SafetyNet 346, December 9, 2015
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet. We are squeezing in one more before the new site is launched. For those who haven't done so yet, please go to our Facebook page We Are Union: OHS Matters and 'like' us; follow us on Twitter: @OHSreps too
Thank you! Renata
Workplace fatalities – the effect on families
Last week we reported on the shocking figure of eight worker fatalities in November in Victoria. In a timely blog, Kevin Jones writes of the impact of a workplace death on the relatives of the worker. This post was triggered by the release this week of more information from a University of Sydney research project launched in 2013 looking into how workplace deaths affected families.
The interim summary report on the family survey found that over two thirds of the 184 respondents stated that their "current health was worse than prior [to] the death of their loved ones". Only 7 per cent would describe their current life and personal circumstances as very satisfying. On the issue of "coping", 65 per cent of respondents said they were "just managing" or faring worse. The point Jones makes is that while often the emphasis is on the economic impact of a workplace death, which is huge, the long-term psychological effect on family members is often underestimated. Family members often felt the same or higher levels of guilt, fear and isolation.
Read more: Left in the abyss – the impact of a workplace death on relatives SafetyAtWorkBlog; and the Family Survey Summary [pdf]
Worker suicides outnumber work fatalities
A national suicide prevention group has revealed construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than in workplace accidents. The industry-run MATES in Construction organisation also said suicide and suicidal behaviour cost the industry more than $1.5 billion a year. It is calling for prevention programmes to be rolled out on every construction site in Australia. MATES in Construction chief executive Jorgen Gullestrup said the problem presented both a huge social and financial burden to the industry. "The cost to the Australian community is over $1.5 billion per year, because of course it's not only the people who die by suicide and the trauma for the people left behind but it's also the people who attempt suicide who end up with a permanent disability as a result of it," he said. "We need to have peer support programmes in place where construction workers are aware of what it looks like when a mate is dropping a bit and can ask the question, 'Are you OK?'." He said a programme running in Queensland had been effective. "Preliminary research we have done in Queensland has shown that over the first five years of the programme, suicide rates dropped by 7.8 per cent," he said.
Read more: MATES in Construction
I am the HSR at my workplace. I have read WorkSafe's Labelling Asbestos in Workplace which you had in last week's SafetyNet. I would like to know or where I can get a hold of these labels.
Hello – Remember it's not up to you to get the labels nor to ensure that labelling is properly carried out. This is the employer's responsibility, or the 'person' with management and control of the workplace.
However, before labelling, there must be a proper and thorough audit of the workplace to identify where the asbestos is (or could be). This then needs to be formalised on an asbestos register – which must be kept up to date. Does your workplace have a register? As the HSR, you should have been provided with a copy of this by the employer.
The labels can be procured from one of the several online safety materials suppliers – for example:
Note: the VTHC does not promote any particular suppliers - the above are a sample of companies which stock appropriate label.
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.
Warning on imported brakes
WorkSafe Victoria has been advised by representatives of a company called MaxiParts (an importer/supplier of brake shoes) that they have recently identified they have been importing asbestos containing brake shoes. The regulator has been advised that:
- brake shoes imported are from/manufactured in China
- the Chinese manufacturer is believed to be Worldwise Industries
- they believe the asbestos containing brake shoes have been imported since September 2013
- the brakes are for truck trailers (heavy haulage trailers)
- their brakes are being supplied under the name Maxus
- they advised that brake shoes have been imported via the eastern states but then distributed throughout Australia
The company has released information and is contacting all identifiable customers. WorkSafe has informed us that it is meeting with the company this week.
WorkSafe has further established that another supplier, Watts Friction Plus (based in South Australia), has also imported asbestos containing brakes. MaxiParts representatives advised that the Watts Friction Plus brake shoes are manufactured by the same Chinese manufacturer that manufactures MaxiParts brakes and are essentially the same brake shoe with a different marketing name. This is another example of asbestos coming into the country illegally and putting Australians at risk.
