SafetyNet 268, 10 October, 2013
Welcome to all our subscribers to this latest edition of SafetyNet, number 268 – especially the many who have subscribed recently from Western Australia. It's getting towards the end of the year and the weather is improving – but we must keep vigilant in ensuring hazards are identified and controlled. Unfortunately the end of the year often sees an increase in workplace fatalities: let's work together to ensure this doesn't happen this year.
Again: please show your support by following us on Twitter (@OHSreps) and joining the conversation.
Remembering Victoria's worst workplace tragedy: West
Gate Bridge collapse
On October 15, 1970, just before lunch, the West Gate Bridge suddenly groaned. Workers reported that an eerie pinging noise filled the air. A storm of rust flakes peeled off weathered steel. The girders started to turn blue. The bridge fell away beneath thefeet of those workers. Minutes later, 35 workers were dead. Following the tragedy, a Royal Commission was set up, and sat for six months. Its findings blamed the design, the construction method and the foolhardy attempts to rectify a construction failure. The West Gate Memorial Committee invites you to remember those killed, at its annual ceremony: 11.30am (for an 11.50am start) at the West Gate Memorial Park Monument, under the Bridge at Hyde St, Spotswood.
Read more about the tragedy: West Gate Bridge Memorial Site
ACTU condemns proposed changes to
Queensland WHS laws
ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick has warned that the Queensland government's proposed amendments to the Work Health and Safety laws to force union officials to give 24 hours' prior to entering workplaces to investigate suspected safety breaches will put worker's lives at risk and take the heat off employers who choose to cut corners on safety. 'These proposed amendments will put all workers at risk, not just on construction sites but across many workplaces. It takes the pressure off employers to do the right thing and it makes it harder for unions to protect their members,' said Mr Borowick, 'Unions are fearful this type of dangerous thinking could spread to other states creating a lowering of health and safety standards in Australia.'
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced the proposed changes last weekend saying this would align that state's WHS Act's entry provisions with those of the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009. He also said he 'will be seeking the agreement of other states and territories to get on board to break the unruly behaviour' of construction unions that 'abuse' entry laws.
provided no evidence that current laws are a problem, in fact only evidence
given by Government is that non-fatal injuries and disease claim rate for
construction sites in Queensland are improving and at a faster rate than the
rest of the country,' said Mr Borowick. 'Forcing unions to give notice before
entering worksites will give employers time to cover up dangerous practices,
therefore putting lives at risk.'
ACTU Media Release
Free asbestos information session - Geelong
A free information session, open to all interested people, is to be held on Thursday 7th November, 11am-1.30pm
Where: Lower Hall - Geelong Trades Hall, 127 Myers St Geelong. (Parking in Haymarket Carpark across the road from Trades Hall)
Come to find out more about what asbestos is, what are the effects, and about the work of Asbestoswise. For more information contact Renee at Asbestoswise: Ph: 03 9654 9555; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
GARDS newsletter now available
The September edition of the GARDS Newsletter is now available and can downloaded here [pdf]. News items include the address by the GARDS team to students of the Monash University Medical School and Nursing School. The newsletter also details the events being orgnaised for Asbestos Awareness week – the commemoration service on Friday November 29th, and an Asbestos Awareness Morning Tea on Thursday November 28th at the Moe RSL. The newsletter also reprints the UNSW media release on the dangers of DIY renovating, including an excellent diagram of where asbestos can be found in a house, and a range of photographs of asbestos containing materials. (The study was reported on in the last edition of SafetyNet)
Asbestos victims ask Yale: Revoke
honorary degree of former Swiss billionaire
Seventeen years after Yale University gave Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny an honorary doctorate of humane letters for environmental stewardship, a group of asbestos illness survivors and family members in Casale, Italy is asking the university to revoke the degree.Yale awarded the honor in 1996 based on Schmidheiny's work as a global leader, author and philanthropist in sustainable development. Schmidheiny, who inherited Eternit, a large family business making asbestos cement products, was charged in 2009 in Torino, Italy, with creating an environmental disaster and failing to take precautionary measures to stop the spread of the deadly fibre. In 2012 he was convicted of the charges, and on June 3 of this year, an appeals court upheld the environmental disaster charge and sentenced Schmidheiny to 18 years in prison.Schmidheiny, 65, is appealing the conviction in Italy's highest court.TheCasale group, joined by others, is asking Yale to revoke the degree and to meet with them.
