SafetyNet 276, 20 February, 2014
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Union calls on Napthine Government to act after hospital knife attack
The stabbing of a neurosurgeon at the Western Hospital earlier this week has left Victorian nurses and midwives extremely concerned, but unfortunately not surprised. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) has criticised the Victorian Government for not implementing the ignored the 39 recommendations of its own 2011 parliamentary inquiry into violence and security arrangements in hospitals.Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said, "We've been calling on the Victorian Government for more than three years to take violence in hospitals seriously and implement practical measures that will prevent and reduce violence and save lives.
"Those who work in hospitals, particularly those in the frontline - nurses, midwives and doctors - are being punched, hit, kicked, bitten, choked, knocked unconscious and threatened and attacked with weapons every day," said Ms Fitzpatrick. "It would not be tolerated in an office or any other workplace and it should not be tolerated in a hospital. Our political leaders must stop ignoring this horrific violence and take immediate action to make hospitals safe."
Read more:ANMF Media release
I am an OHS rep at a call centre and yesterday we had an incident which unfortunately occurs quite frequently: a staff member was abused on the telephone by an extremely rude customer. However in this case, the worker was so stressed his heartbeat increased rapidly and he ended up in sick bay. Are we allowed to hang up on overly abusive customers if it risks our health?
This is clearly an OHS issue, as it puts workers' health at risk. As the elected HSR, you have the right to raise this with your employer, pointing out that he company has a 'general duty of care' to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes ensuring there are safe systems of work.
To do this means the employer must identify hazards and risks, and then implementcontrols to eliminate the risk so far as reasonably practicable ..and if this isn't reasonably practicable, then minimise the risk so far as reasonably practicable. The employer also has a duty to consult with HSRs, with or without affected employees, when identifying hazards and risks, and when deciding on controls.
In this case I would suggest the employer needs to develop, in consultation,a policy and procedure so employees know what they can and need to do to ensure that their health is not at risk. Depending on what is 'practicable', the policy may include (or not) any of the following:
- Putting the caller on hold
- Contacting the supervisor to deal with the caller
- Reading from a prepared and formal script to warn the caller that this language/behaviour is not acceptable and unless they stop they will be disconnected (or other action)
- Warning the caller and hanging up
- Putting a note on that customer's file so other workers will know
Further – you can also alert individual workers that under common law they have a right to refuse work, and if they find themselves being abused in this way to the point that they start to feel so stressed that it could lead to such a problem then they should hang up.
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.
Department investigates asbestos in primary school
Late last week asbestos was found in rooms used by prep students and staff at a Thornbury primary school. An investigation is being done by both the Department of Education and WorkSafe. A Department spokesman said recent testing at Wales St Primary School revealed asbestos in dust samples in the carpet in a room used by preps and the art and craft room in the building known as Block C, but no detectable levels of airborne asbestos. The tests followed building renovation works over the summer holidays.
School Council president and parent Natasha Kinsman said she and other parents were upset and angry with the Education Department, which had failed to remove the building despite requests over the years."If the department had provided a new building, the old building wouldn't have needed renovation and this would never have happened," Ms Kinsman said."As a parent at the school, I'm very annoyed we have a building with asbestos at all."
The Education Department issued the following statement last week to reassure parents: "Department of Health experts have advised that the risk to any staff that accessed Block C and two classes of prep students who used the Library (prep room) in the first week of school term is low." Two meetings have already been held with parents to discuss their concerns with experts and they were promised they would be updated on the investigation as it unfolded.
Source: Northcote Leader
NBN monitors going despite breaches
Safety monitors appointed last year to ensure workers on the National Broadband Network rollout are not exposed to asbestos are being retrenched, despite breaches continuing, unions claim. The Electrical Trades Union told the Senate inquiry last week that the removal of the 12 monitors, observing asbestos removal work on telecommunications pits across the country, placed workers' lives at risk. And it should be remembered that if asbestos is disturbed while the NBN rollout takes place, then there is a real risk the general public in the surrounding areas will also be exposed.