Alert: Asbestos in mineral kits
ASEA has issued a safety alert to advise of the reported presence of asbestos rock samples contained in some "mineral kits" purchased by schools. These kits have been sold throughout Australia and continue to be available for sale online. Some mineral kits have been found to contain asbestos under a variety of names, including serpentine, amosite, tremolite and chrysotile, occasionally referred to by the name of leucotile.
Read more: Alert and Fact sheet on Managing importation of asbestos into Australia
Lou Williams fights for listing of Keytruda on PBS
Originally from Gisborne, Victoria, Lou Williams who has spent 12 years battling mesothelioma, is urging the federal government to add a revolutionary, but costly, medication to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS). Despite her ill health, Lou Williams has spent many years fighting on behalf of others diagnosed with lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mrs Williams said that before starting a new medication, Keytruda, in April this year, she couldn't get out of bed.
In 1985, her father, who worked in the building industry, was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. He died six months later aged 54. In 2003 at the age of 47, Lou was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. In 2009, it became pleural mesothelioma. She has had large tumours removed, and she underwent many courses of chemotherapy before starting on Keytruda. The drug is listed on the PBS for melanoma, but not for mesothelioma or other cancers that have been shown to respond. Lou has an online petition which already has over 6,000 signatures – sign it now.
Read more: The Star Weekly
US: Students, Teachers, and Staff Remain at Risk of Asbestos Exposure
A new US Senate new report confirms students, teachers, and staff remain at risk of asbestos exposure. "Failing the Grade: Asbestos in America's Schools" report by US Sen. Edward Markey, (D-MA) spotlights serious failures by the US federal government and a vast majority of states to sufficiently protect students, teachers, and staff from the looming risks of asbestos present in many of the nation's schools. Each year, up to 15,000 Americans die from asbestos-related diseases and asbestos imports continue.
Read more and download a copy of the report: U.S. Senate Report Confirms Students, Teachers, and Staff Remain at Risk of Asbestos Exposure Business Wire
UK: Government rejects levy for mesothelioma research
The UK government has refused to back a call to make insurers pay for potentially life-saving research into a treatment for the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. The rebuff came during the 20 November second reading in the House of Lords of Lord Alton's Mesothelioma (Amendment) Bill. Lord Alton said: "As well as better understanding the causes of mesothelioma, we must do much more to find cures. Apart from preventing great suffering and illness, a breakthrough would remove the need for compensation schemes. It is surely therefore in everyone's interest to do that." He added that without a cure, the disease would claim a further 60,000 lives in Britain over the next three decades. But health minister Lord Prior of Brampton said the government was "not predisposed" to the idea of a levy. Under last year's Mesothelioma Act, insurance firms are required to fund a compensation scheme for victims. Lord Alton's Bill would amend the legislation to introduce a supplementary payment to fund medical research. The Bill received an unopposed second reading but has little chance of becoming law without government backing.
Source: Risks 730
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Employee jailed for bullying – what about the employer?
Late last month, a Gippsland man received a six months jail sentence, with a minimum of two months, for an "extended and systematic campaign of workplace bullying". The Woolworths employee, from Moe, pleaded guilty to the charge of stalking in relation to the bullying of two colleagues at the Moe between August 2010 and August 2013. This appears to be the first conviction under the Crimes Act (Bullying) since it was introduced following the tragic death of Brodie Panlock.
The 46-year-old man verbally abused his then-night shift manager and another employee. The Latrobe Magistrates' Court heard he often undermined his manager, refusing to perform simple tasks and spread rumours she was having an affair. He was openly hostile and aggressive towards her, making derogatory comments while she was in earshot. The Court heard his threats and bullying affected her so much that she got pregnant two years earlier than originally planned, just to get away from him. She no longer works at the store.
The Police prosecutor Senior Constable Jodi Thoroughgood said it was a period of extended and systematic abuse that made it a psychologically unsafe workplace. In sentencing, Magistrate Franz Holzer told the man he was lucky to have such a supportive employer, after making his victims' lives a living hell for three years. He said the company had not provided a safe workplace and he was surprised Woolworths had not been more proactive in resolving the situation sooner.
