SafetyNet 267, 26 September, 2013
Welcome to all our subscribers to this latest edition of SafetyNet. We hope you find the journal interesting, and welcome any comments you may have on any of the items. Please consider 'following' @OHSreps on Twitter and tweet us about any OHS issues on your mind.
In news that came through almost a week after the event, WorkSafe announced it is investigating the death of an 84-year-old farmer at Goschen, 20km south of Swan Hill on Wednesday September 11. The man was crushed underneath a slasher while he was attempting to clear an obstruction. He was working alone at the time of the incident and died at the scene. The death is the fifth workplace fatality in three weeks, and the 15th for the year. It is the second farm fatality in two weeks.
WorkSafe Media Release More information: Working alone - is it legal, is it safe?
Mesothelioma cases remain steady
According to Safe Work Australia (SWA) figures, there were 619 new diagnoses of mesothelioma from January 1 to December 31, 2012. Of these, 511 were men and 108 women, with the majority (80%) aged 65 or over. By April 10, 2012, 290 (47%) of mesothelioma patients had died.
The data from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR), which began in 2011, contains information on all people diagnosed with mesothelioma in Australia from July 1, 2010. SWA cautioned, however, that these figures are likely to be an underestimate due to possible delays in some numbers. Since the
2011 AMR publication, an additional 27 people were diagnosed with mesothelioma in that year, increasing the total number of people with this disease from 612 to 639 in 2011. A similar increase in 2012 figures is expected as more diagnoses are reported.
Australian Mesothelioma Registry 2nd Annual Report Mesothelioma in Australia 2012 [pdf]
Canada: Justice sought
with new asbestos registry
The union representing people who worked at a notorious asbestos mine on Newfoundland's Baie Verte Peninsula is demanding changes to eligibility criteria that prevented most of them from receiving compensation. The United Steelworkers union (USW) says health information gathered by the Baie Verte miners' registry shows people were unfairly denied compensation for diseases caused by exposure to chrysotile (white asbestos). 'Nobody should have had to be exposed to what they were exposed to, and it's now well recognised,' said Andy King, former director of the Steelworkers' health, safety and environment department. The registry, created after years of pressure from USW, is an electronic database of more than 1,000 people who worked at the mine between 1955 when a huge asbestos deposit was discovered, and 1995 when the mine closed permanently. Among other things, the registry found that 109 former miners had asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Another 56 had gastrointestinal cancers, possibly related to asbestos exposure. Andy King said many people in the registry were unfairly treated. While 145 miners made claims to the compensation commission, 100 - or more than two-thirds of them - were denied compensation. He said compensation was denied in some cases because of how the rules were structured. For instance, he said compensation was denied to workers who might have received the maximum exposure over just a few months. 'If you can't provide some level of justice for those, how can people whose experience is perhaps less clear have confidence that the system will address their needs today?' he said. In 1977, workers at the mine waged a landmark 14-week safety strike.
Read more: Baie Verte Miners Registry and Out of the fog film explaining the background to the registry. March 2009 USW news release giving the background to the registry's creation. Source: Risks 622
Reminder: Please support
the Meso Busters team – October 26 & 27
We remind our subscribers that cycling team 'Meso Busters' will be riding in the Ride to Conquer Cancer event to raise money for research at the Peter Mac and promote the awareness of safe asbestos handling in the community. Last year the team raised almost $24,900 with five riders. This year there are six riders in the team and hope to raise more money this year.
Please make donations by going to the Conquer Cancer website then choosing 'Melbourne', clicking on 'donate', and then searching for either a team or an individual participant. Shelley Mathews is the team captain, so search for Shelley, then follow the prompts. All donations are tax deductible (receipt sent via email).
My employer has not purchased hands-free phones or headsets for our reception for six months because he says they are too expensive. The staff involved are concerned about health implications. Are there any OHS guidelines on what the employer should provide for workers performing extended phone-answering duties?
