SafetyNet 291, August 28 2014
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It is with regret that we report that a man was killed at a Campbellfield worksite last Friday morning after being crushed by a stack of boxes in a machinery accident. Police who attended the scene said a vertical cardboard stacker collapsed on the man, aged in his 40s. It appears the man was lifting boxes from a stack above his head with a winch when a cable broke and they fell. The man died at the scene, and was found by a co-worker when he returned to the factory just after 9am. VWA investigators were at the unsigned warehouse.
Source: The Herald Sun
The rights of women
Last week, as one of the keynote speakers at the ACTU's National Women's Conference, Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and Shadow Minister For Foreign Affairs and International Development, noted the pay gap between men and women in Australia is now at a twenty year high: an average man now earns 18.2 per cent, or $283.20 per week, more than a woman doing comparable work. Even worse, where most of the workers are women, where it's 'caring work', the wages are even lower: women's work is not properly valued. Many of the problems faced still today by women workers have health and safety implications:
- The gender pay gap means that in a 38 hour working week, women who start at 9am, by 3.38pm every day are working for free. Earning a decent wage often means working long hours and being at risk of fatigue.
- According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the number of people who reported having being sexually harassed in the workplace increased between 2008 and 2012 – most of them were women, and most people reported having been harassed in the workplace.
- The rise of insecure work in Australia and around the world is leaving women with fewer rights and less economic independence.
bitterly disappointed with downgrade
The MUA said on its website this week: "Safe Work Australia is moving a number of Codes of Practice - including stevedoring and diving - to guidance material, meaning employers will be under less scrutiny and therefore less compelled to provide a safe working environment." The union opposes the move and is calling on the SWA to reverse its decision.
"The regulator, driven by the anti-worker Abbott Government's agenda, does not operate best interests of the Australian community, instead it is operating to increase the bottom line of greedy stevedoring companies who would rather see people die than adopt safer working practices," said Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith. "If the draft code of practice had been adopted and adhered to at the Port of Melbourne Anthony Attard would not have been killed that bleak day in May."
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said it was unbelievable that the regulators would consider softer regulation in the diving industry in the wake of criminal charges being laid against Paspaley Pearling Company after Jarrod Hampton, 22, died on his second day at work two years ago. "The current regulation doesn't go far enough, even the Western Australia safety regulator identified this and now they're doing a backflip because vested interest groups have told them they can't afford to clean up their act."
The page has an
interesting graphic illustrating the causes of death in Australia since
9/11: Workplace fatalities – at least 495; anthrax poisoning and terrorist
attacks – zero.
Read more: MUA News Employers Say Preventing Injury and Death is too Expensive
ETU Video on the Building Code
The Electrical Trades Union has produced a video aimed at Senators outlining what it sees as the effects on building workers if the Abbott Government's proposed new Building Code gets through the Senate. The union says it "strikes at the heart of the Australian way of life, undermining the fair go and basic human rights. The Code's impact on working hours, job security, incomes and living standards, injuries and fatalities, opportunities for apprentices and older workers will devastate family life and our communities."
Check out the video on YouTube
CFMEU Stand Up Speak Out Stay Safe reports on
governments slashing safety
Across the country, the federal and states governments are trying to wind back hard won gains on health and safety. The CFMEU has announced it 'will shine a light on every one of their attempts at slashing safety.' The latest example it has found, number 13, is the Federal Government's decision in June to cancel its $1 million grant to Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) – the multi-stakeholder body that seeks to lift the working conditions of an estimated 6,000 home workers in Australia's clothing industry. ECA, which relied on federal support for the majority of its funding, requires company members to undergo a comprehensive occupational health and safety audit of their business and supply chain - to protect some of the most vulnerable workers in the country. ECA's future is uncertain. Stand up for Safety and sign the CFMEU petition
Read more: Federal funding cut hits Ethical Clothing Australias fight against fashion sweatshops Slashing safety ABC News online
No action on offshore
safety concerns two years on from Stena Clyde deaths
Yesterday, August 27, marked two years since the deaths of two workers on the Stena Clyde oil rig in the Bass Strait off the coast of Victoria and still no action has been taken over long-standing safety concerns.
Unions have called on the Federal Government to launch a review into the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA), which is responsible for the investigation into the deaths. "The families of Peter Meddens and Barry Denholm are still waiting for answers two years after they got the terrible news that they would never see their loved ones again," said ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick. "The ACTU is concerned NOPSEMA is too close to the industry to act as an effective regulator," he said. Mr Borowick added that union officials were blocked from talking to workers and inspecting the worksite after the Stena Clyde deaths, while NOPSEMA largely excludes unions from providing valuable input into safety concerns.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the MUA has long held concerns that NOPSEMA does not adequately work with unions to prevent safety breaches. "This needs to change and both NOPSEMA and the Abbott Government must commit to involving unions in workplace safety matters," Mr Crumlin said.
