July 19, 2013
This is the 262nd Edition of the VTHC's OHS Unit's SafetyNet Journal. Check it out to find out the latest in OHS news.
National Workers' Memorial Honour Roll
Senator Hon. Doug Cameron has written to the ACTU regarding the
establishment of the National Workers' Memorial Honour Roll. The Honour
Roll, which recently commenced accepting registrations, will record the
names of workers who have lost their lives as a result of work related
incidents and disease. Registration is voluntary.
The National Workers' Memorial Honour Roll forms part of the National Workers' Memorial in Canberra which was dedicated at a ceremony on 28 April 2013. The memorial is located in Kings Park in Canberra.
Senator Cameron has asked that the ACTU and affiliates publicise the National Workers' Memorial Honour Roll to officials and to the family and friends of any member of your union who lost their lives as a result of a work related incident or disease.
Fatality in Latrobe Valley
WorkSafe reports that a worker was killed on the morning of 12 July
after being hit by a falling branch at a logging coupe near Yinnar South
in the Latrobe Valley. It appears the branch fell on the worker while
he was felling a tree on Upper Middle Creek Road. The 38-year-old man
died at the scene. WorkSafe was undertaking an investigation on site.
The worker's death takes Victoria's workplace toll this year to 10,
compared to eight fatalities the same time last year.
Source: WorkSafe News
Victoria 'goes it alone'
Despite widespread concerns about asbestos in Victoria, including in a large number of schools, the Napthine government last week confirmed to The Age that it would not be signing up to the national plan, describing it as an 'ineffective Labor policy' and pointing out Victoria already had its own measures to tackle the problem. The VTHC has long been urging the government to actively participate in the national approach. The measures referred to are clearly not adequately protecting Victorian workers and the public. Read more: The Age
ACTU urges Victorian government to put politics aside
The ACTU has said the Napthine Government must put the safety of Victorians ahead of politics and sign up to a national plan designed to get rid of asbestos over the next two decades.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said Victoria's refusal to co-operate with the national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, which will oversee a national strategy to remove asbestos from all public buildings by 2030, would put lives at risk. 'The act to set up the ASEA was supported by all parties in the Federal Parliament, including the Coalition, because they recognised the need for a national attack on Australia's biggest workplace killer,' Mr Borowick said. 'Australia has an unenviable record of one of the world's highest rate of asbestos related diseases and a legacy of asbestos in many workplaces and buildings. In 2010, 642 Australians died from mesothelioma, and it is estimated that double that number died from lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Over the next 20 years, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Australians will be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
'The Victorian Government failed to make any submission to the national
inquiries into the establishment of the ASEA, and has now decided it
will be the only state not to sign up. 'They have been consulted
throughout the process and there is no reason why they should not sign
up,' he said, 'The last thing that Australians need is short-sighted
political squabbling, when the need for united action on asbestos is
Read more: ACTU Media Release Napthine must put politics aside and reduce asbestos death toll
Independent monitoring of NBN asbestos removal
Following much media coverage, it has been announced that fourteen monitors will be recruited around Australia to report to the independent Asbestos Taskforce, to check the removal and handling of asbestos in Telstra pits. This is aimed to verify that work on the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout that may involve asbestos-containing materials is conducted in a way that ensures the safety of employees, contractors, nearby residents and the general public.
The Taskforce was established by the Federal Government in June to monitor the ongoing activities of Telstra and prevent exposure. Telstra and NBN Co have been working with the Taskforce to enhance industry asbestos training packages for employees, contractors and subcontractors working in Telstra pits. Work on pits containing asbestos-containing materials will resume once that training has been completed.
Mesothelioma sufferer awarded $360K
The South Australian District Court has ordered BHP Billiton Ltd to pay a former worker, who now has mesothelioma, nearly $360,000, after rejecting the company's claim that in the early 1960s it didn't have 'actual knowledge' that low asbestos exposure was hazardous. Judge Helen Parsons found BHP breached its duty of care to the worker.
The 73-year-old former painter and docker worked on the PJ Adams vessel at the BHP-owned Whyalla Shipyards for 11 weeks in 1962. He spent approximately half his time in the engine room, handling asbestos-containing insulation, dry composition powder, slurry, pipe sections and rope. It was likely he was exposed to both amosite and chrysotile fibres. After being diagnosed with mesolthelioma in 2011, the worker claimed damages, arguing his work with BHP caused the disease, that BHP breached its duty of care to him, in failing to take steps to protect him from asbestos exposure and failing to warn him of the risk to his health.
