SafetyNet275, 6 February, 2014
We welcome all our subscribers to Edition 275 of SafetyNet– coming to you as usual from OHSReps@Work website. Everyone should be back at work now, so settle in and read about what's been going on in the world of occupational health and safety.
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Cancer overtakes heart disease as Australia's biggest killer
A new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that cancer has surpassed heart disease as the biggest killer in Australia. The WHO's World Cancer Report found 8.2 million people died from cancer globally in 2012, including 40,000 Australians.The report was last released six years ago and this is the first major international update on the disease since then. While ageing populations and increased screening may explain some of the deaths, the fact is that many of these deaths are preventable. The WHO says the 'global battle against cancer won't be won with treatment alone - Effective prevention measures urgently needed to prevent cancer crisis.' Lifestyle changes – such as reduction in tobacco and alcohol use – are often focussed on, but as well as these there is the need to limit workplace exposures to occupational and environmental carcinogenic risks.Cancer control measures in high-income countries have demonstrated prevention works but that health promotion alone is insufficient.
"Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behaviour, as well as having its recognized role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants," Dr Bernard W. Stewart, co-editor of World Cancer Report 2014. "In low- and middle-income countries, it is critical that governments commit to enforcing regulatory measures to protect their populations and implement cancer prevention plans."
Read more:IARC Press release ABC News Cancer - What causes it?
Victorian HSR of the year finalist for SWA award
Jedda McGlinchey, last year's Victorian HSR of the year, ambulance officer and rep for the Sunshine Branch, and staunch Ambulance Employees Union member, is now in the running for the SWA HSR award. We wish Jedda the best of luck (and of course she deserves to win!)
Read more: SWA awards page, and Jedda's page
I attend the local 'Leisure Centre' (where I swim) and I have noticed it has large cylindrical heating/ventilationpipes or ducts which run along the ceiling of the inside pool deck. From the deck you can see large holes which expose some type of white coloured insulation material. The council says it is not asbestos. How can I check this?
Under the OHS Regulations, every workplace must have an asbestos
register, done by a competent person and kept up to date, that is,
reviewed and amended whenever there are any changes and also reviewed
every five years. I suggest you ask to see a copy. While the
regulations do not require the employer/person with management and
control of a workplace to show it to anyone other than employees, HSRs
and contractors coming in, I would be surprised if the council refused.
If for some reason they do not want to show you a copy, then I would
suggest either going 'higher' or contacting your elected councillor. The
council could be reminded of their 'duties to other persons' under
Section 23 of the Act.
If the facility was built after the late 80's it is unlikely to contain asbestos – however if it was built before that time, then there is a possibility that insulation material may contain asbestos.
Go to the asbestos chapter of the regulations section on the site for more information.
Please send any OHS related queries in to 'Ask Renata' - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can, within a couple of days at the latest.
Are facilities aware of their duties under S23 of the Act?
Perhaps WorkSafe needs to launch a campaign to reminding employers of their duties to 'other persons' under Section 23 the OHS Act (see above). A report in The Age this week on the near-drowning of two Indian students at a council-run aquatic centre in Greensborough revealed that less than a quarter of Victoria's public pools are independently tested against industry standards – which are not compulsory in any case. Further, there has been an increase in near drownings at public pools (Ambulance Victoria reports 22 in 2012-13, up from 17 in 2011-12 and 12 in 2010-11).
Unlike Western Australia, where pools must undergo an independent assessment every three years, there are no such laws in Victoria. A spokesperson for the Municipal Association of Victoria said councils were advised to conduct annual reviews to ensure they met the Royal Life Saving Society Australia's guidelines. However, the other potential regulator is WorkSafe Victoria – which could check compliance with duties under Section 23. In the case of fatalities or serious injuries, then there would be the possibility of a WorkSafe investigation.
