SafetyNet 288, August 7 2014
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With all the news about the Mr Fluffy asbestos disaster in the ACT, I've started to worry about my own home. Was Mr Fluffy operating elsewhere?
It appears as though the company operated mainly in the ACT, although there have been some homes identified in Queanbeyan and the south coast of NSW. However, advice from the senior hygienist at the VWA is that the company did not operate in Victoria. He knew of one home only where it appeared the owner had installed the loose asbestos himself – but there were no homes where this insulation material had been installed by professional companies.
If you are concerned that your home contains asbestos – whether it be loose or in materials such as cement sheeting, roofing and so on, seek professional advice. Do not attempt to remove it yourself.
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.
New Asbestoswise video for home renovators
Victorian asbestos-diseases support group, Asbestoswise, has developed and posted a very informative video The Third Wave of Asbestos Exposure which provides advice to householders who are contemplating doing renovations. It explores where asbestos can be found in homes, the effects of asbestos exposure and how disease forms.
Go to the Asbestoswise website or YouTube to check out the video
Greg Combet recounts his
battle with James Hardie
Ex ACTU Secretary and Labor parliamentarian Greg Combet, last week launched his memoir, The Fights of My Life (co-written by Mark Davis), where he writes about the four major campaigns of his life: James Hardie, the 1998 waterfront dispute, the collapse of Ansett airlines in 2001, and the Your Rights At Work campaign of 2005-2007. To Mr Combet, the James Hardie campaign was personal.
Over the years, he had personal experience with many victims of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, and had seen the impact of asbestos on people's lives while at the Lidcombe Workers' Health Centre and with the Waterside Workers' Federation. "Mesothelioma is a terrible cancer to die from. I'd seen people die of it, it'd always made me angry," said Mr Combet, "So when this came along, it was a very emotional fight." The 'this' was James Hardie shifting its assets offshore to put them beyond the reach of Australian victims seeking compensation for diseases caused by its asbestos products.
Combet is most proud of the James Hardie campaign for a number of reasons, but
most importantly, it reflected all the values he had learnt throughout his many
years with unions. "It's about life and death – it's people's lives and how
they can be destroyed by corporate malfeasance," he says.
Read more: These are the fights that mattered most This Working Life
Asbestos Safety &
Eradication Agency News
1- Mr Fluffy exposure registration
Last week the ASEA announced a new option to register exposure to loose-fill (Mr Fluffy) asbestos in residential housing through the National Asbestos Exposure Register online registration form.
Read more about the online registration form and process.
the ACT's Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, has given the clearest indication yet
that the 1000-plus Mr Fluffy homes in Canberra
will be demolished. "The advice that I'm getting from my experts at the moment
is that it is looking like demolition will be what is recommended," Ms
Gallagher said. She was speaking after updating the Assembly on the asbestos
insulation crisis, in a sitting on Tuesday morning attended by 50 or more Mr
Fluffy homeowners, with stories both familiar and very personal, most if not
all expecting demolition, and some in desperate situations.
Read more: The Canberra Times
2 – Central register of
In its latest news, the ASEA announced that details of asbestos disposal facilities from all states and territories were now available on the agency website. By typing in a home's street address details the service will tell find where the closest asbestos disposal facility is located.
Read more about the disposal facilities search service
BHP Ordered to pay
record asbestos payout
BHP Billiton has been ordered to make a record $2.2 million payout to a man who was exposed to asbestos at a New South Wales steelworks. Labour law firm Slater and Gordon said the compensation payment was the largest ever awarded through the Dust Diseases Tribunal, which was established in 1989 to hear claims for damages from sufferers of dust-related diseases in NSW.
Dunning, 54, was diagnosed with the terminal asbestos-related cancer
mesothelioma in 2010. He was 19 when he began work as a labourer in the blast
furnaces at the company's Newcastle
steelworks in 1979. He worked in the job until 1981.
