July 4, 2013
Welcome to the new edition of SafetyNet - number 261 and on our newly updated and upgraded website.
Welcome to the new and upgraded OHS Reps @ Work website
The unit has been working hard to move the site onto our new platform and in the process we have updated information and cleaned up broken links. However, the process is not quite finished and there are still pages we haven't got to yet. Consequently, we ask that if subscribers and users of the site come across broken links or outdated information, to please let us know by sending an email to Renata, the website officer. Thank you!
Hi Renata, can you please provide details of where i can get free Stress Balls for staff? They are in need of a way to release tension.
Believe it or not, this came in last week from a well-meaning member of an OHS Committee. This is what I sent back:
Handing out stress balls to staff as a way to 'release tension' is along the same lines (speaking from an OHS and prevention point of view) as handing out gum boots to workers who come to work and find the office flooded...! That is, giving staff stress balls is not a control, it is not addressing the hazard of stress and is the bottom end of the 'hierarchy of control'.. like personal protective equipment.
If there is stress at a workplace (which is at least a contributory factor to the tension felt by staff) then what the employer is bound to do under the general duty of care ('to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable' - remembering that under the OHS Act, 'health' specifically includes 'psychological health') is to identify the causes of the work related stress (stressors) and seek to eliminate/reduce these. Furhter, the identification and control must be done in consulation with the affected employees and their elected HSRs.
Check these out for more information: Duties of employers; Duty to consult; Stress, including Stress Action Plan for Reps
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.
There has been a large number of articles in the media over the past month on asbestos: in schools, on rail lines, in the roll out of the NBN network. This is not unexpected: Unions and asbestos support groups have for decades raised concerns in all of these areas and more. Following two national asbestos summits, the Federal Labor government responded by undertaking the Asbestos Management Review. Last month the Parliament passed legislation establishing the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency which has the brief of developing and implementing a national plan for asbestos awareness, management and eradication.
Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency established
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Bill passed through both houses of Australia's Federal Parliament mid June 2013. It was awaiting Royal Assent at the end of the June. The Bill allows for the establishment of the Agency. In the second reading of the Bill, Minister Bill Shorten said:
This bill marks an historic step in Australia becoming the first nation to progress towards the ultimate elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Our aim needs to be to remove this menace once and for all, in tandem with local, state and territory governments, industry, unions and the community. We are working to rid the legacy of 50 years of asbestos use, a substance that was known even then to kill people; miners, workers, tradespeople, even householders.
Seven out of the eight state and territory governments have supported the development of the national strategy plan. Unfortunately, Victorian is the only jurisdiction which has not supported this and are not participating. In November 2012 the VTHC wrote to Premier Baillieu urging active participation and championing of the plan. In the response received in February 2013, Mr Baillieu said the Victorian government shared the VTHC's 'deep concerns' and 'looked forward to engaging with the Office of Asbestos Safety', reminding us that 'Victoria already has a number of education, identification, management and eradication programs in place, including WorkSafe's 1500 annual targetted asbestos related visits…' The fact remains, however, that the Victorian government is currently not supporting the work of the Agency.
National Asbestos Exposure Register launched
Also in June, the federal government launched a new register to record the details of members of the Australian community who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials, either through their work or through other means. The National Asbestos Exposure Register is managed by the Office of Asbestos Safety.
People who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials can register their details by completing the National Exposure Register form. This can be done online and then emailed, or printing it out and faxing it to the OAS.
lNational Asbestos Exposure Register page on the OAS website.
Asbestos and schools
This has been a long running issue with schools, parents and teachers regularly finding asbestos in many Victorian schools. It has recently had wide media coverage and public attention as a result of an FOI request from a former Victorian Labor Party advisor. The information received revealed many schools' audits were out of date; the amount of funding available to undertake removal work has been slashed by two thirds by the current government, and more. Schools with recent asbestos issues include: Timboon Primary, Altona Primary and Seabrook Primary.
The Australian Education Union has run seminars on asbestos in schools for several years and provides assistance and advice to members and HSRs. On June 21 the AEU Victorian Branch passed a resolution on a number of issues, including calling on all governments to support the national plan and the Victorian government in particular to "immediately undertake a state-wide audit of ACMs in all Victorian Government education facilities."
