SafetyNet 320, May 7, 2015
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Two workers killed in tractor incidents in one day
In a tragic Sunday, WorkSafe Victoria is investigating the deaths of two workers. The first incident occurred shortly before 1.30pm, on a hobby farm in Ventnor. WorkSafe investigators believe a 65-year-old man was using his tractor to feed cattle hay bales and parked it on sloped terrain to unload a hay bale. It appears the tractor rolled forward over the man, crushing him. He died at the scene.
The second incident, at around 4.45pm in Edenhope, a 49-year-old self-employed diesel mechanic was performing maintenance work on a tractor on his property when it rolled forward. He was crushed between the front wheel and a shed wall of his workshop. Initial inquiries indicate there was a mechanical fault with the old tractor, rather than it rolling downhill.
WorkSafe Victoria spokesman Peter Flaherty said WorkSafe was investigating both incidents. Police will prepare a report for the Coroner for both incidents.
Following these fatalities, the Executive Director of Health and Safety, Len Neist, said that while tractors were an integral part of country life, they needed to be treated with care. "In less than 12 months, there have been six fatalities in regional Victoria that have involved tractors," he said. "In five of those fatalities, the operators have been run over by their tractor."
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release Also, WorkSafe BC (British Columbia) has produced a video on tractor rollovers
Stop press - Farmer killed in quad bike fall
A farmer has died today (May 7) on a cattle farm at Kergunyah, after falling from a quad bike. WorkSafe believes the 81-year-old man was moving stock in a paddock around 10am when the quad bike he was riding overturned, crushing him beneath it. He died at the scene. WorkSafe is investigating.
Source: WorkSafe Twitter feed
A man was electrocuted on a work site near Mackay, north Queensland. The man, in his mid-20s, died on Thursday morning after suffering an electric shock. Three ambulance crews had rushed to the Glenella site and unsuccessfully tried to revive him for an hour.
Source: The Brisbane Times
"Hard Work Never Killed Anybody": New book on workplace death launched today
SafetyNet this morning attended the launch of a new book by the Reverend John Bottomley (recently director of the Creative Ministries Network) which questions the often repeated mantra "Hard work never killed anybody". In his work with bereaved families, John came to realise this national belief contributes to injury and death in the workplace every day. Senator Doug Cameron, a long-time advocate for occupational health and safety, launched the publication on behalf of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, noting: "This is a book about health and safety like no other book on health and safety I've ever seen!" In his analysis, John tackles what appears to be the general consensus of 'hard work being good for you' with his faith at the centre. However, Senator Cameron said that although he came from a secular perspective, they were in agreement in the fundamentals: class, race and social background continue to affect a person's life and how they are treated at work. Read more on the publisher's website. Read the article by Kevin Jones on the launch.
Also launched today was: "Our system isn't geared for death" - a report prepared for the Creative Ministries Network by Rev. Bottomley based on the narratives of ten women widowed by their husband's work-related death and their experience of workers' compensation.
For information on this report, and others by John Bottomley, go to the CMN website.
Violence and healthcare workers
Victoria's Auditor General yesterday tabled an audit which assessed whether the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), WorkSafe, Ambulance Victoria (AV) and health services adequately protect healthcare workers from the risks and incidence of occupational violence. It concluded that Victorian healthcare workers face unnecessary - and preventable - levels of risk in regards to occupational violence.
Although all audited agencies had implemented improvements aimed at preventing and reducing occupational violence, these improvements were incomplete, inconsistently applied and had not been evaluated to determine effectiveness. There were systemic failures in relation to collecting, analysing, investigating and reporting quality data on occupational violence incidents for the purposes of improvement.
It noted that while DHHS had developed an occupational violence policy to guide health services, it had not fulfilled key responsibilities outlined in its policy or monitored whether health services are even using it. WorkSafe, as the regulator, had been slow to identify occupational violence in the health sector as an area of high risk. Its education activities were intermittent rather than systematic and comprehensive. It rarely used its inspection or enforcement tools to address occupational violence incidents in the health sector.
