SafetyNet 342, October 7, 2015
Welcome to SafetyNet – apart from the usual variety of news and research items, if you're an elected HSR in Victoria, we remind you to get cracking on registering to come to the VTHC HSR Conference on October 27. Also, please send me your views and any questions you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org .. and follow us on Twitter: @OHSreps
Thank you! Renata
ALL HSRs! VTHC Health and Safety Reps Conference – October 27
HSRs: Remember you must give your employer at least two weeks' notice that you're going to attend the VTHC HSR Conference on Tuesday October 27. The Conference program has been approved by WorkSafe under s69(1)(d) of the OHS Act and so your employer must allow you as the HSR time off with pay to attend on the day. Deputy HSRs do not have an entitlement to attend under the Act – but are welcome if they have made arrangements with their employer to attend. The day goes from 8.30am – 4pm, and is being held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre; South Wharf, Melbourne. It will be a great opportunity to meet other HSRs, skill up and learn how to advocate for safer workplaces. We can guarantee a great day. Morning tea and lunch are provided – but you MUST register. Register directly on this page of WorkSafe Victoria Health and Safety Week website. If you would prefer to register by phone, either contact your union who will arrange registration, or ring WorkSafe's Advisory Service on 9641 1444 or toll free 1800 136 089. More information, and to download a flyer go to this page on the OHS Reps @ Work website. If you have any issues, then email Renata
Trained at the VTHC? Your views wanted!
If you've ever attended an HSR course (either the five day or the Refresher course) at the VTHC OHS Training Unit, we'd like to hear your thoughts about the course. Please email your views or thoughts to Amy Jenkins.Thank you so much!
West Gate Bridge disaster: 45 year anniversary
Thursday 15 October this year marks 45 years since the collapse of a portion of the West Gate Bridge. 35 workers were killed and dozens more injured when, at 11.50am on 15 October 1970, two years into its construction, the 365 ft (112m) 2000-tonne span between piers 10 and 11 of the West Gate Bridge collapsed and fell 164 ft (50m) onto the muddy edge of the Yarra River below. It was Victoria's worst industrial disaster and remains so even today.
A Memorial Plaque, paid for and
erected by the surviving bridge workers, was unveiled on 15 October 1978 in
honour and memory of their 35 work mates who died as a result of the bridge's
collapse. The Memorial Plaque is now within the memorial park at Spotswood on
Douglas Parade directly below the bridge.
Each year the CFMEU, AMWU and other unions hold a commemoration ceremony
with the observation of a minute's silence and wreath laying ceremony. Everyone is invited to attend this year's
ceremony at which CFMEU Victorian Secretary John Setka and AMWU Victorian
Secretary Steve Dargavel will address families, friends and workmates.
Read more: West Gate Bridge Memorial; A section on the Public Record Office Victoria website Disaster at West Gate: The West Gate Bridge Collapse of 1970
Chief of 7-Eleven resigns from Board
Following the Four Corners program and Fairfax investigation, the chairman and billionaire boss of 7-Eleven Russ Withers has resigned from the company's board, as has the chief executive Warren Wilmot. New chairman Michael Smith, who has been on the board since 1999 and deputy chair since August 2014, has been tasked with fixing the problem and mending the company's damaged reputation. Mr Smith told Fairfax Media that he had been 'horrified' by the extent of the wage fraud and exploitation of workers at 7-Eleven.
Read more: The Age Business
The federal Opposition has called for the Turnbull Government to investigate allegations of exploitation of Subclass 417 holiday and student visa workers that continue to emerge with regard to both 7-Eleven and Baiada. Shadow minister for employment, Brendan O'Connor and acting shadow minister for immigration, David Feeney, released a joint statement saying Labor is deeply concerned about the extent of the allegations and that the government needs to "take action". The statement referred to a joint Fairfax NMdia and Monash University report revealing illegal underpayment and exploitation of oversea workers is rife across a broad range of sectors, including the hospitality and retail industries.
While in government, Labor amended
the Migration Act putting in place an
enforcement strategy to curtail illegal work hire practices by imposing
sanctions on employers and labour suppliers who engaged in illegal activities.
"Australia's temporary work visa program must operate with an assurance to
the community that robust safeguards are in place to protect all workers. It
must not be used as a back door avenue to source cheap labour on conditions the
community would find appalling," said the statement.
Source: Workplace Express
I was wondering whether I can be made to drive a forklift at without a license - or can I refuse?