Headsets are considered 'essential equipment' for people working in call centres (or those on the phone for long periods of time). WorkSafe's 'bible' for offices, Officewise, states: 'Telephones should be situated so that the user can perform simple tasks, such as taking notes, without the need to twist or support the telephone on the shoulder…. Headsets should be used where the person has to regularly perform tasks such as keying information or taking orders while using the telephone, or does dedicated telephone work, such as in a call centre. Use of a headset can assist in reducing the reach distance and the frequency of handling the receiver and eliminate awkward neck postures.'
This provides clear 'guidance' on this from the OHS regulator, WorkSafe. Your employer has a general duty under the OHS Act to identify hazards, and then implement controls to either eliminate these or minimise them so far as reasonably practicable – in order to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This covers systems of work, plant and equipment, training, and so on. It also includes monitoring the health of employees (See Duties of employers)
The reception staff, if they continue to have to work without headsets, are being placed at risk, and your employer cannot use the excuse that purchasing appropriate equipment is too costly.
Go to this page: Offices – what legislation applies? for the link to Officewise. The publication also refers to a Good practice guide for Call Centres (which can be accessed/download from this page on the 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.
Firefighters' Cancer compensation Bill
voted down in Parliament
As expected, the Victorian Napthine government last week voted down the Greens move to give firefighters access to presumptive compensation for specific cancers. The plan, backed by Labor, would have removed the onus of proof for Victorian firefighters who develop 12 types of cancers – a right Commonwealth laws, which received Coalition support in the Federal Parliament in 2011, give firefighters under Comcare. Those laws, and Greens MP Colleen Hartland's proposal, follow international studies and a Senate inquiry that found a link between specific cancers and chemicals firefighters were exposed to in the line of duty. Apparently, the Napthine government has not totally ruled out such laws, but 'wants more evidence'. The Greens have vowed to keep fighting for the legislation, reiterating their promise to make the matter a State election issue.
Read more: SafetyNet 265 The Age
Meanwhile - Tasmania may become the first Australian state to pass legislation to allow firefighters with work-related cancers the automatic access to compensation Victoria's government just voted down. The Tasmanian Parliament yesterday debated the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Firefighters) Bill 2013 and in a national first, the legislation will also cover active volunteer fire fighters as well as career firefighters. The compensation will cover their medical bills and lost wages for range of cancers listed by the Federal Government in 2011 as being caused by exposure to toxins while fighting fires. United Firefighters Union spokesman Greg Cooper said firefighters were often barred from claiming insurance, including workers compensation, creating a heavy burden of medical costs. Source: The Mercury
Day for Older Persons: 1 October 2013
The International Day for Older Persons (IDOP) was created by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1990, and is observed by all UN member states on 1 October each year. This year, as part of Victorian Seniors Week, the Retired Member Association is holding a small function on Tuesday October 1 at 10.30am (for an 11am start – 12 noon finish) on the theme of: "Celebrating Active Unionism In Our Lives After Work". Guest speakers will be Ged Kearney, ACTU President and Luke Hilakari, VTHC Industrial Officer. There will be an opportunity for discussion and questions.
Venue: Ground Floor Meeting Room, AMWU Victorian Office, 251 Queensberry Street, Carlton
The Victorian Trade Union
Choir Event "I'll Be There!" Songs and Stories of Solidarity
Created and produced by choir members with award winning playwright Rebecca Lister and Musical Director Michael Roper: I'll Be There! Over an hour of songs and stories: funny, scary, moving and inspiring–gathered from the rich history of the trade union and labour movements and the Victorian Trade Union Choir. The Choir has sung for 23 years at rallies, protests, strikes, marches and commemorations. The show presents a diverse repertoire of music including trade union favourites such as Solidarity, Billy Bragg's Power in a Union, South African freedom song We shall not give up the fight, Kev Carmody's Freedomand celebrates union achievements such as the Eight Hour Day. Watch the trailer
Special Performances – Monday 30th September and Tuesday 1st October, 2013; 7.30pm. Venue: La Mama Courthouse 349 Drummond St, Carlton 3053
Tickets: $25 (Concession $15) Online bookings or at the door or La Mama Booking Line: 03 9347 6142
Iraqi leather workers strike amid continuing rights violations
While Iraq is still in the grips of armed civil conflict, workers are reorganising and attempting to improve their wages and conditions. Following dismissals of hundreds of workers at a state owned leather factory, the Federation of Workers Councils & Unions of Iraq organised a number of actions to highlight their plight. Meanwhile, in a co-ordinated action, some of Iraq's major unions have written to the ILO to complain about the lack of labour laws guaranteeing workers' rights.
