SafetyNet 325, June 11, 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 at email@example.com – questions are welcomed too. Our usual reminder to please follow us on Twitter: @OHSreps
I was looking at the information on the site on the duty of the employer to notify certain incidents to WorkSafe – especially in light of the number of prosecutions lately of employers who have failed to notify. Can you clarify for me what you mean by "substantial medical treatment"?
The phrase you quote is taken from the introductory paragraph of Notifiable Incidents which simply seeks to explain the context of this requirement under Sections 37 – 39 of the OHS Act.
The detail is found below that paragraph, where the exact circumstances where an incident must be notified to WorkSafe are listed. These are:
- Medical treatment within 48 hours of being exposed to a substance (such as chemicals or biological materials)
- Immediate hospital treatment as an in-patient
- A person needing immediate medical treatment for:
- Amputation (of ANY part of the body)
- A serious head injury
- A serious eye injury
- Separation of skin from underlying tissue, such as de-gloving or scalping
- Electric shock
- Spinal injury
- Loss of a bodily function
- Serious laceration
So for example, if someone sustains a cut which needs only first aid and no further medical treatment, it is unlikely that the incident would be classed as notifiable. However, if someone is cut badly and requires a number of stitches needing to be done by a doctor or at a hospital, then it would most likely be a 'serious laceration' and must therefore be notified to WorkSafe. Of course in addition to these incidents, the employer must also notify WorkSafe if there is a "dangerous occurrence" (and these are listed in the Act).
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.
Please donate to 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 begun providing 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. The conference will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Brisbane. While there's not much information yet, subscribers can check the Conference page or keep informed via SafetyNet – we'll let you know when registrations are open.
India asbestos industry growing
Despite most of the West now either banning or moving towards a ban of asbestos, blamed for many thousands of deaths, it is hugely popular in the developing world -- including in India, where it is a US$1.4 billion growing industry. More than 50 nations, including all members of the EU, have banned all forms of asbestos, which the World Health Organization says kills at least 107,000 people annually. While activists and unions say India's government must start to recognise the dangers posed by asbestos, the industry and other asbestos supporters say curly-fibred chrysotile is safe, and only other forms with more jagged fibres are dangerous. More than 50 factories throughout India use white asbestos as an ingredient in mainly cement roofing sheets, wall panels and pipes. More than 400,000 tonnes of asbestos is imported every year to feed the plants.
Read more: India asbestos industry thrives despite health warnings GlobalPost
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Union: Truck crash deaths highlight crisis in industry
The Transport Workers' Union is calling for major retailers to sign up to safety pledges after a recent spike in deaths from truck crashes. Five people have been killed in truck crashes around the country in recent days: three elderly road users and two truck drivers. The union says the death toll highlights the risks in an industry where pressure on drivers causes carnage on the roads. There was just one death related to a truck crash during the June long weekend last year.
The death toll comes just weeks before a Senate inquiry into road safety which will examine the social and economic cost of deaths and injuries on the roads. "There is a deadly cycle at play with major retailers like Coles squeezing the transport operators and drivers in their supply chain to the point that our roads are not safe," said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon. The retail industry is responsible for up to 40% of freight movement in Australia, with Coles and Woolworths dominating almost 80% of that share. The union says the giant retailers must ensure safety is the top priority when choosing operators to transport their goods, instead of awarding contracts to those offering the lowest rates.
Read more: TWU Media Release
High suicide rates amongst emergency workers
New national figures have revealed one police officer, paramedic or firefighter is taking their own life every six weeks, with experts warning emergency workers are not getting the treatment they need. The information comes from the Intentional Self-Harm Fact Sheet, based on coronial cases around Australia. 62 police officers, 26 paramedics and 22 firefighters (a total of 110) died by suicide between July 2000 and December 2012. It is the first time the number of suicides among emergency service personnel has been officially quantified in Australia. However the numbers could be much higher as in many cases the previous occupation of the deceased is not recorded in the coronial file, and so even if the person had been an emergency worker, the case would not have been counted in the fact sheet.
Read more: New figures reveal high suicide rates amongst emergency workers; experts warn PTSD sufferers not getting needed treatment ABC News online
Queensland: latest state to introduce comp bill for firefighters
The Queensland government is the latest government to introduce what it terms a "non-discriminatory" workers' compensation Bill for firefighters with cancer. In effect, this means that firefighters suffering a number of cancers will be able to claim workers' compensation without having to 'prove' the link between the disease and their work. A number of other states have also introduced similar 'presumptive' legislation. The Bill was introduced to parliament by the Shadow Emergency Services Minister Jarrod Bleijie, who praised his LNP colleague and former Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey, who last year flagged the move and consulted with stakeholders when the LNP still held Government.