Hello – I see that you are in NSW. Forklifts are dangerous pieces of plant, and incidents involving forklifts often result in serious injuries and even fatalities. Consequently, under all state and territory OHS/WHS regulations, including those of NSW, a person must hold a licence in order to operate a forklift (see this page on the NSW regulator's site and the page on Forklift Safety our site)
This means it's illegal for your employer to require a person without a licence to operate a forklift - this is breaking the law. You, or anyone else without a licence, not only has the right to refuse to do so, but a duty to do so. Anyone who operates a forklift without a licence is also breaking the law. The only exception is when someone is in training and is permitted to operate a forklift without a licence until such time as that person is competent enough to be assessed. The trainee must be within sight and sound of a licensed operator at all times. It is not sufficient that there is a licensed operator SOMEWHERE on the premises.
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.
Residents angered by dumped asbestos
Last week supplier SoilWorx delivered crushed rock material with contained asbestos to a residential building site in Williams Landing, a suburb in Melbourne's west, just metres from existing homes. It's has been reported to WorkSafe that several other western suburb building sites are also believed to have received deliveries of the asbestos-laced material from the same supplier. Both the supplier and the builder Burbank, reacted quickly. Burbank ceased all works on the sites until the supplier provided a clearance certificate confirming that the unauthorised material had been completely removed. This is another example of asbestos in products and materials where it certainly shouldn't be.
Read more: The Herald Sun
NSW: Building products
with asbestos found in NSW
A feature article published last week investigated allegations that asbestos waste removed by workers for WestConnex, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in New South Wales, was being illegally dumped at a landfill site in Western Sydney. Members of the WestConnex Action Group, concerned about the environmental hazards being created by the failure of WestConnex employees to comply with asbestos regulations, mounted another protest over the weekend. Previously they reported multiple breaches of the asbestos regulations to state and local authorities which are jointly responsible for the site.
Read more: WestConnex's Asbestos Problem New Matilda. Source: IBAS
Queensland: Worker in
adjacent building contracts asbestos related disease and compensated
A worker exposed to asbestos dust while working in an office adjacent to the Brisbane Expo 88 demolition site in the mid-1980s, and who contracted an asbestos related disease, was recently awarded a "six figure" workers' compensation lump sum payment in a confidential settlement. The 55 year old woman said that dust from old fibro homes and pipes at the site, being prepared for the 1988 event, coated her desk, clothes and car by the end of every work day, and her employer, GTE Directories Pty Ltd, never warned her of the potential dangers of asbestos exposure.
Martin Rogalski, from Slater and Gordon Lawyers', who represented the worker, said her case was an example of the "third wave" of asbestos exposure, whose victims included demolition workers and home renovators. He said construction, automotive and other workers were also still at risk, while six common sources of asbestos exposure that many people weren't aware of were:
- Being near non-compliant demolition and construction sites, factories and asbestos mines;
- Performing DIY renovations, especially on houses built before the mid-1980s, or on products made from bonded asbestos cement, such as fibro sheeting, pipes, roof shingles, guttering, drywall and insulation;
- Washing clothes worn be people exposed to asbestos;
- Contacting debris from bushfires, cyclones, floods and other natural disasters;
- Entering rubbish dumps that don't handle asbestos waste according to regulations; and
- Being in old or disused parks, especially children's playgrounds that have fallen into disrepair.
Source: OHS Alert
ASEA 2nd International Asbestos Conference
Remember ASEA's second International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management, 22 - 24 November at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Brisbane. Both the President and the Vice-president of asbestoswise will be presenting at the conference, and as Secretary of asbestoswise, Renata will also be attending . Go to this page to check it out. Read more: ASEA Conference page and to register.
EU: Shocking new
estimate of the asbestos death toll
Over 47,000 people in the European Union are dying of asbestos related conditions each year with the UK having the most fatalities, a new report has concluded. 'Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe', published this week by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), puts deaths caused by exposure to asbestos at three times previous estimates. It indicates the real toll is higher still, as certain asbestos related cancers are excluded from the calculation, as are those caused by environmental and domestic exposures. The report has led to calls from asbestos victims' advocacy groups for a renewed effort to stem the future toll. Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, said: "Time and again, civil society groups have pressed the European Commission and European Union to take coordinated and decisive action on the asbestos hazard. The political will to engage with this crisis has been sorely lacking." She added: "In the light of the new data, the authorities should make good on their promise to constitute a European Asbestos Taskforce as a matter of utmost urgency." Graham Dring, chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, said: "Despite regulations and guidelines on minimising asbestos exposures in the UK, hazardous exposures at work, school and home remain a fact of life. Unless the government agrees to implement a national policy of asbestos eradication, the UK will continue to see an increase in avoidable asbestos-related deaths at a time when we already have the worst asbestos mortality rates in the world."
