SafetyNet 280, 23 May, 2014
A big 'hello' to subscribers after a break. Our editor, Renata is back from holidays, and so we recommence our fortnightly editions of SafetyNet: your free online journal providing the latest OHS news, both local and international. Today's edition will be very brief, as she has only been back a couple of days!
Fatality at Toll Shipping facility Melbourne
A worker was crushed to death on board a ship at the Toll Shipping facility in Port Melbourne. Emergency services were called to Williamstown Road on Tuesday at 1:45pm (AEST).
The deceased, Mr Anthony Attard, was helping load or unload cargo from a ship when the incident occurred. Ambulance Victoria said they treated Mr Attardat the scene, but he could not be saved. WorkCover Victoria is investigating the fatality, and a Toll spokesperson has said the company is undertaking its own internal investigation.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said: "The MUA, its officials, staff and members express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Attard. Anthony was well liked by all and was a proud and staunch member of the MUA. Anthony was a delegate and a representative on the EBA committee in the workplace."
Mr Attard's brother and best friend were with him when he died. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Sources: MUA Media Release and ABC News Online
Vale: Professor Chris Winder
It is with great sadness that we learned this week that Professor Chris Winder passed away in Sydney following a long illness. Chris' specialty was toxicology and chemical safety. He was Professor in Toxicology and Occupational Health of the School of Risk and Safety Sciences of the University of New South Wales and then Professor in Toxicology and Occupational Health and Academic Coordinator, Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management Programs at the Faculty of Business, Australian Catholic University.
Chris has also been editor in chief of the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment and served on and chaired Standards Committees including Standards Australia committee SF/1, developing standards for occupational health and safety management systems (AS/NZS 4804 and AS/NZS 4801) and he was a community representative for public health on the National Industrial Chemicals Notification Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) Community Engagement Forum. Chris was a Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia.
Chris was dedicated to improving the lot of workers through his general contribution and specifically when he represented the ACTU on national chemical committees and assisted the ACTU and individual affiliates on various chemical issues. It was a joy to receive his incisive report backs. They were speckled with witty comments and observations – a rare gem in the context of sometimes dry and tedious debate. Chris took up community and worker concerns: issues that were not always supported by big chemical interests. That made his work even more significant, never shying away from debate. Many of us were privileged to have worked with him on committees – in my case, the NICNAS CEF – for many years. Chris was a lovely, funny and highly principled person. His death is a loss, and he will be sadly missed.
Our current HSR has resigned and I am the Deputy HSR. I assume I become acting HSR until the DWG selects a replacement?
right – as the Deputy HSR, you step into the role when the HSR is not
able to carry out the role. Of course, you can put yourself forward to
be elected as HSR if you like, or if nominated by another member of your
DWG. Alternatively, you may wish to remain as the Deputy HSR until such
time as your term ends.
Read more: HSRs and Deputies
Also, in addition to my previous question: Our HSR election is due by the end of June. The current arrangement is that the local union branch conducts this process for the DWG. Can the employer ask to change the process so close to an election?
Regarding the election
process - Actually, under the OHS Act, the employer has basically NO
ROLE in determining how an election is held UNLESS the members of the
DWG request it. The Act clearly states that it is up to the members of
the DWG to determine how they elect their HSR and/or deputy HSR.
See this page on the site: Health and Safety Representatives
Do not allow the employer to pressure you to change the process - if you have any issues, then I recommend you contact your union OHS Officer to help... It's a very common thing for employers to want to either be involved in or even run elections ... This should not happen, as the HSR is the representative of the DWG members...
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.
The VTHC wishes to congratulate AEAV HSR Jedda McGlinchey, Victoria's HSR of the Year, for her win at the National Safe Work Australia Awards, announced last month. The Sunshine paramedic has been recognised for her dedication to improving work- place safety.
Ms McGlinchey, an Ambulance Victoria advanced life support paramedic, was presented with the award for best individual contribution to workplace health and safety by an employee, at a ceremony at Old Parliament House in Canberra.
Amongst the reasons Ms McGlinchey was selected for the
award was her "persistence and perseverance" during the months she spent
negotiating to get a new Sunshine ambulance branch built.
Thanks to Ms McGlinchey's untiring efforts, Ambulance Victoria last year confirmed it would rebuild its Ballarat Rd station. Despite this success, Ms McGlinchey said she was surprised to receive the award."The award recognises the many . . . hours of time I dedicated to research, paperwork and the battle going into all the work for the extra funding for the branch," she said. But Ms McGlinchey said she did not want to take all the credit for the award. "I want to thank my team and direct managers for their support because without it, I don't think it would have happened," she said. Ms McGlinchey said health and safety was important in all industries.