NBN/Telstra - asbestos in pits and pipes
As part of the NBN rollout across Australia more and more Telstra pits containing asbestos are being disturbed, and this is causing concern for both workers and the families with homes nearby. It's no surprise, however, as unions have been raising this issue with OHS regulators around the country. The asbestos contamination is not only in the old telecommunication pits, but also in the asbestos pipes through which 1000s of kms of cabling is being pushed in and out - disturbing and creating asbestos fibres to be airborne. The issue has become more serious, as the number of pits being worked in has increased. Victorian unions have raised with the regulator the granting of restricted Class B licences to undertake this work, as it often involves working with friable asbestos which the regulations specify is Class A removal work. There have been cases there this work is being undertaken by unlicensed, untrained workers - who are not even wearing protective gear. Talks have been held at the national level to look into and resolve these issues.
Unions' concern with Asbestos Compliance Code
Another long-running issue is the dissatisfaction and concern the trade unions have with the Asbestos Compliance Code, which allows for the drilling of asbestos sheeting (for example in existing meter boxes). In many cases the best, and practicable, outcome for workers and the general community, is to replace the sheets rather than drill them. By allowing these asbestos containing materials to remain in place, not only are young workers, such as apprentices, being exposed, but so too are families - potentially.
Global Asbestos Trade Increases
Kathleen Ruff, co-coordinator of ROCA (Rotterdam Convention Alliance), an Alliance of Environmental, Labour and Health organizations around the world working to promote the full and effective implementation of the Rotterdam Convention, writes that despite our knowlegde of the deadly effects of asbestos, global asbestos exports increased from 1,081,885 tons in 2011 to 1,327,592 tons in 2012. She says Canada saved the asbestos industry when it was headed for extinction in the early 1990s by targeting developing countries as new markets to which it could export asbestos. She explains the Canadian government's support of the asbestos industry, and its role in blocking listing chrysotile asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention. However, after the new Parti Québécois government refused to give financial support to the asbestos industry, causing the last two Quebec mines to shut down, the Harper government announced that it would no longer block this listing.
Ruff says, however,'The reason for this change of position has nothing to do with health. The Harper government still denies the science on asbestos and allows asbestos-containing products to be imported into Canada.'
Ruff also maintains that Russia, the world's biggest asbestos exporter, is taking over Canada's role and Canada's complicity continues. Of the total 2 million tons of asbestos mined globally in 2011, Russia produced 1 million tons and exported most of it. The latest figures for 2012 show that Russia's export of asbestos increased from 748,564 tons in 2011 to 844,823 tons in 2012. In other words, Russia used less, but exported more of the asbestos it mined. Russia plans to take over the role that Canada has played for so long: deny the scientific evidence and sabotage international safety requirements.
Read the entire article: Prevent Cancer Now: Global Asbestos Trade Increased by more than 20% in 2012 Kathleen Ruff, July 1, 2013
FWA Anti-bullying changes go through Federal Parliament
In the busy last few hours of the current sitting of Federal Parliament, legislation giving the Fair Work Commission (FWC) an anti-bullying role was passed and received Royal Assent. It went through unchanged. Bill Shorten, the Minister for Workplace Relations, said the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 (now the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013, Act No. 73 of 2013), first introduced by the government in March, will provide a 'single right of recourse to resolve workplace bullying'. Under the new provisions, which come into effect on January 1, 2014, workers who reasonably believe they have been bullied at work will be able to make an application to the FWC for help to resolve the bullying. The Commission will be required to deal with a matter within 14 days of an application being made. Where someone has been bullied and the matter cannot be resolved between the parties, the Commission will have the power to make an order to prevent bullying in the workplace in the future.
The new provisions are part of the government's response to Workplace Bullying- 'We just want it to stop', a report released in November 2012 by the parliamentary committee which conducted a national inquiry into workplace bullying. Read more: Minister Shorten's Media Release
Meanwhile, in more bullying news:
- Victoria's Supreme Court has awarded a bullied worker $600,000 in compensation (see Prosecutions, below).
