SafetyNet 286, 24 July
Welcome to our third weekly edition of the SafetyNet journal – we hope you enjoyed reading last week's. If you have any comments about the journal, please send them in to Renata at firstname.lastname@example.org . We have not yet started our e-news but this will happen soon. And please, 'follow' us on Twitter - @OHSreps
We need to hear from
health and safety reps!
In SafetyNet 284 we reported that the Office of Best Practice Regulation had released an Issues Paper and Consultation Regulation Impact Statement: Improving the model Work Health and Safety laws. The purpose is supposedly to "investigate ways in which model WHS laws could be improved to reduce red tape and make it easier for businesses and workers to comply with their work health and safety responsibilities".
As noted then, even though Victoria has not implemented the WHS model legislation, the Federal government, in this review, is targeting HSR powers and rights that have been in our OHS Act since 1985, and also the right of entry for union officials – which we've had since 2004. We are very concerned that any removal or watering down of HSR rights in the WHS Act will trickle down to the Victorian Act.
We want to hear your stories – have you had good outcomes in assisting your employer to provide a safe and healthy workplace? Have you used your powers under the OHS Act to achieve good outcomes? For example, have you issued a PIN that led to a good result? Have you ever had to order a Cease Work, and what was the outcome? Have you needed to seek of 'any person' (eg your organiser) under Section 58?
Please please send Renata an email (email@example.com) with your experiences TODAY or TOMORROW – it does not need to be very long, and we will maintain your anonymity if you wish. Thank you!
ACTU: limiting union
right-of-entry will compromise health and safety
ACTU assistant secretary Michael Borowick, and OHS spokesperson, has said that worker health and safety would be compromised if union right-of-entry relating to safety issues was limited, as suggested in the Review issues paper. "Unions are deeply concerned that this could lead to the health and safety of workers being compromised, as well as their right to have their voices heard about health and safety concerns and to have the support and assistance of their union," he said.
Worker killed in
A Victorian worker was crushed to death after a 200kg load in his bobcat's bucket crashed through the vehicle's windscreen. The media has reported that the 42-year-old was working at a foundry in Wodonga, northern Victoria, at about 11pm on Tuesday when the contents fell from the bobcat's bucket and through the windscreen.
incident is being investigated by the VWA and police. There has been no news on
the fatality from the regulator.
Source: The Age
I work for a training organisation. My role is to provide training and assessment to young people looking for jobs. This sometimes involves training on the premises a couple of days per week. I asked for time to conduct a Health & Safety Induction Session, but the employer refused saying it was not required.
While there is no mandatory requirement to provide OHS induction training, an employer has a general duty to persons other than employees under Section 23 of the OHS Act – that is, an employer has a legal duty to make sure that the health and safety of OTHER people (not employees) is not put at risk from anything the employer, his business or his workers might do. (see Employer duties)
So, at the very least, those who are going to be spending time at any workplace need to know about things such as emergency procedures, exits, first aid facilities, any potential hazards at the site, who to report to, and so on. The point is that if someone, other than an employee, were to be injured at the workplace, or while undertaking any training which is linked to the business, the employer would be in breach of the law, and the regulator could prosecute.
If an employer believes there is no need for induction training, this decision must be based on a sound assessment of the hazards and potential risks. An appropriate induction session need not be very long or complicated.
Of course, if the employer is paying these people anything at all, then Section 21(2)(e) of the Act applies: that is, the employer must provide information, instruction, training and supervision.
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.
Why AIDS is an issue for
The biennial International AIDS Conference began on Sunday in Melbourne. Approximately 14,000 delegates from 200 countries are attending the conference, including policymakers, health workers, scientific and medical researchers, people living with HIV and others committed to ending the epidemic. On the agenda today (Thursday) is a session on the leading role unions have played in supporting and advocating for people with HIV/AIDS, and in preventing the spread of the virus. The
session will be chaired by Ken Davis, international programs manager at Union
Aid Abroad-APHEDA. Mr Davis said the role of unions in the early days of
HIV-AIDS in Australia
in the mid-1980s was "pretty heroic". "The adoption by the ACTU of
anti-discrimination policies in 1985 was incredibly important in Australia," he
said. "Essentially the ACTU adopted a policy that HIV was an issue for workers,
that unions should play a role in educating their members and preventing
Read more: This Working Life
ACT: Two Mr Fluffy homeowners diagnosed with mesothelioma
In very worrying news, two people in Mr Fluffy homes have been diagnosed with mesothelioma this year, according to spokeswoman for the Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group, Brianna Heseltine, adding too that others living in homes contaminated with loose-fill asbestos had tumours and other diseases possibly linked to the exposure.