The Australian reported that the ETU gave evidence of ongoing asbestos safety breaches, including asbestos being left lying around and workers storing it at home or in their vehicles. David Mier, ETU national industrial officer, said "The monitors, employed right around the country, were jointly funded by Telstra and NBN Co but that funding runs out…We are calling for them to be retained."
Source: The Australian
ACT householders warned of loose asbestos
The ACT government has sent 1000s of letters to householders warning themloose asbestos could still be present in their properties despite a program to remove the product from ACT homes from 1988-1993.A company called Mr Fluffy operated in Canberra between 1968 and 1978 installed the loose fill asbestos in hundreds of homes.
Read more: ABC News online
Pakistan: Campaigners pressure government to ban asbestos
As part of an ongoing campaign to highlight the dangers of asbestos, a conference held in Pakistan in early February, where renowned doctors, educationists, politicians and lawyers of the country urged the need to legislate to ban the substance.
Chrysotile, a type of asbestos, is still used in Pakistan, said Syed Haroon Ahmed, the president of Syed Fareed Ahmed Memorial Mesothelioma General Hospital Foundation, which was established to raise awareness about asbestos and form a community against the use of asbestos in Pakistan and worldwide.
International organisations, including International Programme of Chemical Safety and International Labour Organisation, have declared all forms of asbestos cancerous. "But despite this nothing has been done to ban it by the Pakistani government," he said. Hundreds of workers exposed to asbestos in Gadap Town are suffering from lung diseases. So are the workers at the Gadani ship-breaking yard.
Read more:The News International (Pakistan) Banned across the world, asbestos continues to plague Pakistan
Thailand: Ministry backs immediate asbestos ban
A ban on asbestos in Thailand could be imminent after the Thai Public Health Ministry (MoPH) passed a resolution calling for an immediate prohibition on the use of chrysotile asbestos, the only form of asbestos still legal in the country. Members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (T-BAN) met with a ministry official the day after the January 29 announcement. Welcoming the government support for an asbestos ban, T-BAN coordinator Somboon Sreekumdokkae urged politicians and officials to work alongside civil society campaigners. A 2011 government attempt to introduce a ban was derailed by a huge backlash from the local and global asbestos industry. T-BAN member Vithaya Kulsomboon told the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS): "We are more optimistic now than we have been for three years that the use of asbestos will be ended in Thailand. Banning asbestos is the first step in ridding our country of a deadly hazard; there remains a lot of work to do."
Read more: IBAS news report
USA: Illegal removal leads to prison sentence
A heating contractor, charged with improperly removing asbestos from a home, changed his plea to guilty last week in the Norfolk Superior Court and was sentenced to one year in jail with six months suspended. The man, whose company Johnny's Oil Service is based in Plainville, pleaded guilty to improperly removing asbestos, failing to notify the residents, and witness intimidation.
Source: Metrowest Daily News
BWI International Conference on Asbestos
The Building and Woodworkers International, committed to promoting the elimination of the use of all kinds of asbestos and asbestos containing materials, and the elimination of diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, will be holding an International Conference on 6-7 May in Vienna. The Conference aims to exchange experience and promote the objectives of the Global Asbestos Campaign:
- The need to stop using asbestos world-wide as soon as possible
- Alternatives to asbestos and transition to alternative materials.
- Prevention of exposure to installed asbestos
- Supporting those affected by asbestos diseases
The BWI is inviting a range of trade unions to participate: from producing and exporting countries, countries which still use a lot of asbestos, countries phasing out asbestos and countries who did use a lot of asbestos and have now banned all use.
Industriall Global Union, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers, the Austrian trade Union GBH, and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat are actively involved in this event.