Read more: Iraqi letter to the ILO
Bangladesh workers must
continue to wait for full compensation
Eleven of the brands and retailers sourcing from the factories involved in the Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters joined high-level compensation meetings, facilitated by the ILO as a neutral chair, on 11-12 September in Geneva. However, many other major companies failed to attend, showing total contempt for the 1,900 workers who were injured and the families of over 1,200 workers who were killed making their products.
IndustriALL, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) presented a proposed model for compensation, used by brands and retailers in previous factory disasters in Bangladesh, which includes payment for pain and suffering and loss of income. For Rana Plaza the amount of
just over US$74,571,000 would be needed to provide full compensation to all workers, of which the brands are being asked to contribute almost US$33,557,000. For Tazreen US$6,442,000 is required, with US$2,899,000 being asked from the brands.
Source: IndustriALL Media Release
linked to shift work, regardless of workers' weight
Japanese researchers looked at 9209 daytime workers and 964 workers on a three-shift rotation from a manufacturing company, and found 3386 cases of hypertension (high blood pressure) reported over a 28-year period. Results showed shift workers were more likely to develop hypertension than daytime workers. While previous studies showed shift workers were 'a population at high risk for developing obesity, and obesity is in turn a reported risk factor for hypertension', suggesting the risk arose from weight gain caused by shift work, rather than shift work itself, this new study showed 'the relative risk of hypertension was significantly elevated among shift workers without obesity'. That is, the shift work was found to be a risk factor for independent of body weight. The study also found that shift workers who reported having trouble falling asleep, waking up repeatedly and experiencing daytime sleepiness, were at an increased risk of developing hypertension.
Read more: Tatsuhiko Kubo, et al, Japan. An Industry-Based Cohort Study of the Association Between Weight Gain and Hypertension Risk Among Rotating Shift Workers, [abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 55, Issue 9, September 2013. Source: OHSAlert
targeted approach to mesothelioma
A new targeted therapy for asbestos-related tumours has shown promise in an animal model. The results, reported in the open access journal BMC Cancer, raise hopes of a new therapy for this currently incurable cancer. Malignant mesothelioma (MMs) is a rare form of cancer, which tends to be diagnosed decades after exposure occurs, so is rarely caught early. Current treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, have limited efficacy and unpleasant side effects.
Traditional chemotherapeutic drugs work by destroying cells that divide quickly – so they are indiscriminate killers, destroying healthy dividing cells such as those in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles, as well as cancer cells. Targeted therapies, which are designed to kill cancer cells and leave healthy tissue unharmed, are highly sought after. The new targeted therapy is a silica microparticle, coated in antibodies that recognise a protein produced by the tumour cells in large amounts. When the microparticles are injected into a mouse model of the cancer, the antibody helps the microparticles bind to the tumour cells, where they are then able to release the chemotherapy drug they are carrying.
The researchers' findings are not only relevant to MM, but also to treatment of other intracavitary tumors (for example ovarian, pancreatic).
Source: A targeted approach to asbestos-related cancer Medical News Today.
Read more: Sherrill L Macura, et al Microspheres targeted with a mesothelin antibody and loaded with doxorubicin reduce tumor volume of human mesotheliomas in xenografts BMC Cancer 2013, 13:400
study reveals DIYers high exposure to asbestos
A new study of NSW residents has found Do-it-yourself home renovators are regularly exposing themselves and their children to cancer-causing asbestos. Despite repeated warnings Australians are still not protecting themselves from asbestos-related diseases.