BHP conceded that in 1962 it had 'actual knowledge' that asbestos was 'a
general industrial hazard in the sense that sufficient exposure to
asbestos was capable of giving rise to a risk of asbestosis', but
claimed the worker's exposure was 'intermittent and low', and that it
didn't know, at the time, that such exposure placed him to risk. The
Court found BHP was negligent, saying it should have taken measures to
reduce the risk, and awarded the worker $358,151 in past and future
medical expenses and other damages.
Source: OHSAlert Van Soest v BHP Billiton Ltd  SADC 81 (17 June 2013)
Asbest: Toxic town in Russia
A recent article in The New York Times illustrates the on-going tragic legacy of asbestos. Asbest, a city of about 70,000 people on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains, is full of the deadly substance. Residents say layers of asbestos collect on their living room floors, and having to shake out the asbestos from their laundry before they take it in from backyard lines. The town is one centre of Russia's asbestos industry, resistant to shutting asbestos companies and phasing in substitutes. Every afternoon miners set explosions in a strip mine owned by the Russian mining company Uralasbest. The blasts send huge plumes of asbestos fibres and dust into the air. Asbest is one of the more extreme examples of the environmental costs of modern Russia's deep reliance on mining. Source: Above the Fold. Read more: The New York Times: City in Russia Unable to Kick Asbestos Habit
Hi Renata. Are "A" frame Extension ladders acceptable to use on construction sites? These type of ladders are industrial rated to min 120kg.
In February 2012, the Victorian Coroner made a number of recommendations following the death of a PTEU member at a construction site after he fell from a ladder. As a result of these recommendations, in June 2013 WorkSafe issued a Guidance Note Prevention of falls in construction - selection and use of laddersThe Guidance Note states:
'Portable ladders are one of the least stable but most commonly used tools for working at heights. Unlike passive fall prevention devices (eg scaffolding, EWPs or guardrails), portable ladders typically require users to be more vigilant about the risk of falling when working at heights.
Before choosing to use a ladder, you must identify whether a ladder offers the highest level of protection that is reasonably practicable. This is performed by following the hierarchy of control for prevention of falls.' (according to the hierarchy as specified in the Prevention of Falls chapter in the regulations).
The union also developed guidance on the safe use of portable ladders, including a poster and Safe Work Method Statement.
In conclusion, portable ladders (including A frame ladders) should only
be used if the work cannot be done from the ground, from an EWP
(Elevated Work Platform), a scaffold or a work platform.
See these pages for more information: What are the rules and regulations? Working from Heights; and Ladders
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.
HSR wins in important decision
In May of this year, the Federal Court found Visy Packaging Pty Ltd had taken 'adverse action' against an HSR because he exercised his workplace right to "tag" two defective forklifts, even though less than two months previously the company had urged employees to adopt a 'zero tolerance' approach to unsafe practices. In dismissing Visy's claim that it lawfully suspended and then issued a final warning to the HSR because of his 'unsatisfactory conduct' in meetings on the forklift issue, Justice Bernard Murphy said employers must accept that such meetings 'potentially involve disagreement'. He added, 'In my opinion, actions taken by a health and safety representative in asserting a particular position on a health and safety issue should not lightly be treated as constituting uncooperative or obstructive conduct.' The HSR's union, the AMWU, took the case to the Court on behalf of their member. Automotive, Food, Metals, Engineering, Printing and Kindred Industries Union v Visy Packaging Pty Ltd (No 3)  FCA 525 (29 May 2013)
Workplace bullying rife
The ACTU has called for the proposed Codes of Practice on workplace bullying to be strengthened and combined with regulation which makes it a responsibility of employers to provide a bullying-free workplace. ACTU president Ged Kearney said that workplace bullying caused long-term mental and emotional damage to victims and cost the economy upwards of $6 billion each year.
In a submission to Safe Work Australia on its draft Code of Practice for workplace bullying, the ACTU said it supported the establishment of a Code of Practice, but that regulation was also required to tackle bullying. 'Workplace bullying damages lives, and it should be treated in the same way as other workplace hazards,' Ms Kearney said. 'Employers are required by law to provide a safe workplace, and this should include acting to prevent bullying. A strong workplace culture is the best way to stop bullying, but this can only occur if employers' responsibilities are clearly outlined in regulation.
'It is not good enough to treat bullying as isolated incidents or 'personality clashes, employers must recognise that bullying is often a product of the culture they create in the workplace. Workplace bullying can come in many forms, including social media, emails, initiation rites and practical jokes.'