It concluded: "DHHS and WorkSafe need to provide stronger sector-wide leadership to assist audited agencies to fulfil their responsibilities as employers to effectively protect healthcare staff. Health services and AV, as employers, need to make sure improvements are evidence- and risk-based, well resourced, implemented consistently, reviewed, evaluated and integrated as a whole-of-organisation responsibility." The report makes 10 recommendations aimed at better protecting healthcare workers.
- Occupational Violence Against Healthcare Workers Report
- Watch a presentation on the Report on YouTube
- Also: The Age
Internal wall collapse in shopping centre injures five
The collapse of a temporary wall inside Cranbourne Shopping Centre at about 12.30pm on Tuesday struck five people, two of whom were taken to hospital with head injuries. The temporary wooden wall fell onto a pedestrian walkway inside the centre. Large gusts of wind, and a question of whether rear doors to the space were open at the time, are expected to form part a Worksafe Victoria investigation into the incident. Specialist engineers were assessing how the wall had been constructed and secured.
Read more: The Age
'Slave-like' conditions on Australia's farms
A Four Corners investigation, Slaving away, aired earlier this week, has found conclusive evidence of extreme labour exploitation, slave-like conditions and black market labour gangs on farms and in factories supplying Australia's biggest supermarkets and fast food chains. Food is picked, packed and processed by exploited young workers on working holiday visas. Young workers from Asia and Europe, here legally on 417 visas, are being routinely abused, harassed and assaulted at work. Women are also being targeted sexually, some being propositioned for sex and asked to perform sexual favours in exchange for visas. The 417 visa, established as a 'cultural exchange', allows 18 – 31 year olds to travel and work for up to six months in one location, working in jobs such as fruit and vegetable picking or in meat and poultry factories in regional locations and some cities. The National Union of Workers, which has coverage of workers at chicken processor Baiada, played a significant role in bringing this story to light: no worker should be subject to such inhumane, degrading and appalling conditions. Wayne Swan, shadow Treasurer, tweeted: "The Four Corners report demonstrates why trade unions and fair industrial laws are an essential to an egalitarian society."
ACTU President Ged Kearney said "Unscrupulous employers are trying to get around Australia's workplace laws by using the temporary visa system to underpay vulnerable employees. This is the worst kind of intimidation, bullying and harassment against people who are unable to speak up or get help and are living under the threat of deportation or further harassment."
The report has triggered a Senate Inquiry into the exploitation of workers under 417 visas, to be chaired by WA Labor Senator Sue Lines. The Victorian government has also announced an inquiry to take place in the second half of this year. Victoria's Minister for Industrial Relations Natalie Hutchins said the inquiry would seek to crack down on unscrupulous labour hire practices. "We're just in the process of putting some terms of reference together and putting a committee together to actually do the investigation," she said. "We're hoping to get some pretty quick outcomes around how we can actually regulate probably some of the worst labour hire practices that we've seen in a long time. The inquiry will look at and investigate recommendations for the best possible form of regulation." The South Australian government has also announced it will hold an enquiry.
Find out what the National Union of Workers is doing: The union has set up the Fair Food Australia website which provides background information, has workers' stories (and invites more) as well as a petition to the two large supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, urging them to Commit to the Fair Food compact to protect workers throughout their supply chain.
Sources: Labour exploitation, slave-like conditions found on farms supplying biggest supermarkets and Victorian Government to begin inquiry into labour exploitation, ABC News online, ACTU Media Release
Federal Government attacks on Workers' Compensation Rights
The Federal Government has drafted legislation that aims to cut workers' compensation rights. This will affect any worker who is currently under the Comcare scheme – or whose employer transfers to the Comcare scheme. This means many Victorian workers will be affected.
This legislation would result in cuts to workers' compensation benefits and deny access to Comcare for many who suffer from work related injury and illness. The Bill removes the rights of workers to compensation in a broad range of circumstances. These are the worst changes ever proposed to workers compensation to be seen in this country.