Read more: CTNow.com
Last chance to 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 www.conquercancer.org.au 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).
Sri Lankan town prone to cancer due to
illegal asbestos plant
The World Health Organization in 2006 declared all forms of asbestos as carcinogenic – yet today, the Sri Lankan authorities have allowed an asbestos sheet manufacturing company to open and commence operation without the compulsory Environmental Protection Licence – not satisfying even the minimum environmental requirements mandated under law.
Read more: Ratmalana Sunday Leader, Sri Lanka.
I'm a recently elected HSR. Some of the other reps and I have some concerns with some of my workplace policies – in particular with the issue resolution policy – but with a number of others too. How do we go about getting these looked at?
Under the 2004 OHS Act the employer has a duty to consult about a very wide range of matters with 'affected' employees, and where these employees are represented by HSRs, the HSRs must be involved in the consultation. Included in these matters is, at Section 35(1)(d)(i) 'making decisions about the procedures for ... resolving health or safety issues at a workplace under the employer's management and control…' (see summary of Duty to Consult. Any policy on issue resolution must comply with both the Act and the regulations (see Resolution of Issues)
The other policies you're concerned about are likely to be about measures to address a hazard or risk, so the employer must also consult on these (also under Section 35). If there is a health and safety committee at your workplace, then this is the most appropriate forum for policies to be discussed and amended. You (and the other HSRs) need to alert management that you have some issues with the policy and ask that this matter be listed on the agenda for the next OHS Committee meeting. If you do not have a committee, then you can raise it as an issue to be resolved.
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.
Australians losing sleep over work stress
The Australia Institute (AI) is soon to release a report, Hard to Get a Break, based on new research which shows that over half of Australia's workers are unhappy with their working hours, with an estimated 2.9million losing sleep due to work stress. The results, based on over 1400 surveys done in July 2013, include:
- Australian workers 'donate' $110 billion in unpaid overtime every year
- 3.4 million workers eat their lunch at their desks
- 25 per cent of workers check work emails or answer work calls out of hours
- Of those who feel 'overworked', 1 in 4 experience anxiety
- 3.3 million 'overworked' Australians experience loss of sleep
- 50 per cent of Australians who are overworked would like to spend more time with their family
On the other
side of the ledger, 2.8 million Australians want to work more hours than they
do. The AI asks 'When millions of Australians work too much, and millions more
can't find enough work, it is time we did something different.' The report will be released in the lead up to
the Australia Institute's annual initiative, Go Home on Time Day November 20.
Read More: Australia Institute Media Release
Union hotline reveals increasing attacks on mental
The Health and Community Services Union is alarmed at the growing number of violent workplace attacks, with more than 14 critical incidents logged into the union's new 'critical incident hotline' over the past month. The union's state secretary, Lloyd Williams, said there was insufficient staff to provide one-on-one support to patients in acute mental health units. 'The patients are frightened and that can manifest in the sort of behaviour we are seeing where people lash out and hurt clinicians, or indeed hurt other patients,' he said. Incidents have included staff being verbally abused, bitten, punched in the face, their tyres being slashed, and in one extreme case, a patient smashing a window and chasing the nurse with a 30-centimetre shard of glass. 'People go to work not knowing if they are going to be assaulted on that day,' said Mr Williams.
HACSU Critical incident hotline Source: The Age
Tasmania passes firefighters' cancer compensation
On Thursday September 26 Tasmania became the first Australian state to pass legislation to allow firefighters with work-related cancers the automatic access to compensation for 12 different cancers. State Workplace Relations Minister David O'Byrne said that Tasmania's 300 career and 5000 volunteer firefighters 'face dangers most workers simply don't, including exposure to dangerous chemicals. Those extra dangers need extra protections, including special presumptive access to workers' compensation.'
On the same day in South Australia, Greens MLC Tammy
Franks introduced amendments to the Labor Government's presumptive workers'
compensation Bill for firefighters, to ensure coverage for both career and
volunteer firefighters who contract cancer.A similar Greens Bill that covered
all firefighters had passed through the Upper House in May, but stalled in the
Lower House where Labor holds the majority.Labor then introduced its own Bill,
which excludes volunteers.
