7 February, 2013
Welcome to the 254th edition of the fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet – please feel free to distribute to contacts, and send though any comments on any of the items.
Is Victoria Australia's safest state?
In the last edition of SafetyNet, two items provided an interesting perspective on OHS in Victoria. The first item reported that Victoria's Treasurer Kim Wells, had announced the appointment of a 'Red Tape' Commissioner, who would target amongst other authorities, WorkSafe, to reduce costly and unnecessary red tape. The second quotes Victoria's Minister for WorkCover, Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips, stating that Victoria has the best safety record in the country. In an interesting discussion of what these claims are based on, Safety At Work's Kevin Jones says the statistics may sound good but they do not necessarily reflect reality.
Read more: Safety At Work Blog
The first 2013 fatality in Victoria occurred in Somerton on January 26. A 53-year-old man was found unconscious at a Hume Highway workplace by colleagues and was, after treatment on site, taken to hospital by ambulance. He later died in hospital. Initial investigations by WorkSafe indicate that he may have fallen from the rear of a prime mover cabin and sustained a significant injury to the back of his head.
WorkSafe General Manager for Health and Safety Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said, 'The fact that this happened on the Australia Day public holiday is a tragedy for the family, friends and colleagues and is a timely reminder for all Victorians to continue to exercise vigilance.'
Tasmania: Construction worker killed
Tasmanian unions have been angered by the death of a 32 year old pole driver at the Hobart tip on January 29. 'Construction unions have been voicing very strong concerns about safety standards in construction for quite some time with very little response,' said Kevin Harkins, UnionsTasmania Secretary. 'Unions have met with Workplace Standards and representatives of the Minister on more than one occasion to vent their frustrations, safety in construction is well below standard.'
Another Tasmanian worker was killed on Tuesday – the 62-year-old man was directing traffic in a road works zone in Launceston when he was hit by a ute. Police say the man was thrown 15 metres along the road. The accident happened on a stretch of road with a 40 kilometre speed limit. Roy Omerod, from Workplace Standards, says investigators will consider whether that speed was appropriate.
WA: Worker crushed to death
WorkSafe WA is investigating the work-related death of a worker at a glass manufacturing premises in Osborne Park on Monday. The man was believed to have been in an area where large containers of glass sheets were being moved when one fell over, striking him. WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said any work-related death was a tragedy, and relayed his sincere condolences to the man's family.
Amputee defrauds WorkSafe – gets 16 month jail sentence
In a case which begs the question of fairness, a Victorian amputee, who fraudulently obtained more than $112,000 in workers' comp benefits with the help of six complicit care providers, has been jailed for 16 months (with eight months of the sentence suspended for two years). She will also have to repay the $112,000 to WorkSafe. In 1990, the woman, now 44, had her leg amputated below the knee as the result of a workplace injury she sustained five years earlier. Between July 2008 and June 2010, she received $59,687 in workers' comp benefits while claiming to be wheelchair-bound, unable to work and in need of 24-hour care.
Surveillance conducted as part of a WorkSafe Victoria investigation showed the woman was able to move freely on her prosthetic leg and was capable of living independently. The investigation also found that during the same period, six carers submitted $52,500 in attendant care invoices to WorkSafe for services they never provided.
While the VTHC in no way condones such actions, this punishment seems excessive – especially when employers whose negligent behaviour, such as lack of maintenance on machinery, causes the death of an employee, are simply fined, with no jail sentence.
WorkSafe Media Release: Injured worker jailed for 'breathtakingly audacious' fraud
The smell of 'corruption'
Dr Yossi Berger, in his article 'The smell of 'corruption' published on the Safety At Work blog, writes passionately about how after many years of experience, he continues to see how OHS is not really taken seriously in so many workplaces: how too many employers 'talk the talk' but don't 'walk the walk'; how too often clear signs are ignored; and how too often this results in injuries, sometimes serious, such as amputations, or even death for workers. The article discusses a number of reports on serious incidents, including the NZ Pike River mining tragedy in which 29 miners were killed, and the Beaconsfield Goldmine tragedy.
