SafetyNet 279, 3 April, 2014
We welcome all our subscribers to Edition 279 of SafetyNet: your free online journal providing the latest OHS news, both local and international. Our Editor, Renata, is going on leave – and so the next edition will not be until the end of May.
Fatality in rural Victoria
A worker in his 50's was killed on the afternoon of March 24 after he became trapped in machinery at a pine plantation at Myamyn, north of Port Fairy in Western Victoria. A police media spokeswoman said the man had already died as a result of his injuries when police arrived. The worker was not a local, and police would be notifying his next of kin and preparing a report for the coroner. Branxholme and Hamilton police attended the accident and apparently, WorkSafe was informed.
In another rural fatality, roadside worker was killed last week in the Macedon Ranges (see item under WorkSafe News, below).
Source: The Warrnambool Standard
International Workers Memorial Day – Reminder
On April 28 unions and workers around the world pause to not only remember those who lose their lives due to work incidents and disease – but to fight for the living. This means fighting for better regulation, increased government compliance activity, and achieving safer workplaces for all. This year, April 28 falls on a Monday and the VTHC will be holding our annual event at the Trades Hall at 10.30am. We invite HSRs, delegates and workers to come along – and if they can't attend the event at 'The Rock', to pause at work and remember the importance of health and safety. More information on the day will be placed on the website closer to the date.
Read more: International Workers Memorial Day
Firefighters rally at Parliament House
About 1500 firefighters rallied on the steps of Parliament on March 25to make the point that the state's fire services were stretched to breaking point during the Morwell fire and that the treatment of firefighters had been poor. According to a report leaked to the union, an occupational hygienist employed by the fire services provided advice and resolutions regarding levels of carbon monoxide on 13 February this year. UFU Secretary Peter Marshall said that the agreed resolutions from the fire services and the specialist were not implemented, and were kept secret from exposed firefighters and health and safety representatives. Speaking on the ABC's World Today program last week, Mr Marshall said the union had written to WorkSafe seeking a prosecution as this was "a breach of section 21, 22 and 23 …that the employer is required to provide a safe working place. But also 23 and 22 in particular is about divulging of information … Firefighters were not given the option of making a decision based on the known knowledge by this consultant."
The State government released terms of reference for its inquiry into the mine fire two weeks ago. Headed by Black Saturday royal commissioner Justice Bernard Teague, the inquiry will investigate government regulation of the Hazelwood mine, the emergency response, the role of mine operator GDF Suez and the adequacy of health information passed on to Morwell residents.
Read more: UFU Bulletins Firefighters unnecessarily exposed: Fire agencies ignore own specialist report and UFU rally gives Napthine Government the message ABC's The World Today
I work in construction and did my 'Red Card' training some time ago. I have now begun a new job, and have been asked to produce it, but I can't find it! Can you provide me with a copy please?
I'm sorry, but I am not able to issue you with a new card; the OHS Unit at the VTHC has nothing to do with either the training nor the issuing of 'Red Cards' (issued after completion of the Construction Industry Induction Training). WorkSafe cannot issue you with a replacement card either. You must contact the organisation with which you did the training, and which issued you with the card in the first place, as they will have records of your training.
Read more: Red Cards
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.
Bullying news: FWC's first orders
In its first anti-bullying order, the Fair Work Commission has imposed a number of conditions on a workplace bully, as well as imposing a condition on the victim. After a conference between the applicant and the accused (the respondent) in Sydneyon March 4,it was agreed the respondent must:not comment on the applicant's appearance; have no contact with the applicant when not in the presence of others; not send emails or texts to the applicant except in emergency situations; not raise any work issues without notifying his chief operating officer or the officer's subordinate first; and complete any exercise at his employer's premises before 8am.
Senior Deputy President Lea Drake also ordered the applicant not to arrive at work before 8.15am.
(Applicant v Respondent AB2014/1052, PR548852, 21/03/14)
According to Holding Redlichpartner Michael Selinger, the validity of Senior Deputy President Drake's order could be challenged because of the absence of a time limit.