Read more: Duties of Employers The Age: Pool incident sparks safety investigation
Australian Asbestos activist honoured on Australia Day
Ms Vicki Hamilton, a long-time activist and asbestos diseases support worker, was last week named in the Australia Honours list. Vicki was awarded an Order of Australia 'for service to the community through support for people with asbestos-related diseases'. She is currently the CEO of Gippsland based organisation ACV/GARDS. Vicki is well-known to all of us at the VTHC, and we send her our heart-felt congratulations: well deserved!
NSW: Asbestos mine still hurting community
A Grafton-based general practitioner has told the ABC that the impact of an asbestos mine at Baryulgil, in the north of NSW that closed in the 1970s is still being felt, despite just a handful of workers being alive today. He said that new cases of asbestos-related illnesses continue to be diagnosed in the remote north coast community where dozens of Aboriginal people worked at the James Hardie operation.
Dr Ray Jones told the ABC local children were also exposed to large amounts of asbestos and he expects the number of asbestos-related illnesses across Australia to continue to increase for the next 10 years.
Source: National Indigenous Radio Service. Burying Baryulgil: an ABC Awaye! program on the town's asbestos mine.
Mesothelioma survival more than doubles with radiation before surgery
Results of clinical research that treated mesothelioma with radiation before surgery show the three-year survival rate more than doubled for study participants afflicted with this deadly disease, compared to treating with surgery first. The findings, published online in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, chart a viable route to treat patients more effectively and also improve their quality of life and potential survival, according to principal investigator and lead author Dr. John Cho, radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network (UHN). 'The patients in our study experienced shorter treatment, fewer complications and speedier recovery,' said Dr. Cho. 'The three-year survival rate more than doubled to 72 per cent from 32 per cent.'
Read more: Medical News Today Media Release
Singapore: tougher Asbestos regulations introduced
Government bodies in Singapore have announced enhanced regulations for work involving asbestos. As in Australia, many older buildings in Singapore, especially those built before 1990, may have asbestos-containing materials, such as corrugated roofs, ceiling boards and partition walls.
Singapore's new WSH (Asbestos) Regulations will replace the existing Factories (Asbestos) Regulations and take effect from May 1. Under the new regulations, an expert must be appointed to ascertain if asbestos-containing materials are present before starting demolition or renovation works on buildings built before 1 January 1991. If asbestos is present, it must be removed before demolition can commence. The removal can only be carried out by an approved asbestos removal contractor, under proper supervision.
Read more: ChannelnewsAsia
Bullied prison officer awarded $313k in damages
The Victorian Department of Justice has been ordered to pay a former corrections officer $313,575 in damages after her manager repeatedly bullied her over several years. The worker, a senior corrections officer in Warrnambool, claimed her manager had bullied her over two periods, from September 2002 until November 2003 and again when she resumed work from September 2005 until October 2005. The bullying included being subjected to humiliating and demeaning treatment; being over-managed and criticised; being placed on an 'under-performance' plan without her knowledge and more. She claimed the Department breached and/or was negligent in its duty to take reasonable care for her safety (breaching s21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 for failing to provide a safe workplace). This included failing to: provide adequate supervision, assistance, support and counselling; take her complaints seriously, or carry out an investigation or risk assessment; note the manager's past bullying behaviour towards other staff; and recognise risks to her mental welfare.
The Department denied it was negligent or breached its duty to the worker, instead arguing she was a "difficult employee who resisted reasonable management actions". It cast doubt on the source of the officer's stress, claiming it arose from the workplace but not from bullying having denied the bullying episodes.
Read more: Dawson v Department of Justice  VCC 2000,19/12/2013. More information on Bullying
Bullying complaints to Fair Work Commission
From January 1 amendments providing the Fair Work Commission (the FWC) with the power to make orders to stop bullying at work came into effect. Yesterday the Commission confirmed it had received 44 applications during the first month of the new anti-bullying jurisdiction. As required by the Act, the FWC commenced deal with all applications 14days, most commencing on the day they were lodged.
Some applications have already been dealt with by a Commission Member, while others were being dealt with through the process outlined in the Commission's case management model. Six applications were withdrawn during the preliminary assessment process.
