SafetyNet 289, August 14 2014
We would like to welcome all our subscribers to this edition of the SafetyNet journal. Please send though any comments or ideas: we would love to hear from you (send to firstname.lastname@example.org). Again – if you're a 'twitterer' then 'follow' us too - @OHSreps
I'm the HSR, and I thought I had the right to get information about incidents at the workplace. However, I often hear about things well after they have happened, when someone says, "Did you hear about so and so? He got hurt at work yesterday." When I ask my employer he says he 'forgot' to tell me. What can I do?
An HSR is in fact entitled to have access to information about actual or potential hazards arising from the conduct of the undertaking or the plant or substances; and the health and safety of the members of the designated work group. (Section 69[a][i]&[ii])
In addition, HSRs have the right to inspect any part of the workplace immediately in the event of an incident or any situation involving an immediate risk to the health or safety of any person. (Section 58[a][ii])
I recommend organising a meeting with your employer and explaining your rights under the Act, and his legal duties. If you continue to experience problems, then either contact your union for advice, or consider issuing a PIN (see this page for advice on PINs)
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.
CFMEU new Missing advertisement
The CFMEU (construction, forestry, mining and energy) union has launched a simple yet very eloquent advertisement, Missing as part of its Stand Up Speak Up Come Home media campaign on their members' health and safety. The message: "The CFMEU will always stand up for a safer workplace so that you can come home to what matters most."
MUA: Winter journal now
The winter 2014 edition of the Maritime Workers' Union journal has are a number of safety-related articles, including an update of the union's safety campaign. The campaign follows the death of Mr Anthony Attard, an MUA delegate who was crushed to death on board a ship at the Toll Shipping facility in Port Melbourne on May 20. The union says, "There is a safety crisis in stevedoring, and the recent tragedies are not 'accidents'. There are causes. That's why we need regulation. Since he was elected, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dismantled safety regulation. The Abbott Government has blocked our Stevedoring Code of Practice, and 12 other life-saving codes of practice, which it describes as 'red tape'." The union also says: "The Abbott government has instructed AMSA to begin dismantling Marine Order 32, the safety bible for wharfies for over 80 years. This is a disgrace and will worsen the carnage."
Read more: MUA journal
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Asbestoswise at the Herald Sun Homeshow (August 14-17)
In what is becoming an annual event, Victoria's asbestos diseases support group Asbestoswise has a stand/stall at which members of the public can get information and advice on what asbestos is, how to recognise it and what to do. They will also be able to check out the new Asbestoswise video for home renovators. Last year well over a thousand people came to the stand and spoke to volunteers about their homes and asbestos.
If you haven't seen this great new video yet, check it out right now. The video provides extremely important and useful information for anyone who is contemplating renovations.
Go to the Asbestoswise website or YouTube to check out the video
ABC Radio program on Mr
For subscribers who want to know more on what's going on with the Mr Fluffy saga, on last Sunday's Background Briefing program on Radio National, ABC reporter Di Martin looked into how and why the ACT and NSW governments are dealing with the issue differently.
has also been announced that the ACT government has established a Mr Fluffy
task force, which is currently seeking to contact 132 home owners.
Listen to the program: Asbestos – The Mr Fluffy Fiasco ABC's Background Briefing (Sunday August 10) Asbestos taskforce trying to contact 132 Mr Fluffy home owners Canberra Times
Asbestos pushed in Asia
as a product for the poor
Certain industry executives in India meeting at a conference in New Delhi have claimed their industry is saving lives, and bringing roofs, walls and pipes to the world's poorest people. Their product? Asbestos. While largely outlawed in the developed world, it is still going strong in the developing one, and killing tens of thousands of people each year.
In India, the
world's biggest asbestos importer, it is a $2 billion industry with
double-digit annual growth, at least 100 manufacturing plants and about 300,000
jobs. The executives claim the risks of
asbestos are overblown; that scientists and officials from rich Western nations
who cite copious research showing it causes cancer are distorting the facts. More
than two-thirds of India's 1.2 billion people live in poverty on less than
$1.25 a day, including hundreds of millions still in makeshift rural dwellings
that offer little protection from insects, harsh weather and roaming predators
such as tigers and leopards. So according to the industry, the demand for 'safe
and cheap' asbestos products is there.
Read more: Asbestos Is Being Pushed In Asia As A Product For The Poor, Business Insider. Also: India's Timebomb [pdf]
BP recalls Victorian fleet after
Last Thursday, following a triple fatality after one of its tankers lost its trailer, BP announced it had recalled its entire Victorian truck fleet. A four-year-old boy and two women aged 33 and 67 were killed when their cars were crushed by the trailer on the Wodonga-Yakandanda Road before 9.00am. Police believed the trailer detached from the BP tanker as it went around a bend, drifted onto the other side of the road and collided with two oncoming vehicles. Officers from the major collision investigation group were investigating the crash. The day after the crash, BP recalled its entire Australian fleet. The tankers are being gradually returned to service after what the company says is a 'comprehensive safety inspection'.