In the study, undertaken between January and June 2008 in NSW, a questionnaire was mailed to 10,000 adults randomly selected from the NSW electoral roll. Of the 3612 responses received 1597 reported having home renovations, 858 of whom were DIY renovators, with 739 non-DIY renovators. Most of the DIY renovators (61.4%) reported having had asbestos exposure, with only 2.7% in the non-DIY group also reporting exposure. More than one in five of the DYI renovators said their children had been exposed.
Co-author Dr Anthony Johnson, a respiratory physician from the Liverpool area, said 'There is no safe level of exposure. We don't want to scare people, because the overall health risks are low, but we do see people who have mesothelioma and the only exposure they can recall is something like this.'
Read more: Doctors brace for 40 years of asbestos illness Sydney Morning Herald.
Eun-Kee Park, Deborah H Yates, Rebecca A Hyland and Anthony R Johnson, Asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales Med J Aust 2013; 199 (6): 410-413. doi: 10.5694/mja12.11802
more dissatisfied in open plan offices
A large University of Sydney study has found that open plan offices attract the highest levels of worker dissatisfaction, with cramped quarters, lack of privacy and noise topping the list of complaints. Open plan workplaces, where partitioned or non-partitioned desks in a large room replace individual offices, supposedly promote interaction between workers and increase teamwork. However, a study of over 40,000 survey responses collected over a decade reveals these supposed benefits are quickly outweighed by the disadvantages.
The researchers analysed over 42,760 survey samples collected in 303 office buildings in the US, Finland, Australia and Canada by the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley since 2000.
Approximately two-thirds of respondents work in open plan offices. More than half of the occupants in open-plan cubicles (59% for high partitioned cubicle and 58% for low partitioned cubicle) and 49% in open-plan with no or limited partitions expressed dissatisfaction with the condition of sound privacy. Between 20% and 40% expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for visual privacy and over 20% of all office occupants, regardless of office layout, registered dissatisfaction with the thermal conditions.
Lead author Jungsoo Kim, a PhD candidate at the University's Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, said his analysis did not look at whether open plan offices are more productive but that he suspected that workers found overhearing snippets of colleagues' conversations distracting.
Read more: The Conversation Source: Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear Workspace satisfaction: The privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 36, December 2013, Pages 18–26.
bike deaths and injuries increasing in Victoria
A new study from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety has found that the rate of quad bike incidents in Victoria is increasing, and that these often result in more serious injuries than those sustained in similar circumstances. Dr Tony Lower from the Centre, who co-authored the study, said that quad bike cases are more likely to involve a threat to life than other motorcycle incidents. The study identified 19 fatalities, 800 hospital admissions and 800 emergency department presentations relating to quad bikes in Victoria in the nine years to June 2011. The study concluded that quad bikes imposed a 'significant injury burden' in Victoria, with frequent fatalities, with the number of admissions, often serious, having increased over the study period. They also found that children were involved across all levels of severity. Finally, the authors concluded that a range of prevention approaches, such as mandatory fitting of crush protection devices to protect riders in the event of a roll over, are required.
Read more: Angela J Clapperton, Emily L Herde and Tony Lower Quad bike related injury in Victoria, Australia Med J Aust 2013; 199 (6): 418-422. doi: 10.5694/mja12.11456
Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Bill 2013 introduced into Parliament
The Treasurer, the Hon. Gordon Rich-Phillips MLC, last week introduced the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Bill 2013 into the Victorian Parliament. If passed, the Bill is expected to become operational on 1 July 2014.
According to WorkSafe, the Bill 'delivers the Government's election commitment to recast the Accident Compensation Act 1985 and the Accident Compensation (WorkCover Insurance) Act 1993 into a single Act that is simpler and easier to use.' While the Bill does not change the benefits available to injured workers, or the way that premium is calculated, it provides employers who are dissatisfied with their premium notices a new avenue to appeal these. Return to Work arrangements for all existing and new claims are the same under the Bill. Information on the Bill is available on the WorkSafe website. Also on the site are comparison tables that show how the Bill matches up to the existing legislation. WorkSafe will continue to provide updates on the Bill's progress.
