SafetyNet 321, May 14, 2015
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet. Among noteworthy news, Australian unions have been in the international spotlight in their fight to have chrysotile asbestos listed in the Rotterdam Convention. We hope you find this week's edition interesting. If you have any comments or questions, please email them to Renata. Also - we want more "followers" on Twitter… so please follow us @OHSreps
Farmer killed on quad bike
Soon after the journal was sent out last week, news came through that a farmer was killed on a cattle farm at Kergunyah earlier that day, 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 underneath. He died at the scene. WorkSafe was investigating.
Source: WorkSafe News
Vic government announces changes to policing due to security concerns
Police officers in Victoria will no longer be allowed to work alone under new safety procedures put in place because of heightened security concerns. The changes mean officers won't work alone in public places or while on reception duties in low security police stations. It will be compulsory for officers to wear bulletproof vests and officers will not be allowed to drive or leave marked vehicles at their homes. The Police Association, which has advocated the elimination of 'Single Officer Patrols' for more than 20 years, welcomed the changes, which in most circumstances, will see their members required to work two-up in public places or when dealing with reception duties in low security police stations or complexes.
"Almost daily, our members continue to remind us that the risks they face every day while on patrol are increasing and that the job they do is getting more dangerous particularly in this heightened security environment," said Ron Iddles, TPAV Secretary. "There is still room for improvement, and while this is a positive first step towards best practice in this area, security upgrades at many police stations, improved operational safety equipment and increases to frontline police numbers still need to occur if our members are to enjoy the safest possible work environment."
Read more: The Age and The Police Association In Brief
Teacher workloads 55 hours plus
Rising workloads are the main reason teachers consider leaving the profession, new research from the Australian Education Union (AEU) has found. AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that school resourcing was falling behind the demands placed on teachers and that needs-based funding was required to ease pressure on teachers and improve outcomes for students.
The AEU's State of our Schools Survey for 2015, which surveyed over 2000 teachers, showed a rise in teacher workloads, with 42 per cent of teachers saying they worked more than 50 hours per week, and 23 per cent working over 55 hours per week. Although generally happy with their employment, teachers cited high workloads as the most significant consideration when thinking about leaving the profession. The survey found that 70 per cent of female teachers and 55 per cent of male teachers said workloads were the main issue that would lead them to leave teaching.
Read more: AEU Media Release Research finds teachers need extra resources to cope with rising workloads [pdf]; Stressed teachers quitting over high workload, Australian Education Union report reveals Herald Sun
Recently I noticed an unsafe worksite: a domestic demolition in progress in my suburb. As a concerned member of the public, I took a couple of pictures, phoned the WorkSafe Advisory Line, and then sent the pictures through. I was told that an inspector would investigate whether what was going on was deemed to be appropriate. This has happened a couple of times in the past, and I've followed up with a call only to be told that WorkSafe doesn't provide information on whether an inspector attended a worksite or what action may have been taken unless an FOI is lodged. I believe this is sending a mixed message in relation to health and safety, particularly if it can impact on the wider community, as this demolition site undoubtedly could have. What do you think?
WorkSafe articulates what its values are on its website as follows:
WorkSafe Victoria is:
- Constructive in the way we provide information, advice and service
- Accountable for what we do and what we say. We live up to our promises
- Transparent in the way we work, our environment is open and honest
- Effective by working collaboratively to deliver high quality services
- Caring by showing empathy in our dealings with everyone we work with
Now, this is a personal view, but it seems to me that not only would it be good PR to provide some reassurance to the public with regard to following up complaints, it would be totally consistent with the organisation's core values. We'll see what we can do to raise this issue.
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.
Home reno shows: fuelling increasing ladder falls?
The Age ran an interesting story last week on potential unintended consequences of popular TV home renovation shows. The article said these programs may be fuelling a rise in potentially fatal ladder falls, which in turn has led some doctors to recommend that people climbing ladders at home wear bike helmets!
According to an Adelaide trainee surgeon,
approximately 3500 Australians were being admitted to hospital after
ladder falls each year, and most of them were men falling at home – not
people at work where safety precautions are mandated. He said the
trend, which included catastrophic head injuries, had caused concern
home renovation TV shows were encouraging people to do risky work
themselves, instead of utilising professional tradesmen.
