SafetyNet 264, August 15, 2013
This is the 264thEdition of the VTHC's OHS Unit's SafetyNet Journal – again from our new and updated website. Please remember, if you find any broken links, please let us know.
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NSW construction fatality
A 53 year old man died after a two-tonne concrete block fell off a moving forklift and crushed him at a worksite on the south coast of NSW. He was trapped for almost 20 minutes until police and ambulance officers freed him. The worker was taken to Wollongong Hospital in a critical condition, but died shortly later.
In a separate NSW incident, a concrete slab fell 12 metres onto a 48 year old man after it came out of its chains at the Haymarket work site about 11.30am. The man was guiding crane operators when the crane reportedly swung into a metal loading platform which dislodged the concrete. He was stuck for almost an hour before being taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital with back and hip injuries. A hospital spokeswoman declined to give an update on the man's condition.
Police detectives and WorkCover representatives are investigating what caused both incidents.
Government welcomes Telstra's response to pit remediation
Just as the Federal Government entered the 'caretaker period', the Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Anthony Albanese, welcomed Telstra's announcement that work on pit remediation for the NBN would recommence on 19 August.
'Telstra has worked constructively with the Government and other stakeholders to put in place a comprehensive program to address the issues posed by the existence of asbestos in parts of its network,' said Minister Shorten. 'Everyone has the right to go to work and come home safely.'
The independent Asbestos Taskforce, established by the Australian Government in June, has agreed on a range of measures to ensure all of Telstra's work crews are appropriately trained and monitored, and follow correct work safety practices.
Read more: The Honourable Anthony Albanese & Bill Shorten Joint Media Release
Minister Shorten announces Asbestos Agency
CEO; Council members
The Hon Bill Shorten MP last week also announced the new CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency: Mr Peter Tighe, until recently National Secretary of the Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union. Senator Shorten also announced members of the ASEA Council, consisting of Commonwealth, state, territory and local government representatives and other expert members. The Chair is Mr Geoff Fary, who was tasked by the government to undertake the Asbestos Management Review, and members representing union and employer interests are Mr Michael Borowick, Assistant Secretary of the ACTU; Ms Tracey Browne, Manager, National Safety and Workers Compensation Policy and Membership Services, Australian Industry Group (AI Group) respectively.
Read more: Minister Shorten's media release
What are we supposed to have in our first aid kit? I work in a small workplace (only 10 workers), but we also have members of the public at the workplace.
There is no set 'contents' requirement either in the Act or in the Compliance Code - rather, what goes into a First Aid Kit has to be decided based on an assessment of the hazards and risks at the site. This assessment must be done by the employer in consultation with the relevant HSR (or workers if no HSR).
The Compliance Code for First Aid provides guidance, however, and the employer/workplace can decide to take the easier option and go for the 'prescribed approach' which has a recommendation on what should go into a kit - but even under this option an assessment of the 'type' of workplace it is must
See the FAQ on First Aid Kits on our site.
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. (NB: there have been some issues with this lately, so if it's not working when you want to send in your query, email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org)
warns on noisy restaurants
Last week's Epicure (Fairfax media's food magazine) featured an article on the increasing levels of noise in Melbourne and Sydney's top modern restaurants – some of which reached peaks of 95dBs – which is three times the ohs exposure standard of 85dBs!! While the standard applies to workplaces, and is based on the assumption that this level is over an eight hour period, noise at those levels would lead to hearing damage after just under one hour. While 85% of people who voted online said they thought noise levels in restaurants were too loud and they avoided eating in such places, spare a thought for the workers: the waiters in particular. Under legislation around the country, an employer with a workplace louder than 85dB has a duty to reduce the noise at source. People who must work for any period of time at levels above this will suffer noise-induced hearing loss, not to mention being at risk due to the increased stress levels.
