SafetyNet 347, December 23, 2015
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet – this will be the last for this year. All of us at the VTHC OHS Unit wish all our subscribers a safe and happy festive season. For those who are working during the coming weeks – please remember that the heat creates increased risks in many workplaces, so do what you can to ensure your employer implements controls.
The next journal should come out in late January.
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
We are Union: OHS Matters Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living
November and December have a higher workplace death toll than the rest of the year, but November this year had the most workplace fatalities in over a decade (see SafetyNet 346). We want the families and friends of the workers who were killed to know our solidarity and condolences are with them. We are fighting for healthier and safer workplaces to prevent further deaths, injury and disease at work.
Sign now – go to this page
Extreme heat can kill
On Wednesday last week an apprentice on his third day on the job, collapsed from heat stress on a South Australian construction site. The 17 year old apprentice was hospitalised in a critical condition and in a coma. Although he regained consciousness on Saturday, he was reported as being very weak, and there were concerns regarding long-term health issues.
"It is utter negligence that his employer did not make a decision to stop work when the temperature had reached 41.5º C," SA branch secretary Aaron Cartledge said on Friday. "No job is worth a worker's health. It's a total abrogation of your responsibility as an employer if you subject people to work in these kinds of conditions," he said.
WorkSafe Victoria's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said in a media release some week ago, that employers had to be vigilant in ensuring workers are able to cope up with the weather condition. The regulator was reminding employers to be aware of the risks faced by their workers in times of extreme heat.
Read more: Heat on our website. CFMEU Vic Alert and Hot Weather policy: 35° C, That's Enough WorkSafe Victoria Warning on Heat
And don't forget skin cancer
Employers also need to provide outdoor workers, such as construction workers, gardeners, road workers, and so on, with appropriate work clothing (that provides protection from UV radiation) as well as sunglasses and sunscreen.
More information on Sunlight - UV Radiation on the website
I'm new to the OH&S rep role at work. We have an issue in that there is only one entrance/exit door to the main building I work in. Staff over the past several years have expressed safety concerns with regards to this – for example exiting in an emergency. I believe the current situation is not safe or acceptable. Can you please provide me with advice on how I formally check this? Is there a law regarding a minimum number of entrance/exit points to a workplace building?
I agree with you: having just one entrance/exit to a building is unsafe – are there no other fire escapes?
Under Section 21 of the Act the employer has the general duty of care to provide and maintain a safe workplace and systems of work (see: Duties of Employers). The Workplace Amenities and Work Environment compliance code, which the employer needs to implement in order to comply with Section 21, has a section on responding to emergencies 'Emergency planning' (pp29 – 30). Here there are also references to other WorkSafe documents. Go to Fire and Emergency Evacuation for more info and a link to the code.
In addition, the person with management and control of a workplace has a duty under S 26 of the Act (see Duties of Others) to ensure that workplace and the means of entering it or leaving it are safe and without risks to health (so far as reasonably practicable).
The Code also refers to the Australian Building Code, which has been given regulatory status by the jurisdictions, and which applies to buildings which are workplaces. D1 is on Provisions for Escape. This is a long and complex document, and what is required depends on the size of the building, how many storeys and so on. I am not an expert on the Code, but it has just recently been made available online. It is now called the National Construction Code - 2015. The Building Code of Australia and The BCA Guide can be accessed free from NCC online, so long as you register (which is free).
I think you have correctly identified that because there is only one exit, if there were to be any sort of emergency, and access to this exit were blocked, the risk to the staff would be unacceptable. Consequently, this is a valid issue for you to raise. You don't have to have the answers – you can highlight their duties under the Act and what's in the Code, but remember it's the employer's responsibility to identify, assess and control hazards and risks, in consultation with you as the HSR. Where necessary, the employer has a duty to engage those with expertise to provide advice. The employer also has a duty (under s73) to try to resolve any OHS issues you raise. And if you don't get anywhere, remember you have the right to take things further (see: Resolution of issues)
Please send any OHS related queries in to Ask Renata - Although Renata will be on leave until February 1, we have systems in place to ensure your query will be responded to. If it is urgent, then contact your union.
Female construction worker awarded $1.36m for harassment
Last week a female road construction worker subjected to assaults, s*xual harassment, bullying and r*pe threats at a Melbourne workplace has won a $1.3 million payout.