Read more: The Age
Geneva: Rotterdam Convention discussions underway
A group of unionists from IndustriALL Global Union, including two Australian representatives from its affiliates the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) and the Construction union (CFMEU) is currently in Geneva to keep up the pressure on countries about to vote on listing chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention. The Convention currently lists other types of asbestos, but not chrysotile. An advertising campaign on trams and buses running through the heart of Geneva reminds residents and conference visitors how deadly asbestos is – and the group has been reportedly getting a lot of media attention. Laurie Kazan-Allan, from the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, has posted a comprehensive and interesting Update from Geneva on the IBAS website. A handful of countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, India, Pakistan, Cuba and Zimbabwe – have refused to accept the recommendation to list chrysotile asbestos. Against expectations, the delegation from Brazil, the world's third biggest producer of chrysotile asbestos, declared its support. Some good news at least – especially as India, which had previously supported its listing, has changed sides again.
On Tuesday, the AMWU and CFMEU, as well as Unite in the UK, joined forces with victims' groups and the Building and Wood Workers International union to protest outside the United Nations building. The demo took place as government representatives from over 160 countries were participating in the UN conference considering the listing of chrysotile asbestos.
Read more: check the Australian designed poster on the IndustriALL website and news of the protest, including a YouTube clip.
New Film: Chrysotile Asbestos – Voices from South East Asia
This short film, released by the WHO earlier this week, and being shown in Geneva, shows the devastation caused by asbestos in South-East Asia – it features people in Mumbai India, all of whom have been exposed to and most of whom are suffering from an asbestos-related disease. The film graphically highlights why all forms of asbestos must be banned in every country in the world – currently millions of people in South-East Asia are exposed to asbestos – how many will develop diseases and how many will die?
Watch it now: Chrysotile Asbestos – Voices from South East Asia
UN warning on asbestos risk in Europe
One in three people in Europe are at risk from asbestos exposures, with the deadly fibre claiming thousands of lives each year, a United Nations (UN) report has warned. A high-level meeting on environment and health in Europe on 30 April ended with an urgent appeal to all European countries to eliminate asbestos-related diseases. The report showed that one-third of the 900 million people living in the region are potentially exposed to asbestos at work and in the environment.
"We cannot afford losing almost 15,000 lives a year in Europe, especially workers, from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos," said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, of the World Health Organisation's Europe office. "Every death from asbestos-related diseases is avoidable," added the UN agency's regional director. The report presented at the meeting indicated that asbestos is responsible for about half of all deaths from cancers developed at work. According to WHO's new estimates, deaths from mesothelioma in 15 European countries cost society more than 1.5 billion euros annually. The UK tops Europe's table for asbestos cancer deaths and related costs. While 38 of the 53 member states in the region have banned the use of all forms of asbestos, the remaining 15 countries still use asbestos, especially for building materials, and some continue to produce and export it. Two of these producer nations, Russia and Kazakhstan, are spearheading global efforts to resist further controls on asbestos trade. According to the WHO news release, even after its use has ceased, asbestos lingers in the environment, so it needs to be safely removed and disposed of without delay.
Read more: WHO Europe news release and mesothelioma costs table; United Nations news release. Source: Risks 701
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Queensland Government to re-instate HSR rights and Union Entry powers
On 7 May, Queensland's Treasurer and Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Curtis Pitt introduced the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 into the state's Parliament. This Bill implements election commitments made as part of the Improving safety for Queenslanders at Work policy. In particular, the Government committed to restoring elements of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) that were changed following a review of the model laws by the previous conservative government in 2012. The amendments include restoring right of entry powers allowing WHS entry permit holders to gain immediate access to a workplace to inquire into a suspected contravention of the WHS Act and empowering trained health and safety representatives (HSRs) to direct workers to cease unsafe work. The Minister told parliament these were "vital safeguards" the former state government had "stripped away".
Read more: WorkCover Queensland media release
Nail salons put workers at risk
Two articles this week have highlighted the dangerous and toxic environments nail salon workers are exposed to. The Australian article, in the online journal The New Daily, states that, according to 'experts': "Nail salons in Australia are poorly regulated and workers are being exposed to serious health risks from the toxic chemicals used on customers."
In fact, the problem is not that they are 'poorly regulated' but rather that salon owners and employers are not complying with occupational health and safety laws which mandate the identification of hazards – and the subsequent elimination or minimisation of these hazards. Our regulations also require that workplaces implement specific controls when hazardous substances are used, that these be properly labelled and that workers who may be exposed are provided with information and training, and that their health be monitored. With some substances, the employer should also be monitoring the exposure levels and the level of contamination in the air.
