SafetyNet 263: August 2, 2013
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet. It is the first one we are sending from our newly refurbished site. Another new feature: OHS Reps @ Work is now on Twitter! Sign up for updates by following @OHSreps on Twitter and tweet us about OHS issues that might interest you!
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
Brian Boyd: The Scrouge of the asbestos
legacy in our workplaces
'Key parts of the union movement for a long time have campaigned for "asbestos free workplaces". Australian unions in certain industries have fought particularly hard to firstly win recognition of the inherent OHS dangers of asbestos products in the workplace and secondly to convince employers that it should be safely eradicated from workplaces where it exists,' writes VTHC Secretary Brian Boyd, on the VTHC website. He outlines the history of union activities in Victoria, which led to one of the first industry licensing arrangements in the country, and eventually regulation. However, he says, 'More than 30 years on, the battle to tackle the industrial asbestos legacy continues.' Read more: VTHC website
ACTU applauds increased funding for Asbestos
Michael Borowick, ACTU Assistant Secretary welcomed the Hon Bill Shorten MP, Minister for Workplace Relations announcement of an additional $6.4 million for the new Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to implement the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management (developed in consultation with state and territory governments, unions, industry, researchers, community support groups and others and accessible here). Mr Borowick commented on the horrific death toll of asbestos in Australia, saying 'The funding will go towards reducing future deaths from asbestos-related disease with another 30-40,000 people expected to be diagnosed in the next 20 years.' He added, 'Unions have campaigned for decades about the dangers and have successfully banned it from Australia and helped secure long term compensation for people affected by asbestos-related disease…. The plan aims to identify and grade all asbestos by 2018, including getting all asbestos out of government buildings by 2030. This is what unions and the Australian people want: safe homes, safe workplaces and safe communities.'
This point has somehow been missed by the Master Builders Australia chief executive, Wilhelm Harnisch who, while commending the extra funding, makes the reckless claim that the Plan 'will create unnecessary risks to workers and the public involved in the process' and that asbestos should be left undisturbed.
Seven out of the eight state and territory governments are supporting the development of the Plan. Both the ACTU and the VTHC again call on the Napthine Government to join every other Australian government and sign up to the Strategic Plan. The Agency commenced on July 1, and has produced a Factsheet on Asbestos Safety – this and future factsheets can be downloaded from this page of the Agency's site. Minister Shorten's media release; ACTU Media Release
National Asbestos Hotline
The Comcare asbestos hotline provides information and advice on asbestos related concerns :1800 888 468 Monday to Friday between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm (AEST). Comcare will investigate the report and advise the person making the report of the outcome. Comcare will take enforcement action if there is any breach of work health safety laws within the federal jurisdiction. If the incident relates to a state or territory jurisdiction Comcare will refer the matter to the relevant work, health and safety regulator.
The Agency also administers the first National Asbestos Exposure Register. The register captures the details of members of the community who think they may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials (ACMs).
Mesothelioma treatment hope increases
As reported in past editions of SafetyNet , Australian scientists at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute have developed a treatment which has shown remarkable results in tests on mice with malignant mesothelioma taken from humans. Institute director Professor Nico van Zandwijk and his team are preparing to test the treatment on humans. First stage trials start at the end of the year and will determine the optimal and safe dose. While not wishing to raise false hope, Professor van Zandwijk says he is cautiously optimistic the treatment will work. Source: The Age
Home Show - Thursday 15th - Sunday 18th August 2013
Once again this year, Asbestoswise, the non-profit asbestos diseases advocacy group, will be at the 'Herald Sun Home Show' at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Anyone who is renovating or making home improvements should make sure they visit the Asbestoswise stall to get information on asbestos – too often DYI renovations reveal this long-hidden but still deadly fibre.