- the NSW Upper House has voted in favour of a Greens motion to conduct a parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover's reputed bullying culture. The scope of the inquiry includes WorkCover's culture, its role as the state WHS regulator and other related matters. The Public Service Association of NSW has backed this inquiry into workplace bullying pointing out that this is the agency responsible for monitoring and addressing workplace bullying across NSW workplaces. The union is asking workers who have been bullied at work to complete a short survey. Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
SA smelter causing childrens' blood lead levels to rise
SA Health's latest report shows that blood lead levels of children in Port Pirie have increased over the past year. The first 2013 quarterly report has revealed the percentage of children with a blood lead level of above the accepted standard of 10 micrograms per decilitre (μg/dL) was 31.8 per cent, three per cent more than the 28.8 per cent in the same period last year. The average blood lead level of those tested also increased to 5.6μg/dL, up from 4.9μg/dL, and the number of children above 20μg/dL increased from six to eight.
While the SA Health public health director Dr Kevin Buckett said the 'increased lead exposure would be monitored carefully' the government should be taking action at the source the increase, the Nystar smelter, to reduce emissions. Read more: SA Advertiser
Senate Inquiry calls for urgent action to tackle superbugs
The NGO Friends of the Earth has called for the Federal Government to urgently implement the recommendations of a recent Senate Inquiry into the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance. The inquiry recommended the establishment of an independent body or national centre to manage the response to antimicrobial resistance in Australia. The overuse of antimicrobials by Australians, now included in may everyday products, is contributing to a crisis that the World Health Organisation has labelled 'one of the greatest threats to human health today'. More than 7000 Australians die each year from superbugs – four times our annual road toll. Read more
Other items of interest in the latest edition of the Friends of the Earth Nano Newsletter include news of a group of Melbourne mothers taking sunscreens containing nanoparticles off the shelves, and an item on nanomaterials and the environment.
More evidence night shift increases risk of cancer
A study published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found that working night shifts for 30 or more years doubles the risk of developing breast cancer. Not surprisingly, this effect is not confined to nurses as previous research had indicated.
Shift work has been suggested as a risk factor for breast cancer (IARC has listed it as a 2A carcinogen - that is probably carcinogenic to humans), with a more studies supporting the concern. However, there has been some doubt about the strength of the findings, largely because of issues around the assessment of exposure and the failure to capture the diversity of shift work patterns. Several previous studies have also been confined to nurses rather than the general population. Here the researchers assessed whether night shifts were linked to an increased risk of breast cancer among 1134 women with breast cancer and 1179 women without the disease, but of the same age, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Kingston, Ontario.
Approximately one third of the women in both groups had worked night shifts. There was no evidence that those who had worked nights for up to 14 years or between 15 and 29 years had any increased risk of developing breast cancer. But those who had worked nights for 30 or more years were twice as likely to have developed the disease, after taking account of potentially influential factors, although the numbers in this group were comparatively small.
The associations were similar among healthcare
and other workers. Risk was also higher among those whose tumours
were sensitive to oestrogen and progesterone. While it has been suggested that the explanation may lie in the levels of melatonin produced, the authors said sleep disturbances, upset body rhythms, vitamin D
or lifestyle differences may also play their part.
Source: Science Daily News Release Read more on Shift Work and its health effects
Endocrine disruptors: researchers call for a paradigm shift
Endocrine disruptors - chemicals that interfere with the hormone system – are the focus of growing concern in Europe. Istas, the research arm of the Spanish trade union CC.OO, raised the alarm in a recent report, while European NGOs launched the EDC Free-Stop hormone disrupting chemicals campaign at the end of March.
Both Istas and the NGOs want Member States and the EU to rethink their approach based on the old precept that "the dose makes the poison". Research has found that endocrine disruptors can have harmful effects at very low doses, especially in young people.
France's National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) has
published an alarming collective survey report on pesticides showing
that insecticides, herbicides and fungicides contain many disruptors
that are endangering the health of workers, their children and the wider
community even when used at low doses. And in February 2013, the United Nations put out a report establishing a
link between exposure to endocrine disruptors and the increase in
certain cancers (breast, testicular, prostate, thyroid, etc.), premature
births, diabetes and obesity.
