SafetyNet 317, April 16, 2015
Welcome to Edition 317 of the SafetyNet journal. 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
Rubbish Collection Worker killed in Footscray
In an incident similar to one in the ACT last year, in which a worker was also killed, a man was crushed to death early Saturday morning. The man was collecting bins on Droop Street, Footscray, about 3.20am when his truck pinned him between the vehicle and a pole. According to Victoria Police, despite emergency services being called and paramedics attempting to revive the man, he died at the scene. WorkSafe is investigating the fatality.
Read more: Garbage man crushed to death by own truck in Footscray The Age; WorkSafe Media Release
Also, deck hand killed in Tasmania
Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, police found the body of a deckhand reported missing off the south coast of Tasmania on Tuesday afternoon. The 73-year-old fisherman from Dover was working on an abalone boat as a deckhand when his dinghy capsized near Maatsukyer Island. The skipper was diving for abalone at the time and activated an EPIRB when he surfaced about 2:30pm. The search and rescue crew found the skipper stranded on rocks and he was later taken back to Dover. A five hour search Tuesday failed to find the deckhand before it was abandoned, and then resumed Wednesday morning.
Read more: ABC News online
April: Mourn the Dead, Fight for the Living
The events to commemorate those killed at work are fast approaching, so please make an effort to take action – whether by attending or by doing something at your workplace.
1: April 24 – Rana Plaza Anniversary Vigil to remember the workers who lost their lives.
April 24th will be the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in which 1127 garment workers were killed and hundreds more injured – with hundreds still missing. Come to remember the workers who were killed in the name of greed. In Bangaledesh, unions will be mobilising for a week of events which include meetings on compensation and rehabilitation and a commemoration of the event.
Where: the 8 Hour Monument opposite the Trades Hall
When: 4.30pm, Friday April 24
Facebook Event page ITUC Media Release Unions do not forget Rana Plaza and fight for new rights in Bangladesh
2: April 28 – International Workers' Memorial Day
As a sign of solidarity and commitment to OHS, we are asking workers to put out a pair of work shoes on 28 April. Please take a photo of the empty shoes and tweet with the tag #standforsafety as well as an international one #iwmd15.
If you're able to, please come to the VTHC event at the Trades Hall to commemorate workers killed at work and to fight for the living by organising safe and healthy workplaces. Speakers will include the Honourable Robin Scott, Minister responsible for WorkCover, and Luke Hilakari, VTHC Secretary.
Where: Trades Hall, Lygon St, Carlton South
When: 10.30am, Tuesday April 28
To RSVP go to this event page.
Remember too, the event in Gippsland, being organised by the Asbestos Council of Victoria (formerly GARDS). More information on Victorian and International events. The international site also includes resources and a world map of events.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) will be running a highly visible action, focusing on the 100,000 people who die every year in the EU as a result of occupational cancers, as well as the 150,000 people who have died waiting for the EU to approve the Directive on Carcinogens and Mutagens at Work (held up since October 2013 by an EU review of 'red tape'!). To mark the International Workers' Memorial Day, the ETUC is planning to meet with Commissioners and MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, run an event outside the European Commission HQ in Brussels and meet with the Belgian Minister of Labour together with the Belgian trade unions.
International Toxic Exposures campaign
On the occasion of April 28, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), has released an eight page briefing paper explaining why trade unions must mobilise for protecting workers from hazardous substances, with key facts and figures. It has information on the key international campaigns: Occupational cancer; Pesticides; Asbestos; Ebola and HIV/AIDS, as well as key union demands. The paper can be downloaded from this page of the ITUC website
Workers' hours under attack
The National Retail Association has called for modern awards to include a "small business schedule" that excludes employers with up to 50 workers from award regulation of hours of work and pay. Firstly, to suggest that a retail business with 50 full-time equivalent employees is a 'small business' is a bit of a stretch – and any such exemption would mean hundreds of thousands of workers in the retail sector losing pay and conditions. The changes the NRA is calling for in its submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry would have serious health and safety implications as well. The NRA submission states: "The small business schedule would operate to exclude small business from the application of many of the award terms such as hours of work, rostering, minimum shift provisions and may also provide for a more flexible remuneration structure or exclude the application of certain penalties, allowances or overtime."
Source: Workplace Express; Read more on Rest/meal breaks; Fatigue.