Read more: ABC Online
Building and Woodworkers
International Asbestos conference
On May 6 and 7, 2014, the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), in collaboration with the Industriall Global Union, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, brought together more than one hundred delegates from forty countries, to progress objectives in the global campaign to ban asbestos. Austrian trade unions – the construction union Die Gewerkschaft Bau-Holz (GBH) and Die Produktionsgewerkschaft (PRO-GE) – facilitated the gathering which took place at trade union premises in Vienna. The report has a wealth of information on international activities and initiatives.
Read more: IBAS Conference Report
Zimbabwe: WHO requests correction of false asbestos claims
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on Zimbabwe's pro-asbestos government to correct a dangerous misrepresentation of its position on asbestos. It follows the release in May of a position paper from the Zimbabwean authorities claiming WHO supports "controlled use" of chrysotile asbestos. The global health agency in fact says asbestos cannot be used safely and has called for all use of chrysotile asbestos to stop. WHO confirmed that it has asked the Zimbabwe government, which wants to reopen its asbestos mines, to correct the misinformation. In a letter to human rights campaigner Kathleen Ruff of RightOnCanada, a WHO official notes: "We are confident that action to correct the inaccurate statement regarding WHO's position will be taken as soon as possible." As part of its tactics to sell asbestos, the asbestos industry has falsely and repeatedly claimed that WHO supports the industry's position that chrysotile asbestos can be "safely used". As well as misrepresenting the WHO position, Zimbabwe's asbestos taskforce and government have also misrepresented the position of the ILO, stating: "The ILO embraces the concept of controlled-use in chrysotile asbestos." Like WHO, the position of the ILO is that chrysotile asbestos cannot be safely used and that all use of chrysotile asbestos should stop.
Source: Risks 665 Read More: RightOnCanada
Business lobbies to weaken financial
laws protecting against boardroom negligence
It was reported last week that the Abbott government is considering changes to financial laws that, had they been in place at the time, may have seen the directors of James Hardie escape prosecution. The Age reported that the Australian Institute of Company Directors, which represents the country's most powerful boardrooms, would be releasing a proposal to water down the Corporations Act and ASIC Act, saying corporate directors need a ''safe harbour'' from personal liability. The group has been lobbying Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, (as well as Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos and Attorney-General George Brandis) for a new ''honest and reasonable director defence'' to be inserted into existing laws designed to protect shareholders and consumers from boardroom negligence.
the new defence would shield directors from prosecution where it cannot be proved they told a lie or failed to act
with ''integrity and commitment''. The new provision would apply to directors
facing alleged contraventions, including offences around financial reporting,
continuous disclosure rules and misleading or deceptive conduct. The disgraced
boards of asbestos maker James Hardie and collapsed shopping centre owner
Centro were prosecuted under existing laws for failing their duties as
Read more: The Age
injured in violent attack wins payout
A nurse who suffered life-long injuries in a workplace attack by a violent drug user has received a payout from Victoria Police because three officers allegedly failed to restrain him. The nurse, who formerly worked at Latrobe Regional Hospital in Gippsland, was left in chronic pain with permanent nerve damage to her spine and legs after the man jumped out of a police van parked in the ambulance bay and struck her while attacking the officers. After a legal battle of more than five years, the hospital and the police force agreed to pay the nurse a six-figure damages settlement.
The Victorian WorkCover Authority has now launched separate proceedings against the police force in a bid to recoup a share of the $500,000 compensation it has paid to the nurse. WorkCover's payments - covering benefits, medical and rehabilitation costs and home-based care - have been made for several years and are ongoing.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
assistant state secretary Paul Gilbert said there was a pressing need for
stronger protocols between hospitals and police to protect nurses. "These
protocols should include ensuring that hospitals are notified if police are
bringing a patient who is agitated or distressed or has a history of aggression
so they can prepare accordingly," he said. "The hospital might call
upon extra security staff or ensure particular clinical staff members are
present when the patient arrives."
