SafetyNet 307, January 22, 2015
The VTHC OHS Unit welcomes our subscribers to the first edition of SafetyNet for 2015. We hope everyone who had a summer break had a very safe and relaxing one – although many of you may have worked through. If you have any comments or suggestions for items, please send them in to Renata firstname.lastname@example.org and please follow us on Twitter @OHSreps
Serious incident in construction
According to a very brief tweet from CFMEU's Victorian State Secretary, John Setka, there was a serious incident in which two plumbers were thrown nine metres from a scissor lift (EWP) on a Qanstruct construction site yesterday (Wednesday). The incident occurred at a TNT site in Tullamarine. Injuries apparently include broken ribs, legs, pelvis and back. SafetyNet secured further information from the CFMEU and Plumbers' Union OHS Officers, who were on site today. The two men, both members of the Plumbers' union, were fitting sprinklers when the EWP toppled over. One worker sustained breaks to both ankles and shins, and smashed heels. The other worker sustained severe back injuries. Both have undergone surgery are in intensive care. As well as the union OHS Officers, inspectors from the VWA were on site yesterday.
Another quad bike fatality
The VTHC questions how many more quad bike fatalities have to occur before regulatory action is taken. This week came the tragic news that a seven year old boy was killed in Walgett, in north-east NSW. While local police issued a warning to parents to ensure that helmets and protective gear are worn, the reality is that these bikes are extremely dangerous and children should not be riding them at all.
Source: ABC Online
TWU demands remote-area phones following death of driver in WA
The Transport Workers Union wants employers to provide all workers travelling to remote areas with a satellite phone and emergency positioning beacon, saying lessons have not been learnt from past tragedies. A 39-year-old driver was found dead on a remote Mid West roadside last Friday (January 16) after he left his bogged truck and walked about 20km in 46C looking for help. An investigation is under way into what safety equipment he had for the trip to a remote station north-west of Meekatharra to deliver water tanks for Tanks West, but apparently he did not have access to a satellite phone, EPIRB or other GPS tracking equipment.
TWU WA assistant secretary Paul Aslan said current laws that required companies to supply workers who operated alone with an "up-to-date" means of communication in case of an emergency were too ambiguous. Mr Aslan said this latest death again raised concerns about the lack of safety equipment and training for drivers, almost four years after the death of another truck driver in similar circumstances near Wiluna. Following an inquest into that fatality, Work Safe inspectors visited more than 100 commercial transport companies after first warning them of their requirements. They issued 96 improvement notices, including 24 for failing to ensure there was a means of communicating with isolated employees.
Read more: Push for Remote-area Phones TWU Media Release
I'm an elected OHS rep at my workplace. For the past 12 months I worked on a construction site for my employer, where I was earning a higher rate of pay plus site allowance. During this time my employer would lower my rate of pay when I was required to to attend safety meetings with their management. I don't think this is right – is it?
No, what management is doing is not right at all! When a person is elected and agrees to take on the voluntary role of HSR, this is on the basis that the HSR is in no way disadvantaged. An HSR is an asset for the employer too – not only representing fellow workers, but also assisting the employer in ensuring the workplace is healthy and safe.
Page 33 of the VWA publication Employee Representation states:
"An employer has to allow an HSR to take time off work with pay as necessary for exercising their powers under the OHS Act. What does this mean in practice?
The guiding principle is for the HSR not to be disadvantaged in any way for taking on the role of HSR. VWA's position on payment is that the HSR, when exercising their powers as an HSR or performing any of the functions the OHS Act gives them, must be paid as if at work, including shift or other allowances to which an employee is entitled."
The publication then lists a number of matters for which the HSR must be released with pay, including "attendance at meetings, e.g. HSC meetings, meetings of DWGs and meetings with other HSRs."
Consequently, you should have been paid the rate you were getting while on site – it's only because you are the HSR that you were attending those meetings and you should have been paid the site and any other allowance you had been receiving. See these pages for more information on the rights of elected reps: OHS reps - your rights; Facilities and Time Off
Please send any OHS related queries in to 'Ask Renata' - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can – usually within a couple of days.
