SafetyNet 313, March 12, 2015
Welcome to Edition 313 of the SafetyNet journal. Please note there will not be an edition of SafetyNet next week due to other commitments. If you have any comments or suggestions for items, please send them in to Renata firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you to those who have sent emails. Also: please (please!) follow us on Twitter @OHSreps
Murder not tragedy: Photo Exhibition
The Australia Bangladesh Solidarity Network is hosting a special photo exhibition from the Drik Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh: "Murder, not tragedy" at the Steps Gallery, 62 Lygon St, Carlton, from March 18 - 29. The Drik Gallery invited photographers, activists and other artists to submit work and register their protest following the Rana Plaza collapse in which almost 1200 workers were killed. Their observations, recorded and imagined, form the basis of this exhibition "Tragedi Noi Hottakando" which was opened at the Drik Gallery in 2013.
Please invite your friends, family and colleagues to come and voice their support. The Exhibition is free to attend and will be open 10am to 4pm, Saturday to Tuesday, and 10am to 8pm Wednesday to Friday. A special Exhibition Opening Launch will be held from 7pm on Thursday 19th March 2015. Find out more on the Facebook Event page
State Labor announces inquiry into violence at mental health facilities
Mental health services will have to report all violent incidents and a state-wide audit will check facilities are safe under an Andrews government plan to curb attacks on staff. After a number of reports of staff being physically assaulted, verbally abused and even hospitalised on the job, Labor has announced it is introducing measures to address the ongoing problem of violence in the mental health system. The government will require services and boards to report every critical incident in a psychiatric unit or mental health ward, and make that information publicly available. Each facility will be checked for adequate safety features, sensory rooms and single-sex areas, and a $10-million fund will help improve services that are inadequate.
Pip Carew, from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association (ANMF), applauded the government for taking workplace violence seriously. The ANMF asked, via Twitter, whether the State audit could not be extended to all Emergency Departments. Health and Community Services Union state secretary Lloyd Williams urged the government to also "begin work immediately on a comprehensive plan that also addresses staffing, recruitment and training".
Read more: Violence against nurses in mental health wards tackled with mandatory reporting and audits The Age; ANMF Victoria Media Release and Ten Point Plan to End Violence and Aggression. More on Violence
Guards injured in attack at Melbourne women's prison
Two prison officers were taken to hospital last Friday after being attacked by an inmate at a women's facility in Melbourne's western suburbs. The incident at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre at Ravenhall happened just before noon. The two officers had non-life-threatening injuries and were in a stable condition. The centre was locked down after the incident. Corrections Victoria said the safety and security of its staff was their highest priority and the incident was under investigation.
Read more: The Age; ABC News Online
ILO on International Women's Day: "The future of work must also deal with the future of women at work"
The ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder last week released a statement on the occasion of International Women's Day, 8 March. "We cannot accept that at current rates of change, it may take more than 70 years for women to achieve equal pay status with men," said Ryder. "Nor can we accept that one out of every three women today will suffer some form of physical and/or sexual violence that cripples their ability to work. On this International Women's Day, it's time to ask the hard questions. This anniversary should spur us to act, to rethink and to innovate." Read more: ILO Statement
The March and Rally held in Melbourne was a great success, with about 500 people hearing a number of fabulous speakers who raised the many issues faced by women in today's society, in Australia and internationally. Check out the Facebook Events page for pictures and more information.
Do you have a template for a stress survey for the workplace?
Stress is a major and increasing issue in many of our workplaces and so we also have a great deal of information and material on the hazard of stress (go to the Stress section on our site, particularly the page on Information and websites. We have a couple of Checklists for Stress – which are documents you can download, save and then use or adapt to suit you better might also be able to use.
Alternatively, you can go to some of the documents listed on the information page, for example, the Stresswise material, developed by WorkSafe. You'll find a Stresswise 'toolkit' WorkSheet – which, while not an actual survey, goes through the potential risk factors in a workplace and assists with the identification of these.
In addition, we have a page on how to develop a survey for your workplace which you could use if you prefer to start from scratch.
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.
Ex-BHP steelworker keeps landmark damages payout
A terminally ill ex-Newcastle steelworker will keep his landmark $2.2 million payout with a court dismissing an appeal by his ex-employer, BHP Billiton. The 54 year old is suffering from mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos dust while working on BHP's steel blast furnaces in Newcastle in the 1980s. Last year, the Dust Diseases Tribunal ordered the company pay him $2.2 million -the largest payment in the tribunal's history. However, BHP appealed the decision - so no money has yet been paid.