Federal Government puts safety at risk
Proposed reforms of the safety system will put workers at increased risk, unions and the opposition Labour Party have warned. Shadow employment minister Brendan O'Connor said that recommendations of the Commission of Audit created by Tony Abbott's government – and headed by the former president of the country's top business lobby group - will mean cuts to workplace health and safety. The proposals – while yet to be decided upon – include merging official safety, asbestos, compensation and gender equality regulatory agencies.
"Make no mistake, when the Abbott government's Commission of Audit's recommends 'consolidating', that is just a weasel-word for abolishing these agencies," Mr O'Connor said. "If these recommendations are implemented it will mean cuts to jobs, cuts to services, and will result in reduced safety in workplaces across the country." He added the conservative government "has already shown it has little regard for workplace safety" by announcing its intention to abolish the 'safe rates' Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and to change the workplace compensation agency Comcare.
The much lauded
Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency created last year by the previous
Labour administration may be particularly at risk, with the commission
report recommending the abolition of its Asbestos Safety and Education
Council. Dave Noonan, construction secretary of the building union
CFMEU, said: "In order for asbestos related diseases to be stamped out,
this issue is one that cannot be held hostage to any political agenda."
He said the asbestos agency should remain intact, adding: "Saving
people's lives should take priority over saving money."
Brendan O'Connor: News release CFMEU News release
Renewed warning on asbestos dangers
Global unions have warned the continued - and in many instances growing - use of asbestos in developing nations must be challenged. A new publication from the global construction unions' federation BWI and its manufacturing and mining equivalent IndustriALL provides guidance to those who fear they may be exposed. 'Asbestos is a killer' notes: "Asbestos is still around and there are those who continue to tout it as a magic mineral".
The union bodies warn that despite advances in health and safety standards, asbestos is still in use and the goal of a universal ban has far from been achieved. They note: "The art of denying scientific evidence and creating doubt in the public mind was perfected by the asbestos industry; and the tactics have been used by other industries wishing to avoid liability for their actions or products".
As part of the campaign to challenge continued asbestos use, BWI and IndustriALL helped organise an asbestos conference held in Vienna on 6-7 May and attended by trade union representatives from over 40 countries. A 'Vienna Declaration' agreed the conference included a "call on governments and social partners of all countries to take immediate steps to ban all mining, manufacture, recycling and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials as soon as possible".
It concluded: "Asbestos is the world's worst industrial killer. The human right to safe work and the dignity of labour can never be achieved where asbestos use continues. Strengthening international cooperation is key to achieving these goals". Russian asbestos industry lobbyists attempted to "gatecrash" the conference, but their "attempts at intimidation failed" and they were refused entry, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat reported.
IBAS conference report BWI news release. Vienna Declaration. IndustriALL news release. Asbestos is a killer, BWI/IndustriALL, May 2014.
Victoria's nurses under stress
An article in this week's Age newspaper highlights the stresses Victoria's nurses are suffering. According to the article, 'Nurses are selfless, stressed - and increasingly sick'. This is placing our entire community at risk - when the carers are not adequately cared for.
The article outlines the case of an experienced midwife who, following a horrific delivery, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Kay Ross, co-author of a Southern Cross University survey of nurses' wellbeing, is not surprised by this case. Her study of 6000 nurses revealed an alarming picture of 'an ailing workforce plagued by chronic illness, including mental health afflictions'.
constantly faced with things that most people wouldn't have nightmares
about,'' Ross told The Age. ''There is very little around to support the
people who are doing the work. Some places have employee counselling
but it is not across the board and really it should be.''According to
her study, 30 per cent of nurses are suffering from a chronic disease
that was musculoskeletal, cardiac or respiratory in origin, and almost a
third was overweight. Stress was identified as the biggest contributing
factor to poor health - more than half felt it affected their health -
with nurses expressing concern about their workload, the impact of job
losses and not being able to give their patients the care that they
Read more: Who is caring for Victoria's nurses?
Paramedics at higher risk of workplace injuries and death
Research has found that Australian paramedics are seven times more likely to be seriously injured in work-related incidents than the national average and five times more likely to die. The research was undertaken by a group of universities, including Central Queensland University, La Trobe University, Edith Cowan University, and the Queensland University of Technology.
The researchers reviewed Safe Work Australia (SWA) data on workers' compensation claims by injured paramedics between 2000 and 2010, and found paramedics were twice as likely to be injured on the job as police officers. One paramedic was killed every two years and 30 were seriously injured in transportation incidents. Muscular stress from lifting and carrying patients, falls, vehicle incidents and violence such as assault or bullying were the most common injuries paramedics experienced.