'Noise is an important problem for both the dining public and our members,' says Louise Tarrant, the national secretary of hospitality union United Voice. 'Noise has escalated with the rise in the trend for minimalist [decor in] restaurants, and we're concerned that restaurant owners aren't taking
the problem seriously because they even want to increase the allowable noise levels,' she says. According to the Restaurant and Catering Association, however, (in a submission to Safe Work Australia): 'the acceptable standard for noise levels in the workplace should be lifted from 85 decibels to
100 decibels'. At those levels both patrons and workers would end up with noise-induces hearing loss!
Read more: Epicure Din and Dinner: Are our restaurants just too noisy? More information on Noise
addresses ongoing OHS issues in Victorian schools
The Victorian branch of the AEU, noted at its August Council meeting that the both the DEECD and WorkSafe had accepted the recommendations made by Victoria's Auditor-General in his reports on Staff OHS in Schools and Asbestos in Schools. The union resolved to seek ongoing meetings with both DEECD and WorkSafe to discuss the VAGO report and to receive updates on the progress being made in the implementation of the recommendations. The union is seeking a commitment from DEECD to consult in the establishment of OHS strategies in schools and not to shift the cost of work cover premiums to schools. The AEU will also seek commitments from WorkSafe to:
- re-establish a specific education sector stakeholder reference group and project officer/co-ordinator;
- engage in discussions to focus on the sector and build on learning from previous projects;
- facilitate the sharing of information and data between the AEU & DEECD;
- establish a working party that includes AEU representation to improve DEECD's performance;
- facilitate a new entity to replace the Senior Public Sector Roundtable to improve DEECD accountability.
Unions NSW launches
revised Dignity and Respect Charter
The peak union council in NSW last week launched its revised Dignity and Respect at the Workplace Charter. Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said the revised Charter was aimed at assisting workplaces to ensure they were providing dignity and respect to all workers. 'Over the past couple of months, a working party of unions has been meeting with Unions NSW on the revision of the Charter in light of the Federal Labor Government's important anti-bullying changes to the Fair Work Act.'
'Legislating to help prevent bullying in the workplace is vital reform, and we have been eager to ensure that our Charter reflects these important new developments,' said Mr Lennon. 'The new charter explains the five steps necessary for workplaces to create a bully-free workplace. As the Charter notes,
everyone in the workplace, irrespective of their position, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.'
Read more and download the Charter: UnionsNSW media release
Workers urged to get more sunlight
While the sun's UV rays are a hazard to outdoor workers (and not just in the summer months – see this page on Sunlight and UV Radiation do link to page), too many Australians, who spend all their working day indoors, are not getting enough Vitamin D. Last Friday was the first National Vitamin D Awareness Day, the aim of which is to raise awareness about vitamin D deficiency in Australia and the negative effect that not going outside can have on a worker's productivity.
According to research by vitamin supplement provider Ostelin, more than half (54%) of the Australian workforce stays indoors all day during winter, with one in five of those workers leaving for work or home when it is still dark.
Read more: Ostelin website with suggestions on how to get more exposure to the sun during the working day.
International Union News
A New union safety website for journalists
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has launched a website dedicated to the safety and protection of media. The website will provide a one stop portal for all IFJ activities to promote the safety of journalists and to combat the apparent impunity for targeting media. 'With the continued onslaught on journalists in trouble spots around the globe, hundreds of reporters, editors and their support staff face persecution, intimidation, torture and even death simply for doing their job,' said IFJ president Jim Boumelha. 'The International Federation of Journalists now plays a unique role in safeguarding the lives of journalists everywhere. The launch of the IFJ safety website marks a new chapter in our history, making it a vital tool for journalists and their unions to manage risk, raise awareness, provide safety training and advice, create a culture of safety and join the campaign to end impunity.' The website provides information on the strategies, programmes and activities related to the safety and human rights of journalists, including details on the IFJ International Safety Fund. IFJ says there will be regular updates on safety for journalists who need to work or travel to regions affected by conflicts, political instability and outbreak of diseases as well as natural disasters.