Tool for workplaces – Snakes and Ladders
Legal firm Holding Redlich has created a unique anti-bullying tool that provides managers with a quick reference guide on how to determine whether the organisation is currently doing enough to combat bullying in the workplace. The firm says that with workplace bullying being 'catapulted to the top of the agenda with the recent introduction of anti-bullying provisions in the Fair Work Act' it is critical for organisations to have proper policies, procedures and training to promote a culture of tolerance and diversity. They add:"Equally, managers must remember they have significant personal obligations under safety legislation to ensure that bullying does not occur in the first place."
Read more, and download the Snakes & Ladders poster here
Report highlights asbestos danger to women
According to a new research report released on 20 March, women are likely to be a significant proportion of the 'third wave' of people with asbestos-related diseases.
'The Asbestos Narratives', conducted by Southern Cross University, investigated the social and psychological impacts of asbestos-related disease. The project has been funded by Comcare through the Wave 2 of the Asbestos Innovation Fund. The researchers also worked closely with Slater & Gordon's Asbestos Practice, the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australian (ADFA) and the vTeam (managed private social networks).
Associate Professor Rick van der Zwan, director of the University's Regional Initiative for Social Innovation and Research (RISIR) and project leader, said more than 60 men and women shared their experiences of living with an asbestos-related diagnosis during the research."Women are likely to form a significant proportion of the emerging third wave of exposure to asbestos," he said," and may suffer considerable hardship as a result."
Read more: Safety Solutions News
Reminder: Geelong Asbestos information session April 30
Asbestoswise will be holding an information session on asbestos in Geelong on Wednesday April 30. The speakers at the event will be:
- Mr David Clement, Asbestoswise President
- Ms Shirley Bare, Asbestoswise Support Group Facilitator
- Mr Tim Gooden, Secretary of the Geelong Trades Hall Council
- Ms Jane McDermott, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers
- Ms Maria McGarvie, Slater & Gordon Lawyers, and
- Dr Jonathan Burdon, Consultant Respiratory Physician
Everyone is welcome.
Time: 2pm Location: Geelong Trades Hall, 127 Myers St, Geelong.More information or to RSVP: contact Renee Webb at Asbestoswise – 03 9654 9555 or email email@example.com
Queensland Government releases Asbestos plan
A Statewide Strategic plan for the safe management of asbestos in Queensland 2014-2019 [pdf] was released today. The government says in the introduction to the twelve page document, "The aim of this plan is to provide a strategic and coordinated approach to the regulation and management of asbestos in Queensland to minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres at workplaces, domestic premises and in the natural environment."
Switzerland condemned by European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Switzerland on 11 March to compensate the family of a worker who died from an asbestos-related work cancer. The deceased's widow and two daughters lodged an application with the ECHR after their claim was dismissed by the Swiss courts. In its media release, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) says lawyers believe the judgment should prompt Switzerland to change its law by which claims for asbestos-related injuries have to be made within ten years of the last exposure.In this case, the victim's last contact with asbestos was in 1978, 16 years before his cancer was diagnosed. The European judges ruled that the limitation period under Swiss law had had restricted the applicants' access to a court to the point of breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial.
Read more: ETUI News
Attention women union members: Anna Stewart Memorial Project
The aim of the Anna Stewart Memorial Project is to increase women's involvement in the union movement. The project has been in existence since 1984 and so far more than 800 women have participated in the Victorian arm of the project.
During the two week project, women union members from diverse workplaces and occupations are placed with their own, and sometimes with another union, for two weeks. They experience the full range of union work, including mass meetings, enterprise bargaining negotiations and hearings at Fair Work Australia. In addition, all participants meet for three and a half days group training during the project at the Victorian Trades Hall Council to discuss women, work and union issues. The VTHC has opened the intake for the next Anna Stewart Memorial Project, which is being held May 5 – 16. If you are interested, contact your union, or the VTHC Women's Officer , Jennifer O'Donnell-Pirisi, Victorian Trades Hall Council 54 Victoria St. Carlton South, Vic. 3053 T 9659 3511, M 0412 228 247, F 9663 2127, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: Anna Stewart Memorial Project
CFMEU: Lend Lease need to start putting worker safety ahead of profits.
