SafetyNet 282, 19 June, 2014
We are planning some changes to our communications – possibly going weekly with the SafetyNet journal and also sending out shorter, snappier 'bulletins' or 'enews' as things happen. We ask our subscribers to 'bear with us' as we will be experimenting over the next few months. If you have any views/ideas, please email Renata at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, enjoy this edition.
VWA re-funds OHS Reps@Work
It is with great pleasure (and relief) that we can now tell SafetyNet subscribers and users of our site that the Victorian WorkCover Authority has re-funded the OHS Reps@Work project for a further two years. The contracts were signed this morning. We thank all those subscribers who took the time to send in emails supporting the site, and giving some great 'testimonials'. These were instrumental in the VWA's decision. We look forward to continuing to provide up-to-date and relevant information and advice to HSRs, workers and even employers! Thanks again.
Man killed in gas explosion in cellar
Two men were working on a refrigeration unit in the cellar of the Rochester Hotel in northern Victoria last Sunday, when an explosion occurred at about 1.30pm. Both men were flown to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in a critical condition, where the younger of the two men died later. The cause of the explosion was not known, and both men suffered burns to 50 per cent of their bodies, although there does not appear to have been a fire. The second man remains in a critical condition. WorkSafe inspectors were investigating the incident and are being assisted by police.
Source: ABC News online
Another mining fatality – in NSW
In the last edition we reported on the death of a worker at the Goldfields Brightstar mine in WA. Last week there was another mining fatality, this time in Cobar, in central western NSW. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, a 26-year-old man, believed to be a Victorian, died after he was sucked into a pipe last Wednesday June 11. Police said the man was believed to be trying to dislodge debris from the pipe, which was attached to a piece of machinery, when "something went horribly wrong" and he became trapped inside. The copper mine, owned by Glencore, was evacuated on Wednesday night and work suspended as police launched an investigation into the man's death.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
Have you checked out the CFMEU campaign 'Stand up. Speak out. Come home'
If you haven't seen it yet, go to the CFMEU campaign website for real life stories of what happens when workers are unable to speak out about dangers at work.
You Tube Videos One and Two Visit and promote the campaign website
Nurses: Campaigning against workplace violence in hospitals pays off
The introduction of a standardised Code Grey emergency response to violent incidents in Victorian public hospitals is a significant outcome in Victorian ANMF's bid to improve the safety of the workplaces of nurses and midwives and its members. The union has led ongoing campaigns, over 10 years, to fight against violence and aggression in the workplace while also lobbying the state government to introduce mandatory security policies to assist in protecting Victoria's health professionals.
Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick welcomed the system's mandatory introduction and called on the state government to provide the necessary resources to fully implement "whole-of-health" security measures. "The Napthine Government must now make available the $21 million it promised ahead of the last election to implement the policy and fund additional security staff and equipment to protect our frontline nurses and midwives. We trust the government will also address our issues surrounding the definition of Code Grey to ensure it covers patient violence as well as visitor violence."
Read more: ANMF Vic News
I'm the HSR for a DWG with both male and female members. We work as contractors in a shopping centre and need to change into our uniforms before we start work. Our change room does not have a proper door, and is separated from our lunch room by a door-less frame. The only private washrooms are on a different floor. On several occasions people have been embarrassed as others have inadvertently walked in. What does the law say we should have? What should we do?
Your employer has duty of care under Section 21 of the OHS Act to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health; including providing adequate facilities for the welfare of employees (see Duties of employers)
It's ridiculous that your change room has no door. Is the area actually designated as the change room for women? Or for both men and women? Or is it just used by the members of the DWG because the other room is too far?
What the employer needs to provide in order to comply with this duty is set out in the Compliance code for workplace amenities and work environment - with regards to change rooms, see this page. On this page you'll find a link to the code and so you can check out the full text.
However, what is clear is that if workers need to change, they 'need to have access to private, convenient changing rooms with secure storage for private belongings'. It also says that employers need to provide access to a dedicated changing room, and sets out what needs to happen if there are male and female employees. This is a compliance code - not actually law - but the employer has a duty to provide this if reasonably practicable - or at least as close as possible.