What is surprising to the VTHC is that despite the Magistrate's comments, no action appears to have been taken by WorkSafe in relation to the employer. It seems as though the company's response of: "We take the matter seriously and note the decision. Woolworths is constantly reviewing its processes and strives to continuously improve" is good enough for our regulator! Woolworths breached its duty of care under the OHS Act – but will not be prosecuted for this.
Read more: ABC News online Read more on Bullying
CFMEU angry at return of 'black lung'
After six decades of no reports, three cases of the incurable work-related disease black lung have been reported in Queensland, prompting the CFMEU to call for mandatory, regular chest x-rays for mine workers. The CFMEU has also called on the Queensland State Government to ensure "B readers" – physicians trained to identify the disease on radiographs – review all x-rays taken of coal mine workers.
The three cases of black lung, is also known as coal workers' pneumoconiosis and is caused by a build-up of coal dust in the lungs. The union says there are reports that Queensland mining companies had been giving workers an ultimatum to go back to work after many raised concerns about their health following news of the disease's re-emergence.
CFMEU mining and energy Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said, "This is a disease that takes hold gradually and we're extremely concerned that recent diagnoses are just the tip of the iceberg. Of great concern is that Australian health and regulatory frameworks are no longer equipped to deal with the disease."
Read more: CFMEU Mining Media Releases: Coalminers' lives at risk as deadly "Black Lung" disease re-emerges in Queensland for the first time in decades and Companies force workers into mines
Principals suffering increased levels of stress
A new survey has confirmed that high workloads and under-resourcing of schools are leading to higher stress levels for principals. The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey released by Teachers Health Fund found that "sheer quantity of work and lack of time to focus on teaching and learning are the biggest contributors to stress".
AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said stressful workloads were clearly linked to under-resourcing of schools and the demands placed on principals and staff. "We need to continue delivering the full six years of Gonski funding to ensure that schools are funded to a level that ensures principals can provide the educational leadership necessary to meet the needs of all their students," she says.
Fewer than 10 per cent of principals reported they felt supported by their employer. The research also confirms that principals are exposed to increasing levels of violent and bullying behaviour, and that this contributes to the stress of the job. Ms Haythorpe said that school systems needed to support principals exposed to violence, and ensure schools had the resources to deliver the educational programs and individual support that students with difficult behaviours needed to ensure their wellbeing and a safe working and learning environment for the entire school.
Read more: AEU Media release; Full Report [pdf] and Executive Summary [pdf]
Summer and skin cancer – media release from Cancer Council
A reminder that the Cancer Council Victoria runs a SunSmart program which 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 SunSmart, or visit the SunSmart website
More information on Sunlight - UV Radiation and Heat on the website
Fair Work Commission backs employer that sacked worker for being too fat
The Fair Work Commission has ruled an obese forklift driver was fairly dismissed because his weight created a workplace safety issue. The man worked as a cool room operator for dairy business Parmalat and weighed 165 kilograms when Parmalat called in an occupational therapist to assess him and other employees.
The occupational therapist found the man was of "medium to high risk" and raised concerns he may not be able to safely and competently perform his role as a result of his weight. The worker's weight exceeded the forklift's maximum weight safety ratings and by the time of a second assessment it had increased to 175 kilograms. The occupational therapist took into account a cardiologist's report which indicated the worker had "severe obstructive sleep apnoea that may pose a problem with operating mobile machinery". The occupational therapist advised he should only conduct "semi-sedentary-type work" which did not require any heavy manual handling or operating mobile machinery for full-time hours.
Parmalat stood him down in February 2014 for 10 months. He was partially paid for some of this time. The company dismissed him in May 2015 noting "Parmalat is not able to hold a position for you indefinitely" and "there is no positive prognosis for a return to normal duties in the forseeable future". The Fair Work Commission found "There was a valid reason to dismiss [him] on the basis of the [worker's] incapacity concerning the inherent requirements of his position."
