18 April, 2013
This is the 259th edition of the fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet – we hope you find the journal interesting. Please feel free to distribute to contacts, and send though any comments on any of the items.
Workplace fatalities and serious incidents
Shepparton: Woman seriously injured by machine
At approximately 1.30 am last Thursday morning a worker's arms were
seriously crushed after they became trapped in a food processing
machine at a Shepparton manufacturing plant. She was airlifted to
hospital in Melbourne with serious crush injuries to both arms. WorkSafe
is investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident, but
Regional Director Shane Gillard said the incident was a horrible
reminder of the terrible damage that could be inflicted by dangerous
machines. 'Our thoughts go out to this young woman and her family,
friends and workmates,' he said, adding that dangerous machines had
injured almost 11,000 workers in Victoria in the past five years.
WorkSafe Media Release and more information on how to make machines safe
NSW: Worker killed on building site
WorkCover NSW is investigating the death of a 22-year-old worker at a building site in Camperdown, Sydney on Saturday morning. The young man, a Canadian backpacker, sustained head and chest injuries after being hit by a number of metal beams. CFMEU State Secretary, Brian Parker, said 'We're not surprised. Unfortunately, it's taken a young worker's life, 22-years of age, the same age as my son…. We were on the site only two weeks ago. We brought up concerns about this particular site, about the demolition processes on this particular job.' Work stopped, after workers expressed concern that slabs were unstable during the demolition work. But Mr Parker said the concerns were ignored. 'We asked for expertise to be bought into it, engineers to sign off to say that the structure that was holding up these slabs was secure,' he said. 'But unfortunately, we never received that.'
And just two days before the tragedy, the union raised concerns over the fate of workplace safety in NSW after it was made aware of further cuts to WorkCover operations, including the sacking of more inspectors. The cuts will not only affect regional areas, but will have far-reaching implications throughout the state with a significant impact in Sydney itself. CFMEU State Secretary Brian Parker said, 'Inspectors are going to have to cover wider areas and they can't be everywhere at once, so important safety concerns will be neglected.'
Source: ABC News online CFMEU Media Release
Reminder: International Workers Memorial Day April 28
A reminder that April 28 is International Workers Memorial Day when
workers around the world stop to 'Remember the dead and fight for the
living'. The Melbourne event, co-hosted by the VTHC and Asbestoswise,
will be h
eld at the Trades Hall, at the
corner of Victoria and Lygon Streets, commencing at 10.30am. This year
the theme is once again that union workplaces are safer workplaces, and
we will continue to focus on activities to ensure that the
recommendations of the Asbestos Management Review are implemented. We
invite workers to come along and participate. If it's not possible to do
so, then stop for a minute at 11am at your own workplace.
And in Gippsland, the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council (GTLC) and Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support Inc (GARDS) will be holding their Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony, 'To honour those who have lost their lives through workplace accidents and illness' also on Monday 29th April 2013 at 11.00am at the Morwell Rose Garden, Morwell. Speakers include: Johan Scheffer, Upper House Member for Eastern Victoria, John Parker: Secretary, GT LC, and Vicki Hamilton: CEO/Secretary, GARDS. The ceremony will be followed by a barbeque lunch.
Read more: on the OHS Reps website and international information on International Workers Memorial Day: Hazards April 28
National Memorial Canberra
In May 2011, the Australian Government provided funding for the design and construction of a national memorial in Canberra to honour and pay tribute to working Australians who have died as a result of work-related accidents, incidents and disease. It is intended that the Memorial be a poignant reminder of the importance of work health and safety and the need for a determined and continued effort by all to prevent work-related accidents and disease. It is also a place to reflect on the evolving values, ideas and aspirations of the Australian community in relation to work health and safety.
The National Workers Memorial in Canberra will be officially opened at an Inauguration Ceremony on Sunday 28 April 2013. The physical Memorial will be complemented by a dedicated website and Facebook page, which which will go live on Tuesday April 23. The event will be live streamed via the website. Both sites will tell the many stories behind the values and actions at the centre of the Memorial. Significantly the website will highlight the importance of work health and safety issues and the Facebook page will provide an online space for family and community members to visit and share their stories.
