SafetyNet 287, 31 July
This is the fourth weekly edition of the SafetyNet journal – and we hope you like it. Please let us know if you have any comments about the journal: send them to Renata at firstname.lastname@example.org. Still trying to get started on our e-news but hopefully, this will happen soon. And please, please 'follow' us on Twitter - @OHSreps
Review of model WHS laws
We'd like to thank those HSRs who sent in their stories/experiences in response to our call in last week's SafetyNet. The emails we received covered points such as successful outcomes following issuing a 'cease work'; the crucial assistance provided by a union to an HSR in meetings; and much more. For those interested in taking a look at what the Office of Best Practice Regulation is considering, check out their Issues Paper and Consultation Regulation Impact Statement: Improving the model Work Health and Safety laws.
ACTU: Pregnancy discrimination highlights need for
changes to workplace laws
The ACTU says the Human Rights Commission's report into pregnancy and return to work, released last Friday, highlights the need for the Government to strengthen workplace laws to stop discrimination against women at work. The report: Pregnancy and return to work discrimination hurts everyone found that little has changed in the 15 years since its first Inquiry into this subject. Australian workplaces still overwhelmingly view working while pregnant as a privilege, not a right. The Review found that one in two (49%) mothers and over a quarter (27%) of the fathers and partners surveyed reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work. Women and men spoke of the devastating impacts such discrimination can have on a person's health, on their economic security and on their family.
ACTU and unions requested this review because growing numbers of our members
tell us they are being discriminated against at work during pregnancy, when
they return to work from parental leave, or when they need to care for a family
member," said ACTU President Ged Kearney. "The shocking figures in this review
reveal the magnitude of the problem," she said. "The fact that one third of
mothers and one quarter of partners either resigned from their job or looked for
other work highlights the unacceptable cost of this discrimination on women,
their families and the economy."
Human Rights Commission Media Release ACTU Media Release
A few weeks ago, Renata received several (!!) inquiries about Elevated Work Platforms – an issue she does not know a great deal about. This week, she found what appears to be a very useful article in the Queensland WHS regulator's eSAFE Construction newsletter:
The Right Tool for the Job: EWP gradeability ratings When selecting an elevating work platform (EWP) for your job, it is important to consider the sort of operating conditions under which it needs to work. EWPs have predetermined limits - grade ratings - for the angle or slope of ground surface they can travel on.
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.
What is OHS about? Not
about 'covering one's a*se'!
The OHS journalist and blogger Kevin Jones, has written another thoughtful piece: "OHS is not all about covering one's a*se". The article is available through his SafetyAtWorkBlog. Kevin considers the possible motivations for employers to implement positive OHS changes, including 'reputational risk', and discusses research done in the UK and in Australia. The motivator of potential damage to a company's reputation as a result of a serious incident or fatality reported in the mass media is particularly relevant in Victoria. The regulator, the VWA continues to remain silent – neither commenting on fatalities, nor promoting successful prosecutions. Kevin writes: "The opportunity to increase reputational risk, and therefore motivate change, is not only missed in Victoria but being dismissed."
push by the Liberal/Coalition governments to reduce the 'red tape' of OHS will
also result in a decrease in other, traditional, motivators such as inspections
and enforcement activities. Kevin concludes that OHS professionals, companies
and of course workers lose as a result of the lack of enforcement and the
dominance of the a*se-covering perception – and unscrupulous companies are the
Read more: SafetyAtWorkBlog
Asbestos: Feature on Mr
A feature in the Sydney Morning Herald is accompanied by a very interesting video in which two 'Mr Fluffy' victims tell their story, as well as a real estate agent who speaks of the growing level of concern amongst home buyers.
Read more: Mr Fluffy Crisis Hits Home
Fly-out (FIFO): effect on workers and depression
Rhys Connor, a young fly-in, fly-out worker who took his life in the Pilbara left a suicide note that said West Australians "don't know what it's like to work FIFO and have depression". On the first anniversary of death, his family has released details of the note to raise awareness of the mental health problems of the FIFO workforce. The family has also released video of an interview conducted a few days before his death as part of a yet-to-be-released government-funded project aiming to provide support for miners.
The 25-year-old father-of-one told This FIFO Life that workers were struggling with depression, relationship breakdowns and boredom. He said anyone planning to work FIFO should "rethink" the idea pointing to the isolation and the effect of being separated from family. Of great concern is that the interview closes with a voice-over: "Everyone has a role to play in recognising the potential signs of suicide and providing support to people who may be struggling." It then lists some of the "common signs".
