SafetyNet 273, 19 December, 2013
We welcome all our subscribers to Edition 273 of SafetyNet – which comes to you from OHSReps@Work website. This is the last edition for 2013, and we wish all our subscribers and their families a happy, and above all safe, holiday season. We will be back on board in mid-January, with the first SafetyNet of 2014 coming out later in the month. If you find the journal useful, feel free to use any material, and tell others to subscribe. And please consider 'following' us on Twitter @ohsreps
Union calls for action on uranium spill at Ranger
All of Australia heard about the major spill of 1,000 cubic metres of uranium sludge and sulphuric acid from the mine site nestled in Kakadu National Park after an old containment tank burst open, spilling its deadly contents. Workers on the Ranger Uranium mine, owned by parent company Rio Tinto, escaped injury but have been stood down until the major spill has been cleaned.
The AMWU called for all operations to be suspended until a full audit and inquiry into the infrastructure on the site could be conducted, with locals fearing the effects of the spill to the park and their health. The union joined other unions and the Northern Territory Environment Centre at a rally outside Energy Resources Australia (ERA) headquarters in Darwin at on the Monday following the incident. By Tuesday, Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane suspended the company's processing at the plant until '[it] demonstrates the integrity of the processing plant to the satisfaction of the regulatory authorities [and] that Kakadu National Park and human safety remain protected.' He said, 'I understand the concerns of traditional owners and local residents, and can assure them that governments will continue to ensure the mine operates to the highest standards.'
Read more: AMWU Media Release and Sydney Morning Herald: Radioactive spill in Kakadu stirs rage
Renata would like to thank those SafetyNet subscribers who sent in positive comments. For those who were thinking about it and haven't yet send in a comment: it's not too late, so please send something in… it will all help! Send your comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Being the end of the year, we have decided to do a joint inspection of our office and put in orders for any new chairs, etc so that next year we can start with our workstations 'up to scratch'. Do you have any office checklists for us to use?
That's a really good idea. There's nothing worse than coming back from leave feeling well and relaxed, only to have to face inadequate work stations, which will increase the risk of injury. Yes, we have information and checklists on the site – in fact, there are a number of pages with information for offices which you may find useful:
- Offices: What OHS legislation applies
- Office Hazards: Computers and VDUs - what are the guidelines?
- Office Space
- Work Stations and seating
Please send any OHS related queries in to 'Ask Renata' - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can, within a couple of days at the latest.
Public sector reports high level of bullying (again!)
Almost a fifth (21%) of Australian public service (APS) staff say they have witnessed work colleagues being bullied or harassed, according to new data in the State of the Service Report 2012-13. 16 per cent of employees believe they experienced harassment or bullying in 2013, down from 17 per cent in 2012. The report found that 43 per cent of those bullied or harassed reported the incident, while 35 per cent of those who witnessed the behaviour reported it.
A third (25) of all reports in 2012-13 under APS whistleblowing provisions of the Public Service Act were about harassment and bullying – an increase of ten from the previous year. Overall, 516 employees were investigated for suspected APS code of conduct breaches in 2012-13, with three quarters of these found to be actual breaches.
Long-haul flight attendants and Parkinson's disease
The Herald Sun last week reported that long-haul flight attendants, forced by Commonwealth government rules to spray insecticide through aircraft cabins whenever landing in Australia, now fear the chemicals may have caused Parkinson's disease.Parkinson's expert Professor Kay Double, from the University of Sydney's Medical School, said: 'Certainly there is epidemiological evidence that the exposure to the chemicals in pesticides is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease. It is actually the number of times you are exposed and the amount you are exposed which increases the risk.'
Most research, some of which has been reported in SafetyNet, had been done with farmers who had been found to have an increased risk of Parkinson's disease if they used chemical pesticides often. Regular and total exposure in a confined space, such as an aircraft, could greatly increase that risk of developing Parkinson's disease in later life, said Professor Double.
Read more: The Herald Sun series of articles.
Victorian Education Department enters into Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe
The Department of Education, and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) as agreed to an Enforceable Undertaking (EA) [pdf] with WorkSafe on asbestos issues. The EA arose subsequent to initial charges that DEECD contravened Section 26(1) of the OHS Act in three cases: Newlands Primary School, Clayton South Primary School, and Timboon P-12 College. In each of these cases the contraventions related to failing to ensure that the workplace, and the means of entering and leaving it, were safe and without risks to health. There was also a contravention of Regulation 4.3.22, in that the presence and location of asbestos was not clearly labelled. In the cases of Newlands and Clayton South, the contravention also related to the asbestos register not having been reviewed and revised (Regulation 4.3.20).