International Union News
Justice for garment factory workers?
Last week police in Bangladesh arrested 41 people for murder for their role in the Rana Plaza collapse. But even if all of these people end up in jail for years, thousands of factories in Bangladesh are still unsafe, putting thousands more workers' lives at risk. Furthermore, the conditions for workers in factories all around the world will not necessarily improve. That's another 'take out' message from a viewing of the US documentary "The True Cost". (A copy of the film can be bought for $9.99 from this site: True Cost: The Movie). The UK's TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said in a media release: "Repressive labour laws in Bangladesh prevent workers from being able to call for safer conditions through trade unions. It's shocking that the widespread violence trade unions face at the hands of factory managers continues to go unpunished. The Bangladesh government must allow full freedom of association and UK companies must use their buying power to demand trade union rights are respected, to ensure that the factories they use in Bangladesh are safe."
Read more: TUC Media Release
International Union Bodies Welcome G7 Pledges on Supply Chains
International trade unions have welcomed key pledges made by the leaders of major global economies at the 2015 G7 Summit, while warning that public confidence in governments and business is waning and stronger action for sustainable economic growth is needed on a number of fronts. Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: "Chancellor Merkel, as Summit host, has shown clear leadership on a number of crucial issues, notably the promise for G7 action on global supply chains which today are a source of exploitation and impoverishment instead of a means of delivering decent, secure and safe jobs."
Ms Burrow added: "Strengthening the existing international mechanisms on corporate behaviour needs to be backed up by the rule of law. This, along with other key commitments on climate action and financing as well as on taxation and on increasing women's participation, must be taken up by the G20 when it holds its Summit in November."
Read more: International Union Bodies Welcome G7 Pledges on Supply Chains, Climate and Tax ITUC News
Bangladesh: Rana Plaza compensation fund reaches target
Welcome news this week is that the international fund established to compensate victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, in which 1,137 people died, has finally met its target of USD$30m (AUD$39m) after a significant anonymous donation. While this is being hailed as a "major victory" by labour unions after an international campaign, the sad truth is that it is only because of the anonymous donation that the target was reached, as some clothing brands have still not paid up. On the eve of the second anniversary in April, Benetton announced it was contributing USD$1.1m (AUD$1.4m) to the fund – the last major western fashion retailer to donate. But the fund was still left USD$2.4m (AUD$3.1m) short of its target. A large donation received in the past few days has led to the target being met. Read more: Bangladesh Rana Plaza factory fund finally meets target The Guardian
US: McJobs report documents global abuses
McDonald's has for years fought a losing battle to keep 'McJobs' – that is: 'low-wage, insecure, dead-end work with no benefits' - out of dictionaries. But global foodworkers' union IUF and its North American affiliate SEIU says their new report, 'McJobs: Low wages and low standards around the world', should see "systematic rights abuses" added to the current definition. The report documents widespread employment abuses throughout the company's global operations, including wage theft, discrimination, unsafe workplaces and anti-union practices. It includes examples of McDonald's safety abuses around the world, and the "growing allegations of safety abuses."
Read more: IUF publication alert, and full publication: McJobs: Low wages and low standards around the world [pdf], IUF/SEIU, 2015. Source Risks 705
Exposure to wood dust leads to increased risk of lung cancer
Canadian researchers have undertaken an analyses to examine the effect of lifetime exposure to wood dust in diverse occupational settings on lung cancer risk. The researchers point out that wood dust is one of the oldest and one of the most common occupational exposures in the world – and that lung cancer is one of the most common and lethal malignancies worldwide, resulting in over one million deaths each year. While smoking is the greatest contributor to lung cancer, environmental and occupational exposures also contribute greatly, with the estimated attributable fraction varying from 5 to 15 per cent (that is 50,000 to 150,000 deaths).
The researchers, from the Universities of Quebec and Montreal, undertook two population-based case–control studies in Montreal: Study I (1979–1986) included 857 cases and two sets of controls (533 population and 1349 cancer controls), and Study II (1996–2001) comprised 736 cases and 894 population controls. They obtained detailed job histories through interviews. Expert chemist–hygienists then evaluated each job to estimate the likelihood and level of exposure to many substances, one of which was wood dust. Odds ratios (ORs) were computed in relation to different indices of exposure to wood dust, adjusting for several covariates including smoking. Three datasets were analysed: Study I with population controls, Study I with cancer controls, and Study II.