Read more: BWI announcement
Firefighters hospitalised following mine blaze
According to media reports this week, 20 of the firefighters battling the blaze at the open-cut coal mine at the Hazelwood Power Station have been hospitalised after falling ill or becoming concerned about elevated carbon monoxide levels. Leading firefighter and United Firefighters Union representative Danny Ward said more than 200 firefighters and 100 mine staff were working in extremely volatile conditions.Mr Ward said he was concerned about the health of crews fighting the fire as well as residents in Morwell and Traralgon and there needed to be a week of sustained rain to extinguish the fire, which has been burning since February 9. ''We haven't got the capacity to put enough water on it to put it out.''
The fire continues to affect the air quality in the region, prompting WorkSafe to issue advice to 'workplaces' in the Latrobe Valley to take steps to reduce the impact of bushfire and coal fire smoke on their 'staff', as fires continue to affect air quality in the region. VWA Executive Director of Health and Safety Len Neist said workplaces should take note of the advice issued by the Department of Health in relation to people undertaking strenuous activity outdoors, particularly those with pre-existing heart and lung conditions."The EPA and the Department of Health are providing updates for the entire Latrobe Valley community and there are daily community meetings, so employers can keep abreast of any developments that might affect their staff," Mr Neist said."Workplaces operating near the Hazelwood coal mine fire should be particularly alert to variable air quality and monitor the EPA and Department of Health websites for updated information."
Of course, the duty lies with the employers of employees, or persons with management and control of workplaces. As Mr Neist notes, there needs to be a discussion with workers to identify the potential effects, and what should be done to ensure workers are protected – for example, re-assigning work, stopping the use of some machinery/plant and so on.
Read more: The Age: Firefighters falling ill at coal mine fire and WorkSafe News
More developments with Cootes trucks
Following the ABC's Four Corners program last week, the NSW Government has ordered mandatory inspections of all Cootes tankers operating in the state – even if the vehicles are registered elsewhere.This comes after 35 spot check inspections of Cootes vehicles last week revealed 17 had major defects and were immediately ordered off the roads for repairs. It has now been revealed that the company has been charged with over 300 offences, 86 of which are for operating unsafe vehicles plus several for mass offences and fuel leaks.
On Saturday, Cootes announced it was voluntarily removing its entire Victorian fleet after a VicRoads audit found more safety problems with their trucks, including defective brakes and air bags, loose bolts and oil leaks. This could have implications for fuel supplies. McAleese Group, which owns Cootes Transport, said it is working closely with state and federal regulators to address issues with its fleet. "Cootes Transport proactively began operational and safety inspections of its Victorian fleet last night by independently authorised inspectors," a company spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday. "We are working closely with regulators to address issues within the fleet while maintaining supply of essential services across the country."
The company has been the focus of attention since one of tankers crashed and exploded in a Mona Vale (Sydney) street last October, killing two people. The recent developments have resulted in the company losing several contacts in NSW, which in turn has sparked talks with staff and unions, fearing job losses.
Read more: ABC News Cootes Transport charged with 300 offences in NSW local court and Cootes voluntarily grounds entire Victorian fleet Background Briefing, Sunday Feb 16: The explosive risk of fuel tankers
Also in NSW: Trucking company charged with fatigue-related breaches
Trucking firm McCabe Transport has been accused of forcing its drivers to work dangerously long hours. Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has confirmed it is has laid 235 fatigue-related charges against the company. The charges will be heard in Wollongong Local Court in a month's time.Under NSW regulations solo drivers with the appropriate accreditation can work no more than 15 hours in a 24-hour period. In an exclusive interview with the ABC, a former driver with McCabe Transport accused the company of neglecting the safety of its drivers and other road users. Paperwork shows he was forced to drive long distances, including two return trips between New South Wales and South Australia over three days, totalling almost 6,000 kilometres.
Police and the RMS have also been examining trucks at the Coles DC at Smeaton Grange, and found that almost half the Coles supply chain trucks inspected had some form of defect, major or minor.