Istas report Endocrine disruptors. Solutions to new challenges (2013); The UN report: State of the science of endocrine disrupting chemicals – 2012 (February 2013); The Inserm report (June 2013)
Trends in the use and release of carcinogens in Massachusetts
The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) has published a report showing that Massachusetts companies have dramatically reduced their use and environmental releases of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer. Over the last two decades, use of known or suspected carcinogens by Massachusetts industries reporting to the Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) program declined 32 percent while releases to the environment declined 93 percent, according to the new report. The report found, however, there is still significant room for progress. In 2010, over 300 million pounds of known or suspected carcinogens were used, and over 500,000 pounds were released to the environment.
A full copy or an executive summary of the report, Opportunities for Cancer Prevention: Trends in the Use and Release of Carcinogens in Massachusetts can be downloaded from the TURI website.
TCE exposure linked to increase risk of some cancers
Based on the findings of a new study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, trichloroethylene (TCE) exposure has possible links to increased liver cancer risk. Further, the relationship between TCE exposure and risks of cancers of low incidence and those with confounding lifestyle and other factors need further study.
TCE is a chlorinated dry-cleaning solvent and degreaser that has been widely used for approximately 100 years and has shown carcinogenicity in rodents. Previous epidemiologic studies have shown a reported increase in cancer risk in humans for the kidney, cervix, liver and biliary passages, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and oesophageal adenocarcinoma.
In order to determine the link between TCE exposure and increased cancer risk, Johnni Hansen, Ph.D., of the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre in Copenhagen, and colleagues examined a cohort of workers that had individual documentation for exposure to TCE in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, where the individuals were monitored for urinary TCE metabolite trichloroacetic acid during 1947-1989 and followed for cancer. The researchers found statistically significant elevated standardised incidence ratios for primary liver cancer and cervical cancer, but did not find a statistically significant risk of either non-Hodgkin lymphoma or oesophageal or kidney cancer.
In an accompanying editorial, Mark P. Purdue, Ph.D., of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute writes that there has been concern with workers exposed to TCE since the early 1970s and that even though it is now classified as a human carcinogen, further research is needed and safer options should be explored. 'Where possible, TCE should be substituted by safer alternative chemicals and/or emissions should be reduced. Conversion from conventional vapour degreasers to new low-emission equipment such as enclosed vapour degreasing systems can greatly reduce solvent exposures in the workplace, and aqueous cleaning systems may also be feasible alternatives in certain applications.'
Source: Science Daily, May 30, 2013
Whitehall study: Stress doubles risk of heart attack
The Whitehall study, a landmark long-term study of British public servants which began 18 years, has confirmed that people who feel highly stressed are twice as likely to die of a heart attack. The study found that even when assessed against other risk factors, the participants who described themselves as highly stressed suffered twice the rate of heart attacks - what it does not show, however, is what type of stress, whether it is continuous or intermittent, and whether it was measureable. Nevertheless, some of the 'messages' include the importance of physical exercise, the need for clinicians to be more mindful of patients' self-reported stress, and that workers over 45 should consider getting an annual heart check. Source: ABC's AM Program
WorkSafe Victoria newsletter: Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox includes an article by Steve Rocco, Plumbing Trades Union OHS Officer, on the latest WorkSafe guidance on ladder safety. WorkSafe has released a new guidance note, Prevention of falls in construction – Selection and safe use of portable ladders in response to a Coroner's recommendation following the fatality of a plumber who fell while working from a ladder. Since the previous edition of the newsletter, there were 53 notifiable incidents from the construction, utility and quarrying industries reported to WorkSafe. The incidents included 15 lacerations, five fractures, four electric shocks and a number of falls. Many of these incidents could have resulted in fatalities.
WorkSafe ACT: on-the-spot fines in construction
WorkSafe ACT inspectors will start issuing on-the-spot fines for safety breaches on construction sites in July. This is one of the outcomes following a 2012 damning report into the construction industry which found the ACT's serious injury rate was 31 per cent higher than the national average. The Government agreed to the report's recommendations which included on-the-spot fines.