If passed into law, this would immediately affect workers at a range of worksites, including public service Departments and many private sector companies including the entire John Holland Group, ASC, Thales and two of the big four banks (National and Commonwealth). These laws, if passed, will badly affect all state workers compensation schemes as well.
The AMWU has developed a campaign flyer, information sheets and a petition, all of which can be downloaded from this page of the union's website.
My workplace is holding an election for HSR. There are 3 nominees – I and another staff member have been nominated by our colleagues for the position but the director and the business manager have put forward their own nomination, as their preferred staff member. The person they have nominated is a member of the DWG. Is this permitted?
The Act does not specify who is entitled to nominate someone else for a position of HSR – only that all members of a DWG are eligible to be nominated in an election. So if the person identified and nominated by management is in the DWG, then he/she has the right to stand for election. (Read more on HSRs, including info on the election).
The Act clearly states, however, that it is the members of the DWG who determine how an election will be held. Consequently, it would be possible for the DWG to decide that a person must nominate him or herself, or that only members of the DWG where the election is being held can nominate someone else, and only with the agreement of that person. The DWG would then create suitable nomination forms. This would prevent anyone from outside the DWG becoming involved in the process.
The employer/management should have absolutely no role in running an election (unless of course, the members of the DWG agree that this is what they want) The management should have no say in who the HSR is; it is up to the DWG and 'their preferred staff member' is irrelevant.
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 Loose-fill asbestos update
The latest update, released on May 5, has a number of interesting items: Advice for tradies working in homes with loose-fill asbestos, and advice for anyone living in a home with loose-fill asbestos. The update also answers the top five questions asked about loose-fill asbestos.
Also, the Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce has released a guide for NSW real estate agents working with properties that contain loose fill asbestos insulation. The guide, which has been developed in consultation with the Real Estate Institute of NSW, the Estate Agents Co-operative Ltd and Fair Trading, outlines the steps real estate agents and property managers can take to ensure their safety when selling or managing properties that contain loose fill asbestos insulation. This can be accessed via the update.
Read more: NSW Loose-fill asbestos May 5 update
The countdown to the Rotterdam Convention is on with ONE week to go - Global Union Campaign
A global trade union campaign to stop the deadly trade in chrysotile asbestos is underway as the United Nations prepares to vote on whether to add the toxic mineral to a list of dangerous substances.
IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliate, the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), are mounting pressure on countries preparing to vote on listing chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention at a UN conference in Geneva, Switzerland from 11 to 14 May. The Convention lists other types of asbestos, but not chrysotile, which is just as deadly and the only type of asbestos still in commercial use.
A powerful advertising campaign on trams and buses running through the heart of Geneva is set to remind residents and conference visitors about the alarming dangers of asbestos. It began yesterday, 6 May, and will run for two weeks.
Next week a delegation from Australian unions including AMWU and another IndustriALL affiliate, CFMEU, as well as sufferers of asbestos from India will arrive in Geneva for a series of actions to support the campaign. Asbestos causes cancer and lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, which have no cure. The World Health Organization estimates that 100,000 people a year die from exposure to asbestos. And yet 2 million tonnes of chrysotile asbestos are still traded every year without any international regulation.
Although banned in 50 nations, in countries such as India and Indonesia, consumption is increasing. Major asbestos exporters - Russia, Brazil and Kazakhstan, as well as India, are set to veto restrictions on exporting chrysotile asbestos under the Convention. "Listing chrysotile asbestos in the Convention requires every nation to agree, so these four nations must be held accountable for their veto, which is destroying thousands of lives," said Andrew Dettmer, National President of AMWU.