Fatigue is commonly identified as one of the three main killers on the state's roads.National heavy vehicle rules came into force last Monday in every state except Western Australia, which did not sign up to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. The two territories are expected to sign up to the scheme at a later date.
Read more: ABC News Truck firm facing charges Whistleblowersays firm neglecting drivers' safety and TWU Media Release
Researchers remind workers to 'stand up'
The Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute (Baker IDI), the researchers at which have done work on the ill-effects on our health of sitting for prolonged periods, has declared February 19ththe inaugural On Your Feet Australia Day. It wants to encourage workers to wear sneakers to work and take every opportunity to stand up – and hoped to raise funds for more research at the same time. Figures reveal we spend up to 80% of our working hours seated but extended sitting puts a person at increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Even exercising for an hour a day is not enough to counter the ill-effects of sitting for such long periods. Individuals and organisations can register on the site, which also has an interesting YouTube video featuring Professor David Dunstan outlining some of the basic research findings.
Read more: Sedentary Work and On Your Feet Australia
Queensland: HSR rights attacked
Last week Queensland's conservative Newman government turned its sights on the OHS legislation and introduced draft legislation in parliament to restrict union right of entry and the ability of health and safety representatives to halt unsafe work. Clearly demonstrating the political nature of the proposed legislation Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 would prevent unions from using "loopholes in the system to force their way onto worksites and lock workers out". He said that the majority of 57 right-of-entry disputes since July 2011 had not involved "immediate or imminent risks to workers".
Apart from this number appearing to be relatively low, the right of entry provisions for occupational health and safety matters were never intended to be used only in cases of "immediate or imminent risks", but rather where the official has a reasonable belief that there is a contravention of the Act or regulations. In fact, a WHSQ spokesperson said, "Notices were issued on occasions."
The proposed legislation would:
- require workplace health and safety entry permit holders to give at least 24 hours' notice and outline any suspected safety contraventions before entering a workplace
- double the maximum fine for entry permit holders who breach the entry provisions to more than $20,000
- remove the power of HSRs to direct that work cease
Source: Workplace Express; OHNews
Final reminder: Community sector job stress group program
The 10 week structured group work program on job stress for workers in the Community Services Sector run by Dr Lorraine Harrison and educator Gai Mooney begins on March 4.
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 sectorhttp://vuir.vu.edu.au/21792/
Enquiries:Lorraine: 043 830 7002 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Union News
International: Rio Tinto campaign
On February 6, the Rio Tinto Global Union Network took to the streets of Cape Town, supported by hundreds of members from IndustriALL Global Union affiliated mining unions, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and South African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU). The demonstrators demanded an end to Rio Tinto's bad corporate behaviour at its operations around the world.
Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, said that the race to the bottom must stop."As Rio Tinto is generating enormous profits from its operations, workers are struggling with unsafe, precarious work. The benefits from the mines should be shared with everyone and not only used for increasing company profits. Today's situation is unacceptable."
Read more: IndustriALL Media Release
UK: Union movement 'Work Your Proper Hours Day'
Now in its tenth year, the UK's Trade Union Congress' Work Your Proper Hours Day is a light-hearted campaign that celebrates the unsung – and unrewarded – hours that staff put in to help their employers and boost the UK economy.On the last Friday of this month, the TUC will urge bosses to let their staff take a proper lunch hour and to leave work on time. Managers are being encouraged to lead by example and work their proper hours too.
Last year, the TUC found that one in five employees across the UK regularly worked unpaid overtime, worth over £28bn (A$51.4bn) to the economy. Teachers, legal managers and finance professionals were most likely to do unpaid overtime – with half all employees in these jobs regularly working extra hours for free.