The rate of serious injury among paramedics was 94.6 per 1,000. This compared with the national average of 13 per 1,000 in 2008-09. In other areas: skilled agricultural workers (82.9/1,000), police officers (42.7/1,000), road and rail transport drivers (33.1/1,000), enrolled nurses (25.8/1,000), and health carers and aides (20.0/1,000) had the highest rates of occupational injury. Work-related death rates among paramedics was 9.3 per 100,000 per year, compared with the national average of 1.6. Vehicle incidents claimed the lives of 5.8 per 1,000 paramedics compared with the national average of 0.5 per 100,000 of all workers.
The researchers branded the profession dangerous. They said: "The analysis demonstrates that the paramedic profession is one of the most dangerous occupations in Australia. No other group identified by SWA has a higher injury rate than paramedics. "They recommended a focus on detailed analysis of the patterns of injury and of the factors contributing to injuries in order to identify and evaluate injury-prevention strategies. The study authors said many paramedic injuries could be prevented and workplace risks minimised through partnerships between emergency medical services agencies and researchers. Research data about work hours, gender and events could be used to develop prevention and intervention programs.
Maguire, B, et al: Occupational injury risk among Australian paramedics: an analysis of national data. Med J Aust 2014; 200 (8): 477-480. doi:10.5694/mja13.10941
Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) have today released a report which highlights what the organisation says is the failure of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to ensure that nanomaterials used in the Australian food chain are safe. The Report, Way too little, shows that nanomaterials are already in the Australian food chain - in foods, packaging, coatings and agricultural chemicals.
Jeremy Tager, a campaigner with FoEA's Nanotechnology Project said "FSANZ promised that if nanomaterials were used in food they would require a safety assessment. This has not happened."
"Not only are nanomaterials in
the food chain, the number of products containing them is expanding
rapidly. And the number of peer reviewed studies indicating health
concerns with certain nanomaterials has grown significantly since we
issued our first report on the use of nanotechnology in food in 2008.
Read More, and download the report: FoE Nanotechnology Campaign
Safe Work Australia
Truck deaths: 787 over 10 years
A Safe Work Australia report has revealed that truck incidents accounted for nearly a third of all traumatic work-related deaths from 2003 to 2012, with 787 workers killed in truck-related incidents over the 10 years. This equates to 30 per cent of all work-related deaths in the period. 94 per cent of these were males. The fatalities included truck drivers killed in vehicle crashes and workers on or near trucks. Approximately 50 truck drivers were killed each year, with 28 other workers killed in truck-related incidents annually.
Other findings include:
- Three-quarters of truck-related deaths were on public roads involving vehicle crashes;
- Eighty per cent of public road incidents claimed the lives of drivers or passengers;
- Approximately 39 per cent were single-vehicle truck crashes.
In terms of percentages:
- Loading or unloading a vehicle incidents: 15%
- Repair and maintenance activities: 7%
- Transport, postal & warehousing workplaces: half the truck-related deaths;
- Construction workplaces: 10%
- Agriculture, forestry & fishing: 8%
Read more: Safe Work Australia Media Release The Media Release outlines activities being undertaken both at the national and state/territory level to reduce truck fatalities.
As at 13 May 2014, 63 Australian workers have been killed while at work and reported to Safe Work Australia in the year to date.
fatalities: 27 in Transport, postal and warehousing; 15 in Agriculture,
forestry and fishing; seven in Mining;three each in Construction;
Manufacturing; and Arts & recreation services; two in Accommodation
& food services and one each in Health care/social assistance;
Electricity, gas, water & waste services; and Rental, hiring &
real estate services. The overall numbers of fatalities has decreased
over the past two years, with 73 fatalities at the same time last year,
and 79 at the same time in 2012.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
The latest monthly fatalities report is that for January 2014, during which there were eleven notified fatalities: 10 male workers and 1 female worker. Of these fatalities, 5 workers died as a result of incidents on public roads.
Of the 11 fatalities, 5 involved a Vehicle incident–public road crash,and two were due to being Hit by moving objects–not on a public road. One fatality each were the result of Crushing, Slide or cave-in, Exposure to environmental heat, and Fall from a height.
Transport, postal & warehousing workplaces
accounted for five fatalities, while two fatalities each occurred in
Mining and Construction workplaces. A further two fatalities occurred in
The monthly report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Report on the role of employers in return to work released
A report released by Safe Work Australia has demonstrated the important role employers play in supporting a worker to return to work following an injury. The report uses data from the 2013 Return to Work Survey of 4698 injured workers from Australia and New Zealand. The study found that generally, the relationship between employers and workers in Australian and New Zealand workplaces was a good one. Most workers had positive perceptions of their workplace prior to their injury and most reported that they received support from their employer following their injury and when they returned to work.
Workers who reported that their employer supported them, made early contact after the injury, provided them with information on their rights and responsibilities, made an effort to find them suitable employment, helped them with their recovery and treated them fairly during and after the claims process were more likely to have returned to work than those who did not.
report also found that most workers who had returned to work had
positive perceptions of their work and the workplace they had returned
to after their injury.