Read more: The Canberra Times
International Union News
UK: Companies sentenced in HSE inspector's "most horrific case"
Two UK companies have been fined following the death of two workers at a woodchip factory. The two young workers, a 25-yr-old and a 27-yr-old, were both killed when carrying out maintenance work on a conveyor belt at the Sonae factory in Kirkby. The Liverpool Crown Court heard that on 7 December 2010 the two,one employed at the time by Metso Paper Ltd and the other a self-employed contractor for the same company, had been asked to replace part of conveyor belt at Sonae Industria (UK) Ltd's Merseyside plant. While carrying out the work the conveyor suddenly and unexpectedly started to operate, dragging both men into the machinery causing catastrophic fatal injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found multiple failings by both companies to properly assess the risks associated with the work being carrying out. Sonae Industria (UK) Ltd was fined £220,000 (A$456,000) with costs of £107,000 (A$353,000), after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Valmet Ltd, which took over Metso Paper in 2013 was fined £190,000 (A$394,000), with costs of £107,000 (A$222,000), after also pleading guilty to breaching Act.
Read more: HSE Press Release
UK: Two killed in Celsa steelworks explosion
Steelworkers from across the UK took part in a minute's silence at a union rally on 21 November to remember the two Celsa workers who died earlier in the week in an explosion at a Cardiff plant. Hundreds of steelworkers from Wales travelled to Sheffield for a rally for the Save our Steel campaign event organised by steel trade unions. A number of Celsa workers had been due to take part but they pulled out after the 18 November blast. In addition to the two fatalities, four other workers were hospitalised. The company is working with the HSE and police to determine the cause of the blast in the basement of the rod and bar mill at the site. A spokesperson for the steelworkers' union, Community, said the minute's silence was held during the rally in Sheffield. "Every steelworker in the UK will have been moved and affected by the shocking tragedy at Celsa," he said. "It's a reminder of the risks that they can face on a daily basis and the need for everybody in the industry, particularly employers, to prioritise safety." The Cardiff blast came a week after international steel giant Tata was £180,000 (A$373,000) plus almost £83,000 (A$172,000) in costs for criminal safety failings that led to an employee narrowly escaping death when he was showered in molten metal in a massive explosion at its Rotherham plant in March 2012.
Source: Risks 730
UK: Big workloads are 'grinding down' teachers
Teachers in the UK are suffering from high workloads, just like teachers in Australia. Four out of every five school staff say their workload is still unmanageable, one year on from the government's Workload Challenge, according to a survey from UK teaching union ATL. The union research found 81 per cent of teachers and 85 per cent of 'senior leaders' in state schools in England reported their workload was unmanageable. ATL said the situation is 'slightly better, but still unsustainable', for support staff with 54 per cent feeling their workload is unmanageable. Four in five (82 per cent) school staff reported they had considered leaving teaching as a result of their workload.
ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "A year on from the government's Workload Challenge and it seems little has improved for school staff. ATL's survey shows eight in ten teachers and senior leaders still think their workload is unmanageable, and many others say their workload is only manageable if they work late every evening and at weekends." Calling on the government to take effective action to reduce workload, she said: "Teachers, support staff and school managers expect they will have to work hard and a heavy workload and stress are nothing new. But the current situation is hugely damaging and unsustainable. The excessive workload is damaging teachers' health, making many want to leave the profession and means they are often exhausted in class."
Read more: ATL news release. Source: Risks 731
Bangladesh: Three years after 120 deaths, zero justice
Three years after the deadly Tazreen fire in Bangladesh, many prestige brands that sourced garments from the factory have yet to contribute to a compensation fund, the global union federation IndustriALL has said. On 24 November 2012, an estimated 120 garment workers burnt to death and 300 more were badly injured in the fire. Exits were locked, with many workers sustaining serious injuries as a result of jumping for their lives from the upper floors of the factory building. Walmart, Tazreen's biggest customer and the world's largest retailer, is still refusing to pay compensation to victims' families and the injured.