NSW: More Mr Fluffy inspectors to be appointed
The ABC has reported that following a surge in requests, checks for Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos insulation in New South Wales houses will be increased. Registrations for asbestos checks rose by 50 per cent over the past month to more than 2,600 after a new website and hotline opened. Most of the affected NSW properties are in Queanbeyan. Inspections are voluntary and there are currently 11 licensed inspection companies are working across 26 NSW council areas. Peter Dunphy from the NSW Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities said extra assessors would be selected to speed up the testing process.
In its latest update on the Independent Investigation into Loose-Fill Asbestos, WorkCover NSW reports that as of 15 January, 1704 premises in the 26 council areas have registered for the free sampling service, and 545 properties have been tested – with all samples returning a negative result.
Read more: ABC News Online Jan 20 Update
NSW: Ballina contractor fined for dumping asbestos
A Ballina contractor, Barry Curtis and his company ABC Ballina Asbestos & Demolition Pty Ltd, has been fined $50,000 plus costs of over $5,000 for illegally dumping demolition waste at a Lismore property. Council compliance officers attended a property in East Lismore on 12 May last year to monitor the demolition of a fire-damaged premises. A short time later, they saw a truck from the demolition site driving away. After investigating they discovered a large quantity of demolition waste dumped on a property in North Lismore, and caught the tipper truck operator red-handed as the waste was being deposited. The owners of the property did not know the demolition waste was being dumped on their land.
NT: $32m clean-up bill for asbestos and pollutants hazard holds up land claim
In an example of the long-reaching effects of asbestos contamination, Australia's oldest unresolved Aboriginal land rights claim is facing a huge asbestos problem which could cost almost $32 million to clean up. The Kenbi land claim was lodged in 1979 and 36 years later has still not been fully resolved.
The claim covers the Cox Peninsula, west of Darwin, which had been used by the Commonwealth Government for over 70 years for communications and defence purposes during WWII, with a lighthouse and other government buildings spread over 4,750 hectares of land. A recent report by the Department of Finance states that buildings and their surrounding areas on the land have dangerous levels of asbestos, pesticides, heavy metals and other toxic pollutants, which "pose a significant risk to human health" and represent a "liability for the Commonwealth". The area has also been used as a dump for decades, with building debris from Cyclone Tracy in 1974 being offloaded there.
Read more: ABC News Online
International: Countries with high mesothelioma rates
A new study, by the Centre for the Study of Environmental Cancer - Italian League Against Cancer earlier this week, has found that the number of mesothelioma cases is still rising in many parts of the world. The report, published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found the highest mesothelioma rates in Malta, the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand. An article in the Malta Independent examines the situation in that country.
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Cancer cluster at Fiskville confirmed by study
The new Labour Victorian Government has revealed that a comprehensive Monash University health study has confirmed a cancer cluster associated with firefighters at the Fiskville Training Centre. The study, released yesterday, found that firefighters who trained at the facility, west of Melbourne, were "significantly over-represented" in cancer statistics. The Government has promised a parliamentary inquiry into the issue and started the process for establishing one late last year. It has also promised to introduce "presumptive legislation" to make it easier for sick firefighters to get compensation.
In a bulletin issued yesterday, the United Firefighters Union states: "The UFU has been consistent in expressing concerns over the CFA's handling of the serious health and safety concerns around the Fiskville site," and alerts members of an upcoming meeting at Fiskville to discuss members' concerns. According to the bulletin, "There has been consistent denials by Mick Bourke, the CFA Board and the previous government in relation to the problems that have now been exposed at Fiskville. Clearly their position is untenable. Both Mick Bourke and the CFA Board should do the right thing and resign, as should those that were also in charge of Fiskville during those periods where the unsafe material was used and covered up."
Read more: ABC News online; UFU Bulletins Number 14 and Number 15 (with a link to the Monash Report); The Age.