Source: Risks 617 IFJ news release and safety website. NUJ news release.
clean up plan for contaminated site
The industrial accident at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal is still an unresolved crime site after almost 30 years. Approximately 25,000 people have died as a direct result of the accidents, but no one has been tried for murder and thousands are still without compensation. Recent reports of new attempts to try and clean up the site highlight the continuing damage that is being done to the people and the environment in Bhopal.
The Indian government has earmarked $50m for the recovery, which could be used to implement an ambitious five-year action plan to finally clean up the toxic factory site and surrounding area. The poisoned land, where children still play and animals graze in ignorance, contaminates water sources - causing
serious health problems for nearby communities. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based public interest research group, more than 350 tonnes of surface chemical waste, with thousands more buried underground, have been left unsecured since the gas disaster, causing
Read more: Al Jazeera Indian group offers new plan for Bhopal
Source: AAWL Mini news
Joint global action in October against
October 7 is World Day for Decent Work. IndustriALL, a major global union federation, is encouraging all affiliates and unions to take a stand on this day to put a stop to precarious work. In the last decade, capitalists and governments have used flexible and insecure employment contracts to undermine our wages, conditions and our ability to organise collectively. This needs to stop. Co-ordinated international action by workers is the best way to reverse this trend.
More information and campaign materials are on the IndustriALL website
Source: AAWL Mini news
Respirators don't protect you from fracking dust
Workers involved in 'fracking' are being exposed to levels of carcinogenic silica up to 10 times the US recommended limit, a study has found. The US study of worker exposures during hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations found that the most commonly used type of respirator, the half-mask air-purifying respirator, might not provide enough protection for workers. Researchers from the US government's occupational health research institute, NIOSH, examined worker exposure to crystalline silica during directional drilling and fracking operations, a process to access oil or gas captured in rock. 'Certain work in this industry requires employees to be in areas where respirable silica levels may exceed defined occupational exposure limits like the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit or the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limits [RELs],' said researcher Michael Breitenstein. 'However, our study found that in some cases, full shift personal breathing zone exposures exceeded 10 times the REL.' Co-author Eric J Esswein added: 'Although half-mask, air-purifying respirators are most commonly used at hydraulic fracturing sites, due to the magnitude of the silica concentrations measured, half-masks might not be sufficiently protective. In some cases, silica concentrations exceeded the maximum use concentration for that type of respirator.'
Esswein EJ, Breitenstein M, Snawder J, Kiefer M, Sieber WK. Occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica during hydraulic fracturing, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH), volume 10, number 7, pages 347-56, 2013 [abstract– full article can be downloaded here free of charge]. Source: Risks 617
designs reduce common and costly hand injuries
US researchers, looking at almost 25,000 building and construction workers with a compensation claim, have found that while hand and finger injuries are common and can be costly for employers, they are often overlooked in incident-reduction strategies. Generally safety strategies in the industry focussed on the prevention of falls, electrocution and incidents in which workers are struck by vehicles, falling objects or collapsing structures.
Looking at claims over 20 years to 2008, hand and finger injuries accounted for more than one in five (21.1%) of the claims. At least 28 workers sustained hand or finger amputations, and many of the most costly claims were associated with power tools such as circular saws, nail guns and grinders,
as well as welding equipment. Other serious hand injuries resulted from gloves getting caught in equipment. Given that such workers depend on use of their hands, such injuries, while not life-threatening, have serious consequences. The researchers concluded that higher-order controls can significantly
reduce the rate of such injuries – that is, safe design and appropriate guarding, followed by protection, and lastly training.
Work-Related Injuries Involving a Hand or Fingers Among Union Carpenters in Washington State, 1989 to 2008. Dr Hester Lipscomb, et al, US, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 55, Issue 7, July 2013. Source: OHS Alert
Do bullies target certain workers more than others?