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.
Hurry: Nominate your HSR or committee for an award
The time to nominate your HSR or OHS Committee is running out – so do it now. Union HSRs are the BEST HSRs, because they have the help and support of their union, and know how important it is for members of their DWG to have representation. Nominations close July 4, so if you're thinking about how you're your HRS is, then don't waste any more time. Information and nomination process on the VWA website WorkSafe Awards
Always follow safety rules, even if it means ignoring the boss
The Fair Work Commission has found that a Toll subsidiary was justified in dismissing a Gorgon fuel terminal officer for falsifying a safety document, despite the fact that he was instructed to do so by a company OHS advisor. Commissioner Williams accepted that the dismissed Toll Energy Logistics worker initially altered a required pre-duty safety document on the instructions of a safety advisor after the worker suffered a minor injury while downloading data from a fuel terminal.
He said, however, that because the worker agreed he was not forced to change the document and had, ultimately, falsely altered it three times over two days, he could not give greater weight to this as a mitigating factor. Commissioner Williams said though the safety officer's "involvement" was "inexcusable", it did not excuse the worker's actions. Also, though he queried the company's failure to take this into account when deciding to dismiss the worker, the Commissioner said that ultimately the company had the right to make the decision.
So the lesson? Even if given instructions by a superior, workers should always follow company safety policies – or they could end up losing their jobs. To top this off, the dismissed worker was an elected health and safety representative! Oh - and we wonder what actions, if any, the company took against the OHS advisor?
Source: Workplace Express; Fair Work Commission Decision Allan Pereira v Toll Energy Logistics Pty Limited  FWC 3398 (23 May 2014)
Sexual harassment in the workplace: National awareness raising campaign
Sexual harassment is prevalent in Australian workplaces. One in four women have experienced harassment at work, and men's harassment of other men is also on the rise. A new campaign has been launched to battle sexual harassment in workplaces. The Know Where the Line Is national awareness raising strategy is a tripartite partnership between the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) which offers a unique and important opportunity to join forces to target employers and employees as part of broader efforts to prevent and reduce the harm of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. This partnership recognises that not only is workplace sexual harassment an abuse of human rights, it is also something which has a negative impact on employee safety and security and is costly to businesses.
There is information and resources for employees and employers, including a range of clear workplace posters that can be easily downloaded.
Check it out: Know Where The Line Is
All workplaces, including all schools must comply with asbestos laws
Last week an item in Melbourne's Age newspaper illustrated that the asbestos regulations are poorly understood. Apparently, state school principals have voiced concerns that asbestos warning signs are 'worrying parents' and damaging state schools because Catholic and independent schools are exempt from such labelling requirements. The principal of Oakleigh Primary school is quoted as saying that principals were well trained in managing the substance safely. ''It's not anything that our parent community needs to be concerned about. We manage it with all tradespeople that come into the school.''
All schools, as workplaces, must to comply with the requirements in the asbestos regulations, including labelling, in some way, areas containing asbestos. In fact, the problem has been that many schools have not been complying – and this has led to a number of instances where asbestos was disturbed, creating a risk to workers and students. It is for this reason that state schools are being audited by the Department. All Catholic and independent schools should be audited to ensure that they are complying with legislation.
The Age State-only asbestos labelling 'unfair', say school principals Read more: Summary of the Asbestos regulations.
'Mr Fluffy' homeowners given hope
In April, the head of the national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Peter Tighe, called for the demolition of the over 1000 ACT homes which contained loose asbestos insulation, installed by 'Mr Fluffy'. This week, ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has offered new hope to these homeowners, reporting that talks had begun in the past fortnight with the Commonwealth government. Ms Gallagher told an Assembly hearing that people's lives had been "turned upside down" after discovering that the dangerous insulation might remain in their homes, and that a fresh "stand-alone" response was needed from the government.
government is expected to make a statement next week on the issue. A
spokesman for Attorney-General Simon Corbell confirmed the impending
announcement but would not give further details. Ms Gallagher said
"urgent responses" were needed for some families who had to leave their
homes, and she was concerned about the "disruption and dislocation
that's caused". And in news in today, the Real Estate Institute has alerted agents that they face big fines if they do not fully advise potential buyers of 'Mr Fluffy' asbestos homes.
