SafetyNet 316, April 9, 2015
Welcome to Edition 316 of the SafetyNet journal. We hope everyone had a safe and relaxing break. This edition of the journal will be shorter due to a longer Easter break. Remember, 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. We're still waiting to hit a critical number of "followers' so please follow us @OHSreps
April: remembering workers killed
SafetyNet would like to remind our readers of the remembrance events in April:
April 24 – Rana Plaza Anniversary Vigil to remember the workers who lost their lives.
This event is being held on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in which 1127 garment workers were killed. In addition, hundreds of workers were injured, and hundreds are still missing. Join us at the 8 Hour Monument opposite the Trades Hall at 4.30pm to remember the workers who were killed in the name of greed. Mourn the Dead, Fight for the Living. Facebook Event page
April 28 – International Workers' Memorial Day
There will be at least two events in Victoria:
1 - Victorian unions will again hold an event at the Trades Hall. We will take some time to remember those Victorian workers killed at work, vow to keep fighting for the living by making sure we achieve the best possible health and safety in our workplaces. Speakers will include the Honourable Robin Scott, Minister responsible for WorkCover, and Luke Hilakari, VTHC Secretary.
When: 10.30am, Tuesday April 28
Where: Trades Hall, Lygon St, Carlton South
2 - The Asbestos Council of Victoria (formerly GARDS) and the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council will be holding their annual International Workers Memorial Day Event
When: 11.00am, Tuesday April 28
Where: Centenary Rose Garden, Commercial Road Morwell
Guest Speakers include: Bree Knoester, Adviceline Injury Lawyers, Workcover and personal injury lawyer; Darren Van Heurck, Workplace accident representative; and Anne Murphy, Executive Member, Gippsland Trades & Labour Council.
Danny Boothman from the Strzelecki String Busters will be singing ballads, Civil Celebrant Beryl Steven will be conducting an ecumenical service, and David Duncan & Bill Dunbar will be playing the Scottish bagpipes
At the conclusion of the event, there will be a free Community BBQ, with the compliments of the GTLC
There's a hashtag for the event #STANDFORSAFETY – so please Twitter and put out a pair of work shoes or boots at 11am on Tuesday April 28 in memory of workers killed – and to signify the fight for safe and healthy workplaces. For more information, including a flyer for distribution and display, go to this page on the site.
Employers taking hard line with 'unfit' workers
There have been reports in the media this week that older warehouse workers are being stood down without pay at Linfox sites across Melbourne – leading to workers' fears the transport giant is forcing out permanent staff in favour of "churn-and-burn" casuals.
One worker, who had been employed by Linfox for 37 years, was stood down without pay after being assessed by company doctors, despite his own doctor having cleared him as fit to return to his job as forklift driver after recovering from a shoulder injury. Apparently, the letter informing him of the company's decision said he was deemed unable to perform "inherent requirements" of the job, specifically, using a hand-held scanning device. According to National Union of Workers organisers, up to 100 older or 'unfit' workers have been targeted at a single distribution centre in Truganina over the past 12 months, under a 'blanket policy' to wipe out those unable perform every aspect of warehouse work. The company does not dispute the figure: it said the stand-downs were the result of productivity-boosting initiatives introduced last July at the distribution centre that Linfox operates for Coles.
Read more: Linfox stands down unfit, middle-aged workers without pay The Age
My employer developed a draft Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and then only gave us two days to respond. Then, despite us voicing a number of concerns with some of the details, and putting these in writing, the employer published the SWMS as it was, and stated that it would not be reviewed for two years. I don't believe we were given adequate opportunity to provide input. What can we do?
Under Sections 35 & 36 of the OHS Act, the employer has a duty to consult with elected Health and Safety Representatives, with or without the involvement of the employees directly, when proposing changes to the conduct of the work performed at the workplace (see: Duty to consult). HSRs must be involved early in the process and must be able to represent the views of their DWG. The employer is required to consult in a genuine manner, for example, giving employees a 'reasonable opportunity' to express their views. WorkSafe has a number of very useful publications which provide advice on how consultation should occur.
In this situation, it would appear that your employer has not genuinely consulted with you. I would not accept that the SWMS cannot be reviewed for two years – I recommend developing a detailed submission regarding your concerns with the SWMS and requesting a formal response from management. If management refuses to respond or to consider amending the SWMS, then this could trigger further action. If you/the workers believe that the SWMS in its current form places workers at risk, then a PIN could be issued, or the matter raised under Section 73 of the OHS Act – see Resolution of Issues.
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.
Sunshine residents given wrong information
The Herald Sun this week reported that Victoria's Environment Protection Authority gave residents living near the old Wunderlich asbestos factory false assurances that their ceiling cavities did not contain "breathable" asbestos fibres, according to experts. Two weeks after news that scores of people had been exposed to and some had died from asbestos related diseases, the EPA told residents asbestos in their roofs wasn't "breathable". However, more sensitive testing equipment has revealed dust samples taken from their ceiling cavities did in fact contain "breathable" asbestos.
Read more: Herald Sun
Family receives payout after resident's death
As a child Mr Marian Ciopicz used to play with his friends in piles of asbestos waste behind the Wunderlich factory in Sunshine North – throwing handfuls of material at each other, playing war games and hide and seek. After battling asbestosis for two years, Mr Ciopicz, a 69-year-old father of three and grandfather of six, died in October last year. After he died, his widow, Carolyn, continued his fight for compensation and recognition that his illness had been caused by exposure to the site. Last Thursday a Supreme Court jury awarded his family $467,000 in damages, the first asbestos-related payout in Victoria in a decade.