chief health officer Andrew Pengilley confirmed the cases of mesothelioma, but
said it was not possible to draw conclusions about the risk of living in a Mr
Fluffy home. It was unknown how many people had lived in the homes since the
insulation was installed more than 40 years ago. He believes the risk of
disease from living in a Mr Fluffy home is low – based on mesothelioma rates in
residents of Wittenoom. However, the reality is that there is no safe level of
exposure to asbestos, and because the Mr Fluffy asbestos was highly refined,
the risk could be much higher: and so homeowners are right to be concerned.
Read more: Canberra Times
WA: Asbestos scare keeps WA school
Western Australia's largest government high school will remain closed for the rest of the week due to an asbestos scare. Asbestos residue was found on Monday during the inspection of a building due for demolition at Willetton Senior High School.
Parents were told of the closure via text message the day before the students' return from holidays. Education Department schools deputy director-general David Axworthy said the school was closed as a precaution and test results would take 24 hours to come back. Arrangements are being made for students, particularly those in year 12, to continue their studies online this week.
prompted West Australian Upper House member and long-time campaigner Kate Doust
to again call for a publicly available list of all State buildings containing deadly
asbestos. Ms Doust said Willetton was
part of the "next wave" of asbestos exposure and predicted the deadly fibres
would be found at more state schools. "All these schools were built around the
same time. It's all tied in to the next wave [of exposure]," she said.
Read more: The Daily Mail and WA today
NSW: Serial asbestos dumper
A contractor who dumped eight truckloads (or 80 tonnes) of hazardous waste containing asbestos on residential land could be paying off fines for similar offences beyond 2072, a Sydney court heard this week. Dib Hanna, 38, has dozens of criminal convictions and more than 20 fines for illegally dumping building material across Sydney. In 2013, he was given a three-month suspended jail sentence and good behaviour bond for contempt of a court order to stop illegally dumping hazardous material. The waste removal contractor is paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines at a rate of $300 a month through the New South Wales Debt Recovery Office.
Read more: ABC news online
New ETUI publication: The Asbestos
For decades asbestos was considered an ideal substance and therefore was called 'the mineral of the twentieth century'. Even though the fibre had already been shown to cause various ailments, a real boom began in the 1950s and prospered everywhere in Europe – and of course 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 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, The asbestos lie. The past and present of an industrial catastrophe can be downloaded (or ordered) from this page of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) website.
Pakistan: Two million Karachiites face cancer threat
A personal loss has revealed collective tragedy in Karachi where a factory dumping site in Gadap Town is still exposing over two million residents to cancer-causing asbestos that annually kills 100,000 people at the global level. While 52 countries have banned asbestos, the Pakistani government, appears unconcerned. A study commissioned on the directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has found that the populations residing in Gadap Town and nearby areas are prone to cancer-like diseases through asbestos, as it is air-borne.
Read more: The International News
declares tomorrow, July 25 "Stress Down Day"
A recent national poll done by Lifeline has revealed that about 91 per cent of respondents said they felt stress - so taking action to reduce stress generally is a great idea. But while 'the power of laughter' can help reduce the effect on individuals, it does not actually address, nor reduce, the causes of that stress. People identified a number of factors as causing stress. Of concern to us is that more than half of the respondents (52%) indicated they experienced "a little stress" at work, and 25 per cent said they experienced "a lot of stress". So encouraging employers to run activities such as hand and neck massage stations or yoga classes, morning teas, or trivia competitions may shift the focus away from tackling and reducing the workplace factors which contribute to stress.
Remember: the employer has a duty of care under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (as do PCBUs under the various WHS Acts) to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, and this includes psychological health. This means identifying the work-related stress factors, and taking action to eliminate or reduce these at the source. Read more on the site: Stress section
Friends of the Earth
launches new campaign
Last week Friends of the Earth launched a new campaign for the precautionary regulation and testing of emerging technologies. The Emerging Tech Project will predominantly focus on nanotechnology, geo-engineering and synthetic biology and maintain a watch on other technologies as they emerge and develop.