Labour Day - May Day
Also quickly approaching is May Day – in 1894 Rosa Luxemburg, a
famous revolutionary socialist of Polish Jewish descent who became a
naturalized German citizen, wrote: '…what could give the workers greater
courage and faith in their own strength than a mass work stoppage which
they had decided themselves? What could give more courage to the
eternal slaves of the factories and the workshops than the mustering of
their own troops? Thus, the idea of a proletarian celebration was
quickly accepted and, from Australia, began to spread to other countries
until finally it had conquered the whole proletarian world. The first
to follow the example of the Australian workers were the Americans. In
1886 they decided that May 1 should be the day of universal work
stoppage. On this day 200,000 of them left their work and demanded the
In Victoria, the official Labour Day is the 'Moomba' holiday - but Labour Day is not Moomba (read Brian Boyd's Opinion piece, and May 1 is still marked by at least one rally in Melbourne:
- May Day Solidarity Rally - Wednesday 1 May at 5:30pm, State Library Swanston Street Melbourne
- May Day March - Sunday 5 May at 1pm, Trades Hall Lygon Street Carlton
More details: AAWL
Draft discussion paper on national asbestos strategy released
As reported in the last edition of SafetyNet, the Office of Asbestos Safety (OAS) has released a discussion draft of, and background paper to, the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management. The development of such a plan was a key recommendation of the Asbestos Management Review. The OAS has held workshops around Australia to discuss the draft with unions, asbestos disease support groups, employers and government representatives. Feedback is invited from all members of the community on the discussion draft of the National Strategic Plan by April 26. Remember the union aim: An Asbestos Free Australia by 2030
Download the Discussion draft: National Strategic Plan
NSW: Asbestos waste dumper gets suspended sentence
Two weeks ago the NSW Land and Environment Court gave a man a three-month suspended prison sentence, specifically for dumping 80 tonnes (eight truckloads) of asbestos waste in Sydney's south-west. The waste cost $30,000 to clean up.
The 37-year-old excavator is a repeat offender who was previously fined over $130,000 for dumping waste across four sites in western Sydney.
While the NSW Environment Protection Agency welcomed the sentence, Environment Minister Robyn Parker was disappointed by the court's decision, and has asked the EPA to review the judgment. Justice Nicola Pain said that while the man had a lengthy record of offences, she took into account an early guilty plea and family circumstance when she handed down the sentence.
Read more: ABC news online
Scientists call for a total ban on Asbestos
Scientists at the Collegium Ramazzini in Modena, Italy have repeated calls for a total ban on all asbestos across the globe. The Collegium points out that just 52 nations have banned asbestos but a large number still use, import and export asbestos and asbestos-containing products. To protect the health of all people in the world – industrial workers, construction workers, women and children, now and in future generations, a total ban, rigorously enforced, is urgently needed, the Collegium says.
At least 125 million people around the world are today exposed to
asbestos through their work with about 20 to 40% of adult men reporting
past occupations that may have exposed them to the risk of mesothelioma,
asbestos, and lung cancer due to asbestos.
Read more The Health Blog
Also in Italy: Italian unions for an asbestos-free country
On 28th April, all Italian trade union confederations CGIL-CISL-UIL-UGL together with asbestos' victims' associations will mobilise in major Italian cities, raising awareness on asbestos-related risks, and launching a major campaign for raising funds for research for asbestos-related diseases. Targetted activities are already organized in 15 cities, including Casale Monferrato, sadly known for the Eternit "affair". Other cities include Broni, Monfalcone, Taranto, Ferrara, La Spezia, Padova, Ravenna, Matera, Civitavecchia, Nuoro, Pisa, Siracusa, Bari and Pavia.