The CFMEU announced this week that it is conducting safety audits on all Lend Lease sites around Australia in the wake of the Barangaroo fire where inadequate evacuation plans meant workers were not accounted for, for 2.5 hours. The union has released a video in which National Secretary Dave Noonan and NSW secretary Brian Parker discuss safety and Lend Lease in relation to recent fires and bungled exacuations at Barangaroo in NSW. Mr Noonan said, "We cannot leave the safety of our members to chance and that's why we have taken the decision to audit every Lend Lease site.We need to be satisfied that the right procedures are in place so that our members go home at the end of the working day."
But according to the Australian Financial Review, Lend Lease chief executive Steve McCann said the CFMEU was targeting the builder because it was hit with a record $1.25 million fine by the Supreme Court of Victoria over the blockades of Grocon construction sites in the Melbourne CBD in August 2012. The Grocon dispute centred around the appointment of OHS Officers – but the court deemed the blockades to be 'unlawful'.
Read more: Media release All Lend Lease sites subject to safety audit by CFMEU
New resource for employers: Mental illness > complying with the Equal Opportunity Act in employment
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has, in consultation with various stakeholders, developed a guideline for employers outlining their obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 regarding discrimination against people with mental illness in employment. It seeks to provide practical guidance on how to be proactive in preventing discrimination as well as general information about mental illness and seeks to dispel some of the myths and stereotypes about how this disability can affect people in employment.
Download the Guideline: Mental Illness> complying with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 in employment.
VEOHRC asks that people check out their other resources, including guidelines explaining obligations when recruiting staff, preventing and responding to sexual harassment, as well as a guideline on employment and transgender people and a guideline for general practices when providing a service.
NEW VTHC April E-news Bulletin
The VTHC's regular e-news bulletin came out this week. Apart from links to events and the VTHC's new directory, Secretary Brian Boyd has an article: 'Royal Commission beat-up exposed'.
Read more: Download the bulletin
Cootes Transport trucks enter into agreement
The NSW government has decided to allow Cootes Transport trucks on the state's roads after the company agreed to implement a range of measures to improve safety. The company had been given 14 days to demonstrate why it should not be stripped of the right to operate in NSW due to a series of accidents and safety breaches. According to NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay, Cootes has offered to decommission 50 of its oldest trucks, bring new tankers into its state fleet and make improvements in maintenance. It will increase its focus on brakes, steering and suspension.... all things it should have been doing in the first place!
International Union News
Canada: Government, industry, labour work to prevent dust buildup in sawmills
On a day when Canada's British Columbia government announced a safety plan to prevent another sawmill from blowing up, the Opposition New Democrats launched a concerted effort for a public inquiry into the first of two explosions that killed two workers and injured 19 others.
NDP (Opposition) Leader Adrian Dix said it appears the Liberal government is doing everything it can to avoid a probe with powers to point fingers and make findings of misconduct. Labour Minister Shirley Bond said while the government feels extreme remorse and sympathy for the victims and their families, ensuring safe working conditions at the mills is the top priority. She said the government, forest industry, unions and WorkSafeBC have agreed on a 90-day implementation plan aimed at preventing explosions.The plan includes a multi-point strategy to limit the potential for combustible dust and make sure mills comply with safety regulations. Part of the program includes a dust mitigation and control audit, to ensure best practices, province-wide.
Read more: OHS Canada
UK: The OHS of older workers - A guide for workplace representatives
There is a higher proportion of older people in Britain now than at any time in recent history and it is likely to increase. At present one in every six people is over the age of 65, but by 2033 that is expected to rise to almost one in four. The country is also seeing changes in the number of older people in the workplace. The number of people aged 65 and over reached the 1 million mark for the first time in 2013, partly because people are living longer but also because birth-rates are falling.
We face the same issue in Australia, with a workforce that is aging, and moves by government to raise the retirement age. The guidance, developed by the peak UK union council ,the TUC, to help workplace representatives accommodate for an aging workforce should therefore be of great assistance to HSRs and others in Australia.