NSW: Unions petition against watering down of WHS regulations
The conservative NSW State Government has foreshadowed changes to that state's WHS Regulations – in line with the changes being proposed to the model Regulations at the national level – and only allowed a brief time for public comment. Unions NSW has launched a campaign and petition against the changes – which if proceeded with will reduce health and safety protection for workers. There are a number of cuts/changes with far-reaching effects. These include:
- Making it more difficult to negotiate, elect and train health and safety representation; and to resolve safety issues and disagreements;
- reducing first aid, emergency and emergency equipment requirements;
- removing requirements for regulating remote or isolated work;
- removing the requirement for fall prevention;
- remove regulation for high risk work;
- reducing the requirements to maintain an asbestos register; and more.
Read more and sign the petition: Unions NSW Campaign Bring Our Workers Home Safely
WA: Worker dies at mine in Pilbara
The WA Department of Mines and Petroleum this week confirmed a worker was killed on a mining exploration lease which is part of Consolidated Minerals' Woodie Woodie manganese mine. DMP Director of Mine Safety Andrew Chaplyn said, "The accident involved a fitter who was working a dozer being used to clear land for exploration drilling." Two DMP inspectors were sent to the site immediately with two more going yesterday to investigate the incident. The worker was a contractor.
Also in WA's Pilbara region, a crane toppled over on Tuesday at Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill mine site as it was being evaluated by an inspector. Through sheer luck, nobody was injured in the incident, which occured when the plant inspector was assessing equipment on the $10 billion iron ore mine's construction site. The inspector was there due to a prohibition notice issued by the Department of Mines and Petroleum, which had told Roy Hill to urgently improve safety standards following earlier incidents involving cranes and elevated working platforms.
Sources: Sky News; ABC News Online
Queensland Labor pledges to ban 100% FIFO projects
Queensland opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk in this week's policy launch has pledged to end projects that use 100% fly-in fly-out (FIFO) labour in a bid to create jobs in regional communities. The policy states a Labor government would not approve 100% FIFO proposals and would review all existing 100% FIFO approvals within the first 100 days of office. While the stated rationale is to "protect regional communities to ensure they don't live and die by the daily fluctuations of the coal price", Ms Palaszczuk also made reference to mental illness concerns for FIFO workers.
The Labor opposition has also promised to reverse amendments made to WHS laws by the current government - that is, to restore HSR powers, WHS-related union entry rights and common laws access to all injured workers. The LNP Government last year amended Queensland's mirror WHS Act to remove the right of health and safety reps to order ceaseworks, to require HSRs to give 24 hours' notice before any person entered a site to assist them, and to require WHS entry permit holders to give 24 hours' notice before entering a site to investigate suspected safety contraventions. The LNP also amended the workers' comp Act so that injured workers with a whole person impairment of five per cent or lower couldn't sue employers in common law.
International Union News
UK: TUC feature on fracking and worker health
The UK's peak union council, the TUC has released a briefing paper - Fracking and workers' health and safety - on health and safety issues relating to hydraulic fracking for shale gas. It says that while many are the same as for any gas extraction, there are key differences. For example, both in Australia and in the UK, most gas extraction has been off-shore while it is likely that most fracking will be on land. This briefing note considers a range of worker safety issues, including:
- The main safety hazards that fracking workers regularly encounter.
- Exposure to silica - large quantities of silica sand are used during hydraulic fracturing.
- Public Safety and Health issues, including the "catastrophic" risk from explosions at the plant or during transportation; and the potential for methane and by-products from fracking to contaminate water supplies.
- Regulation and enforcement.
- Worker involvement: for unions, one of the most crucial ways of ensuring safety is to have strong unions and safety representative involvement in all aspects of health and safety in the emerging fracking industry.
Long working hours linked to increase alcohol consumption
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of both published studies and unpublished individual participant data to quantify the association between long working hours and alcohol use has found that those who work excessive hours are more likely to increase their alcohol use to risky levels. The results support restricting working hours to less than 48 hours a week – in line with the European Union directive on Working Hours.