In London: Action On Russian Asbestos
Russia is now the largest producer and exporter of Asbestos on the planet. A recent letter to the Russian Ambassador to the UK calling for the cessation of this deadly trade was ignored. Consequently the International Ban Asbestos Network, The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum and GMB Trade Union are calling for a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy London to coincide with International Workers Memorial Day.
Source: International Activities April 28 Workers Memorial Day
We arrived at work this morning to
find that there was storm damage. The owner of the building is
organising refurbishment and repairs. What are some of the issues I
might need to be aware of as the HSR?
There are a number of things you may need to follow up with your employer, who may then need to check with the owner of the building. Many of these may not end up being of concern, but it will depend on factors such as the extent of work that needs to be done, and the age of the building. These may include the following:
- Asbestos: if the building was constructed or renovated before the mid to late 1980's there is a high probability that it contains asbestos. The regulations require that there be an up-to-date register. Ask your employer for a copy. If he does not have one, then this should be sought from the building owner AND your employer will also need to make sure it is accurate. If the areas where work is to be carried out contain asbestos, then this must be removed prior to any other work (see the summary of the Asbestos regs on this site)
- Potential contaminants such as dust and/or fumes: depending on the work being undertaken, dust or fumes of materials being used could pose a risk to workers who normally work in the building. Your employer has a duty to ensure that the working environment is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Information on the chemicals being used is available on the MSDS.
- Noise: depending on the level of noise, the risk to workers is either potential hearing loss (if exposed above the exposure standard) or stress. (more information on Noise on this site)
You have the right to be consulted by your employer in the identification of any potential hazards, and also in deciding what actions could be taken to eliminate or control the risk to members of your DWG.
More quad bike fatalities
People continue to be killed on quad bikes. In the past week there have been two fatalities. A 25-year-old man, who sustained serious head injuries in a quad bike crash on a property in northern NSW on Tuesday last week, died in hospital on Saturday. The man and his male pillion passenger were thrown from the bike when it left the road and hit a wire fence. The passenger received bruising. In Queensland, police are investigating the death of 35-year-old man in a quad bike on Friday night. The man's vehicle collided with the rear of another quad bike before rolling.
ACTU: urgent action needed when employers refuse workers' need
ACTU President Ged Kearney this week launched the
Australians Want Time to Care
report that clearly demonstrates through hundreds of case studies how
Australians are struggling to cope with a lack of due process and
out-dated workplace cultures. She said unions, community groups and the
public call on the government, employer groups and the opposition to
listen to families in crisis and ensure we protect Australia's economy.
The ACTU this week lodged a submission to the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013, requesting an appeal process around the right to request family friendly work arrangements. 'A lack of employer engagement in the modernising of the workforce has left us no choice but to raise the volume on this very important issue,' Ms Kearney said. 'We call on the Government to firmly acknowledge the existence of modern families by enshrining in law a right to appeal against employers unreasonable refusals to balance work and family.'
An example of the employer views on flexible workplaces is BHP Billiton which in its submission warned the federal government that it would be making 'an unreasonable and unnecessary incursion' into business decisions if it proceeds with its proposal to extend the right to request flexible working arrangements, while new requirements to consult over roster changes would hamper the' agility' required by 'modern employers' to respond to changes in operational needs or customer demands. The company also does not support the proposed amendments for the FWA to address bullying in the workplace, as it believes 'workplace health and safety legislation or anti-discrimination legislation are the most appropriate mechanisms for tackling bullying in the workplace', voicing concerns these amendments may 'encourage mischievous claims' .
ACTU Media Release Download the report from the ACTU website
Extent of pressure on truck drivers revealed in survey
Alarming new evidence from a survey of more than 950 truck drivers across the country graphically highlights the pressures in Australia's most dangerous industry and points the finger squarely at big retailers like Coles, according to Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the Transport Worker's Union. Some of the key results to emerge from the survey include:
- 40% of drivers in the Coles supply chain have delayed truck maintenance because of economic pressures;
- 73% of drivers carting for Coles said that Coles and other retailers are the major cause of dangerous pressures in the industry;
- 47% of drivers surveyed are aged 50 years old or older, reflecting the serious aging issues in the industry and the problems attracting young people into an industry with such pressures.