For this year's Work Your Proper Hours Day the TUC will look at whether the UK's recent recovery in the labour market has led to a rise or a fall in the number of unpaid hours as more people join the workforce. The TUC will also highlight which jobs and regions of the UK do the most unpaid overtime.TUC news release
Russia: Sochi snow is tainted with workers' blood
According to global building unions' federation BWI, Russia's Sochi Winter Olympics have been organised at a deadly cost. "There is blood in the snows of Sochi and the impunity of workers' exploitation has to stop," BWI said in a statement. "The most expensive Games in history is also the deadliest for building workers." The union said the blame for the deaths in the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics was shared between the Russian government and the International Olympics Committee (IOC). Ambet Yuson, BWI general secretary, said: "We have estimated that more than 60 workers have died in Sochi. Official statistics from 2009 to 2011 showed 71 accidents and half of them fatal. Our onsite check revealed 20 deaths in 2010 alone while in 2012, 25 lost their lives. As late as 20 November 2013, 1 worker died and 2 were injured in the main stadium… These are tragic costs of human lives and this impunity of workers' exploitation in mega-sports events has to stop." Wide-ranging abuses include unsafe working conditions, excessive hours, non-payment of wages, poor housing and trafficking of migrant labour. Ambet Yuson said "this serial exploitation in the Olympics and World Cups has no place in these times. We call on the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation to investigate these bad practices and to hold governments and global sports associations as well as their contractors-suppliers accountable for their actions."
Read more: BWI news release
Qatar: No legal enforcement of new 'standards'
Following the item in the last edition of SafetyNet, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has warned that Qatar's new World Cup worker welfare standards do not deliver fundamental rights for workers and merely reinforce the discredited kafala system of employer control over workers. "Forced labour continues in Qatar today with no workers' rights. No migrant worker can be protected by any safety standard unless they have the right to collectively speak out about wages and conditions at work," said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC (previously President of the ACTU).
The visa sponsorship system ties workers to their employers, as they cannot leave the country or move to another employer without permission. Furthermore, Qatari law denies migrant workers the right to form or join trade unions.
Read more: ITUC Media Release Qatar World Cup Workers' Standards: no legal enforcement, no worker rights
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome linked to poor ergonomics
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), one of the most common and costly occupational overuse conditions, has been linked to prolonged mouse use combined with poor ergonomics, according to recent French research. The researchers reviewed four major health databases, looking for a connection between CTS and computer work – but came out with conflicting conclusions. They said it was a difficult issue to investigate as 'computer use' varies greatly across jobs, companies and countries and can cover many types of work. They were able to, however, show that certain specific circumstances, such as prolonged use of a computer mouse, could be linked to the disease. In addition, "awkward and bad ergonomic conditions" may also increase the risk of developing CTS.
Zakia Mediouni, et al, France: Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Related to Computer Exposure at Work? A Review and Meta-Analysis. . [abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 56, Issue 2, February 2014
Stressful compensation claims contribute to poor recovery after injury
A Monash (ISCRR) led study has found that compensation claimants who have stressful claims recover more slowly than those who have less stressful experiences. The study investigated stressful aspects of transport accident or workers' compensation claims, and the impact of that stress on long-term recovery.
It found those who had experienced stressful claims had greater levels of anxiety, depression and disability and a slower recovery from injury. The researchers tracked the experiences of 332 injury patients from across Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales who were hospitalised with injuries between 2004 and 2006, and then claimed compensation.
Read more: Monash University News
Overnight trips most risky for truck crashes
A Monash research study of the relationship between sleepiness and truck crashes has found that truck drivers who work for more than three hours in a row overnight are as much at risk of a crash as mid-range drink-drivers. The study also found drivers with less experience and those who do not use modern technology (eganti-lock braking systems or cruise control) also have a significantly higher risk of accident.
The rate of accidents involving trucks in Australia has remained consistently high in the past decade, despite the general fall in serious road accidents, but it could be reduced if fewer long-haul truck trips were scheduled for the early hours of the morning. The researchers interviewed 530 truck drivers who had been in a non-fatal crash between 2008 and 2011, and compared the results of the interviews with 517 drivers who had not crashed.