The researchers, from a number of research organisations in Europe, analysed more than 80 studies, representing more than 430,000 workers from countries including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States, to quantify the association between long working hours and "risky alcohol use" - more than 14 drinks a week for women and more than 21 drinks a week for men. The findings suggested that people who work more than 48 hours a week are 13 per cent more likely to consume alcohol at risky levels than those who work standard hours (35-40 hours a week), after adjusting for gender, age, socioeconomic status and geographical region.
Source: Virtanen, M et al: Long working hours and alcohol use: systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished individual participant data, BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), 13 January 2015.
Most types of cancer NOT due to "bad luck"
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has said it "strongly disagrees" with the conclusion of a scientific report that concluded cancer was largely down to 'bad luck'. IARC, the World Health Organisation's specialised cancer agency, said the study, published in the journal Science on 2 January compares the number of lifetime stem cell divisions across a wide range of tissues with lifetime cancer risk and suggests that random mutations (or 'bad luck') are "the major contributors to cancer overall, often more important than either hereditary or external environmental factors." In a 15 January statement, IARC said there are "limitations and biases in the analysis" and a "serious contradiction" between the widely reported paper's conclusion and the extensive body of scientific evidence on cancer causation. "We already knew that for an individual to develop a certain cancer there is an element of chance, yet this has little to say about the level of cancer risk in a population," said IARC director Dr Christopher Wild. "Concluding that 'bad luck' is the major cause of cancer would be misleading and may detract from efforts to identify the causes of the disease and effectively prevent it." Noting that preventive efforts and not luck had led to substantial reductions in some cancers, the IARC director concluded: "The remaining knowledge gaps on cancer aetiology should not be simply ascribed to 'bad luck'. The search for causes must continue while also investing in prevention measures for those cancers where risk factors are known."
Also in response to the Science report, an important association of public health professionals has issued an appeal for an increase in the research resources devoted to investigating the occupational causes of breast cancer. The American Public Health Association (APHA), with about 30,000 members worldwide, is appealing online for recognition of the occupational nature of some breast cancers. The APHA denounces the lack of attention to some alarming recent research findings indicating a link between exposure to chemical agents in the workplace and the increase in rates of breast cancer. The Association says research on the occupational and environmental causes of breast cancer must become a priority: 'Until recently, women's occupational health hazards continued to be mostly invisible, studied inadequately and infrequently despite women's long-time participation in the workforce. This lack of gender perspective comes at a price: working women's health'.
The document draws attention to the presence in the workplace of a category of toxic agents that affect the hormonal system and are commonly referred to as 'endocrine disrupters'. Substances subject to particular caution in this respect include bisphenol A – the use of which in the manufacture of food containers has been banned in France since 1 January – and phthalates. The presence of these chemicals in the workplace could, even in small quantities, prove harmful for the health of women workers.
Read More: APHA: Breast Cancer and Occupation: The Need for Action; Science: Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions – [Abstract]; ARC: Most types of cancer not due to "bad luck" [pdf]; The Economist: The causes of cancer. Chancing your arm; The Silent Spring Institute: Is cancer just bad luck? We don't think so
More evidence on wood dust and lung cancer
A study has found that those with substantial exposure to wood dust at work have a greatly increased risk of lung cancer. Researchers from the universities of Montreal and Quebec conducted two population-based case control studies in Montreal, Canada. They obtained detailed job histories by interview, with each job then evaluated by expert chemist-hygienists to estimate the likelihood and level of exposure to many substances, one of which was wood dust. The most frequently wood-exposed occupations found were in construction, timber and furniture making industries. Study 1 found the odds ratio for lung cancer was 40 per cent higher in those "with substantial cumulative exposure to wood dust." In study 2, the excess was 70 per cent. The paper published in January 2015 in the journal Environmental Health concludes there was "evidence of increased risk of lung cancer among workers with substantial cumulative exposure to wood dust." Occupational exposure to wood dust is also linked to nasal, nasopharyngeal and other cancers, and is recognised by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a group 1 human carcinogen.