Jeremy Tager, Emerging Tech campaigner with Friends of the Earth said, "Friends of the Earth has had a nanotechnology campaign for nearly a decade now. We decided to make this transition because we are now seeing a suite of new technologies of unprecedented power and scale emerge in Australia and globally.
"It is critical that we don't allow the continued commercialisation of incredibly powerful – and risky – technologies with little or no testing or public or regulatory oversight. We need to ensure these technologies are developed, tested and used in the public interest – not in the interests of large corporations."
The organisation's latest (July) edition of its magazine, Chain Reaction has an editorial on the new campaign and makes very interesting, if disturbing, reading. Of particular interest is Louise Sales' article Corporate influence over nanotechnology regulation. It can be read online or downloaded as a pdf.
is no regulation which specifically addresses chemicals in nanoform – even
though some regulators, such as NICNAS, have initiated work. The VTHC believes
that it is crucial for employers and workers to know whether materials in use
in the workplace contain nanomaterials – it is only with this knowledge that
precautionary controls can be implemented. FoE has provided input and advice to
the union movement in particular on nanotechnology and we will continue to work
closely with them whenever possible.
Read more: FoE The Emerging Tech Project and on our website Nanotechnology
Service apologises for paramedic's 2011 death
An inquest into the death of a specialist paramedic who was killed while trying to rescue an injured canyoner three years ago began in Sydney this week. The paramedic was killed on Christmas Eve in 2011 after falling from a rope suspended from a helicopter at Carrington Falls, near Wollongong. A report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found the helicopter started winching the pair before they had secured a rope to stop them swinging. The pair fell to the base of the cliff; the paramedic died of his injuries at the scene.
On the opening day of the inquest at Glebe
Coroner's Court, the Ambulance Service of NSW unreservedly apologised to the
man's family. Counsel for the Ambulance Service told the inquest there were
significant deficiencies in its response to the emergency, and that significant
changes to its operations and management had been made since the fatality.
Read more: ABC News online
Trade Union Choir appeal for funds
A quick reminder to subscribers to consider chipping in to the Victorian Trade Union Choir crowd-funding project to raise $5000 to fund a Victorian regional tour of their sell-out music-theatre show I'll be there. Every little bit helps, so please contribute – and earn a reward.
Hazards feature: the dangers of fracking
This week the TUC's Hazards magazine did a feature on the hazards involved in 'fracking' – or hydraulic fracturing – the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas and oil. With massive reservoirs of oil and gas trapped in the rocks, the oil industry is eager to get fracking, and governments around the world, including Australia, are being pressured to allow it to go ahead without the permission of the owners of the land. But Hazards editor Rory O'Neill warns US evidence of chemical related deaths, a soaring fatality rate and widespread over-exposure to lung wrecking, cancer-causing dust, has raised seriously unhealthy questions. In addition, farmers and the community in areas where industry wants to 'frack' are concerned about the potential contamination of the water table, and pollution generally.
The feature is very thorough, and even though
the focus is on fracking in the UK,
the same issues, such as safety, regulation (or lack of), and so on, are
relevant to Australia.
Read more: Hazards July 2014 Chemicals, dust and deaths and the new rush for oil and gas.
action needed from Bangladesh Government
The Bangladesh government must dramatically increase efforts to create a safe and sustainable garment industry, says IndustriALL Global Union in the wake of a damning evaluation of the Sustainability Compact. The Compact was signed a year ago between the ILO, EU and Bangladesh government after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed over 1,100 factory workers. With it, Bangladesh committed to widespread reforms on protection of labour rights, fire and building safety and corporate responsibility.
A joint evaluation of the Compact by
IndustriALL, UNI Global Union and ITUC has found the Bangladesh Government has
largely failed to implement the Compact, despite substantial financial and
technical support from a number of foreign governments and the ILO. The evaluation
found that the inability of workers to organize and bargain collectively over
the terms and conditions of work meant that gains in building and fire safety
would not be sustainable, leading to further tragedies. Even worse: the
attitude of the government towards unions seems to be only deteriorating.
Read more: IndustriALL Media Release
New way to map worker fatalities and injuries
A 26-year-old epidemiology student at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Bethany Boggess, has begun an online mapping project, the Global Worker Watch which is a living map of worker fatalities and catastrophes from around the globe. The site has a world map speckled with blue dots, each representing a reported occupational death, illness or disaster. She began gathering the information herself, and while Boggess speaks English, Spanish and Italian, and reads French, language has proved a problem, and the data is obviously not complete. She now receives information from people all over the world and hopes that as more people hear about the project and want to participate, language will become less of a barrier. The Global Worker Watch site also offers visitors its data in the raw as well as a gallery of recent and historical photos of workers from around the world. "I wanted to put a face to this," she said of the photo gallery. "The maps are nice but there's no human face to them."