'These results reinforce what truckies are saying every day and
what the research is telling us - it's the big retailers that are
responsible for the squeeze on truckies and Coles are the most
ruthless,' said Mr Sheldon. 'Coles want their goods delivered for the
lowest price no matter what. But when you squeeze truckies day in and
day out, forcing them to meet impossible deadlines and paying them
dangerously low rates, you have a recipe for disaster. The results of
this lethal squeeze are all too apparent - with hundreds of people
tragically killed and thousands more injured each year in truck
TWU Media Release
Support Union campaign for a National Stevedoring Code of Practice
The MUA has been fighting for a National Stevedoring Code of
Practice (NSCOP) to stem the tide of waterfront fatalities over recent
years. Wharfies are 14 times more likely to be killed on the job than
the average Australian worker: the NSCOP is needed to make real changes
to save workers lives.
The Code was about to be released for public comment in mid-March, when Safe Work Australia (SWA) last met. However the stevedoring employers lobbied hard against this decision and launched an assault on the MUA and NSCOP in a factually incorrect and misleading article in the Australian Financial Review, which did not give the MUA to respond. The article triggered the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) to demand a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) on NSCOP.
The MUA is demanding that NSCOP be out to public comment immediately. Georga Fitzgibbon, daughter of Greg Fitzgibbon who was tragically killed on the Newcastle waterfront in September last year, supports the campaign and is asking MUA members and the broader community to sign on to the MUA's NSCOP submission.
More information: Georga's YouTube clip , the MUA's submission to SWA [pdf] and sign on in support of the MUA campaign.
International Union News
Union body angered by Colombian death threats
Colombian trade unionists continue to live under constant threat of assassination, in a country where 4,000 union leaders have been murdered in the last 25 years. On 1 April a notorious paramilitary group released a list of murder targets including dozens of trade union leaders in the IndustriALL global family. Trade unions around the world have been expressing solidarity with Colombian colleagues since the extreme right-wing paramilitary group "Los Rastrojos" public statement promised to "hunt and kill" the list of prominent Colombian trade unionists.
In 2012 over 280 death threats were made to trade unionists in Colombia, with 20 murders. Already in the first three months of 2013 four murders have been carried out. IndustriALL leadership lodged the organization's serious concerns over trade union rights violations in the country at the Colombian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva on 4 March. Despite promises made by the Colombian ambassador of government action, the reality is different.
Read more: IndustriALL Media Release
India: Building collapse kills 74 people
In Mumbai, India, a building that was being constructed illegally collapsed on 4 April killing 74 people, including 25 children, and left 65 people injured with head wounds, fractures and spinal injuries. The Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) has issued a statement condemning the collapse and calling on the Indian government to take action against 'the erring builders and Government officials who turned a blind eye towards health, safety and material standards and failed to curb illegal construction'. The BWI says that nine people including the builders have been arrested and charged them under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Read more: BWI statement
Latex and cleaning chemicals cause asthma
Recent Australian research has found that workers who are exposed
to industrial latex and cleaning products are at risk of developing
asthma, even if they never suffered from the disease as children.
The researchers studied 792 Tasmanian workers and found exposure to high molecular weight (HMW) latex and highly reactive cleaning and disinfecting products during their working lives was associated with new-onset asthma. The study, led by Ryan Hoy of Monash University, found the most common causes of occupational asthma included exposure to irritants, combustion particles and fumes, industrial cleaning agents, highly reactive chemicals and natural rubber latex.
The population burden of asthma attributable to occupational exposure has been estimated to be as high as 20 per cent, of which many, if not most, of these cases are preventable, according to the researchers. They also noted that a worker's chances of developing asthma increased by five per cent for every year that they were exposed to latex. 'The risk was 1.6-fold greater after six to 15 years of cumulative exposure and 2.7-fold greater after 16 or more years of cumulative exposure, both compared with no exposure,' they said.