The jury found that the owner and operator of the former Wunderlich factory, Seltsam Pty Ltd, had negligently allowed Marian Copicz's exposure to asbestos dust and fibres. Michael Magazanik, from Slater and Gordon, said the company had neglected to put up signs warning neighbours of the dangers of the site, or properly fence the McIntyre Road factory. Mrs Ciopicz said, "Wunderlich let little children use its toxic dump as a playground. That is unbelievable. And so is the fact that they forced us to trial to get justice for Marian."
Read more: Justice too late for asbestos victim Marian Ciopicz The Age
Government Bans Asbestos Agency CEO from attending Technical Workshop
In a disappointing move, the Abbott Government blocked the participation of Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO Peter Tighe at a technical workshop held last week in Geneva, Switzerland. The technical workshop was a preparatory meeting ahead of the Conference of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to be held in May 2015. At the last conference of the Parties in 2011, the Australian Government played an active role in the campaign to have asbestos listed on Annexure 3 to the Rotterdam Convention. Getting chrysotile asbestos included in the Rotterdam Convention, which requires exporting countries to provide information to importing countries on the dangers of using this deadly material, is crucial in the battle to eventually eliminate its use around the world.
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency was established in 2013. It is a specialist Australian Government agency created to bring about national focus to the problem of asbestos and the suffering and deaths it causes each year in Australia.
Source: SafeAtWork website, ACTU
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Remember: raise Flu shots with your employer
A reminder to HSRs of workers who regularly come into contact with members of the public, or who work in the health, community and education sectors – see your boss now about organising flu shots. The government-funded flu vaccine will be available from 20 April, a month later as the vaccine has been reformulated to cover a new strain of flu.
It's important to vaccinate as the flu season in the United States and most of Europe was dominated by the A(H3N2) strain of flu – and most of the serious influenza was caused by this strain which had changed over the five to six months when the vaccine producers were manufacturing the vaccine. The new Australian vaccine has been updated to protect against the new A(H3N2) viruses. Consequently, those who got a flu shot last year need to get one again this year.
Read more: Presenteeism – what is it? Source: The 2015 flu vaccine – what's new, who should get it and why SBS
International Union News
Korea: Hyundai Steel worker dies from falls into furnace
A Hyundai Steel worker died after he fell into a molten metal distributor in Incheon, Korea. The 43-year-old man fell into the 1,500–2,000 degrees Celsius distributor from a 2.5 meter high tower last week. Parts of the victim's body were able to be retrieved. Police were investigating the exact cause of the incident by examining closed-circuit television records at the facility. The Hyundai Steel branch of the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) said it had found several factors it believes caused the death, blaming the company for not having proper safety measures. The lack of a guardrail plus dispersed 1-3 millimeter steel balls, steel powder and scattered hoses and pipes at the site exposed workers to the risk of tripping over, the union said.
Since 2012, a total of 18 workers have lost their lives due to industrial incidents at this company. 2013 was a shocking year, with ten workers killed, including six who suffocated in two separate cases of fatal gas leaks at the company's Dangjin mill. Following the repeated incidents, Hyundai Steel's parent Hyundai Motor Group CEO Chung Mong-koo increased the safety budget to 500 billion won in February 2014. Despite this, two people lost their lives at the workplace last year, while one was killed under a cement mixer in January prior to the latest incident.
Read more: The Korea Times
Safe Work Australia
As at 2 April 2015, Safe Work Australia had been notified of the deaths of 41 Australian workers – again, two more than the last report, on March 27. The fatalities so far this year have been in the following industries: eleven in Transport, postal and warehousing; seven in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; six in Construction; five in Mining; three each in Electricity, gas, water & waste services; Arts & Recreation services; and in 'other services'; two in Manufacturing; and one in Administrative & support services. The numbers in each industry change from one report to the next – perhaps due to more up-to-date information being sent to Safe Work.
More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
The latest monthly fatality report remains that for December 2014, during which a total of 20 work-related fatalities were reported. The December report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
From WorkCover NSW
The agricultural sector uses a variety of pesticides to protect plants, animals and agricultural products from harmful pests and diseases. It's important these chemicals are handled safely. Check out this very useful and informative video recently produced by WorkCover NSW: Agricultural chemicals awareness video
Still no new prosecution summaries on the WorkSafe webpage. If we don't see an update soon, we will contact WorkSafe to find out what's going on.
China: Leak causes another blast at chemical plant
A leak at a plant in the eastern province of Fujian set off a huge explosion, injuring at least 12 people and fuelling doubts about safety at chemical factories. The explosion shortly before 7 pm Monday has been traced to a leak from a xylene tank at the Dragon Aromatics plant in the city of Zhangzhou, according to the Fujian Provincial Administration of Work Safety. Two people were seriously injured and 10 others suffered minor injuries, reported Xinhua, the state news agency.
The explosion this week was the second major incident at the plant, which produces paraxylene (also known as PX), in less than two years. In 2013, an explosion ripped through the plant, damaging nearby homes but causing no injuries. That blast happened on the same day that People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, ran an article touting the safety of paraxlyene and arguing that the public's suspicions were leading to a critical shortfall of the substance, forcing China to be overly reliant on imports.
Read more: The New York Times