The EA involves:
- establishment of a joint WorkSafe/DEECD Working Group to consider a strategy for management of asbestos in schools, including general principles and principles for removal; labelling in situ asbestos;
- establishment of a DEECD Asbestos Task Force to monitor DEECD's compliance
- increased auditing of schools, committing to 400 audits by June 2014;
- improving asbestos training and awareness with a minimum of 20 sessions (400 participants) by June 2014.
To ensure the maximum success, the VTHC believes the Australian Education Union, which covers both teachers and principals, should have had representatives on both the new groups being established – unfortunately, this is not the case.
WorkSafe Asbestos Website
Have you checked out the Victorian government's new asbestos website yet? The website, 'aimed at home owners, businesses, industry and other members of the community' has been 'live' for just over two weeks.It brings together information from the Victorian WorkCover Authority, the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). What do you think of the site? Send us your comments at email@example.com
NSW: government closes road through derelict asbestos mine
The Acting NSW Premier last week announced the closure of the road passing through the derelict Woodsreef Asbestos Mine at Barraba.Andrew Stoner said the public health risks to keep open the road, known as Crow Mountain Road, were 'far too high' with mine's deposits of chrysotile, deemed by the Woodsreef Mine Taskforce to be unsafe. The mine is now managed as part of the New South Wales Derelict Mines Program.
Read more: ABC news Online
Queensland film: Losing breath - The Adam Sager story
Losing breath tells the tragic story of Adam Sager who died from mesothelioma at the age of 25. Adam's family shared the heartbreaking story about how they unknowingly exposed their son to asbestos when he was only 18 months old. They hope that Adam's story will help raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos. Adam's mother Julie Sager, urges home renovators and tradies to play it safe with asbestos and be aware of the risks of exposing themselves and others to it. A typical Queensland home built before 1990 will likely have some materials containing asbestos – as do homes all around Australia. In Victoria, the Asbestos Diseases Support Groups are Asbestoswise and the Asbestos Council of Victoria (formerly GARDS, situated in Gippsland).
Work Health and Safety Queensland: Losing Breath ; Asbestos in the Home and Asbestos diseases support groups
New European Report
A new report – Asbestos-related occupational diseases in Central and East European Countries [pdf] – which focuses on the long-lasting effects of asbestos use in new EU Member States and candidate countries has just been released Topics covered in the publication include the evolution of national regulations concerning the recognition and compensation of asbestos-related diseases, health measures for at-risk workers and background information on the uses, properties and hazards posed by asbestos. The research on this report was undertaken by the German research centre Kooperationsstelle Hamburg IFE.
The authors found great diversity in areas such as in measures for collecting and recording data. 'One of the few areas of consistency in the region,' they said, 'was under-reporting of asbestos-related and other occupational diseases.' Recommendations in the report include:
- The introduction of transparent and uniform procedures for the recognition and compensation of victims of asbestos-related diseases;
- Improved training and education for supervisors and medical professionals; development of new treatment methods and the harmonization of diagnostic criteria;
- The establishment of government surveillance systems to identify at-risk groups and prevent future exposures;
- The introduction of measures to monitor the incidence of asbestos-related illnesses;
- Setting up asbestos registers of contaminated buildings, publishing information about the hazards posed by asbestos and the existence of safer alternative materials;
- Support for asbestos victims' groups.
The report also showcases the deadly legacies in countries flooded by Russian exports of chrysotile asbestos – denied the European market, Russia is now targeting India, the Philippines, Indonesia and other Asian countries. IBAS (International Ban Asbestos Secretariat worked on this project with trade union partners at the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers, the European Trade Union Confederation and representatives of international labour and victims' associations.
Read more: IBAS Landmark report on European Asbestos Crisis [Report summaries are also available in a number of European languages]
France: Eternit executives to face criminal proceedings
French asbestos victims last week welcomed a landmark decision by the Court of Cassation which ruled that executives of the multinational asbestos company Eternitand asbestos stakeholders who, for decades, progressed the industry's agenda must face criminal proceedings. This decision reversed a 2011 ruling that dismissed the case against nine asbestos defendants; the charges against the accused will now be considered by the investigating chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal.