Source: Risks 686. Eric Vallières, et al Occupational exposure to wood dust and risk of lung cancer in two population-based case-control studies in Montreal, Canada [Abstract ], Environmental Health, volume 14, number 1, 7 January 2015. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-14-1
Crude oil exposure linked to kidney cancer
A study of refinery workers has found exposure to crude oil may lead to a marked increase in kidney cancer risk. Researchers looked at cancer patterns in 9,454 workers employed in the oil refinery industry in Finland in the period 1967 to 1982. The purpose of the study was to assess whether occupational exposure to hydrocarbons in oil-refining activity increases the risk of kidney cancer. They found there was a threefold increase in the kidney cancer risk for exposure to hydrocarbons in crude oil. The authors concluded occupational exposure in oil refining, particularly to crude oil, may increase kidney cancer risk. Crude oil was last evaluated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 1989, when it concluded there was insufficient evidence to categorise crude oil as a human carcinogen, although it did say there was supportive animal evidence.
Source: Risks 686 Ahti Anttila et al. Kidney cancer risk in oil refining in Finland: a nested case-referent study [Abstract], Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, volume 57, issue 1, pages 68–72, January 2015.
More evidence on night shift link to diabetes
A study has found that African-American women who work night shifts are significantly more likely to develop diabetes than those who have never worked night shifts, with more years working the night shift resulting in a higher risk. The increased risk of diabetes in shift workers was more pronounced in younger women than older women. The US study was published this month in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. As part of the Black Women's Health Study (BWHS), 28,041 participants free of diabetes provided information in 2005 about having worked the night shift. The women were followed for incident diabetes during the next eight years. Thirty-seven per cent of the women reported having worked the night shift, with 5 per cent having worked that shift for at least 10 years. Follow-up found that compared to those never having worked the night shift, the increased risk of developing diabetes was 17 per cent for 1–2 years night shift work; 23 per cent for 3–9 years, and 42 per cent for 10 or more years. After adjustment for body mass index (BMI) and lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking status, the association between increasing years of night shift work and increasing diabetes risk remained statistically significant, with a 23 per cent increase in those who had worked night shifts for 10 years or more versus those who never had worked the night shift. The authors said their study "has important public health implications", adding there should be "consideration of avoiding shift work in favour of other work arrangements when possible." The study adds to a slew of recent studies showing a link between shiftwork and diabetes.
Source: Risks 686. Varsha Vimalananda et al. Night-shift work and incident diabetes among African-American women [Abstract ], Diabetologia, 14 January 2015.
Victoria: Workplaces urged to make safety a priority in 2015
According to provisional figures released earlier this month, a total of 23 people died in Victorian workplaces last year. Seven of those deaths occurred in the final two months of 2014. VWA health and safety executive director Len Neist said despite workplace injury numbers declining, the number of workplace deaths occurred with "tragic frequency" and that we should aim for a fatality-free 2015. Mr Neist said everyone had a part to play in making workplaces safe. "Employers can improve safety by making sure staff are trained and supervised, they have the right equipment to carry out their work, and that any risks are identified and managed appropriately," he said. "Approaching safety together to control exposure to hazards and manage risks is the best way to prevent serious injury or death in the workplace."
The agriculture sector remains a priority for the VWA, claiming 10 lives in 2014. Eight of those fatalities occurred on farms. "Farmers often work alone and are exposed to other risks such as working with heavy machinery, so it's important that they remain vigilant," said Mr Neist.
Read more: VWA Media Release
Comcare: self-insurance licence change
The Federal Government has said a change to the duration of licences to self-insure with Comcare will save business more than $1 million a year. Minister for Employment Eric Abetz announced that the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission had extended the initial two-year licence period to up to eight years, and the four-year ongoing licence period also to up to eight years for self-insurance licences under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.
Both unions and State governments opposed granting national companies self-insurer licenses under Comcare under the Howard Government, as it also meant these companies would come under the Commonwealth OHS legislation.