Source: The Mercury
Female doctors report high levels of s*xual abuse
Monash University research,published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia, has revealed that over 50 per cent of female GPs have been s*xually harassed by a patient, leading some to avoid examinations and after-hours shifts due to safety concerns. Almost one third of those who reported harassment said they had been improperly grabbed or touched; over one third said they had been subjected to s*xually charged comments. The most common form of harassment were requests for inappropriate examinations, or inappropriate exposure of body parts. One hundred and eighty female practitioners from every Australian state and territory responded to the survey, conducted in 2010; 29 per cent were from Victoria.
The Royal Australian College of General
Practitioners president Dr Liz Marles said the research highlighted the
vulnerability of female doctors.She said the fact GPs worked "behind
closed doors" in a one-on-one confidential environment only escalated the
Read more: The Age S*xual abuse rife towards female GPs The Herald Sun Peter A Bratuskins, Heather A McGarry and Stephen J Wilkinson: S*xual harassment of Australian female general practitioners by patients.Med J Aust 2013; 199 (7): 454. doi:10.5694/mja12.11855
generally suffer higher levels of psychological stress
Another, larger, national survey has found that Australian doctors and medical students experience higher levels of psychological distress than the general community.Mental health group Beyond Blue interviewed more than 14,000 doctors and medical students.The study found that one in five students and one in 10 doctors had suicidal thoughts.Almost 4 per cent of doctors are experiencing high levels of psychological distress, a figure much higher than the general community. Cancer doctors were the most distressed specialists, while young female doctors were most at risk of mental health problems.
Read more: ABC Online
Fuel tanker safety fears
Following a fatal fuel truck crash involving a Cootes Transport vehicle in NSW last week, which killed two people, VicRoads grounded 36 tankers after finding faults in 91 of the 110 in the fleet it checked over the weekend. By Monday a further 60 Cootes Transport trucks were grounded. Officers issued the company with 158 defect notices. A brake failure was the suspected cause of the NSW crash, leading VicRoads to undertake a safety audit of the fleet. Faults found included oil and air leaks, brake and suspension defects and structural integrity issues. A VicRoads spokesperson told The Age, 'All vehicles will be checked before they are allowed to return to the road. VicRoads will review the…. company's heavy vehicle accreditation as part of this process.' There were fears that a significant grounding of the company's fleet would lead to fuel shortages in Victoria – and while supplies started to run low, the industry reassured the public the shortages would not last long.
recently released report has found that fire and mechanical failure eclipsed
driver fatigue as the leading causes of serious truck crashes. The National
Truck Accident Research Centre's (NTARC) 2013 major accident investigation
report found fire caused 12.1 per cent of major truck crashes in 2011, compared
to 11.9 per cent caused by fatigue. Mechanical failure was responsible for 5
per cent of crashes. The study examined 461 crashes in 2011, which accounted
for $54.7m in claims. This contrasts
with the Centre's 2011 report (which analysed crashes in 2009) where fatigue
accounted for almost twice as many serious truck crashes as fire. Speeding
remains the biggest problem and was responsible for 25.4 per cent of truck
crashes in the latest report, down from 31.8 per cent in the previous report. Driver
error accounted for 16.5 per cent of incidents.
Read more: The Age, ABCOnline, NTARC Report [pdf] Extra source: Occupational Health News
International Union News
Qatar: ITUC and Former ACTU head critical of response to labour violations
Qatar authorities have acknowledged problems with labour rights for the 1.2 million migrant workers there after the International Trade Union Confederation warned up to 4000 workers could die before a ball is kicked at the 2022 World Cup. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (and past ACTU President), said the promise by the Qatar authorities simply to increase the number of labour inspectors is weak and disappointing. 'There are already labour inspectors and they have no impact. What is needed are laws that protect workers' rights to join a union, bargain collectively and refuse unsafe work, and only then can inspectors do their job,' she said. 'The laws in Qatar give employers total control over workers so no worker will feel able to speak freely to a labour inspector.'
In March 2013, the ITUC lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Labour against six Qatari companies after workers contacted the ITUC to document their cases. The Labour Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour in Qatar received 6000 worker complaints in 2012, while the Indian Embassy in Qatar received 1500 complaints in the first five months of this year.
is now international pressure to move the World Cup – an editorial in this
Monday's Age addressed to FIFA
president Sepp Blatter, who is determined the Cup will remain in Qatar, states:
'It shouldn't. Instead, the right to host the 2022 tournament should be
recontested – not necessarily in Australia's favour, but for the overriding
reason that soccer should be played on a pitch, not a graveyard.'