The Melbourne AWU member sued Winslow Constructors for abuse, bullying and s*xual harassment over the two years she worked there as a labourer. The Victorian Supreme Court heard that between August 2008 to July 2010 fellow workers threatened her with r*pe, touched her inappropriately and mocked her about s*x toys and s*xual acts. She said when she tried to report the abuse to her employers, nothing was done. Her lawyer, Liberty Sanger, said the woman tried very hard to bring the behaviour to her employer's attention, but her complaints were "laughed off". "There is a very strong message here for all employers which is that you must have a zero tolerance approach to bullying and s*xual harassment in the workplace," Ms Sanger said.
Australian Workers' Union (AWU) Victorian Secretary Ben Davis said, "The shocking s*xual harassment suffered by [our member] is a disgrace, and those who perpetrated it, and those who stood by and watched it happen should hang their heads in shame. The AWU will pursue those who harass, those who bully and those who believe they have a right to take away someone else's enjoyment of work and life in general." Mr Davis said the AWU's Zero Tolerance for Bullying policy had permeated the majority of workplaces, and that there could be no exceptions.
Read more: ABC News online; AWU Media Release
Warning to Sydney-siders
Last week a huge storm hit Sydney, and homes and buildings in some suburbs, in particular Kurnell, were severely damaged. WorkCover NSW and the NSW government have issued warnings to residents and others cleaning up as many properties will have been built with asbestos.
Read more: Clean-up care urged after Sydney storm SBS News and Property hazards post storms/floods WorkCover NSW
Vietnam: EU supports Asbestos Phase-Out
Since 2014, EU personnel have been working with officials and stakeholders to facilitate the transition in Vietnam to an asbestos-free technology. Outcomes of this collaboration were a report and a policy paper on the hazards of chrysotile asbestos; and a national asbestos action plan which has set a 2020 deadline for a total ban. Although research into developing asbestos-free alternatives has been ongoing since 2001 in Vietnam, strong resistance from an industry lobby has prevented a ban from being implemented. As part of the EU-Vietnam project, plans are progressing for three pilot operations for the production of asbestos substitutes.
Read more: EU helps Vietnam phase out asbestos Source: IBAS
US: Asbestos Epidemic as 3rd Wave Hits
A devastating investigative feature and a heart-wrenching video have recently been released by the Center for Public Integrity. Between them, they tell the tragic story of one Florida family whose lives have been irrevocably changed by asbestos. Thirty-nine year old Kris Penny is dying from a cancer only contracted after exposure to asbestos. He believes, as does his lawyer, that the fatal exposure he experienced took place while installing fiber-optic cable underground. He had no idea that asbestos was in the underground pipes that housed the cable.
Read more: Upended by America's "third wave" of asbestos disease. Source: IBAS
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
RSRT orders employers to pay safe rates
The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has issued a remuneration order affecting supermarket chains and other employers, noting it had not received any evidence disputing the link between low driver pay and poor safety outcomes. The Transport Workers Union welcomed the ruling which sets minimum rates that secure payment for time spent waiting and queuing at depots and distribution centres. The union said that drivers must now be paid for loading and unloading time and for the time it takes to clean, inspect, service and repair their trucks and trailers. It also means "wealthy retailers and manufacturers which use transport operators must be held account for pressures on drivers." The timing is also important given it comes at Christmas, a time truck drivers are under even more pressure and deaths in truck-related crashes increase. In the past 5 weeks 21 people have died in crashes involving trucks, including three people in one Queensland crash, a 15-year-old boy in Victoria and five people in NSW. TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said, "We now have a binding, legally enforceable decision which makes those at the top of the supply chain accountable for the practices throughout."
Read more: TWU Media Release
Aggressions against SA paramedics triple in four years
The number of assaults against ambulance officers have risen due to paramedics deciding to report attacks which had become "commonplace" in South Australia, the state's Ambulance Employees Association says. According to SA Health figures, assaults against ambulance workers have tripled in the past four years with 164 incidents reported last year.
Union general secretary Phil Palmer said paramedics were reporting more assaults, partly because they had become more concerned about their own safety. The State Government and the Ambulance Service have been running a campaign, 'Keep Your Hands off our Ambos', to discourage assault and verbal abuse of paramedics. Mr Palmer said until recently the courts had let offenders off lightly. However, a man was recently sentenced to jail for assaulting an ambulance officer.