Rhys' parents, on the other hand, want mining
giants to do more to protect workers. Mr Miller said his once "larrikin" and
"affectionate" son had been broken down by FIFO work, in particular the
"torturous" roster of spending four weeks on-site for every one-week off.
Read more: Northern Territory News
Union Choir appeal for funds
Latest update: the appeal launched by the Trade Union Choir has been a success, and the wished for target has been reached. So: thank you to any subscriber who contributed.
Bangladesh: World's Lowest Wage Workers Commence Hunger Strike
On the evening of 28th July 2014 over six hundred Bangladeshi garment workers commenced a hunger strike. One thousand others are taking other action. They are employed in five factories in the Tuba Group – infamous for the Tazreen Fashions fire which claimed the lives of over 130 workers (including children as young as 12) in November 2012. The owner, Delwar Hossein, was arrested in February 2014 and awaits trial for the murder of the workers.
The workers have not been paid for the last three months work despite numerous commitments to pay the workers before the Eid Festival which commenced this week. The Eid Festival has now finished and the workers are still not paid.
The work done during the last three months included sewing thousands of FIFA 2014 World Cup kits and many other labels. "Many of the workers are falling ill and collapsing as the hunger strike enters its third day," said Mr Moniruzzaman Masum, Bangladesh Labour Union Organiser. "The owner, Delwar Hossein, made paying workers their last three months wages conditional on him being granted bail." Said Mr Masum.
Dr Colin Long, Secretary
of the Victorian branch of the NTEU and representing the Australia Bangladesh
Solidarity Network, said, "It is horrifying that some of the world's lowest paid
workers are being forced to starve to death in their final attempt to be paid
for three months work. These workers live hand to mouth already. It is amazing
they have survived for three months."
Source: Australia Bangladesh Solidarity Network Incorporated Media Release
OSH Legal resources Handbook
From the Asia Monitor Resource Centre, the OSH Legal resources Handbook is a guide to occupational injuries and disease in Asia, intended to serve as a practical reference handbook for those legal practitioners and activists involved in the struggle to seek compensation and justice for victims of occupational injuries and diseases. It aims to be a hands-on manual and provide an overview of the working of the law and its implementation. It is supplemented with case studies that give the reader an insight into the working of the laws in the region. It will also serve as a tool to aid cross-border alliances and build strong solidarity among victims' support groups across the region. The publication has country reports from 10 countries: from South Asia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India; from East Asia: China, Japan, and Hong Kong; and from Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Read more: The publication, or individual chapters can be downloaded from this page
With 'heatwave' conditions, UK unions seek new rules
As summer temperatures soar in the UK, the TUC is calling on employers to relax workplace dress codes temporarily to help their staff work through the heatwave as comfortably as possible. Although there is a legal limit in the UK below which workplace temperatures should not fall (16°C), there is no upper limit. For many years the TUC has been pushing for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30°C – or 27°C for those doing strenuous work – with employers forced to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24°C. Of course, workers in Australia are often faced with workplace temperatures in the 40's – and we don't have regulations on temperature either.
But back to the UK: The TUC says that in the
meantime employers can help their overheating staff by allowing them to leave
their more formal office attire at home for the rest of the week. TUC general
secretary Frances O'Grady said: "When it's hot outside, it's no fun for those
trapped inside in overheated workplaces. Extreme heat can be as unpleasant to
work in as extreme cold, and so long as the UK has no legal maximum working
temperature, many workers will be working in conditions that are not just
personally unpleasant, but will also be affecting their productivity." She
added: "Now is the time for employers to relax the dress code rules temporarily
and allow their staff to dress down for summer. Making sure that everyone has
access to fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water should
help reduce the heat in offices, factories, shops, hospitals, schools and other
TUC Media Release Source: Risks 664 Hazards 126, April – June now available online
The latest edition of the TUC's terrific Hazards magazine is now available online. We've already pointed subscribers to a couple of the articles (on Silica exposure, and the risks involved in fracking), but now the entire edition can be accessed on this page of the TUC website.
deaths in 20 years at shipbreaking yard
In late June, five workers were killed and eight others injured in a gas explosion in the Alang Shipbreaking Yard in India's Gujarat state. All of them were migrant workers. In the twenty years from 1983 to 2013, 470 workers were killed at the Alang Shipbreaking Yard, as well as another 15 deaths this year. The union on site called a meeting of safety officials and government officers to discuss how to prevent more deaths in the future. More action is needed to prevent more deaths.