Read more: ITUC Media Release (and background materials); Working Life FIFA inaction on Qatar an insult to dead workers' families: ITUC
Canada: Mine deaths plea
bargain 'betrays workers'
Canadian unions have labelled a plea bargain dropping the majority of safety charges against international mining giant Vale related to the deaths of two nickel miners in exchange for a Can$1m (Aus$1.04million) fine as 'another betrayal of Ontario workers and their families'. TheUnited Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500 said the decision highlights the government's failure to take comprehensive, meaningful action to better protect workers and to ensure justice for families whose loved ones are needlessly injured or killed on the job. Rick Bertrand, the Local's president, said 'Damning evidence was uncovered that showed the deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram, like so many other injuries and fatalities in Ontario mines, were preventable. Yet our government has refused to pursue the possibility of a criminal prosecution and rejected a public inquiry into mining safety. We're left with a plea bargain deal in which our government drops most of the health and safety charges in exchange for a fine against one of the largest corporations in the world.' The plea bargain agreement, negotiated between the Ministry of Labour and Vale, was accepted in the Ontario Court of Justice last week. The deal saw Vale plead guilty to three violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, with fines of Can$350,000 for each violation (less than the maximum penalty of $500,000for such breaches). Numerous other charges against Vale and one of its supervisors were dropped as part of the deal. USW conducted an eight-month investigation in the deaths and released a landmark report that revealed 'disturbing evidence' of safety violations in the mine and made sweeping recommendations to improve mining safety. Vale refused to co-operate with USW in its investigation.
Read more: USW news release, and USW Local 6500 Double Fatalities Investigation Report.
Also from Canada: Study confirms the
union 'safety dividend'
The shocking extent and causes of workplace injury under-reporting have been exposed by a Canadian study, Making It Home: Alberta Workplace Injuries and the Union Safety Dividend, that also reveals how unions protect workers both from unsafe workplaces and a government keen to downplay the risks. According to Athabasca University's Professor Bob Barnetson, who also identified a significant union 'safety dividend', the province of Alberta is under-counting workplace injuries by a factor of 10. The Parklan Institute researcher calculates that while the Alberta government only talks about injuries that resulted in lost or modified work - some 53,000 in 2009 - the real total is around 500,000, with over 446,000 going uncounted. 'The reason for the discrepancy,' said Barnetson, 'is that the only injuries the government discusses in public are the disabling injury claims. By not reporting on those injuries which do not result in lost or modified work, they are under representing the true rate of injury by a factor of ten.' He said what makes a real difference in reducing injury rates is direct worker participation in occupational health and safety efforts. He concluded this is one of the reasons that unionisation provides workers with a 'significant safety dividend', especially in Alberta, the only jurisdiction in Canada where joint worker-employer health and safety committees (JHSCs) are not mandatory for any size of workplace. Other union-related factors include better safety education and representation, more power to refuse dangerous work and union lobbying power. 'We are not trying to imply that unionisation is the only way to improve workplace safety,' said Barnetson, 'but the data certainly shows that unions provide a significant safety dividend that benefits all Alberta workers.'
Read more: Parkland Institute news release and Report executive summary. Source: Risks 625
quarter of teachers burn out
Teachers are at risk of burnout, even during their early career, according to a large-scale study by Monash University looking at what motivates teachers and why their initial enthusiasm may be unable to be sustained.In the FIT-Choice project, researchers began tracking the experiences of 1651 future teachers from their entry into teacher education in 2002/3 - seven years teaching so far. They will continue to track them, assessing the expectancies, values and goals relevant for future teachers, what happens to their motivation after they enter the profession, how they cope, and the greatest risks for teachers' effectiveness and wellbeing.
Co-lead researcher Associate Professor Helen Watt from the Faculty of Education said teaching has long been recognised as a challenging and rewarding occupation, but an increasingly stressful and demanding one. 'Concerningly, burnt-out and worn-out teachers comprise 27 per cent of our beginning teacher sample,' Associate Professor Watt said. 'The reasons the majority of beginning teachers gave for becoming teachers were related to their perceived skills set, the intrinsic enjoyment they derived from teaching, the desire to make a social contribution and to work with youth.'