"Assaults had become so commonplace that sometimes ambos just weren't reporting it," he said. "They just thought nothing was going to happen, it was part of the job, so I suspect that the higher numbers are in part at least because people are now reporting what before they didn't. "The penalty is available but getting the penalty applied is what we are concerned about," said Mr Palmer. "The law needs to be changed – there should be an automatic conviction if you plead guilty."
Read more: ABC News online SA Government campaign
International Union News
UK: Improving well-being at work – the union way
Unions need to know how to respond effectively to health and 'well-being' issues in the workplace, the UK's TUC has said. New TUC guidance, 'Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps', sets out the importance of healthy workplaces and provides advice on how to handle specific issues such as smoking, obesity and stress. Poorly designed and stressful jobs affect the health of hundreds of thousands of workers each year. The union body adds that many other problems such as obesity, diabetes, and increased alcohol and tobacco use can be linked to an unhealthy working environment. The new TUC guide emphasises that the key to securing healthy work is the prevention of injuries and illnesses, and changing the workplace through encouraging better working relationships, greater respect for workers, and improved involvement of unions.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Too many workers are still becoming ill through work and simply introducing 'well-being programmes' is not a substitute for stopping workers becoming ill, by addressing issues such as long hours, stress, unsafe conditions and a lack of respect at work. All these must be seen as part of the well-being agenda." She added: "Employers have much to gain by improving conditions at work, as healthy, happy and motivated staff have a positive impact on productivity."
Read more: TUC news release; "Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps" [pdf]. It can also be downloaded from the News release, TUC, December 2015. More Workers' health resources. Source: Risks 732.
Bangladesh: Garment workers speak out
New interviews with Bangladeshi garment workers have shown that a climate of fear and intimidation prevails in the country's industry, two and a half years after the Rana Plaza building collapse and the launch of the first industrial reform programs to address the pervasive fire and structural hazards in Bangladeshi garment factories.
A 100-page report, Our Voices, Our Safety: Bangladeshi Garment Workers Speak Out, published by the International Labor Rights Forum and based on in-depth interviews with more than 70 workers, shows that workers will not be safe without a voice at work. "Fire, electrical, and structural safety in garment factories is essential and will save lives," said Bjorn Claeson, the author of the report. "But these renovations and repairs must be the foundation for additional reforms that address the intimidation and violence that keep workers silent, afraid to voice concerns and put forward solutions to ensure their own safety. A next phase of reforms must instill the lessons that respect for workers is as important to safety as are fire exits, that workers' perspectives on safety are as important as the findings of building engineers. Without it workers' lives and health will continue to be in jeopardy."
Read more: International Labor Rights Forum Media Release; Bangladeshi Workers Report Abusive Conditions and Violence Against Those Seeking Change. Report; 'Our Voices, Our Safety: Bangladeshi Garment Workers Speak Out' [pdf]
Qatar: Workers paying with their lives
A new report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) estimates that US$15 billion profit will be made by companies working in Qatar on infrastructure for the controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup using up to 1.8 million migrant workers who are modern day slaves. Based on Qatar's own government statistics, the ITUC estimates 7,000 workers will die before a ball is kicked in the 2022 World Cup.
The report, released on International Migrants Day, is critical of Qatar for failing to deliver changes to labour rights or compliance, and warns construction companies, hotels, retail chains and UK and US Universities the cost of doing business in a slave state.
"Every CEO operating in Qatar is aware that their profits are driven by appallingly low wage levels – wages that are often based on a system of racial discrimination – and that these profits risk safety, resulting in indefensible workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths," said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.
"Qatar still refuses to make public the actual death toll of migrant workers or the real causes of death. The vast majority of the workers are working to deliver the huge World Cup infrastructure programme by the 2022 deadline. By analysing Qatar's own statistics and health reports over the past three years, previous reports of 4,000 workers dying by 2022 are a woeful underestimate. The real fatality rate is over 1,000 per year, meaning that 7,000 workers will die by 2022. Qatar hospital emergency departments are receiving 2,800 patients per day – 20 per cent more from 2013 to 2014," said Sharan Burrow.