Read more: Commonwealth hope for families dispossessed by Mr Fluffy asbestos The Canberra Times
New publication: The Asbestos Lie. The past and present of an industrial catastrophe
For decades asbestos was considered an ideal substance - 'the mineral of the twentieth century'. Even though the fibre had long before been shown to cause various ailments, a real boom began in the 1950s and prospered everywhere in Europe (and in Australia).
This book retraces the history of the Swiss asbestos cement company Eternit, investigating the strategy it developed – together with other asbestos industrialists – to prevent this carcinogen from being outlawed until, in 1999, an EU (European Union) Directive was finally adopted to this end. The book also reviews the struggle of the asbestos workers and their families to gain official recognition of, and compensation for, the harm suffered.
The book can be downloaded FREE from this page of the ETUI website.
UK: Director jailed for illegal supply of asbestos sheeting after worker fell to his death
A man has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after his company illegally supplied pre-used roofing sheets containing white asbestos to a farming partnership building a barn. The company director's offences came to light after a 56-year-old construction worker, who was roofing the barn using the panels, fell six metres through the fragile material and later died. The court was told that after the fall, the director tried to persuade witnesses to hide the sheets that he had supplied telling one, 'We'll all take the fall for this'. He also told the man's daughter that her father had fallen from the roof edge rather than through the fragile roof sheets and later tried to persuade his relatives not to report the incident to the HSE, the UK's health and safety regulator.
Read more: HSE website
Study shows women survive mesothelioma longer than men
A recent US study of more 14,000 mesothelioma patients found that women are three times more likely to survive mesothelioma than men are. Of the 14,228 malignant pleural mesothelioma cases the researchers analysed, 22 per cent were in women. These women tended to be diagnosed at around the same cancer stage as men and were offered similar treatment options. But, even where the baseline characteristics between men and women patients were similar, the five-year survival rate among the female mesothelioma patients was three times better than it was in men. More than 13 percent of women were still alive five years after diagnosis while only 4.5 per cent of male patients survived that long.
Read more: Surviving Mesothelioma Women much more likely to survive mesothelioma Source: Emanuela Taioli, et al, Women with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Have a Threefold Better Survival Rate Than Men, June 11, 2014, Annals of Thoracic Surgery,
Canada: Asbestos the biggest workplace killer
This two part article in Ottowa's Globe and Mail reveals that although asbestos is the top on-the-job killer in Canada, an investigation has found that this stark fact has been obscured by the country's longstanding economic interest in the onetime "miracle mineral." The article points out that even though Canada's own asbestos industry has now dwindled from pre-eminence to insignificance, with the country's last two mines closing in 2011, the federal government has dragged its feet as other nations have acknowledged asbestos's deadly impact and moved to protect their populations from it. The government still holds to the position that asbestos can be safe, despite an international consensus among doctors and researchers to the contrary.
Asbestos products continue to enter the country. Unlike at least 52 other countries, from Australia and Japan to Sweden and the United Kingdom, Canada has never banned imports or exports of asbestos. While the amount has decreased, there are still over $5million worth of imports entering the country. This means that the death toll, not only of workers, but of people in the general community, will also continue to mount.
Read more: The Globe and Mail The Invisible Epidemic/Exposure is still widespread
39 people indicted in Spain for asbestos crimes
Thirty-nine people have been indicted by the Spanish authorities for the illegal dismantling of an asbestos-riddled derelict tile factory in the City of Villarreal. They are alleged to have committed crimes against the environment as well as other crimes. The company owning the industrial site is now bankrupt and it is believed that the individuals charged were involved in operations to salvage metal, roofing materials and other parts of the building's infrastructure without implementing mandatory measures to minimize hazardous exposures to asbestos.
Source: IBAS See: 39 acusados por manipular amianto en Villarreal [39 charged with handling asbestos in Villarreal].
