SafetyNet 337, September 2, 2015
Welcome to Spring! Here's the latest SafetyNet, providing our subscribers with OHS news and research from around the world. Use the journal to promote health and safety in your workplaces, distribute it to your networks, and please send me your views and any questions you might have to mailto: email@example.com And please follow us on Twitter: @OHSrepsThank you! Renata
VTHC Health and Safety Reps Conference
We're in the process of putting together a flyer, a 'save the date', for Victorian HSRs to download and use. (sorry! We hoped to have had it done by now!) Look out for it in next week's journal. Remember to let your employer know you will be attending the VTHC HRS Conference on Tuesday October 27. It will be an approved course under Section 69 of the OHS Act, so HSRs will have the right to attend on paid leave. (When this comes through, we will be able to provide HSRs who need it with an official letter from WorkSafe). Deputies are welcome to register, but will need to get their employer's permission to attend on paid leave. The Conference is free and we can promise those attending a day with lots of great speakers, information and the opportunity to meet with reps across a wide range of industries.
Another week, another story of companies exploiting workers
Over the weekend and in more detail on Monday night's Four Corners program came another heart-breaking story of vulnerable workers being exploited by large multinational companies. This time, the allegations are that 7- Eleven, Australia's largest convenience store chain is working them long hours at well below the minimum wage. Many of these workers are overseas students. 7-Eleven is owned by billionaire businessman Russell Withers and his sister Beverley Barlow, and their spouses.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), after investigating 7-Eleven following damning findings of three raids of more than 80 stores in the past six years, is pursuing action in the Federal Court. One of the latest raids, of 20 stores in September 2014, found an unbelievable 60 per cent were underpaying staff and doctoring their payroll. One former worker told the ABC: "I was getting paid $10 flat, no weekend rates, no penalty rates, nothing. It was just $10 for day and night whatever." Award rates are generally more than A$24 per hour, where there are overtime and penalty rates. Horrifyingly, the range of apparently illegal activity by franchisees appears to go beyond wage fraud and includes blackmail and withholding passports and drivers licences of staff. After the story broke, the 7-Eleven head office announced a review, to be headed by an 'eminent and qualified Australian', to examine the claims of underpayment. All the evidence, however, suggests this is unnecessary, as the company's head office already knew about the systemic fraud. Take action: sign this Change.org petition now.
Read more: Investigation exposes shocking exploitation of convenience store workers and 7-Eleven: A sweatshop on every corner Sydney Morning Herald. 7-Eleven: Head office not fooling anyone The Age. Four Corners: 7-Eleven: the price of convenience
Employers launch new call to cut penalty rates
On the day after the Four Corners report (above) exposed widespread underpayment of wages and penalty rates, the Restaurant and Catering Association (R&CA) launched a new hospitality campaign "More Jobs, More Shifts, More Choice". The association claims that thousands more Australians would be employed if "reforms to weekend work were adopted" – that is, cuts to penalty rates. The media release was embargoed until 10am yesterday, and had not yet been loaded onto the R&CA website. Perhaps the Association realised the timing was 'off' and decided against promoting the campaign.. just yet.
I am wanting to survey the staff on stress using the Stress survey from Trades Hall. However, the employer OHS representatives are opposed to the survey. I should also add that currently there is no monitoring of staff health. Can I still survey the staff without the employer's approval?
There are a number of ways you could go about this:
- In a 'collaborative' manner:
Point out that under Section 22 of the OHS Act, the employer has a duty to monitor the health of staff – and this is not being done. The purposes of monitoring are varied – including to identify hazards and risks. Remind them that under Sections 35 & 36, the employer must consult with employees, and involve the HSRs if any, in anything they do to identify, assess or control hazards and risks. (see Duty to Consult)
so.. suggest that this needs to be done and that you, as the HSR must be involved, and suggest carrying out a survey.
- Look to Section 44 of the Act – how DWGs are to be established. There are two matters which must be taken into account: the manner of grouping of DWGs such that "best and most conveniently enables the interests of those employees relating to occupational health and safety to be represented and safeguarded" and "best takes account of the need to a health and safety representative for that designated work group or groups to be accessible to each member of the group".
This clearly indicates that the role of the HSR is to REPRESENT – and add this to the obligations of the employer to provide any information they have (including on the health of employees), to allow the HSR to undertake inspections, etc. Thus it would seem that doing a survey of your DWG on a specific issue is perfectly legitimate.
- Ask your DWG to request that you investigate the issue – and respond by suggesting a survey.