Transport Workers' Union (TWU) announced the day after the crash that it would launch
legal action against 'rogue operators' in the oil, fuel and gas transport
sector in the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT). The TWU wants the RSRT
to issue binding orders for safety improvements and to 'to force clients to
lift the economic pressure on drivers, which is the major cause of truck
crashes.' The union wrote twice to BP prior
to the crash to raise concerns about safety. In the first letter, TWU national
secretary Tony Sheldon cited incidents of drivers being pressured into working
excessive hours and suffering "extreme fatigue".
Source: ABC News online. Read more: TWU Media Release and Sydney Morning Herald
information on OHS Reps website
This week we've added a new hazard information page on Formaldehyde – a cancer causing chemical that is used in a range of industries, including healthcare, particleboard manufacture, embalming and in laboratories. It is also an irritant and is highly volatile.
Read more: Formaldehyde
into violence in Mental Health
New, ground-breaking research produced by the Health and Community Services Union in conjunction with the University of Melbourne's Centre for Psychiatric Nursing has produced a damning picture of an unsafe, high-risk environment in Victoria's mental health services.
The research shows mental health workers are more likely to be physically attacked than in any other occupation - three times more likely than a police officer. The research reveals:
- Over one third of staff have been physically assaulted in the last 12 months, many of whom have been physically assaulted several times in that period.
- 83 per cent of staff have been victims of some form of violence in the last 12 months.
- 50 per cent of staff have experienced four or more episodes of physical violence during their working lives.
- In the last 12 months 81 per cent of staff have been verbally assaulted (many on a daily basis):
- 14 per cent have been racially attacked;
- 31 per cent report being bullied;
- 32 per cent say they are exhibiting forms of psychological stress. Of these, 55 per cent report severe psychological distress;
- 58 per cent report they are worried about violence in the workplace; and
- 90 per cent of staff who have distress have had to take sick leave.
- There is a clear cumulative impact of psychological distress the longer staff work in mental health services.
- 11 per cent report there is no encouragement to report violence.
HACSU Victorian State Secretary, Lloyd Williams, says the
joint HACSU/University of Melbourne
research project lifts the lid on a truly appalling situation. "One in three
mental health workers can expect to be physically attacked over a 12 month
period. It is an absolute disgrace."
Read more: HACSU Media Release New research violence in Mental Health - research project reveals shocking results Information on the site: Bullying and Violence and Stress
Injury: Workcover Failings Exposed
Injured teachers and other workers are being failed by the workers compensation system, but supportive colleagues and their union can help, a new report finds. A new study of Victorian teachers and other workers' dealings with WorkCover reveals systemic failures in a dehumanising process that can have a serious impact on claimants' mental health.
The study, prepared for Creative Ministries Network and unveiled at the AEU's OHS Conference, raises serious concerns about injured workers' interactions with WorkCover personnel and with managers and colleagues in their own workplaces. Nine of the 15 participants in the study were AEU Victoria members who had sustained serious injuries at work. The report paints a picture of an unjust, inefficient system driven by an adversarial process focused more on disproving the nature of an injury than on supporting recovery.
Workers identified procedural and administrative issues, exacerbated by poor communication from WorkCover personnel. High staff turnover led to little or no continuity in case management and frequent mistakes. Injured workers chronicled their experiences of having their integrity repeatedly questioned by the system, compounded by the pervasive stigma surrounding being on WorkCover, something the majority of interviewees felt within their own workplaces.
John Bottomley, CMN founder, said: "Nobody ever says sorry that you're injured. There's a deep cultural problem here … injured people often end up being isolated and scapegoated." He summarised the trajectory from injury to mental illness as "a collapse of identity, hope and community". Researcher Sarah Pollock said that for many workers, the biggest shock was that they had expected justice – but this is not what they get.
The report is being launched by the Rev
Professor Brian Howe, on Monday, 18 August 2014
(3pm to 4.30pm) at the Mountview
559-561 Whitehorse Rd,
Mitcham, VIC 3132. The CMN is inviting anyone, including unionists and HSRs to
attend this event. An abridged version of
Mental health impacts on workers involved in the Victorian WorkCover system
by Sarah Pollock will be available at dro.deakin.edu.au after the launch.