International Union News
ETUI publishes guide on occupational cancer
The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) has put out a new guide: Preventing Work Cancers - which says prevention of occupational cancers must be given a far higher priority. Using case histories, the brochure concludes the fight against work cancers can be won if trade unions and public authorities adopt coherent strategies. It examines the history and causes of work-induced cancers and provides union tools for prevention. Although the guide focusses on the EU, these tools are useful for unions and workers everywhere. The guide can be downloaded, free, from this ETUI webpage
Source: Risks 657
Union spreads its bullying at sea message
A training film produced to combat bullying and harassment in the shipping industry, which was made in response to research by seafarers' union Nautilus, has picked up an award in an international competition festival. The 20-minute film - 'Say no to bullying, say no to harassment' - was produced for a European Union project to update guidelines and an associated training package originally produced in 2004, and was also a response to a union report. Nautilus participated in the project steering group and contributed to the script and direction of the latest film, which won the silver award in the safety and security category of the 23rd annual Questar Awards for excellence in video communications. Subtitles in English, French, Croatian, Estonian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, German, Spanish and Turkish are available on the Youtube site. Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said, "The award will assist greatly in the dissemination of the training package which includes this film, joint industry guidelines and a workbook for trainers." While the film is set on board ships, the messages are applicable across workplaces.
Source: Risks 657 Read more: ETF training video and supporting documents.
Bangladesh: After Rana Plaza
The huge loss of human lives in the Tazreen fire and then the collapse of the Rana Plaza buildings in Bangladesh raised some level of awareness of the shocking conditions under which cheap clothes are made. Colin Long, Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), was one of a group of Australians who recently visited Dhaka to meet workers and unions and find out first-hand what had happened since. In an article in the US publication The Jacobin, Long concludes, 'Despite international accords to protect Bangladesh's garment workers after thousands of deaths from building collapses, little has changed in the country's factories.'
Read more: The Jacobin After Rana Plaza
Thailand: Nappy-wearing bus conductors fight for rights
Stuck for hours each day in snarling traffic, bus conductors in Thailand's sprawling capital have found a radical solution to a lack of toilet breaks - adult nappies. Gulf News reports that with congestion worsening, conductors on the capital's ageing buses spend long days on the polluted roads in the tropical heat, often with no toilet stops along the route. A recent survey found that 28 per cent of female bus conductors in Bangkok had worn nappies on a job that requires them to work up to 16 hours a day. "We were shocked," said Jaded Chouwilai, director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation that carried out the research. "We also found that many of them suffer urinary tract infections and stones in their bladders," he said. "Many of the female bus conductors also have uterus cancer." Bangkok's bus conductors and unions are starting to demand better working conditions. "Their working conditions are not good," said Chutima Boonjai, secretary of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority labour union, who has asked for more toilets to be placed along bus routes or in bus terminals. "They have to work long hours in the heat and when they are hungry, they cannot eat. When they want to go to the toilet, they cannot," she said. Bus drivers also suffer problems ranging from back pain to haemorrhoids. "The worst cases are cancers, strokes and high blood pressure because of tiring and hot working conditions," said Chutima.
Source: Risks 657 Gulf News
Zimbabwe: More mine fatalities
Seven gold miners died and 11 were injured at Zimbabwe's Golden Valley Mine on Monday June 9 when a hoist cage transporting them down a shaft broke loose and plunged into a pool of water, according to Tinago Ruzive, the president of the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe. He said the incident occurred as the workers reported for the night shift. "This is tragic but we are yet to establish whether this is a human error or a problem with the equipment," said Ruzive, adding that Golden Valley, a small gold mine 160 km west of the capital Harare, did not have a history of accidents.
Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe data shows that 35 people died in mine accidents last year, mostly at small mines, where safety standards are low.