One year ago, IndustriALL, together with the Clean Clothes Campaign, C&A and the C&A Foundation, signed an agreement, brokered by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), to set up the Tazreen Claims Administration Trust to provide compensation to victims. The Trust will make payments to cover loss of income and medical treatment. Brands and retailers with revenues over US$1 billion are being asked to pay a minimum of US$100,000 into the Fund. But only C&A, Li & Fung -which sourced garments for Sean John's Enyce brand - and German discount retailer KiK have contributed so far. Other brands that sourced from Tazreen and have not paid are US brands Disney, Sears, Dickies and Delta Apparel; Edinburgh Woollen Mill (UK); Karl Rieker (Germany); Piazza Italia (Italy); and Teddy Smith (France). The day after the anniversary, Spanish department store, El Corte Ingles, will give US$100,000 to the fund, while the NGO, BRAC USA, has donated US$250,000.
Read more: IndustriALL news release.
US: Manslaughter charges against BP managers dropped
Last week manslaughter charges were dropped against two former BP well site managers involved in the deadly 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil drilling disaster, and one pleaded guilty to an environmental crime. Donald Vidrine pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act and "admitted to negligently causing the massive oil spill that resulted from the disaster," Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement.
Federal prosecutors, in a motion filed in the US Eastern District of Louisiana, dropped the charges of involuntary manslaughter that he and another rig supervisor had faced for their role in the oil drilling disaster that killed 11 people. The two men were the highest-ranking supervisors on board the Deepwater Horizon rig when disaster struck on April 20, 2010, resulting in millions of barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. They had faced 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, but those charges were dismissed on the grounds that their duties did not qualify for the maritime crime in a court ruling upheld earlier this year by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This is just another example of no-one really being made to pay and take responsibility for the death of workers.
Read more: Reuters
India: 31 years on, Bhopal gas case still tied in legal tangle
Just days before the 31st anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, the Madhya Pradesh high court issued a notice to the Union government, the MP state government and medical research organizations to respond to a plea by disaster survivors that they were guilty of contempt of court and perjury - lying to the court - about providing health benefits and preparing records. On the night of December 2-3, 1984, poisonous gases leaked out from the Union Carbide insecticide factory in Bhopal and slowly wafted over sleeping people. About 3,000 people died immediately, choking to death, thousands others suffered agony, livestock dropped dead and trees lost their leaves due to the gas. Subsequently, about 20,000 persons have died while over 5.5 lakh have suffered health damage and disabilities due to the effects of the gas. (note: one lakh = 100,000)
Read more: The Times of India
Pets in the office reduce stress
It has been reported that the sound of a dog barking has been enough to ease tensions in the high pressured environment of the office. At the Purina Petcare office in Sydney, employees who bring their pets to work say the animals help lower stress levels and any tension. Purina cites research from Virginia Commonwealth University published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management in 2012 which found employees felt less stressed throughout the day when a dog accompanied them to work.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
Chronic exposure to pesticides as bad as cigarette smoke for children
Chronic exposure to pesticides such as oganophosphates, can damage children's lung function by about as much as second-hand cigarette smoke does, according to a study of farmworker children in the Salinas Valley. The long-term study of 279 children from farmworker families is the first to suggest that even being one step removed from pesticides can bring harm to children's lungs. Previous studies examined effects on adults who spray the chemicals or work in fields where the pesticides are applied. "This is really the first time that it's a residential population, and a residential population of children," said study coauthor Brenda Eskenazi, an epidemiologist at UC Berkeley.
The children have been followed since birth as part of a broader study that began about 15 years ago with 601 pregnant women in the Salinas Valley, conducted by the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, CHAMACOS.
Read more: LA Times; The Washington Post;
Ranaan, R et al: Decreased lung function in 7-year-old children with early-life organophosphate exposure Thorax doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2014-206622
OHS Regulator News
Warning from WorkSafe on heat
With temperature starting to climb, WorkSafe Victoria is urging all employers to protect Victorian workers from the risks of extreme heat. While there are obvious safety risks for people working outdoors, people working indoors and in confined spaces are also at risk from indirect heat or fatigue during heatwave periods.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said employers should be vigilant in ensuring workers are able to cope up with the weather condition. With summer here and temperatures across the state beginning to climb, WorkSafe is reminding employers to be aware of the risks faced by their workers in times of extreme heat.