WorkSafe Week: October
21 – 30: Information for HSRs
WorkSafe Victoria has now begun advertising events for HSRs during Work Safe Week. In a recent communication, the regulator says, 'We've made planning your Work Safe Week visit easier with four optional seminar packages specifically chosen to help Health and Safety Representatives get the most out of Work Safe Week. Each package books you into a full day of seminars and includes four options across the three Melbourne days. Each package covers different topics and industries, making it convenient and easy to plan your Work Safe Week experience.'
HSRs can check out the seminar 'packages' (which are scheduled on October 21, 22 and 23) and then register ONLINE. Note: WorkSafe has designated only ONE of these packages – the one on Monday October 21 - as satisfying the requirements under S69 of the OHS Act, meaning that elected HSRs have the right to attend this day of sessions on paid leave. However, HSRs are encouraged to attend
other sessions on other days as well.
Read more and register: Work Safe Week website
WorkSafe releases 2012/2013
financial year results
According to our regulator, a record low rate of workplace injuries and ongoing improvements in scheme management have helped deliver a 'sound' 2012/13 financial result for WorkSafe Victoria. WorkSafe Chief Executive, Denise Cosgrove, said Victoria's employers and employees had worked hard to reduce injury rates and, together with agents and WorkSafe staff, had helped create strong claims liability results. 'The number of claims per million hours worked fell to 7.53 as Victorian workplaces continued to improve their safety performances. That is a fall of 6.6 per cent on the previous year and once again confirmed Victoria as the safest state in which to work,' Ms Cosgrove said.
For the future, WorkSafe has put in place 'a clear strategy' to deal with the challenges of a changing socio-economic environment. 'Changing patterns and types of work, economic conditions, and an ageing workforce will increasingly affect workplace safety and return to work opportunities,' said Ms Cosgrove.
'While we have made steady gains over a sustained period of time, forward trends are showing that improvements are slowing. As a result, we have begun to introduce a series of strategic initiatives designed to keep improving workplace safety and deliver strong return-to-work and service rates while keeping
premium costs low and achieving our longer term performance targets.'
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release and WorkSafe Annual Report [pdf]
10-week campaign on concrete pre-cast panels
Precast concrete panels have become popular for many types of building projects but the risks associated with their use should not be underestimated. This is the message from WorkSafe Victoria at the beginning of a 10-week campaign to visit construction sites across the state to alert builders to their dangers.
WorkSafe construction manager Allan Beacom said that precast panels were used in many types of commercial and residential developments, such as shopping centres, warehouses, factories, and apartment complexes, but their size and weight made their use a high-risk operation. 'There have been several recent
near misses from the collapse of precast panels," Mr Beacom said. 'Concrete panels can be over 12 metres high and weigh more than 15 tonnes, and they also require significant temporary bracing to keep them stable. So there is no margin for error when panels are used.'
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia News
What Safe Work is doing about nanotechnology
An article by Dr Howard Morris, the Nanotechnology Work Health and Safety Manager for Safe Work Australia (SWA), provides information on nanotechnology and how SWA is 'working to provide policy direction, conduct research and offer guidance on risks' was recently published in Australian Manufacturing Technology.(September 2013, Pages 52-53). The article outlines briefly why there are OHS concerns with engineered nano-particles, as well as explaining what the duties of manufacturers and employers are under Australia's legislation. While the article is very clear, our ongoing concern is that many employers are doing nothing to address the potential risks of nano-particles to their workers, partially because they may not even be aware these are in the workplace.
Read more: Nanotechnology, health and safety
As at 23 September 2013, 117 Australian workers have been killed while at work. Of these, 28 occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing, 29 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing, and 17 in Construction. The effect on family and friends of these workplace fatalities is unimaginable.
Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
South Australia to close work safety
The South Australian Government is looking into how to close a loophole in workplace laws that allows companies to avoid fines for breaching safety regulations. Industrial relations minister John Rau said he would examine ways to resolve the issue within the state and will also raise the matter with the Federal Government.
The issue arose in a recent SA Industrial Court (IC) case when Ferro Con SA and its director Paolo Maione were ordered to pay $200,000 each for unsafe work practices that led to a worker's death during construction of the Desalination Plant in 2010.
Submissions were made that a reduction to the fines should be made based on contrition, cooperation with SafeWork SA and a guilty plea. And yet, they took steps to ensure the company insurance would cover the fines. On June 27, 2013, Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said: 'The message (the director's) actions send to employers and responsible officers is that, with insurance cover for criminal penalties for OHS offences, there is little need to fear the consequences.'
John Rau went on to say that with insurance, whether a company is fined $10,000 or $10m makes no difference – and this is surely not right. 'Insurance should not be the preference over safe equipment and safe workplace standards,' he said.
An interesting blog by Mark Jentsch (The Lunch Room Safety Consultant Blog) on this case: Can WHS legislation demand contrition?
Visy fined for taking adverse action against HSR
In May the Federal Court found that Visy Packaging and its operations manager contravened workplace rights protections in s340 of the Fair Work Act when they subjected the health and safety representative to an investigation and suspended him on full pay. Visy also breached the section when it issued him with a final written warning 10 days later. Visy was fined $23,100 and $24,750 for the two contraventions, and the operations manager fined $4,620 with the full $52,470 sum to be paid to the AMWU, as the union which had initiated the prosecution.
The HSR had exercised his rights under Section 25 of the Victorian OHS Act when he 'tagged' (in effect placed a 'ceasework') on two forklifts at the Coburg factory because he thought the reversing warning beeps were not loud enough. He then resisted the company's attempts to return the forklifts into service without having modified them.
Justice Bernard Murphy said that general deterrence was the most significant factor in his imposition of high penalties, noting the serious obligations imposed by s25 of the OHS Act. 'An elected health and safety representative takes on an important function under that Act, and it is a role which may bring him or her into conflict with an employer. Adverse action against a health and safety representative exercising his or her powers under the OHS Act must be treated as a serious matter,' he said. The judge acknowledged, however, that these penalties were unlikely to be of particular deterrence to a company as large as Visy.
The AMWU's state secretary, Steve Dargavel, said the company had not taken safety seriously enough, pointing to a 2008 incident at Visy's Wodonga factory where a woman was badly injured and required skin grafts after she was hit by a forklift, as a result of lax safety rules. The company was later fined more than $100,000 over that collision.
Mr Dargavel was also critical of WorkSafe, which he said had failed to prosecute the company over the safety breach: 'If it doesn't protect the person who raises safety concerns in the workplace, then people simply don't raise safety concerns.'
Read more: The Age Visy fined for rights breach and the full case: Automotive, Food, Metals, Engineering, Printing and Kindred Industries Union v Visy Packaging Pty Ltd (No 4)  FCA 930 (13 September 2013)
Melbourne Water pleads guilty over drowning death
Melbourne Water Corporation pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court this week over the workplace death of a technician who drowned in a sewerage channel at the Eastern Treatment Plant near Dandenong on December 1, 2011. It is believed that the 53 year old worker fell when a grate gave way after it was possibly dislodged earlier during a 'surge' of aerated liquid or foam from the channel. A search was conducted that morning after the worker's equipment was found near a missing grate. The man's body, in full work gear, was found after the channel was drained at the Bangholme plant, which treats 42 per cent of Melbourne's sewage.
WorkSafe Victoria charged the Corporation with failing to provide a safe work environment, in particular: not making walkways safe in the channel from unsecured grates that could become dislodged or misaligned, exposing the worker and others to death or serious injury from falling into the channel and
drowning or injuries from falling or tripping where a grate should be secured. The Corporation will later appear before the County Court.