The second article, in The New York Times, recounts the stories of particular workers who whose exposure may have contributed to devastating outcomes, such as miscarriages. Both articles identify the so-called 'Toxic Trio' used in salons: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene are known to cause birth defects, cancer and respiratory problems. All three are classified as 'hazardous' in Australia, and are therefore subject to regulation. Sadly, few salon workers are union members: so few of them know what their rights are in terms of ohs protections.
Read more: The price of beauty: the dark side of nail salons The New Daily; Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers The New York Times; and hazard information on Formaldehyde and 4.1 Hazardous Substances Regulations
International Union News
ITUC campaign to 'Save FIFA'
The ITUC is running a campaign seeking to have the best candidate elected as FIFA president: one who cares about workers. The ITUC says the world has lost confidence in FIFA, due in large part to the 2022 World Cup. In 2010 - amid allegations of bribery and kickbacks - FIFA chose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, ignoring an inspection report labelling Qatar as a "high-risk" bid. Workers are dying, and Qatar has a failed to deliver promised reforms for workers' rights.
FIFA is feeling the pressure: it has moved the tournament from the traditional months of June and July to December when it's a little cooler. It has taken away the 2021 Confederations Cup from Qatar, used as a test run for infrastructure and stadiums. But the problems remain: workers are trapped in the country and need their employers' permission to leave, their passports are withheld, many live shocking conditions, and earn just a few dollars a day.
On 29th May, FIFA will elect a new president. The ITUC has clarified the candidates' priorities and is asking for interested people to nominate their preferred president. Read more and vote now
Bangladesh: Need for labour law reform
There is a new documentary Udita (Arise) made by Rainbow Collective about the struggles that women trade unionists in the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) have faced in Bangladesh over the last five years. The film premiered on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24th at an event hosted by Unite Tower Hamlets Community branch in partnership with War on Want and the TUC.
TUC Aid is currently supporting NGWF to run a leadership development programme for female members which is designed to tackle the fact that women make up the majority (85%) of the workforce in the garment industry but are under-represented in union leadership. This is partly due to the harassment that women union leaders face, which can include sexual assault as Human Rights Watch has reported. Without women leaders, however, it is more difficult for women to tackle the harassment and poor conditions they face at work.
View Udita on the TUC website (full film or trailer)
Philippines: At least 45 workers killed in footwear factory fire
In tragic news overnight, officials say that at least 45 people have died after a fire gutted a footwear factory in the Valenzuela industrial district, near the capital Manila. The blaze broke out at the rubber slipper factory shortly before noon local time. Factory owner Veato Ang said 'about 200 to 300 people worked in the factory'; his lack of certainty is astounding. The were still 26 workers missing at 3pm this afternoon.
Firemen took four hours to get the blaze under control, and entered the burnt-out building to find an undetermined number of bodies, Mayor Rex Gatchalian said. Flammable materials and chemicals were believed to have helped spread the flames.|
Stop Press: the latest news is that more bodies have been found and the number of dead has now reached 72 (5pm). Dozens of workers are still missing, and feared dead.
Read more: The Guardian; ABC News Online
Global: IFJ denounces the deadly war on journalism
Journalism is under attack through repressive press laws, arbitrary detention as well as killings, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has said. Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Sunday 3 May, the global union urged the international community to take this intimidation seriously and to put pressure on governments to investigate it promptly. The union body denounced the targeting of journalists across the globe it said was making this period the most dangerous in recent decades. Jim Boumelha, IFJ president, said: "In almost every corner of the world, journalists are targeted, brutalised and put to death. In the first three months of 2015 we have met the third of last years' total death, not to mention harassment, intimidation and imprisonments of our colleagues." He added: "It is our mission to document, expose, lobby and campaign to stop attacks against journalists. We must also denounce the shameful failure of governments to prosecute the killers of journalists. These deaths are more than just statistics; they are colleagues and friends who have dedicated their lives to pay the ultimate price for their work as journalists for the right of their citizens to know."