Read more: WorkSafe Media release. Also, get more information on what HSRs can do regarding heat.
The dangers of working in extreme heat must not be underestimated. On November 30, the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum issued a safety alert [pdf] after an underground worker on night shift collapsed while undertaking heavy physical work in hot and humid conditions. He died the following day.
The editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on December 3, Senior Construction Advisor, Tony Cockerell reminds builders they need to be thinking about public protection with the summer holidays fast approaching. The edition contains a number of other items and links to related news.
There were 112 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from 4 November – 27 November 2015, including two fatalities. The very high number of notifiable incidents reflects the shocking month overall in terms of both fatalities and serious injuries. There were also 40 lacerations, 30 near misses, six punctures, three electric shocks and two amputations. As always, there were several potentially fatal incidents, including a worker falling four metres and sustaining head injuries, and a number of very serious 'near misses', including ruptured gas lines, objects falling from great heights and landing near workers, and more.
Access the December 3 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia
As at December 1, 173 Australian workers had been killed while at work. This is unacceptable: every workplace death is preventable. The fatalities have been in the following industries:
- 48 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 48 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 23 in Construction;
- 13 in Mining;
- ten in Manufacturing;
- seven in Arts & Recreation services;
- six in Administrative & support services;
- six in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- four in 'other services'
- two each in Accommodation & food services; in Health care & social assistance; and in the Retail trade; and
- one each in Public administration & safety; Government administration & defence.
For updates, check Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
SWA has released the monthly fatality report for July 2015 – during which there were 16 work-related notifiable fatalities during June 2015 - 11 male workers, 1 female worker, 3 male bystanders and 1 female bystander. Of these fatalities, 3 workers died as a result of an incident on a public road and 1 worker died in an air crash. The report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Safe Work Australia makes 430 changes to hazardous substances lists
SWA has updated its Hazardous Substance Information System (HSIS) and the GHS Hazardous Chemical Information List (HCIL) to incorporate assessments made by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). The update includes about 300 new entries and 130 amendments to existing entries for both datasets.
More information: HSIS News
- From Safe Work Australia: Guidance for managing the risks of diesel exhaust
- a guide and information sheet on managing the risks of diesel exhaust exposure in the workplace. Short term exposure to high levels of diesel exhaust can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation or even suffocation. Long term exposure can worsen allergies, increase the risk of heart and lung disease and increase the risk of lung cancer. Workers most likely to be exposed to diesel exhaust include drive-in booth operators, miners, construction workers, oil and gas workers, forklift drivers, loading dock workers, truck drivers, farmworkers, stevedores, and vehicle maintenance workers. Read more on Diesel Fumes
- From WorkCover NSW, an alert Working with electrical conduits
Fine of $285k for explosion fatality
Melbourne company Cool Dynamics Refrigeration (CDR) was fined $285,000 in the County Court over the death of a young refrigeration mechanic as a result of his work van exploding outside his home in Mulgrave in 2011. The company pleaded guilty to three breaches of the 2004 OHS Act over the incident, which took place at around 6.30am on 12 December, as the man prepared to leave for work. The explosion was massive: it damaged neighbouring houses and sent parts of the van onto nearby roofs. The man, 25, died in hospital a few hours later.
CDR was charged with failing to maintain a safe system of work; failing to provide information, instruction, training and supervision; and failing to ensure that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety. It was convicted and fined $100,000, on the first charge: convicted and fined $55,000, and on the second charge, and convicted and fined $130,000 on the third charge.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the young man's tragic death should not have happened. "There are simple but specific measures that need to be taken when dangerous gases are being transported in small spaces such as work vans," Ms Williams said. "A young man is dead and a family is left heartbroken and grieving over another senseless workplace fatality."