The ANF, in its submission, agreed that the code should include
initiation rites, malicious practical jokes and repeated criticism in
front of colleagues. The AMWU says the code needs to recognise that
there is a higher risk of bullying in workplaces undergoing
restructuring, for example. The AMWU makes the point that bullying is
linked to workplace conditions, and suggesting otherwise is perpetuating
a myth that bullying behaviour is a matter of 'bad apple' individuals.
'In some workplaces there is an entrenched managerial style which
validates bullying behaviour as the way to interact. Lack of recognition
or denial of these cultures and the unwillingness of regulators to
challenge these practices mean that in some sectors bullying behaviours
become the norm.'
ACTU Media Release The Australian
Unions and representatives linked to worker health and economic growth
A data analysis of 31 European countries has revealed that greater union density promotes worker health and national productivity. Professor Maureen Dollard and Daniel Neser from the Centre for Applied Psychological Research at the University of South Australia, found the data demonstrated that national levels of worker health were positively linked to a country's gross domestic product.
The authors began with the proposition that work stress is recognized globally as a social determinant of worker health, and explored whether work stress related factors explained national differences in health and productivity (gross domestic product [GDP]). They combined five different data sets canvassing 31 wealthy European countries. They found the most important factors explaining worker self-reported health and GDP between nations were two levels of labor protection, macro-level (union density), and organizational-level (psychosocial safety climate [PSC], that is the extent of management concern for worker psychological health).
Presenting at the 10th Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference in Perth on July 5, they authors said, 'Union density likely influences workplace union activity and increases government labour policy enforcement above the role of health and safety committees.' They also noted that worker representation could 'alter and shape work conditions' that impact the health of the workforce. They concluded: 'The results suggest worker health is good for the economy, and should be considered in national health and productivity accounting. Eroding unionism may not be good for worker health or the economy either.'
Maureen Dollard and Daniel Neser: Worker health is good for the economy: Union density and psychosocial safety climate as determinants of country differences in worker health and productivity in 31 European countries Science Direct [abstract] Source: Occupational Health News & Workforce Daily
CFMEU Mining and Energy decries Pike River Coal payouts
It was announcement last week that the Pike River Coal Limited should
pay fines of NZ$760,000 and compensation payments of $110,000 for each
of the families of the 29 victims, and the two survivors of the November
2010 mine explosion. However, as the company is now in receivership,
the CFMEU's 's mining and energy general secretary, Andrew Vickers, has
said that families could receive as little as $5,000: 'pathetic'
compensation. He said that this was yet another reminder that mining
companies shouldn't be allowed to write their own safety rules or try to
get rid of union safety roles. Deregulation of New Zealand's mining
industry was blamed for much of the disaster.
Sources: CFMEU Mining and Energy U-News; Workplace OHS; ABC News
Following this news, NZ mining union EPMU has called for the introduction of a corporate manslaughter law. Ged O'Connell, EPMU assistant national secretary, said a law change is needed to ensure those responsible for workplace deaths can be held to account. 'It is a matter of public record that the people running Pike River Coal put production over the safety of their workforce, leading directly to the deaths of 29 men. Given the gravity of the offence and the very real impact on families, a hefty penalty and reparations was the only appropriate sentence. However, there is little justice in sentencing a shell company that is now in receivership. Families of the men who died at Pike River have every right to demand those responsible for this tragedy are held to account. EPMU Media release
International Union News
New bulletin on heat from the TUC
Even though we are currently shivering in the middle of what seems to be a cold winter, we can be sure that once summer comes around, many workers will be suffering in overheated workplaces. The UK's peak union council, the TUC, has released a new bulletin on Heat for health and safety reps which looks at what the law says about temperature in the workplace and the recommended temperatures for different types of working environment. It can be downloaded, as a pdf, from this page of the TUC website.
Exposure to exhaust fumes increases risk of heart disease
Researchers in the US who examined the association of increasing years of work in jobs with vehicle exhaust exposure and death due to ischaemic heart disease (IHD) compared with members of the general US population found elevated risk after one year for dockworkers, long haul drivers, pick-up and delivery drivers, combination workers, hostlers, and shop workers. There was also a suggestion of an increased risk of IHD mortality with increasing years of work as a long haul driver, pick-up and delivery driver, combination worker, and dockworker.