Small fines for unlicensed removal
In fines which are barely a slap on the wrist, two men - Frank Szocs and Steven Szocs - have been fined $2000 and $1000 respectively in the Geelong Magistrates Court, after pleading guilty to performing unlicensed asbestos removal work at a residential premise in Norlane in November 2012. Both men were convicted and ordered to pay $1590 each in costs. Such fines do little to discourage what can be lucrative, but potentially deadly, work. Licensed asbestos removalists in Victoria, as well as unions, have urged WorkSafe to increase prosecutions of companies flouting the asbestos regulations, action which puts the public and workers in danger of being exposed to asbestos fibres. Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries
Telstra taking appropriate action on
Comcare has advised the independent Asbestos Taskforce that it is satisfied appropriate actions are being taken by Telstra in relation to the asbestos in its telecommunication pits. The Taskforce was established by the Federal Government in June to monitor the ongoing activities of Telstra and the NBN and prevent exposure to asbestos (see SafetyNet 262), following reports that work on the NBN had disturbed asbestos contained in the company's pits. Its members include representatives from Telstra, NBN Co, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Comcare, industry unions, asbestos community support groups and health and safety experts.
Telstra will only be permitted to resume work on contaminated pits when staff have completed an approved training package to ensure the safe removal and handling of asbestos. Source: WorkplaceOHS
warning on asbestos in temporary power boards
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has warned builders to check their power boards, noting 'Using and reusing temporary power boards on poles on construction sites is a regular practice. However, if components of the switchboard or cabinet contain asbestos, the temporary power board can not be re-used or moved from site to site, and must be decommissioned and safely disposed of. ' Read more: eSafe Construction News. Builders urged to check their temporary power boards for asbestos
thousands to miss out on compensation
Campaigners fighting for compensation for asbestos victims have warned the UK government that thousands of people would be denied justice if the new Mesothelioma Bill is not strengthened. To date, many mesothelioma sufferers have been unable to receive compensation from former employers due to inability to trace them or their insurers.
However the new legislation, which passed through the UK House of Lords last week, will allow compensation to those who were negligently exposed to asbestos but cannot trace the employer or the company's insurer through a scheme funded by a levy on current insurers. The Bill will award 70 per cent compensation pay-outs to around 300 victims of diffuse mesothelioma every year. However, only those diagnosed on or after July 25 2012 are covered by the compensation scheme. The Bill also excludes half of all asbestos victims - those suffering with asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. Experts estimate up to 25,000 victims could be denied full justice because they will fail to meet the criteria in the Bill. Read more: Morning Star online The Express UK
Ford Violates OSHA Asbestos Safety
Standards at Buffalo
The Ford Motor Company is facing nearly US$41,000 fines for violations to the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OHSA] health standards at the company's Buffalo, New York plant. Among the eight 'serious' violations to OSHA's code by Ford are allegations that employees were exposed to asbestos while on the job. Further, the company did not supply employees with adequate respiratory protection, did not separate out asbestos-related work, nor 'manage access to areas where asbestos was being handled.' The fines seem very low for such a large company. Read more: Mesothelioma.com
Can you tell me whether there are any recommended or prescribed water temperatures for hot water taps in the workplace (in amenities and kitchen areas)?
There is nothing specific in OHS law, other than under the general duty of care an employer must ensure that the working environment is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Having scalding water coming out of hot water taps in the amenities or kitchen would create a risk of injury, and so is an issue that must be considered.
However, there is legislation in Victoria which requires licensed plumbers/gasfitters to ensure that the temperature of water from the bath, shower and basin hot water taps must not exceed 50 degrees.
The following is from a Victorian government publication:
'In August 1998 the Victorian Government passed legislation, which is aimed at eliminating the risk of legionella bacteria forming in storage hot water services and preventing scalding at hot water outlets used for bathing. This means hot water for commercial use must be stored at a minimum temperature of 60 degrees to kill legionella bacteria and reduces to at least 50 degrees at the water outlets to prevent scalding.'
Please send any OHS related queries in to 'Ask Renata' - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can, within a couple of days at the latest.