WorkSafe reminds Victorians to take care with asbestos
Following devastating property losses during this bushfire season, WorkSafe is reminding Victorians to take particular care during the clean-up of their properties to avoid potential exposure to asbestos. We need to remember that until the late 1980s, asbestos was commonly used in roofing, sheet walls, ceilings and in moulded products such as flues, downpipes, guttering, and water and sewerage pipes.
Other common asbestos-containing materials and products included vinyl floor tiles and sheets, insulation materials, and sealants. (More information see Asbestos in the home)
Lisa Sturzenegger, WorkSafe's Health and Safety general manager for operations, said, 'We're asking people undertaking a clean up of bushfire-damaged property to take particular care to avoid disturbing asbestos fibres. The safest way to remove asbestos, particularly if the asbestos is friable, that is it is crumbling or disintegrating, is to contact a licensed asbestos remover.' (See: VTHC List of Asbestos Removalists)
WorkSafe Media Release
WA Cancer Council Calls for State Asbestos Database
The WA Cancer Council has called for the establishment of a state-wide asbestos database to identify all buildings containing the harmful material. The asbestos register is one of three cancer-related issues being pushed by the council in the lead-up to the state election.
The acting CEO Terry Slevin says almost 5,000 West Australians have died of asbestos-related illnesses. He says creating a database would be costly and time-consuming but could also save lives. Read more: ABC online
Italy: Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial
Further hearings are to begin on February 14 in the case which has become known as the Great Asbestos Trial. Hundreds of pages of legal arguments submitted to the Turin Court challenge the first degree guilty verdicts handed down a year ago by a three-judge panel to defendants Stephan Schmidheiny (Switzerland) and Baron Louis de Cartier (Belgium). Neither of the former asbestos executives, both of whom were convicted for their part in causing the Italian asbestos disaster, has complied with court orders to pay compensation to thousands of victims, associations, municipal authorities and civic bodies.
In recent press articles, de Cartier's lawyers said the €89 million (A$115.2 million) fine was 'intolerable'. According to them, there is no proof of any causal link between the incidence of occupational asbestos disease and their client's actions. Schmidheiney's lawyers are trying to overturn the verdict with arguments based on lack of jurisdiction and unconstitutionality; they allege that the charges of wilful negligence and omission of safety measures should have been heard by the Court of Assizes. Should these arguments find favour with the Turin Court, the 2012 verdict could be overturned and the proceedings would have to be reinvestigated, reconsidered and reheard by the other Court. Read more: International Ban Asbestos Secretariat
Global Asbestos production – new information
The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) has recently produced a number of charts and maps to illustrate the changes in the global asbestos trade which have taken place. These changes illustrate that a global double standard on asbestos exists in the 21st century. IBAS states, 'Even as developed nations have banned or seriously restricted its use, demand in some industrializing countries remains strong.' Canadian asbestos mines were dominant in the period. In 1950, the top three producing countries (Canada, the USSR and South Africa) accounted for 85% of all output. By 2011, the USSR was the top producing country, followed by China and Brazil. Production from Canada was reduced to only 2.5 per cent of the global market. This material is now available for general use and may be copied from this article or from a new Graphics Page IBAS is developing.
European Parliament Adopts Report on Asbestos
On 23 January 2013, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament adopted a report which largely aligns with the aims of the European Trade Union Confederation and organisations representing asbestos victims in different countries.
The report explores the different areas in which the European Union can intervene. It calls for a policy that protects workers and the population effectively. The report notes that millions of tonnes of asbestos in existing buildings and facilities continue to represent a health hazard in Europe and calls on the European Commission to implement a coherent strategy. It recommends:
- establishing a registry for buildings containing asbestos;
- ensuring the qualification and training of workers responsible for asbestos removal
- ensuring better compensation for occupational diseases caused by asbestos,
- ending exemptions that allow chrysotile asbestos to be imported into the European Union, and
- banning exports containing asbestos to developing countries.
The report was adopted by a very wide majority: 40 votes for, two against and one abstention. Its adoption is all the more important as the European Commission has not defined the contents of the occupational health and safety strategy for the period 2013-2020.