Boggess' idea for Global Worker Watch grew out
of her experience investigating the global supply chain in the aftermath of the
building collapse in Bangladesh
in 2013 that killed more than 1,000 people and injured thousands more. She began working with data analysts in the United Kingdom to identify which U.S. and U.K.
companies sourced their products from factories in Bangladesh. Shortly after the Bangladesh project, she partnered with
an Austin-based worker centre, Workers Defense Project, to map incidents of wage theft and worker injury using weekly
reports from OSHA.
Read more: The Pump Handle Blog
Male shift workers at higher risk of diabetes
A group of Chinese researchers conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association between shift work and the risk of diabetes mellitus (DM or type 2 diabetes). They did this because although observational studies suggest that there is a link, results have been inconsistent and there had been no systematic reviews.
Their review included twelve studies with 28 independent reports involving almost 2276,000 participants and almost 14,600 patients with DM. They found that all shift work schedules with the exception of mixed shifts and evening shifts were associated with a statistically higher risk of DM than normal daytime schedules, and the difference among those shift work schedules was significant. In addition, they said subgroup analyses suggested a stronger association between shift work and DM for men. However, the reasons for this were unclear. They did, however, suggest some possible mechanisms for diabetes in shift workers. These were:
- shift work may interfere with the light–dark cycle, sleeping and eating patterns, which might cause a mismatch of circadian rhythms; and circadian disruption may accelerate the development of DM in certain individuals;
- shift workers are forced to change their bed time frequently, leading to sleep problems. Not enough and poor quality sleep may lead to and worsen insulin resistance;
- shift work can lead to weight gain, increase in appetite and adiposity: major risk factors for DM;.
- shift work might increase the risk of DM by disturbing socio-temporal patterns as a result of working irregular hours, which might contribute to family problems, reduce social support and induce stress; and
- lead to unfavourable changes to biomarkers, such as cholesterol and other lipids, blood pressure and plasminogen.
Source: Lu, Z et al: Shift work and diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of observational studies, [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102150
OHS Regulator News
Farm safety week
It's Farm Safety Week this week, and Mr Len Neist, the VWA's Executive Director of Health and Safety, has written a 'Letter to the Editor', also published on the VWA News website. In it he points out: "Farm injury figures are at their lowest in a decade, yet farming remains one of the most high-risk industries in the state," but adds, "While the number of claims fell from 467 in 2012 to 401 in 2013 - an improvement of more than 14 per cent - the VWA is urging farmers and farm workers to be vigilant when it comes to workplace safety.
farmers: "In almost all cases, workplace injuries can be prevented by making
safety a priority. It might be as simple as taking five minutes every day to
reassess the tasks that need to be completed, or making sure you use the right
equipment for the task at hand."
Read more: Letter to the Editor
Safe Work Australia
Australian Workers' Compensation Statistics 2011-12
Safe Work Australia this week released the Australian Workers' Compensation Statistics 2011-12 report. This is the 20th annual report that uses the National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics (NDS). This new edition replaces the previous Compendium of Workers' Compensation statistics series.
Key findings from the report include:
- there were 120,155 accepted workers' compensation claims for serious injury or disease,
- males accounted for 64 per cent of serious claims in 2010-11
- the average age of an employee with a serious claim was 42 years old, and
- the highest incidence rate of serious claims by industry was recorded by the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industry (21.3 serious claims per 1000 employees) - nearly double the national rate of 11.4.
The report also shows that over the period 2000–01 to 2010–11:
- the number of serious claims decreased by 7 per cent, incidence rates decreased by 27 per cent and frequency rates decreased by 25 per cent
- median time lost from work rose by 20 per cent from 4.2 to 5.0 working weeks, and
- median compensation paid rose by 60 per cent from $5200 to $8300.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Media Release
Safe Work to review lead
A new SWA report has found that the current lead exposure standards expose workers to risk of adverse health effects. The report Review of hazards and health effects of inorganic lead – implications for WHS regulatory policy - undertaken by ToxConsult Pty Ltd – found that current blood lead removal levels in the model Regulations are not sufficiently protective of the health of workers in lead risk work and that adverse health effects may occur at those levels. The report proposed changes are needed to the blood lead removal levels and also proposed lowering the workplace exposure standard for inorganic lead as a consequence because blood lead levels and air lead levels are interrelated.