The ITUC has called on the Qatar authorities to take a number of immediate steps, and is also demanding that FIFA, which has failed to exert any real pressure on Qatar, put workers' rights at the centre of 2022 World Cup preparations
Read more: ITUC news release; Report "Qatar: Profit and Loss. Counting the cost of modern day slavery in Qatar: What price freedom?" and Watch the ITUC multi-media investigation: Qatar Exposed
Early lead exposure linked to sleep problems
Lead exposure in early childhood is associated with increased risk for sleep problems and excessive daytime sleepiness in later childhood, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, US. The findings, which will be published in the December but are already available online, are based on data from a longitudinal study of more than 1400 Chinese children that began in 2004 to examine the influence of lead exposure on neurocognitive, behavioural and health outcomes in children and adolescents. 'Little is known about the impact of heavy metals exposure on children's sleep, but the study's findings highlight that environmental toxins – such as lead – are important paediatric risk factors for sleep disturbance,' said principal investigator Jianghong Liu. 'Lead exposure is preventable and treatable, but if left unchecked can result in irreversible neurological damage.' Past research has linked lead poisoning in children has been to violent crime and brain damage. This study is the first longitudinal, population-based study to investigate the connection between lead exposure and sleep.
Source: Chemistry World Read more on Lead on the website
Fatality prosecution against Baiada Poultry stands
In a win for WorkSafe Victoria, a Court of Appeal majority has upheld a fatality-related OHS charge against Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd, after finding the High Court's Kirk decision doesn't require charge-sheets to specify "detailed" preventative actions.
In August 2010, an employee of Baiada contractor Ecowize Specialised Hygiene Services Pty Ltd was decapitated while cleaning a chicken processing chain line at Baiada's Laverton North, Victoria factory. WorkSafe Victoria filed four charges against Baiada, with the fourth charge stating it breached s26(1) of the OHS Act in failing to ensure there was an "adequate system" in place to prevent workers cleaning the chain line while it was operating, or prevent them coming into contact with the chain line's sprockets, shackles and wash boxes.
A magistrate found all four charges were invalid in failing to specify the essential factual elements of the offence, but a trial judge found the fourth charge was valid and effective. Baiada appealed, on the basis that charge four should be struck out because it failed to identify the measures it should have taken to ensure it had an "adequate system". It said there were a number of matters it needed to know from the charge-sheet before it could confront the charge, such as whether WorkSafe believed the machine needed to be locked down before cleaning or guarding should have been placed in specific areas. It also claimed that without being informed of the steps that it allegedly should have taken to prevent the cleaner's death, it was impossible to determine whether each step was reasonably practicable. The appeal was based on a NSW case, referred to as "Kirk", where an appeal was allowed on these grounds.
Without going into detail, two of the three Justices did not allow the appeal, stating that while a charge under s26 of the Victorian OHS Act must identify the act or omission that constitutes a contravention, the reasoning in Kirk "does not support the proposition that this requires specification of the detailed actions which it was reasonably practicable for the defendant to take".
WorkSafe issues warning to secure construction sites
Victoria's regulator has reminded Victorian builders to ensure their construction sites are safe and secure during the Christmas break to prevent unauthorised access and potential injury to the public. Poorly secured construction sites can pose risks to members of the public, particularly inquisitive children looking for adventure over the school holidays. Risks can include falls from partially built structures and scaffolding, live electrical power, open excavations or building waste and rubble.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said simple site clean-ups and security measures would go a long way in ensuring public safety over the summer break. "Builders with sites in close proximity to homes, parks or recreational areas need to be vigilant about site safety and security during this time and manage risks appropriately," she said. "It could be as simple as planning a time to ensure a thorough clean-up of the site is completed and ensuring appropriate fencing is in place," she said.
Read more: Builders urged to secure construction sites
In the editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on December 17, Dermot Moody Manager of the Construction Program, shares an end of year message with Safety Soapbox readers. After wishing everyone a 'safe, happy and restful' holiday period, he adds: "Unfortunately, there are a number of families who have lost a loved one at work this year and our thoughts go out to them at this time."
There were 71 incidents in the period 27 November – 11 December 2015, and include: 25 near misses, 17 lacerations, seven fractures, six punctures, four electric shocks, three burns and one each of amputation, eye injury crush and bruise. There were also a number of falls, including one incident in which a worker broke three vertebrae in his back, and several of the 'near misses' could have resulted in extremely serious outcomes.