US ADAO Newsletter
The US organisation Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation (ADAO) has published its latest newsletter for February. The newsletter, which can be viewed here, provides a great opportunity to keep up with what asbestos activists in the US are doing, as well as news items, such as this month's on the exposure to asbestos of school children in Ohio.
This week's question is not a workplace specific one, but Renata often receives queries from users of the site:
I am renting a house which has 2 long steps at the front. The top tread is 24.5cm wide and the bottom one is 19.5cm wide. Is this bottom step legal?
There are a lot of things in homes/houses that are not 'to rule' especially if the homes are old. A home is not a workplace, and so generally, occupational health and safety legislation does not apply.
There are no specific regulations for height (rise) and width (going) of steps - even in workplaces - but there is an Australian Standard which sets up what the dimensions of steps and stairs should be. Architects, home builders, etc should take the Australian Standard into account. According to the information in the Standard, the 'going' dimensions are supposed to be minimum 215mm, maximum 305mm - so the one that is 19.5cm is less than the minimum.
This is important: anything outside these dimensions increases the risks of an accident. I advise contacting your agent and informing him that the steps at the front don't comply with the Australian standard. Point out that this could mean increasing the risk of falling for you and others visiting the home. Request that the steps be fixed. The agent needs to be made aware of the problem: they also need to know and understand that if something were to happen, then you would certainly be seeking legal advice and compensation. That might encourage them to take action!
Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Melbourne
Victoria's Health Department ordered the testing and disinfection of all cooling towers in Footscray, in Melbourne's west, after a fatal outbreak of legionnaires' disease two weeks ago. A man aged in his 50s died in hospital on January 24, and four others were hospitalised.
Because of the danger of the legionella bacteria, Victoria has specific requirements in place. All land owners to register all cooling tower systems with the Building Control Commission, and renew these registrations annually. Landowners must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that a risk management plan (RMP) is prepared and implemented for each cooling tower system on their land. People who own, manage or control cooling tower systems ('business owners') have maintenance and cleaning and record-keeping requirements. They must also carry out monthly water tests for hetertrophic colony counts (HCC).
Fiskville: another death
In sad news, the man who was the first to launch legal action against the CFA over the toxic exposure to chemicals at the Fiskville training base died of cancer last week. Mr Paul Beattie, 46, had begun legal proceedings just days before dying of lung and brain cancer. His story first appeared in the Herald Sun in December 2011. According to reports in the Sunday Herald Sun, Mr Beattie was the 21st person linked to Fiskville to die of a cancer-related illness.
2014 deadline for firefighters' study
In related news, the Monash University study into the health of more than 200,000 firefighters, and specifically those who worked at the Country Fire Authority's (CFA) Fiskville training base, should be complete by September 2014.The Australasian Fire & Emergency Service Authorities Council commissioned Monash in 2008-09 to assess the feasibility of conducting a retrospective study into the occurrence of cancer, mortality and other health conditions in firefighters. The Australian Firefighters' Health Study (AFHS) began officially in September 2011. Data collection, which involves Monash extracting data from nine firefighting agencies' existing computerised records, began in early 2012. Approximately 226,000 individuals would be involved in the study. Monash is also examining a potential link between chemicals used at Fiskville from 1971 to 1999, and trainers' and instructors' cancer and death. The Fiskville trainers and instructors would be added to the AFHS, in which the CFA is already involved.
Source: OHNews More information on the study.
More misuse of 'OHS reasons'
In another example of the misuse of OHS legislation as an excuse to prevent actions the Brisbane Times reports that Ipswich Cemeteries has given families 21 days to remove trinkets from the graves of their loved ones buried at a cemetery west of Brisbane because of "workplace health and safety" concerns. The company, which took lease of the Warrill Park Lawn Cemetery at Willowbank from Ipswich City Council last June, has left letters on each of the graves in the nursery section asking families to remove all ornaments other than two standard vases as they "hindered maintenance" and posed a "safety hazard for visitors and staff".
It's unlikely that these caused a health and safety risk – rather, the new company wished to ensure that the council 'policy' of two vases be adhered to.