Ryan Hoy, et al, Australia: Occupational Exposures and the Development of New-onset Asthma, [abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 55, Issue 3, March 2013. Source: OHSAlert
Lung cancer and diesel exhaust
A recent literature review concluded that the evidence from
epidemiological studies was indeterminate, and that additional studies
are needed to support the diesel exhaust-lung cancer hypothesis. In this
study, the authors examine seven recent studies, concluding that the
weight of evidence is considered inadequate to confirm the diesel-lung
Two population-based studies concluded that significant exposure-response (E-r) trends between cumulative diesel exhaust and lung cancer were unlikely to be entirely explained by bias or confounding. While those studies have quality data on life-style risk factors, they do not allow definitive conclusions because of inconsistent E-r trends, qualitative exposure estimates and exposure misclassification, and selection bias from low participation rates.
Two NCI/NIOSH studies of non-metal miners have some quantitative diesel exposure estimates and smoking histories. The authors concluded that diesel exhaust may cause lung cancer. However, the results are non-definitive because the conclusions are based on E-r patterns where high exposures were deleted to achieve significant results, where a posterior adjustments were made to augment results, and where inappropriate adjustments were made for the "negative confounding" effects of smoking.
Three cohort studies of bus drivers and truck drivers are in effect
air pollution studies without estimates of diesel exhaust exposure and
so are not sufficient for assessing the lung cancer-diesel exhaust
hypothesis. Results from all occupational cohort studies with
quantitative estimates of exposure have limitations, including weak and
inconsistent E-r associations that could be explained by bias,
confounding or chance, exposure misclassification, and often-inadequate
Gamble, John F.; Nicolich, Mark J.; Boffetta, Paolo. Lung cancer and diesel exhaust: an updated critical review of the occupational epidemiology literature In Critical Reviews in Toxicology 2012, 42(7), 549-598 (Eng)
Needlestick injuries cause psychiatric trauma
Needlestick or 'sharps' injuries are resulting in persistent and substantial psychiatric illness or depression in workers in a wide range of industries, a new study has found. Research published this month in the journal Occupational Medicine found this psychiatric trauma is similar in severity to trauma caused by other events such as road traffic accidents, and had a major impact on work attendance, family relationships and sexual health. The study also found that the duration of the psychiatric symptoms was linked to the length of time the person injured by the sharp had to wait for blood test results. While these injuries are most common in the health sector, many other workers are also at risk including prison and police officers, park wardens, street cleaners and rubbish collectors, tattoo artists and others who may come across discarded hypodermic needles.
A sharp contaminated with infected blood can transmit more than 20
diseases including hepatitis B and C and human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV). Professor Ben Green, who undertook the research, said: 'The
psychological aspects of needlestick injuries are often overlooked. The
chances of physical damage - infection and so on - are what are focused
on by society, but these risks are in reality very small. The main
health implication of needlestick incidents is probably psychiatric
injury caused by fear and worry.' Dr Richard Heron, president of the
Society of Occupational Medicine, commented: 'We need to reduce the
incidence of needlestick injuries by raising awareness, education and
making safer equipment available but we also need to ensure that people
have rapid access to post-exposure support - including psychological
help if needed.'
SOM news release. B. Green and EC Griffiths. Psychiatric consequences of needlestick injury [pdf] Occupational Medicine volume 63, pages 183-188, 2013. Source: Risks 600
From WorkSafe Victoria
Latest edition of WorkSafe Safety Soapbox
WorkSafe last week sent out the latest edition of its e-newsletter: Safety Soapbox This edition follows the collapse of the wall in Swanston St, which killed three pedestrians, and includes information on what has happened since.