There is still time to send in a message to delegates at the Rotterdam convention – in words, pictures or short video. All you need to do is post your message on our Facebook page or tweet it to us if you use twitter. These will be collated by AsbestosFreeFuture and sent to delegates at the Rotterdam Convention, urging them to ban chrysotile asbestos. Send your message here
UK: Charter for asbestos justice launched
The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum is seeking support for a new 'Charter for Justice.' The forum says that in the UK more people will die from asbestos diseases this year than will die on the roads, and the asbestos toll is rising. The Charter sets out "easily affordable reforms" that would make a real difference to asbestos victims. "This country owes a debt of justice to asbestos victims and their families. We all have a duty to make sure victims receive the help they need," the forum notes. "We all have an interest in making sure that asbestos is removed from the buildings we live and work in so that no one suffers in the future. This Charter sets out how we could achieve these aims." The charter calls for a fair compensation and welfare benefits system, best practice nationwide on medical treatment for asbestos diseases, properly resourced medical research, a public information campaign and a plan for the 'eradication' of asbestos from schools. The forum is asking individuals to email a message of support, sign and return a copy of the charter, and encourage others to sign up.
Read more: The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK website and Charter for Justice [pdf]. Source: Risks 700
US jury finds Colgate-Palmolive talc caused mesothelioma
On April 28 a Los Angeles County Jury returned a US$13 million (AUD$16.6 million) verdict against the Colgate-Palmolive Company. Lawyers for Judith and John Winkel announced that in a unanimous verdict, the jury found that Colgate-Palmolive's "Cashmere Bouquet" talcum powder was responsible for causing Mrs Winkle to contract mesothelioma. The company says it is the first verdict ever against Colgate-Palmolive for asbestos exposure from talcum powder.
Mrs Winkle began using Cashmere Bouquet in 1961, when her coworkers gave her a can of the powder as a gift: "I love that fragrance. It was just light, floral fragrance." From 1961 to 1976, she used Cashmere Bouquet virtually every day, shaking the powder out of the container, creating "a little cloud, like dust cloud." Mrs Winkle had no idea that this would cause her to be diagnosed with cancer nearly 40 years later.
Read more: Jury Finds Colgate-Palmolive Talcum Powder Causes Mesothelioma PRNewswire
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
International Union News
Saudi Arabia: Building collapse kills at least 11 migrant workers
The exploitation of migrant workers in the Gulf countries in West Asia has been well documented with workers enduring long days for terrible wages. The toll in terms of deaths and injuries is hidden as much as possible until a major disaster reveals the truth. Last week, a convention centre under construction in the city of Buraydah, Saudi Arabia, collapsed trapping over 50 workers and killing at least 11 of them. The majority of these workers were from Pakistan. Unfortunately these deaths are not an isolated case and reflect the savage exploitation that migrant workers face in these countries.
Read more Gulf News Source: AAWL Mini News
Global: Paraquat 'too big a risk to life and health'
Campaigners are pressing for the highly toxic pesticide paraquat to be added to a list of restricted products. Global agriculture unions' federation IUF has produced with Pesticides Action Network (PAN) and the Swiss-based NGO, Berne Declaration, a report on the use of paraquat in India. IUF notes: "While this highly toxic pesticide is banned in Europe, it continues to be widely used on many crops and in many parts of the world. The report confirms that paraquat is used under high-risk conditions and that users don't have the information or the means to protect themselves from exposure. As a result, users suffer from headaches, vomiting, breathing difficulty, muscle pain and abdominal discomfort. Chronic exposure can lead to lung, brain or skin damage". The Indian government has previously blocked attempts to get paraquat listed under the UN's Rotterdam Convention which allows governments much more control over importation of pesticides. "The IUF will lobby with PAN and the Berne Declaration to get paraquat listed when the Rotterdam Convention list is updated in May," IUF said. The report, 'Conditions of paraquat use in India', will also be distributed in Basel at an event to highlight the actions of the Swiss-based chemical company, Syngenta which continues to manufacture and promote paraquat.
Read more: IUF news release and report: Conditions of Paraquat Use in India [pdf] Source: Risks 700
Heatwaves costing Australian workplaces billions
According to research led by Dr Kerstin Zander from Charles Darwin University, heatwaves are having a significant impact upon Australian workplaces, with lost productivity and absenteeism costing the economy at least US$6.2bn ($7.92bn) each year.
The study of 1,726 working adults across Australia, in May and October last year, found 70 per cent had worked less efficiently at some point over the past year owing to heat. A further 7 per cent had missed at least one day of work because of high temperatures. The paper, published in Nature Climate Change, said while 2013 was an exceptionally hot year, workplaces would need to start adapting to extreme heat "if severe economic impacts from labour productivity loss are to be avoided if heatwaves become as frequent as predicted".