Source: Mining weekly
Perms, dyes linked to concerning compounds in hairdressers
In a new study, hairdressers who often used light coloured hair dyes or hair-waving products on clients had more potentially cancer-causing compounds in their blood than hairdressers who used the chemicals less frequently. They were apparently more exposed to o- and m-toluidine. Hairdressing has been classified as an occupation that carries an increased risk of cancer, based primarily on a higher prevalence of bladder cancer than would be expected for the general population. In the 1970s, around 90 per cent of commercial hair dyes contained carcinogenic substances, prompting restrictions on their use, say the researchers. Many of these chemicals have now been banned, and the researchers suggest that, given their findings, the ingredients of hair dyes and perming products should be analysed to find out if these products continue to be potential sources of toluidine exposure.
They also advise that hairdressers should protect themselves from the risk of absorbing these products through their skin by wearing gloves, and ensure they perform tasks for which gloves can't be worn, such as hair cutting, before the application of any dyes or perms.
Source: Reuters Health, Johansson, et al Exposure of hairdressers to ortho- and meta-toluidine in hair dyes [full article] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2013-101960, online June 9, 2014.
Nurses, quick returns and health effects
In what is the first longitudinal study investigating the associations between numbers of work shifts separated by less than 11 hours (quick returns) and future health problems, Norwegian researchers found an effect. They investigated whether the number of quick returns could predict health problems in nurses at 1-year follow-up by surveying over 1200 nurses. The results showed that the annual number of quick returns predicted the occurrence of shift work disorder (SWD) and pathological fatigue. A decreased number of quick returns entailed a reduced risk of pathological fatigue. They found no association between quick returns at T1 and excessive sleepiness, anxiety or depression.
Elizabeth Flo, et al Short rest periods between work shifts predict sleep and health problems in nurses at 1-year follow-up. [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2013-102007
OHS Regulator News
Victorian OHS regulations amended
The Occupational Health & Safety Amendment Regulations 2014 have been made and will come into effect on 1 July 2014. Thirty one mainly administrative changes (such referencing Safe Work Australia, instead of the ASCC, referencing the prohibited substances and carcinogens in the WHS regulations, reference to the GHS, and so on) have been made. Some changes have direct implications on duties, however, such as the removal of the requirement for employers to register items of plant. These which will be incorporated into the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 - however a process of a more thorough review and update of the regulations is currently underway.
The VWA is currently preparing some information, which should be available next week, to assist duty holders to understand how the changes will impact them. The relevant sections of the OHS Reps@Work site will be amended shortly. The Regulations are now available on the parliamentary website.
Minister announces 2% cut to Workcover premiums
Gordon Rich-Phillips, the minister for Workcover, yesterday announced a 2 per cent cut to employer workers compensation premiums. While this is good news for employers, the Victorian branch of the public sector union, the CPSU-SPSF tweeted:
"@RichPhillipsMLC @Vic_Premier and save #springst millions amongst worst performers - injured workers just get grief #rewardingbadbehaviour "
The NSW government's decision to cut WorkCover premiums by 5 per cent in 2014-15, was announced earlier in the week in that state's budget. The cut has been slammed by both NSW unions and the Greens as a measure which fails to benefit injured workers. Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon named injured workers among the "biggest losers" in the budget. "Thousands of injured workers who have been stripped of medical benefits and weekly compensation payments have been left behind, with a surge in the profitability of the NSW WorkCover scheme used to benefit employers but not workers," he said.
VWA receives request to prosecute AFL clubs
According to an item in yesterday's Age, a formal request has been made to the VWA under Section 131 of the OHS Act to 'bring a prosecution' against nine AFL clubs: Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs over the supplements program. The Authority is already investigating the Essendon Football Club. Anyone can make such a request if they believe that there have been breaches under the OHS Act, and that the Authority has failed to prosecute. There is no information on who made the request.
Read more: The Age Nine AFL clubs reported to WorkCover
Bass Strait fatalities report sent to Commonwealth DPP
SafetyNet has previously reported on the deaths of two workers who died on the Stena Clyde mobile offshore drilling unit in Bass Strait in August 2012, after being struck by a rotating tong after a drill pipe string became stuck. The Stena Clyde was operated under lease to Origin Energy.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) undertook a lengthy investigation into the incident, has now passed its report to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and says it will support the DPP if it decides to launch a prosecution. NOPSEMA's investigation was based on witness statements, evidence seized under warrant and reports from three experts in the field.