A recent report, 'Under threat', from the International News Safety Institute (INSI) supports this. The overwhelming majority of respondents to the quantitative survey, 88 per cent, agreed that the safety of journalists and media workers is more of an issue than it was 10 years ago, with 86 per cent saying that journalists are more likely to be targets of violence. INSI found that even those who don't work in hostile environments face greater dangers than they did in the past. Research done for the report shows that 1,480 journalists and media support workers died doing their jobs in the past 10 years, an average of 131 every year. Terror groups like ISIS are using new technologies to control what one interviewee called the "information battlefield", with INSI adding "they have declared war on journalists through high profile kidnappings and killings broadcast on social media. Meanwhile, the frontlines in places like Syria and Iraq have blurred - journalists are no longer sure who to trust and where they can go safely. For their part, news executives are often not sure who to turn to for information and help when reporters go missing or get hurt in today's chaotic conflicts."
Read more: IFJ news release. NUJ news release and Under threat: The changing state of media safety, INSI, April 2015. Source: Risks 701
Night work and breast cancer – more evidence
Recent research has suggested a moderate link between night work and breast cancer in women, mainly through case–control studies. Swedish researchers undertook this study in order to provide new information from cohort data through investigating the association between the number of years with night work and breast cancer among women exposed to night shift work. The researchers interviewed and followed up 13,656 women from the Swedish Twin Registry, with 3404 exposed to night work. Taking into account
The results showed a significant association between exposure to night work for >20 years and breast cancer in women who were followed up to the age of 60 years. For the complete group, independent of exposure duration, there was a trend in the same direction.
Åkerstedt T, Knutsson A, Narusyte J, et al. Night work and breast cancer in women: a Swedish cohort study. [Full] BMJ Open 2015;5:e008127. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008127
Source: Night Shift and Breast Cancer Nurses for Nurses Network. Read more on Shift work – health effects
Gold mining causes deadly diseases
A new study has found the deadly risks posed by silica exposures in gold mines are particularly pronounced in small-scale operations. Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, which looked at Tanzanian mines, revealed that exposures to silica are more than two hundred times greater in small-scale artisanal mines than in larger mines. It found hundreds of thousands of miners have already come down with the lung choking occupational disease silicosis and rates of tuberculosis (TB) among miners in Africa are approximately 5-6 times higher than in the general population. The average airborne crystalline silica levels in underground gold mining operations were 337 times greater than the recommended limit set by the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Even miners working above ground had exposures four times the limit. Silica dust is a known cause of silicosis and lung cancer, and is associated with TB and other lung diseases. The researchers say the estimated 15 million artisanal miners worldwide – many times more than are employed in formal sector mines – are working without any dust control measures. Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International (OKI) and the lead author of the study, said: "Silica dust hazards are being ignored while thousands of miners die each year due to silicosis and the alarmingly high rates of TB in these mining communities." He added: "While we did the study in Tanzania, the risk for TB and silicosis is similar in artisanal mining around the world. Many times more people work in artisanal mining than in formal sector mines."
Read more: Perry Gottesfeld, Damian Andrew and Jeffrey Dalhoff. Silica exposures in artisanal small-scale gold mining in Tanzania and implications for Tuberculosis prevention [abstract] (Full text can be downloaded in a pdf document), Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, published online April 2015. DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2015.1029617. Occupational Knowledge International. Source: Risks 701 Read more on Silica on this website
Occupational exposures and risk of stomach and oesophageal cancers
Associations between stomach and oesophageal cancer and exposures to dusts, metals, chemicals, and endotoxin in the workplace are not very well understood, particularly in women. In this study, the authors followed 267,400 female textile workers in Shanghai, China for cancer incidence from 1989 to 2006. They identified stomach (n=1374) and oesophageal (n=190) cancer cases and a comparison subcohort (n=3187) was randomly selected.
Cox proportional hazard modelling was used, adjusting for age and smoking. The researchers observed an increase in stomach cancer risk with increasing duration of synthetic fibre dust exposure, although the magnitude of effect was small. The authors concluded that the findings demonstrate that long durations of synthetic fibre dust exposure can increase stomach cancer risk in women, but provide limited support for associations with other textile industry exposures.
Gallagher LG, Li W, et al Occupational exposures and risk of stomach and oesophageal cancers: Update of a cohort of female textile workers in Shanghai, China. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2015 Mar;58(3):267-75. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22412. Epub 2015 Jan 21
Pig farm workers at high risk of staph
It has been found that pig farm workers are six times as likely to carry multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as workers who have no contact with pigs. In one of the largest studies of staph in livestock workers, researchers found that contact with farm animals, particularly pigs, generally left workers more likely to carry the infectious bacteria, including drug-resistant varieties such as MRSA. Researchers monitored 1,342 people from Iowa and the staph they carried for up to 17 months.