- Raise stress as an issue for resolution under S73 of the Act – management may claim it's not an issue – or else they have to do something about it. If so, then force them to take action, with you, to identify potential hazards/risks (as per point 1)
- Finally, if you don't get anywhere, issue a PIN…based on the belief that the employer is not providing and maintaining a working environment that is safe and without risks to health (DWG members have reported they are stressed due to work factors).
I can't see how the employer OHS representatives have any right to veto how you, as the elected HSR, choose to communicate with, seek information from, and represent YOUR members.
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.
Stena Clyde: Employer pleads guilty in fatal incident; Unions unhappy
In the Victorian Magistrates Court last week, Stena Drilling Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to charges relating to the death of two drillers in Bass Strait on August 27, 2012. The breach of the Commonwealth Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006, related to failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to implement and maintain safe systems of work on its Stena Clyde mobile offshore drilling unit. It will be sentenced tomorrow (Thursday), and faces a maximum fine of $550,000.
The two workers were operating heavy machinery when part of a drill dislodged and hit one in the chest and face, killing him instantly. The other man received a blunt trauma to his body. The regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), identified that senior management on the Stena Clyde failed to apply the Stena management of change principles in failing to carry out a new risk assessment and toolbox talk after altering the original plan of works. Further, Stena Drilling conceded that senior members of the drilling crew failed to ensure that a revised risk assessment had been carried out prior to implementing the new plan.
In a statement last week, the ACTU said unions were aghast at the length of time it had taken to reach this point and could not understand why it had taken so long for the case to reach the courts. Michael Borowick, ACTU Assistant Secretary, said, "The delays and astounding lack of information by NOPSEMA must act as an impetus for change; the Federal Government must replace NOPSEMA with an independent and full service regulator." According to the Australian Workers Union, NOPSEMA's response to the incident was inadequate. "It did not allow the AWU to participate in the investigation, and our members working on the drill ship have informed us that NOPSEMA did not interview any health and safety representatives during the investigation," the union's national secretary Scott McDine said.
Read more: Two Deaths: Stena Drilling Australia Pleads Guilty The Maritime Executive ACTU Media Release AWU Media Release
States/Territories sign up to national asbestos plan
The first endorsed National Plan on Asbestos Safety and Eradication was launched by the Minister for Employment, Senator Eric Abetz last Friday following a meeting of State and Territory Ministers. This is the first time such a plan has been endorsed by state, territory and Commonwealth governments. The Plan is a direct outcome of two union and asbestos disease support group Summits in 2010 and 2012 which led to the then Labor government initiating a national review, establishing what then became the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and the development of a National Strategic Plan.
"As one of the biggest users of asbestos in the world until the mid-1980s, the legacy of this substance in Australia is tragic, with consequences over the coming decades still to come. We must be coordinated, measured and strategic in the way we contend with asbestos management," Senator Abetz said. "This plan will result in coordinated effort across the country to reduce the deadly effects of asbestos on Australians, as well as help put Australia at the forefront of global efforts to deal with the deadly substance." Senator Abetz also paid tribute to the union movement for its positive input into this issue over many years.
The National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness unites all jurisdictions in Australia to work together to develop practical, long-term solutions to this difficult problem. Disappointingly to unions, an earlier plan, first published in 2013 was later amended to remove the goal of removing all asbestos from all government and commercial buildings by 2030, after Master Builders Australia warned this would create unnecessary risks to workers and the public involved in the process.
Read more: Federal Government News Release
ASEA 2nd International Asbestos Conference
Only two more weeks to register as an 'early bird' for ASEA's second International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management, 22 - 24 November at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Brisbane. Please go to the ASEA Conference page for more information and to register.
Australian Mesothelioma Registry issues latest report
The Australia Mesothelioma Registry this week released its latest report: Mesothelioma in Australia 2014. It is the fourth report presenting data collected through the AMR, including mesothelioma notifications and asbestos exposure information, and primarily presents data for patients diagnosed during the calendar year 1 January 2014 - 31 December 2014.
As at 31 May 2015, the AMR had received 641 notifications of people newly diagnosed with
mesothelioma between 1 January and 31 December 2014. Of these people, 518 were males and 123 were females, and the majority (85.0%) were aged 65 years or over at the time of diagnosis. The annual age-specific incidence rates of mesothelioma peaked at 7.1 per 100,000 in females 80–84 years of age and 41.8 per 100,000 in males 80–84 years of age.