They found the chance of crashing increased more than 300% when the driver was on the road between midnight and 6am, compared with 6am to midday. The chance of a crash was also more than 200% higher when a driver had not taken a break for more than four hours. Professor Mark Stevenson's study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that more than three hours' continuous night driving could contribute to performance errors equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.08.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
Stevenson, M et al: The Role of Sleepiness, Sleep Disorders, and the Work Environment on Heavy-Vehicle Crashes in 2 Australian States[abstract] American Journal of Epidemiology (2014) 179 (5): 594-601. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt305
Latest edition of WorkSafe Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of WorkSafe's newsletter Safety Soapbox was sent out this week. The main item in this edition is on why it is crucial that traffic management workers have the appropriate training and qualifications. The duty to ensure this is so is the employer's, under Section 21(2) of the OHS Act.
Since the last edition (Feb 4), there 57incidents serious enough to be reported to WorkSafe Victoria from the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries, including 17 lacerations, six fractures, six electric shocks and 18 near misses.The near misses included formwork falling 10 metres to the ground, a boom and load weighing 5.5 tonnes falling to the ground, and a tip truck tipping over.Several of the fractures were the result of workers falling – including one out of a window – each of which could have resulted in death. The list can be downloaded from the Safety Soapbox for more information.
Worksafe: Williamstown development too close to fuel tanks
Evolve Development is proposing to build more than 800 high-rise apartments and townhouses on the site of the old Port Phillip Woollen Mills site, Williamstown. Hobsons Bay Council and many Williamstown residents oppose the development, which is the subject of hearings at VCAT.
Now the media has reported that WorkSafe Victoria agrees with Mobil and the local community that the proposed residential development is dangerously close to fuel tanks.Last week, Mobil told VCAT it was concerned the development could hinder the operation of the Gellibrand tank farm, where hazardous chemicals are stored. In its statement Mobil said: "Gellibrand Marine Facility is an essential asset for the Mobil Altona Refinery and a vital link in Victoria's fuel supply chain. Over 60 per cent of the crude oil processed at Altona Refinery is received via the facility and there is no alternate discharge point for marine supplied crude feedstock."
Worksafe also advised housing should not be built so close to the facility, stating in its submission that there should be no housing within an outer planning advisory area, including Kanowna St, part of the proposed development site.It said this would "increase exposure to the future residents of the dwellings to a potential incident at the Gellibrand Tank Farm", which has "the potential to be dangerous to life and health''. Save Williamstown spokesman Godfrey Moase said Mobil and Worksafe had validated the safety concerns of residents.
Read more: The Leader (West)
Inspectors to focus on Hamilton
As part of the VWA Safe Towns campaign, inspectors would be visiting 200 workplaces in Hamilton this week to answer questions and help them with their health The visits coincide with the release of new figures revealing workplace injury rates in the Southern Grampians and Glenelg shires have fallen by 18 per cent over the past year.VWA Chief Executive Denise Cosgrove, said the fall in injury claims in the region was welcome news and a credit to the hard work of employers and employees who make safety their number one priority.
Read more: WorkSafeNews
NICNAS releases seventh 'tranch' of IMAP chemical assessments for comment
NICNAS has released assessment outcomes for the seventh tranche of IMAP chemicals assessments and is seeking public comment, by close of business on 21 March 2014. Assessments completed in Tranches V and VI have resulted in recommendations regarding 158 chemicals: 150 on worker health and safety to Safe Work Australia; 35 on public health (on poisons scheduling; 6 on product safety to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission; and that further three undergo Tier III assessments by NICNAS. Comments are sought on Tranch VII chemicals where information that has potential to affect the outcome of an assessment has not been considered in the assessment. Comments should be submitted using the public comment form which provides guidance regarding the submission of public comments. There are several 'tiers' covering different aspects of assessments:
- Tier I—human health assessments
- Tier I—environment assessments (identified by tranche seven in the tranche column)
- Tier II—human health assessments (identified by tranche seven in the tranche column)
- Tier II—environment assessments (identified by tranche seven in the tranche column)
These can be accessed by links on the NICNAS website
NSW: House construction sector project
With more than 150 workers seriously injured or killed in the NSW housing construction sector in the past two years, WorkCover NSW has launched a new 'collaborative project' to reduce the high death and workers compensation toll. Under the project, WorkCover and employers would work collaboratively to identify and promote ways to manage high-risk activities, and focus on four major issues: falls through voids, unsafe movement of people and materials at sites, exposure to sun, and delays in injury recovery and return to work.