They found that a worker's chance of carrying staph increased with the number of pigs contacted. The farms in the study housed an average of 355 pigs, while the US average is about 2,300. Consequently, they cautioned that their findings, published April 29 in Clinical Infectious Diseases, may underestimate the health risks.
Read more: Shilo E Wardyn, et al, Swine Farming Is a Risk Factor for Infection With and High Prevalence of Carriage of Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus [Abstract] Clin Infect Dis. (2015) doi: 10.1093/cid/civ234 Source: Science News
Illegally traded and dumped E-waste worth up to $19 billion each year
Up to 90 per cent of the world's electronic waste, worth nearly US $19 billion, is illegally traded or dumped each year, according to a report released this week by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Each year, the electronic industry - one of the world's largest and fastest growing – generates up to 41 million tonnes of e-waste from goods such as computers and smart phones. That figure may reach 50 million tonnes by 2017. 60-90 per cent of this waste is illegally traded or dumped, according to UNEP's "Waste Crimes, Waste Risks: Gaps and Challenges In the Waste Sector", launched in Geneva, at the Conference of Parties to the three major conventions addressing the global waste issue, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner said: "We are witnessing an unprecedented amount of electronic waste rolling out over the world. Not only does it account for a large portion of the world's non-recycled 'waste mountain', but it also poses a growing threat to human health and the environment, due to the hazardous elements it contains."
Read more: UNEP Media Release and Report Waste Crimes, Waste Risks: Gaps and Challenges In the Waste Sector Report
New graduates join inspector ranks
Last Friday WorkSafe Victoria welcomed 20 new inspectors. Minister for Finance, Robin Scott, and WorkSafe Acting Chief Executive, Clare Amies, presented the new graduates with their certificates and inspector badges in front of colleagues, family and friends. Friday's graduation completed an intensive training and coaching program for the inspectors, which began earlier this year.
WorkSafe said the new inspectors came from a wide range of industries, including emergency services, transport and logistics, construction, engineering and manufacturing. Minister for Finance, Robin Scott, said the new inspectors will be assets to the WorkSafe team, joining a group of dedicated professionals improving health and safety and helping people return to work. Ms Amies said the new inspectors would take up positions in key locations across the state: "A key focus of WorkSafe inspectors is to equip workplaces with all the tools necessary to make informed decisions about health and safety, and their approach to navigating the return to work process."
WorkSafe Media Release
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox arrived in Renata's Inbox just as she was posting SafetyNet. The editorial in this edition is on a very common hazard – step platforms. Written by Tony Cockerell from the WorkSafe Construction Practices Unit, the item looks at step and ladder platforms (step platforms) and their position on the hierarchy of fall protection controls. The enewsletter also has a link to a newspaper article on the findings of the coroner in the death of a carpenter who was killed in 2006 when he was crushed by a near-complete gazebo at a house in Canterbury.
The list of Reported Incidents in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from April 22 – May 6 is attached to the bulletin. There were at total of 75 incidents reported in the two week period – including 29 'near misses', 24 lacerations, four punctures, and four electric shocks, four fractures, two amputations and one heart attack. Several of the near misses could have had fatal consequences.
Access the May 14 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
WorkSafe goes to Colac
As part of its Safe Towns project which has now been running for ten years, WorkSafe organised a lunch for employers today (May 14) in Colac, prior to sending inspectors into the town May 25 – 29. Employers are encouraged to download some of the resources WorkSafe has developed to help prepare for an inspector's visit.