Read more: Brisbane Times Trinkets on children's graves deemed 'health and safety' risk
CSIRO to hold bullying inquiry
The CSIRO has announced it will hold an 'independent' inquiry into range of allegations of misconduct and workplace bullying by up to 100 former scientists, two months after it was issued with a formal notice by the Commonwealth work safety regulator. Earlier last year a group of scientists and former CSIRO staff formed the group 'victims of CSIRO' to exert pressure on the organisation to address what the group claim is a culture of bullying and cover-up.
In December last year, Comcare issued an improvement notice requiring a review and improvement of CSIRO's management of workplace misconduct and allegations of bullying.
FoE Nanotech bulletin
The Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project has published its latest Nanotech Bulletin which has items on the Senate Inquiry into Antimicrobials, the latest on nanoparticles in sunscreens, and information on the increasing number of countries introducing nano-registers. Belgium, Denmark and Norway have given further details of their plans to follow France by requiring companies to report information about their use of nanomaterials. Sweden is also investigating whether it needs a national register and is due to report on its findings later this year.
International Union News
British unions challenge Government action on sickness 'burden'
The UK government
has announced a announced a series of measures to address what it describes as
the 'burden' of sickness absence on businesses, taxpayers and people who 'get
trapped on benefits'. This includes
establishing a new independent assessment and advisory service, tasked with
getting people back to work and away from long-term sickness benefits. The
government says the scheme will save employers up to £160 million (A$241
million) a year in statutory sick pay and increase economic output by up to
£900 million (A$1355 million) a year. Safety campaigners says the government's sickness
absence review would have worked better if the focus had been less on getting
the sick back to work and more on preventing ill-health in the first place. In response to the announcement, the Hazards campaign said two major conceptual flaws undermine the strategy: That Britain has a
'sicknote culture' and that any work is good for you. A response from the
campaign said: 'There is no evidence to support this, much research shows that
'presenteeism' costs more than 'absenteeism', with sickness absence now at a record
Read more: Risks 590
Work Your Proper Hours Day
The TUC, the UK's peak union council has declared March 1 Work Your Proper Hours Day.Now in its ninth year, Work Your Proper Hours Day is a light-hearted campaign that celebrates the unsung - and unrewarded - hours that staff put in to help their employer and boost the UK economy. If staff who regularly work unpaid overtime did all their extra hours from the start of the year they wouldn't get paid until 1 March 2013. The TUC has named this day Work Your Proper Hours Day to celebrate their hard work.
Corporate manslaughter cases increasing in UK
The number of new Crown Prosecution Service corporate manslaughter cases has risen by 40 per cent in a year. There has been an increase in charges laid from 45 in 2011 to 63 in 2012. In total 141 cases have been opened since 2009, with 56 prosecutions currently ongoing, according to law firm Pinsent Masons. There have so far only been three convictions since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 took effect in 2008. But Pinsent Masons' Simon Joyston-Bechal warned firms against complacency: 'High risk industries and companies cannot be reassured by the current lack of convictions for corporate manslaughter,' he said. 'The three convictions so far are just the tip of an iceberg. Corporate manslaughter cases are very complex and can take a long time to come to trial. We can now see from these figures that there are a rapidly growing number of cases in the pipeline.' Pinsent Masons warned budget-focused firms about ignoring safety issues. Joyston-Bechal, a specialist safety lawyer and partner with the firm, said: 'Cutting corners on safety in order to save money is probably the most serious aggravating feature of an offence. All businesses need to have robust health and safety procedures in place.'
Source: Risks 591 Pinsent Masons news release.
