SafetyNet 338, September 9, 2015
Welcome to a shorter than usual edition of SafetyNet. Hopefully next week it will be back to normal. Nevertheless, we hope you find it interesting. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org And please follow us on Twitter: @OHSreps
Thank you! Renata
ACTU: Make offshore industries safe
The ACTU, Australia's peak union council, last week called for urgent reforms to Australia's offshore oil and gas industry to improve safety and stop the country falling even further behind international best practice. The ACTU urged the Australian Government, Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and relevant authorities to embrace world's best practice for offshore Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation by adopting specific provisions of the Model Act and harmonising OHS laws governing offshore industries with those governing onshore industries.
The report makes nine
recommendations, none of which are contentious: "The ACTU simply argues the
existing OHS laws which apply to Victorian and South Australian onshore
industries should be extended to cover offshore operations," said Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick.
Read more: ACTU Media Release and Report: Offshore OHS – Protecting Our Oil & Gas Workers [pdf]
Another week, another story of exploited foreign workers (yes, another
Union officials have found foreign workers at a company on the New South Wales South Coast are earning under $4 an hour and are living in squalid conditions. Officials from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) discovered the workers, almost 30 of them, after performing a safety check at the Manildra Ethanol Plant in Bomaderry.
The CFMEU said the 13 Chinese
nationals and 16 Filipino nationals have been working on 457 visas. According
to organiser Dave Curtain, the men are employed by a Chinese company, which is
paying them less than four dollars an hour. From reports, all of the workers
have been living in a five-bedroom house, sharing just one bathroom.
Read more: ABC News Online
Is there a legal obligation for a business to have in place an issue resolution and grievances process, policy or procedure and if so where might I locate information on it ?
For the purpose of resolving an occupational health and safety issue, a business can either follow the issue resolution procedures which are mandated under the OHS Act and the regulations or, alternatively, develop AGREED workplace specific issue resolution procedures.
The agreed ones must be consistent with those in the Act and regulations, however, which should be seen as 'minimum'. The agreed procedures cannot remove the rights and powers of elected health and safety representatives, for example – such as the right to issue a PIN, contact WorkSafe or seek the assistance of 'any person'. Refer to this page on our site Resolution of Issues
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.
Clyde: Employer fined $330,000
In last week's SafetyNet337 subscribers read that Stena Drilling Australia Pty Ltd had pleaded guilty in the Victorian Magistrates Court last week, to charges relating to the deaths of two workers in Bass Strait in 2012. The magistrate has now fined the company $330,000, from a maximum $550,000, stressing the importance of "scrupulous adherence" to safety systems. NOPSEMA noted that penalties under the Act had increased since the incident, with such a breach now attracting a maximum fine of $1,487,500 for a body corporate.
Summer and skin cancer
Cancer Council Victoria is asking: "Is your workplace ready for summer?" According to CCV, workplace sun-related injuries and disease have cost Australian workplaces $63 million in compensation payments over the last decade. Outdoor workers receive up to 10 times more exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, placing them at significantly higher risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Every year in Australia, 200 melanomas and 34,000 other skin cancer diagnoses can be attributed to UV exposure in the workplace.
CCV's SunSmart program offers workplace training sessions to help educate organisations and their workers about the harmful effects of UV radiation. Delivered by trained educators, these include an overview of skin cancer and UV-related injuries, practical solutions to reduce UV risk in the workplace, a guide to skin checks, and the optional inclusion of a skin scanner that reveals hidden UV damage.
To book, or for more information, contact SunSmart on (03) 9514 6419, email email@example.com, or visit the SunSmart website. Read more on Sunlight: UV Radiation.
Box Hill: Asbestos fears shut site
Uproar from the local community has forced supermarket giant Coles to close off the site for a proposed supermarket in the Sydney* suburb of Box Hill, over fears of asbestos contamination.
Hill Liberal MP, Ray Williams, raised the matter in Parliament. A Coles
spokeswoman said. "We have been working closely with the local council to
ensure the site is secure and safe and are currently preparing to undertake the
remediation process as quickly and safely as possible." (*note: a reader picked up that this Box Hill is a Sydney suburb; not a Melbourne one. Apologies for the error!)