Public Sector cuts exact toll on mental health
Continued cuts in frontline services could lead to a flood of workplace psychological injuries as staff bear the brunt of increased workloads and customer anger. The Commonwealth's largest department, Human Services, which administers Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support, is most at risk, according to CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood.
'Under-resourced staff are copping increased levels of abuse and aggression from customers who are frustrated at having to wait so long,' says Ms Flood, who addressed the issue of the cost of dealing with workplace psychological injuries in a keynote speech this week in Sydney. In the past three years Human Services has shed 4100 staff and yet, says the union, in Centrelink alone staff are answering a million extra calls a year.
'We are hearing of more cases of members undergoing severe anxiety and stress because they are subject to these torrents of abuse,' says Ms Flood. "Staff cuts mean there are fewer people doing more work and the pressure by staff at the coalface is intensifying. Human Services staff are on the frontline every day and they are often doing difficult and demanding work that affects their mental health. Roles are not being replaced and yet the work keeps piling on. The continued rise in customer aggression and abuse towards staff only exacerbates the situation.' CPSU Media Release
School principals stressed and bullied
Recent research conducted by Dr Philip Riley from Monash University - the Australian Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey – has found that school principals are at higher risk of actual and potential violence than the general population, and that government school principals in large towns and rural locations are most at risk. The Survey also found that principals' overall mental health scores were just less than the general population.
2005 principals across Australia were surveyed, resulting in a number of recommendations, including the establishment of an independent task force to investigate adult–adult bullying and violence in schools. Dr Riley suggests that each school system (government, catholic, independent) should be investigated separately, so as to establish whether principals in particular systems are most at risk, and also to establish 'whether/how the risk also extends to teachers and students'.
Other recommendations include systematic attention to the professional learning of principals (and presumably teachers) in the emotional aspects of their roles and the emotional investment of parents in their children, and provision of in-service education on the 'emotional aspects of teaching, learning, organizational function, emotional labour, dealing with difficulties and conflicts in the workplace, employee assistance programs, debriefing self and others.' Source: WorkplaceOHS
Growth figures support claim workers working harder
Many unions, not only the CPSU, have raised concerns about the increasing pressures faced by workers to work harder, longer and more intensively – increasing the risk of psychosocial injuries. SafetyAtWorkBlogger Kevin Jones, this week discussed an article in The Weekend Australian (July 27/28) which states: 'On the measure of labour productivity, which captures the output of each worker, productivity growth is in fact soaring, hitting 3.4 per cent in 2011-12. But on the broader measure, which includes the use business makes of capital equipment, growth is still a negligible 0.1 per cent and has declined on average 0.7 per cent a year ever since Labor was elected.'
As Jones points out, a 3.4 per cent increase is huge – yet employers and government departments want more and more with often fewer workers (see item above). While there have been many changes in the labour market, including increasing levels of casualisation and part-time work, these would seem to make this increase even more astounding. Perhaps a further contributing factor has been the decrease in unionisation, and a corresponding decrease in the ability of workers to maintain their conditions. At the same time, action taken by industry is barely contributing to growth.
Read more: SafetyAtWorkBblog Labour productivity is "soaring" in a period of IR/OHS variability
Sacked dock workers claim stevedoring company unsafe
According to a number of workers, the company they worked for, Qube stevedoring forces their workers to manage unsafe machinery, breathe in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide while in confined spaces and are then threatened when they raise safety concerns. The workers, their families and supporters gathered outside Melbourne's Station Pier on Sunday morning, following an earlier protest Friday night, to raise concerns about worker safety. A spokesman for the ''community assembly'' said, 'Workers have refused to do dangerous work and subsequently they've been sacked. Their family and friends are very upset … and have been voicing their anger and frustration at the company by having a peaceful assembly here.' The dock area around Station Pier was 'historically unsafe', and 'a lot of heavy machinery [is] moving around … in a confined space', he said. 'A lot of workplace practices have led to tragic injuries.' Source: The Age
WA Unions attack State Government following increase in injuries
After the latest figures revealed that the number of serious work injuries as well as compensation claims for "severe incidences", UnionsWA has attacked the WA State Government over its delay in adopting the national model occupational health and safety laws.
UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat criticised the government after the release of preliminary workers' compensation data that showed a rise in the number and rate of claims lodged for injuries in which workers were forced off work for 60 or more days. According to the 2011-12 figures, which include claims awaiting finalisation, 5350 compensation bids were made for injuries requiring 60 or more days off work, compared with 4569 in 2010-11. The number of fatalities has declined however. Ms Hammat welcomed the declines but said more had to be done to address serious workplace injury. 'The number and rate of very serious work injuries . . . is now higher in WA than at any time in the past five years,' she said. 'This is a cost to industry through workers' compensation, but more importantly people are often left with lifelong disability and a loss of livelihood.'
But is the criticism
a little unfair and is there a 'leap in logic' that may not be valid? Kevin
Jones, of SafetyAtWorkBlog thinks so, commenting that the figures need
questioning, as does the conclusion that introducing the WHS laws will
necessarily lead to better outcomes.
Read more: Perth Now.com.au The West Australian Union blasts safety laws delay SafetyAtWorkblog WA unions looking for the WHS pot of gold
Dioxins and pesticides
Last week the ABC's Four Corners program, Chemical Time Bomb which revealed that some pesticides currently in use in Australia had much higher than expected levels of the deadly carcinogen dioxin present as a contaminant.
The APVMA is seeking to minimise community concerns, for example stating, "The presence of dioxins in a pesticide may not constitute a health risk. The exposure assessment is based on the uses that are permitted, how the user applies the product and is exposed to the pesticide. If that worker exposure, combined with other sources of exposure, is below the health limit, then there is no regulatory concern."
What they neglect to say is that exposure is also determined by the level of the contaminant in the product. The tests as reported in the ABC program revealed surprisingly high levels of dioxins in some of the pesticides tested. The fact is that the APVMA does not test the products, relies on manufacturers/importers to supply it with this information, and consequently is not necessarily aware contaminant levels. Furthermore, while the statement that "The levels of dioxins in the Australian population are low by international standards" may be true*, workers who use large quantities of pesticides are at a much higher risk of exposure, and so their levels are potentially much higher.
* A SafetyNet subscriber asked: "How does the APVMA know the levels in Australia are low by international standards? As far as I am aware, there is no general monitoring of chemical levels in our bloodstream."
International Union News
workers sweltering – unions campaign for temperature controls
In what has been an extremely hot summer in the UK, unions have been campaigning for a maximum workplace temperature. The latest edition of Risks reports the campaign has been given added impetus after reports of workers falling sick in sweltering offices. Risks reports a railway ticket office was forced to close temporarily after inside temperatures hit a 'dizzying 90 Fahrenheit' (32 celsius). The public sector union UNISON says overheated workers have been fainting in poorly designed offices.. Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, said: 'Whilst the summer heat is sure to be temporary, some people have to work in searing temperatures on a regular basis, due to poor insulation, no air conditioning or ventilation. These high temperatures have a really damaging impact on health - making people tired, ill and dehydrated. Without the backing of a legal limit on temperatures at work, some employers choose not to take action to protect their employees. This is why we need the government to act to set a maximum working temperature.' Commenting on the decision to shutdown the rail ticket office until temporary air conditioning units were installed, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: 'You couldn't make this up. We have Network Rail spending hundreds of millions on re-building a station which is used by more than 30 million passengers a year. And they forget to install air conditioning for ticket office staff working in offices on the lower ground floor under a giant shopping centre. Our members are then expected to work in temperatures of over 90 degrees while bosses on the floor above them sit around in the cool of their air conditioned offices.'