This week, the New South Wales Court of Appeal dismissed the legal challenge. The court agreed BHP breached its duty of care, noting the company failed to provide a laundry service and specialised waste disposal facilities for blast furnace workers. As a result, the man (and probably many others) was exposed to asbestos fibres from his clothing. His lawyer, Joanne Wade from Slater and Gordon, said that while no amount of money could compensate him for his suffering, the decision is a relief for the family.
The company says it is considering the ruling. "BHP Billiton is in receipt of the judgment and is reviewing the findings, we have no comment to make at this time," BHP Billiton said.
Source: ABC News online
UK: Another story on asbestos in UK schools
The BBC states that from figures it has seen, it believes that asbestos is still present in nearly nine out of ten schools in the UK - a shocking statistic, and higher than previous official estimates. Asbestos was widely used in the building industry in the 1960s and 70s – and was banned in the UK in 1999.
Read more: Killer dust asbestos still present in schools BBC News UK
Spain: Asbestos cancers not recorded or compensated
Almost all asbestos cancers are being missed by Spain's official reporting system, a study has found, raising concerns that frequently terminally ill workers are also missing out on compensation. A team headed by Alfredo Menéndez-Navarro of the University of Granada looked at the number of reported asbestos-related cancer cases between 1978 and 2011. When these cancers were first officially recognised in Spain in 1978, it was expected to result in greater recognition and compensation payouts. But, according to the paper in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, only 164 cases of asbestos-related cancer were recognised in the 33-year period.
The researchers say this count misses almost all the cancers related to asbestos. For mesothelioma, they estimate 93.6 per cent of cases in men and 99.7 per cent in women are missing. For asbestos related lung cancers, the effect is worse still, with 98.8 per cent of bronchial and lung cancers in men and 100 per cent in women going unrecognised. The authors conclude it is essential to establish a system for information on and monitoring of asbestos-related cancers – identified as mesothelioma, cancers of the larynx, lungs or ovaries - to ensure for the victims the compensation to which they are entitled. They note the number of people affected in Spain is expected to increase in the coming years. "These findings provide evidence of gross under-recognition of asbestos-related occupational cancers in Spain," the paper notes. "Future work should investigate cases treated in the National Healthcare System to better establish the impact of asbestos on health in Spain."
Read more: García-Gómez M, Menéndez-Navarro A, López RC. Asbestos-related occupational cancers compensated under the Spanish National Insurance System, 1978-2011, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH), volume 21, number 1, pages 31-39, January-March 2015.. Source: Risks 693
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
NSW: Report show thousands of injured workers compensation cut/lost
A new report has found that five thousand seriously injured workers lost weekly payments and 20,000 workers with long-term injuries lost their medical benefits since the NSW workers compensation scheme was overhauled in 2012 by the Liberal Government. The findings are from the most comprehensive review yet of the WorkCover scheme since the changes. The review, commissioned by Unions NSW and undertaken by Macquarie University, is the second instalment in a series of three reports. The review concluded the scheme is not meeting its fundamental goal of guaranteeing support for injured workers, and recommends a major overhaul.
Read more: 25,000 injured workers cut off from support, lost medical cover through Workcover changes Unions NSW
kNOw Cancer Risks at Work Forum – 18 May, 2015
This is advance notice of the kNOw Cancer Risks at Work National Forum, which is being organised by the Cancer Council Australia's Occupational & Environmental Cancer Committee and will be held on Monday 18 May 2015, at Dockside, Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney. The national forum will be highlighting prevention and elimination of occupational cancer risks in Australia, and is open to occupational health and safety professionals, industry representatives and unions, researchers, public health professionals and anyone with an interest in occupational cancers. The program will feature international, national and local speakers. The international keynote speaker is Professor John Cherrie, Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), Edinburgh. Abstract submissions are invited, and should be submitted via the forum website by 6 April.
For further information, submission of abstracts or to download a registration form, please visit the 'kNOw cancer risks at work' 2015 forum website or contact the forum coordinator: email@example.com Telephone: (08) 9388 4388. Detailed information regarding keynote speakers and guests will continue to be posted to the 'kNOw cancer risks at work' 2015 forum website - please check regularly for updates.
International Union News
Bangladesh: workers forced to labour in slave-like conditions
Jeans Plus sweatshop workers make "Pull & Bear" stretch trousers for the Spanish giant, Inditex, which has over 885 Pull & Bear stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. At Jeans Plus Ltd, over 1,000 workers, mostly young women, are routinely beaten and forced to toil 94 to 101 hours, seven days a week. The conditions at the Turkish-owned factory are almost indescribable. Jeans Plus production manager, Mr. Jahid, routinely slaps and punches young women workers for failing to meet their excessive production goals—typically 150 pieces per hour. Pregnant women are routinely fired and thrown out of the factory without any of their legally required maternity benefits. Factory bathrooms are filthy. Management issues phony pay stubs, which are meant to fool the gullible international buyers. A senior sewing operator earns just 41 cents (U.S.) per hour.