Workers in this sector are more often injured than those in the commercial construction sector. Why? One important factor is that bigger sites are more likely to be unionised – which means the workers are more likely to have elected HSRs, be appropriately trained, and know their rights.
More information: House construction industry action plan 2014-2015
Safe Work Australia
As of 19 February 2014, there were twenty fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia – eight workers were killed in the past two weeks. The fatalities: eight in Transport, postal and warehousing; four in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; three in Mining; and one each in Construction; Manufacturing;Health care/social assistance; Arts & recreation services; and Accommodation & food services.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
Farm Fatality Injuries
The Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety has released a new report on Farm Fatalities. The Report is based on Australian print media monitoring, scanning approximately 2500 daily, weekly and monthly publications Australia wide. It focuses specifically on data involving on‐farm injury events reported in the 2013 calendar year. A total of 59 on‐farm deaths were reported for this period:
- Ten (16.9%) of the 59 reported on‐farm deaths were children under 15 years old.
- Quad related deaths were the most frequently reported deaths (15), followed by tractor incidents (9).
- Media monitoring also captures all non‐farm quad related fatalities: there were an additional six quad related fatalities occurring off‐farm as reported in the media, taking the total number of on‐ and off‐farm deaths involving quads to 21.
The report can be downloaded from this page of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety website.
- From Worksafe Victoria, a Safety Alert after a fully-loaded articulated dump truck overturned while travelling on a sealed section of road inside a mine: Mobile plant overturns
- NSW WorkCover has released a new guide for the road freight transport industry – timely given the recent incidents in that state. The guide: Safety in the road freight transport industry can be downloaded from this page on the NSW WorkCover site, which also has details of the 2013-2014 industry action plan.
Vic: MaxiTRANSagrees to a $200k safety undertaking
Under Section 16 of the OHS Act, an employer, after pleading guilty to a breach of the Act, may enter into an Enforceable Undertaking with the Authority, in lieu of prosecution. After one of its employees was trapped and injured while manufacturing a trailer, Victorian employer MaxiTRANS Australia Pty Ltd will spend $150,000 on safety leadership training and $50,000 in research (to an Institute for Safety Compensation Recovery Research [ISCRR] project).
The worker was removing a pin from beneath a slider unit in June 2012 when a section of the unit collapsed and trapped him. The WorkSafe investigation found the company had failed to develop a safe work method statement for disengaging locking pins on slider trailers, or determine how to control the risks associated with the task.
Read more: WorkSafe Enforceable Undertakings
Vic: amputation leads to prosecution of two companies
In March 2012 a truck driver delivering and unloading potatoes from a trailer caught his glove on a bolt on the side of the trailer's inadequately guarded conveyor, resulting in his arm being dragged into the gap between the conveyor and the conveyor mounting frame. His arm was severed above the elbow. In December of last year Fiorelli Packing Pty Ltd, the transport company which owned the trailer and employed the man, pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe and healthy working environment and failing to provide safe plant, and was fined $45,000 without conviction and ordered to pay costs of $5,224.