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release Young tradie's death in explosion results in $285,000 fine
Worker's hand crushed and degloved: employer fined $40k without conviction
Abattoir operator Wodonga Rendering Pty Ltd, has been prosecuted and fined for a horrific incident in which a cleaner's hand was crushed and degloved. Slaughtered animals on hooks attached to a continuous chain enter a conveyor which has a series of metal trays that move through the small stock gutting area. It moves at the same speed as the chain so that a pair of trays is available for each animal's internal organs ("viscera") to be dropped into. In the sorting process the viscera would at times hang over the sides of the trays and fall into the conveyor or onto the ground under the conveyor. The conveyor guards could be removed and the conveyor operated without the guards in place. This meant that employees had access to the moving parts of the conveyor and were thereby exposed to the risks of entanglement and crushing. On 19 September 2012, in order to clean the interior of the conveyor, a cleaner removed the guards from the conveyor, injuring her right hand when she reached into the moving chain conveyor in order to remove a piece of animal tissue. On 26 November 2015, the company pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $40,000 plus costs of $5,000 for guarding failures and failing to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.
Entertainment centre prosecuted for another entanglement injury
Wyncity Enterprises Pty Ltd operator of an entertainment centre that includes 24 bowling lanes, was on November 30 prosecuted and fined for a number of breaches, including failing to notify WorkSafe of an incident, failing to preserve an incident, and guarding failures. Bowling equipment, "pinspotters", is located at the rear of each lane to collect and transfer pins to the pin wheel to be eventually placed back onto the lane. The rear guards on the 24 pinspotters could be removed without the use of a tool and were not interlocked. The guarding failed to prevent access to the danger areas (pin wheel feed, distributor and pin table) which created a risk of entanglement, entrapment and crushing. On 21 January 2014 an employee cleaning the back end of a pinspotter removed the rear guard to clean the pin wheel area support frames using a rag, when his left shirt sleeve got caught on part of the machinery. His arm was caught, causing serious lacerations requiring plastic surgery and 59 stitches. He was off work for 8 weeks. The incident was not reported to WorkSafe. In April 2014, the company subsequently installed interlocks on each of the pinspotters in response to WorkSafe intervention. The company pleaded guilty and was, without conviction fined $30,000 (s21) and $5,000 (ss38 & 39) plus costs of $6,785.
Charges related to Forklifts – both employer and worker prosecuted and fined
Total Beauty Network Pty Ltd distributes cosmetics throughout Australia and New Zealand. On 20 October 2014, two employees were tasked with retrieving lipstick from the top level of racking at the workplace (picking). The system of work for picking entailed an employee being lifted up in a cage on a forklift so that they could select some stock from higher shelves rather than retrieving the whole large box of stock from the shelf. Neither the cage nor the forklift complied with the relevant Australian Standards. The cage was not designed to carry employees for picking stock nor was the forklift designed to carry a cage. There was no traffic management plan in place to control the risk of powered plant colliding with pedestrians. There was a risk of serious injury or death to employees in relation to systems of work, traffic management and plant at the workplace.
While lowering the forklift, the cage snagged on a beam on the racking and tilted. The cage fell off the tines of the forklift and fell to the ground, causing serious injuries to the worker in the cage.
Although the forklift operator did not hold a high risk work licence as required to operate the forklift, the company allowed him to do this work. The forklift operator was also prosecuted for operating a forklift truck without a licence. Total Beauty Network Pty Ltd pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $65,000 plus costs of $2,232 in relation to the two offences under section 21(1)&(2)(a). The company was also convicted and fined $10,000 in relation to breaching regulation 3.6.2. The employee was convicted and fined $2,500 plus $500 costs.