European trade unions campaign on chemical safety
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and union federation IndustriAll are extending their REACH information campaign for workers. In cooperation with ECHA and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) the campaign promotes understanding of the REACH exposure scenarios and steps for companies to take to ensure the safe use of hazardous substances. Further information on the campaign: ECHA Joint campaign with European trade unions on employers' obligations under REACH ETUC Press Release REACH obligations: trade unions again help to raise awareness in companies
Pakistan: Fire victims to get compensation
The German discount clothing chain KiK Textilen has signed a compensation agreement with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) to make a US$1 million payment to victims of the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan (SafetyNet 251). KIK Textilen, one of the company's major buyers, agreed on 5 January 2013 to make the payment to victims of the September 2012 textile factory fire in which almost 300 workers died, to cover the costs of a long-term compensation plan. The package was agreed after demands by Pakistani trade unions, supported by international organisations including the IndustriALL global union and the Clean Clothes Campaign. According to a statement by PILER, the German buyer, KiK, has also agreed to back a plan to improve the workplace safety regime for Pakistani workers. The tragedy exposed the limitations of voluntary industry audit schemes. The textile factory had received the coveted Social Accountability International's (SAI) SA8000 certificate in August 2012, just weeks before the deadly inferno, wrongly suggesting it was in compliance with minimum standards on working conditions and safety.
Source: Risks 590 IndustriALL Media Release
Another textile fire claims the lives of seven in Bangladesh
At least seven female workers of readymade garment factory Smart in Mohammadpur in Bangladesh Beribadh were killed in a stampede as a fire broke out in there two weeks ago. At least four other workers were injured. The deaths were reportedly caused when they tried to rush to safety following the outbreak of fire.
Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of readymade garments after China, and clothes account for up to 80 percent of the country's US$24 billion annual exports. Despite such high returns from the readymade garments sector, the safety of workers has been overlooked and factory fires are not unusual. In Dec 2010, at least 25 people were killed in a fire in the same industrial area. On Feb 2006, an incident of fire in the KTS Textiles and Garments had claimed 54 lives in Chittagong.
South Korea: Sumsung continues to kill its workers
The giant conglomerate of Samsung has a terrible safety record at its South Korean plants with many workers becoming sick and dying. On the 28th of January, Mr. Park became the latest worker to be killed at Samsung, with four others hospitalised due to an escape of hydrofluoric acid gas. Samsung did not report this gas escape for almost a day even though the factory is surrounded by houses. The campaign to bring justice to dead and injured Samsung workers, and improve occupational health and safety, continues. Read more
Growth in temporary work creates
new dangers for workers According to a new
report from the US Center for Progressive Reform, the growing use of temporary/contingent
or subcontracted workers in American industries such as construction, warehousing,
farming, and hotels has helped reduce corporate accountability and lead to
unsafe working conditions. By shifting
responsibilities to outside firms, employers who rely on sub-contracted temp
workers have fewer incentives to safeguard their workforce from injury and
illness, putting those vulnerable workers in harm's way. 'Their shared
experience is one of little job security, low wages, minimal opportunities for
advancement, and, all too often, hazardous working conditions,' the report said
of such workers. 'Employers of contingent labor may escape the financial
incentives that are a main driver of business decisions to eliminate hazards
for other workers.' This is a similar experience in Australia, in industries such as
meat processing and warehousing. However, in the US, such workers are even
worse off than in Australia, as these companies do not have to provide health
care coverage or pay for workers compensation benefits, giving them less
motivation to keep their farms, construction sites, warehouses or hotels safe.
Source: The Pump Handle Weekly Blog; Read more: Huffington Post At the Company's Mercy: Protecting Contingent Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions [pdf]
More research into the ill-effects of shiftwork
Recent Norwegian research has found that night shifts and rotating schedules are problematic in terms of insomnia, while US researchers believe night shift work is associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, especially for women over 50.
The Norwegian research team surveyed nearly 1600 nurses to determine the prevalence of work and rest-day insomnia. They found ample evidence linking sleeping sleep disturbances to extensive somatic and psychological health problems, with shift workers more prone to sleep disturbances than the general public due to problems associated with their irregular schedules (eg difficulties in getting enough sleep when a day shift succeeds an evening shift, in a rotation; difficulties transitioning between night shifts and rest days; and difficulties among workers on two and three shift rotations adapting and re-adapting to different sleep–wake rhythms).
Researchers in the US interviewed 3322 women working night shifts to determine the association between night shift work and ovarian cancer: 1101 with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer, 389 with borderline epithelial tumours and 1832 serving as controls. They found that working night shift was associated with an increased risk of invasive and borderline tumours. However, they observed little evidence that risks increased with increasing cumulative duration of night shift work, and risks were not elevated in the 'highest duration category' ( > 7 night shift work years). Increased risks were restricted to women who were 50 years of age and older and to serous and mucinous subtypes of invasive and borderline tumours.