Commission President, Justice Iain Ross said that it was too early to say whether the figures released today were indicative of the likely number of applications the Commission would receive throughout the year."January and February traditionally see a smaller number of lodgements with the Commission, particularly in relation to other individual-based rights disputes such as unfair dismissals and general protections," Justice Ross said. "The time of year and the fact that this is a new jurisdiction means that the number of applications received to date is not necessarily indicative of the lodgement trends we will see in future. We expect there to be some fluctuation in the number of applications received. We will be monitoring the numbers closely, and will provide quarterly reports on our website."
Fair Work Commission Media Release
ACTU calls for original movies "My story of Union"
As part of the 2014 Organising Conference, the ACTU is running a short film competitionon the theme "My story of Union is…". Entries must be original digital films of maximum 5 minutes duration. The deadline for submissions is 10 February, 2014. All entries will be showcased at the film night preview, with the winner then gracing the silver screen at the Conference Dinner. Films will be judged by a panel of union film makers and industry critics.
Read more: Australian Unions Organising Conference
Tasmania: Mine closed pending deaths investigation
The Mt Lyall copper mine will remain closed as investigations continue into the deaths of three miners, causing an unsure future for hundreds of miners and their families. It has been reported that mine owner Copper Mines of Tasmania has engaged Australian and international engineering experts to provide geotechnical advice on the safety of the operation.
Separate investigations into the deaths of Michael Welsh, Craig Gleeson and Alistair Lucas by a coroner, Worksafe Tasmania and a joint team from CMT and the underground mining contractor, Barminco, also continue.
Read more: Mt Lyell in limbo as deaths probe sparks indefinite shutdown The Mercury
Fuel tanker company Cootes 'cutting corners on maintenance': ABC
Cootes, the fuel tanker company involved in a fatal crash in Sydney, was using large numbers of dilapidated vehicles that should never have been on the road. The claims were made by a long-term employee during an in-depth report on the ABC's Four Corners program this week. Two people were killed and five injured when a Cootes Transport tanker rolled on its side, burst into flames and smashed into several cars on Mona Vale Road last October. According to this employee and others, the company brought decommissioned fuel tankers and trailers that had been "retired" and were parked up gathering weeds back into service because it lacked sufficient vehicles to meet contracts.
In related news, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) this week lodged a national dispute over safety issues in Australia's oil, fuel and gas industries, with new industry surveys showing one in four petrol tanker drivers are pressured to break the speed limit, one in three are pushed to falsify logbooks, and half skip rest breaks and drive while fatigued."Petrol tankers are literally mobile bombs," said National Secretary Tony Sheldon. "They're at the most dangerous end of Australia's most dangerous industry."Mr Sheldon said the dispute would be lodged with the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), which was established in 2012, seeking action to hold clients accountable for skipping safety checks and setting impossibly low pay rates or delivery times.
Read more: ABC News/Four Corners Fuel tanker company Cootes, involved in fatal Mona Vale accident, accused of cutting corners on maintenance Watch the episode on the Four Corners website TWU Campaign
Group Work program: Community sector job stress
A reminder of the 10 week structured group work program, beginning March 4, on job stress for workers in the Community Services Sector being run by Dr Lorraine Harrison and educator Gai Mooney. For those wanting to share theirexperiences, gain strength and learn techniquesand tools to reduce work stress individually andcollectively – this is for you!
Location: ASU office, 116 Queensberry St, Carlton South.
Time: Tuesday evenings, 6-8pm, beginning 4 March
Cost: General: $35/session (total $350); Union members: $25/session (total $250)
More information on the supporting research: Feeling the heat: workers' experiences of job stress in the Victorian Community Services sector
Enquiries: Lorraine: 043 830 7002 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Union News
EU: 'New ways of work' – new resource
The Internet and the use of portable computers, mobile phones and tablets have increased the importance of 'new ways of work': work that is place- and time-independent, and can lead to serious physical and psychosocial risks like techno-stress, techno-addiction, the blurring of boundaries between work and private life, burn-out and overtiredness, safety risks and ergonomic problems. The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) has produced a new publication The Janus face of the 'New ways of Work' : rise, risks and regulation of nomadic work which can be downloaded free from the ETUI website. The author focuses on the hidden dangers of these new ways of working.