The announcement can be downloaded from the NOPSEMA site
Victoria: Safety Soapbox
The most recent edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out last week with items on the prosecution in Warrnambool of construction company Hezem (see below) over an unsafe trench excavation. There are also items on the recent launch of the 'Piling work and foundation engineering sites' Industry Standard.
There were 50 incidents notified to the VWA in the period since the previous edition, and 66 incidents from the previous period May 8 - 25 (the list had inadvertently been omitted from the last Soapbox), during which there were two fatalities reported:
- A self-employed painter who received fatal head injuries when he fell; and
- The employee of a construction company who, after a motor vehicle incident, was killed when items in the rear of his vehicle struck him in the back of the head.
Of the other 114 incidents many could have resulted in further deaths: for example, a contractor suffered a broken pelvis when a wall collapsed on him; several workers received electric shocks; and a number of other falls. Several of the 'near misses' could also have led to serious injuries or fatalities, including large items such as steel plates and frames falling from height, and large pieces of plant falling or tipping over. There were also a number of serious injuries, including a worker whose finger was amputated, another who shot a nail gun into his hand, more head injuries, and several fractures.
Read more, including links to the two lists of reported incidents: June 12 Safety Soapbox
Victorian Coroner urges use of higher order of controls
In a 'non-inquest' into the death of an experienced operator, the Victorian Coroner, Audrey Jamieson has urged employers to look beyond administrative risk control measures such as training and safe work instructions. She said these were the least effective forms of risk control, because they over-relied on worker compliance, adequate training and frequent employer audits.
In March 2008, the Primal
Surfacing Pty Ltd road broom operator was working alone on a project
near Grantville, Victoria when he was fatally crushed between his Hino
truck and its hydraulic road broom attachment. The Coroner found it was
possible the worker was trying to adjust the broom slew proximity switch
because it failed to stow completely. According to a consultant
engineer, the worker might have felt safe within the crush zone because,
normally, the mechanism only moved when the joystick inside the vehicle
was being operated.
Coroner Jamieson said the worker's death highlighted the importance of having systems that prevented people working alone, ensured risk assessments considered tasks outside normal machine operation, and ensured risk control measures didn't "rely solely on administrative controls".
Source: OHS Alert
Safe Work Australia
Status as independent body supported
As reported in previous editions of SafetyNet, the National Commission of Audit advised the Federal Government to consolidate Safe Work Australia (SWA), Comcare, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and other agencies into the Department of Employment, and to abolish the tripartite Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council. Employment Minister Eric Abetz, speaking at Senate Estimates last week, suggested that it would be unlikely that SWA would be consolidated into the Department of Employment, hinting that it would not be cost effective. "In relation to Safe Work Australia, I [previously] indelicately referred to it as a scrambled egg," he said. "How you unscramble that without the concurrence of the states, given the intergovernmental agreement and the legislation [that established SWA], I think would be a relatively major exercise." He noted that SWA is co-funded by the Commonwealth, states and territories under an intergovernmental agreement on work health and safety, and that any change there would need to have legislative passage through the Parliament. He also reiterated that the tasks currently undertaken by the under-threat Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency would continue even if the Agency was scrapped.
As at 12 June 2014, 78 Australian workers have been killed while at work and reported to Safe Work Australia.
The fatalities: 34 in Transport, postal and warehousing; 17 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; nine in Mining; five in Construction; three each in Manufacturing; Electricity, Gas & Water Services; and Arts & recreation services; two in Accommodation & food services and one each in Health care/social assistance; and Rental, hiring & real estate services. The overall numbers of fatalities has decreased over the past two years, with 87 fatalities at the same time last year, and 91 at the same time in 2012.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
The latest monthly fatalities report remains that for February 2014, which was reported the last edition. The monthly report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
- From Workcover NSW – a new video on forklifts and pedestrian safety.