Workplace Safety Minister Simon Corbell said 11 types of 'relatively straight forward, factual' safety breaches will be covered by the new fines. WorkSafe ACT has welcomed the new powers, saying employers could face on-the-spot fines of around $3,000.
WorkSafety commissioner Mark McCabe said construction companies can no longer gamble on work safety. "I think they knew it's only the very serious cases that are going to end up in court," he said. "They could roll the dice and just hope to get away with it basically."
Source: ABC online
Queensland: Quad bike fatality being investigated
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is currently investigating a fatal incident that occurred on 27 June 2013, involving a young female worker operating a quad bike at a rural property west of Charters Towers, North Queensland. The quad bike appears to have hit a stump, throwing the worker off. She was not wearing a helmet and received significant head injuries. The young woman was a seasonal/transient worker and had been employed for less than a month.
Quad bikes have caused multiple fatalities over the past few years. More information on Quad bikes:
- Quad bikes in Workplaces
- Use of helmets when operating quad bikes[pdf]
- Survive the ride - Quad bike safety for young workers [pdf]
Construction company fined over fatal fall
Melbourne buiding company Hansen Yuncken, has been fined $475,000 for failing to make the workplace safe at a site where a glazier fell eight metres to his death. County Court judge Mark Dean said supervisors of the worker should have known the ground underneath an elevated work platform was unstable before ne fell and suffered fatal injuries on September 16, 2010. The man was a sub-contractor for the firm when the platform he was working on toppled over at Jells Park Primary School in Wheelers Hill. Hansen Yuncken Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to provide a safe workplace. Judge Dean said, 'The access way adjacent to the school hall had not been properly constructed, but despite this the corporation allowed this knowing that it should not be so used.' Source: The Age
Fatality on docks: company fined $330,000
A transport company has been convicted and fined $330,000 following the death of an employee who was crushed by a falling metal beam at West Melbourne's docks. L. Arthur Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to two charges under the OHS Act (2004) of failing to provide a safe workplace for people other than its employees, and that of its own employees in Melbourne's County Court.
The company was occasionally engaged by P&O Automotive and General Stevedoring to move unusual and heavy cargo on and off ships at Appleton Dock. On 14 July 2010, two employees from L. Arthur and two employees from POAGS were using a gantry crane to unload a 27-tonne steel drum from a truck at the dock. The gantry crane was made up of two separate lifting rams, which were used to lift a central three-tonne metal beam. For safety reasons, the lifting rams, powered by diesel pump units connected by pressure hoses, had to be raised or lowered together to ensure the beam stayed level at all times. The lifting rams would not extend or retract without the pressure hoses being connected.
To allow the truck to position the steel drum underneath the crane, the pressure hoses from the rams on one unit were disconnected to avoid being damaged by the reversing truck. Disconnecting the hoses was a normal part of the system of work. However, the hoses were not reconnected before the crane was positioned above the drum. As there was no hydraulic power to one of the lifting rams, it did not lower when the crane began operating. But the other lifting ram did. As a result, the three-tonne steel beam slipped and fell on POAGS employee Steven Piper, killing him. The other three workers narrowly avoided being struck. WorkSafe Media Release
Dairy company fined after man injured in shredding machine
The Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Company Limited was convicted and fined $35,000 in Geelong Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty following an incident in which a worker had a finger severed in a cheese shredding machine.
On 7 August 2012, the worker was working on
a cheese line at the company's Allansford factory when he attempted to
unblock a cheese shredding machine. He was in the process of cleaning out the shredding machine when
he accidentally fell forward and his right shoulder connected with the
operating button of the cheese shredding machine. The man's hand became
caught and he suffered several injuries including the amputation of his
index finger. The
chute where the worker placed his hand did not have an interlock switch
fitted to prevent the machine starting when the chute was removed; and the company had failed to conduct an adequate hazard
identification risk assessment in relation to the shredding machine. WorkSafe's
Regional Director, Adam Rogers, said employers needed to understand the
potential risks of every machine in their operation if they were to
ensure the safety of their workers: 'Assessing the risks associated with dangerous machines, and then
dealing with those risks, is a fundamental requirement of employers.'
