SafetyNet 324, June 4, 2015
Welcome to our latest edition of SafetyNet – as usual, lots has been happening in the world of OHS. Please distribute the journal, use it for your own purposes, and let us know if you find it useful. If you have any comments, please send them in to Renata firstname.lastname@example.org – questions welcomed too. Our usual reminder to please follow us on Twitter: @OHSreps
New Australian Unions video on OHS Reps and unions
If you haven't yet checked out the Australian Unions video on unions and health and safety representatives yet, please do. It's well worth it!
Watch the video: Speak up for health and safety
Reminder: WorkSafe Victoria is advertising for OHS inspectors
There's less than a week to apply for one of the advertised WorkSafe inspector positions. This intake of new inspectors is part of Minister Robin Scott's commitment to bolster the capacity of our regulator, WorkSafe, to monitor compliance with regulation and improve health and safety in Victorian workplaces. Inspectors have a crucial role to play in particular where problems persist, so it's important that they be honest and fearless brokers. If you are passionate about health and safety, then you should consider applying. There are vacancies in a number of areas and locations. Position descriptions and an application form can be downloaded from the WorkSafe website, here. Remember: applications close at 5pm on Tuesday 9 June.
Reminder: Asbestoswise Annual Appeal
If you have not yet done so, please make a tax deductible donation to the Asbestoswise Annual Appeal. Help this support and advocacy group to continue its good work in both assisting victims of asbestos and their families, and in lobbying government to remove this scourge from our society.
Go to this page to donate.
ASEA: 2nd International Asbestos Conference dates
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has not yet provided more details of its second International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management, which will be held during National Asbestos Awareness Month, from the 22 to the 24 of November. in November the Agency will hold them. The conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Brisbane. Registration is due to open soon. SafetyNet will keep readers informed.
Demolition of Mr Fluffy homes imminent
The mass demolition of more than 1000 Canberra homes contaminated with Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation was scheduled to from this week. Five Mr Fluffy houses, earmarked for a pilot study, will be the first demolitions to take place over the coming eight weeks under highly controlled conditions. A key focus of the pilot is to allow the Taskforce to refine its engagement with the community for the broader demolition program. It is planned to film the demolition of the houses and the taskforce's engagement activities will be evaluated. However, there have been reports that some residents have not signed up to the ACT government's buy-back scheme and are refusing to move out of their homes.
Read more: Demolition of Mr Fluffy homes to begin The Canberra Times; Mr Fluffy: Demolitions of contaminated homes begin, but some residents refuse to budge ABC News online
International: IBAS updates resource
Laurie Kazan-Allen, of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat this week updated her informative resource Chronology of National Asbestos Bans - which provides information on when countries around the world introduced and implemented bans on asbestos. The IBAS website is a wealth of information, and anyone interested should check it regularly.
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
National: CFMEU calls for state audits of dangerous imported cladding
The CFMEU has written to every state and territory government calling for urgent audits to be undertaken on the use of a dangerous imported aluminium cladding product. The product was used to cover the external walls of the Lacrosse Apartments Complex at Docklands in Melbourne, which caught fire last year. The cladding was highly combustible, and result in the rapid spread of fire. Four hundred people were evacuated from the building; luckily no-one was seriously injured or killed.
It appears the product has been used extensively used in buildings throughout the nation. The union has written to each Premier and Chief Minister asking for an audit of the use of the product, compelling building surveyors, builders, architects and designers to outline where the use of the product has occurred in their State or Territory.
CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor said a comprehensive, national audit was the only way of knowing how widespread the use of the material was in Australian construction. "Because of completely inadequate enforcement of Australian standards on imported building products, these unsafe products have flooded the Australian market, putting lives at risk and hurting Australian builders and manufacturers," Mr O'Connor said.
Read more: CFMEU News
ITF urges Australian Senate inquiry into FOC
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is now pushing for an Australian senate inquiry into flag of convenience (FOC) shipping following a damning exposé on the ABC's Four Corners programme into three deaths at sea on board the MV Sage Sagittarius. As reported in last week's SafetyNet, the NSW government has begun a coronial inquest into two of the deaths.