Read more: The Daily Telegraph
ASEA 2nd International Asbestos Conference
Only one more week 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.
Global: Asbestos industry lobbyists still at work
Top public relations firms are continuing to ply their trade for the global asbestos industry, helping maintain the deadly fibre's market share. The latest evidence, obtained by Canadian human rights organisation RightOnCanada.ca, comes from Malaysia. In 2011, the Malaysian government's Department of Occupational Safety and Health proposed that asbestos imports should be banned. In an effort to defeat the proposed ban, the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) hired one of the world's most powerful public relations companies, APCO Worldwide, to carry out political lobbying. The Consumers Association of Penang appealed to APCO Worldwide to disassociate itself from the asbestos industry. Human rights organisation RightOnCanada.ca, however, says it has evidence ICA is still today secretly funding APCO to carry out activities in Malaysia to block the proposed ban, including arranging presentations at conferences and direct liaison with government ministers. It notes: "It seems that most of the funding the ICA receives comes from the Russian asbestos mines and possibly the Russian government. Over two-thirds of the asbestos exported in the world in 2014 was exported by Russia."
Read more: RightOnCanada.ca Source: Risks 718
Nauru: Asbestos exposure claim
Leaked emails from Nauru have revealed that piles of burnt rubble contaminated with
asbestos were lying around a prison holding dozens of asylum seekers and where government subcontractors worked, posing a "potentially serious" health risk. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection, however, says according to later tests airborne asbestos fibres were not above "monitoring thresholds". Nevertheless, it did not report the potential problem to Comcare, despite being required to notify the regulator of suspected asbestos exposure relating to the department's work
union representing staff of government subcontractor Wilson Security, United
Voice, has repeatedly raised the issue of asbestos exposure at Nauru but the
company "blatantly failed to address" it.
Read more: Asbestos: Immigration Department, contractors knew of Nauru risk, emails show The Age
An interesting article:
The UK, women and asbestosThis
is a very interesting, and tragic, article on the effect of asbestos on the
women of Britain. It begins: "Considering the colossal levels of asbestos
exposure experienced by British workers, consumers, bystanders and community
members during the 20th century, there can be no doubt that the death toll from
asbestos-related diseases has been massive;1 one occupational hygienist has
estimated that the country's cumulative asbestos death toll could well exceed
800,000. It is unfortunately true, however, that no one knows how many lives
have been lost due to Britain's love affair with asbestos; how many families
have been torn asunder by avoidable asbestos-related deaths or how many
children's lives have been decimated by the early loss of a parent or the
trauma of a beloved grandparent's premature death."
Read more: The Female face of Britain's asbestos catastrophe Source: IBAS
Corsica's Deadly Mining
Operations at Corsica's Canari Mine by the Eternit asbestos group were ongoing from 1920 until 1965. The mine's output made France the world's 7th biggest asbestos producer. However, mineworkers were not told of changes in their lung x-rays showing development of asbestos diseases. The commune of Canari bought the site from Eternit in 1973 for one franc with no knowledge of the environmental catastrophe and financial nightmare they were taking on; just keeping the toxic risks at bay costs millions of euros of public money.
See: 50 ans après sa fermeture, l'usine d'amiante de Corse reste un problème insoluble [50 years after closure, the asbestos plant of Corsica remains an insoluble problem]. Source: IBAS
Italy: Asbestos at the Venice Film Festival
A short film based on interviews with asbestos removal workers in Italy is being screened twice at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. E.T.E.R.N.I.T. by director Giovanni Aloi mixes reality and drama to tell the story of a Tunisian immigrant facing a life and death decision. Ali Salhi, the lead actor, is one of those interviewed during research for the screenplay; the set used for the film was an industrial asbestos removal site in an area where Eternit asbestos-cement roofs were ubiquitous.
See: L'amianto al Festival Internazionale di Venezia [Asbestos at the Venice International Festival]. Source: IBAS
US: Hazards of Asbestos Contamination of Talc
Asbestos-containing talcum powder continues to pose a threat to U.S. workers and members of the public, according to a new article by Myron Levin. Citing lawsuits brought over exposures to tainted industrial-grade talc and consumer products, the author said that results of surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010 of 34 talc products by federal authorities were compromised by the failure of suppliers to submit samples for testing. As a result the Food and Drug Administration concluded that: "the results do not prove that most or all talc or talc-containing cosmetic products currently marketed in the United States are likely to be free of asbestos contamination.''