Read more: Comcare information
Safe Work Australia
Australia-wide fatalities 2015
The national count of fatalities has been restarted for 2015, and as of January 20, six fatalities had been notified to Safe Work Australia. When we last reported (December 16), there had been 175 fatalities – by the end of the year, the total had reached 187. That is, twelve more people were killed in the last two weeks of December. More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
The fatalities this year: three more in the past week. The fatalities: two in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; two in Transport, postal and warehousing; one in Manufacturing; and on ine 'other services'.
A number of prosecution outcomes have been published on the VWA site since the last edition of SafetyNet:
1- Fatality: worker crushed to death, $100,00 fine
TCB Trans Pty Ltd provided a crane truck operator and crane truck to unload steel coils at a construction site. On 8 October 2008, the TCB employee commenced the lift when the crane truck lifted towards the adjacent semi-trailer, crushing him between the crane truck and the semi-trailer. On 8 December 2014, TCB pleaded guilty to one contravening section 21(1) and 2(e) of the OHS Act 2004 for failing to provide a working environment that was, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. TCB was convicted and fined $100,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.
2 – Grocon subsidiary fined just $250,000 for triple fatality
As reported in SafetyNet 303, On Friday 21 November Grocon (Victoria Street) Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for breaching Section 26 [Duties of persons who control workplaces], of the OHS Act 2004. The sentence was as the result of a guilty plea being entered by the company. The incident occurred on Thursday 28 March 2013, when a brick masonry wall with a timber hoarding attached collapsed on to Swanston Street, Melbourne and killed three pedestrians. Grocon pleaded guilty on the basis of its involvement in the attachment of the timber hoarding to the wall which increased the risk of the wall collapsing. The company was convicted and fined $250,000 and ordered to pay the costs of the Authority in an amount to be agreed by the parties.
3 – Lack of asbestos control plan and adequate signage
Bernie Leen & Sons pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the asbestos regulations: failure to ensure that a copy of the asbestos control plan was readily accessible for the duration of the asbestos removal work and failure to ensure that appropriately placed signs and barricades were used to indicate the area where the removal work was being performed. On 4 February 2014, VWA Inspectors attending an asbestos removal site observed that the work area was not appropriately signed and barricaded and no asbestos removal control plan could be produced upon request. On 27 November 2014, in the Geelong Magistrates' Court, the company was without conviction placed on an adjourned undertaking for 6 months, required to pay $5,000 into the Court fund and pay costs of $3,800.
4 – Guarding failure #1
Wheelhouse Group Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of sections 21(1) & 21(2)(a) and 23(1) of the OHS Act in relation to an incident on 24 September 2013 when a customer of was injured when fertiliser was being loaded onto his utility truck. The company failed to ensure plant - the conveyor - was safe and without risks to health. It had failed to adequately inspect and maintain the wire cable that was part of the conveyor used to raise and lower the conveyor arm in order to avoid the wire cable rusting, fraying or breaking; replace or repair the wire cable, that had deteriorated, corroded or broken; and provide adequate guards for the conveyor to protect against nip, crush and entanglement points. On 25 November 2014, in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court, the company was without conviction placed on an adjourned undertaking for 12 months ordered to pay $5,000 in a Court Fund, and pay costs of $3,245
5 – Guarding failure #2
On 28 November 2013 an employee of Ashton Pty Ltd was injured when his left thumb come into contact with the operating blade of a band saw while cutting lamb in the boning room. After being taken to Swan Hill Hospital he was admitted overnight as an in-patient at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond. The tip of his left thumb was amputated as a result of the injury he received, and he was treated by way of plastic surgery and skin grafts. The company had failed to notify the VWA immediately after the incident, failed to provide written notice within 48 hours of becoming aware of the incident, and failed to preserve the site of the incident (in contravention of sections 38(1), 38(3) and 39 of the Act). On 26 November 2014, Ashton Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to all the contraventions and was without conviction placed on an adjourned undertaking for twelve months; to pay $2,000 into the Court Fund as well as costs of $2,309.