Four Corners focused on the deaths of two Filipino nationals – chief cook Cesar Llanto and chief engineer Hector Collado – and Japanese superintendent Kosaku Monji, who was investigating their deaths on board the Panama-flagged coal carrier in 2012. The inquest has heard that guns were being sold on board and that assaults on and intimidation of the crew were widespread. It also heard that the three crew members most likely met with foul play.
Source: ITF Urges Australian Senate Inquiry into FOC Shipping and Condemns Government Attacks on Cabotage ITF News
International Union News
Film: The True Cost
SafetyNet attended the world premiere of the crowd-sourced US documentary "The True Cost" last week – a film which focusses on spotlight on the appalling conditions faced by the workers that produce our clothes, and the world-wide effects of what has come to be known as "Fast Fashion". The film makes the point that nothing less than systemic change is needed. IndustriALL says: "The garment brands have created an unsustainable sourcing model that enables them to maximize their profits at the expense of workers. They created it and they have the power to change it." A copy of the film can be bought for $9.99 and is well worth it.
Read more: IndustriALL media release Fashion's True Cost is at workers' expense and True Cost: The Movie
Bangladesh: Dozens charged with murder for Rana Plaza collapse
Authorities in Bangladesh have filed murder charges against dozens of people for their roles in the collapse in 2013 of Rana Plaza that killed 1,137 workers and injured over 2,500. The charges were filed on Monday against 41 people, including the building's owner, Sohel Rana, and his parents and more than a dozen government officials. The lead investigator, Bijoy Krishna Kar of the criminal investigation department, said the charges were over their direct role in the collapse of the garment factory building.
Originally the accused, including the owners of the five factories in the building, were going to be charged with culpable homicide, but due to the gravity of the accident, Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster, this was changed to murder. In a separate case, they will also face charges of violating safety rules in Rana Plaza because additional floors were added to the original five-storey building, which was meant for office space and shopping malls. Later, illegally built upper floors were transformed into factories.
Read more: The Guardian
UK: TUC guidance for migrant workers
The UK's peak union council, the TUC has produced a guide to assist union workplace representatives working with migrant workers to help protect their health safety and welfare. Using case studies and checklists it will be a useful asset in any workplace. With large numbers of 457 visa workers in many Australian workplaces, this guide is useful for HSRs here too. Just remember that references to law are to British saw. It is available to download as a pdf from this page of the TUC website.
Global: FIFA's Sepp Blatter stands down days after re-election
In news that surprised everyone, FIFA's president Sepp Blatter has announced he will resign, despite his re-election for a fifth term only days ago. Blatter was re-elected despite a concerted international union campaign urging delegates to elect Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who had committed to cleaning up workers' conditions in Qatar. Perhaps Blatter heeded the words of Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, who at the time of his re-election, said: "After 17 years at the head of FIFA, during which the stink of corruption around FIFA grew stronger, Mr Blatter should step down forthwith, and the Swiss authorities should now place FIFA under judicial supervision. With the focus today on corruption charges, the world also mustn't forget that migrant workers in Qatar are still being worked to death as the World Cup infrastructure programme there accelerates to meet the 2022 deadline. FIFA has failed to make labour rights a condition of Qatar hosting the World Cup and impoverished workers there are paying the price."
Read more: Sepp Blatter says he will resign as FIFA president and calls for fresh election The Age; FIFA President's Position Untenable ITUC News
Experts give advice on prolonged sitting at work
The British Journal of Sports Medicine has published a set of recommendations for employers to reduce prolonged periods of sedentary work. An international group of experts, including the Head of Physical Activity Research at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Professor David Dunstan, says there is a growing case for change towards better health and productivity based on the current body of scientific evidence – hence the recommendations, which include:
- encouraging workers to have two hours a day of standing and light activity during working hours, and eventually progress to four;
- regularly breaking up seated-based work with standing-based work, with sit-stand desks highly recommended
- prolonged static standing postures should also be avoided (as well as prolonged sitting)
- employers should promote that prolonged sitting, related to both work and leisure time, may significantly increase a person's risk of cardio metabolic diseases and premature mortality
The data shows that compared with those who sit the least, those who sit the most have over twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and a 13% and 17% increased risk of cancer incidence and mortality respectively.