Jaime E Hart, et al: Ischaemic heart disease mortality and years of work in trucking industry workers Occup Environ Med 2013;70:523-528 doi:10.1136/oemed-2011-100017 [abstract]
Online Notification for asbestos removals
Under the requirements of the Asbestos chapter of the Regulations, a person must hold a license to operate as an asbestos removalist and remove
- any amount of friable asbestos; or
- greater than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos; or
- non-friable asbestos that will take you more than 1 hour in total in a 7 day period
Before removing asbestos, a licensed asbestos removalist must notify WorkSafe in writing. The time frames associated with the notifications are:
- at least 5 days before commencing removal for a) friable asbestos removal jobs and b) non-friable asbestos removal jobs that involve removing greater than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos
- at least 24 hours before commencing removal for non-friable asbestos removal jobs that are less than 10 square metres in total
- within 24 hours of commencing an asbestos removal job if the asbestos removal job is classed as an unexpected situation as per regulation 4.3.98 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007.
WorkSafe has now implemented an online notification facility. Go to this page for more information.
WorkSafe Safety Soapbox
WorkSafe has this week sent out its e-newsletter: Safety Soapbox. The newsletter has an article on the successful trial of certain protective gloves by the Master Plumbers', and items on preventing structural collapse, a new safety ladder poster from the Plumbers' union, and more. Since the previous edition, 44 incidents from the construction, utility and quarrying industries were reported to WorkSafe. The incidents included 17 lacerations, four fractures and one electric shock. Causes of the incidents include falls from heights, gas escapes and fires. Several of these incidents could have easily resulted in more serious injuries or even fatalities. The list can be downloaded from the newsletter.
Seminar: Return to work for workers with knee injuries and worker return to work compliance
WorkSafe is running another free Workshop for Return to Work (RTW) Coordinators which will provide 'practical tips and information' from industry expert Dr Shaun Salimi, GP and Medical Advisor for Xchanging whose presentation will focus on the practicalities of assisting workers with knee injuries to return to work. Following the presentation, there will be the opportunity for further discussion with other experts in the field. The event will take place on Tuesday 6 August, 9.00 am - 11.30 am at the Werribee Function Centre, Werribee Racecourse, 2 Bulban Rd, Werribee. Registration is essential - register here
Safe Work Australia news
Almost 90 workplace fatalities in Australia this year
As at 5 July, eighty-eight Australian workers have been killed this calendar year, according to the latest figures from Safe Work Australia.
In terms of industry, transport, postal & warehousing has accounted for the most work-related deaths (23) in 2013, followed by agriculture, forestry & fishing (20); construction (13); manufacturing (8); arts & recreation services (6) and mining (4). Safe Work Australia has a webpage dedicated to worker fatality figures, which provides regular updates.
Also released this week: Comparison of Workers' Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand (2013) The publication aims to provide all stakeholders with information to assist them in understanding workers' compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand. All information in this edition of the Comparison is correct as at 30 September 2012.
A related publication, Safe Work Australia's 2013 National Return to Work Survey has found that in 2012/13, nearly nine in 10 (87%) injured workers (who had been absent from work and received a workers' comp payment within six months prior to the survey period) had returned to work "at some time" since sustaining their injury or illness. This is three percentage points higher than last year, but the return-to-work rates in Victoria (84%) and South Australia (82%) were below the national average.
- From WorkSafe Victoria:
- A new Safety Alert: Patient handling – Portable hoists with sling attachments. The alert was issued when a resident at an aged care facility was seriously injured after an incident involving a portable hoist with a sling attachment. The resident was being transported to the shower in a sling when the four sling clips attached to the hoist failed, causing the resident to fall. The aged care facility was unable to determine the age of the sling or its last test date.
- Update of Lead at Work - guidance which provides information for employees on exposure to lead at work, the health effects of lead and monitoring to ensure acceptable blood lead levels.
- From Transport Safety Victoria
Home insulation fatalities: potential prosecutions
Two company directors and a supervisor could be prosecuted over the
deaths of three young workers during the Federal Government's
home-insulation scheme, under recommendations made by the Queensland
Coroner who reported on the deaths of three young workers who were
electrocuted while installing roof insulation in that state.
The three companies which employed the workers have already been fined over the incidents: QHI Installations Pty Ltd was fined $100,000, and its executive officer was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond; Arrow Property Maintenance Pty Ltd was fined $135,000; and Titan Insulation Pty Ltd was fined $100,000.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the deaths, stating he was 'deeply sorry for what [has] occurred and of course I apologise for these deaths given that it was a Government program'. He added, 'I also note what the Coroner had to say about the culpability of individual firms as well'. It should not be forgotten that under the various state/territory occupational health and safety acts, the primary duty lies with the employer.