Researchers from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, wanted to examine whether certain workers find themselves more than others to be the targets of 'counterproductive work behavior' (CWB). The researchers noted that much more attention has been devoted to understanding CWB, but little is known about the targets of this behaviour. The researchers said they tested a model that 'positioned CWB receipt as a function of workers' personality (neuroticism, agreeableness), their appearance (physical attractiveness), and the negative emotions felt toward those employees by their coworkers'. The reseachers reported that two studies using multiple sources of data, including a study of 139 healthcare employees, showed that 'disagreeable and physically unattractive' workers received more CWB from their co-workers, that co-worker negative emotion felt toward other workers was associated with CWB receipt, and the relationship between worker 'agreeableness' and CWB receipt was due, in part, to co-worker negative emotion. Conversely, 'attractive employees' were more likely to receive 'favourable performance evaluations and hiring and promotion decisions'.
Brent A. Scott & Timothy A. Judge, Beauty, Personality, and Affect as Antecedents of Counterproductive Work Behavior Receipt. [abstract– full article accessible free] Human Performance Volume 26, Issue 2, 2013 DOI: 10.1080/08959285.2013.765876
Latest edition of WorkSafe
WorkSafe this week sent out the latest edition of its e-newsletter: Safety Soapbox. The newsletter has information on insurance obligations, and also news of an SIA forum on SWMS – an on-going issue of concern for both unions and industry groups. As usual, it has a link to the list of notifiable incidents - since the last edition, there were 39 incidents from the construction, utility and quarrying industries reported to WorkSafe, including one fatality. A truck driver from Traralgon had a heart attack while driving a truck. The incidents included eight lacerations, five fractures and five electric shocks. Several of these could have been fatalities but for 'good luck'.
New revamped webpage for
WorkSafe Victoria has revamped its information page for small business, with specific information and guidance. The page also has information on WorkSafe's OHS Essentials Program, which provides a free three hours consultancy session for small business. Read more
Safe Work Australia News
Notifiable fatalities and Year to date
As at 12 August 2013, 105 Australian workers have been killed while at work.
The number of worker deaths is based on initial media reports and is only a preliminary estimate for the number of people killed. Work-related status cannot be confirmed until the death is investigated by the appropriate authority. Once this has occurred, it is reported in Safe Work Australia's Monthly Notifiable Fatality reports and Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities reports.
There were 25 work-related notifiable fatalities reported during March 2013: 17 male and two female workers and two male and four female bystanders. Of these fatalities, nine workers and two bystanders died as a result of incidents in the air or on public roads. Of the 25 fatalities, nine fatalities
involved being hit by a falling object. This is up from 16 in February.
Read more: Worker fatalities
Guide on exposure to solar ultraviolet
SWA has released a revamped Guide which provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking and workers about managing health and safety risks associated with exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR). It contains information on the risks of solar UVR exposure, the control measures which can be used to help eliminate or minimise, so far as is reasonably practicable, a worker's exposure to solar UVR in the workplace and guidance on how to implement a sun protection program at the workplace. The Guide advises following the hierarchy of control - that is seeking first to eliminate exposure (for example by changing the hours of working outdoors) and only as a last control, issueing PPE (such as sunscreen/hats/etc).
Guide on exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR)
- WorkSafe Victoria has updated its Guidance Note on Audiometric Testing The Guidance Note is designed to help employers comply with their duties in relation to audiometric testing. In particular, it clarifies the recommended standard for audiometric testing commissioned by employers.
- From Queensland's Electrical Safety Office: a new film Forever young - Tim's story .
The film focuses on the heart-wrenching experiences of Bill Martin, whose son Tim died at the age of 17 after he received an electric shock at work. At the time of the incident, Tim was an electrical apprentice working on signage from an elevating work platform. The platform came too close to high voltage power lines, and a massive electrical current arced across the gap. The film highlights the devastating effects on his family and friends.