UK: Unions deplore continued attack on OHS
UK PM David Cameron confirmed health and safety will remain a major target of his deregulation drive. He told a business event last week that 800 regulations had already been scrapped, as well as "needless" workplace health and safety enforcement. In a 27 January speech to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the prime minister said: "This government has already stopped needless health and safety inspections. And we will scrap over-zealous rules which dictate how to use a ladder at work or what no-smoking signs must look like. We've changed the law so that businesses are no longer automatically liable for an accident that isn't their fault. And the new Deregulation Bill will exempt 1 million self-employed people from health and safety law altogether." The attack on legal safety protections was condemned by unions, campaigners and safety professionals. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Stripping self-employed workers of health and safety protection – when construction is riddled with bogus self-employment scams – will make injuries more likely. And removing any obligation on employers to protect their staff from sexual and racial harassment by customers sends a very clear signal whose side the government is on." She added: "The real problems facing small businesses are an economy that has been slow to recover due to austerity economics and the continuing failure of banks to lend."
Source: Risks 640, Prime Minister's Office news release and David Cameron's speech
and TUC News Release
Qatar: The shocking death toll of World Cup migrants
The extent of the risks faced by migrant construction workers building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been exposed by official documents revealing that 185 Nepalese men died last year alone. The Guardian reports that the 2013 death toll, expected to rise as new cases come to light, is likely to spark fresh concern over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar and increase the pressure on football's governing body FIFA to force meaningful change. According to the documents, the total number of verified deaths among workers from Nepal – just one of several countries that supply hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to the gas-rich state – is now at least 382 in two years alone. The Nepalese make up about a sixth of Qatar's 2 million-strong population of migrant workers. Verified figures for the 2013 death rates among those from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere have yet to emerge. As long ago as 2011, FIFA said it would work with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to address labour issues with the Qatari authorities. But the ITUC has remained a strident critic of the lack of progress made by Qatari authorities on the issue, while groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have continued to highlight the appalling conditions of the workers in the multibillion dollar construction boom.
Read more: The Guardian Source: Risks 640
India: international union group launches 'BloodBricks' campaign
Union Solidarity International (USi) in partnership with Prayas, Action Aid Association, War on Want and Thompsons Solicitors (Scotland) last month launched an international campaign to highlight forced, bonded and child labour in the brick kilns of India.
USi says #BloodBricks would focus on India where trade union organisations, NGOs, and human rights campaigners have been organising, educating and mobilising thousands of workers to raise wages, access public services, combat child labour, and, sexual exploitation.According to the ILO, almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. The issues of bonded labour, forced labour, child labour and infringements of domestic and international legislation are widespread in India.
Read more: Bloodbricks campaign launched
Exposure to chrysotile asbestos increases risk of stomach cancer
Researchers examined the mortality from digestivecancers in a Chinese asbestos miner cohort of 1539, following them for a period of 26 years, to explore the exposure–response relationship between chrysotilemining dust and site-specific digestive cancers. The researchers, from Hong Kong, China and the US, collected information on vital status and causes of death from personnel records andhospitals. They determined the underlying causes of death from cancers by a combination of clinical manifestations andpathological confirmation. Individual cumulative dustexposures were estimated based on periodic dustmeasurements of different workshops, individuals' jobtitle and employment duration, and treated as a timedependentvariable.
What they found was that workers with highcumulative exposure to chrysotile mining dusthad significantly excessive mortality fromcancer of stomach, oesophagus and liver.A clear exposure–response trend was shown instomach cancer when either external or internalcomparison was made.The study provides additional evidence forincreased mortality from digestive cancers,particularly stomach cancer, associated withthe high level of exposure to chrysotilecontaining dust.