Access the December 17 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia News
As at December 16, 183 Australian workers had been killed while at work – ten more than the last reported on December 1. This is unacceptable: every workplace death is preventable. The fatalities have been in the following industries:
- 52 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 51 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 24 in Construction;
- 13 in Mining;
- 10 in Manufacturing;
- seven in Arts & Recreation services;
- six in Administrative & support services; and also in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- four in 'other services'
- three in Accommodation & food services
- two each in Health care & social assistance; in Public administration & safety; and in the Retail trade; and
- one in Government administration & defence.
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 released was for July 2015 as reported in the last journal. The report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
SWA seeking views on Lead regulation
Safe Work Australia is inviting people to have a say on proposed changes to work health and safety requirements for inorganic lead. It says that current scientific evidence suggests that current legislated blood lead levels and workplace exposure standards do not adequately protect worker health. Safe Work Australia is seeking feedback on proposed amendments to blood lead levels and airborne lead concentrations.
Exposure standards are specified in the model Work Health and Safety Regulations as mandatory legal limits to protect the health of workers and minimise exposure to chemicals in the workplace. They are then automatically picked up in state/territory legislation, including Victoria's OHS Regulations.
Workers and businesses involved with or undertaking lead risk work, regulators, occupational hygienists, work health and safety professionals and other interested stakeholders, are invited to comment on options put forward in the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement.
Safe Work Australia 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
SWA releases Work-related mental disorders profile
Safe Work Australia has released the Work-related mental disorders profile 2015 which provides a concise and factual statistical profile of mental disorders as compensated by Australian workers' compensation schemes.
The publication shows statistics of Australians awarded a mental disorder claim every year to allow estimation of societal and system impacts. It also highlights claim rates and proportions to enable estimation of relative risks among groups of workers.
Work-related mental disorders on average cost the country $480 million total claims payments. Approximately 7,820 Australians are compensated for work-related mental conditions, with 64 per cent of mental disorder claim arising from 4 out of 19 industry divisions (21 per cent healthcare and social assistance; 21 per cent public administration and safety; 14 per cent education and training and; 8 per cent transport, postal and warehousing).
Read more, and download the publication on this page of the SWA website
Queensland to begin Farm Workers Inquiry
The Queensland state government is set to launch an inquiry regarding the shoddy work practices. Curtis Pitt, Treasurer and Minister for Industrial Relations said that the inquest will look into the dodgy practices of labour hire companies, allegations of sham contracting arrangements and visa abuse and report back next year. Pitt said that earlier this year an investigation showed cucumber pickers in Bundaberg were paid as little as $12 an hour, and this sparked further claims of labour hire reports in the territory and "an inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of these claims."
Read more: ABC Rural news Source: Safety Culture OHS News
Employee's hand seriously injured in juicing machine
Organic Spring Pty Ltd, operator of a shopfront grocery store and juice bar in Spring Street, Melbourne, was on December 3 sentenced to an adjourned undertaking for a period of two years, ordered to pay $5000 to the Port Phillip Special School, plus costs of $2,500 over an incident in September 2015. While cleaning an unguarded commercial juicer, an employee's left hand was pulled into the rotating blades. She sustained serious injuries to her left index and middle fingers. The defendant pleaded guilty but was not convicted.
Two workers fall and suffer serious injuries: Company convicted and fined just $12,000
Aeromarl Pty Ltd, a sign installation company with a factory at Hallam, has been convicted and fined over a January 2015, in which two employees who were changing existing signage at another site fell through an awning. There was a risk of serious injury or death associated with the task which was complicated by the awning and power lines. The employer failed to provide any information, instruction or training on a safe manner in which to work when in close proximity to power lines. One of the workers suffered a several spinal fractures, a bulging disc and haematoma to his head. The other worker suffered a collapsed lung, spinal, hip, shoulder and rib fractures. Aeromarl pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of (only) $12,000 plus costs of $3,695.