- From the UK's regulator, the HSE: a tool which demonstrates the usefulness of and need for wearing hearing protection
Victoria: Construction company fined for poor excavation work
On 11 November 2013 a WorkSafe inspector attended the site of a subdivision in Warrnambool. The Inspector observed people working in and around a large trench that had been excavated under the corner of the brick veneer house. The wall of the building was clearly showing signs of failure with a large crack running through the brickwork. This could have led to the collapse of the wall and a potentially fatal incident.
The company involved, Hezem Pty Ltd ('Hezem'), 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 28 May 2014, the Warrnambool Magistrates Court convicted and fined Hezem $30,000, plus costs of $3,245.
Victoria: Gold miner fined $60K
Mandalay Resources Costerfield Operations Pty Ltd, operator of a gold and antimony mine in Costerfield (between Bendigo and Seymour). On 19 November 2012, an employee suffered injuries to her arm as a result of it being caught in an unguarded item of plant. On 21 May 2014 in the Ballarat Magistrates' Court the company, which had pleaded guilty to one under sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act 2004 for failing to provide safe plant, was convicted and fined $60,000 plus costs of $4,052.
Victoria: Manufacturing company pleads guilty after apprentice's hand injured
On 22 May 2013 a first year apprentice vehicle body builder at Southern Cross Vans, a manufacturer of refrigerated trailers and rigid truck bodies, sustained serious injuries to his right hand. The apprentice was operating a 10" panel saw to cut sheets of timber ply or foam into strips. When purchased, the saw was fitted with a protective guard over the blade and a riving knife behind the blade, however at the time of the incident, the guard and riving knife were not fitted to the saw. The saw kicked back, drawing the apprentice's hand into contact with the unguarded blade, causing sustained finger lacerations and nerve and tendon injury.
On 29 May 2014 in the Dandenong Magistrate's Court, Southern Cross Vans pleaded guilty to one charge under sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act 2004 in that it failed to provide and maintain plant and a system of work that was, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. The company was convicted and fined $20,000, with costs of $3,245.
Victoria: Potting mix company fined
On 8 October 2012 an employee of Debco Pty Ltd, a Tyabb potting mix manufacturer, suffered a serious injury to his right forearm, a dislocated right elbow and bone damage to both bones in his right forearm when his arm was dragged into an area between the conveyor belt and the conveyor rollers on a feed hopper. The worker had been using an airgun in an attempt to clean a build-up of dirt between the conveyor belt and the rollers.
Debco pleaded guilty to one charge under sections 21(1) & (2)(a) of the OHS Act, and on 29 May 2014 in the Frankston Magistrates' Court was fined $45,000, without conviction, with costs of $3,245.
Source: VWA Prosecutions Summaries
ACT: Kenoss director to fight charges over worker fatality
In the last edition of SafetyNet 281 we reported that WorkSafe ACT has charged construction company Kenoss Contractors, and one of its senior managers, over the death of a worker two years ago. This is the first prosecution of a company director under the new WHS laws. Acting company director Munir al-Hasani, was personally charged with breaching his duty to ensure Kenoss Contractors provided and maintained safe systems of work, and failing to ensure the company provided a work environment without risks to health and safety. The media last week reported that the company has gone into liquidation, and al-Hasani has, through his defence lawyer, indicated he will be pleading not guilty to the charges.
Read more: ABC News Online
EU-OSHA: New Strategic Framework
Every year in the European Union, 'accidents' at work kill more than 4,000 people, and more than 3,000,000 workers suffer a serious injury. To ensure the safety of its 217 million workers, the European Commission has launched a new Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work (2014 – 2020), which outlines three major challenges, sets seven objectives, and aims to identify the best instruments to make workplaces a safer place for all. The three challenges are:
- to improve implementation of existing health and safety rules, in particular by enhancing the capacity of micro and small enterprises to put in place effective and efficient risk prevention strategies;
- to improve the prevention of work-related diseases by tackling new and emerging risks without neglecting existing risks; and
- to take account of the ageing of the EU's workforce.
EU Media Release Health and safety at work: Strategic Framework sets out EU objectives for 2014-2020 View EU Commission's new video which raises awareness on health and safety and working conditions