TUC Safety Bulletin: Temperature Source: Risks 615
Massive exploitation of workers in palm
oil plantations in Indonesia
Palm oil plantations are hugely profitable industries in both Malaysia and Indonesia. While the environmental issues of such plantations are widely known, the abuse of workers in these plantations is less well known. While a few years ago a report exposed the terrible conditions for workers in Malaysia, a recent report has exposed the widespread use of child labour, bonded labour, trafficking of people and abysmal health and safety conditions in Indonesia's palm oil plantations. Source: AAWL Mini news
Decline in work safety checks is 'not acceptable'
A Scottish Labour MP as said the dramatic decline in the number of workplace safety inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Scotland 'is shocking' and 'unacceptable'. The new inspection figures come after official statistics released this month revealed there had been a sharp rise in workplace fatalities in Scotland. Glasgow MP Ann McKechin, who obtained the inspection figures, said: 'It's shocking to see such complacency on the part of the government, given the number of deaths and injuries in Scotland's workplaces. Everyone who goes to work in the morning is entitled to get home safely. Workplace deaths in the construction and agriculture industries remain too high, but the number of inspections has seen steep decline.' She added: 'The government should urgently address the drop in inspections, and should reconsider its decision to stop proactively inspecting farms. Safety at work should never be the victim of cost cutting exercises.' Statistics obtained in a parliamentary written answer show the number of HSE inspections in Scotland fell from 3,579 in 2010/11, to 2,787 last year. In the agricultural sector - which is one of the 37 sectors exempted by HSE from preventive unannounced inspections - inspections dropped from 289 in 2010/11, to 96 the following year and just 90 last year. In construction, the fall was from 1,707 in 2010/11 to 986 the next year and 958 last year. Source: Risks 615
Herbicides linked to farmer depression
Farmers using herbicides were more than twice as likely to be treated for depression as farmers who do not use them, according to a new study in France. While it was not clear whether the weedkillers are causing depression, said Marc Weisskopf, the study's lead author and an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, '… (the result) suggests we should not be ignoring herbicides just because they're targeting plants.'
Earlier research on depression and pesticides has focused on insecticides, particularly organophosphates, which are known to be toxic to nerve cells, said Weisskopf. Monocrotophos, the insecticide that killed 23 school children in India this month, is an organophosphate, for example (read more: Reuters Health Children died quickly after eating poisoned meal). There has been a lot of research which has linked the use of pesticides to Parkinson's disease among farmers.
As part of a study on Parkinson's disease, Weisskopf and his colleagues assessed the risks for depression with exposure to any kind of pesticide by surveying 567 French farmers about their use of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. The team conducted home visits to get a detailed assessment of chemical exposures and also asked the farmers whether they had ever been treated for depression. They found that 83 farmers, about 15 percent, said they had been treated for depression. Forty-seven of them had never used pesticides, while 36 had. When the researchers took into account factors linked with depression, such as age and cigarette smoking, they determined that those farmers exposed to weedkillers were nearly two and a half times as likely to have had depression.
Furthermore, farmers who had greater exposure - either more
hours or longer years using herbicides - also had a greater chance of having
depression than farmers who had used weedkillers less.
Marc Weisskopf: Pesticide Exposure and Depression Among Agricultural Workers in France [abstract] American Journal of Epidemiology, online July 12, 2013. Source: Reuters Health
Thirdhand Smoke Causes DNA Damage
A new study, led by
researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has discovered that
thirdhand smoke - the noxious residue that clings to virtually all surfaces
long after the secondhand smoke from a cigarette has cleared out - causes
significant genetic damage in human cells. Furthermore, the study also found
that chronic exposure is worse than acute exposure, with the chemical compounds
in samples exposed to chronic thirdhand smoke existing in higher concentrations
and causing more DNA damage than samples exposed to acute thirdhand smoke, suggesting
that the residue becomes more harmful over time. "This is the very first study
to find that thirdhand smoke is mutagenic," said Lara Gundel, a Berkeley Lab
scientist and co-author of the study. "Tobacco specific nitrosamines, some of
the chemical compounds in thirdhand smoke, are among the most potent
carcinogens there are. They stay on surfaces, and when those surfaces are
clothing or carpets, the danger to children is especially serious." The
researchers found that thirdhand smoke can cause both DNA strand breaks and
oxidative DNA damage, which can lead to gene mutation. Genotoxicity is
associated with the development of diseases and is a critical mechanism
responsible for many types of cancer caused by smoking and secondhand smoke
exposure. Their paper, "Thirdhand smoke causes DNA damage in human cells," was
published in the journal Mutagenesis.