They found the most frequently exposed occupations in the study population were in construction, timber and furniture making industries. They concluded that there was evidence of increased risk of lung cancer among workers with substantial cumulative exposure to wood dust.
Read more: Eric Vallières, et al. Occupational exposure to wood dust and risk of lung cancer in two population-based case–control studies in Montreal, Canada (Open Access) Environmental Health 2015, 14:1 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-14-1
Low level solvent exposure linked to breast cancer
A new Australian study suggests that women exposed to low levels of common organic solvents at work are 20 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer. The study looked at 1,205 women diagnosed with primary breast cancer between 2009 and 2011 and who were on the Western Australian Cancer Registry. They were matched to 1,789 controls from the electoral roll. The researchers determined exposure to solvents through telephone interviews, and found that about a third of the women were occupationally exposed.
"The risk of breast cancer was 20 per cent elevated for women exposed to aliphatic solvents or to aromatic hydrocarbons other than benzene. The risks were lower for those exposed to benzene and chlorinated solvents," the paper, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, noted. The authors added the risks, which were not statistically significant, "tended to be higher for breast cancer diagnosed before menopause than post-menopause, for those exposed to benzene, aliphatic and other aromatic solvents and chlorinated solvents." They say the results suggest there may be an association between occupational exposure to aliphatic and aromatic solvents and the risk of breast cancer at the low levels of exposure experienced by women in the study. The authors note: "Our findings are consistent with previous reports of an elevated risk of breast cancer associated with occupations where exposure to solvents is likely."
Read more: DC Glass, J Heyworth, AK Thomson, S Peters C Saunders and L Fritschi. Occupational exposure to solvents and risk of breast cancer , [abstract] American Journal of Industrial Medicine, published online ahead of print, 26 May 2015. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22478. Source: Risks 705
Nominate now: WorkSafe Victoria Awards
Come on subscribers – nominate your HSR and/or OHS committee now for a 2015 WorkSafe Award. What's stopping you? You've only got until June 26 and the process isn't difficult.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia
Still no update, with the latest figures as at 26 May – when 65 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work. This can be checked on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
- From WorkCover NSW: Workers who work on or near electricity are at risk of burns, shocks and other serious injuries. Anyone who works with electricity, the advice is to never work live. Electrical Safety - a video with simple steps for staying safe.
- From WorkCoverBC (Canada): British Columbia's health and safety regulator advertises its resources: The latest are Injury Prevention Resources for Fishing - Diving which include a Diving Supervisor's Handbook; a Diver's Log Book; information on various injuries and much more.
1 – Company convicted and fined $250,000 for fatality
Frewstal Pty Ltd, a lamb processing company, was last week convicted and fined $250,000 in the County Court after a driver was killed when a loading ramp he was standing on collapsed at an abattoir in Stawell. The company pleaded guilty to three counts under the 2004 OHS Act of failing to ensure that people other than its own employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety.
The driver was killed on 14 September 2013 at the company's abattoir in Stawell as he was unloading a shipment of lambs. While he was on the loading ramp the hoist he was using to move the ramp broke apart above him. The ramp collapsed, causing severe head injuries. He was taken to Stawell Hospital then airlifted to Melbourne. He died several weeks later. Contributing factors included: an alteration of the design of the hoist, lack of maintenance, and poor driver training in relation to the loading ramp and hoist.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
2 – Dangerous Goods prosecution
Image Linemarking Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 for failing, as an occupier or person in charge of premises where dangerous goods are stored, used or handled, to take all reasonable precautions for the prevention of any fire or explosion involving dangerous goods in its ownership or possession. On 12 November 2013, an employee was cleaning tools in thinners, a Class 3 flammable liquid, in the factory. The employee used a flame to assist in the cleaning, and a recently ignited tool was placed into a bucket of thinners, igniting the liquid. Efforts to extinguish the flames were unsuccessful, and the flames spread to parts of the factory, causing extensive fire damage. The company failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent fire or explosion in that it allowed the use of flames in the tool cleaning process to occur in close proximity to Class 3 flammable liquids. On 28 May 2015, the Dandenong Magistrates' Court placed Image Linemarking on an adjourned undertaking, without conviction, and ordered it donate $3,000 to the Court Fund plus pay costs of $1,147.