Unfortunately these positive motivations
often could not be sustained once the teachers started in working in the
classroom. This was mainly due to a perceived lack of schools' support, and
structural hindrances, such as heavy administrative and compliance demands taking
time and energy away from working with young people in classrooms, which is why
many of them became teachers in the first place. When teachers had a high level
of professional support, they were more effective and their sense of wellbeing
Monash University news: Early burnout puts heat on teacher education
exposure at work poses worst pregnancy risk
Medical experts have warned that the evidence that exposure to chemicals in pregnancy leads to adverse reproductive and developmental health outcomes is 'sufficiently robust,'with the risks highest for those exposed at work. A report released last week by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) urges doctors to push for stricter policies to better identify and reduce exposure to chemicals that prove risky. During the first prenatal visit, ACOG wants doctors to ask mothers-to-be about their exposure to chemicals. Doctors should also ask about work during that first visit, the committee advised. The report warns: 'Women with occupational exposure to toxic chemicals also are highly vulnerable to adverse reproductive health outcomes.' The report noted that the issue is not solely about women and pregnancy, with a father's exposures also relevant.
'Obtaining a patient history during a
preconception visit and the first prenatal visit to identify specific types of
exposure that may be harmful to a developing fetus is a key step and also
should include queries of the maternal and paternal workplaces,' the report
said. 'Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals has been documented to increase
the risk of cancer in childhood; adult male exposure to pesticides is linked to
altered semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer; and postnatal exposure
to some pesticides can interfere with all developmental stages of reproductive
function in adult females, including puberty, menstruation and ovulation,
fertility and fecundity, and menopause.'
Read more: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee opinion, number 575, October 2013. Source: Risks 624
Study to track firefighter exposure to chemicals
There has already been a fair bit of research demonstrating that firefighters are at a greater risk of developing cancer because of exposure to toxic chemicals while fighting fires.A recently published study of firefighters in California by Dr. Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) in Blue Hill, found higher levels of chemicals from commercial flame retardants and other household materials than expected, increasing firefighters' risk of developing cancer later in life.
Shaw is planning a 15-year study to measure the actual
health outcomes of the chemical exposure. The study, due to begin next year,
will follow 50 Maine firefighters over a 15-year period, analysing their blood
after fires to determine the levels of chemicals and cancer indicators.The
California study found two to three times higher levels of chemicals from flame
retardants - polybrominateddiphenyl ethers, or PBDEs - than most of the
population.The high levels of toxic chemicals place firefighters at a higher
risk, but the longer-term study will try to identify the chemicals that factor
in the development of cancer. Shaw said the study is the first of its kind.
Read more: Kennebeck Journal and The Maine Public Broadcasting Channel
unlikely to recommend alternate duties for injured workers
Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia this week, has found that more than 70 per cent of initial medical certificates issued by GPs for injured workers instructed them to stay away from work. Fewer than a quarter recommended a return to work with modified duties.The study, a collaborative work undertaken by academics from the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) and Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, examined more than 120,000 medical certificates provided to injured workers in Victoria from 2003 to 2010.
Dr Alex Collie, Chief Research Officer for ISCRR, said 'This has significant implications given the growing body of evidence showing work benefits health and that returning to work after injury or illness can in fact promote recovery. These days lost are also highly relevant to the growing debate around the productivity of our workforce and the viability of compensation schemes.'
The study is part of a broader project
examining the role of GPs in the return to work process and has undertaken
in-depth qualitative interviews with GPs, injured workers, employers and
compensation scheme representatives.
Read more: ISCRR Media Release. Collie, A, et al: Sickness certification of workers compensation claimants by general practitioners in Victoria, 2003–2010 Med J Aust 2013; 199 (7): 480-483. doi:10.5694/mja13.10508
Monash university to study work-related traffic injuries and fatalities
Insurance company Vero and the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) will undertake research into the prevalence of work-related traffic injuries and how they are impacted by workplace practices and cultures.The research will identify which workplace behaviours are most effective in promoting a culture of safe driving and preventing road traffic injuries. These are the leading cause of work-related deaths in Australia, but do not figure in workplace fatality statistics.The results will assist in identifying potential improvements to risk management, and health and safety procedures across Australia.
Dr Sharon Newnam, the research project's Chief Investigator at MUARC, said many organisations are unaware of the factors likely to lead to reductions in work-related road traffic injury and deaths. 'This study will not only identify the individual-driver, supervisor and organisational-level factors associated with work-related road traffic injury,' said Dr Newnam. 'It will also establish, for the first time, an occupational translation taskforce to ensure the research findings are adopted into workplace practice and, thereby, directly contribute to reductions in work-related road traffic injury.'
The occupational translation taskforce will
be charged with translating the research findings into practices and outcomes
that can be adopted by organisations and regulators. The taskforce will
comprise representatives from the insurance industry, government departments,
and two vehicle fleet operators.