Return to Work Survey: Role of the Employer and Workplace. Australia and New Zealand 2013
From WorkSafe Victoria:
- A Safety Alert - Poorly maintained axles on trucks can lead to deadly outcomes. This alert provides guidance for transport operators about axle safety and is the result of an incident in 2007, where a man working alongside a freeway was killed after he was hit by a wheel that dislodged from a passing truck.
- Guidance on the Asbestos register that must be provided to a person engaged to undertake demolition or refurbishment work on a building or structure where asbestos is fixed or installed.
From Comcare –
- New resources including Investing in experience: Working for today and tomorrow, to assist workplace leaders at all levels and help them build age management capability—from recruiting to developing, supporting and transitioning workers through life's work stages. In launching the resources, Comcare states: "With longer and healthier lives comes an opportunity for many people to work longer and possibly change career pathways. Participation and engagement of all workers - no matter their age, skill or ability - is essential for dynamic and high-performing workplaces."
- Self-assessment tool for reducing the psychosocial risk of workplace change. High performing agencies and organisations need to be flexible, adaptable and able to respond quickly to changes in government direction or in their operating environment. During times of organisational change it is important to take a preventative approach to managing the risks of change and monitor the impact on workers. The tool is a guided self-assessment, monitoring and review process for workplaces to identify key risks and corrective actions. It is designed to assist in minimising psychosocial risk factors during workplace change. See Comcare's information on Supporting your workers during times of change.
Vic: Wodonga Rendering fined $40,000
The company operates a rendering plant and abattoir. On 10 May 2013, an employee was injured when he was cutting a steel plate and struck in the face with an angle grinder. The worker suffered cuts to his face, severing an artery.
The accused pleaded guilty to one rolled-up
charge under sections 21(1) & 21(2)(a) and (e) of the OHS
Act 2004 for failing to provide or maintain systems of work and
adequate supervision, that were, so far as was reasonably practicable,
safe and without risks to health. On 8 May 2014, in the Wodonga
Magistrates' Court, the accused was convicted and fined $40,000, with
costs of $2,200.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecutions Summaries
Vic: Routleys pleads guilty
On May 7, 2014, Routleys (Vic) Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one charge under section 21(1) & 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act 2004 in that it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable to provide employees a working environment that was safe and without risks to health. On 9 October 2013, a baker employed by Routleys suffered soft tissue injuries to her right arm as a result of it being caught in an unguarded item of plant.
The Geelong Magistrates
Court convicted Routleys and placed it on an adjourned undertaking for a
period of 12 months with a special condition to pay $10,000.00 to the
Barwon Health Foundation with costs in the sum of $3,245.00.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecutions Summaries
Vietnam: More workers hospitalized with poisoning symptoms
A group of more than 500 workers suffering symptoms of poisoning were rushed to hospitals in the north central province of ThanhHoa on Monday, just a few days after 1,355 workers suffered a similar fate at a local footwear factory. Many workers claimed that they developed respiratory difficulties, dizziness, and vomiting soon after inhaling a "strange smell" that was believed to emanate from a recent shipment of raw materials.The symptoms first appeared among a small number of workers and spread; some of the victims allegedly lost consciousness.Le HuuUyen, spokesman of ThanhHoa Department of Health, told the press, the workers may have suffered from neurotoxicant syndromes which occur when substances like arsenic, lead, mercury, manganese, tin, and insecticides attack nervous tissue.
Read more: Thanhnien News, Vietnam.
Turkey: High gas levels allegedly ignored at mine
On Tuesday the 13th of May an explosion at the Soma coal mine unleashed an inferno that killed an estimated 300 workers. The fire occurred at a mine that was privatised in 2005. The mine had 'passed' recent health and safety inspections. The company, Soma Holding, recently announced that since privatisation, the cost of producing a ton of coal had been reduced from US$140 down to US$24. In addition, most miners were employed as either casual, unregistered workers or barely earned the minimum wage. The workers died as a result of the company slashing costs and chasing higher profits.
The anger of workers was immediately apparent with major demonstrations all over the country. Workers' anger was magnified by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's callous attitude to the deaths. When Erdogan visited Soma, he was forced to shelter in a shop from enraged workers and family members.
Recent news reports in
Turkey are that sensors had picked up high levels of toxic gas inside
the coal mine days before the disaster that killed 301 workers but
company officials took no action.
Sources: AAWL; Associated Press
Afghanistan: Over twenty workers killed in latest mine disaster
With the devastating effects of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, the situation for workers in this country remains terrible. Just one day before international workers day, May 1st, an explosion in a coal mine in Samangan province has left at least 20 workers dead. This is not the first of such mass disasters in the country where there is practically no oversight of labour standards and few restrictions on those wanting to impose the most exploitative conditions that they can.
Read more: Tolo News