Read more: Union fights for safety after 5 killed in Indian shipyard IndustriALL, and Grim fate for workers in Alang ship-breaking yard The Hindu. Source: AAWL Mini News
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Provision of onsite facilities linked to obesity
A recent study by US and Canadian researchers has found no evidence provision of workplace exercise facilities increase employees' physical activity levels, and are actually associated with a higher body mass index in workers. The outcome of the study of 28 American worksites with 6261 workers, "goes against the generally accepted idea that workout facilities at workplaces have a positive impact on employee [physical activity] and BMI". It may be, they say, that sites with a higher proportion of overweight and obese employees were more likely to have such facilities, or that workers with a higher BMI feel less comfortable using the facilities at their workplace. The study - which aimed to look at the association between worksite physical environments and employee dietary intake, physical activity (PA), and weight status - found, however, that workers who had access to outdoor spaces such as walking trails had lower BMIs. It also found that workers with access to cafeterias, and fewer vending machines, were also more likely to have better eating habits.
The research concluded that
'selected environmental factors in worksites were significantly associated with
employee behaviors and weight status, providing additional intervention targets
to change the worksite environment and promote employee weight loss.'
Source: Fabio Almeida, et al, US, The Association Between Worksite Physical Environment and Employee Nutrition, and Physical Activity Behaviour and Weight Status. [Full article] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 56, Issue 7, July 2014.
Burnout linked to performance management
The closely policed pressure to perform at work is creating a generation of burnout victims, experts have warned. Online publication Equal Times reports almost one worker in ten is at risk of burnout. In some professions, the numbers affected are as high as 40 per cent. "It is often the people most devoted to their work that suffer from burnout," explained Dr Patrick Mesters, director of the European Institute for Intervention and Research on Burnout (EIIRBO) in Brussels. "Burnout deprives companies of their best employees. And it's not at all surprising." The symptoms of burnout are similar to those of depression: persistent physical and emotional exhaustion, aggressive behaviour. What differentiates it, however, is the fact that all the symptoms are caused by the person's working environment – a universe that has evolved considerably in recent decades, to the extent that it promotes physical and emotional exhaustion. "Many factors can lead to burnout," continued Dr Mesters. "They, of course, include overwork and the imbalance between work and personal life. But many people also complain about work losing its meaning and a lack of recognition from their colleagues and superiors. The individual feels increasingly isolated in his or her work. This can lead to feelings of overload and loss of control." According to Equal Times: "The way the working environment is organised appears to be a major factor in the development of burnout. It is an environment that is increasingly dehumanised and pressurised, an environment that is increasingly taking over people's personal lives."
Read more: Burnout: the flip side of the cult of performance Equal Times; European Institute for Intervention and Research on Burn Out Source: Risks 664
OHS Regulator News
VWA releases new
guidance on Violence
Victoria's regulator has released a new Guide for Employers: preventing and responding to work related violence. This can be accessed from the Occupational Violence topic information page on the VWA website. In addition to this new guide, older guidance on client initiated and external violence and additional information 'for organisations where jobs that require face-to-face contact place workers at risk of exposure to occupational violence' is available from this page.
On day of damaging
winds, VWA retweets Safety Alert on Freestanding walls
'Damaging winds' were forecast for this week and so the VWA retweeted its Safety Alert on Freestanding walls. However, the warning did not prevent an incident in Tarneit, in Melbourne's west on Tuesday. Two workers were taken to hospital after the wild winds brought down scaffolding. The men were working on the first floor of a residential property in Riversdale Drive, Tarneit, when the steel frame gave way. Emergency services were called to the site at around 9am. CFA senior station officer Darren Miller told 7News that security cameras would help to determine the exact cause of the collapse - but he believed the primary factor was strong winds. "We're in a laneway next to the river, and the winds funnels down into this laneway," Firefighter Miller said. The VWA is also investigating the incident.
The Freestanding walls Alert was issued following the recent death
of a worker when a brick wall collapsed onto him on a construction site. The
regulator says the fatality was the latest in a series of serious incidents,
resulting in deaths or serious injuries, involving masonry walls collapsing on
construction sites. The Alert provides
information on control measures, as well as links to more detailed information.
Read more: Danger of freestanding masonry walls
Victoria: Safety Soapbox
The last edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out last week (July 24) – with the leading article written by Construction Manager Allan Beacom, explaining what to expect from Workplace Inspection Reports. He says, "The report will include reference to any photographs, which have been taken and the inspector's primary observations while at the workplace. Where the inspector has undertaken any compliance action such as issuing improvement or prohibition notices, any such action will also be noted in the entry report." The report will also have any actions the duty holder takes voluntarily to fix any OHS breaches observed by the inspector at the workplace.