Both studies published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.Norwegian study: Elisabeth Flo, et al: Shift-related
sleep problems vary according to work schedule [abstract] Occup
Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2012-101091
US study: Parveen Bhatti, et al Nightshift work and risk of ovarian cancer [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2012-101146
The cost of ignoring the warning signs - 'Late Lessons from Early Warnings, volume II'New technologies have sometimes had very harmful effects, but in many cases the early warning signs have been suppressed or ignored. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published the second volume of Late Lessons from Early Warnings which investigates specific cases where danger signals have gone unheeded, in some cases leading to deaths, illness and environmental destruction.
The first volume of Late Lessons, published in 2001, was a ground breaking report detailing the history of technologies subsequently found to be harmful. The new 750-page volume includes 20 new case studies, with far-reaching implications for policy, science and society. Case studies include the stories behind industrial mercury poisoning; fertility problems caused by pesticides; hormone-disrupting chemicals in common plastics; and pharmaceuticals that are changing ecosystems. The report also considers the warning signs emerging from technologies currently in use, including mobile phones, genetically modified organisms and nanotechnology.
The EEA notes that the world has changed since the first
volume of Late Lessons was published.
Technologies are now taken up more quickly than before, and are often rapidly
adopted around the world. According to the report, this means risks may spread
faster and further, outstripping society's capacity to understand, recognise
and respond to these effects in time to avoid harm. The report recommends the wider use of the
'precautionary principle' to reduce hazards in cases of new and largely
untested technologies and chemicals. This is union policy, and a position we
continue to argue from in areas such as nanotechnology.
Read more: EEA Media Release and EEA Report: Late Lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation Volume 2
Low level exposure to organophosphates harms brain and nervous system In yet another recent study, researchers have discovered that low-level exposure to organophosphates (OPs) produces lasting decrements in neurological and cognitive function. Memory and information processing speed are affected to a greater degree than other cognitive functions such as language. Researchers at UCL and the Open University carried out the systematic review of the literature, providing a quantitative evaluation of the data assimilated from 14 studies and more than 1,600 participants.
Published in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology, the analysis revealed that the majority of well-designed studies undertaken over the past 20 years found a significant association between low-level exposure to organophosphates and impaired cognitive function.
Derived from World War II nerve gas agents, organophosphate pesticides are
the most widely used insecticides in the world, used extensively in agriculture,
by the military and also for domestic purposes. According to the World Health
Organisation (WHO) organophosphate pesticides are one of the most hazardous
pesticides to vertebrate animals, responsible for many cases of poisoning
worldwide. The toxic effects of high level poisoning have been well established
but the possibility that long-term low level exposure to OPs in doses below
that causing acute toxicity causes ill health has been controversial.
Sarah Mackenzie Ross, et al Neurobehavioral problems following low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides: a systematic and meta-analytic review. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 2012; 1 DOI: 10.3109/10408444.2012.738645
Read more: Science Daily
Paramedics and fatigue
research A CQUniversity study is
seeking to identify strategies to promote resilience to fatigue in Australian
paramedics. The research is to be conducted by the university's sleep and
emergency service experts in conjunction with paramedics who are working or who
have worked in the industry. It appears there are only two published studies
which investigate fatigue and the effects it has on Australian paramedics
including reduced sleep quality, depression, anxiety and stress related to
their work. The research will involve interviews and discussions with 40
paramedics across Australia
including how they are affected by fatigue and the common strategies they use
to cope with fatigue at work. The study will also use the Critical Incident
Technique, whereby the interviewed paramedics will be asked to recall an
incident of fatigue at work and describe how it was managed.
Source: Safetysolutions.net.au News
From WorkSafe WA:
- Safety Alert: Fatal injury from heating hydraulic cylinder [pdf] on the dangers of applying heat to sealed hydraulic cylinders, after a cylinder exploded and killed a worker.