Read more: The Hard Truth About the Softest Mineral. Fair Warning. Source IBAS
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Traffic controller killed
Some workers are at high risk of injury and even death all of the time: a traffic controller was hit by a car and killed at a roadworks site at Ipswich, west of Brisbane. The incident occurred at about 9:30am yesterday.
QAS spokesman Steven Rashford said paramedics arrived to find distressed colleagues trying to help the 50-year-old man. "He was being assisted by his workmates but had suffered very severe injuries, which unfortunately he succumbed to," Dr Rashford said. "It's particularly traumatic for everyone involved and certainly it's absolutely devastating for his work companions." Source: ABC News online
industrial action at Gorgon called off
Unions called off last Friday's planned industrial action on Chevron's Gorgon LNG project after the CFMEU, AMWU and ETU reached an in-principle agreement with CB&I on a deal which they say will set a "new precedent" for FIFO rosters. In a joint statement the unions said they "unreservedly endorse" the proposed agreement — providing a 5 per cent pay increase within its first four months — and will recommend that members vote in favour.
breakthrough came after parties agreed to compromise on a deadlock over FIFO
rostering for construction workers, resulting in a 23 days on, 10 days off
arrangement which the unions say is "both ground breaking and industry
leading". The unions said,
"Without doubt, the Gorgon Project now provides some of the best roster
and wage conditions available on a construction job in Australia."
Read more: Unions call off Gorgon strike The West Australian
Flag-of-Convenience (FOC) Highlights Need for Better Regulation
A foreign ship riddled with deficiencies is being allowed to sail unimpeded in Australian waters, despite allegations of crew mistreatment and underpayment, says the Maritime Union of Australia. These revelations come at the same time the Abbott Government is defending its attempts to allow the same kind 'dodgy' foreign ships onto domestic shipping routes.
The Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier, the San Nikolas, was found in Newcastle with insufficient food and no potable water. The ship was inspected earlier this week by the MUA's Newcastle Branch Secretary Glen Williams, who said he had grave concerns for the ongoing welfare of the Filipino crew. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority slapped the ship with a host of deficiencies in Brisbane last week before the ship was inspected in Newcastle. It is currently en route to Port Kembla.
Mr Williams said the inspection found there was no fresh fruit and that there was only one medium sized pot of soup on the stove for dinner for the 24 crew members. He said the crew was being rationed water and if they required more they had to pay. In addition, Mr Williams discovered the ship's payroll (available upon request) that shows chronic underpayment of wages. Read more: MUA Media Release
UK: More workers working more
Peak union council, the TUC is warning that a 15 per cent increase in people working more than 48 hours a week, as revealed in its new analysis, risks a return to 'Burnout Britain'. Regularly working more than 48 hours per week is linked to a significantly increased risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes and diabetes. Illnesses caused by excessive working time put extra strain on the health service and the benefits system, as well as impacting on co-workers, friends and relatives. Many people are working unpaid overtime and at least a million report that they want to cut their excessive hours.
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Britain's long hours culture is hitting productivity and putting workers' health at risk. Working more than 48 hours a week massively increases the risk of strokes, heart disease and diabetes." She added: "We need stronger rules around excessive working, not an opt-out of the Working Time Directive. David Cameron will not convince people to vote yes in the EU referendum if all he's offering is 'Burnout Britain'."
Read more: TUC Media Release More information on fatigue and long hours of work.
Asbestos linked to other types of cancers
French researchers have confirmed that asbestos causes a range of digestive cancers. This means there are implications for employers who have exposed workers to asbestos in the past – they could face new damages claims. It has been assumed that the consequences of asbestos exposure were generally limited to diseases of the respiratory tract, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and primary bronchopulmonary cancer. However, this study, which examined incidence of digestive cancers (between 1978 and 2009) among over 2000 men and women who worked at an asbestos reprocessing plant near Caen in France for at least a year before 1978, provides new data suggesting an association between asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer in men. The researchers said. "[The results] also suggest a relationship between asbestos exposure and cancer of the oesophagus in men... [and] a possible association with small intestine and liver cancers in men."