Sihao Lin, et al:Exposure to chrysotile mining dust and digestivecancer mortality in a Chinese miner/miller cohort [abstract ] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First, 10.1136/oemed-2013-101360.
Many dusts and fumes cause wheezy diseases
A wide range of dust and fume exposures lead to lung disorders including bronchitis and emphysema, a study has found. The literature review funded by the Danish Working Environment Research Fund found that there is strong and consistent evidence that many dusts and fumes are risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The new study identified workplace agents including welding fume, coke dust, coal, asphalt, silica, cement, tunnel work, cadmium, dust in glass bangle manufacture, bleach, cotton, flax, jute, farming, grain, wood, rubber and endotoxin as responsible for development of COPD. According to the authors there was a 'nearly uniform pattern' of exposure-response relationships between the various exposures and COPD.
There is no exposure standard for 'dust' generally in Australia, and none for dusts of 'low toxicity'. There are, however, exposure standards for particular dusts.
Ø Omland and others. Occupational chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic literature review. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, [abstract] volume 40, number 1, pages 19-35, 2014. Source: Risks 639
Latest edition of WorkSafe Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of WorkSafe's newsletter Safety Soapbox was sent out this week. This edition includes a reminder to employers that at this time of the year they will have many new and young workers on site and the need to take extra precautions. Also, with more hot weatheron the way, remembering that the duty to provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment includes 'working smart in the heat'.
WorkSafe has also released a new industry standard: Piling work and foundation engineering sites that covers the safe operation and maintenance of PF equipment and employee training.
Since the last edition (December 18), there have been 121 incidents serious enough to be reported to WorkSafe Victoria from the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries, including 42 lacerations, 13 fractures, 12 electric shocks and 36 near misses. Many of these could have resulted in deaths.The list can be downloaded from the Safety Soapbox for more information.
WorkSafe WA launches truck driver safety campaign
Three years after the death of a truck driver in the Goldfields, Worksafe WA is running a campaign to try to prevent similar tragedies.In 2011, the driver died of heatstroke in the Goldfields after abandoning his bogged truck.The Coroner was critical of the lack of communication equipment and maps his employer had provided.
Worksafe director Joe Attard says the watchdog has launched a campaign to ensure companies provide emergency communication equipment and water supplies to drivers."We've looked at the coronial recommendations from that tragic incident, and our current laws and we're trying to raise the industry standard," he said. The regulator is visiting unions, companies and drivers to ensure they are aware of the laws relating to truck drivers who are working alone, particularly in remote areas.
The Transport Workers Union, however, is critical of Worksafe's response to the driver's death, saying it did too little, too late.The union's assistant secretary Paul Aslan said, "We hope the companies sit up and take notice and do the right things because if they don't, we will come down on them like a ton of bricks."
Source: ABC News
Safe Work Australia
As of 28 January 2014, nine fatalities were reported to Safe Work: three in Transport, postal and warehousing; two in Mining; and one each in the sectors of Agriculture, forestry and fishing; Construction; Health care/social assistance; and Accommodation & food services.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
SWA has now released the notifiable fatalities monthly report for October 2013 in which there were total of 22 work-related fatalities reported to the state and territory OHS regulators (a further increase from a total of 15 in September 2013). Of these, sixteen were workers, and six were bystanders. Again the Transport, postal & warehousing industry and the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industry accounted for the most fatalities (4 and 5 respectively). For further details see the Notified Fatalities Monthly Report October2013, which can be downloaded here
Quad bike deaths high
There were 21 quad bike-related fatalities in Australia in 2013, a number which is well above the 10-year average of 13 deaths per annum, according a report from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety.Fifteen of the deaths occurred on farms, and 11 involved rollovers. Two children under 16 were killed on farms in quad incidents.