Should a photocopier be in a "Utility Room" and away from working staff due to noise/toxins emitted from the machine?
There's no specific legislation – but under the employer has a general duty of care, so far as is reasonably practicable, to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This means identifying potential hazards and risks, and then taking action to eliminate or minimise those hazards and risks.
With regard to photocopiers, there are very real potential risks – as you note, both from chemicals and noise (not noise that would lead to hearing loss, most likely, but low-level noise that increases stress levels). So the first step is to identify and clarify what the hazards/risks might be and then take action.
It is very common for these sorts of machines to be in a separate and well-ventilated room – and there is a reason for this. Check our page Office hazards: Photocopiers, printers. There is a lot of information on this page, including a link to Officewise, the regulator 'guide' on occupational health and safety issues in offices. The publication provides 'tips and recommendations' designed to help safeguard the health and safety of employees working with copying and similar office equipment. (on page 58). Included is the following:
"Locate equipment in a well-ventilated area. Seek a location with the least disruption to surrounding employees. Machinery should not obstruct aisles or building exits. Ensure adequate space around the machine for operation and access for maintenance."
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.
The Gippsland-based Asbestos diseases support group, ASV-GARDS, has released its April newsletter. It is full of news and updates, including information on the organisation's activities such as participation in the International Asbestos Conference, and local events. In this edition Vicki Hamilton, CEO of ASV-GARDS, has written a moving tribute to Mr Lyall Watts, who passed away in November last year. Download the April Newsletter [pdf]
Global Alliance Against Asbestos
Asbestos Free Future, a joint union and community campaign to raise awareness about the ongoing dangers of asbestos around the world, has a Facebook page Global Alliance Against Asbestos. 'Join' and 'Follow' the page to join this global community.
Vietnam: building the campaign to Ban Asbestos
According to Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA, Vietnam unions are making good progress in their efforts to have a ban placed on asbestos. Mr Tran Van Ly, Vice President of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, (VGCL) in Australia from February 25th to 28th, outlined recent developments in Vietnam in relation to VGCL's commitment to this work. on banning asbestos. Mr Ly was here to assist APHEDA in documenting its solidarity work in Vietnam.
Read more: APHEDA
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Bus drivers at risk from aggressive passengers
A report recently published by the Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic), Prevention of Aggression to Bus Drivers, has made a number of recommendations, including the introduction of 'bus safety officers', driver self-defence courses and harsher penalties for perpetrators. The report is aimed at protecting drivers from an increasing number of passenger assaults: more than 100 bus drivers have been assaulted since the start of 2014. BusVic executive director Chris Lowe also wants harsher penalties for those attacking and threatening passenger safety. He said there was a need for Protective Services Officers (PSOs), which currently operate on the state's rail network, for bus and trams networks. The report found 70 per cent of bus drivers in Melbourne faced aggressive passenger behaviour once a month or more. Another concerning finding is that almost two thirds of drivers reported a lack of employer support.
Read more: The report, Prevention of Aggression to Bus Drivers, can be downloaded from this page of the BusVic website.
FIFO Workers – special edition of 'The Feed'
A special edition of the SBS program The Feed: "Lost Miners", which aired on April 14 covered the issue of 'Fly In Fly Out' (FIFO) workers. The blurb to the program states: "Every day thousands of Australians fly in and out of remote mining sites to work in one of the nation's most profitable industries. But workers say punishing rosters and long periods away from home are taking a toll with a growing number of FIFO workers taking their own lives." The program makes the point that such employment arrangements are bad for everyone – the workers and their families, the communities and the people who live in them. Companies are housing workers separately near the mines and away from the townships and not hiring locally – slowly killing these townships off. Only the company benefits – these arrangements are often a way for the company to control their workers. Former politician Tony Windsor, who chaired a government inquiry into FIFO, said 'it's the perfect employment practice for the capitalist company: no traditional dealing with mining communities, mining families, mining unions." Cutting unions out makes mines less safe (see item under International Union news, below). The report, completed two years ago, made a number of recommendations, none of which have been implemented by the Federal government.
Apart from the growing number of suicides, the program also reveals that workers injured on the job are very often pressured to go back to work before they have recovered, putting their health and safety further at risk. The 'macho' culture and bullying are also problems revealed by interviews in the program.