This month Snack Brands Industries Pty Ltd, a manufacturer, distributor and seller of snack foods, was also fined for the same incident. The company pleaded guilty to one offence under section 23 for failing to have an adequate safe operating procedure for potato unloading operations, and failing to have adequate guarding on the hopper. It was convicted and fined $45,000 and ordered to pay costs of $6,157
Vic: Company fined for potentially fatal incident
Employees of Geelong Galvanizing Pty Ltd were attempting to move a large chemical tank using a manually operated hydraulic jack. However, the jack was not adequate and so they used a 500 mm long piece of steel tube as a spacer between the jack and the tank. During the process the spacer became misaligned causing the spacer/jack to eject under pressure and strike one of the employees, causing lacerations to his chin and chest/throat.
Pleading guilty to breaches of sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act for having failed to provide and maintain a system of work that was, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health, the company was fined $20,000 (plus costs of $3,500) without conviction.
Vic: plant failure ends in broken limb and fine
A seasonal fruit picker was using a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) to pick pears when the main boom on the MEWP failed. The bucket he was standing in tipped forward and he struck the ground, sustaining multiple fractures to his right leg, a right knee injury and upper body bruising. A WorkSafe investigation revealed that Ashcorn Pty Ltd, the operator of the orchard, had failed to properly inspect and maintain the MEWP, which, along with other deficiencies, had a pre-existing crack in the main boom.
Pleading guilty to breaching sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act (in failing to provide and maintain plant that was, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health), Ashcorn was fined $20,000 – again without conviction.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecutions Summaries
Queensland: Company officer fined for exposing people to deadly bat virus
In an usual case (which nevertheless has 'lessons' for employers everywhere), the owner of the Australian Tropical Research Foundation in Queensland has been placed on a $10,000, 12-month good behaviour bond and ordered to pay $1079 in costs, for pleading guilty to breaches of the WHS Act by potentially exposing workers and members of the public to a deadly bat virus.
The Cairns Magistrates Court found he had allowed workers and visitors to the Foundation's bat sanctuary to interact with and feed bats, exposing them to the risk of being scratched and bitten, and contracting the Australian bat lyssavirus, that can be transmitted from bats to humans, causes a rabies-like illness, and is "invariably fatal". The man failed to warn workers or others of the risk of exposure to the virus, failed to provide advice on guarding against the risk, and failed to advise workers or others to immediately seek medical advice if they were bitten or scratched by bats. Queensland Workplace Health and Safety said bats should only be handled by workers with a current rabies vaccination who are properly trained and wear suitable PPE.
EU: 'Safer and healthier work at any age'
A conference focusing on occupational safety and health of older workers took place in December 2013 in the European Parliament. The event was organized in the context of a European Parliament`s pilot project, being carried out by EU-OSHA at the request of the European Commission, that aims to improve knowledge of current policies and programmes, stimulate exchange of best practices and further investigate the ways to improve health and safety for older workers.
Read more about ageing workers on the EU-OSHA site, and the European Parliament pilot project on health and safety of older workers
Two owners of the Bangladeshi garments factory in which a fire killed 112 workers have turned themselves in to face homicide charges.Delwar Hossain and his wife Mahmuda Akter, owners of Tazreen Fashion, have pleaded for bail after surrendering, Al Jazeera's Maher Sattar reports from Dhaka.
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France: National Cancer plan launched
France has just launched its 2014-2019 national plan against cancer, placing the emphasis on prevention and screening and on addressing social imbalances in healthcare.The plan is harmonised with the national plan on health at work and explicitly addresses occupational cancer and its prevention, as well as outlining specific measures related to rehabilitation and back to work strategies. Measures cover wider issues such workplace training and development of workers affected by cancer, to prevent downgrading and social exclusion of workers, targeted information to workers affected by cancer and workplace adaptation. A 2012 EU-OSHA Workshop on occupational cancer and carcinogens highlighted the vulnerability of workers affected by cancer, especially when they are affected by occupational cancer.
Read more about the Plan on this page of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.