Dr Zander said extreme heat was a safety issue and made people less productive. The research paper suggested that employers implement strategies, such as improved access to water and fitness programs, if the predicted increase in heatwaves took hold.
Read more: Heatwaves' impact on workplaces costing Australia $7.92bn a year The Guardian and Hazard information on Heat
Nomiate for the WorkSafe Victoria Awards
Remember to nominate yourself, your HSR or your committee for the 2015 WorkSafe Victoria Awards. The awards are now in their 27th year, and one of the few opportunities to show appreciation for those who are passionate about health and safety – even if the nominated person doesn't make the finals, it's good for them to know they are appreciated.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia
As at 29 April 2015, 51 Australian workers have been killed while at work – three more than our last report – and all three in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector, bringing the fatalities to eighteen. The other fatalities have been in the following industries: 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.
From WorkCover NSW: two new videos
- for those who work in glass and glazing a video safety alert with tips to stay safe
- for anyone working with horses, a video safety alert. WorkCover NSW says that horse-related injuries hospitalise one NSW worker every day!
Victorian Prosecutions and updates
Enforceable Undertaking 1: Geotech Pty Ltd
Geotech Pty Ltd, boring and drilling contractors, have entered into an enforceable undertaking (EU) with WorkSafe Victoria following an incident in January 2013 when a shotcreter was injured following the collapse of an earth and rock wall. WorkSafe alleged a breach of the OHS Act (failure to provide and maintain safe systems of work) – but withdrew the charges after the company accepted the undertaking.
After the incident, Geotech spent $500,000 on "the Geotech way" training and safety package, including a two-day course to help employees develop and assess safe work method statements and risk assessments, and spent $200,000 on employing a safety practitioner. As a result the company reduced its reported incidents and recorded no lost-time injuries in 2013-14. As part of the undertaking, the company agreed to develop a guidance note for safely constructing shotcrete retaining walls and create an external training course for the construction industry based on the guidance material. It will also conduct a presentation for WorkSafe inspectors about the incident and undertaking, provide all Geotech leaders with training to ensure they have the skills to improve safety performance, and engage a consultant to undertake an independent review of its safety management system.
Further, the company agreed to donate $20,000 to the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) and $10,000 to the Greater Geelong Community Collective. The total estimated value of the undertaking is $371,080.
Enforceable Undertaking 2: Hansen Yuncken Pty Ltd
Construction company Hansen Yuncken entered into an enforceable undertaking, in lieu of prosecution, following a near-miss incident at a Deakin University construction site in June 2013. A Hansen Yuncken worker was altering a 3.9-metre metal rod installed as a temporary handrail when it fell 12 metres into an exclusion zone filled with workers. No one was injured. According to WorkSafe, the employer failed to maintain a safe system of work or provide employees with information, instruction, training or supervision.
Following the incident, the employer assisted the construction site's main contractor, Caelli Constructions, redesign the stairwell handrail system, and revise safe work method statements and project management plans. As part of the undertaking, Hansen Yuncken will develop guidance material on preventing falling objects at an estimated cost of $177,480, and donate $23,520 to the ISCRR.
WA: Benchtop manufacturer fined $120k
A Western Australian stone benchtop manufacturer and installer has been fined $120,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court for the death of a worker. Australian Countertop Pty Ltd (trading as Australian Counter Top), pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace. In December 2011, a stonemason died when he was crushed by several 235kg stone slabs being unloaded from a truck and stacked in A-frame racks. WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said falling slabs were a common hazard in the industry. The court found the company should have stored stone slabs in post-and-rail racking and trained employees to load and unload the slabs without going in between them. "This was the fourth worker killed in similar circumstances in this industry within a four-year period," he said. "Although the company is in liquidation and could not pay the $120,000 fine imposed we considered it important to prosecute the company and have a conviction recorded as a deterrent to others in the industry."