Read more: Vero Medial Release
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Harmonisation of health and
safety laws: progress
There are many hundreds of people around Australia, in unions, employer organisations and government, who spent months of their lives working on the harmonisation of OHS legislation over the past few years. For many of us, we wonder whether the effort (the 'blood, sweat and tears') was worth it. With Victoria rejecting the package (after the election of a conservative government) and some other jurisdictions (notably WA and now Queensland) picking and choosing 'bits' only, the situation is far from 'harmonised'. Those interested in an in-depth reflection should go to the excellent SafetyAtWorkBlog and read Australian research on OHS harmonisation's progress: success and errors in which Kevin Jones looks at the recent work of Monash researchers Eric Windholz and Graeme Hodge.
Wild winds prompt warning
Dangerous winds across Victoria over the past few weeks prompted a WorkSafewarning to builders, sub-contractors, event organisers and outdoor workers to ensure loose materials at their worksites are secure.Gale force winds averaging 60-70km/h were forecast today, with peak gusts of 90-110km/h. WorkSafe chief executive Denise Cosgrove said high winds were particularly dangerous if partially completed structures or temporary structures were not adequately braced or secured.Ms Cosgrove also warned that flying debris from construction sites or temporary event sites posed a risk not just to workers but the general public as well.
WorkSafe media release
Reminder: WorkSafe Week: October 21 –
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
Read more and register: Work Safe Week website
Latest edition of WorkSafe Safety
The latest edition of WorkSafe's newsletter came out this week. The newsletter has items on precast concrete panels, and what inspectors do when they go onsite; WorkSafe Week news; and more.
Since the last edition (September 20), there were 59 incidents from the construction, utility and quarrying industries reported to WorkSafe, including one fatality (in which a contractor had a heart attack on site). However, there were several serious incidents, any of which could have resulted in more fatalities.The incidents included 16 lacerations, nine fractures and two electric shocks. In a particularly nasty incident, a worker was moving an aluminium windowto get to aparticular area on site. Heleaned the windowagainst an internal wall and continued workingon grinding concrete.The windowthen fell onto his right leg, resulting in the leg being 'de-gloved'. The list [pdf] can be downloaded for more information. Safety Soapbox
Safe Work Australia News
New report on work health and safety in the road freight transport industry
SWA has released a new report in response to the identification of the road transport industry sub-sector as a priority in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 (the Australian Strategy). The road transport industry together with the agriculture industry was identified as the focus of efforts in all jurisdictions during the first five years of the Australian Strategy due to the high numbers of fatalities in these industries.The report provides an overview of the work health and safety status within the road freight transport industry, an industry primarily engaged in transporting freight using trucks on public roads. Road freight transport is a sub-sector of the road transport industry. The main findings are:
- There was a 48 percent decrease in the annual number of work-related injury fatalities in the industry over the last four years. Despite this, fatality rates in the road freight transport industry were roughly ten times higher than those for all industries across the eight years up to 2011.
- 78 percent of the work-related injury fatalities were the result of single-vehicle incidents on public roads.
- There were approximately 4000 non-fatal serious workers' compensation claims requiring a week or more away from work each year between 2002 and 2011.
- The majority of serious workers' compensation claims were caused by manual handling or falls rather than vehicle incidents.
Read more: Work health and safety in the road freight transport industry (for the full report and more information).
As at 27 September 2013, 118 Australian workers have been killed while at work. Of these, 28 occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing, 31 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing, and 17 in Construction. Safe Work Australia Work Related Fatalities
Also available are the monthly fatality reports, the most recent of which is May. There were 13 work-related notifiable fatalities reported during May — 11 male workers and 2 male bystanders. This compares to 19 deaths in the month before, April. For further details see the Notified Fatalities Monthly Report May 2013, which can be downloaded here.
ACT: On-the-spot fines have 'biggest
The ACT Work Safety inspectorate more than doubled its prohibition, infringement and improvement notices across the construction industry this year and increased site visits and blitzes by almost 15 per cent.But according to ACT Work Safety Commission Mark McCabe it is the recent introduction of on-the-spot fines of up to $3600 which appeared to be having the biggest impact on curbing unsafe work practices across the ACT. He said there had been considerable interest from the other states as to what effect the new fines were having, with the ACT model potentially being taken up elsewhere in Australia.