For 2014 diagnoses, the most common subtype of mesothelioma was the epithelioid subtype
(50.4%). The most common location was the pleura (93.1%).
An additional 101 people with mesothelioma were notified to the AMR following publication of the AMR's 2013 report. This has increased the previously reported number of diagnoses for 2013 from 575 to 676. An increase is also likely to be seen in the number of patients diagnosed in 2014.
The report can be downloaded as a pdf document from this page of the AMR.
Reactions to the Mesothelioma Report
In a statement released yesterday, David Clement, President of advocacy and support organisation Asbestoswise, said the report made 'disturbing reading'. He said, "These figures emphasise the importance of providing treatment and care for those affected with asbestos related disease and the need for preventative measures to ensure Australia's unenviable reputation as having the highest per capita rate of mesothelioma cases in the world does not continue into the future." Referring to national action, he said: "Asbestowise calls on the Australian and Federal and State Governments to implement an effective national strategy to deal with this catastrophe and prevent further disease. At the heart of this national strategy must be the prioritised removal of asbestos from the Australian built environment and an increased awareness amongst families of the risks involved in home renovation."
Margaret Kent, Slater and Gordon Lawyers' National Practice Group Leader Asbestos, told SafetyNet: "It is sadly apparent from the most recent report, that the number diagnoses of mesothelioma is Australia is not slowing down. It is important that we take care of the needs of Australians diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families, and continue to work to eradicate the on-going risk posed by asbestos exposure."
Jane McDermott, a Principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, said "The AMR 2014 report is important as it highlights the slightly increasing incidence of women developing mesothelioma in Australia, many of whom belong to the third wave of asbestos victims. That is, exposed to asbestos through washing their husbands clothes or performing home renovations." She added, "Until we have legislation which mandates the safe removal of asbestos from the home as well as tax incentives that encourage average home owners to be compensated when meeting the costs of the safe removal of asbestos from their homes, we run the risk of endangering our community and future generations of developing this disease as there is no safe level of asbestos exposure."
ACT: Demolition plan for Mr Fluffy homes
The ACT Asbestos Response Taskforce has unveiled its demolition schedule for 671 Mr Fluffy homes over the next three years and 56 of Canberra's most established suburbs will look dramatically different. 2017 will be the peak year for demolitions with 316 homes scheduled for demolition - 96 of them in Belconnen. The taskforce has committed itself to removing 45 homes by the end of this year, 206 in 2016, and 102 in 2018. No timeframe has yet been given to two rural properties.
Read more: Canberra Mr Fluffy asbestos: a suburb-by-suburb guide to the demolitions;Canberra Times
Asbestos: usage and trade – see it in graphics
The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) has a page of clear and colourful graphics, charts and maps, which illustrate world production, trade and consumption data of asbestos. These are sourced from United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports. IBAS notes, however, that presenting these reports the USGS draws attention to the fact that the accuracy of data is no better than to three significant digits and that there are sometimes difficulties in obtaining trade statistics from some countries in a timely manner. In the case of asbestos producer countries there are often erratic fluctuations of apparent consumption from year to year; some current production may be stockpiled or exports made from accumulated stock. The images can be viewed full-size and can be downloaded. A pie chart on production reveals that Russia and China were the biggest producers of asbestos in 2014 – and the biggest consumers as well.
Check out the IBAS Graphics page
UK: Asbestos death figures show 'devastating legacy'
New official research revealing the areas of England and Wales with the highest rates of deaths linked to an asbestos-related disease provides a tragic reminder of the material's "devastating legacy", a top asbestos lawyer has said. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysed the rate of deaths from mesothelioma in local authority areas between 2010 and 2014. There were a total of 11,011 deaths with mesothelioma as an underlying cause were recorded in England and Wales across the four-year period, with the number of fatalities increasing every year.
"This research truly highlights the devastating impact that asbestos has had on so many lives, with more than 11,000 people passing away as a result of mesothelioma in the past four years alone," said asbestos compensation specialist Adrian Budgen, a partner at the law firm Irwin Mitchell. "The suggestion that the number of people killed by this terrible cancer every year is increasing is a massive concern." He added: "We are now seeing a growing number of people come forward seeking help regarding exposure they believe occurred in public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, where the material may have been present. With this in mind, the current landscape in England and Wales regarding asbestos-related deaths could soon change significantly." The TUC and unions have called for the introduction of an "asbestos eradication" law to prioritise the safe removal of the vast quantities of asbestos remaining in workplaces, schools and other.