Logistics firm fails to document dangerous goods in transport
Bluestar Global Logistics (Aust) Pty Ltd, a logistics company involved in interstate transport, has been fined $30,000 (plus costs of $2,919) but not convicted over an incident in February 2015 involving one of its prime-movers. The prime-mover collided with a truck on the Hume Highway near Broadford, causing its trailer to jack-knife. Liquid then poared out of the B Double trailer and onto the road way. When Victoria Police and the Country Fire Authority attended to clean up the spill, they found no documentation or placards indicating the contents of the drums. There was also no transport documentation, no emergency plan nor safety equipment in the prime-mover – so it was impossible to know the nature of the chemicals involved. Bluestar had failed to: i. Placard a load of dangerous goods; ii. Segregate dangerous goods from incompatible goods, food; iii. Provide transport documentation for the transport of dangerous goods; iv. Provide an emergency plan for the dangerous goods; and v. Provide safety equipment, including a fire extinguisher, when transporting dangerous goods. The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations.
Another worker entangled in food machine; then another!
Melbourne Chef, Pty Ltd, trading as Ellies & Sons Catering, a food processing and packaging company in Kensington, has been fined $30,000 plus costs of $3,895, without conviction in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court. In September 2013, an employee was operating a multi-function vegetable cutter when his hand became entangled with the blades of the slicer function, severing a finger. Following WorkSafe intervention the company undertook to remove the vegetable cutter from service – however, at some time between September 2013 and September 2014 the vegetable cutter was returned to service, reintroducing a known risk of entanglement. Sure enough on 15 September 2014 another employee operating the machine had his right hand dragged into its blades and suffered partial severing to three fingers. Ellies & Sons Catering pleaded guilty to two charges: in relation to failing to adequately guard the slicer and shredder functions of the vegetable cutter, and in relation to failing to ensure that the operator's controls indicated their nature and function.
3.8 tonne panel collapse: luckily no one injured
Monty Group Pty Ltd is a sub-contractor for the manufacture and installation of precast concrete panels as part of the construction of a five storey apartment complex in Edithvale. On 18 September 2014, a panel on the east facing façade on level two of the workplace, weighing approximately 3.8 tonnes, was installed. It collapsed from level two and landed on top of other temporarily braced precast panels located on level one of the building – it was amazing that no one was injured. Investigations revealed the panel had been manufactured and erected without approval of the shop drawings, and so was erected without necessary steel connection rebar tying the panel to the slab on level three. Further, the temporary braces on the panel had been removed, without approval from a competent and qualified person, for up to two days. 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. The position of the panel was such that employees and other workers worked in the area below the panel and were exposed to a risk of serious injury or death. Monty Group and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay an aggregate fine of $20,000 plus costs of $3,895.
Worker's legs crushed by steel - $40k fine
Orrcon Distribution Pty Ltd, is a distributor and manufacturer of steel, tube and pipe with a Keysborough warehouse, and directly employs staff at the workplace in addition to labour hire personnel supplied by various labour hire companies. Labour hire employees were not provided with on-site induction including instruction with regards to relevant safe operating procedures at the workplace, whereas full time employees were. Direct employees were not provided with annual refresher training and information on the operation of bridge cranes and associated tasks at the workplace. There was also inadequate supervision of all workers in relation to following safe operating procedures. On 28 August 2014, a labour hire employee was operating a bridge crane to move a pack of steel. He lowered the load onto the pack and caught the sling on the corner of the pack, causing the pack to lift and dislodge. The pack then fell forwards onto another worker's legs, trapping him against other packs he had been standing on. Orrcon pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $40,000 plus costs of $3,895.
Source: WorkSafe's Prosecution result summaries page.
Brazil: mine disaster releases dangerous metals
The environmental disaster following the collapse of a dam at a Brazilian mine on 5 November has caused unprecedented damage in that country and will have irreversible negative effects on human health and the environment, according to experts. The incident buried the small town of Bento Rodrigues, a subdistrict of Mariana, under mud. At least 11 people have died and more than 600 were displaced.
In addition, the water supply of more than 250,000 people in the area was interrupted due to its concentrations of heavy metals. Tons of mud formed by iron ore waste and silica, originally estimated to be about 25,000 olympic swimming pools in volume, have spread over 800 km and reached one of the largest Brazilian rivers, the Rio Doce. The contaminated mud, in which the Minas Gerais Institute of Water Managing has found toxic substances like mercury, arsenic, chromium and manganese at levels exceeding human consumption limits, has reached the coast of the state of Espírito Santo. It could potentially impact the wider marine ecosystem. The risks go beyond the particular chemical elements found in this mud. Many are blaming the disaster on Samarco, which is the Brazilian mining company in charge of the dams. The company is a joint venture between the mining giants Vale of Brazil and Australia's BHP Billiton.