Source: OHS Alert
Employer fined for incident notification and preservation breaches
Victorian employer Bynet Pty Ltd was fined $2500 (without conviction),
and ordered to pay more than $2400 in costs, in the Ballarat Magistrates
Court, for failing to report a notifiable incident to WorkSafe. The
company pleaded guilty to breaching sections 38 and 39 of the State OHS
Act - in failing to contact WorkSafe or preserve an incident site -
after a worker's hand was injured by a panel saw blade in October last
Source: OHS Alert
EU: Managing the risks of nanomaterials in the workplace
EU-OSHA has released e-facts on the risk management tools available for nanomaterials at work, and more specific advice about preventing exposure to nanomaterials in healthcare and maintenance work. Subscribers will be aware of nanomaterials which EU-OSHA says 'are small particles with big potential, but the concerns about their potential hazards to health and safety are equally big.' Already many workplaces are using, handling and processing nanomaterials – though in many cases, the workers are not aware of it, even though particular care regarding the risk management of these materials in the workplace should and must be taken.
Canada: 'Deplorable' rail boss blames others for blast
The owner of a rail firm with a poor safety record whose train exploded
seriously damaging a Canadian community in a disaster which may have
caused up to 60 deaths has attempted to shift the blame to the train
driver and the emergency responders. On 5 June the train, carrying 72
cars of crude oil from the US, was parked in the town of Quebec town of
Nantes, about 11km from Lac-Megantic. Firefighters who put out a fire
reportedly shut down a locomotive that had apparently been left running
to keep the brakes engaged. Shortly afterwards the driverless train
began moving downhill in an 18-minute journey, gathering speed until it
ploughed into the busy downtown district of Lac-Megantic and exploded.
Edward Burkhardt, the president and CEO of US-based rail freight firm
Rail World Inc, said he did not believe the train driver had set a
series of hand brakes, despite the engineer's protestations. 'I think he
did something wrong,' he said. He had earlier suggested firefighters
shared some blame. 'We don't have total responsibility, but we have
partial responsibility,' he told reporters. Quebec premier Pauline
Marois called the behaviour of both the company and its boss as
'deplorable.' The site of the blast has been declared a 'crime scene'.
The type of tank cars used by the firm has been the subject of safety
warnings, but rail firms had resisted making the safety retrofits
requested by regulators. Over the past decade, the firm has recorded a
higher accident rate than the rest of the US rail fleet, according to
data from the Federal Railroad Administration. In the last year, the
railroad had 36.1 accidents per million miles travelled, in comparison
to a national average of 14.6 accidents.
Source: Risks 613
Japan: Toxic radiation found at Fukishima plant
Toxic radioactive substances have once again been detected in
groundwater at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, its Japanese
operator says, the latest in a series of incidents at the
tsunami-battered complex. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said that
tests showed that tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used in
glow-in-the-dark watches, was present at levels 10 times the permitted
'From test samples on July 5 ... we detected a record high 600,000 becquerels per litre of tritium, 10 times higher than the government guideline of 60,000 becquerels per litre', TEPCO said in a statement. 'We continue efforts to prevent further expansion of contamination by construction works ... and will strengthen monitoring of pollution comprehensively,' it said.
Read more: The Sydney Morning Herald
International Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh
A new initiative between the Government of Bangladesh, the European
Union and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) gives full backing
to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. In a joint
statement to launch the new EU Compact, EU Commissioner Karel de Gucht,
ILO Director General Guy Ryder, and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dupi
Moni said, '(We) welcome the fact that over 70 major fashion and retail
brands sourcing RMG from Bangladesh have signed an Accord on Fire and
Building Safety to coordinate their efforts to help improve safety in
Bangladesh's factories which supply them. In this context, they
encourage other companies, including SMEs, to join the Accord
expeditiously within their respective capacities.'
IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina welcomed this new endorsement, 'As we reach another important milestone in the Bangladesh Accord, reaching the end of the first 45-day implementation process, we welcome this further high-profile endorsement. The EU is late to the game but it has an essential role in the work to make the Bangladeshi garment industry safe. Every day more companies sign the Accord. The new Compact recognizes the urgency of more companies signing the Accord and broadening the coalition to the benefit of Bangladeshi workers.' It has already been backed by over 80 global brands from 15 countries.
Read more: Industriall News Release
Last week retailers Walmart and Gap introduced what global union IndustriALL has labelled a sham and 'a pale imitation' of the successful union brokered Bangladesh fire and safety accord. The global unions said the Walmart and Gap alternative launched this week was 'another toothless corporate auditing programme for Bangladesh factory safety'. They say unlike the Accord, the Walmart/Gap initiative is unclear on enforceability and there is no commitment from the brands to stay in Bangladesh, nor is there full transparency.