The report acknowledged the biological impact of excessive lead exposure, such as effects on the nervous system, increased blood pressure, heart rate variability, kidney dysfunction, changes in immune system markers, reduced sperm quality and haematological effects.
SWA is seeking views of stakeholders on the proposed options for blood lead removal levels and the workplace exposure standards. Prior to any changes being made, a Regulatory Impact Statement will be completed.
The latest update to the SWA website of reported workplace fatalities this year was as of 14 July 2014, as reported in the last edition of SafetyNet, when the number was 97.
A new monthly fatalities report, for April 2014, has been placed on the SWA site. During this period there were 19 reported fatalities – of these, 13 were workers and six were bystanders. The monthly report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Comcare launches "Stay Safe in the
The regulator this week launched its 2014 Electrical Safety Campaign – Stay Safe in the Workplace which will run July through to September. The Stay Safe in the Workplace campaign aims to highlight the sources of electrical risks in the workplace, following the release of Comcare data which highlighted that electrical incidents in the workplace are increasing. Comcare says these incidents are not restricted to people who work in electrical trades, but that they also commonly occur in office spaces and workshops. Most injuries are the result of using faulty equipment, non-tested personal and company-owned equipment and/or poor electrical awareness and practices. There are new resources – a poster, a checklist and a video – available to download.
Read more: Stay Safe in the Workplace and Electrical Safety FAQs on our site.
As of July 23, no further prosecutions summaries had been uploaded on the VWA website. The latest prosecutions reported are for June 2014.
laid in relation to workplace fatality
The ACT's Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe yesterday announced that charges have been laid in relation to the workplace fatality of Ben Catanzariti in July 2012. Mr Catanzariti was killed when he was struck by the boom, which collapsed at a construction site in Kingston. The boom had recently undergone a full six-year inspection.
Mr McCabe said after Work Safe ACT had concluded its investigation into the
matter, the Director of Public Prosecutions has accepted the recommendation for
charges to be laid. As a result, charges
of Reckless Conduct, a Category One offence, have been laid under the Work
Health and Safety Act 2011, against a company and a worker in relation to
maintenance of a concrete boom, which was undertaken in NSW. The maximum
penalty for a Category One offence is $3,000,000 for the company and $300,000
and/or five years imprisonment for the individual worker. These are the first
such charges under the WHS legislation anywhere in Australia. Alternative charges have
also been laid for failing to comply with a health and safety d duty, and exposing an individual to a risk of
death or serious injury or illness.
Read more: ACT Media Release Charges laid in relation to workplace fatality
fined $100k after near fatality
Building company Bellard Proprietary Limited, pleaded guilty of failing to maintain a safe workplace and has been fined $100,000 over a teenager's fall down a lift shaft on his first day of work. The 17-year-old Elite Concrete Pumping SA Pty Ltd worker was working on two multi-storey semi-detached dwellings in Seaview Road at Henley Beach in September 2011 when he tripped on steel mesh. He fell backwards eight metres to the bottom of a lift shaft that had been covered by some wooden planks.
It was a miracle the teenager was not killed: he spent two weeks in hospital recovering from a broken leg, a back injury, deep head lacerations and chipped teeth. The head trauma he received has resulted in deteriorated vision. He continues to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and physical pain, with limping and reduced mobility.
Another prosecution for fall
An experienced construction worker, employed by Montica Consulting Pty Ltd and engaged by Kyren Pty Ltd to lay formwork at a construction site in December 2011, while attempting to dislodge a misplaced floor sheet, fell 3.8 metres through a void to the basement, sustaining a broken nose and facial lacerations.
Kyren pleaded guilty to breaching the OHSW Act in failing to ensure the worker was wearing fall protection. Three days before the incident, Kyren's project manager found that workers weren't wearing fall protection near edges at the site, and although he issued a warning to the workers and faxed a memo to the site supervisor instructing him to ensure they wore harnesses, he did not follow up to ensure harnesses were in fact being worn.
The magistrate also found Kyren had not formally inducted the injured worker, and failed to ensure he signed job safety analyses. The magistrate fined the employer $91,000, after a 30 per cent discount for its early guilty plea, cooperation and contrition.