Buckley JP, Hedge A, Yates T, et al. The sedentary office: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity. Expert statement commissioned by Public Health England and the Active Working Community Interest Company (CIC) [pdf] Br J Sports Med Published Online 1 June 2015; 0:1-6.doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094618. Source: Experts publish recommendations to reduce prolonged sitting in the workplace BakerIDI. Read more on Sedentary Work and Working Standing Up
Depressed workers need more help
People with depression need more support to stay in and to return to work, a new report has concluded. The paper from Lancaster University's Work Foundation, 'Symptoms of depression and their effects on employment', considers the ways in which some of the symptoms associated with depression can affect an individual's ability to remain in or to find work. It highlights the "generally poor" recognition of the symptoms most likely to influence employment – including 'cognitive symptoms' such as poor concentration, difficulty with decision making, and negative thinking. Where health care professionals do not recognise these symptoms they may go untreated, while poor awareness of employers may lead to the misinterpretation of symptoms as poor performance, it says. The Work Foundation's Professor Stephen Bevan said: "The symptoms of depression currently present very real barriers to working, but by improving access to the right support, and with the right attitudes, they need not continue to be." An April 2015 UK union body TUC report featured cases histories where unions were working to prevent mental health problems arising, or to work with employers to enable a person with a mental health condition to continue in work (Risks 697).
Read more: The Work Foundation news release and report, Symptoms of depression and their effects on employment. TUC report, Good practice in workplace mental health. Source: Risks 704
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox has items on the new inspector intake, brief reports of two construction-related prosecutions, and news that Australia's tallest structure, Gippsland's 430 metre tall Omega communications tower, has been demolished – plus more news from around Australia.
The list of Reported Incidents in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from May 7 – May 20 is attached to the bulletin. There were at total of 64 incidents reported in the two week period – including 17 'near misses', 17 lacerations, four punctures, six electric shocks, and ten fractures. Several of the near misses could have had fatal consequences – for example the worker who fell from height while using a nail gun, and caught his arm on a piece of metal cutting it from palm to elbow!
(we are unable to provide the link to the May 28 edition of Safety Soapbox).
Nominate now: WorkSafe Victoria Awards
You've only got until June 26 to nominate your elected health and safety rep, or your OHS Committee for a WorkSafe Victoria Award. Just do it! 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
There has been no update on the SWA website to the reported annual or monthly fatalities since our last edition.
Construction fatalities SWA releases Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia, 2015
According to Safe Work Australia report, falls were the main cause of fatalities in the construction industry over the 12 years to 2013-14, with falls from roofs and ladders causing more than half of the deaths. The Construction Industry Profile presents an overview of the main causes of workers' injuries and fatalities in the construction industry with information on a range of factors and a detailed analysis of incidents. A total of 417 workers died between 2002-03 and 2013-14 from injuries sustained at work (this is 2.24 fatalities per 100,000 workers – 34 per cent higher than the national rate of 1.67). Of these, 68 were from vehicle incidents and 63 were from contact with electricity, while 117 (28%) were from falls from heights.
Read more (and download the report): Construction Industry Profile
From WorkCoverBC (Canada): In Canada, just as in Australia, farmers are crushed, maimed and killed in tractor rollovers – check out the video
1 – Company convicted and fined after house collapse
On 14 May, the Ringwood Magistrates' Court convicted and fined D.J. Baker & Son Pty Ltd (DJBS) $20,000 (plus costs of after $3,317) over an incident at 2am on 2 May, 2014 when a house it was re-stumping collapsed off temporary jacks. The owners and inhabitants of the house were sleeping inside at the time, but were uninjured. The collapse also caused a gas leak. The charge related to breaching section 26(1) of the OHS Act, for failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace over which it had management or control, and means of entering and leaving it, were safe and without risks to health.
2 – Company convicted and fined after worker is set alight
On 28 February 2014 an employee of Complete Metal Works Pty Ltd ('CMW') was mixing class 3 flammable liquids (paint and thinners) in a store room, which was inadequate for dangerous goods storage, with respect to its construction, ventilation, spill containment and electrical requirements. Another employee was employee was using an angle grinder to grind burrs of a steel beam three or four metres outside the storage room. This created an ignition source for the flammable liquid vapours coming out of the storage room. The fire then engulfed the employee inside the storage room – he suffered serious burns to 50 per cent of his body.