Read more: Survival patterns in lung and pleural cancer in Europe 1999-2007: Results from the EUROCARE-5 study IBAS news release [pdf]; Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe [pdf]; ETUI, 29 September 2015. ETUI asbestos webpages Sources: Risks 722; IBAS
UK: Asbestos – What
would Shakespeare say?
Laurie Kazan-Allen has presented a paper at Mesothelioma UK's 10th Patients and Carer Day, which was held in Stratford-upon-Avon on October 2, 2015, entitled: Asbestos – What Would Shakespeare Say? The presentation examined the history of the global asbestos industry and highlighted explosive new mortality data; the author considered how Britain's most renowned dramatist might have reacted to the deadly epidemic taking hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Examples of recent grassroots activities undertaken in Colombia, India, Vietnam and South Africa were discussed with the speaker reaffirming the commitment of the global ban asbestos movement to an asbestos-free future.
Read the full article [pdf] Source: IBAS
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Summer and skin cancer
It looks like it's going to be a very hot summer, with Melbourne and other cities already clocking up days of 30 degree plus temperatures and burning sunlight. If you or your Designated Work Group members are going to be at risk of being exposed to UV radiation, and you haven't yet raised the issue with your employer, then consider also getting advice from Cancer Council Victoria. 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.
Childcare workers getting injured
According to recently released WorkSafe Victoria figures, more than 300 workers are seriously injured every year in Victorian childcare centres and preschools. This represents a steady rise in the number claims made by childcare and preschool staff between 2010 and 2015, with an average of 347 claims per year. Not surprisingly, the most common injuries were manual handling related, causing injuries to the musculoskeletal system with 767 recorded over the five-year period. This was followed by injuries to joints, muscles and tendons (289) and mental disorders, that is stress (265). The majority of injuries reported were caused by body stress, falls, trips and slips.
Peter Flaherty said inspectors had made 31 visits to childcare centres in
Victoria over the past year in response to specific incidents. "While employers
are responsible for having systems and processes in place to reduce the health
and safety risks to employees, WorkSafe has worked with key organisations to
produce kits which offer a range of practical measures to reduce manual
handling injuries," Mr Flaherty said. Most injuries were caused by lifting
children in and out of cots and highchairs, on and off change tables, moving
supplies and play equipment, he said.
Read more: The Leader
International Union News
UK: Union guide for supporting workers with cancer at work
To coincide with the UK's Cancer month, the TUC – the UK's peak union council has issued guidance for union representatives, employees, line managers and employers for how best to support colleagues with cancer at work. The TUC advice for reps covers five fundamental principles:
- Keeping in touch
- Return to work
- Wider support
General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Everyone dreads a cancer diagnosis. It
now affects one in three people, and each year in the UK there are approximately
90,000 people of working age who find out that they have cancer. The chances
are that one of your colleagues or someone in your business will be affected –
either directly through being ill themselves or through a close relative having
Read more: TUC Press Release. The publication "Cancer in the Workplace: A workbook for union representatives" can be downloaded from this page
UK: Cancer hazards updates
Fantastic OHS resource Hazards magazine has a work cancer hazards website which has the latest updates on asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes and passive smoking. Check it out now and use it as a resource.
Global: New union tools to fight
Occupational exposures to chemical hazards – and how to identify them and avoid them – is the topic of new resources launched last week at a major international conference. The fourth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4) considered next steps towards a previously agreed 2020 goal of ensuring all chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment. A new video and publication, produced by Sustainlabour and the international union confederation ITUC, outlines trade union demands and spell out what unions are already doing to reduce risks to workers and to accelerate sustainable management of chemicals at work.
Read more: Supporting SAICM implementation through fighting toxic work: Unions for a sustainable management of chemicals, Sustainlabour/ITUC, September 2015. Related video and ICCM4. Related video resource: The true costs of the chemical industry's products, IPEN, September 2015.
list of banned pesticides
Pesticide Action Network (PAN), comprising over 600 non-governmental organisations, institutions and individuals in over 90 countries, has released 'The Consolidated List of Banned Pesticides'. The newly compiled list shows whether these pesticides are regarded as highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation. As of July 2015, of the 98 countries on which PAN could collect data, one or more had banned a total of 316 pesticide active ingredients. In addition, the European Union refused approval for a further 53 pesticides that meet the PAN criteria for an HHP. "Effective alternatives to HHPs exist, and it is a lack of political will that is hampering progress on banning HHPs and moving towards safer agricultural practices not relying on such pesticides," said Dr Meriel Watts, senior scientist from PAN Asia and the Pacific, who compiled this list.