Read more: Safe Towns
WorkSafe Victoria Awards now open
If you think your HSR or your committee has made a difference to how safe and healthy your workplace is, then nominate him/her or 'it' in 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 12 May, 56 Australian workers have been killed while at work; that is, five more than our last report on 29 April. The fatalities have been in the following industries: 18 the Transport, postal and warehouse sector; eleven in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; seven each in Construction and in Mining; three each in Electricity, gas, water & waste services; Arts & Recreation services; and in 'other services'; two in Manufacturing; and two in Administrative & support services. More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
Safe Work has now released the monthly fatality report for January 2015. During the first month of the year, a total of 17 work-related fatalities were reported: 12 male workers, three female bystanders and two male bystanders. Of these fatalities, three workers and four bystanders died as a result of incidents on public roads. The January report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Federal budget spares safety agencies – for now
The Federal Government's plans to abolish 32 government bodies as part of its 'Smaller Government Reform' agenda revealed in the 2015-16 budget appears to have spared asbestos (ASEA) and safety (Safe Work Australia) agencies earmarked by the Commission of Audit last year for either abolition or consolidation within the employment department. At least for now. In a media release issued the day before the budget, Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann provided details of the 32 bodies to be abolished, noting up to and including this fourth phase of the Smaller Government Reform agenda the number of Government bodies has been reduced by 286 "so far" – and adding that a fifth phase would be included in MYEFO 2015-16. However, the budget papers revealed that ASEA's small staff would increase by three to 12 in the coming year.
Read more: Senator Cormann's Media release
From WorkCover NSW: another in their series, a short video for truck drivers who need to get in and out of their cab numerous times a day, with advice on how to do it safely.
From WorkCover Queensland: Lead paint a risk in Queensland workplaces
The Queensland regulator says that even though paint containing more than one per cent of lead has been banned since the 1960s, but it continues to pose serious health risks for workers and members of the community. Before the ban, lead could contain up to 50 per cent lead. Removing paint from buildings built before the 1970s may create a serious health risk if the paint contains lead and the process generates large amounts of dust. The same risk could be faced by Victorian workers and the community.
From WorkCoverBC (Canada): An interactive web book on the most common fall hazards in residential construction. The web book has chapters on roofing, framing, formwork, and siding, as well as a list of resources. Each chapter has short videos on specific hazards.
Victorian Prosecutions and updates
1 – Company fined $450k for fatal incident involving front end loader
On 31 March, Resource Recovery Victoria Pty Ltd ('RRV') pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the OHS Act relating to a failure to provide and maintain a safe system of work and a failure to provide adequate information, instruction and training: sections 21(1) & 2(a) and 21(1) & (2)(e) of the Act. The charges arose out of an incident on 4 October 2013, in which an employee of RRV was struck by a front-end loader whilst operating a small street sweeper at RRV's open air shed. The worker was died from his injuries. The plea was heard before her Honour Judge Hampel in the County Court of Victoria. On 23 April 2015, her Honour Judge Hampel sentenced RRV. RRV was convicted and fined $450,000. The company did not appeal the judgement.
2 – Company fined after worker entangled in machine
Kinross Farms Services Pty Ltd ('KFS') pleaded guilty to one charge under section 21(1) & 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act in that it failed to provide and maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health. On 12 May 2014, an employee of KFS was cleaning two contra-rotating rollers on a chicken feed grain mill when his fingers became entangled in the nip point of the rollers. He needed surgery and skin grafts. WorkSafe concluded that the guarding for the area was inadequate, as it was limited to a hatch that could be opened at any time exposing the rollers. Further, the hatch was not interlock guarded. On 11 May 2015, the Melbourne Magistrates' Court fined KFS $15,000, without conviction, plus costs of $3,895.
Source: WorkSafe WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
WA: Benchtop manufacturer fined $120k
A WA stone benchtop manufacturer and installer has been fined $120,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court over the 2011 death of a worker. Australian Countertop Pty Ltd (trading as Australian Counter Top), pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, resulting in the death of a worker. 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 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."
Colombia: coca crops will no longer be sprayed with glyphosate herbicide
President Juan Manuel Santos said Colombian authorities must stop using the controversial herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) to eradicate illicit coca plantations. "I am going to ask the government officials in the National Drug Council at their next meeting to suspend glyphosate spraying of illicit cultivations (of coca)," Santos said.
Launched in 1994, the spraying program was long treated as sacrosanct by Colombian officials, who gladly accepted billions of dollars in funding from Washington and succeeded in slashing the cocaine production that has fuelled the country's five-decade civil war. But after the World Health Organization warned in March that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic," Santos's has questioned whether to continue the air war on coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine.
Colombia, which, along with Peru, is the world's leading producer of cocaine, has used glyphosate for years to eradicate illicit coca, exposing many to this carcinogen.
Read more: Colombia to stop spraying coca crops with glyphosate herbicide Yahoo News