On Tuesday, NOPSEMA issued a very brief media release stating it
had completed its investigation into the double fatality, and that "legal
proceedings had commenced through the Magistrates' Court of Victoria with the
assistance of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) for
specific breaches of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act
2006." It also stated: "Upon conclusion of the legal proceedings, NOPSEMA will
communicate lessons learnt with duty holders and the wider community." Not exactly the involvement sought for and
demanded by unions.
Read more: ACTU Media Release
ASEA Conference: November 16 – 18, 2014
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has opened registrations for the 1st International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management, to be held at Crown Casino on 16 – 18 November. The invited international speakers are: Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS (ret.) Richard A. Lemen Ph.D., M.S.P.H, a former Assistant Surgeon General of the United States; and Professor Ken Takahashi, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health (UOEH), Japan.
The cost of
registration is up from $250 ('early bird' 'community' registration before
September 30, no conference dinner) to $900 (full 'commercial' including
Read more: ASEA Conference including program information, and registration details.
ACV GARDS Asbestos Newsletter now available
The latest ACV/GARDS newsletter August 2014 [pdf] is now available from the Gippsland based asbestos diseases support and advocacy group. The newsletter has articles on the effects of the Hazelwood fire on asbestos disease sufferers, the group's support for the Asbestos Eradication and Safety Agency, and news on a range of activities, including early notification of Asbestos Awareness Week events GARDS is organising.
Annual Australian Mesothelioma Registry
The 3rd annual report from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR), released this week, is now available online. The report presents incidence and mortality data, primarily for those diagnosed in 2013, and also data from the asbestos exposure component of the AMR.
As at 31 May 2014, the AMR had received 575 notifications of people newly diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1 January and 31 December 2013. Of these people, 465 were males and 110 were females, and the majority (80.0%) were aged 65 years or over at the time of diagnosis. The annual age-specific incidence rates of mesothelioma peaked at 7.5 per 100,000 in females 80 - 84 years of age and 42.3 per 100,000 in males 80 - 84 years of age.
An additional 33 people with mesothelioma were notified to the AMR following the publication of the AMR's 2012 report. This has increased the previously reported number of diagnoses for 2012 from 619 to 652. A similar increase is likely to be seen in the reported number of patients diagnosed in 2013.
At 31 May 2014,
218 (37.9%) mesothelioma patients diagnosed in 2013 were recorded as having
died. Where cause of death was known, 89.4% were recorded as being due to
The report is an electronic-only release and is available to download from this page of the AMR website.
Asbestos and schools
Due to how widespread asbestos is, not only does Australia have regular and potentially very serious exposures in our schools, but so too do other countries. Many of the schools in the UK have asbestos, and incidents occur which mean that teachers, students and others are exposed. A website has been set up, which lists the incidents, and also provides information and advice on policies and management of asbestos.
Check out the UK's Asbestos exposures in schools
Brothers given custodial sentence for exposing workers to asbestos
Two brothers with little or no experience of building and construction work have been given prison sentences after they exposed workers to asbestos. At least seven workers are known to have been exposed to asbestos – one aged just 17 at the time – by the men during refurbishment work at a former print works in the UK. The Court was told that neither was qualified or experienced in construction, demolition or refurbishment work; nor were they licensed to remove asbestos. The UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the brothers after an investigation found work was being carried out without the necessary asbestos surveys and in contravention of the law. Despite repeated visits from HSE inspectors and numerous enforcement notices warning them of their failings, the brothers continued to refurbish the building and disturb asbestos material – putting workers at risk. After pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, one brother was given a custodial sentence of 22 weeks and ordered to pay costs of £43,000 (A$76,400), while the other was sentenced to 14 weeks.
Read more: HSE Media Release
Landmark Asbestos Prosecution in Brazil
On August 12, 2014, a Brazilian asbestos taskforce arrived to inspect the Eternit asbestos-cement factory in Rio de Janeiro, an industrial facility that exploits a judicial exemption allowing asbestos processing to continue in a state where asbestos is banned. The inspection team which included, doctors and environmental experts, and three labor prosecutors from around the country, spent four days investigating the factory, its documents and processes. For protection, the inspectors were accompanied by officers from Brazil's FBI. Following the inspection, on August 22 the prosecutors filed a class action against the company with a catalogue of charges and indictments; the civil lawsuit demanded the company pay $500+ million in collective pecuniary and moral damages to cover medical assistance and treatment protocols, including psychological support, hospital bills, palliative care and alternative therapies, for asbestos victims. Part of the damages will be used to pay for research into asbestos-related diseases, asbestos awareness campaigns, and decontamination of the factory, the industrial site and the surrounding areas.