WorkSafe Media Release
Other Victorian prosecutions
There were a number of other prosecutions under the OHS Act or regulations:
- After pleading guilty, Bendigo Piling was fined $17,500 (plus costs) in the Echuca Magistrates Court, after a 946kg bridge railing component fell from the tines of a moving forklift and struck a worker, breaking the worker's leg in several places. The Court was told the employer usually required railing components to be moved by a mobile crane, but the forklift - which didn't have a lifting jib attachment - was being used at the time of the October 2011 incident instead.
- Also pleading guilty, WF Montague Pty Ltd was fined $15,000 (pluse costs) in the Castlemaine Magistrates Court, after an employee who was fitting a speed sensor to a tractor's trailer attachment, when it fell and trapped him, suffered serious arm injuries.
- The Moorabbin Magistrates Court imposed a six-month good behaviour bond on BDD Engineering Pty Ltd, and ordered it to pay more than $14,000 in costs, over an incident where three plumbers were injured when a canopy to which they were installing roofing collapsed. The court found that prior to the December 2010 incident, the company failed to ensure its engineering drawings for the canopy "sufficiently and clearly stipulated" the need to directly weld the canopy's cantilevered beam to a cast-in plate on the wall.
- Healy's Building Services Pty Ltd has entered a safety undertaking, and been ordered to pay almost $5000 in costs, over an incident where an apprentice was injured after falling during the construction of a residential premises in May 2012.
- An employer who failed to report a notifiable incident - hospitalisation of an employee after falling on hot water split in the cafe and sustaining serious burns - to WorkSafe has been placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond, and ordered to pay $4000 in costs. Van Loons Nursery Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to the offence in the Geelong Magistrates Court.
- In a surprising breach (given warnings in WorkSafe ads) the Melbourne Magistrates Court placed Haymisha Kosher Bakery Pty Ltd on a 12-month good behaviour bond, and ordered it to pay more than $3000 in costs, after a WorkSafe inspector observed in September 2012 an unguarded dough mixer at its premises.
- Lastly, in what may end in tragic consequences, a Geelong man who dismantled an asbestos shed and broke up asbestos sheets, with the help of his 12-year-old son, at a residential property in January this year was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond and pay $2022 in costs. The man was not licensed to perform asbestos removal work: consequently he probably put himself and his son at risk.
(Source: OHS Alert)
Bullied worker awarded $600,000 in damages
The Supreme Court of Victoria has awarded damages of almost $600,000 to a worker who developed a severe psychological condition from 'sustained workplace bullying' by her at times violently moody manager. In awarding this amount, Justice John Dixon found that between 2003 and 2007 the manager of the Monash Law Book Co-operative subjected the sales assistant to sustained intimidation, bullying and harassment. He found that Legibook (the operator of the store which sells discounted law books to students at Monash University) had taken no action and had unreasonably exposed the female part-time sales assistant to a hostile work environment that 'cumulatively broke her mental health'. He said that had action been taken in 2003, when the Board first knew of the situation through a letter sent by the worker, 'it is likely that the [sales assistant] would not have suffered any, or
any significant, psychological injury and that the [employer's]
negligence, as I have found it, was a cause of her injury, loss and
Source: WorkPlace Express
Record fine for South Australia Director
South Australia last week, the Magistrates Court fined an employer and
its director the highest OHS fines in that state's history, after the
fatality of a worker at the Adelaide desalination plant. The director's
fine will be paid by his insurance company, however, leading the judge
to criticise the director, and warn that officers could similarly dodge
penalties under the model WHS Act. Ferro Con (SA) Pty Ltd and director
Paulo Maione were fined $200,000 each (two-thirds of the maximum penalty
for a first offence) in the Magistrates Court, for breaching the now
repealed South Australian OHSW Act.
Ferro Con is in liquidation, and it seems Maione will pay no more than $10,000 in excess to his insurer (some of which he can claim back in tax), and $20,000 in compensation to the dead worker's family.