Download the Guide from this page of the TUC website
Role of worker reps in health and safety in Queensland mines
A new study has investigated the role and effectiveness of health and safety reps in Queensland Coal Mines. Undertaken by the Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre at Cardiff University in Wales, UK, the study focuses on the experience of worker representatives in Queensland, but has implications for the health, safety and well-being of mineworkers everywhere.
The mining division of the CFMEU says coal mining is a dangerous industry which demands a strong emphasis on ensuring the protection of miners' health, safety and well-being. Statutory provisions have been in place since early in the twentieth century to safeguard the role of worker representatives in having a direct role in inspecting mines and identifying site hazards. The researchers, led by David Walter, found "site-specific Safety and Health Representatives (SSHRs) were a group of experienced miners, with considerable knowledge of regulatory, technical and managerial issues relevant to health and safety in mines. They all shared a strong commitment to their representative role in health and safety on behalf of their fellow workers and trade union." This was even more the case for the ISHRs (Industry Safety and Health Representatives).
After looking at the role of the reps in undertaking inspections, writing reports, investigating serious incidents and risks, investigating complaints and more, the researchers concluded: "Both the documentary evidence resulting from the formal actions of workers' representatives during the previous fifteen years or more in Queensland coal mines, along with the testimony of a sample of these representatives,demonstrate that they make a substantial contribution to the operation of arrangements for OHS management in the mines." They also said, "The evidence indicates that the representatives are a group of committed, highly motivated and active change agents in OHS who deliver the functions required of them and use the powers available to them both diligently and responsibly."
Download the report or summary from this page of the CFMEU website.
Sydney University Workplace Death Study
Workplace death has an enormous economic, social and personal toll for workers, employers and the national economy. Unfortunately, little is known about the consequences for those who are affected the most – surviving families. Available evidence suggests that families of workers who die at work may experience serious and enduring health and financial ramifications, and that these effects can extend beyond families to friends. However, such evidence is limited.
Sydney University is undertaking a study:'Workplace Death: Improving Support for Families' in order to investigate the consequences of workplace death for surviving families. It also considers how well official responses, such as workers' compensation and the provision of information and support, meet families' needs.
The aim is to identify improvements that will help to better manage the consequences of workplace death for surviving families. The researchers invite those who have lost a loved one in a workplace incident to 'have their say' by completing a short, completely confidential, online survey.
More information, and to access the online survey: Workplace Death: Improving Support for Families Sydney University
Latest edition of WorkSafe Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of WorkSafe's newsletter Safety Soapbox was sent out this week. The newsletter had the very sad news that a road worker working at a Macedon Ranges Shire Council roadworks site was killed last Wednesday after being struck by a truck. The 43-yr old man died at the site. Also killed on the same day was a truck driver, aged in his 20s, who clipped a tree and power pole then went through a fence and into a parked car in Hampton East. This fatality is, however, counted in the road toll.
Read more: Ballarat Advertiser
Since the last edition of the Safety Soapbox (March 19), there were 57 incidents serious enough to be reported to WorkSafe Victoria from the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries, including 17 lacerations, 13 fractures, four electric shocks and 19 near misses. As is always the case, several of the 'near misses' could have had tragic consequences. The notifiable incidents list can be downloaded from the Safety Soapbox for more information.
Safe Work Australia
As of 27 March 2014, there were forty (an increase of ten since the last edition of SafetyNet) workplace fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. The fatalities:19 in Transport, postal and warehousing; six in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; four in Mining; four in Arts & recreation services; two in Manufacturing; two in Accommodation & food services and one each in Construction; Health care/social assistance; and Electricity, gas, water & waste services. The overall numbers of fatalities has decreased over the past two years, with 50 fatalities at the same time last year, and 44 at the same time in 2012.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
The latest monthly fatalities report remains that for December 2013. The monthly report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
- From WorkSafe Victoria:
- From Energy Safe Victoria:
- From the WorkCover NSW: a short video designed to help housing and general construction workers stay safe around voids
- In the lead up to the Easter break the Queensland Government has issued a statement do-it-yourself renovators to leave any electrical work to licensed professionals and to check with the state's asbestos information service before starting any construction-related work.
