the HIA, are claiming the new model will lead to greatly increased costs – claims that with closer consideration do not seem to be defensible. Read more: Safety At Work Blog South Australia passes WHS Bill but all is not well
Safe Work Australia: Safety Ambassador of the Year nominations open
The Safety Ambassador of the Year Award recognises individuals who have lead by example, raised awareness of the importance of a safe working environment and encouraged others to get involved in work health and safety over the past twelve months. Entries close on 24 September 2012 and the winner will be announced at the end of October.
To enter the Safety Ambassador of the Year Award firstly you need to register as a Safety Ambassador as part of Safe Work Australia Week.
Desal fatality company may escape
It appears as though a company charged over a worker's death at the Adelaide desalination plant site is now in liquidation and may not be able to be held liable. The 35 year old worker was killed in July 2010 when he was struck with a steel beam which fell from a sling while being moved by a crane. The company involved, Ferro Con (SA), has ceased operating.
CFMEU official Aaron Cartledge has told the ABC the union and the man's family feared there would be no justice. 'This is a big concern for us, it's a real test for the laws in South Australia as whether a company that goes into liquidation can avoid fines and avoid court action, so we'll be watching this very closely to see how it unfolds,' he said.
Lawyer Steven Dolphin, who is acting for the family, said regardless of the outcome of the court case, laws needed to change. '… laws need to be strengthened to allow for victims, whether it be family of the deceased workers or injured workers themselves, … to pursue damages against negligent employers - that law unfortunately is currently not on the books,' he said. Source: ABC Online
US: The Year in U.S. Occupational Health and Safety
Two of the writers behind the U.S OHS Blog
The Pump Handle, Liz Borkowski and Celeste Monforton, have written an overview document,
The Year in U.S. Occupational Health and Safety [
pdf] which highlights some of the important research and activities in occupational health in that country. They hope to make it a regular publication each U.S Labor Day. In comments which could equally apply to the Australian situation, Liz Borkowski says, 'One of the things that struck me in putting together the research section was that so much of what researchers produced over the past year is directly relevant to the policy issues that politicians keep bringing up. Over the past months, we've seen politicians from both sides of the aisle buying into the mistaken notion that regulations by definition are bad for the economy and that the response to a recession should be to slash the regulatory system. But over the past year, several studies have added to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that unsafe workplaces impose enormous costs (financial and otherwise) on society, and that enforcement efforts can improve workplace safety without causing job loss.'
The Pump Handle: A New Labor Day Tradition: The Year in Occupational Health & Safety
Pakistan: Hundreds killed in factory fires
In what can only be described as criminal negligence, at least 314 people have been killed this week in two separate fires in Pakistan. Flames raced through a garment factory on Tuesday night in the commercial capital of Karachi, killing 289 people, according to a senior police official. The factory employed about 450 people and many had been lining up to collect their pay cheques. Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, said one of the top fire fighter in Karachi, Ehtisham-ud-Din. There were no fire exits, grilles on the windows, and the doors leading out of the basement were locked, he said. Workers on higher floors of the five-story building struggled to make it out of windows that were covered with metal bars. Such safety issues are common throughout Pakistan, where buildings also lack emergency equipment like alarms and sprinklers and municipal rules are rarely enforced.
'The owners were more concerned with safeguarding the garments in the factory than the workers,' said factory employee Mohammad Pervez, holding up a photograph of his cousin, who is also a worker there and is missing. If there were no metal grilles on the windows, a lot of people would have been saved. The factory was overflowing with garments and fabrics. Whoever complained was fired.' The factory's managers had fled and are being sought by police. Authorities have placed the name of the factory's owner on a list of people who are not allowed to leave the country.
The second fire, in Lahore, swept through a four-storey shoe factory and killed at least 25 people, some from burns and some from suffocation. The factory was illegally set up in a residential part of the city. The fire started when people in the building were trying to start their generator after the electricity went out: sparks from the generator lit chemicals used to make the shoes. A fire fighter at the scene said the reason most of the victims died was because the main escape route was blocked.
A provincial minister ordered an inspection of all factories and industrial plants in Sindh province within 48 hours. Karachi, a city of 18 million people, is Sindh's capital. A preliminary provincial government report on the Lahore fire concluded that the closure of the emergency exits led to the deaths and that labour and safety regulations were not applied, government sources said.
Sources: Irish Times Aljazeera
Europe: EU-OSHA releases iPad App to support work safety and health
The European Agency for Health and Safety at Work has released a new app, which is part of the Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2012–13 "Working together for risk prevention" and includes valuable tools and resources for both workers and managers to help them address the risks they face at work and improve the safety and health at their workplaces. The users will be able to access a rich compilation of practical guides, case studies, animated infographics, checklists, an interactive self-assessment tool and more.
Discover the iPad application and download it for free
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