Read more: Mesothelioma deaths, England and Wales, deaths registered 2010-14, ONS, August 2015 [excel] Irwin Mitchell news release.
Sri Lanka: Asbestos Ban in 2018
Following up on a public pledge made on August 12, 2015 to ban asbestos in 2018, the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, this week reiterated his commitment to the ban during a ceremony held at President's House. He recalled that previous plans to enact asbestos prohibitions had been scuppered but "today everybody is supporting that programme. Those decisions will be put into action without bowing down to any private company or institution… for the betterment of the country and the people."
Read more: Sri Lanka president to ban production of asbestos in 2018. Gulf Times. Source: IBAS
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Non-conventional Gas Extraction: Interim report released
The Victorian Government yesterday released the Interim report into its Inquiry into Unconventional Gas Extraction. In the Foreword, the chair, the Hon David Davis MLC, states: "The Committee sought stakeholder and community views on a range of issues, such as the potential advantages of unconventional gas as an energy source for the state, and the potential risks an unconventional gas industry could pose to Victoria's environment, agricultural industries and public health. It sought views on whether an unconventional gas industry could co-exist with existing land and water users. It has also sought views on the adequacy of Victoria's current legislative framework to regulate an unconventional gas industry, and the degree to which risks potentially posed by the industry could be managed." There were over 1700 submissions received, and there were also well-attended public meetings in Melbourne, Sale and Torquay. The Committee plans more meetings in Melbourne, Hamilton and elsewhere. The Interim report provides background, the history of unconventional gas activity and government policy in Victoria, looks at the 'central themes' of the debate and stakeholder concerns, and matters to be further considered.
The chair states, "Over the coming months, the Committee will carefully review the evidence it has gathered to inform its Final Report to Parliament regarding the issues surrounding a potential onshore unconventional gas industry in Victoria." The final report is due December 1, 2015.
The Interim Report can be downloaded from this page of the Parliament of Victoria Committees website
UK: Unions call for enquiry on 'disturbing' back-to-work death figures
Britain's TUC has called for an urgent enquiry after government figures revealed over 1,000 people a year are dying shortly after being told during benefit checks they are fit for work. According to recent Department of Work and Pensions figures, 2,380 people died shortly after losing their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and being declared 'fit for work' between December 2011 and February 2014. Another 6,700 ESA claimants died within two years after being put in the 'work-related activity group', meaning they could move towards a job. They were more than twice as likely to die as people in the general population - around 5 deaths per 1,000 people compared to 2.4. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We urgently need an enquiry into the government's back-to-work regime. These disturbing findings cannot be swept under the carpet. The fact that more than 80 people are dying each month shortly after being declared 'fit for work' should concern us all." She added: "We need a welfare system that supports people to find decent jobs, not one that causes stress and ill-health."
Read more: TUC news release. Mortality statistics: Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance [pdf] DWP, August 2015. Source: Risks 717
USA: Warning on fracking chemicals risks
Greater attention should be paid to the potential health risks posed by fracking chemicals, researchers have warned. A team led by Elizabeth Wattenburg of the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health set out to identify the constituents of fracking fluids, noting: "There is growing concern about how hydraulic fracturing affects public health because this activity involves handling large volumes of fluids that contain toxic and carcinogenic constituents, which are injected under high pressure through wells into the subsurface to release oil and gas from tight shale formations."
The study investigated potential health risks posed by chemicals used by 2,850 wells in North Dakota in the three years up to November 2013. They noted the top 25 constituents reportedly used in North Dakota largely overlap with those reported for Texas and Pennsylvania, "despite different geologic formations, target resources (oil vs. gas), and disclosure requirements." The study found some of the most hazardous chemicals encountered were also some of the most commonly used. "Eleven of the constituents listed in the top 30 by total health hazard count were also listed in the top 30 by reports of use. This includes naphthalene, which along with benzyl chloride, has the highest health hazard count," the paper notes. The authors conclude: "The constituents of hydraulic fracturing fluids (HFFs) present occupational health risks because workers may be directly exposed to them, and general public health risks because of potential air and water contamination." They add: "This study serves as a point of departure for future investigations into the risks and management of hydraulic fracturing, ranging from life-cycle assessments to risk assessments that incorporate environmental and occupational exposure, and environmental fate and transport modelling."
In Australia, a similar exercise commenced under the Gillard Labor government, to identify and assess the chemicals used during the fracking process, has not yet concluded, and is several years behind schedule.