Read more: International Ban Asbestos Secretariat August 23, 2014
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
Union jobs - APHEDA
Union Aid Abroad‐APHEDA is seeking a person for the position of Pacific Project Officer to work in our Sydney office. The position is 30 hours per week for a fixed term until January 2016. This position is responsible for:
- Managing and assisting implementation of our Australian aid-funded program in the Solomon Islands in conjunction with Country Managers and local staff. This program is about building skills of adult Solomon Islanders via a network of local Community Learning Centres.
- Developing a program of work in support of labour movements and social movements in Pacific Island countries, including those working on climate change.
Applications close 5pm Wednesday 3 September 2014. If you are interested, read more and download a Position Description from the Unionjobs website
United Firefighters News
Hazelwood fire OHS concerns
The United Firefighters Union (UFU) filed an extensive submission including included personal experiences of a series of firefighters and focussing OHS issues at the Hazelwood Mine Board of Inquiry hearings held in May and June 2014. Acting on firefighter concerns, the UFU repeatedly sought action from the Fire Services Commission, CFA and MFB Chief Officers and the Government to address the serious health and safety concerns at the time of the fire operation. These concerns included exposure to health-threatening levels of carbon monoxide, contaminated water and the failure to appropriately test and monitor exposure levels and take appropriate action. There were also inadequate amenities including no or poorly organised transition areas resulting in contaminated PPE having to be worn out of the mine and in rest and respite areas including canteens.
In addition to its submission, the union also requested the
Coroner and the VWA to investigate the conduct of the operation of the mine
fire and resulting health issues suffered by firefighters and the community
with a view to possible prosecution. The Coroner's Office will not investigate as
it believes this would be a duplication of the government's inquiry. The VWA has
referred the matter to its Enforcement Group for a comprehensive investigation regarding
breaches of OHS legislation. The union
is pursuing the matter: the VWA has commenced this process including meeting
with the UFU.
Source: UFU Victorian Branch Legal Update Newsletter, August 2014
The Northern Territory government will introduce presumptive legislation facilitating career firefighters' access to workers compensation if they contract an occupational cancer. Minister for Business Dave Tollner said the legislation would provide a presumption that 12 specified cancers are deemed to be contracted in the line of duty. The government was considering making them retrospective so they apply to the specified cancers that are medically diagnosed after 28 August 2013, the date when the NT Parliament first debated the need for this legislation.
Similar legislation has been passed in the Commonwealth jurisdiction, where career firefighters are now covered, and in Tasmania, where career and volunteer firefighters are now covered. Legislation to provide firefighters with presumptive cancer compensation is also before parliament in Victoria and South Australia.
Quad bikes deaths:
resistance to regulation
Despite the fact that quad bikes are now the biggest cause of death on Australian farms, farmers themselves do not want more regulation – regulation which would no doubt save lives: including the lives of their own children. A coronial inquest in Queensland is examining nine recent fatal crashes in that state, and a list of recommendations will be released later this year with the aim of making the vehicles less dangerous. Road safety experts are calling for anyone under the age of 16 to be banned from riding adult quad bikes, a new licensing system and helmets to be made mandatory. Unions have been calling for changes to quad bike design to include fitting of Crush Protection Devices, or Rollover protection devices.
Read more: ABC News Online Quad bike deaths: Regulation resisted despite becoming number one cause of fatal accidents on farms ABC 7.30: Nine fatal quad bike accidents force rethink on safety regulations
Fly in Fly Out (FIFO)
The Western Australian government has announced it will proceed with an inquiry into FIFO suicides. The inquiry has been welcomed by The Sunday Times and PerthNow. This week's editorial urges all stakeholders to embrace this as an opportunity: For the inquiry to serve its purpose, it demands that employers, workers, unions, bureaucrats and the politicians who sit on the committee approach the issue with fresh eyes, unblinkered by strategic positions. However, it states, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy has adopted a defensive posture: its Chief Executive Reg Howard-Smith said research had yet to "find any substantial evidence" to support "recent assertions that there may be a higher occurrence of mental health issues associated with FIFO employment."