Check out the Program here (note: it expires on April 29)
International Union News
Interested in workers' rights? International online course
A new course is being offered online to trade unionists around the world in June. The Global Watch a short trailer to get an overview of the course. More information and enrolment go to "Workers' Rights in a Global Economy" (This course is in English only).
USA: Union mines are safer and more productive
Unionised coal mines are safer and more productive than non-union mines, a study has confirmed. Research by SNL Energy found that in 2013 unionised mines in the US coal belt produced about 94,091 tons of coal per injury versus 71,110 in non-union mines, despite research suggesting that unionised miners are more likely to report workplace injuries. Phil Smith, a spokesperson for the mine workers' union (UMWA), said: "The union was formed 125 years ago by miners seeking to improve their pay and working conditions, including making the mines safer places to work. Those needs still exist today." He added the new study "demonstrates that union mines are safer mines; others have found similar results." A 2011 Stanford University study found union mines were substantially safer (see Risks 508). Both Smith and Tony Oppegard, a Kentucky attorney who specialises in mining laws and coal mine safety, point to the protections in a union contract, including the right to refuse unsafe work without retaliation and a worker-elected and empowered mine safety committee, as key factors in the better safety records at union mines. Oppegard said: "You work in a non-union mine, you pretty much do what you're told to do, including risking life and limb, or else you're going to lose your job." He added: "At a non-union mine, they don't have that same cushion to try to resolve issues at the job site."
Source: Risks 697 Read more: SNL Data Dispatch and AFL-CIO Now blog.
Korea: Samsung once again stalls on workers' health and safety
The Korean based, global company of Samsung has a deservedly bad reputation as an anti-worker company that puts profits well ahead of workers' safety. After many years of fighting Samsung, labour activists were starting to hope that the situation would improve. The latest developments in the battle for compensation for workers being killed in unsafe Samsung working environments has shown that the company is not serious in its desire to improve workers' lives. For example: a compensation scheme for people harmed by toxic exposures while working for Samsung places so many restrictions on eligibility that barely three in every 10 affected workers will receive anything. An analysis by Hankyoreh21 magazine found only 14 of 163 cases (8.5 per cent) examined definitely fell within the scope of the scheme. The South Korean weekly said eligibility criteria announced by Samsung in January mean 107 people (66 per cent) are excluded automatically from receiving any payout because they developed diseases not on Samsung's approved list. The firm announced that it would only provide compensation for seven groups of diseases: Five types of haematopoietic cancers (leukaemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, aplastic anaemia, multiple myeloma, and myelodysplasia) and two types of cancer that have been approved as work-related, brain and breast cancer. Even then, rules on when and how and for how long a person was exposed and when they developed a potentially related condition further limit those eligible. And the scheme is only open to former employees. The widespread use of subcontract labour means many others harmed making Samsung products would be entirely off the firm's radar.
Sources: AAWL Mini news and Risks 697. Read more: Stop Samsung – no more deaths!
International Campaign for Health and Labour Rights of Samsung Electronics Workers: SHARPS report.
Canada: Coast guard union warns that more cuts increase risk from spills
Amid criticism about the Canadian Coast Guard's response to last week's fuel spill in Vancouver's English Bay, the union representing coast guard workers says imminent cuts to communication centres on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland could have disastrous consequences for managing future oil spills.
The coast guard, the lead agency for managing a fuel spill, plans to close three of five marine communications centres on April 21, the Vancouver centre on May 6 and the Comox station by next year. "That will put delays into the alerting and notification system for pollution incidents," said Allan Hughes, Comox-based western director of Unifor 2182. "[The federal government] has cut the coast guard so much that services that have traditionally been provided for generations are no longer going to be there for the public to protect their waters," he said.
Read more: The Times Colonist
Health problems associated with intermittent employment
A joint Australian-Swedish study has found that people who move in and out of temporary or insecure work are at a heightened risk of health problems. The study identified an "accumulation" effect of multiple spells of unemployment. The researchers tracked the experiences of more than 1080 school-leavers and found that accumulated shorter spells of unemployment were damaging in similar ways to the well-established health effects of long-term joblessness. These health problems included depression and negative behaviours such as increased alcohol consumption and smoking. The results of the study cast doubt on the benefits of the Federal government's recently unveiled $5 billion job services model, Jobactive, which heavily promotes temporary work as a "stepping stone" to long-term employment.