Read more: Elizabeth V Wattenberg and others. Assessment of the acute and chronic health hazards of hydraulic fracturing fluids, [Abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, volume 12, issue 9, pages 611–624, September 2015. More on occupational risks of fracking. Hazards magazine. Source: Risks 717
Low-level exposure to glyphosate may damage liver and kidneys
According to a new study, long-term exposure to tiny amounts of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), such as Roundup, thousands of times lower than what is permitted in U.S. drinking water, may lead to serious problems in the liver and kidneys. The study looked at the function of genes in these organs and bolsters a controversial 2012 study that found rats exposed to small amounts of the herbicide Roundup in their drinking water had liver and kidney damage.
The British and French study is the first to examine the impacts of chronic, low exposure of Roundup on genes in livers and kidneys and suggests another potential health impact for people and animals from the widely used weed killer. "Given even very low levels of exposure, Roundup can potentially result in organ damage when it comes to liver and kidney function," said senior author Michael Antoniou, head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King's College London. The findings, while in rats, are concerning for people. These tests are the kind used to test what chemicals may do to humans, Antoniou said, which is concerning given glyphosate's widespread use.
Read more: More evidence of Roundup's link to kidney, liver damage Environmental Health News; Michael N. Antoniou, et al. Transcriptome profile analysis reflects rat liver and kidney damage following chronic ultra-low dose Roundup exposure. Full text Environmental Health 2015, 14:70 doi:10.1186/s12940-015-0056-1
Environmental and occupational exposures as a cause of male infertility
A study published in the Ceylon Medical Journal determined the association between environmental and occupational exposures, s*men parameters and lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) levels in seminal plasma of men investigated for infertility. Data were collected from 300 men investigated for infertility using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Seminal fluid analysis and classification was done according to WHO guidelines. Positive exposure was defined as environmental or occupational exposure to agro or industrial chemicals, heavy metals and living in areas within 50m of potential sources of pollution for three months or more. Seminal plasma lead and cadmium levels were estimated by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry after digestion with nitric acid. The means of sperm parameters, Pb and Cd concentrations between exposed and non-exposed groups were compared.
All sp*rm parameters were lower in the exposed group when compared to the non-exposed. Lead and cadmium were detected in 38.3 per cent and 23 per cent of men respectively. The authors concluded that environmental and occupational exposures were associated with reduced sp*rm count motility, viability, normal forms and detectable levels of lead and cadmium in seminal plasma.
Read more: Wijesekara GU, et al Environmental and occupational exposures as a cause of male infertility: A caveat [Abstract] Full article can be downloaded from this page. Ceylon Medical Journal. 2015 Jun;60(2):52-6. doi: 10.4038/cmj.v60i2.7090.
WorkSafe Victoria celebrates 30 years
September 1 marked 30 years since Victoria's modern workers compensation scheme was established. The Accident Compensation Act, which officially commenced operation in full on that date in 1985, established a single Government insurance scheme known as WorkCare which replaced more than 50 insurers. Prior to the introduction of the scheme by John Cain's Labor government, workers who were injured or contracted a work-related disease had to take their employer to court, often remaining without income for long periods of time.
The other ground-breaking piece of legislation for Victorian workers, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, commenced one month later, on October 1, 1985.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia
As at September 1, 101 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work – that is four more work-related deaths since the previous update. The fatalities have been in the following industries:
- 34 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 24 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 15 in Construction;
- eight in Mining;
- five in Manufacturing;
- four in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- three each in Arts & Recreation services; Administrative & support services; and in 'other services'
- two each in the Retail trade; and in Accommodation & food services
- one each in Education and Training; and Health care & social assistance
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 for April – in which there were nine work-related deaths reported to state and territory OHS regulators. The report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
1. Company convicted, fined $20,000 after worker injured in fall
Seahaven Services Pty Ltd was contracted to complete demolition work within the Jam Factory located at 500 Chapel Street, Prahran. On 8 July 2014, a Seahaven employee was injured when he fell approximately six metres though plasterboard into the stairwell below. Such a fall could easily have resulted in the worker's death. Investigations found that Seahaven had failed to ensure that risks of fall from height were identified prior to the commencement of the demolition. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 21 of the OHS Act. On Monday the company was convicted and fined $20,000.00 (plus costs of $3,895) in the Melbourne Magistrate's Court.