And yet Inditex specifically states: "All of the Group's suppliers are bound by the social and environmental responsibility values that define Inditex and are enshrined in our Code of Conduct for Manufacturers and Suppliers." (Inditex, Sustainability). The company's Code of Conduct states, among other things: No forced labor; Respect for freedom of association and collective bargaining; No harsh or inhumane treatment; Workplace health and hygiene; The right to remuneration; Reasonable working hours; and a Living wage.
Read more and send a letter to the companies: International Label Children's Clothing Made Under Slave-like Conditions in Bangladesh Global Labour Rights
UK Union win: Government caves on self-employed exemption
In the face of a 'tremendous' union campaign, the UK government has at the 11th hour done an about face on its proposal to exempt almost all self-employed workers from health and safety law. In a 4 March House of Lords debate, the government whip presented a revised amendment to the Deregulation Bill. He said in addition to the short schedule of hazardous jobs still covered by the law, a revised proposal will be incorporated into regulations that "seeks to make it mandatory for the regulations to prescribe all self-employed persons who may pose a risk to the health and safety of others, thereby ensuring that they do not fall exempt from the law."
TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson described the government backtracking as a "considerable victory" that "only came about because of the tremendous campaigning by the trade unions on the issue, and the very strong support of the opposition. But he said the government proposal was still a dangerous recipe for confusion and uncertainty. "It is a complete mess," he said. "I do not know how any self-employed person can be expected to know whether they are covered or not in those sectors not specified in the schedule. While the outcome is a massive improvement on the earlier proposal by the government, it is unnecessary legislation that no-one wanted, aimed at resolving a non-existent problem. All it will achieve is that it will add to the confusion and uncertainty that self-employed people face in knowing what they should be doing to protect themselves and others, and undermine what had been a very simple and clear piece of legislation." The Bill now goes to the House of Commons and is likely to become law by the end of the month. The Regulations cannot come into effect until approved by both houses of parliament, which will not happen before the election. Hugh Robertson said the TUC will seek to get "the next government to reverse this proposal in its entirety by amending the Health and Safety at Work back to its previous, simple, wording."
Source: Risks 693
Europe: The Art of Preventive health and safety
The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) last month published a book which features a collection of 50 workplace safety and health posters, designed for or developed by agencies and advocates between 1925 and 2004. The book's author, Alfredo Menendez-Navarro, MD PhD, organized the selections into three time periods: the years between WWI and WWII, after WWII, and the post 1960's. Menendez-Navarro is a professor of the history of science at the University of Granada and an expert in the history of occupational health. In the foreword, ETUI's General Director Philippe Pochet comments on the posters' common themes:
"Some of the posters convey messages referring to the responsibility and, potentially, the culpability of workers. They urge workers to comply with the rules and to be careful, meticulous and tidy. Others, by contrast, highlight the dangers lurking in the workplace. They allude to the figure of death hiding in the shadows of machine gears or they point to the presence of toxic substances. Others know and call on workers to heed their advice. Two images reject this often patronising approach to prevention. A trade union poster from the early 1980s soberly announces 'Our health is not for sale.' "
The art of preventive health and safety in Europe can be purchased or alternatively downloaded free from this ETUI page
Malaysia: Socialist Party demands action on construction deaths
The Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM), outraged at the frequency of fatal accidents in the construction sector, has demanded the government take immediate action to address this unacceptable state of affairs.
Over just over two days last week, three workers lost their lives on construction sites. At one, two workers were buried alive when soil tumbled down on them when they were working in a pit. The next day a worker was killed after seven steel bars weighing 40kg each fell on him and a co-worker at the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) Semantan portal construction site. This is the second fatal accident at the MRT in six months. Previously three workers were killed when a portion of the span of the MRT guideway dislodged and fell to the ground.
The PSM said that DOSH statistics to December 2013 reveal that fatal accidents in the construction sector are highest and have been constantly high from 2007 to 2013. DOSH has concluded that fatal accidents at construction or newly-completed buildings are mainly due to poor construction structures. A DOSH official has said that about 80% of fatalities are due to weaknesses in the implementation of occupational safety and health management policy.