The editorial continues: Mr Howard-Smith also said some in the community sought to stigmatise FIFO employees and perpetuate myths associated with FIFO, despite a growing bank of research which highlights FIFO employees share the same health and lifestyle outlook as other Western Australians. "Put simply, it's a matter of choice for employees — a choice about where they live and where they choose to work" said Mr Howard-Smith.
This position ignores the stresses that FIFO workers work under,
as confirmed recently by WA's Mental Health Commission which has previously
identified that FIFO workers have greater exposure to the risk factors that are
known to contribute to deaths by suicide.
Read more: Perth Now Editorial: FIFO inquiry needs to be embraced by all stakeholders
International Union News
Global: Unions kick off transport 'safe rates' campaign
A worldwide campaign for safe pay rates for transport workers has been launched by the sector's global union federation ITF. The 'Safe rates and a safe industry- we're in, are you?' campaign is modelled on a highly successful initiative by Australian truck drivers. In 2012, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) won an Australia-wide safe rates law, intended to protect drivers from pressure to work long hours, speed or take drugs just to keep going. TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon, the newly elected road transport chair of the ITF, said: "Transport work in Australia is dangerous work. Transport workers are 15 times more likely to die at work than workers in any other industry."
Read more: ITF news release. TWU Safe Rates campaign. Source: Risks 668
China: factories closed following blast
A metal dust explosion was probably to blame for the blast we reported on last week which killed 75 workers. More than 180 other people were hurt in the blast at the car parts factory in Kunshan in Jiangsu province. State media said at least 25 people had died in hospital. The metallic dust stuck to workers' skin, causing extensive burns. The blast is China's worst industrial accident since a fire at a poultry factory in June 2013 that killed 119 people. The plant, operated by Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Company, polishes wheel hubs for car makers including General Motors. The company had been warned by the safety body that high levels of dust in the air could cause an explosion. Dust explosions occur when metallic particles contained in an enclosed space are ignited by a spark.
Source: BBC News
Using technology to manage work-life
When it comes to managing boundaries between work responsibilities and home life, technology is our "frenemy." Technology, specifically mobile technology, can be alternately used to maintain, erase or manage home and work boundaries along a spectrum.
In ongoing research, titled "Strategic Use of Mobile Technology to Manage the Work-Family Boundary," a University of Cincinnati research team has found that full-time working employees can use several strategies when using technology to manage work-home boundaries. These include:
- 'collocation': when an individual reports being physically present in one domain while cognitively and behaviourally engaged in both domains. This may include engaging in both work and personal tasks while in the home domain (eg checking work-related emails while at a child's sports event)
- 'distancing': which occurs when an individual either turns off the technology or changes the setting to be unavailable in one domain when engaged in the other; and
- 'crossing': when an individual uses technology as an aid in moving from one domain to another (eg: using mobile communications technology to bridge between work and home domains by accessing work e-mails via a laptop or smartphone near the end of the workday to respond to a request or complete a task before becoming fully engaged in the home domain).
to joint author Stacie Furst-Holloway, UC associate professor of psychology,
"These strategies were often perceived as a help in navigating work-home
boundaries. For instance, with collocation, an employee might be in the same
physical space as a spouse, being present when needed for the personal
relationship, but alternating that with work completion. It allows for greater
perceived control of work flow and information required to be better prepared
upon returning to the office."
Read more: University of Cincinnati News In Managing Boundaries Between Work and Home, Technology Can Be Both 'Friend' and 'Foe'
OHS Regulator News
State OHS/WHS regulators threatened by
bill expanding Comcare
A federal Bill designed to expand the Comcare scheme and grant group employer licences for eligible self-insurers introduced into the House of Representatives in March which will potentially be passed in the Spring sitting, could put state schemes under extreme pressure. If businesses move to Comcare for workers compensation, as they began to under the Howard government, then they are automatically covered by the Commonwealth WHS Act, and move right out of the state systems – taking their insurance premiums with them. Not only does this put the viability of the state regulators at risk, but also the health and safety of workers and their rights under workers compensation. For example, under Comcare common law compensation payments are capped at $110,000.
VWA and WorkCover NSW: safety in
On Monday it was announced that Victorian and NSW health and safety inspectors would be active along the Victoria and NSW border this week in an ongoing campaign to promote construction site safety in the region. Inspectors from the Victorian WorkCover Authority and WorkCover NSW joined forces to visit construction sites in Cobram, Barooga, Yarrawonga and Mulwala from 25-29 August.