Source: The Age Admission of guilt on workplace drowning
Comcare to prosecute ADF over soldier death
Comcare is prosecuting the Australian Defence Force (ADF) for breaching s16(1) of the 1991 OHS Act over a 2009 training incident in which a soldier died from shot wounds and another was injured at the Cultana (South Australia) training base. If found guilty, ADF could be fined up to $374,000, much less than the maximum under the WHS Act.
The soldier died when small-arms fire penetrated a wall he was crouched behind during a live-ammunition training drill on October 20, 2009. Recent media reports tell of a closed ADF inquiry finding several safety deficiencies had contributed to his death. ADF has reportedly changed its live-fire training
exercises following internal, SA coronial and police investigations. Comcare has alleged ADF failed to provide: bullet-proof barriers on the live-fire training range; adequate planning, information, instruction and training to people involved in training exercises; and adequate supervision, resulting
in OHS breaches.
cause of mystery kidney disease?
Various governments are now cracking down on pesticides as a potential cause of a mysterious form of kidney disease killing agricultural workers. In El Salvador, the congress approved a ban earlier this month on 53 agrochemicals, including leading products such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, and 2-4,D, produced by Dow Chemicals. If the law is signed by Salvadorean president Mauricio Funes, the country will join Sri Lanka as the second nation to ban top-selling pesticides for a potential link to kidney disease. Roundup is used widely in Australia.
Meanwhile, in India, new research from Harvard University and the state of Andhra Pradesh found local drinking water to be contaminated with high levels of silica — a mineral used in pesticides that has been linked by previous studies to kidney failure.
Read more: Countries target pesticides as suspected link to rare kidney disease and Mystery in the Fields The Centre for Public Integrity
Mine collapse kills at least 24
The partial collapse of a government owned coal mine in northern Afghanistan on September 14 appears to have killed at least 24 coal miners and injured 20 others, with latest reports putting the deaths as over 30. Many of those who died suffocated. According to locals, there are still dozens of workers underground, with the rescue team failing to save their lives. As there were no modern machines or means available for the rescue operation, the local authorities sought the help of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and NATO forces based in Samangan province - but they allegedly refused to take part in the operation to save the lives of the trapped workers. Even some of those rescued are likely to lose their lives, as the local clinics have insufficient medical staff, equipment and medication to treat serious cases.
The cause of the collapse is so far unclear. The government of Afghanistan and the private mining sector do not observe labor laws and ILO conventions, conditions are very poor and the lives of workers are not the priority for the government and private sector.
Sources: Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA), Al Jazeera and New York Times
Shocking cancer rates among 9/11 responders
Over 1,000 emergency workers who responded to the 11 September 2001 World Trade Center (WTC) tragedy in New York have developed cancers believed to be the result of exposure to the contaminated air that enveloped them. As of August this year, 1,140 responders and people who worked, lived or studied in lower Manhattan have been certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to have a WTC-related cancer. 'There are more cases out there, because we just know of the people in our government-funded medical programmes, not those who have been treated by their private doctors,' said Dr Jim Melius, chair of the steering committee for the WTC Responder Medical Programme and a 9/11 Health Watch board member. 'Because of the carcinogens in the air at Ground Zero, people who were exposed are vulnerable. And with cancer, there is a delay.' As many as 65,000 people, including first responders, who got sick from 9/11 exposure are part of a WTC medical monitoring and treatment programme in the New York metro area and in clinics around the country.
Read more: New York Daily News. World Trade Center Health Program Source: Risks 622.
Former Massey Energy manager jailed
David Hughart, a former longtime official of Massey Energy, has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison and three years of supervised release for participating in a conspiracy to hide mine safety violations from federal inspectors – he had pleaded guilty to two federal charges. The case against Hughart is part of an ongoing investigation related to the April 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine which killed 29 miners.
Read more: Charleston Gazette Source: The Pump Handle