Source: PSM Statement
Qatar: Fifa feels the heat on migrant workers' plight
Football's global governing body, Fifa, has been criticised for ignoring the plight of migrant workers enduring slave like conditions in Qatar. A Fifa taskforce reported on 24 February and recommended that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar should be moved to November and December, to avoid crippling summer temperatures. The recommendations will be taken to Fifa's executive committee meeting in Zurich on 19 and 20 March for a final decision on the dates. But construction union UCATT said the decision fails to take into account that 2 million migrant workers, building the World Cup and the Qatar's infrastructure, are working six days a week year round in temperatures which can reach 55 degrees celsius. Since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar over 1,400 construction workers from India and Nepal have died, with the total death toll for all migrant workers higher still. Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: "Once again Fifa have chosen to worry about the health of footballers and not the health of the workers building what will be a blood-stained World Cup." A day ahead of the FIFA announcement, global construction union federation BWI launched a 'Fifa: Labour is part of the team' campaign. The union body says its campaign will aim to get "national football associations, football fans clubs, and Fifa corporate sponsors to call on Fifa to respect and implement international labour standards and human rights principles in projects related to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and 2022 World Cup in Qatar."
Read more: UCATT news release BWI news release Source: Risks 693
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox arrived just after we sent out our journal last week – on the afternoon of March 5. Subscribers should note there is still time to enter the competition by completing the survey on how you think Soapbox could be improved - and win a prize. It's not too late to enter, as the competition closes on March 18. (go to the link below to enter)
The list of Reported Incidents from 12 February to 25 February is attached to the newsletter. There were a total of 68 incidents notified to WorkSafe; among these was the death of a worker who fell off a roof, and several other potentially tragic falls from heights of over 2 metres. The incidents with the highest injury rate included 20 near misses and 17 lacerations. There were also five punctures due to incidents with nail guns.
Access the March 5 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia
As of March 10, the deaths of 27 Australian workers had been notified to Safe Work by the jurisdictions. The fatalities so far this year have been in the following industries: five each in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; and in Transport, postal and warehousing; four each in Mining and in Construction; three each in Electricity, gas, water & waste services and in 'other services'; two in Manufacturing; and one in Arts & Recreation services.
More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
The latest monthly report remains that for November 2014 – this report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Tasmania: Heavy vehicle national fatigue laws from 30 March 2015
From the end of this month (30 March), fatigue provisions of the Heavy Vehicle National Law will commence in Tasmania. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is working with the Department of State Growth to prepare Tasmanian operators and drivers for key changes, including introduction of the National Driver's Work Diary, record keeping requirements and changes to work and rest hours.
The national law will cover "fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles", which are:
- vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of over 12t
- combinations when the total of the GVM is over 12t
- buses over 4.5t GVM with a seating capacity of more than 12 adults (including the driver)
- a truck or a combination including a truck, with a GVM of over 12t with a machine or implement attached to it.
Read more: NHVR website
From WorkCover NSW: a video Safety Alerts on Falls from flatbed trucks and trailers - issued after the death of an experienced truck driver after he fell from a trailer during loading
Ukraine: blast kills at least 33
An explosion occurred before dawn on Wednesday March 5 more than 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) underground at the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk city in East Ukraine. It is the largest city held by the separatist rebels who have been fighting Ukrainian forces since April. The mine remained in operation during the fighting. According to rebel officials the blast was caused by methane gas. This mine has a history of deadly accidents, including one in November 2007 that killed 101 workers, and two more the following month that killed a total of 57.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko declared Thursday a nationwide day of mourning, ordering that the Ukrainian flag be flown at half-mast and cancelling entertainment events. The parliament observed a minute's silence at midday. Both Ukraine and Russia had offered to help with the search for survivors but the separatist authorities claimed they had enough people and equipment.
Read more: Ukraine mine blast: Day of mourning marks deaths of 33 miners as fighting continues in Donetsk ABC news online
Japan: Four year anniversary of Fukishima nuclear disaster
Yesterday, March 11, marked four years since Japan was hit with a massive earthquake and tsunami that lead to a triple nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. It was the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. There are at least 120,000 people (some reports say 250,000) who still cannot return their homes due to the high radiation levels. Of great concern are the long-term health implications, such as thyroid cancer. Meanwhile, the government has flagged its intention to restart the nuclear power industry in the country, despite strong opposition both in Japan and even in Australia – where the uranium which fuelled the plant came from.
Read more: Fukushima disaster: Radiation levels posing cancer risks on fourth anniversary of earthquake ABC News online; Comment: Fukushima four years on – what lessons has Australia learnt? SBS online
China: Under the Dome – Investigating China's Smog
This video on the extent of pollution in China drew hundreds of millions of views until Chinese authorities banned access to it. A very powerful film, it compares living in China to what it must be like living under, and being trapped by, a dome (as in a recent US TV serial where an entire town was suddenly covered by an invisible and impenetrable dome). It gives a clear and stark picture of what the Chinese people are exposed to and the increase they face in cancer risk. Early in the film is a shocking interview with a six-year-old child in 2004 – who says she had only once seen a sky that was 'a little blue' but has never seen white clouds. The severe pollution of the air and the rivers has been caused by uncontrolled industry and mining.
See the full video (which lasts 1hr 43min) on YouTube (With English subtitles).