B. Hang, A. H. Sarker, C. Havel, S. Saha, T. K. Hazra, S. Schick, P. Jacob, V. K. Rehan, A. Chenna, D. Sharan, M. Sleiman, H. Destaillats, L. A. Gundel. Thirdhand smoke causes DNA damage in human cells. Mutagenesis, 2013; 28 (4): 381 DOI: [abstract] Read more: Science Daily
In the US: Farmworkers call for increased protection from pesticides
On July 15 and 16, about
two dozen farmworkers paid an unprecedented visit to Capitol Hill to ask
Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House to
support increased protection from exposure to pesticides. Farmworkers have
lobbied Congress before, but this is the first time such a visit focused
entirely on pesticide exposure. The
Washington, DC visit was timed to coincide with release
of Farmworker Justice's report, Exposed
and Ignored: How Pesticides are Endangering Our Nation's Farmworkers.
Read more: The Pump Handle
Latest edition of WorkSafe Safety Soapbox
WorkSafe sent out its e-newsletter: Safety Soapbox which has links to interesting international items such as HSE guidance on construction dust. It also has a link to the list of notifiable incidents - since the last edition, 46 incidents from the construction, utility and quarrying industries were reported to WorkSafe. The incidents included 14 lacerations, four fractures, three electric shocks and a number of potentially fatal 'near misses'.
Small Business Seminar – August 6, WorkSafe reminds small business operators that they need to be aware of their basic health and safety responsibilities. The regulator is running a one hour session by the end of which participants 'will be armed with a practical range of solutions to start making the workplace safer.' WorkSafe will cover basic information about workplace health and safety which is relevant to small business, including: Twelve health and safety risks that Inspectors regularly find at small business visits; How to identify these risks; The best solutions to help control these risks; WorkSafe's free advice service; and Free safety support at the workplace This event is suitable for new start-ups and established small businesses. Location: Festival Hub; Flinders Street, Melbourne. Time: 1pm. Registration essential either by Calling 9940 4832 or emailing Percy Carey at email@example.com
Reminder - Return to work for workers
with knee injuries and worker return to work compliance Seminar
Only a few days left to register for WorkSafe's 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 (SWA) news
Year to date fatalities top 100
101 Australian workers were killed while at work in the period to 29 July 2013. With each work-related fatality, SWA records information, updates statistics and prepares various reports. The highest number of fatalities occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing and Agriculture, forestry & fishing with 25 fatalities in these two industry sectors, followed by: construction (13); manufacturing (8); arts & recreation services (6); mining (4); retail trade (4); public administration & safety (3). SWA clarifies that the number of worker deaths listed is based on initial media reports and is only a preliminary estimate for the number of people killed. Work-related status is confirmed once the death has been 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. Read more: Worker fatalities
Traffic management guides released
SWA has published a set of four guides developed to supplement the Code of Practice: Traffic management in workplaces. The guides provide practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage health and safety risks that may arise from traffic movements at construction workplaces, shopping centres, warehouses and public events. A copy of the guides is available on this page of the Safe Work website
National Return to Work Survey released
SWA has recently released the National Return to Work Survey 2013 - Headline Measures Report. According to the report, there has been no improvement in Australia's national return-to-work rates for the past 15 years. In an article in the online The Conversation, Dr Alex Collie Chief Research Officer of the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR), notes: 'Despite substantial growth in the international body of evidence about what works and what doesn't in returning injured people to work, as a nation Australia is no better at this in 2013 than we were 15 years ago. Our practises are broadly the same. Our policies have not really changed. We have failed to innovate.'