In February this year, an Italian court sentenced two Eternit executives, Stephan Schmidheiny and Baron Luis de Cartier to 16 years jail for deliberately failing to warn workers, families and residents about the dangers of asbestos. Swiss Schmidheiny is the former owner of the fibre-cement company and Belgian Baron Louis de Cartier de Marchienne was the major shareholder.
Source: IBAS News
New information on Website
There are a couple of new pages on the OHS Reps @ Work website, both in the 'Toolbox' section:
- How to Conduct Workplace Inspections – the page has links to some new WorkSafe information for employers on doing workplace inspections themselves. Remember: elected reps have the power to undertake inspections, and employers have a legal duty to consult with reps when identifying, assessing and/or controllingworkplace hazards and risks.
- Checklists for Offices – There are two checklists here, useful for all office-based workers and HSRs. One is a checklist to identify office hazards, and the second is one developed with reference to Officewise,
'Safe driving plans' now required for truck drivers
In what is the first (and maybe last) road safety remuneration order of the tribunal responsible for setting safe' pay rates and conditions in the road transport industry, long-distance truck drivers will be required to be covered by, and perform work in accordance with, a written 'safe driving plan'. The Road Transport and Distribution and Long Distance Operations Road Safety Remuneration Order 2014, handed down by the Full Bench of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), is the result of 12 months of extensive consultation with industry stakeholders. The order, which takes effect from 1 May 2014 and expires on 30 April 2018, sets out requirements for drivers in relation to safe driving plans for long distance operations using vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of more than 4.5 tonnes.
The safe driving plan places obligations on both the driver and the employer or hirer, and must include the driver's remuneration, fitness-for-work, training (including training in a drug & alcohol policy) and travel arrangements (time frames, scheduled rest and other breaks, and so on), plus instructions on fatigue management. It also sets out requirements with regard to: payment within 30 days of invoice for contractor drivers; written contracts for drivers; contracts between supply chain participants; training in work health and safety; drug and alcohol policies; and dispute resolution and adverse conduct protection.
In November, the government announced a 'review' of the newly
established RSRT, which had been the result of long consultation between
industry bodies and the previous Labour Government. At the time, Transport
Workers' Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the Abbott Government's
'review' of the national Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal showed contempt for
families of the 330 people killed in truck-related crashes in the last year and
a casual disregard for drivers pressured by clients to speed or carry overweight
TWU Media Release: Abetz "review" shows contempt for road safety
Nanotech: Australian government info biased
In April 2010 a diverse group of NGOs, including unions, raised concerns that government materials on nanotechnology were biased as they understated the potential concerns and risks and overstated the potential benefits. After much discussion, and many months, the task of undertaking a review of this information was given to a ministerial Advisory Committee established by the then minister responsible, Senator Kim Carr. The Advisory Committee established the 'road rules' and commissioned a group of independent experts to undertake the review, which was completed in 2012. The government has finally published the panel's findings: 'Australian government public information on nanotechnology has had a bias in favour of promoting the technology.'
The reviewers, Toss Gascoigne from the Australian Science Communicators, and Dr Karen Cronin from the Asia-Pacific Science and Technology Studies Network, said, 'Some of the items make only brief reference to scientific research and public concerns about potential health and environment risks. There is little in the materials about ethical, cultural or privacy issues.'
The results of the review were sent to stakeholders and published, quietly, online on the Department of Industry website at the bottom of the page in the Research and Reports section of the site.
Read more: ABC Science Government nanotech information 'unbalanced' ; Friends of the Earth Media Release and Nanotechnology on the website.
International Union News
New Zealand: Unions/families angered charges against Pike River CEO dropped
The New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced last week that it had decided to 'offer no evidence' on charges against Pike River Coal's CEO because 'the likelihood of obtaining a conviction was low'. The CEO Peter William Whittall – an Australian – was charged as a result of the November 2010 mine disaster that killed 29 workers, including two Australians. New Zealand unions are now calling for the introduction of corporate manslaughter laws, as this effectively means that all 12 safety charges laid against Whittall were withdrawn.