6 – Guarding failure #3
On 17 May 2013 an employee was injured while attempting to clear a blockage at Turi Foods Pty Ltd, a poultry processor at Breakwater. He had climbed up on a step to reach over the guarding into a conveyor with his right arm. The sleeve of his shirt became caught and he was dragged around to the other side of the machine. A VWA inspector later inspected the workplace, finding the guarding on the machine did not comply with the relevant provisions of the OHS Regulations 2007. On 3 December 2014 the company pleaded guilty to breaching section 21(1) & 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act and was placed on an adjourned undertaking, without conviction, ordered to pay $65,000 to three specified local community charities, and pay VWA's costs of $7,446.50. (Geelong Magistrates' Court)
7 – Guarding failure #4
The company Sanikleen Pty Ltd, was engaged by Wodonga Rendering Pty Ltd to provide cleaning services at the Wodonga Abbatoir. On 19 September 2014, a Sanikleen employee's hand became caught in the conveyor during cleaning as the conveyor was still running. On 3 December 2014, Sanikleen pleaded to breaching section 21(1) & 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act for failing to provide and maintain systems of work that were, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Sanikleen was convicted and fined $100,000 and ordered to pay costs of $3,810. (Wodonga Magistrates' Court)
8 – Guarding failure #5
On Wednesday 18 September 2013, a worker was injured whilst operating a Choa Fa Machine ('the plant') to mix dough. It consisted of a hopper which contained a roller with attached metal prongs. As the worker was removing an impurity from the hopper, the metal prongs attached to the rollers commenced operation and grabbed hold of the sleeve of his clothing and dragged his left arm into the machine. As a result of the incident the man sustained serious injuries: a number of compound fractures to his left arm, below the elbow, and the area was de-gloved. On 5 December 2014, Makmur Enterprises Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to contravening sections 21(1) & 21(2)(a) and 21(1) & 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act 2004, for failing to provide plant that was, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health and for failing to provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to its employees with respect to the operation and cleaning of the plant. The Magistrate fined Makmur Enterprise Pty Ltd $50,000, without conviction and ordered that they pay costs of $3,810.00.
9 – Failure to notify VWA of incident
On 21 October 2013, an employee of Mountfords Shoes Pty Ltd suffered a serious head injury after falling off a step ladder while placing shoes onto shelf within a stock room. The company was required to notify VWA of this incident as the worker required immediate medical treatment as an in-patient in a hospital and required immediate medical treatment for a serious head injury – but failed to do so, also failing to notify VWA in writing within 48 hours after being required to do so. Mountfords Shoes has also failed to preserve the incident site. On 4 December 2014, in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court, the company pleaded guilty to three breaches of the OHS Act [sections 38(1), 38(3) and 39(1)] and was without conviction placed on an adjourned undertaking for a period of 24 months; and ordered to continue to make payments to the injured person of weekly amounts to ensure that amounts paid by the VWA are supplemented by Mountfords to an amount equal to 100% of her pre-injury wage as indexed according to Fair Work Commission Indexation. The company was also ordered to pay costs of $3,245.
10 – Unsafe Forklift
Australian Vanlines (Vic) Pty Ltd is a transportation company operating out of a storage yard located in Yarraville. On 3 March 2014, a VWA Inspector at the storage yard for a routine inspection observed an unsafe forklift being driven around the yard. The forklift had a cracked mast, leaking hoses, inoperative gauges and poorly maintained brakes. The company was charged with one charge under sections 21(1) & 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act relating to a failure to provide and maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health. On 10 December 2014, the matter proceeded in the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court as an ex-parte hearing (ie the company was not in attendance). The company was convicted and fined $15,000 with costs in the sum of $3,810.