The Consolidated List of Banned Pesticides, PAN, 2015.
Malaysia: Unions want employers to let workers stay home
Acrid smoke billowing from agricultural fires in Indonesia has caused a spike in air pollution in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur this week, causing the Malaysian government to order all schools to close for two days. The choking haze blanketing a large swathe of south-east Asia is on track to become the worst on record. The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called on employers to allow smog-affected workers to stay away from work until air quality in the country improves. Parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have been shrouded for weeks in a choking haze drifting from fires on Indonesia's Sumatra island. MTUC deputy secretary-general A Balasubramaniam said: "Private sector employers should be lenient enough to grant unrecorded leave for their employees at a time when the haze situation is worsening. Employers should also provide free face masks for their employees who are affected by the haze and ensure they do not engage in any outdoor activities." He added: "We hope the employers do not take any drastic action against employees who are unable to attend work during this critical period," he said.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald Asian haze set to become worst on record; MTUC Media report Source: Risks 722
US: Cargo ship El Faro lost –
Missing cargo ship El Faro, hit by powerful Hurricane Joaquin last Thursday, is believed to have sunk off the Bahamas, the US Coast Guard said on Monday. It said the search continued for possible survivors among the 32 other mostly American crew in what maritime experts are calling the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a US-flagged vessel since 1983. The ship had 33 crew members – 28 US citizens and five Polish nationals. While the search was continuing, and to date only one body has been recovered, the likelihood of finding survivors is increasingly slim. The US Coast Guard yesterday released photos of what is believed to be debris from the ship. The president of the Seafarers International Union, Michael Sacco, said, "As the search for the El Faro mariners continues, our thoughts and prayers remain with them and their families. In this age when we are all accustomed to instant information and quick answers, it has been an agonizing wait these last few days."
Read more: SIA Media statement Sources: ABC News; CNN;
Workplaces not prepared for extreme
According to a study done in August of this year, many Australian workplaces are not managing heat-related hazards. Researchers surveyed 180 occupational health and safety professionals, such as occupational hygienists, for their views on these hazards, in particular given temperature increases projected due to climate change; how prepared workplaces are for extreme heat; and barriers to implementing heat stress prevention measures. Most professionals were concerned about the hazards of extreme heat, but about one in five were did not believe workplaces were taking adequate measures. While some industries, such as mining and construction, had implemented hot weather plans and measures, many had not. This included sectors where workers would be particularly at risk – such as the agricultural sector. Of concern is that the most common heat prevention measure was the provision of cool drinking water – not a control at all. Employers should be looking to develop and implement thorough heat policies, and do this in consultation with elected health and safety representatives. See this page for advice and draft policies: Heat.
Read more: Xiang, J & Ors: Perceptions of Workplace Heat Exposure and Controls among Occupational Hygienists and Relevant Specialists in Australia, PLOS One, 19 August 2015.
Metalworking fluids linked to
irreversible lung disease
Occupational exposure to a fluid commonly used in metal machining operations may be related to a rare, irreversible and disabling lung disease, according to research presented last week at the European Respiratory Society's (ERS) international congress in Amsterdam. Although metalworking fluid is known to be associated with the lung diseases asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis - an allergic type of pneumonia – this research appears to be the first to establish that exposure to metalworking fluid is associated with lymphocytic bronchiolitis. In this condition, an over-production of immune cells damages the smallest airways in the lung.
Kristin Cummings, a respiratory health specialist from the US government's
occupational health research body NIOSH, was part of a team that investigated
the cause of this rare disorder after four cases were diagnosed at a
manufacturing facility where metalworking fluid was employed in a number of
processes. The researchers interviewed and measured the lung function of 388
workers who worked at the facility. "Although workplace exposures were
generally low, we found that workers with higher workplace exposure to the
fluid reported more symptoms than those with less exposure," said Dr Cummings.
"However, their lung function was about the same, regardless of exposure
levels. The finding of symptoms with normal lung function could mean that some
workers are at risk of developing the disease as well." Several of the workers
with lymphocytic bronchiolitis are now disabled and unable to work, and at
least one has required supplemental oxygen. The disease appears to be
irreversible, the researchers noted. Recommending that exposure levels be kept
"at the lowest level possible," Dr Cummings added: "The recognition of the
work-relatedness of lung disease is important for those who are exposed to
similar conditions in the same workplace, and in others worldwide."