The results of the survey showed that approximately a quarter of injured workers are not working 7 to 9 months after their injury. Yet, says Dr Collie, 'Over the same period there have been major improvements in workplace health and safety, with a 26% reduction in the incidence of serious workplace injury in the decade to 2010.' Read more: The Conversation What's behind our failure to return more injured people to work?
Dr Alex Collie will be delivering the following keynote presentation: What works (and doesn't) for Return to Work? A tour of the research evidence at the 2013 Comcare National Conference in Canberra on September 18-19.
(The ISCRR is a joint initiative of WorkSafe Victoria, the Transport Accident Commission and Monash University.)
New, useful Comcare guidance on mental health
Developed by Comcare and the Australian Public Service Commission, new guidance Working Together: Promoting mental health and wellbeing at work.
This material has 18 topic areas and includes on creating a respectful workplace, preventing bullying at work, building resilience, talking about mental health, and leaders' roles and responsibilities. The material takes a preventative approach, recommending that workers' jobs be designed and managed so as not to cause undue stress or excessive workloads. It also recommends involving workers in decisions on how their work is undertaken.
Draft Priority Existing Chemical assessment for Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) released
NICNAS, the body which registers and assesses industrial chemicals, has released a draft risk assessment report for Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) for public comment. The report focuses on assessment of risks for the public associated with potential exposure to DBP through the use of children's toys, child care articles and cosmetics. A recommendation on reducing the risks identified for the general public is being proposed for DBP.
The draft report is available online on the NICNAS website. The statutory 28-day deadline for request for variation is close of business (5:00 pm EST) on 21 August 2013. Please note that this is a statutory deadline, which cannot be extended.
NICNAS intends to hold public briefings on the findings of the report preferably on week commencing 5-9 August 2013. Locations and dates will be determined depending on the level of public interest. Please indicate your interest in attending the briefing and preference of city by 30 July 2013 – contact NICNAS by phone 1800 638 528 (Freecall) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Queensland government announces company directors' liability to be halved
As part of his 'Queensland, open for business' strategy, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has announced that the personal liabilities of company directors will be reduced 'by half'. The Premier, addressing an Australian Institute of Company Directors luncheon in Brisbane, said that his government will introduce a director's liability reform Bill by the end of this year. The reforms would give directors a presumption of innocence for many offences and would mean that a company director would only be personally liable if he/she had encouraged or assisted the conduct of an offence or was negligent.
Other changes to the WHS proposed are even more wideranging, with Queensland looking to remove right of entry for union officials, and the right of health and safety reps to order ceaseworks where there is an immediate risk to health and/or safety.
- From WorkSafe Victoria: new information on Dangerous Goods (check site)
- From the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) Tips on avoiding foot injuries for workers who stand: Safety and Comfort: Feet First. The article provides advice on appropriate job and workplace design, the standing surface, footwear and foot care. Apart from foot problems, working standing up can also increase levels of fatigue. Read more on the OHS Reps website: Working standing up
- The European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA) has issued advice on controls for hazards in the hospitality industry. The hazards identified as those most common in the sector include slips, trips and falls; musculoskeletal disorders; working with chemicals; burns and more. The report: Preventing accidents in the HORECA (hotel, restaurant and catering) industry can be accessed from this page of the EU-OSHA website.