11 – Unsafe forklift traffic management
A&S Wholesale Fruit & Vegetables Pty Ltd operates a fruit and vegetable store at Chirnside Park Shopping Centre. On two separate occasions a VWA inspector observed that the company failed to have a safe system of work to address the risk of forklifts colliding with pedestrian traffic. The company pleaded guilty to two charges under s 21(1), (2)(a) and (2)(b) of the OHS Act. The company was fined $1,500 without conviction and ordered to pay costs of $1,000. (Ringwood Magistrates' Court)
Source: The VWA Prosecution result summaries
Comcare: Transpacific fined $110k following chemical exposure
Transpacific Industries Pty Ltd, a national company with self-insurer status under Comcare, has been fined $110,000 – one of the highest penalties imposed in the federal work health and safety (WHS) jurisdiction – three years after a worker was overcome by sodium sulphide (SS) fumes. On December 23 Federal Court Justice John Mansfield ordered the chemical waste management and recycling company to pay the fine, saying a "mid-range" penalty was appropriate after Transpacific admitted breaching the then federal Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 1991. Comcare prosecuted Transpacific after the employee "collapsed" at its Wingfield liquid treatment plant in SA on Dec 7, 2011 after being exposed to SS and collapsing. The paramedics who were called required the Metropolitan Fire Service to decontaminate the worker by washing him with water from a hose. He was then transferred to Royal Adelaide Hospital where he was examined but not admitted, leaving after about five hours. Transpacific's approved work health clinic examined him the next day and certified him fit to return to work on modified duties.
Transpacific could have been fined up to $242,000 fine for breaching s16(1) of the OHS Act. Comcare regulatory operations group acting general manager Paul Orwin said the case highlighted the importance for companies with high-risk operations to ensure they had "appropriate" WHS systems in place. Orwin said there was a "serious" risk of death or injury when dealing with chemicals of SS's nature.
Source: OHS News
NSW: Court pays father $500,000 after daughter killed on journey crash
Not an OHS prosecution, but nevertheless a case which might set an important precedent: the father of a worker who died in a car crash on her way home from work has been awarded nearly $500,000 in compensation. The NSW WCC found the incident was covered by the State's restricted journey laws because of the woman's work-related fatigue. She had begun working for Namoi Cotton Co-Operative Ltd in April 2013, and was required to work 12-hour night shifts from 7pm on a six days on, two days off basis. During her final shift of a working week in May 2013, the worker and her colleagues were sent home at about 9.30pm because of a mechanical failure. While the worker was driving home in the dark her vehicle turned onto the wrong side of the road and was hit by a b-double truck, resulting in her death.
Source: OHSAlert; Case: Stephen and Leanne Ethel Eastman v Namoi Cotton Co-Operative Limited  NSWWCC 465 (4 Dec 2014) [pdf]
USA: Child and adolescent farmworkers report serious safety gaps on the job
In the USA, as in Australia, agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries – and yet in the USA at least it is legal for farms to officially employ children. Children as young as 14 to be employed as farmworkers without parental permission, and those ages 10 to 13 can be hired with parental permission. Most youth farmworkers in the U.S. are Latino and are either immigrants or the U.S.-born children of immigrant farmworkers. For years, advocates have been working to address this gaping loophole in that country's child labor laws, often citing children's increased vulnerability to workplace-related injury, illness and exploitation. A new study confirms those concerns, underscoring the need to better protect the children and youth working in American fields.
Published in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), the study analyzed interview responses conducted among 87 hired farmworkers ages 10 to 17 years old in North Carolina in 2013. Study participants were asked to agree or disagree with questions such as whether they used safety goggles, hearing protection and respirators as well as whether they received proper safety training or experienced harassment on the job.
Researchers found that 54 percent of interviewees reported any type of musculoskeletal injury when doing farm work in the previous few months, nearly 70 percent reported any trauma and more than 72 percent reported dermatological injury. Only 8 percent wore safety goggles when doing farm tasks; only one young worker who reported working around noisy machinery used hearing protection; and only one among the 34 interviewees who worked around toxic substances or dust reported using a respirator. Overall, only 8 percent of study participants reported ever receiving training regarding pesticides, 21.8 percent received training in the safe use of tools and 8 percent reported machinery training.
Read more: Child and adolescent farmworkers report serious safety gaps on the job, new study finds Source: ScienceBlogs The Pump Handle