According to CTU President Helen Kelly, the decision was wrong on many counts. 'The Department, in this Court case, represents the men killed in that mine. They hold sole discretion to press charges and ensure these men get some form of justice - the decision today adds to the failure of this Department in their duty to the 29 people killed at Pike,' she said. 'This decision will suit everyone but these men and their families....It is insufficient for the Department to say the charges could not be successfully proven. The Royal Commission of Inquiry extensively documents the areas where Mr Whittal, in his CEO role, did not take all practicable steps to keep the men safe, and if it is correct that the charges could not have been proven there must have been errors in the range of charges laid.'
Mr Whittall's legal team told the court he would pay each of the victims' families and the survivors $NZ110,000 ($A101,387) on behalf of the directors and officers of the company at the time. Families of the victims say the dropped case is an injustice, and the payment 'blood money'.
Read more: NZ CTU Media Release New Zealand Herald
Italy: Seven killed, three injured in fire
Global union organisation IndustriALL has reported that at least seven migrant garment workers of Chinese origin died and three were injured in the blaze on 1 December 2013 in an industrial zone of the town of Prato in Tuscany region of Italy. The fire occurred in a warehouse of a textile factory, on top of which it appears there was an improvised dormitory made of small cardboard compartments where 11 workers slept.
Over recent years Macrolotto - site of the tragedy and once one of the biggest textile dominated industrial zones - has seen a huge decline since World War Two. Likewise in many other industrialized countries in the search for bigger profit many textile companies moved from Italy to countries with less protected and lower paid workforce. However there was new development in the zone, with many Chinese companies setting up. Producing in Italy contributes to 'branding' and adds value to the final product. More than 4,500 companies in the zone employ about 30,000 legal migrants of Chinese origin and an unclear number of illegal migrants, working and living in such precarious conditions.
FEMCA-CISL, the union representing textile and garment workers, says these companies have a high turnover, non-respect of national standards, and often shut down quickly, thus preventing any possible trace of their operations.
Read more: IndustriALL
New International publication – subscribe free
IndustriALL has released the second edition of its international publication Global Worker. It's free to subscribe and either receive in hard copy or online. The second edition has articles on the development of independent unions in Africa and the Middle East, a special report on Rio Tinto's unsustainable corporate behaviour, exposing the company'sglobal human and trade union rights abuses, and an overview of the ongoing developments in Bangladesh as more and more brands sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
Read more (and subscribe): IndustriALL
Bangladesh workers in leather industry face multiple hazards
The recent focus on Bangladesh and the many disasters in the garment industry there has allowed for some attention to be paid to other major industries in that country. The estimated 200 leather/tannery factories of the Hazaribagh neighbourhood of Dhaka have long been identified as a 'fire free' zone for employers in relation to workplace safety. The ramifications for the environment, the workers, and their families and communities are appalling with injuries, disease and high mortality rates very common. The Tannery Workers Union tries to organise these workers.
Read more: Bangladeshi tanneries making shoe leather for Japan poison workers. Source: AAWL Mini News
Worker rights in Asian Electronics industry
The Asia Monitor Resource Centre has released a new publication which describes the struggles of workers fighting for their basic rights in the electronics industry with a focus on the operations of Samsung Electronics and its Asian suppliers, including those in South Korea, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan. It also discusses the overall situation of the electrical appliance and electronics industries in Japan where workers have been hit hard by factories relocations.
The book is dedicated to all workers who have lost their lives in struggles for their rights, and to those who have suffered due to occupational diseases and industrial accidents in South Korea and many other places in Asia and beyond, and to victims who have died due to cancer from working in electronic factories. The book also salutes the survivors and their families, who struggle every day for justice.
Read more and download copy here: Labour Rights in High Tech Electronics: Case Studies of Workers' Struggles in Samsung Electronics and its Asian Suppliers
International: female journalists suffer high levels of abuse
An International News Safety Institute (INSI) and International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) Global Research Project Investigating Harassment and Violence Against Female Media Workers has found that of the 875 women responding to the survey, 22.5per cent reported abuse of power or authority, 21.04per cent reported verbal, written and/or physical intimidation including personal threats and 18.73per cent reported attempts or threats to damage reputation or honour.