- The Cancer Council's SunSmart division has recommended companies develop a 'UV policy' as part of their sun protection programs. In Australia it is estimated approximately 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers per year are due to occupational exposure to UV. SunSmart has launched guidelines on how to develop a workplace UV protection program and sun protection policy. Skin cancer and outdoor work: a guide for employers provides information about control measures, how to address sun protection in workplaces and evaluate compliance. SunSmart's sample sun protection policy for workplaces can be used as a basis for organisations that are developing policies.
Unguarded machine injures worker: Employer fined
In May 2012, an employee of Maydel Extrusion Industries Pty Ltd was injured when operating an unguarded plastic welding machine. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OH&S Act 2004 in relation to the company's failure to provide or maintain plant that was, so far as is reasonably practicable safe and without risks to health. On 1 August the company was fined $5,000 without conviction and ordered to pay costs in the sum of $5,236 in the Wodonga Magistrates' Court.
Potentially fatal exposure leads to $55k fine
Morning Star Gold N.L. was, on 31 July in the Mansfield Magistrates' Court , convicted and fined $55,000 and ordered to pay costs in the sum of $5,593.00. The company had pleaded guilty in the to breaching sections 21(1) and (2)(a) of the OH&S Act 2004 in relation to failing to provide a safe system of work. The incident occurred on 17 February 2012 when two of the company's employees were exposed to carbon monoxide when they entered a mine shaft following 'firing'.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries
and isolation breaches cost NSW employers $400k after death
Two NSW employers that failed to implement an isolation procedure or Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) for plant, or roster supervisors onto weekend night shifts, have been ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in fines and costs, after a worker was fatally crushed between hydraulic rams. Cement Australia (Kandos) Pty Ltd and its managing company, Cement Australia Pty Ltd, were fined $100,000 and $90,000 respectively, in failing to ensure the worker's health and safety, and ordered to pay $100,000 in costs each.
The incident occurred during a night shift in September 2009, when a Kandos central control operator instructed a control assistant to visually inspect a number of hoppers in a reciprocating feeder that weren't feeding. When the operator hadn't heard from the assistant after 40 minutes, he went to
check on him, and found him dead between the hydraulic rams. Issues identified were that not all crush points had been guarded; that no supervisor was on site at the time, and that the employee may tried to manually remove a blockage in a hopper while it was operating, which was contrary to his
training. The Commission found that although the employers' OHS management system was comprehensive at the time of the incident, it had deficiencies: No isolation or lock-out procedure was in place, no SWMS for working on the feeders was provided, and no supervisors were rostered for weekend night
Source: OHS Alert
SA employer charged following amputation
In April 2011, an Indian international student, working as a cleaner for Kahlon Estate's Wines Pty Ltd stepped onto the narrow ledge of a hopper, lost his footing and ended up with his left leg entangled in the unguarded auger. A surgeon who was flown to the winery performed an emergency amputation of the worker's leg to free him from the auger.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching the State OHSW Act, in failing to guard the hopper. The Magistrates Court also heard that at the time of the incident, the employer had not conducted hazard identification or risk assessments on the hopper or other equipment at the site, and had no safety policies
or procedures. The employer was fined $68,000, after a 20 per cent discount for its early guilty plea, cooperation and contrition. Kahlon's director was also required to attend a formal "responsible officer" training course, and the employer required to publisha notice in a wine journal warning
of the dangers of unguarded hoppers.
Source: OHS Alert
China: the story of a Foxconn suicide survivor
SafetyNet readers will remember items of the shocking working conditions of Chinese workers at Foxconn – Apple's largest supplier – which have led to dozens of suicides. Tian Yu, a 17 year old from the country, worked more than 12 hours a day, six days a week, forced to skip meals to do overtime. Then she threw herself from a fourth-floor window. She survived and was subsequently interviewed over three years by Jenny Chan and Sacom, a Hong Kong-based group of rights campaigners. From her hospital recuperation in Shenzhen to her return to her family's village, Chan and her colleagues kept in touch throughout and have published the interviews in an academic journal.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is appealing to appeals to the Chinese government, the All China Confederation of Trade Unions, Foxconn and all the brand companies that are sourcing from Foxconn to take the necessary measures to offer assistance to the bereaved families and victims
and make sure that adequate compensation mechanisms are developed.