Read more: Mathilde Boulanger, et al, France. Digestive cancers and occupational asbestos exposure: incidence study in a cohort of asbestos plant workers. [abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 24 August 2015.
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox, posted on September 4, featured an editorial on WorkSafe's update Injury Hotspots tool – which SafetyNet has also promoted over the past few editions. The tool includes ten which are applicable to construction and earth resources. The newsletter has other items including WorkSafe's new media campaign and links to new CFMEU Safety Alerts.
list of Reported Incidents in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining
industries from 13 August – 26 August 2015 is attached to the newsletter, and
include: 24 near misses, 11 lacerations, nine fractures, seven 'unknowns', four
electric shocks, three punctures, two burns, and one each of: heart attack,
possible amputation and crush. Several
of the 'near misses' could have led to fatalities – including a building façade
falling 10 metres, an excavator overturning and more. Other incidents in which
workers were luckily only injured, could have killed them – for example:
several falls from over two metres and several electric shocks.
Access the September 4 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
WA: two new programs announced – Manual handling in hospitals/residential care and Powder coatings
In the first of two new programs, the Western Australian regulator has commenced a proactive inspection program looking at manual task incidents in hospitals and residential care services. The program will focus on reducing musculoskeletal injuries due to manual tasks and slips, trips and falls, and will continue over the next eight months in metropolitan and regional areas of the State.
WorkSafe Director John Innes said last week that inspectors would primarily look at how employers investigated incidents and injuries and how they were dealt with on a long-term basis. "Inspectors will visit hospitals and residential care services to see how well incidents and injuries involving manual tasks and slips, trips and falls are investigated by employers," Mr Innes said.
The second program – also a proactive inspection program – involves looking at safety in businesses conducting powder coating activities. Powder coating is a process by which powder is applied electrostatically to an item before being heat-cured to form a skin-like casing. The powder can contain a hazardous substance known as TGIC that can increase skin and respiratory tract sensitivity, is toxic if inhaled or ingested, can cause serious eye damage and can cause reproductive effects in the offspring of males exposed to it.
WorkSafe Director Joe Attard said last week that a previous
inspection program on powder coating had resulted in some concerns about the
hazards in the industry. "An inspection
program on powder coating conducted by WorkSafe six years ago highlighted that
many businesses were carrying out powder coating activities with limited
knowledge of the risks involved," Mr Attard said. "As a result, we have decided
to re-visit workplaces that include powder coating in their activities to check
that adequate measures are being taken to safeguard workers."
Read more: WorkSafe WA Media Releases WorkSafe inspection program to look at manual task incidents in hospitals and residential care and Inspection program looks at powder coating activities
New list of work-related diseases to help with prevention and compensation
Safe Work Australia last week published an up to date list of diseases and associated work-related exposures in the Deemed Diseases in Australia report. The list provides information to help assist in the prevention or compensation of occupational disease.
The new additions to the list include: hepatitis A in workers exposed to human waste (including carers, plumbers and sewage workers); hepatitis B and C in workers who make contact with human bodily secretions (such as health care workers, laboratory staff and emergency services workers); HIV/AIDS among health care and laboratory workers who become HIV-positive after a needlestick injury; and leukaemia in workers exposed to benzene, formaldehyde and ionizing radiation.