Vic: Company fined after worker injured in kiln
On 11 March 2014 Selkirk Brick Pty Ltd (Selkirk) was convicted in the Ballarat Magistrates' Court and fined $70,000 plus costs of $3,810. Selkirk manufactures, distributes and sells bricks and pavers. On 2 January 2013, two Selkirk employees were tasked with the cleaning out of a 100m long brick kiln. The kiln contained two open pits approximately one metre deep, and was dark. One employee fell into a pit in the centre of the kiln. The employee suffered injuries including a broken jaw and was taken to hospital. Selkirk pleaded guilty to one charge under section 21(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecutions Summaries
Enforceable Undertaking - Hickory Group Pty Ltd
On 3 March 2014, Hickory Group Pty Ltd entered into an Enforceable Undertaking in relation to an incident which occurred on 4 May 2012 where an employee of M&J Rix Transport Pty Ltd was injured as a result of being struck by two pallets of plasterboard that fell from his truck during unloading operations at a Hickory construction site. As part of the $150,000 enforceable undertaking, mock court proceedings will be held to ensure managers know their safety obligations and the consequences of not following safety rules.
WorkSafe's investigation of the incident identified the following as likely contributing factors:
- unloading the plasterboard on a road with a camber that caused the truck to tilt;
- the load possibly being disturbed between delivery and unloading;
- the driver removing the pallet restraints before reversing the truck for unloading; and
- the employer not requiring the driver to follow exclusion zone rules. He was standing next to his truck when he was injured.
According to WorkSafe Victoria, the employer breached the OHS Act by failing to ensure the driver remained either inside the truck or at least three metres away from the vehicle while it was unloaded.
Under other requirements of the enforceable undertaking, all site management workers will undertake a two-day "leading workplace safety" course to increase their knowledge of safety legislation and adherence to safety standards. Senior managers and project managers must attend the same course, or an appropriate safety senior leadership course. Foremen will attend a safe work method statement (SWMS) course to ensure they understand the legal and technical requirements of an SWMS, and know how to ensure safe work practices. Further, the employer must organise an independent review of the company's safety management system, and involve the senior project manager. The enforceable undertaking can be downloaded from this page of the WorkSafe website.
SA: OneSteel fined $56K for unsafe lift
SA's WHS regulator has fined OneSteel $56K for failing to identify and eliminate hazards associated with a heavy goods lift. In July 2011, a OneSteel employee fell 16 metres down a lift shaft, from the second floor landing of the company's Whyalla plant. He had opened the landing doors when the lift car was not there, and fell. It was fortunate that he partly arrested his fall by grabbing cables and so landed in about a metre of water at the bottom of the pit. Although the worker was injured, he was able to make a good recovery and returned to work.
Perry v OneSteel Manufacturing Pty Ltd  SAIRC 8
Sweden: taking Commission to court for "inaction" on Endocrine disruptors
Press reports indicate that the Swedish government is preparing a complaint to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the Commission's decision to put the adoption of criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors (EDCs) on indefinite hold. EDCs are chemicals that disrupt the hormonal system, and are raising concerns of a possible link with a range of chronic diseases (some cancers, diabetes, obesity, etc.).
The European Commission was supposed to publish an EU strategy on endocrine disruptors and the scientific criteria for identifying them in December 2013. "Given the calls about the possible significant impacts associated with any particular choice of criteria (...) the Commission has decided to carry out an impact assessment", EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik told the Swedish authorities in response to a letter sent last October by the Swedish and Danish governments voicing concern about the lack of movement on endocrine disruptors.
Read more: ETUINews
Thailand: At least seven killed, 19 injured after WWII bomb blast
At least seven people have been killed and 19 others injured when a massive World War II bomb exploded at a scrap metal warehouse in Bangkok as workers tried to cut it open, officials said.The 225-kilogram bomb was found at a construction site by builders, who then sold it to a scrap metal merchant, believing the bomb had been defused."The workers at the warehouse thought the bomb was no longer active so they used a metal cutter to cut into it causing the explosion," local police commander Virasak Foythong said. The Bangkok Post reported that the workers had used a blowtorch to try to cut the bomb open.
Read more: Australian Network News