Employer fined $30K, but without conviction
In an outcome that appears very odd, the Heidelberg Magistrates Court fined Victorian employer, Art Spectrum Manufacturing Co Pty Ltd $30,000 (plus costs of $4000) but did not convict it, after the company pleaded guilty to breaching the OHS Act. The incident occurred in May 2012: a worker's forearm became entangled and was broken in the rotating agitator of a tube-filling machine while he was scraping paint off the sides of the machine's hopper. WorkSafe's investigation found that nine of the employer's mixing machines were not adequately guarded. Source: OHS Alert
Other Victorian prosecutions
Failure to comply with notices prosecuted
An interesting prosecution is that of Pakway Australia Pty Ltd, a plastic packaging manufacturing company, which was convicted and fined $6000 (plus $1500 in costs) in the Dandenong Magistrates Court, after pleading guilty to failing to comply with WorkSafe improvement notices within the required timeframe. On 30 May 2012, an inspector issued the employer with eight notices with compliance dates of 15 June 2012. However, only two of the improvement notices had been complied with when the inspector attended the site six weeks later. WorkSafe has not provided any information on the nature of the hazards addressed by the improvement notices.
Company fined for inadequate fall protection
On 19 March 2012, a WorkSafe Inspector attended a residential construction site situated at Egerton Road, Armadale. The Inspector observed employees working at height without adequate fall protection in place due to an incomplete scaffold being installed. On 23 July 2013, the company, TCM Building Group Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty to breaching the OHS Actfor failing to provide a system of work that was, so far as practicable, safe and without risks to health. The company Melbourne Magistrates' Court fined $5,000 (plus costs of $1,576), without conviction. Again, in what was potentially a fatal breach of the Act, no conviction was made.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries
Bangladesh: Top brands must now compensate victims
The injured survivors and the bereaved relatives of those killed in the
Tazreen factory fire and the Rana
Plaza building collapse
must be paid fair compensation by international brands as a priority, unions
and campaigners have said. IndustriALL, the global union for the garment sector,
is organising meetings in the Bangladesh
capital Dhaka on 11 and 12 August to press the
case for justice. It says responsibility is shared between the major brands and
retailers sourcing from Tazreen and Rana
Plaza, the factory
owners, the BGMEA employers' association, and the Bangladeshi government. The
aim is to utilise the industry's best practice compensation mechanism that was
developed after the Spectrum factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2005. IndustriALL
general secretary Raina stated: 'All brands sourcing from those two factories
have been invited to the Dhaka discussions.
IndustriALL looks forward to working with the committed companies to bring some
justice to the dead and injured and their families. Those brands ignoring this
opportunity will face criticism in the strongest terms. The work around the
compensation issue is not part of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building
Safety. But the strong spirit of cooperation built by the Accord feeds into the
process.' IndustriALL is working closely with the Clean Clothes Campaign on the
drive to secure compensation.
Media Releases: IndustriALL: Time for brands to pay compensation and Clean Clothes Campaign Compensation not charity for fire and collapse victims Source: Risks 615
Documentary: Unacceptable Levels
In the documentary "Unacceptable
Levels", debut filmmaker Ed Brown explores the issue of synthetic chemicals
that unintentionally end up in people's bodies. The documentary has the
potential to raise public consciousness - and incite outcry - about
unintentional chemical exposures, just as 2010's "Gasland" did against hydraulic fracturing techniques to extract
natural gas. While specifically on the US situation, we too, in Australia, have
tens of thousands of untested chemicals in everyday products we are being
exposed to. The documentary has won a number of international awards
More information and trailer
South Korea: three workers killed at Samsung plant
In the latest of a string of fatal or near fatal incidents at the Samsung plant, three workers were killed and 12 injured on the late afternoon of July 26 when a 1,300-ton water tank burst during a stress test after it was filled with approximately 1000 tons of water. The eruption brought down the 17-meter support structure that fell on the 15 workers. Samsung Fine Chemicals proceeded with the test, despite the cracks it had found earlier, a probe by SHARPS (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry) found. All 15 victims are contract workers in their twenties. Read more: Another fatal accident hits Samsung plant