Builders Association reported attendance of up to 500 in the public education
forums around the new fine regime – greater than any other public education
campaign, but its executive director John Miller said he was hopeful the ACT
Government and Work Safety inspectorate would also 'focus on some carrot as
well as the stick in terms of safety compliance.'
Read more: The Canberra Times Worksafe on-the-spot fines have biggest impact
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- From WorkSafe Victoria – new/revised leaflet Outworkers - Health and Safety at Work providing advice to both outworkers and their employers.
- From the UK's HSE: a resource issued in September which can be downloaded free (or hard copies purchased): Farmwise- Your essential guide to health and safety in agriculture.
Worker loses part of foot: Employer prosecuted
WorkCover NSW recently prosecuted Big River Timbers (Veneer) Pty Ltd following an incident at the company's timber and plywood factory in February 2007 which resulted in an employee's foot being caught in an unguarded nip point of a moving conveyor. The worker suffered a serious injury and, ultimately, the partial amputation of his foot. The prosecutor alleged the company failed to provide safe plant; failed to provide safe designated walkways and crossing/access paths; failed to undertake a risk assessment in relation to the operation of the saw; failed to provide safe systems of work; and failed to provide sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to the workers.
Justice Wayne Haylen determined that while the incident was unlikely to
result in a fatality, it was nevertheless serious. He determined that BRT had
committed an objectively serious offence, given that the risk associated with
the unguarded machinery was not only foreseeable, but also obvious.In
determining penalty, Justice Haylen also noted the company's previous
conviction in 2003, which increased the maximum penalty available to $825,000
and convicted and fined the company $120,000.
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Companies cited for death of worker due to heat exhaustion
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited BFI Waste Services of Texas LP, and their temporary labor provider Recana Solutions LLC with seven safety violations for exposing workers to excessive heat after a worker died from heat stress in June. 'It is truly a matter of life and death that workers and employers take proactive steps to stay safe in extreme heat and be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion,' said Mark Briggs, OSHA's area director in the Houston South office. 'It's as simple as drinking plenty of water and taking breaks in cool, shaded areas in order to save lives,' he said, with perhaps unbelievable naivety.
BFI Waste Services of Texas was cited for two serious violations, which have a combined maximum penalty of only US$14,000 (AS$15,021), for failing to provide first aid training and protect workers from recognized heat stress hazards. Two other-than-serious violations (penalty of US$6,000) were for failing to report the fatality to OSHA within 8 hours and record the temporary worker's fatality on the employer's OSHA 300 log for record keeping. This is a total of US$20,000 (A$29,460). Recana Solutions was cited for one serious violation (penalty US$7,000) for failing to protect workers from recognized heat stress hazards, and the two other-than-serious violations – a total of US$13,000.
Read more: OSHA News Release
BP lied about size of US Gulf oil spill
In the frantic days after the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP lied about how much oil was leaking from its Macondo well and took too long to cap it, plaintiffs' lawyers said last week at the opening of the second phase of the company's trial. 'BP refused to spend any time or money preparing to stop a deepwater blowout at its source,' said Brian Barr, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, which include people affected by the spill, the U.S. government and Gulf states, and BP's former contractors. 'BP then made the situation worse, by lying about the amount of flow from the well,' he said.
Internal company emails
presented at the trial showed BP saying publicly after the spill that 5,000
barrels of oil a day were leaking into the ocean when it knew it could have
actually been up to 100,000 barrels a day. The U.S. government says 4.9 million
barrels were spilled in the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history. BP says
3.26 million barrels leaked from the well during the nearly three months it
took to cap the blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Potential fines under the
Clean Water Act could reach $17.6 billion - an amount well beyond the $42
billion BP has so far set aside for clean-up, compensation and damages. As well
as representing an environmental disaster, eleven workers were killed that day,
and many others, workers and residents, are suffering health effects.
Read more: Reuters
S Korea: Call
For UN Intervention in Samsung's Occupational Disease Crisis
MINBYUN, or Lawyers for a Democratic Society, filed allegations letters with the Special Producers of Human Rights Council of the UN on September 25, seeking intervention in Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd's and the South Korean government's inaction toward the deadly occupational disease cluster at the world's largest chipmaker. In three separate letters, drawing on data provided by SHARPS, MINBYUN listed concerns ranging from consistent failures by Samsung to protect employees from hazardous chemicals, to time-consuming and costly regulatory loopholes that help financially ruin the victims and their families.
Read more: SHARPS website