There were 43 incidents notified to the VWA for the period July 3 - 16, including 11 lacerations,
six fractures, five electric shocks, two punctures, two crushes, and 15 near
misses.. Several could have resulted in very serious injuries – and several
involved incidents caused by high winds.
Read more, including links to the list of reported incidents: July 24 Safety Soapbox
Safe Work Australia
There have been no updates to the Safe Work webpage on reported workplace fatalities; as at 14 July 2014, 97 had been reported.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
The latest monthly fatalities report posted remains that for April 2014, as reported in last week's SafetyNet. The monthly reports can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Virtual Seminar Series
The Australian Strategy Virtual Seminar Series (VSS) is a free online event which Safe Work Australia is running throughout Safe Work Australia Month in October. It will showcase the latest work health and safety thinking, developments, innovations and research supporting the Australian Strategy vision: healthy safe and productive working lives.
The VSS will feature live
interactive panels and video presentations by Safe Work Australia Members,
business leaders, academics and work health and safety experts. The themes for
the 2014 VSS are: leadership and culture; responsive and effective regulation; agriculture
and road freight transport industries; and small business.
More information and the draft program: Safe Work Australia VSS program
issues Incident Alerts after two fatalities in one week
As is its standard practice, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland this week issued two alerts following fatal incidents. The first occurred on Sunday 27 July 2014 in Fortitude Valley. A worker died after falling into a two metre deep trench which collapsed while being excavated to replace a sewer line. While the regulator is investigating the incident, and cannot make specific comments, it says the Alert is a reminder for employers (PCBUs) and organisations to consider the effectiveness of their safety management systems in preventing an incident like this from occurring at a workplace. It also has links to more detailed information on trenching, etc.
Incident Alert was on a fatality which occurred on Tuesday 29 July in Lake
MacDonald, Sunshine Coast. A roofing worker died after falling 5.3 metres from a
roof of an industrial shed to the concrete floor below. This Alert also has
links to material on working at heights.
Read more: Incident Alerts Fortitude Valley fatality and Lake MacDonald fatality
A new Alert from the VWA:
Torqueing fasteners with rattle guns This Alert highlights the safety issues with using rattle guns to tighten fasteners and provides advice to ensure fasteners are correctly torqued.
As of July 23, no further prosecutions summaries had been uploaded on the VWA website. The latest prosecutions reported are for June 2014.
fined $45k after worker fell from forklift cage
Hart Retail Group Pty Ltd - a supplier of pet products - has been fined $45,000 for failing to secure a cage to a forklift for work at heights, after a worker fell 1.7m from the cage when it tipped over. The company received a 40 per cent discount for its early guilty plea, cooperation and contrition.
In July 2012, the general handyman was removing a promotional banner from the outside of the employer's Allenby Gardens Petstock store while standing in a cage on forklift tines when the cage tipped to one side and he fell 1.7m to the ground. The cage then landed on top of him. He broke his left arm and right kneecap and suffered a head laceration.
The employer was charged with failing to provide plant in a safe condition, failing to ensure plant was designed and maintained to be securely attached to the forklift, and failing to ensure it complied with the powered industrial trucks Australian Standard (AS 2359.1-1995), which covers the requirements for work platforms mounted on forklifts.
Ground Zero workers have cancer
More than 2,500 Ground Zero rescuers and responders have been diagnosed with cancer, and a growing number are seeking compensation for their illnesses. The toll has skyrocketed from the 1,140 cancer cases reported last year. According to officials, the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital latest tally has 1,655 responders with cancer among the 37,000 police, construction, sanitation workers, other city employees and volunteers it monitors.
The tragic number rises to 2,518 when firefighters and EMTs are added. The FDNY, which has
its own WTC health program, said it counts 863 members with cancers certified
for 9/11-related treatment.
Read more: 2,500 Ground Zero workers have cancer New York Post
Beijing imposes new limits on industry in bid to cut smog
China's overgrown and smog-hit capital Beijing has passed new rules banning the expansion of polluting and resource-intensive industries, according to local government reports last Friday. In a list of restrictions published on its website, the municipal government said it would ban the further expansion of a wide range of industries, including food processing, textiles, construction materials, paper making, chemicals and oil refining.
Beijing has been under heavy pressure to end its obsession with
industrial growth, which has left the city choking with smog, put the health of
residents and workers at high risk, and also deprived poverty-stricken
surrounding regions of the opportunity to improve their economies.
Read more: Reuters