Firm prosecuted and fined after panel collapsed on building site
Blu Apartments Constructions Pty Ltd a construction company engaged as the principal contractor for the construction of a five storey residential building in Edithvale that engaged sub-contractors for, amongst other things, the design, manufacture and installation of precast concrete panels. One of those panels, weighing approximately 3.8 tonnes, was installed on the east facing façade on level two of the workplace. The panel had been manufactured and erected without approval of the shop drawings, so that it was erected without necessary steel connection rebar tying the panel to the slab on level three. Also, the temporary braces on the panel had been removed for up to two days; there was no approval for the removal of the brace by a competent person appropriately qualified to provide such approval. Finally, there was no (or inadequate) inspection of the panel connection details to the slab on level three prior to the removal of the brace. On 18 September 2014, the panel collapsed from level two and landed on top of other temporarily braced precast panels located on level one of the building. Employees and other workers worked in the area below the panel and were exposed to a risk of serious injury or death, but miraculously no-one was injured in the collapse.
Blu Apartments Constructions failed to adequately co-ordinate the activities of its various contractors to ensure that critical inspections and reports were undertaken or produced in relation to the precast panel manufacture, supply and installation. The company was found guilty in its absence and was, with conviction, sentenced to pay $35,000 plus costs of $4,473.
There were several other prosecutions, including of a worker who caused serious injury to an apprentice while joking around, which can be accessed on WorkSafe's Prosecution result summaries page.
High fine and costs for labour-hire worker's death
Western Australia employer BTP Equipment Pty Ltd has been fined $195,000, plus $100,000 in costs, for failing to provide a safe work environment, after a labour-hire fitter was killed while performing maintenance on a haul truck. In December 2010, the fitter was working on the truck's suspension cylinder unit at Fortescue Metal Group's Cloudbreak iron ore mine in the Pilbara, when the end plug ejected under pressure from the strut and hit him.
The employer, which pleaded guilty to breaching the State Mines and Safety Inspection Act 1994, introduced a number of procedural changes following the incident, but "these changes were too late to prevent the tragic death of [the worker]", Department of Mines and Petroleum state mining engineer Andrew Chaplyn. "It is a tragic reminder of what can happen when safety isn't given the priority it deserves."
Another labour-hire worker fatality
Another WA employer has been fined $90,000, plus $70,000 in costs, for failing to ensure the safety of two labour-hire workers, after one of them was killed when he was struck by plant. In October 2010, the two boilermakers were fabricating a cylindrical rotary cooler at RCR Mining Pty Ltd's premises using an adjustable spider when the spider fell from the cylinder onto one of the workers.
The spider was supported from above by chains from a crane and the two workers used an elevated work platform (EWP) to access and tighten the "legs" of the spider to make the rotary cooler completely cylindrical. An RCR employee then took the EWP for another job, forcing the workers to rotate the cylinder to access the spider's legs, disconnecting the chains under the mistaken belief the spider was securely placed in the cylinder.
RCR failed to train the workers – who had never used a spider before – in the task and failed to ensure they complete a risk assessment. WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the employer had no procedure requiring the spider to be continually attached to a crane until it had been securely attached to the cylinder. "This case is a sad reminder of the crucial importance of ensuring that the workplace is a safe one and that workers are adequately trained, instructed and supervised, and that risk assessments are properly carried out for hazardous tasks."
Azerbaijan: One dead, 30 missing in oil rig explosion
Two workers have been confirmed dead and thirty others are still missing after a fire broke out on an offshore oil platform situated in the western Caspian Sea on Friday. Energy company, SOCAR said 32 people have been rescued, but more than thirty were still missing. Those missing are presumed to have died. Latest reports are that the fire was still burning out of control.
Read more: Wall Street Journal and Video The Independent
China: Beijing issues air pollution red alert for the first time
Yesterday Beijing issued its most severe smog warning -- the first time the municipal government has issued a so-called red pollution alert -- after acrid-smelling haze returned to the Chinese capital. Local authorities upgraded the air pollution alert to red from orange, effective from 7am December 8 to noon December 10, according to a statement on Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau's official website. Some industrial companies must stop or limit production, outdoor construction work will be banned and primary schools and kindergartens are advised to cancel classes, the statement said. Even healthy people should try to avoid outdoor activity and choose public transportation. The move was remarkable because Beijing's smog on Monday, while severe, was less intense than the pollution that struck the capital last week when the government kept the alert level at orange.
Read more: Bloomberg