Of the 1603 incidents reported, the abuse was perpetrated by: the boss (458 incidents or 28.57per cent); 'Other' (444 or 27.69per cent); their supervisor (219 or 13.66per cent); a co-worker (193 or 12.04per cent); and the interviewee (116 or 7.23per cent)
Almost 35 per cent of the respondents said they experienced sexual harassment 'often' with almost 8 per cent saying it happened 'most of the time.' In this case, bosses only accounted for 29 per cent of cases, with colleagues being the biggest group of perpetrators (almost 46 per cent). In over 93 per cent of cases, the perpetrators were men.
There are more results on racial and age harassment, and violence. The researchers have kept their survey 'live' (at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/INSI-survey )in the hope that more women will respond to its questions, allowing them the opportunity to develop a more accurate picture of the prevalence and types of threats and harassments faced by female media workers and work towards a series of recommendations to combat the threats and violence.
Read more: INSI and IWMF Release of Results [pdf]
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Safety committees work on union power
Joint management-worker health and safety committees (JHSC) are only effective where 'empowerment mechanisms' ensure workers have a real voice, a study has concluded. The review, which considered 31 studies from Canada, the US, Australia and the UK and included input from various sectors and perspectives including government, employers, and unions, found unions not only improved the effectiveness of committees, they appeared to promote the introduction of legislation that also led to improvements in safety performance. The paper concluded that committees alone were not enough - effective regulation and enforcement is essential. The report, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, states 'unionisation and legislative environment are crucial contextual factors.'The authors added: 'We note, although not explicitly the focus of our realist review, that there seems to be a relationship between unionisation and the existence of legislation, as well as other features conducive to health and safety.' The study concluded joint health and safety committees were not a substitute for effective regulation, noting the 'only strong conclusion that can be made is that JHSCs cannot take the place of regulation and government enforcement due to the nature of power relations in the workplace.'
Yassi A, Lockhart K, Sykes M, Buck B, Stime B, and Spiegel JM. Effectiveness of joint health and safety committees: A realist review. [abstract] American Journal of Industrial Medicine, volume 56, number 4, pages 424-438, 2013.Source: Risks 634
Food flavourings still damaging workers' lungs
Workers in the food industry are exposed to multiple chemicals, for which too little information is known about their health effects. In many countries, very few of the chemicals in commerce (there are tens of thousands of these) - including those used as food flavouring agents - are subject to workplace safety regulations. Many chemicals used as food additives, such as diacetyl (used to flavour popcorn for example), are considered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS). While FDA considers them GRAS to ingest, some are not safe when workers (or even consumers) inhale their vapours. In a new study, reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Dr. Kay Kreiss with CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) describes an investigation at a flavouring manufacturing plant in Indiana. In this study, the NIOSH researchers evaluated 369 spirometry results of 112 food-flavouring production workers which were performed between 2004-2009. The exams were conducted to ensure the workers were well enough to wear respirators. The findings were disturbing, many of the tested employees had higher than expected declines in lung function and/or restrictions.
Evidence working standing up is good for you
Workers who are spending most of their day seated at computers will be interested in a recent study which shows that avoiding sedentary behaviour at work could benefit their cardio-metabolic health, and reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes. The UK researchers examined capillary blood glucose (CGM) responses to sitting and standing in ten normally desk-based office workers who wore continuous blood glucose monitors for two days.The aim was to assess the extent to which a reduction in sedentary behaviour (e.g. prolonged sitting), as distinct from increases in physical activity, attenuates increases in blood glucose and increases energy expenditure - two changes associated with a reduced risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
They found that when workers performed an afternoon of work at ergonomically adjustable standing desks, following lunch, increases in blood glucose were reduced by 43 per cent. Also, there was a corresponding 'small but significant' increase in daily energy use, compared to the same work performed sitting down.
Read more: John Buckley, et al Standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating post-prandial glycaemic excursion [abstract ] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2013-101823
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Latest edition of WorkSafe Safety Soapbox
The final edition for 2013 of WorkSafe's newsletter Safety Soapbox came out this week. In it, Allan Beacom, WorkSafe's Construction Manager, wishes all readers a safe and happy holiday season. 'Safety Soapbox and WorkSafe's media releases have already reminded all of us to stay vigilant at work during the pre-holiday rush period. I also urge you all to remain vigilant during the holidays for the safety of you and your families on the road and elsewhere,' he says. 'It is, as always, a time to give our thoughts and prayers to the families who have lost a loved one at work during the year and to re-commit ourselves to looking after our own and workmates' safety in 2014.'