2. Fatality: employer fined $40,000 – not convicted
On 4 February 2014, an employee of Foscor Pty Ltd was killed when the manual quad bike he was driving was hit by a prime mover on the Timboon-Colac Road. The employee was returning from his residence to the farm's dairy on the other side of the road. WorkSafe's investigations revealed that there were defects in both that quad bike and another quad bike on the property - neither quad bike had operational brakes. The employer was aware the brakes were not working. Further, workers were not required to wear a helmet when operating the bikes. The prosecution did not, however, allege that these matters caused the fatality.
The company pleaded guilty to three charges under the OHS Act, relating to failing to provide and maintain plant and a system of work. Her Honour Magistrate McGarvie at the Magistrates' Court at Colac sentenced the company without conviction and fined it $40,000 plus costs of $5051.
3. Contractor prosecuted for work at height infringement
Russell Anthony Culwick, a contractor engaged by the co-accused, Total Homes (Vic) Pty Ltd, as supervisor and excavator operator at a multi-unit/townhouse development. In order to fell a tree at the workplace, the Accused lifted an employee of Total Homes (Vic) Pty Ltd in the bucket of an excavator so that he could cut down the tree in sections with a chainsaw. The employee in the bucket of the excavator was not wearing any personal protective equipment, and there was no indication that a harness or any other fall arrest device was used. The Accused was released on an adjourned undertaking and ordered to pay $500 to the Court fund. He was also ordered to pay costs in the amount of $2,000. (note: there was no information on the prosecution of Total Homes)
4. $1,500 fine for failing to notify
Vintek Australasia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to two charges under the OHS Act 2004 for failing to notify WorkSafe of a notifiable incident. On 1 August 2014, an employee of Vintek broke his left ankle when he fell from a ladder. The incident was not reported to WorkSafe either immediately or in writing within 48 hours. The injured employee was admitted to Bendigo Hospital where his left ankle joint was realigned. He remained in hospital for four days. Vintek Australasia Pty Ltd was, without conviction, fined $1,500 (plus costs of $1,132) as part of an aggregate order.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
Colombia: will stop spraying glyphosate on coca
Under Plan Colombia, a joint effort by the Colombian and U.S. governments, initiated in 1999 to end the armed conflict, ongoing since the 1960s, between left-wing guerrilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and governmental forces, herbicides were sprayed over illegal drug crops – to eliminate the major source of funds to guerrilla groups. The sprayings killed many legitimate crops too. Despite the spraying of 4.32 million acres since 1994 (when test fumigations began), the program has had very little success in stopping coca production. The coca fields continued to flourish and in 1997, Colombia became the world's primary cocaine producer and remained so for 16 years. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, from 2013 to 2014, the total cocaine production in Colombia rose 52 percent, from 290 to 442 metric tons.
Meanwhile, there is increasing evidence that the herbicide used, glyphosate, is toxic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says long-term exposure can cause respiratory problems, kidney damage and infertility; in March 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) put out a report labelling it a probable carcinogen. Now, despite criticism from the agrochemical industry, Colombia's Narcotics Council has agreed to stop the fumigation plan. After nearly 20 years of international and local pressure, Colombia may finally stop spraying carcinogens on its own population in October. Until then, the poison rain continues to fall.
Read more: Colombia to End Coca Farm Glyphosate Sprayings Newsweek
China: Tianjin blast investigations reveal corruption
Rui Hai International Logistic, a company with a reputation as the go-to place for businesses looking to ship hazardous materials to customers abroad, offered lower prices, a no-hassle approach to paperwork and quick government approvals. Now, two weeks after explosions at its warehouses destroyed a section of Tiangin, killing 150 people, injuring more than 700 and leaving millions fearful of toxic fallout, Rui Hai is now a symbol of the high cost of rapid industrialization in a closed political system rife with corruption. The company exploited weak governance in one of the Communist party's showcase economic districts and used political connections to shield its operations from scrutiny. Apparently, Rui Hai began handling hazardous chemicals before it obtained a permit to do so, and secured licenses and approvals from at least five local agencies that conducted questionable reviews of its operations. Local authorities outsourced one safety review required for a storage permit to a private contractor that Rui Hai selected and paid. As much as 3,000 tons of hazardous chemicals were stored at Rui Hai on the night of the explosions, including 700 tons of sodium cyanide, deadly in a dose of less than a tablespoon, and 1,300 tons of fertilizer nitrates.
Read an in-depth feature on the Tianjin blast: Behind Deadly Tianjin Blast, Shortcuts and Lax Rules The New York Times