CMW pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Dangerous Goods Act 1985: failing to identify that hazards related to storage and handling of dangerous goods: failing eliminate/minimise the risks; failing to ensure that ignition sources were not present in a hazardous area; and failing to ensure that a register of dangerous goods stored and handled at its premises was kept and maintained. A fifth charge, was withdrawn. The Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court convicted and fined CMW $20,000.00 (plus costs of $5,051).
3 – Rap on knuckles for failing to notify WorkSafe
On 18 May 2014, an employee of Associated Rigging Pty Ltd fell off the side of a truck was suffered a combination of injuries including a graze to the back of his head and elbow, pain and bruising to the right side of his lower back, hip and ribs. The employer failed to report the incident to WorkSafe either immediately or in writing within 48 hours; and failed to preserve the incident site. On 26 May 2015, the company pleaded guilty to three breaching the OHS Act 2004 for failing to notify WorkSafe of a notifiable incident. The Geelong Magistrates Court placed Associated Rigging on an adjourned undertaking, without conviction, for a period of 12 months with a condition that they pay $750.00 to the Court Fund, plus costs $560.
4 – Another company placed on diversion program for failing to notify
The company was placed on a diversion program for failing to notify WorkSafe of a notifiable incident which occurred on 17 June 2014, when an employee broke his leg when he tripped over at the workplace. The incident was not reported to WorkSafe either immediately or in writing within 48 hours. On 28 May 2015, the Bendigo Magistrates' Court placed the company on a diversion program with conditions to donate $800.00 to State Emergency Service, to be of good behaviour for the period of the plan until 26 May 2016 and for one of the Directors of the company to undertake a five day health and safety representative initial OHS training course.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
SA: Paper manufacturer convicted and fined after worker's arm trapped
Too many incidents in which workers' fingers or hands become "entrapped" in moving machinery parts mean there's a need for specific and general deterrence, the SA Industrial Relations Court has said – a sentiment SafetyNet heartily agrees with. On May 20 the court convicted paper products manufacturer Leonhard Kurz (Aust) Pty Ltd and fined it $42,000 after an experienced factory assistant was seriously injured. The fine was reduced from the initial $70,000 after the magistrate noted the company had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and had responded immediately after the incident, to reduce the risk.
In the incident, the worker's left forearm was amputated below the elbow after her gloved hand became caught in "exposed rotating parts" of an automatic core cutter. It was reattached but is now shorter than her right arm. The company had allowed the plant to be operated in manual mode when it could have been automatic; had not formally directed workers that wearing gloves was unsafe, and had not enforced this.
Japan: action to curb work-related suicide
The term 'karōshi' entered the Japanese language in the 1980's. Literally it means: 'death from overwork', and in 1987, the Japanese government began publishing statistics on karōshi. In Japan there are approximately 2,300 suicides a year which are linked to work and being overworked. In 2011, a record 2,689 work-related suicides were recorded.
However, it appears that Japanese employers are now attempting to reduce work-related stress by forcing their workers to take holidays. Despite generous annual leave entitlements (16 public holidays plus at least 18 days of paid leave per worker a year), statistics show that the majority of the Japanese workforce takes less than half of its annual leave entitlements, with 16 per cent of workers taking no leave at all. Last week draft measures were announced to encourage companies to shorten working hours and allow workers to make better use of their annual leave. Legislation has also been passed which obligates employers to ensure their staff take at least five days' paid leave.
Read more: Japanese government unveils plan to reduce work-related suicide HC Online
China: regulators using drones to monitor polluters
China has a huge battle against pollution, and regulators are turning to modern technology – drones - to hold the biggest polluters accountable. Drones will help supplement China's existing monitoring system – so far easily evaded by polluters. Local officials in China's northeast Heilongjiang province are successfully using drones to monitor rural areas where straw burning, a common source of air pollution in the area, is popular. China's Ministry of Environmental Protection has used drones to monitor steel mills, refineries and power plants, getting accurate emissions readings and determine violations. Last month, it was able to penalize several companies on the basis of information collected through drones.
As they become more affordable and accessible, environmental officials in other locales have begun using drones to clamp down on rampant emissions violations. The ineffectiveness of China's current multibillion-yuan pollution monitoring system is mainly due to the fabrication of data provided by factories. Drones with sensors using spectroscopic technology will provide regulators with real-time hard evidence to counter fake data.
Read more: China's Pollution Problem: Drones To Help Environmental Officials Monitor Big Polluters International Business Times