Read more: The Age
Bangladesh: Textile Workers in Bangladesh on Fast-Unto-Death Hunger Strike
Further information has come through from the textile workers on hunger strike in Bangladesh. As reported in last week's SafetyNet, on the evening of 28th July 2014 several hundred workers of Tuba Group took over factories they work at (Taif Designs Ltd., Mita Designs Ltd. and Tuba Fashions Ltd. at Uttar Badda Dhaka) and began their fast unto death. The workers are angry that they could not go home during the Eid holiday and for being left without three months' pay and festival bonus. The Tuba group of companies includes the Tazreen owners. Workers are also protesting over the Tazreen lack of compensation and prosecutions, and are calling for the cancellation of bail for Delwar Hossain, Tazreen's owner. The garment industry in Bangladesh is renowned for its exploitative practices and only independent and active unions will be able to improve workers conditions. . He was in jail in connection with the fire at one of his factory, Tazreen Fashions Ltd. which killed more than 125 workers on November 24, 2012.
The latest news is that the number of workers on
strike across the group is now approximately 2,000. In a call for solidarity,
posted Sunday, six days after the strike began, it was reported that about 92
workers were suffering from varying levels of dehydration and 11 workers had
been hospitalized as their health took a critical turn. No representative from either
the garment owners association Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer & Exporter
Association (BGMEA) or the government has contacted the agitating workers, nor taken
any action to end this hunger strike by meeting their demands. We received news overnight that a number of the hunger strikers have now been arrested by police.
Read more: Appeal for solidarity , the Australian solidarity message and AAWL Facebook page
EU-OSHA - Psychosocial
Risk Management Excellence Framework
A new resource from the European Union's OSHA: the PRIMA-ef collation of best practice programs in management of psychosocial hazards. The database covers:
- Work Related Stress
- Violence and
- Bullying and Harassment
It can be searched according to the type of
intervention (primary, secondary or tertiary) and also the country where the
intervention was developed/is in place.
Read more: PRIMA Inventory of Best Practice On our site: Stress and Bullying and Violence
UK – New resource from the TUC
The UK's peak union council, the TUC, has released a new resource: Work Experience Placements - Guidance for Union Reps . This guidance aims to ensure work experience schemes are high quality and consistent with TUC principles. The TUC has also developed a specific Charter relating to Traineeships programmes. On our site: Young Workers
Excessive sitting not 'safe system
A research team from WA's Curtin University has cautioned employers they could be breaching occupational health and safety laws by having employees sitting for prolonged periods. They point out that the increase in sedentary jobs has meant that many workers spend prolonged periods of time sitting, often with limited breaks. This may be hazardous, contributing substantially to the growing chronic disease burden associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. They say, "On the available evidence, it appears that contemporary offices may be failing to provide a safe system of work," and recommend changes to work systems in order to reduce sedentary time.
Read more: Straker, L, et al Excessive occupational sitting is not a "safe system of work": time for doctors to get chatting with patients Med J Aust 2014; 201 (3): 138-140. doi: 10.5694/mja13.00037 And on our site: Sedentary work Kevin Jones Safetyatwork Blog article on this: 'sit less, move more, and move more often'
Childhood brain tumours and parental occupational exposure
A recent study by a group of researches, including Australians, has found that mothers exposed to solvents at work prior to the birth of their child (not just during pregnancy) were at increased risk of having a child who developed brain cancer. The cancer rate in the children of exposed mothers was eight times higher than for the children of mothers who did not use solvents. Exposed fathers also had children with more brain tumours but the increased rate was much smaller (50%).
research needs to be done as, in addition, when chemicals cause brain cancer in
children, the question arises as to whether the chemicals are also causing
other types of damage to a child's brain and nervous system.
Source: S Peters, D C Glass, K R Greenop, B K Armstrong, M Kirby, E Milne and L Fritschi, Occupational solvent exposure and childhood brain tumours [abstract] British Journal Of Cancer DOI:10.1038/bjc.2014.358 And on our site: Solvents
Researchers identify ideal break duration between shifts
New research shows that shifts separated by less than 11 hours increase workers' risk of developing sleeping problems and other long-term health issues. Longer breaks can negate the impact.
Norwegian researchers, including from the University of Bergen, studied over 1220 nurses, and found "quick returns" (short rest periods between work shifts) prevent proper recovery (sleep), and are also related to an increased risk of pathological fatigue. Workers who reduced the annual number of yearly quick returns reduced the risk of fatigue. The study also found demanding shift-work schedules potentially not only caused immediate sleep and health problems, but possibly also negative long-term effects related to lack of rest.