Read more: ELF news release Source: Risks 722
Lead (and other other) exposure affects school performance
Lead is an accumulative poison. Early symptoms of lead exposure include headaches, fatigue, irritability, nervousness, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, pain in joints, aching muscles, poor appetite, weight loss, stomach pains and constipation. More severe effects of lead exposure such as damage to the nervous system, kidney damage, sterility and birth defects, anaemia, and interference with the body's blood forming mechanism – and children are more susceptible than adults.
A new study published in has revealed a link between the academic performance of primary school students in mining towns and their exposure to environmental contamination. The researchers from Sydney's Macquarie University focused on Broken Hill in remote New South Wales where students who performed poorly in the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) were found to either live or attend school in areas with high amounts of lead, arsenic, and cadmium in the soil and air. Mark Taylor, a professor of environmental science at Sydney's Macquarie University, said "The difference between children attending schools in areas with the maximum soil lead risks compared to the lower soil lead risk is 20 NAPLAN points, or about 5 per cent."
There is an
ongoing debate about lead contamination in Broken Hill, which is home to the
world's richest deposit of lead and zinc ore. More than half of all children in
the town under the age of four have blood lead levels in excess of the
recommended limit of five micrograms per decilitre.
Read more: Study shows link between poor school results and environmental contamination in mining towns ABC News; Hazard information page on Lead
The editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on October 1, is on the West Gate Bridge collapse. As well as news from around the country, the newsletter also has links to a number of Victorian and other regulator Safety Alerts.
were 57 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety
Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from
10 – 24 September 2015, and include: include: 26 near misses, five fractures,
12 lacerations, five electric shocks and one burn. There seemed to be a high
number of potentially very serious 'near misses', including power lines being
struck, gas lines being ruptured, and a fire.
Access the October 1 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia
There has not been an update to the SWA fatality statistics since our last journal – when, as at September 24, 120 Australian workers had been killed while at work. More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
SWA has released the monthly fatality report for June May
2015 – during which there were 15 work-related notifiable fatalities during
June 2015 - 12 male workers, two male bystanders and one female bystander. Of
these fatalities, three workers died as a result of an incident on a public
road and one worker died in an air crash. Six fatalities occurred in Transport,
postal & warehousing workplaces, five in Agriculture, forestry &
fishing workplaces and two in Construction workplaces. Electricity, gas, water
& waste services and Manufacturing workplaces had one fatality each.
The report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Australia releases vibration guidance
SWA has just release Workplace vibration guidance materiaI. Australian workers are exposed to vibration in a range of industries including mining, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, trades, transport and utilities.
There were approximately 5260 workers' compensation claims for injuries or illness attributed to exposure to vibration over the past 14 years, costing $134 million in workers' compensation payments.
Safe Work Australia's guidance material on exposure to vibration in workplaces includes general guides and information sheets for workers and those managing workers who are, or may be exposed to vibration. There are also guides to help work health and safety professionals measure and assess vibration in workplaces.
The Workplace vibration guidance material available from the Safe Work Australia website includes:
- Guide to measuring and assessing workplace exposure to hand-arm vibration
- Guide to measuring and assessing workplace exposure to whole-body vibration
- Guide to managing the risks of exposure to hand-arm vibration in workplaces
- Guide to managing the risks of exposure to whole-body vibration in workplaces
- Information sheet: hand-arm vibration, and
- Information sheet: whole-body vibration.
Check out SWA
electronic safety kit
If you haven't checked it out yet, go to SWA's electronic information kit to help employers raise work health and safety awareness within their organisations. The kit includes a number of safety posters, fact sheets and key safety statistics that can be printed and used in the workplace.
CEO Michelle Baxter encouraged employers to get involved in the many activities
and events planned for Safe Work Month, including the agency's free Virtual
Seminar Series, which will broadcast daily on the latest WHS research and safe
More information on National Safety Month
- From Canada's WorkSafe BC: new guidance, including videos and posters especially developed for Room Attendants. Working in hospitality is hard physical work – check out these resources now
- From EU-OSHA: OSH Management in the context of an ageing workforce The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work says: "Older workers are a growing part of the workforce. As people work for longer, management of OSH for an ageing workforce has become a priority." Australia too has an ageing workforce, with many workers putting off retirement and having to stay at work for longer.
Victoria: no recent results published
WorkSafe has not updated its prosecution result summaries page, but information is available on prosecutions currently underway on this page of the VWA site.