- Bulletin:Working safely on roofs and in ceiling spaces [pdf] which outlines steps to take before and during height work, and managing significant hazards such as electricity.
Vic: Boat company fined $275,000 after worker death
Somerton boat company, Monst Pty Ltd (formerly Lloyd Brewer Marine Pty Ltd) was last week convicted and fined $275,000 over the death of an independent contractor in December 2011.
On 1 December 2011, the worker asked a colleague, who was licensed to perform high risk work, to assist him to access a part. The second worker was reversing a forklift when its mast became entangled in the chain of crane, pulling a hoist unit and chain off a gantry. The hoist unit and chain hit the first worker on the head. Other workers immediately rendered assistance and he was taken to the Alfred Hospital, where however, he died a short time later.
The employer had not conducted a hazard identification and risk assessment to identify specific obstacles and overhead obstructions; nor had the employer provided information, instruction and training to employees and other persons at the workplace regarding overhead obstructions and risk controls.
WorkSafe General Manager of
Health and Safety, Lisa Sturzenegger, said the incident highlighted the need
for ongoing appropriate hazard identification and risk assessment.
WorkSafe Media Release
WA: BHP convicted over worker's death
Mining giant BHP Billiton has been found guilty in a Perth court following the death of one of its workers who was crushed by a scissor lift in a workshop in Port Hedland in 2008. The court found BHP Billiton had failed to provide instruction and supervision or implement and enforce a suitable job hazard assessment, which led to the fatality.
The company faces a maximum penalty for the offence of $400,000, with sentencing scheduled for March 19.
In early 2009, the company had its fifth fatality in nine months at its iron ore operations in the Pilbara and was forced to acknowledge change was needed.
EU: Stronger regulation sought on chemicals affecting hormones
The European Parliament's Public Health Committee, in a resolution approved on 23 January 2013, has said the European Union must take action to reduce human exposure to suspected hormone-affecting endocrine disruptors; and that current regulation should be closely examined with a view to updating or proposing new legislation by June 2015 at the latest.
Endocrine disruptors have been linked to the recent increase in cases of impaired sperm quality for men and early onset of puberty for young girls as well as certain cancers and other disorders. Potential endocrine disruptors include substances such as steroid hormones, some pesticides, dioxins and plastic additives. "The parliament draft report aims to identify a way forward on how we should handle the issue of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. I want to make it clear that the time for political action has come," said Swedish MEP Åsa Westlund. Since hormone-related disorders have increased over the last 20 years, MEPs want a greater investment in research and call on the Commission to propose criteria to define and assess endocrine disruptors, based on international standards. While question marks remain, the committee says preventive action should be taken to protect human health, especially vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and infants.
Source: Chemwatch Bulletin. Read more: Euractiv, 24 January 2013
Global: Nations agree on Mercury deal
After four years of negotiations, more than 140 countries, including Australia and the US, have agreed on a set of legally binding rules to control mercury pollution. The treaty was finalised on 19 January at the end of a six-day meeting of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Geneva. It is the first global effort aimed at reducing the use of mercury in a range of products, processes, and industries. Called the Minamata Convention on Mercury, after the Japanese city that suffered one of the world's worst cases of industrial mercury poisoning, the treaty will require coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, and other large industrial facilities to control mercury emissions using the best available technology. The treaty officially goes into force once 50 countries have ratified it, and new facilities will have five years after that to comply with the rules. Existing facilities will have 10 years. In addition, by 2020, the treaty will ban the use of mercury in many products, including batteries, switches, some compact fluorescent lamps, soaps and cosmetics, and thermometers. Mercury in dental amalgams will be "phased down."
Environmental groups said the agreement did not go far enough, saying it will do little to reduce mercury pollution. "If implemented, the new mercury treaty might slow the rate of increasing mercury levels, but greater political commitment will be needed to actually reduce mercury pollution," says Joe DiGangi, senior science and technical adviser for the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), a global network of nongovernmental organisations working to reduce persistent organic pollutants. Source: Chemwatch Bulletin. Read more: Nations strike mercury deal Chemical & Engineering News, 25 January 2013