Chemicals added to 'hazardous substances' list
SWA has added ten chemicals to the HSIS (Hazardous Substances Information System), and amended the classification of nine other chemicals as a result of recent changes to the European Commission's Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CPL) Regulation. Details have been published in the January 2014 HSIS update on the SWA website.
More information on Hazardous Substances
- From Worksafe Victoria, a new industry standard: Piling work and foundation engineering sites
- From the US agency OSHA: a new resource Worker Safety in Hospitals. The web resource offers a wide range of materials to help hospitals take steps that protect hospital workers and enhance patient safety. Many of the materials address safe patient handling programs and policies, to prevent musculoskeletal disorders among hospital workers.
- Also from the US, a free online course to tackle workplace violence prevention in healthcare. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), over the past ten years, healthcare workers in the United States have accounted for about two-thirds of the nonfatal workplace violence injuries involving work days missed from across all industries. As part of the effort to address this issue, NIOSH worked with healthcare stakeholders to develop a free online course which aims to help healthcare workers better understand the scope and nature of violence in the healthcare workplace and teach them to recognize the key elements of a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. It covers how organizational systems impact workplace violence, how to apply individual strategies, and help healthcare workers develop skills for preventing and responding to workplace violence. The multimedia training features lesson text, videos depicting workplace violence, personal experiences of nurses with violence on the job, and quizzes. The free course is available on the NIOSH website
- The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has developed a poster (which can be downloaded free) to help guide workers on how to position themselves while seated - for safety and comfort, and to reduce the risk of developing MSDs in the workplace. CCOHS Position for Safety and Comfort poster
Vic: Company fined for failure to notify WorkSafe
Warragul automotive repair and fabrication company Gippsland Body Builders Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the LaTrobe Valley Magistrates' Court on January 28 of having failed to notify WorkSafe of an incident and of having failed to preserve the incident scene.The matter related to an incident on 14 December 2012, when a 4.5 meter length of steel dropped from a table struck an employee. The company was placed on an adjourned undertaking, ordered to contribute $1,000 to the court fund and to pay $3,000 in costs.
Vic: Construction companies fined for falling object
Construction company Adco Constructions (Vic) Pty Ltd, engaged to carry out renovations at a school in Vermont South, sub-contracted DMAC Roofing Pty Ltd to replace the existing roof of a basketball stadium. On 10 May 2012, DMAC employees working on the roof were removing metal roof sheeting, when a three metre long steel rod slid out from between the stored sheets, rolled off the roof and fell to the ground, striking a school cleaner on her shoulder as she walked past the building. An investigation found the perimeter guardrail system on the roof did not have toe boards, and there was no exclusion zone directly below the roof. Both ADCO Constructions and DMAC Roofing pleaded guilty to two offences under sections 21, and section 23 of the OHS Act. On 30 January 2014, ADCO was fined $25,000 without conviction plus costs of $2,000, and DMAC Roofing was fined $20,000 without conviction plus costs of $2,000.
China: Shoe factory fire kills at least 16 workers
In the latest devastating workplace fire to hit China, at least 16 workers were killed when a blaze broke out on the afternoon of 14 January at a shoe factory in the eastern coastal city of Wenling, China's official media has reported. Firefighters rescued 20 people, a number of whom were badly injured. Two of the owners and one manager at Taizhou Dadong Shoes were subsequently taken into custody by the local police pending an investigation into the cause of the fire. The blaze follows a fire at a wholesale market in Shenzhen in December, which also killed 16 people including three young children, and a roof collapse at an illegally constructed storeroom in the northern province of Hebei, which killed ten people.
According to campaigning publication China Labour Bulletin there is little evidence of improvements to workplace safety standards in China since the worst factory fire in living memory killed 121 workers at a poultry plant in Jilin in June 2013. Teams from the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) to assess safety standards at factories across the country in the wake of the Jilin fire concluded: 'Problems are striking, and everywhere, and could cause serious accidents if they are not properly addressed.'
Read more: China Labour Bulletin Source: Risk 639