To book a place, go to this site On the OHS Reps site: Workers' Compensation: What are your rights? Source: Suzanne Taylor AEU News
into FIFO suicides
In SafetyNet 287 we reported on the suicide of a young West Australian miner – only one of growing numbers of FIFO workers taking their own lives. WA's Labor Opposition Leader, Mark McGowan is calling on bipartisan support for a parliamentary inquiry into parliamentary inquiry into FIFO suicides. There have been nine such suicides in WA in the past year alone.
Read more: McGowan hopeful but does not expect support for FIFO inquiry WA Today
sick of waiting for WHS laws
UnionsWA this week criticised the Barnett Government for holding yet another consultation process over work health and safety law reform. Meredith Hammat, Secretary of UnionsWA said, "The process to strengthen health and safety laws began over six years ago in 2008, since then more than 200 West Australians have died through work. Yesterday the Barnett Government announced yet another consultation process when what we need are stronger penalties and better protections for whistle-blowers."
The death toll in WA is unacceptable. Ms Hammat said, "Yesterday a worker at the gain handler corporation CBH died at work, the second such death in the past year. Yesterday a Forstecue Metals Pilbara mining contractor pleaded guilty to a work-death charge. Only two weeks ago there was another work death prosecution against Paspaley Pearls – a $100 million a year business."
The WHS laws would see an increase in penalties.
Currently the maximum penalty for work deaths in WA only $200,000. "These huge
corporations and the Barnett Government constantly try to lock-out rather than
protect whistle-blowers," said Ms Hammat. "We have suffered through years of
indecision while work fatalities are rising in WA but falling elsewhere in Australia."
Read more: UnionsWA Media Release
Bangladesh: When will the west stop clothing itself in Bangladesh's suffering?
Last week we reported on the plight of the hundreds of Bangladeshi Tuba Group clothing workers who went on a hunger strike seeking payment of back wages, supported by more than a thousand fellow workers. During the strike last week many workers, including women, were beaten by police and some were either arrested or hauled to the police station and held without charge. The government did nothing to stop these atrocities. The striking workers have now been paid some of their wages and those who were on hunger strike have ended it. However, they are still owed for unpaid overtime and the holiday pay they were entitled to. The criminal owner of the TUBA group is out on bail, and is getting ready to sell the factories; the machinery has already been sold. The workers are now very concerned that they will not be paid the severance pay they will be owed.
Last Friday The Guardian published an article by Colin Long, Secretary of the Vic branch of the NTEU and Michele O'Neil, National Secretary of the TCFUA (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union): When will the west stop clothing itself in Bangladesh's suffering? In it the leading Australian unionists say:
"The citizens of the rich world must say that they won't wear clothes produced at the expense of the health, wellbeing and decent livelihood of workers like those in the Tuba Group factories. We want Bangladesh to have a garment industry and we want the Tuba Group workers and their millions of brothers and sisters to have jobs. But they must be decent jobs with decent pay. We in the rich world can afford to make sure they are – and we can insist that western fashion brands and their Bangladeshi suppliers agree."
UK – TUC hails HSWA legacy but calls for action on
Government plans to replace the Health and Safety at Work Act's "universal coverage with complex new rules" for self-employed workers "will create huge challenges for employers, workers and regulators", warns the TUC. In a critique of the current (Conservative) government's position, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Few pieces of legislation can be seen to have been as effective as this act. We should be celebrating its 40th birthday and thanking those who drafted it. Unfortunately, the present government is hell-bent on chipping away at the act by removing large numbers of self-employed from its coverage."
To mark the 40th anniversary of the
ground-breaking legislation, which received royal assent on 31 July 1974, the
TUC paid tribute and hailed the act as "one of the most important and
successful pieces of workplace legislation ever". Over the past four decades,
ever since the act was passed, the number of fatalities in the workplace has
fallen by 85 per cent while the number of injuries at work has fallen by 77 per
cent. But despite the huge progress made, Ms O'Grady warned that much more
needed to be done. "While the act has been successful in bringing down deaths
and injuries in the workplace, it has been less effective at preventing
occupational diseases such as cancers, asthmas, dermatitis, back pain and lung
diseases," she said. "This is still a massive problem and I hope that the act
will be used much more vigorously to address this challenge in the years to
OHS Regulator News
VWA keeps promoting Top
The VWA has kept pushing its competition for the state's 'tradies' - a test of safety and footy knowledge, with prizes to be won. The regulator has not released any media releases nor updated prosecution results – but we certainly know about the Top Tradie Cup! The competition which begins on August 25 and runs for two weeks until September 7. Read more: Top Tradie Cup 2014
Safe Work Australia
The Safe Work webpage on reported workplace fatalities has been updated: as at 12 August, 110 fatalities had been reported – that is in less than one month 13 more Australian were killed at work. The fatalities: 41 in Transport, postal and warehousing; 27 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; 12 in Construction; 11 in Mining; five each in Manufacturing and in Accommodation & food services; three in Electricity, Gas & Water Services; and Arts & recreation services; two and one each in Health care/social assistance; Retail; and Government administration & defence.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
The most recent monthly fatalities report posted is still April 2014. The monthly reports can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
From the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work: Campaign tools to help organisations address stress at work. The news release says: "The Healthy Campaign website offers plenty of practical tools …. By collecting all national tools in one place, companies saves time and effort in tracking down useful resources."