- WorkSafe has released an ALERT: Preventing Structural Collapsehighlighting the 'importance of ensuring the stability of building and structures, including when doing construction, demolition and refurbishment works';
- Victoria's Building Commission sent letters on risk minimisation to all Victorian councils, and asked practitioners to reassess all sites that they are involved with and take appropriate action - which may include reporting any potential risks to the relevant Municipal Building Surveyor where an emergency order may be required to be issued.
The newsletter also has information on notified incidents. Since the last edition two weeks ago, there were 46 incidents from the construction, utility and quarrying industries reported to WorkSafe. The incidents included the three fatalities, 18 lacerations, three fractures, six falls from height, and five electric shocks. Several (more) of these incidents could have resulted in further fatalities.
Construction industry injuries
Ten 'tradies' are injured badly enough every day to make a compensation claim, according to statistics released this week by WorkSafe. In the past five years, more than 17,000 injury claims from the construction industry were reported to WorkSafe, costing almost $1 billion in treatment, wages and other expenses. Tradies and labourers made up almost 80 per cent of those injured workers. Tragically, two construction workers lost their lives last year. WorkSafe Chief Executive Denise Cosgrove said while the construction industry understood the importance of safety, more needed to be done.
'Inspectors visit almost 40 construction sites across Victoria every day and, on average, they find almost 6500 health and safety breaches every year. And that's just not acceptable,' she said. The majority of construction site injuries were caused by inadequate planning, poor site housekeeping and a lack of supervision. The statistics were released to draw attention to the launch of the 'Top Tradie Cup', a six-week competition that tests tradies on their football and safety knowledge. It is designed specifically for smartphones to make it easy for tradies to compete and discuss safety on site. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe Awards 2013
Victoria's regulator has announced that the 2013 WorkSafe Awards are now open, and it is encouraging HSRs and companies to enter. According to WorkSafe, 'If you or someone you know has improved workplace health and safety, been a positive influence in the return to safe work process, or made the workplace healthier, we want to hear about it! No idea is too small.' They claim the new system is very simple, taking only ten minutes. The deadline for the first round of finalists is 30 April 2013. Read more
Comment sought on proposed Dangerous Goods COP
WorkSafe is calling for comment (by 2 May) on a proposed Code of Practice on the storage and handling of dangerous goods. The Code "provides practical guidance on how to comply with the Victorian Dangerous Goods Regulations, for manufacturers and suppliers of dangerous goods and for occupiers storing and handling dangerous goods". Read more and download the proposed code on this page of the WorkSafe website.
Return to Work Coordinator Workshop
WorkSafe is holding a free Workshop for Return to Work (RTW) Coordinators to hear practical tips and information from industry experts on "Return to work for workers with shoulder or neck injuries and return to work barriers". Speaking will be Nick Economos, Physiotherapist and the Director of EmpoweRehab, who will be focussing on the practicalities of assisting workers with shoulder or neck injuries to return to work. The workshop will be held on Tuesday 14 May 2013, from 1.30 pm - 4.00 pm. The venue is the Werribee Function Centre, Werribee Racecourse, 2 Bulban Rd, Werribee. Registration is essential. Register here
ACT Work from height campaign
Following the release of the enquiry into health and safety in the construction industry, the ACT Work Safety Commission inspectors will focus on scaffolds, roofs and ladders when a compliance and inspection campaign began last week in the ACT. Read more: The Canberra Times
Safe Work Australia news
Latest fatality statistics
As at 15 April 2013, 43 Australian workers have been killed while at work. With the occurrence of each work-related fatality, Safe Work Australia records information, updates statistics and prepares various reports. The industry with the greatest number of fatalities is construction, with a total of 12 workers killed. The number of worker deaths listed on this page is based on initial media reports – Safe Work points out that it is 'only a preliminary estimate for the number of people killed', and that work-related status cannot be confirmed until the death is investigated by the appropriate authority. Once this has occurred, it is reported in Safe Work Australia's Monthly Notifiable Fatality reports and Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities reports.