Read more: Health problems associated with intermittent employment undercut Jobactive emphasis on short-term work The Age
Occupational exposure to endocrine disruptors increases risk of lymphoma
European researchers evaluated occupational exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in 2457 controls and 2178 incident lymphoma cases and subtypes from the European Epilymph study. Over 30 years of exposure to EDCs compared to no exposure was associated with a 24% increased risk of mature B-cell neoplasms (P-trend=0.02). Associations were observed among men, but not women. The researchers concluded that prolonged occupational exposure to endocrine disruptors appears to be moderately associated with some lymphoma subtypes.
Source: Health & Environment Science Bulletin. Read more: Costas, L et al. Occupational exposure to endocrine disruptors and lymphoma risk in a multi-centric European study. (Abstract) Br J Cancer. 2015 Mar 31;112 Suppl:1251-6. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2015.83.
Exposure to diesel fumes shown to increase cancer causing cells
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute, noting that while the International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified diesel engine exhaust (DEE) as a Group I carcinogen based largely on its association with lung cancer, the exposure–response relationship was still a subject of debate and the underlying mechanism by which DEE causes lung cancer in humans is not well understood. Consequently, they conducted a cross-sectional molecular epidemiology study in a diesel engine truck testing facility of 54 workers exposed to a wide range of DEE (ie, elemental carbon air levels, median range: 49.7, 6.1–107.7 µg/m3) and 55 unexposed comparable controls.
What they found was that the total lymphocyte count and three of the four major lymphocyte subsets were higher in exposed versus control workers and findings were highly consistent when stratified by smoking status. In addition, there was evidence of an exposure–response relationship between elemental carbon and these end points, and CD4+ T cell levels were significantly higher in the lowest tertile of DEE exposed workers compared to controls.
They concluded that the results suggest that DEE exposure is associated with higher levels of cells that play a key role in the inflammatory process, which is increasingly being recognised as contributing to the aetiology of lung cancer. This study provides new insights into the underlying mechanism of DEE carcinogenicity.
Source: Qing Lan, et al. Occupational exposure to diesel engine exhaust and alterations in lymphocyte subsets [Abstract] Occup Environ Med 2015;72:354-359 doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102556. Read more on Diesel
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was sent out yesterday, April 15. The bulletin draws attention to the return of WorkSafe Victoria's 'Anxiety' TV advertisement, featuring Inspector Max Johnson. The ad first appeared on TV in 2008 and is currently being re-run. As always, this edition of the Soapbox has items from Victoria and other States.
The list of Reported Incidents from 26 March – 8 April is attached to the Soapbox. There were at total of 39 incidents reported in the two week period, including falls, electric shocks and near misses.
Access the April 15 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia
As at 14 April 2015, 44 Australian workers have been killed while at work – three more than the last report, on April 2. The fatalities so far this year have been in the following industries: twelve in Transport, postal and warehousing; nine 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. 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.
Model Code of Practice – Managing Electrical Risks in the Workplace
On 27 March 2015, Safe Work Australia published a revised model Code of Practice – Managing Electrical Risks in the Workplace to provide practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking on managing electrical risks in the workplace. It applies to all workplaces where a person conducting a business or undertaking:
- has management or control of electrical equipment, including electrical installations, or
- carries out electrical work on or near energised electrical equipment, including electrical installations.
To have legal effect in a jurisdiction, the model Code of Practice must be approved as a code of practice in that jurisdiction. While this Code has not been picked up in Victoria, it can provide very useful advice and information on electrical risks in workplaces to both employers and HSRs/workers. The Code can be downloaded from this page of the SWA website.
From WorkSafe Victoria: More Information About Asbestos Cement Water Pipe Management This document was produced following issues raised by unions whose members were being directed by their employer to remove cement water pipes – which contained asbestos and put them at risk of asbestos exposure. In welcoming the release of the document, Finance Minister Robin Scott said, "The new guidelines are clear – if corporations continue pipe bursting, they must ensure all asbestos-cement fragments are removed and disposed of."
Read more: Premier's Media Release
From the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work:
EU-OSHA is offering their online database of OSH publications free of charge. EU-OSHA's collection of publications ranges from in-depth research reports to topical e-facts, designed for use in the workplace. All are free to download. The library can be searched by language, topic or keyword – there is a large amount of multilingual publications related to OSH main sectors and themes.