The researchers say that although a 24/7 work pattern is necessary for some workers, such as in health and safety services, emergency services, and law enforcement, shift work can negatively affect health, and increase the risk of 'accidents' and mistakes.
They said different aspects
of the shift work schedule such as working nights or short rest periods between
work shifts (quick returns) may lead to circadian misalignment and sleep loss.
This has highlighted the need of providing adequate rest/recovery periods and
limiting the number of quick returns in order to minimised the effect on shift
workers' safety, wellbeing and health. According to the researchers, workers
need a 16-hour rest period between shifts to ensure seven-to-eight hours of
sleep, but in Europe, which has a
"working time directive", breaks can be as short as 11 hours. In Australia, the can
be even shorter. Nurses, for example, can have as little as eight hours between
Source: Elisabeth Flo, et al, Norway, Short rest periods between work shifts predict sleep and health problems in nurses at 1-year follow-up. [Abstract ] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 71, Issue 8, August 2014. And on our site: Shiftwork
affect sleep too
In a study reported in the UK press this week, researchers have found that workers who work in windowless offices have a poorer quality of life and more erratic sleep patterns than those with access to daylight. The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, suggest the working environment may be crucial to good sleep. Adequate exposure to natural daylight is known to be crucial for governing the body's circadian rhythm - the built-in clock which dictates our sleeping and waking patterns.
A sunny day is equivalent to about 10,000 lux or higher of light; indoor office lighting typically provides only about 300 to 500 lux. The researchers say better designed offices could boost the physical and mental health of workers. Regular poor sleep increases the risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart and diabetes - and can shorten life expectancy. Read more: Struggling to sleep at night? Blame your office The Telegraph And on our site: Lighting - I think my workplace is too dark.
OHS Regulator News
VWA launches Top Tradie
Victoria's regulator is promoting (through Twitter) a competition for the state's 'tradies'. Based on short Twitter feeds, it appears to be a test of tradies' safety and footy knowledge – with prizes to be won. The regulator is encouraging teams to sign up for the competition which begins on August 25 and runs for two weeks until September 7.
This month has been designated as Tradies
National Health Month, with several regulators running activities. A recent
report by the Australian Physiotherapy Association shows that tradies have
among the highest number of injuries, musculoskeletal conditions and other
health and safety risks of any profession. The Stop Trading Your Health Away report, which was released as part of
the Month, reports that nearly one in five serious workplace-related injuries
involve a tradie.
Read more: Top Tradie Cup 2014 and APA Media Release: One in five serious workplace injuries involves a tradie (the report can be downloaded from this page).
Victoria: Safety Soapbox
The last edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out this week (August 5). There are two Victorian media articles referred to: the first involves an incident the VWA is investigating – a fall from a roof at the Lend Lease construction site at the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton last Tuesday. The worker, aged in his 20s, fell from scaffolding on the roof, and plummeted several storeys. He suffered serious injuries to his head and lower body, and was treated by doctors from the hospital before paramedics arrived and took him to The Alfred Hospital. The fall could have been fatal.
There were 46 incidents notified to the VWA since the last edition, for the period July 17 - 30, including one fatality, 13 lacerations, six fractures, two electric shocks, and 13 near misses. The fatality was that reported in last week's SafetyNet, which occurred in Wodonga on July 23. A skid steer operator sustained fatal injuries when a 100kg load fell through the windscreen trapping the operator. Cabin was then engulfed in fire.
of the near misses could have resulted in very serious injuries – for example
the tipping over of a concrete truck, falls from over two metres (including the
incident above) and a trench collapse.
Read more, including links to the list of reported incidents: August 5 Safety Soapbox
Queensland: Another fatality, another alert
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland sent out another Alert this week, announcing it is investigating a fatal incident that occurred on Sunday 3 August 2014 in Nerang. A worker died when he was crushed against the side of his vehicle by falling sheets of plasterboard. The Alert reminds workplaces to ensure they have good systems in place, and links to information specifically on using plasterboard.