Mental stress costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year
Safe Work Australia last week released its first report on work-related mental stress and its associated costs, based on an analysis of Australian workers' compensation claims data from 2008-09 to 2010-11, with comparisons of rates of claims across industry sectors and occupations for male and female workers. It shows the highest rates of mental stress claims were by workers with high levels of responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of others or workers at risk in dangerous situations. These jobs include train drivers and assistants, police officers, prison officers, ambulance officers and paramedics.
Other key findings of the report are:
- mental stress claims are the most expensive workers' compensation claim, resulting in workers often being absent from work for extended periods.
- mental stress claims are predominantly made by women, and women were approximately three times more likely than men to make a workers' compensation claim as a result of work-related harassment or workplace bullying,
- more professionals make claims for mental stress than any other occupation. A third of these are due to work pressure
- the hazards resulting in mental stress claims vary with worker age. Younger workers are more likely to make claims due to exposure to workplace or occupational violence; the main cause for older workers is work pressure; and
- work pressure was stated as the cause of the majority of claims in industries with the highest claim rates.
New report demonstrates effectiveness of inspector visits
A new Safe Work Australia literature review on regulatory interventions has found workplace inspections conducted by OHS regulators are effective as they make managers think about safety and help employers reduce their injury costs.
The review, The Effectiveness of Work Health and Safety Interventions by Regulators, notes that strategies such as inspections, the introduction of new legislation, industry campaigns and prosecutions "are thought to trigger mechanisms within businesses that affect work health and safety behaviours and compliance with regulation". The review identifies several key mechanisms including:
- awareness of requirements
- businesses' understanding of what they need to do to comply
- concern for reputation, and
- perception of their level of risk.
It says inspections help managers understand their safety obligations, and alert employers to the reputational risks they face if they're subjected to enforcement action. The report can downloaded in pdf or word format from this page of the Safe Work Australia website.
Victoria: two recent prosecutions
There were two prosecutions of employers last month:
On March 26 Graincorp Operations Ltd was fined $50,000, and ordered to pay more than $33,000 in costs in the Horsham Magistrates Court, after a worker was injured while removing bonded grain from a mobile auger in January 2011. The employer pleaded guilty to breaching the State OHS Act in failing to provide safe plant, safe systems of work and adequate training and supervision.
On March 28, Hallam Manufacturing Pty Ltd was fined $30,000, and ordered to pay $3052 in costs, but without conviction in the Frankston Magistrates Court, over an incident where an employee was injured while operating a John Heine press in July 2011. The company had pleaded guilty to breaching their duties under the OHS Act.
Queensland: Falls from height lead to safety undertakings
Two Queensland companies that failed to conduct risk assessments or
manage the risk of falling from height have entered into enforceable
undertakings worth $211,000, after four workers fell from roofs.
In the first case, a J. Hutchinson Pty Ltd construction worker was injured in August 2011 when he fell three metres through the skylight of an IGA complex.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland alleged the employer breached the State Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995, in failing to conduct an adequate risk assessment; failing to implement, monitor and review control measures to manage the risk of falling; and failing to provide instruction or supervision.
Following the incident the employer implemented temporary covers over all skylights, installed more edge protection, and amended SWMSs to include working near skylights.
Source: OHS Alert
NT: Employer fined $120k after keyless entry sparks fatal van explosion
A Northern Territory employer has been fined $120,000 for failing to ensure the safety of a refrigeration mechanic, who was killed when a work van containing pressurised cylinders of flammable gas exploded. In the December 2011 incident: the van, which had been parked at the worker's residence overnight, exploded when he activated the keyless entry. The cylinders had leaked overnight filling the van with gas. The worker was killed, the van destroyed, and an adjacent car and the worker's home were also significantly damaged.
Damday Pty Ltd (trading as Australian Air-Conditioning and Mechanical Services), was fined $120,000 from a maximum penalty of $685,000. NT WorkSafe executive director Doug Phillips said the incident as "tragic and avoidable".