The fatality occurred in
July 2010, during construction of the desalination plant. The
35-year-old Ferro Con rigger was assisting a crane lift a 1.8-tonne
steel monorail beam onto the rafters of a building, when the soft slings
holding the beam snapped. The beam fell onto the worker's head, killing
him. A second rigger narrowly escaped injury when the beam struck and
destabilised the elevated work platform he was on.
Ferro Con and Maione were charged with OHSW breaches, and eventually pleaded guilty, after Maione unsuccessfully tried to convince SafeWork SA that his sister - who held a senior administrative role in a related company - was Ferro Con's "responsible officer" under the Act.
Source: OHSAlert. Read more: Safetyatworkblog comment Case: Hillman v Ferro Con (SA) Pty Ltd (in liquidation) and Anor  SAIRC 22 (27 June 2013)
European Union News
Health and safety at work: EU Commission launches belated consultation
On 31 May, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the new EU occupational safety and health policy framework. A recent European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) conference heard trade union representatives along with other stakeholders and policymakers venting their frustration at the Commission's foot-dragging over a new multi-annual health and safety strategy. Read more
Occupational diseases: European Commission releases comprehensive inventory
The European Commission published a report in early June on occupational diseases (OD) in 29 European countries relative to its 2003 recommendation on OD. The report focuses on a series of aspects: recognition, compensation, prevention, epidemiology, public awareness, statistics, etc. It also analyzes the positions of stakeholders (government, social partners, insurers, etc) and discusses emerging risks and good prevention practices.
The report suggests ways of improving the situation, such as: stepping up the exchange of information and experiences between countries on detection and compensation of OD, better reporting of information to the European Commission on the national lists of OD and national research programmes, better cooperation between the European Commission and different stakeholders (EU-OSHA, EUROSTAT, Eurofound, the Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work, etc), practical measures to be implemented in the Member States to improve the prevention and detection of OD. The report can be downloaded from this page of the ETUI website.
EU Commission issues easy-to-read guide on fragrance allergens
The European Commission has published an easy-to-read information sheet [pdf] on fragrance allergens. The Commission is expected to publish proposals very soon on such substances following a Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) opinion, which identified 54 chemicals and 28 natural extracts that are used in fragrances and can cause allergies in humans. There is a link on the sheet to a more detailed discussion of the issue.
FAO and ILO urge countries to better protect children working in fisheries and aquaculture
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) say that many children are exposed to harsh and hazardous working conditions that harm their health and learning abilities. The organisations have said that governments need to take measures to protect children from harmful work in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture.
According to a joint guidance document, almost every country has signed international conventions to protect children, but many have not translated these agreements into national legislation. As a result many children working in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture remain exposed to harsh and hazardous working conditions. They may have to dive to unsafe depths – often at night; work long hours in unsanitary processing plants where they are at risk of contracting infections; or handle toxic chemicals and dangerous equipment or gear. Girls working in fish processing depots are also at risk of sexual abuse. Read more: ILO Media Release Guidance on addressing child labour in fisheries and aquaculture [pdf 4.92MB]
China: polluted river causing increase in cancers
More than 200 villagers have died from cancer in the past 10 years in a village near a heavily polluted river in eastern Anhui Province in China. Villagers say the water in the river was crystal clear about 20 years ago, but it gradually became polluted, turning black and smelling foul. The village, with a population of 1,000, is one of a number of so-called "cancer villages" near the Huaihe River and its tributaries which have seen an increasing number of residents succumb to various cancers in the past decade. A recent report by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention found water pollution has led to the higher risk of cancer, and experts said it would be another 10 years, even with water quality improvements, before the incidence of cancer dropped to normal levels.
River quality has deteriorated rapidly as the local government tried to develop the region's economy with the introduction of a number of factories making paper, glass and chemical fertilizers. Pollutants from the factories were poured directly into the river, an official with the local environment protection bureau said. Read more: Shanghai Daily
USA: 19 firefighters killed in Arizona blaze
Arizona State forestry officials confirmed that 19 firefighters died in a 'wildifire' (bushfire) that ripped through the small town of Yarnell, on the weekend of June 29/30. Fire officials called it the deadliest wildfire ever in Arizona. Read more: Arizona Daily Star