Read more: A suicide survivor: the life of a Chinese worker New Technology, Work and Employment; Vol 28 Issue 2 Source: The Guardian The woman who nearly died making your iPad
ITUC Media Release
Japan: Radioactive water pours into ocean from Fukushima nuclear plant
Two years after the tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant in northern Japan, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has had to admit that it is still not able to contain the damage. Latest reports indicate that over 270,000 litres of radioactive water are pouring into the ocean every day. While the Japanese government has now promised to intervene to fix all the problems, anti nuclear activists in Japan have been campaigning since the disaster to close down the whole nuclear industry. Workers at the plant told the ABC's AM program that they do not have much faith in TEPCO's ability to handle the situation and they claim another accident is inevitable. One decontamination worker at the nuclear plant said he hid his real job from his two young grandsons for fears they would shun him if they knew. The ABC program commented that while many in Japan worry about another disaster at the Fukushima plant, the welfare of workers there is not often raised.
Read more: National Geographic Fukushima radioactive water leak PBS Newshour Six Telling Figures from Japan's Leaking Fukushima Nuclear Plant ABC AM Source: AAWL Mini news
USA: Agency rebuked for lack of action
The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), an independent federal agency that investigates the root causes of industrial chemical accidents, has publicly rebuked the US's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to implement several of the board's long-standing recommendations for making refineries, chemical facilities, and sugar plants safer. OSHA says it is taking steps to address workplace hazards but has been hamstrung by a limited budget. For more than a decade, and following tragic accidents that have killed dozens of workers, CSB has urged OSHA to adopt new safety rules for chemical plants, refineries, and other facilities. CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said, 'Yet insufficient progress has been made, and many years have passed in some cases, without a definitive OSHA response. We strongly believe that these regulatory changes are needed to save lives and prevent accidents in the chemical industry.'
CSB is particularly concerned with the lack of action on a combustible dust standard: a safety issue that has dogged plants that process sugar, as well as granaries and other facilities where combustible powders and dust exist or accumulate. CSB began calling on OSHA in 2006 to issue a general industry
standard to reduce or eliminate dust hazards. Recent CSB investigations involving combustible dust include the 2008 explosion at the Imperial Sugar factory in Georgia that killed 14 workers and three iron dust fires in 2011 that fatally injured five workers at a powdered metals plant in Tennessee.
Read more: Chemical & Engineering News
latest film stimulates awareness of slips and trips at work
Slips and trips are "No laughing matter". They are one of the most common workplace hazards and cause tens of thousands of accidents in the workplace every year – not only in the EU, but also in Australia. Yet Napo, the animated employee, illustrates this key message in a light and unforgettable way. This film from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) seeks to promote good practice to prevent slips and trips and is applicable to all industrial sectors and all workers. Watch "Napo in…No laughing matter" There is a range of Napo films, including Napo in … Protect your Skin; Napo in … Lungs at Work; and more. These can be downloaded/viewed on this page.
Turkey: two workers die dismantling 'Love Boat'
The dismantling of the ship that many Australian and international TV viewers would recognise as the 'Love Boat' from the 70's and 80's US show has begun with tragedy. Two workers at the Turkish scrapyard where the 42 year old former Pacific Princess was being dissassembled were killed by gas in its engine room, according to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News. The ship, like many others, is being stripped for its metal and parts. The ship scrapping industry is extremely hazardous, with workers being exposed to many toxic substances and other dangers, working often for very little, and in shocking conditions.
Source: The Age