The website has plenty of practical tools to help companies and their employees with work-related stress. Being able to recognise the causes of workplace stress in advance and dealing with them is a much more effective way of dealing stress than waiting until it strikes.
are tools online in almost 25 languages, most of which are free, that cover
numerous aspects of assessing psychosocial risks at work. For example, want to
know how your employees rate their working conditions? Then there's a Finnish
questionnaire (in English) to assist in the assessment. Or is your company
about to go through a restructuring and are worried how staff will cope with
the change? There is a factsheet from the PSYRES Consortium which deals with
preserving the well-being of staff in offices undergoing restructuring.
Health Campaign The page has links to many other documents and tools.
Victoria: Court finds lung cancer due to work, not
This case is not an prosecution under the OHS Act, but a win for a worker seeking workers' compensation. A welder has succeeded in gaining compensation for lung cancer, after the Victorian County Court found his work - not his 20-year smoking history - caused the disease.
In 2001, the former welder was diagnosed with lung cancer, and had part of his left lung removed in 2002. The cancer returned to the left lung in 2006, and the rest of his lung was removed. In 2010 and 2011, tests showed the worker's cancer had returned in his right lung. The worker claimed workers' compensation under the now-repealed State workers' comp Act, arguing his disease was caused by his employment between 1993 and 1996 with NA&NV Graham Pty Ltd, which was bought in 1995 by Fencing Design Pty Ltd.
According to the worker, when he began welding galvanised steel for Graham Fencing there were no fans or extraction devices in the factory, nor were masks provided. In winter particularly, with the factory's sliding door closed, the factory would be "full of fumes". Tables with exhaust fans were provided 18 months into the worker's employment, but they were so powerful they would "suck out all the gas" and make welding very difficult. They were also very noisy, causing workers to turn them off. When Fencing Design bought the company, it provided face masks to workers, but according to the worker, sometimes delayed replacing the necessary filters.
The Court also heard the worker was a smoker between 1978 and
2000. WorkCover denied liability, arguing the worker's employment didn't cause
his disease. It said according to a radiation oncologist, cigarette smoking was
"26 times more likely to be the cause of lung cancer in welders who were also
light smokers". However, Judge Robert Dyer found the worker's adenocarcinoma
was significantly contributed to by his work with NA&NV and Fencing Design.
He upheld the worker's claim, finding that welders were at a higher risk
(approximately 44 per cent higher for lung cancer generally and 23 per cent
higher in relation to adenocarcinoma) of contracting cancer than non-welders in
the general population.
Anh Tran v Victorian Workcover Authority  VCC 1210 (4 August 2014)
Victoria: Managing director pleads guilty in quarry
Four years ago a 49 year old quarry worker was killed when a mine wall at a South Gippsland sand quarry collapsed and buried him alive. He had been operating an excavator in an area that the operators now say should have been cordoned off. Co-workers found his body inside the cabin of the excavator, which had its windows smashed in and was filled with dirt and mud.
The company Tooradin Excavations - formerly TGS Sand and Soil - operated the sand quarry at the time and was investigated by the VWA. The company's manager director, Gary Morrison, last week pleaded guilty in the Victorian County Court to serious workplace safety breaches.
The Department of Public Prosecutions submitted said the maximum penalty for the
charges at the time of the offence was $1,075,000. Judge Richard Maidment said the
worker's death was a "tragic loss". The company's penalty is expected
to be handed down in coming weeks.
Read more: Worker buried alive quarry wall collapse The Age
Painting company fined $80,000
Industrial painting company Tru-Coat Pty Ltd has been fined $80,000 (plus legal fees) for an incident in which a 22 year old dogman sustained severe crush injuries and multiple broken bones in both legs when a 10m-long, 720kg steel beam fell on him in 2012. He was working on his own, using an overhead crane to turn the beam while painting it. The court found Tru-Coat failed to implement safe work practices (having at least two people undertake the task: one to operate the crane and the other to be lookout and guide). The magistrate reduced the fine from $120,000 due to Tru-Coat's early guilty plea and prompt response: the company had immediately completed a thorough hazard identification and risk assessment process and introduced a new standard procedure for moving beams.
(Perry v Tru-Coat Pty Ltd ,SAIRC 24,28/07/2014)