EU-OSHA Publications section
From Ergonomics Plus: An interesting and easy to follow article on the benefits of ergonomics: 5 Proven Benefits of Ergonomics in the Workplace
While the prosecutions summary page has now been updated, we are disappointed to see so few prosecutions in the period between the end of February and mid-April. Also, two of the prosecutions relate to breaches by individual employees. Furthermore not all the summaries appear to be complete (no name, no outcome).
1 - $20k fine after worker's arm caught in machine
Rosalino's Food Manufacturing Pty Ltd, a Werribee pasta manufacturing business pleaded guilty to breaching sections 21(1) & (2)(a) of the OHS Act for failing to provide a safe system of work by failing to maintain plant: a pasta laminating machine used to mix dough to produce pasta sheets. On 6 May 2014 a worker inserted his hand into a mixing bowl, his jacket sleeve got caught in the mixing blades, pulling his arm into the blades. His left arm became trapped and entangled in the blades causing fractures, tendon damage, a torn shoulder muscle and serious lacerations. The plant should have been properly guarded. On April 14, Rosalino's was convicted and fined $20,000, plus costs of $3,235.
2 – Individual fined under Section 25
Mr Giuseppe Sarlo pleaded guilty to breaching section 25(1)(b) of the OHS Act - for failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions. He was a delivery driver who used a crane truck to deliver prefabricated roof trusses and related items to construction sites, and held a high risk work licence for Vehicle Loading Crane and Dogging. When delivering trusses, the crane operator would normally place the trusses onto the partially constructed house frame where possible, with the assistance of the builder/carpenter. Where this was not possible, the procedure was that the driver would seek instructions from the factory, or place the trusses on the ground. On 16 November 2013 Mr Sarlo went to a construction site for a delivery. As there were no builders/carpenters at the site, he rang the factory and two factory employees came to the site to assist in unloading the trusses. While undertaking the task, using the crane and slings, he lifted the two employees from the second level of the structure (about seven metres from ground level). A member of the public took photographs of the two employees suspended from the crane and these photographs were provided to the employer and to WorkSafe. On 26 March 2015 Mr Sarlo was released on an adjourned undertaking (without conviction) for a period of 12 months with a special condition to pay $500 into a Court Fund, plus costs of $1,500 (Dandenong Magistrates Court).
3 – Enforceable Undertaking
On 27 March 2015, Nature's Gift entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe in relation to an incident that occurred on 16 November 2012 where an employee sustained crushing injuries to her hand whilst operating a machine referred to as a tray unloader. The employer failed to provide a safe system of work; failed to provide information, instruction, training or supervision.
4 – Another individual charged under Section 25
On Mr Prem Anil Chand, a bus driver, pleaded guilty to one charge under section 25(1)(b) of the OHS Act (failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions). The charge relates to an incident on 2 November 2013, when he cut an electrical cord connecting power to the television in the lunchroom of a bus depot. As a result another employee bus driver received an electric shock. There was no information on the outcome of this case.
5 – Diversion as a result of failure to notify
An unnamed 'accused' was charged with two offences under section 38(1) and (3) of the OHS Act, for failing to notify WorkSafe of an incident that resulted in an employee immediately being admitted to hospital as an in-patient. On 9 April 2015, the accused was placed on a diversion program with conditions to donate $5,000 to the Court Fund, to conduct external OHS training for senior managers, to undertake internal OHS training for OHS managers and supervisors, and to review its incident notification policy. The accused was also ordered to pay costs of $1,000.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
U.S.A: New offshore rigs regulation
The Obama administration this week proposed a new regulation for offshore oil and gas rigs intended to improve equipment standards and well designs and avoid a catastrophic spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Officials said the rule would help modernize oversight of the industry, and balance business interests with environmental concerns.
The announcement is timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and contaminated the Gulf of Mexico with millions of barrels of oil. However, it also comes as the Obama administration is preparing to open up new areas of federal waters off the Atlantic Coast to drilling, infuriating environmentalists.
Officials said the new regulation, which is now open for public comment, was developed after consulting industry representatives, environmentalists, academics and others interested in the issue. The rule would tighten safety requirements on blowout preventers, the industry-standard devices that are the last line of protection in stopping undersea oil and gas wells from exploding. The Deepwater Horizon explosion was caused in part when a buckled section of drilling pipe led to the malfunction of a supposedly fail-safe blowout preventer on a BP well.
Read more: New Regulation Aims to Prevent Explosions at Offshore Rigs The New York Times