Read more: Incident Alert
NSW: WorkCover starts
construction mentoring program
The NSW regulator has put up a YouTube video explaining its new free mentoring program for the construction industry. In proposing that some of the larger, better organised construction companies mentor smaller ones, the regulator hopes it will be a win-win-win for everyone.
To find out more call 13 10 50 or visit the NSW WorkCover website
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.
SWA releases 2013-2016 strategic
SWA has released its 2013 – 2016 Strategic Plan. The plan sets out the agency's commitments to reducing work-related fatalities, injuries andillnesses, and improving workers' comp arrangements. It aims to achieve these goals by:
- supporting the implementation of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022
- supporting policy and practice through national WHS and workers' comp data, research and evaluation programs;
- improving health and safety laws, while ensuring practicability for small business and workers; and
- promoting consistent approaches to improved knowledge, skills and capabilities for managing health and safety hazards and risks.
SWA also released the first progress report on the 2012-2022 safety strategy. The report provides a snapshot of activities undertaken in relation to the four outcomes to be achieved by 2022, namely:
- reduced incidence of work-related death, injury and illness, achieved by
- reduced exposure to hazards and risks using
- improved hazard controls and supported by
- an improved work health and safety infrastructure.
Virtual Seminar Series
Have you checked out Safe Work's Australian Strategy Virtual Seminar Series (VSS) to be run in October?
More information and the draft program: Safe Work Australia VSS program
As of August 6, no further prosecutions summaries had been uploaded on the VWA website. The latest prosecutions reported remain those for June 2014.
Pearling charged over young diver's death on second day on the job
After a two-year investigation into the death of a young pearl diver off Western Australia's Kimberley coast, Work Safe WA has laid a criminal charge against the company, Paspaley Pearling. 22 year old Jarrod Hampton, from Brighton in Victoria, died in April 2012 while diving for pearls from a Paspaley-owned boat off Eighty Mile Beach, about 160 kilometres south of Broome. It was his second day on the job. Work Safe WA commissioner Lex McCulloch confirmed it had charged the family-owned company with one count of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment. The maximum penalty the company faces if found guilty is $200,000.
His job as a 'drift diver' involved collecting shells from the sea bed while being towed underwater. Although the crew members attempted to help Mr Hampton, he died at the scene. It took eight hours for the boat to make it back to the Broome Port and for his body to be transported to shore. It was reported that immediately after the death, Work Safe issued six improvement notices to the company, relating to work practices on board its vessels – however other information suggests the regulator took some weeks to issue notices.
The Maritime Union has continued to question why there was such a delay in charges being laid, suggesting young pearl divers were potentially being put at risk in the meantime. Work Safe said the investigation involved inspectors travelling to Broome and witnesses being tracked down overseas – which, it has been said, if the investigation had begun quickly there would have been no need for.
The young man's parents are upset that the company has not been charged with more serious offences. His father has said the family was hoping for a coronial inquest into their son's death. "We are under the belief that (a coronial inquest) will be put on hold now until these charges are referred and the court case is over," he said. "We certainly hope that we still do get an inquest into the death because we do believe we'll be able to find out a whole lot more than we know now."
70 killed in factory blast
An explosion at a Chinese factory that makes wheels for US car makers, including General Motors, last week killed at least 69 people and injured 187. The blast occurred on Saturday morning in Kunshan, a city in the eastern Jiangsu province. A preliminary investigation suggests the explosion at Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co Ltd was caused by negligence after a flame was lit in a dust-filled room, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered all-out efforts to treat the
injured and comfort the families of the dead. He has demanded a full
investigation into the accident and harsh punishments for those responsible. Several
officials from the firm have been since been detained, the government said.
State news agency Xinhua said five company representatives were held by
authorities. Premier Li Keqiang has ordered safety checks to avoid similar
tragedies from happening again. This blast comes two days after at least 26
people were killed in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung in a suspected gas pipeline
Read more: Scores dead in China factory explosion Al Jazeera and China factory blast reveals work safety loopholes ECNS. cn