Since the last edition and in the period November 29 – December 16 there were 55 incidents serious enough to be notified to WorkSafe, including 17 lacerations, seven fractures and six electric shocks – this list can be downloaded from this edition of Safety Soapbox
Fair Work Commission and Bullying
The Fair Work Commission has a new, dedicated anti-bullying webpage, in preparation for the January 1 start to being empowered to hear individual bullying complaints. From the beginning of 2014, a worker in a constitutionally-covered business who "reasonably believes that he or she is being bullied at work" can apply to the FWC for a stop-bullying order. The webpage includes a flow chart of the process, advice on where to get help with preventing or stopping bullying and new guidance for employees – a nine-page document Anti-bullying Guide for Workers [pdf]. It also includes links to the FWC's state and territory offices.
Safe Work Australia
Positive Performance Indicators are best
Safe Work Australia has released a new report Issues in the Measurement and Reporting of Work Health and Safety Performance: a Review aimed at developing more relevant lead and lag indicators. It finds that lost-time injury (LTI) rates, which'have, over time, become the cornerstone of mainstream injury reporting and the benchmark against which organisational, industry and national comparisons are made', provide little indication of the cost or severity of injuries, and are often manipulated. The report confirms the arguments against use of LTI rates put by unions for decades: '[LTI rates] correlate poorly with both the human and financial consequences of work-related injury and illness.' According to the report, 'Such data is unlikely to provide a valid indicator for either the severity or cost of those work health and safety failures that result in lost time... or the success of work health and safety controls and initiatives.' Preferable measures are what are known as 'positive performance indicators' which have been strongly advocated for since the 1990s.
Read more: How to Measure Health and Safety Performance
When we reported the number of Australians killed in the last edition of SafetyNet on, the toll stood at 158 (as at December 4). Just two days later (on December 6) that number had risen to 166. At December 17 the total is 174. Of these, 45 occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing, 46 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing, 19 in Construction, 14 in Manufacturing, and nine each in Arts & recreation services, and Mining.
Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
SWA has now released the notifiable fatalities monthly report for August: there were 11 work-related fatalities reported to the state and territory OHS regulators (compared to 23 reported in July).Three of the 11 fatalities were as a result of falls from height, and three in crushing incidents. Public road crashes and falling objects caused two deaths each, and one worker was electrocuted. For further details see the Notified Fatalities Monthly Report August 2013, which can be downloaded here
Wall collapse company prosecuted
First Class Demolition Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching section 26(1) of the 2004 OHS Act in that it failed to provide or maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks under its management or control. On 13 September 2013 a wall collapsed causing the closure of a residential street – the court found the company had not ensured the integrity of a structure, but undertook demolition works without propping or bracing or other means of supporting the structure. The company also failed to obtain an asbestos audit prior to commencing demolition works.On 6 December 2013, the company was convicted and fined of $25,000 plus costs of $8,255 in the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court.
Apprentice fall leads to prosecution
Gumbo Café Bar Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act for failing to provide or maintain a working environment for employees that was safe and without risks to health. While removing a girder truss when dismantling a residential frame on 21 February 2013, an apprentice fellfrom height. The company had not provided a task specific Safe Work Method Statement and had further failed to ensure the apprentices were adequately supervised. On 3 December 2013, the company was convicted and fined $30,000 plus costs of $3,003 in the Geelong Magistrates' Court. On the same day, Mark Byrne, a manager with the company, was convicted of breaching Section 25(1)(b) and fined $5,000 (plus costs of $3,055) for the same incident.
China: Mine explosion kills 21
Another major mining disaster occurred on Friday December 13 in one of China's coal mines. According to the latest news reports, 21 workers were killed when an explosion rocked the Yangjiagou coal mine in Hutubi County in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. These deaths are only the most recent fatalities of an industrial system where lax regulations and high work pressures lead to terrible OHS standards in workplaces. While there has been some improvement, the coal mining industry is one of the most dangerous in China. Last year, 1,384 people were killed in coal mining accidents, according to official Chinese figures, down from 1,973 in 2011. However, some rights groups argue that the actual figure is significantly higher due to under-reporting by mining companies.ndependent unions are not allowed in China.
Read more: South China Morning Post Source: AAWL Mini news