3 – Another failure to notify
On 2 June 2015, Kingsway Caravans Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to six charges under the OHS Act for failing to notify WorkSafe of a notifiable incident on two separate occasions. On 6 May 2014, an employee injured the middle finger on his left hand whilst cutting plastic from a cupboard inside a caravan at the workplace (the first incident). On 2 September 2014, another employee injured the middle finger on his right hand whilst using a table saw at the workplace (the second incident). The injured employee was taken to the Northern Hospital where he was admitted as an in-patient following the incident. Neither incidents were reported to WorkSafe either immediately or in writing within 48 hours; and in neither case were the incident sites preserved. In relation to the first incident, Kingsway was placed on an adjourned undertaking, without conviction, for a period of 12 months with a condition that they pay $2,000.00 to the Court Fund. For the second incident, Kingsway was fined $3,000 without conviction (plus costs of $560) in the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court.
4 – Fine after child almost drowned
The company, Time to Start Pty Ltd, operates the Toby Haenen Swim Centre in Chelsea Heights where it conducted swimming lessons for young children. On 30 June 2013, an instructor removed a floatation device from a four year old boy's back while the boy stood on a submerged platform, and then turned to receive the next child during a fun activity at the end of class. The boy was then found unconscious at the bottom of the pool and had to be resuscitated.
The company pleaded guilty of failing to ensure that persons other than its employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from the conduct of the business. It had not conducted any adequate risk assessment in relation to the use of children's floatation devices; it failed to have a procedure for removing the floatation device only once the child was out of the water; and it failed to have any adequate procedure for the return of children under the age of 10 in its care and supervision back to parents/guardians at the end of a swimming lesson. On 4 June 2015, the company was fined $5,000 without conviction (plus costs of $5,629) in the Frankston Magistrates' Court.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
At Trades Hall
(Corner Victoria and Lygon St, Carlton South)
VTHC OHS Training Centre
All elected health and safety representatives and also deputies should make sure they attend training – the initial 5 day course and a 'refresher course' each year after that. Too many reps just don't do the Refresher training – but you should! Check out the courses and remember you have the right to attend the training course of their choice. Below are the dates for the next few courses. For more details, and to download an application form, go to the Training program page or contact Judith Rodda on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries.
HSR Initial OHS Training Courses
|June 22 - 26||DEECD||AEU|
|July 6 - 10||Initial||Frankston|
|July 6 - 10||Initial||Werribee|
|July 13 - 17||Initial||Carlton|
|August 17 - 21||Initial||Carlton|
Regional 5 day courses
|August 3 - 7||Initial||Ballarat|
|September 7 - 11||Initial||Morwell|
HSR Refresher OHS Courses
The unit also runs Comcare courses and courses for managers/supervisors – check the site for dates.
Injured Workers Group
The Injured Workers Group Inc of Victoria is a non-profit organisation run and organized by injured workers, It was formed to provide clear and concise information on injured workers' rights under the Victorian Workers Compensation Act, to form networks between union and non-union injured workers, and to help injured workers establish links within their local community health system and other organisations that can offer support. All injured workers are welcome to attend its meetings, which are run at the Trades Hall at 11.30am every 3rd Thursday of each month. For more information, contact Peter on 03 9460 7592, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website.
ACTU Health and Safety Training
The ACTU provides a number of courses in OHS and related areas. These courses include:
- Certificate IV in OHS Course, six days face to face (offered in two parts of 3 consecutive days each).
- Certificate IV in WHS (BSB41412) Upgrade (a one day face to face course). Attendance at this course will ensure graduates of the current Certificate IV in OHS will be compliant with the recent updated Certificate. This is also a prerequisite to the Diploma Course in WHS (BSB51312).
- Organising for Safer Workplaces (two days) and
- Workplace Bullying and Harassment (one day).
For information on these and other courses, go to the ACTU website or contact Anna Pupillo or Chris Hughes for more details (ph ACTU: 9664 7334).
Last chance: HazMat Conference - 16 & 17 June 2015
Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh, NSW
This is practically your last chance to register for the HazMat conference in a couple of weeks. There's also an industry exhibition open for anyone to attend and a networking dinner function on the first evening in Darling Harbour.
For more information about HazMat 2015 visit the conference webpage
Melbourne Latin American Documentary Film festival 26 & 27 June
RMIT University, Building 56, level 3, Theatre 93. 115 Queensberry St. Carlton
Run by Lasnet, this will be the Second Latin American Documentary Film Festival, everyone welcome, new movies and great fun and solidarity. For more information on the program, please go to the event's Facebook page