Read more: Chemistry World; The Guardian Mud from Brazil dam disaster is toxic, UN says, despite mine operator denials
USA: Tobacco farms are no place for teens
The US government and tobacco companies are failing to protect teenage children from hazardous work in tobacco farming, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. A new 72-page report from the group, Teens of the tobacco fields: Child labor in United States tobacco farming documents the harm caused to 16- and 17-year-olds who work long hours as hired labourers on US tobacco farms, exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, and extreme heat. Nearly all of the teenagers interviewed suffered symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning – nausea, vomiting, headaches, or dizziness – while working on tobacco farms.
"Teenage children too young to legally buy a pack of cigarettes are getting exposed to nicotine while they work on US tobacco farms," said Margaret Wurth, children's rights researcher at HRW and co-author of the report. "The US government and tobacco companies should protect everyone under 18 from hazardous work in tobacco farming." Some US-based tobacco companies and growers groups took action in 2014 to ban employing children under 16 to work in tobacco farming, but excluded older teens from their policies. The US Department of Labor has acknowledged the risks to children who work in tobacco farming, but has failed to change US regulations to end hazardous child labour in the crop.
Read more: HRW news release; video and report, Teens of the tobacco fields: Child labor in United States tobacco farming.
China: Beijing issues second air pollution 'red alert'
The Chinese capital issued the second "red alert" for air pollution in a fortnight last Friday morning, ahead of a prolonged spell of smog predicted to smother Beijing and elsewhere in northern China over the weekend. The crisis measures were expected to start Saturday and last for four days.
The measures taken December 8 included the shutdown of more than 3,200 schools, taking about half the city's five million cars off the road each day and the temporary closure of factories and construction sites in the municipal area. Similar measures were to be taken this time. However, these did little to curb the smog the first time. Toxic air cloaked Beijing until strong winds blew the pollutants south. The main source of pollution comes from coal-burning factories in surrounding provinces, not from activity in the city itself, and cities in those provinces did not take the same drastic emergency measures that Beijing did. Many parts of northern China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shanxi, regularly have air quality that is worse than that of Beijing.
Read more: The New York Times ABC News online
At Trades Hall
(Corner Victoria and Lygon St, Carlton South)
VTHC OHS Training Centre
Start thinking about your training for next year, and remember that elected health and safety representatives and also deputies have the right to attend the training course of their choice – both the initial 5 day course and a 'refresher course' each year after that. Below are the dates for the first few courses in 2016. For more details, and to download an application form, go to the Training program page (Internal link) or contact Lisa Mott on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries.
Initial Five Day:
|February 1 - 5||Ringwood|
|February 1 - 5||Carlton|
|February 15 - 19||Geelong|
|February 29 - March 4||Carlton|
|February 29 - March 4||Frankston|
One Day Refresher (General)
The unit also runs Comcare courses and courses for managers/supervisors – check the site for dates.
Injured Workers Group
The Injured Workers Group Inc of Victoria is a non-profit organisation run and organized by injured workers, It was formed to provide clear and concise information on injured workers' rights under the Victorian Workers Compensation Act, to form networks between union and non-union injured workers, and to help injured workers establish links within their local community health system and other organisations that can offer support. All injured workers are welcome to attend its meetings, which are run at the Trades Hall at 11.30am every 3rd Thursday of each month. For more information, contact Peter on 03 9460 7592, visit their website.
ACTU Health and Safety Training
The ACTU provides a number of courses in OHS and related areas. These courses include:
* Certificate IV in OHS Course, six days face to face (offered in two parts of 3 consecutive days each).
* Certificate IV in WHS (BSB41412) Upgrade (a one day face to face course). Attendance at this course will ensure graduates of the current Certificate IV in OHS will be compliant with the recent updated Certificate. This is also a prerequisite to the Diploma Course in WHS (BSB51312).
* Organising for Safer Workplaces (two days) and
* Workplace Bullying and Harassment (one day).
* OHS for Union Delegates – choice between a One or Two day course
For information on these and other courses, download the ACTU's course guide and go to the Upcoming courses page on the ACTU website or contact Anna Pupillo or Chris Hughes for more details (ph ACTU: 9664 7334).