Inspectors from both states worked together to provide information and advice to local builders, contractors and workers about construction site safety requirements. VWA Regional Operations Manager, Brooke Grey, said the Cross Border Project had already assisted more than 200 border construction sites to understand the similarity of safety obligations between the two states. "Workplace injury claims across the Moira Shire Council have dropped more than 14 per cent over the past three financial years, but there is still more that can be done," Ms Grey said. "Many injuries result from lack of planning and poor monitoring of the actual work being undertaken."
Grey said the keys to improving worksite safety include having Safe Work Method
Statements that addressed the hazards associated with high-risk construction
work, supervising the work when necessary and paying attention to simple tasks
such as general worksite house-keeping.
Read more: VWA Media Release Construction safety a focus on both sides of the border
VWA investigating factory fire in Highett
Workers had to be evacuated when their brass factory caught fire in the outer Melbourne suburb of Highett last week. Two workers received minor injuries in the fire, thought to have been caused by fault in a furnace in the brass foundry. The MFB reported that the incident was being investigated by 'Work Safe' (the VWA).
fatality at cattle saleyards
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland yesterday announced it was investigating a fatal incident that occurred on Tuesday 26 August at the Gracemere Saleyards near Rockhampton. The regulator states the worker died in hospital from injuries he sustained after he fell from the top of a cattle transport trailer and was caught between its tray and gate and the back of another trailer. The trailers were positioned tail to tail in order to transfer cattle. The Incident Alert has links to more information.
Read more: Incident Alert
Safe Work Australia
The Safe Work webpage on reported workplace fatalities has been updated: as at 27 August, 117 fatalities had been reported. The fatalities: 42 in Transport, postal and warehousing; 27 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; 14 in Construction; 11 in Mining; six in Manufacturing; five in Accommodation & food services; three in Electricity, Gas & Water Services; and Arts & recreation services; and one each in Health care/social assistance; Retail; Wholesale Trade; Public administration and safety; Government administration & defence; and 'other services'.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
Safe Work has now released the monthly fatality report for May. The report reveals that crushing incidents have been among the leading causes of work-related deaths this year. Nineteen work-related deaths were reported to Australia's OHS regulators in May: nine workers (or bystanders) were killed in vehicle incidents on public roads, four were fatally crushed (between a moving and a stationary object, for example), and two were killed in an air crash. Monthly reports can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Update: SPC Ardmona - amputation
After having sent the journal out last week, we learnt that SPC Ardmona was placed on a 12-month adjourned undertaking after a female worker's left arm was amputated above the elbow on a fruit and vegetable packaging machine with a missing guard. The company was also ordered to pay $45,000 (plus $3800 in costs) into a court fund. No conviction was recorded - despite the company's guilty plea.
August 18: Dotmar EPP Pty
Ltd - guarding
Last Monday, Dotmar EPP Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $375,000 in the Melbourne County Court following a series of safety incidents involving poorly guarded machines. In October 2009 an employee's finger was caught and crushed in a lathe; ten months later, another worker's thumb was crushed on the same piece of equipment. Both workers needed surgery. And then, also in 2010, a third employee suffered lacerations to his leg when he was trapped between a table and the frame of a router.
employer was charged over the lathe incidents, and pleaded guilty to breaching
the OHS Act. Investigations revealed the interlock on the lathe had been
bypassed since about 2004 to allow the machine to be operated while the guard doors
were open. The employer was fined $300,000 over the first incident and $75,000
over the second.
Source: VWA Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings
ACT: charges to be laid
over construction site fatality
The ABC this week reported that criminal charges are to be laid over the death of a Yass man on a Canberra construction site in 2011. The 45 year old experienced construction industry worker was killed when a heavy grader reversed over him. It appears that the coronial inquest into the death was to be abandoned so criminal charges could be laid. The exact charges and accused parties had not yet been revealed. A coronial inquest into the death has previously heard there is a reasonable belief the grader driver, his employer and supervisors on the site were criminally responsible. It has since been reported that Canberra Contractors has been charged with failing to comply with a safety duty and recklessly causing serious harm. The charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years' jail and (only) a $14,000 fine under the previous OHS laws.
Source: ABC News Online
Japan: Thyroid cancer
diagnosed in Fukushima young
It was reported this week that, according to officials, the number of young people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer, a disease often caused by radiation exposure, now totals 104. These are among 300,000 young people who were aged 18 or under at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and whose results of thyroid gland tests have been made available as of June 30. They were eligible for the tests administered by the prefectural government. However, experts are divided over whether these cases should be linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.
Read more: Thyroid cancer diagnosed in 104 young people in Fukushima Asahi Shinbun