A number of other diseases which are arguably related to work
exposures but were not added include: stress-related psychological disease
(including post-traumatic stress disorder); dementia; ischaemic heart disease;
rotator cuff syndrome; tendonitis; low-back pain; pleural mesothelioma
associated with painting; and lung cancer associated with painting, aluminium
production, underground hermatite mining, iron and steel founding, and rubber
Read more: Safe Work Australia Media Release The Report can be downloaded on this page
As at September 4, 103 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work – that's two more work-related deaths since September 1, just three days! The fatalities have been in the following industries:
- 34 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 25 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 12 in Construction;
- eight in Mining;
- five in Manufacturing;
- four in Electricity, gas, water & waste services; and in Arts & Recreation services
- three each in 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 was released just as we sent out last week's SafetyNet. There were 11 work-related notifiable fatalities during May 2015 - eight male workers, one female worker, and both a male and female bystander. The report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
New Information sheet on solvents
Last month SWA published a new workplace information sheet on managing risks of exposure to solvents. A solvent is a substance that dissolves a different substance to form a solution. It is usually a liquid but it can be a solid or gas. Many solvents are hazardous chemicals and examples include: turpentine, toluene, xylene, and methyl ethyl ketone. Industries where solvents are commonly used include engineering, construction, printing, rubber, plastics, footwear, textiles, foodstuffs, woodworking, dry cleaning and pharmaceutical, paint and ink manufacturing. The information sheet is aimed at people who manage health and safety risks associated with exposure to solvents in the workplace, and should be read in conjunction with the Code of Practice: Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
Download the information sheet
New Workers' Compensation report
Safe Work Australia this week published its report 'Comparison of Workers' Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand' which aims to provide all stakeholders with information to assist them in understanding workers' compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand. All information in this edition of the Comparison is correct as at 30 September 2014. Anyone wanting up-to-the-minute information should check with the relevant authority. The report can be downloaded from this page of the SWA website.
use to cease in October this year
The Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) has announced that products containing fenthion must not be used after October 2015. This marks the end of a 12-month phase out period that commenced following the finalisation of the review into fenthion and subsequent cancellation of the active constituent. Existing stocks can be used until current permits and conditions expire in October 2015. The APVMA says that any product that remains unused should be disposed of responsibly.
Fenthion is a broad-spectrum organophosphorus insecticide.
Fenthion is used to control insect pests in agricultural, commercial and
domestic situations and external parasites on cattle. It is also used to
control pest birds in and around buildings. Fenthion was nominated for review
in 1994 because of concerns about
public health, occupational health and safety, the environment and food
Source: APMA Regulatory Update
- a series of videos on Slips, Trips and Falls in Schools. The regulator's page says: "Falls at work only happen to other people – until they happen to us. Principals, teachers, and school staff are responsible for preventing slips, trips, and falls. This video series creates awareness and promotes discussion by demonstrating what can happen when we don't take responsibility for our own and each other's safety." More information and resources on Education.
- Emergency Readiness Makes Good Sense [pdf] - This six page booklet provides useful, basic advice on preparing for emergencies.
Victoria: Support Services provider fined $15,000 for unsafe client
Golden City Support Services Inc (GCSS) was found guilty to breaching s 21(1) of the OHS Act for failing to provide a safe working environment for carers when transporting a particular client, who had previously assaulted her carer.
The matter had proceeded as a contested hearing on
8 and 9 December 2014 and His Honour Cotterill had reserved his decision. GCSS
was fined $15,000, without conviction, and ordered to pay WorkSafe's costs (amount
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
NSW: Security company fined $150,000 for death
A Sydney security company has been fined $150,000 (plus costs) following the death of a security guard in 2011. The 21 year old male guard was killed when he was struck by a cement truck that was entering the Cement Australia manufacturing plant at Kandos in Central West NSW. His employer, MSS Security Pty Ltd (MSS) was found guilty of breaching the state's 2000 OHS Act.
According to SafeWork because of the risk of being struck while monitoring the entry of trucks into the site, MSS Security should have installed a 'no go zone' and required the use of radios for drivers and guards to communicate with each other.
Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said MSS should have had safe work systems in place to manage the risk of security guards being struck by vehicles entering the site. "Under NSW work health and safety laws, businesses must manage the risks to workers carrying out remote or isolated work, this includes security guards," Mr Dunphy said. Read More: NSW WorkCover Media Release
Japan: Residents near
Fukishima ok'd return
Japan is allowing residents of the town of Naraha to return after being evacuated more than four years ago, following the 2011 disaster at the nearby Fukushima nuclear plant. It will be the first town among seven municipalities in the area to get the order lifted after the mass evacuation from radiation contamination in the massive earthquake and tsunami that sent the plant's reactors into triple meltdowns in March 2011. The central government has said radiation levels in Naraha have now fallen to safe levels, following decontamination efforts. Naraha represents a test case, as health concerns make most residents cautious.
Read more: Fukushima: Japan allows residents of Naraha to return four years after disaster The Independent