NT: OHS complaints led to unfair dismissal
The Federal Magistrates Court has awarded a Northern Territory
immigration detention centre worker more than $35,000 in compensation,
finding his employer Serco Pty Ltd, had dismissed him for making health
and safety complaints. He had complained he had not received adequate
training and safety equipment, and that he was exposed to cigarette
smoke in the workplace.
Federal Magistrate Michael Jarrett found Serco took adverse action against the worker, that the worker's dismissal was a "serious breach of the Fair Work Act" and that Serco showed "no contrition for the way in which it has treated [the worker]". The worker had sought $2,304,173 in compensation, interest and penalties, but the Magistrate found he probably wouldn't have been employed by Serco for much longer if he hadn't been dismissed, and ordered the company to pay $18,879 in compensation, plus a pecuniary penalty of $16,500.
Source: OHS Alert
UK: HSE prosecutes after vibration causes long term injuries
Britain's HSE this week prosecuted GKN for failing to heed safety
regulations for at least six years, leaving a group of employees with
permanent nerve damage. Five workers based at GKN on the Isle of Wight
had been left with long-term damage to their circulation and nerve
systems after contracting hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). They
developed advanced symptoms of the well-known condition after prolonged
use of vibrating hand tools. Their circulation problems mean their hands
become white and dead in the cold, with extreme pain on warming. The
nerve damage affects their ability to carry out finer tasks needing
dexterity, meaning they lack grip and can often drop objects.
The company failed to comply with the UK's specific Control of Vibration at Work Regulations since they became law in January 2006, and even though the company's health surveillance programme identified the five employees as suffering advanced debilitating problems in 2009, things as before and still failed to assess the risks and no controls were put in place to protect the significant number of remaining workers..
Read more: HSE Media Release More information on Vibration on the site
Europe: Deregulation threat to safety laws
March was a bad month for workplace health and safety in the
European Union (EU). On 7 March, the European Commission announced its
plans to 'ease the top 10 most burdensome EU laws' for small and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The EU executive said it planned to do
this through the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT)
launched in December 2012 - and safety laws are high on a list topped by
the REACH controls on hazardous chemicals. 'Through this programme, the
EU's regulatory acquis is being screened for burdens, gaps and
inefficiencies in order to evaluate and if appropriate revise those laws
where the assessment points to a need for action,' stated a European
Commission news release announcing the plan. The Commission will detail
follow-up actions by June 2013. The hit list includes the REACH
regulations, the Working Time Directive, rules on the shipment of
hazardous waste, the use of equipment monitoring working time and rest
breaks in road transport and the catch-all 'Labour market-related
legislation'. The list was compiled from responses to an online
questionnaire provided by around 1,000 businesses and professional
organisations. SMEs employ around two-thirds of all workers in the EU.
Hopes that the European Social Affairs Commissioner, Lazlo Andor, would
stand up against this deregulatory tide were dashed on 27 March.
Speaking at a European Trade Union Institute conference, he declined to
provide any assurances on a timetable to introduce a new European Union
health and safety strategy for 2013-2020. Nor would not indicate whether
a document outlining a strategy due to take effect this year would be
ready before the May 2014 European elections.
Source: Risks ETUI news reports on Andor's comments and the Deregulation Commission. European Commission news release
Europe: Are 'Green jobs' safe?
With pressure to reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and the proportion of renewable energy, the European Union is set for a rapid growth in the number of 'green jobs' – jobs which help to protect or restore the environment. But with new technologies and processes being introduced in the green economy, what are the implications for workers' health and safety? With the publication of a new Foresight report, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) turns the spotlight on the occupational safety and health (OSH) risks of green jobs.
The Foresight project attempts to identify new or emerging risks in this important area. It works by identifying a number of possible future scenarios looking at how work is likely to develop in green jobs by 2020 and what future OSH challenges this may bring, given advances in green technologies, and a variety of different social and economic conditions.The agency has published a summary [pdf] of the study, and has also made the full report [pdf] with more details on the methodology and findings available.EU-OSHA Media Release