SafetyNet 292, September
Hello subscribers – we hope you enjoy this latest edition of our e-journal, SafetyNet. We would love to hear what you like or don't like, so send though any comments or ideas to our editor, Renata at firstname.lastname@example.org). Remember too: if you're on Twitter, then please 'follow' us too - @OHSreps
claims more victims than war"
As the Director-General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, last week told the nearly 4,000 participants at the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work: "Work claims more victims than war".
"Ebola and the
tragedies it is causing are in the daily headlines – which is right. But
work-related deaths are not. So, the task ahead is to establish a permanent
culture of consciousness," said Ryder.
The task is a daunting one: an estimated 2.3 million workers die every
year from occupational accidents and diseases. In addition, the ILO estimates that
the direct or indirect cost of occupational illness and accidents at work to be
US$2.8 trillion worldwide. "These figures are unacceptable and yet these daily
tragedies often fail to show up on the global radar," said Ryder. "The right to
a safe and healthy workplace is a basic human right – a right to be respected
at every level of development and in different economic conditions. Respecting
this human right is an obligation – as well as a condition for sustainable
economic development. Prevention is possible, it is necessary and it pays."
Read more: ILO Media Releases: ILO Director-General: "Work claims more victims than war" and A world without fatal work accidents is possible
Are trained first aid officers required to perform first aid i.e. do they have a duty of care or do they have a choice?
If someone puts their hand up or is appointed a 'First Aid Officer' then this usually means the following:
- The employer, in order to comply with the duty of care under the OHS Act (section 21[d]) and with the Compliance Code will have undertaken an assessment of the First Aid needs for the Workplace (see this FAQ on the site). The appointment and training of one or more 'First Aid Officers' would be part of what the employer is implementing;
- The First Aiders must be appropriately trained to be a level (whatever) first aider. A trained first aider understands their role, and is competent to perform it, and understands the difference between 'first aid' and 'medical treatment';
- The employer pays for this training and any training necessary to ensure that the first aider's training remains up to date;
- The training should be counted as work time – that is, the first aider should be paid as if at work;
- The first aider position almost always comes with a First Aid allowance – that is, an extra payment to the person for taking on this role. Alternatively, it is part of their job description and so part of what the employer has a right to expect that they do.
So, given the above, my answer is yes, a designated first aider has a duty to their employer to administer first aid if required. The provisos are: must be trained, must be first aid (not medical treatment), and so on. If the person does not want to do first aid, they should not take up the role. Being a First Aider, and carrying out this role does not carry a 'duty of care' under the OHS Act, although there is, I believe, a level of duty to the employer.
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.
Royal Commission into
Home Insulation Program
The report from the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program (HIP), arising after the deaths of four young male workers, was released this week. The RC found that the program was 'exceedingly ambitious'. "The reality is that the Australian government conceived of, devised, designed and implemented a program that enabled a very large number of inexperienced workers - often engaged by unscrupulous and avaricious employers or head contractors, who were themselves inexperienced ... to undertake potentially dangerous work," the report's overview says. The Commission found the position that as the Australian Government had no regulatory in the field of occupational health and safety thus relying on the states and territories 'both unjustified and unreasonable'.
The ACTU has urged all levels of Government to act on the RC findings to ensure the failings that led to the four workplace deaths are never repeated. ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said it was essential that reforms are put in place to ensure workers' safety is a first order issue in the development and implementation of all future Government projects. "Every worker deserves to return home safely at the end of each day. Workers should not have to pay the cost of unsafe workplaces and these workers paid the highest price," said Mr Borowick.
However, he said the RC had missed the opportunity to make specific recommendations to ensure workplace safety did not fall between the cracks of Commonwealth and State responsibility, nor how to improve legislation to increase worker safety. "Unions want stronger regulation to save lives, and we want to see penalties increased where employers fail to provide adequate training and supervision," he said. The RC also missed identifying ways to improve the occupational health and safety of workers employed by small business. "Had the Royal Commission made recommendations on this subject, then the Commission would have had some enduring benefit and not been simply a way of discrediting the former Government," Mr Borowick said.
unexpectedly, when tabling the Report in Parliament, Prime Minister Tony Abbott
said that it detailed a "Litany of failures arising from a dysfunctional
culture." While grave errors clearly occurred, there is no doubt the Coalition
government wishes to make political mileage out of the tragedy.
Read more: ACTU Media Release Use lessons of Home Insulation Program to ensure fatalities never happen again and Royal Commission Home Insulation Program Report
Hazelwood fire Inquiry Report: Firefighters union says Victoria still
not prepared for disaster
The Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry Report, tabled in State Parliament this week, has revealed the cost of the Hazelwood coalmine fire to be at least $100 million, borne by Victorian taxpayers, the local community and the owner and operator of the mine, GDF Suez.
The fire, which began on February 9 and burnt for 45 days before it was declared safe, put the health of many at risk: the Inquiry found the Chief Health Officer's advice for vulnerable residents to temporarily relocate away from Morwell, released on February 28, "was provided too late".
The board of inquiry report made 18 recommendations, including stronger regulation of Victoria's coalmines: it criticised the level of regulation and exposed shortcomings in the regulation of the industry by the Earth Resources Regulation Branch (the Mining Regulator) of the Victorian Department of State Development, Business and Innovation, and the Victorian WorkCover Authority. The two agencies "operated in silos", the report said, with each adopting "a narrow reading of the statutory regime underlying their respective areas of responsibility". The shortcomings in the regulatory regime "resulted in a gap in regulation of the Hazelwood mine in respect of fire risks with potential to impact on Morwell and surrounding communities," the report said.
United Firefighters Union says: "Victoria's lack of preparation saw
firefighters exposed to elevated levels of carbon monoxide – which is lethal in
high concentrations. The fire services had no protocols for this initially,
then relied on a plan which had remained in draft form since 2006." Further, "While the inquiry has recommended a
20 year community health study, there is no acknowledgement of the cumulative
effects on firefighters' health. The Napthine Government continues to deny the
link between firefighting and cancer, and has refused to follow other States
with legislation to support firefighters with work-related cancers."
Read more: The Age Hazelwood fire cost more than $100 million UFU Media Release: Victoria still not prepared for disaster And an interesting discussion: The Guardian Morwell and the Hazelwood mine fire report: the fallout Hazelwood mine fire inquiry report – Print friendly version
Reminder: 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 now also include Ms Laurie Kazan-Allen from the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) and Ms Linda Reinstein, President/CEO of the US Asbestos Disease Awareness Foundation, as well as Richard A. Lemen (former US Assistant Surgeon General) and Professor Ken Takahashi, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health.
cost of registration is up from $250 ('early bird' 'community' registration
before September 30, no conference dinner) to $900 (full 'commercial' including
conference dinner). Read more: ASEA Conference including
program information, and registration details.
Head down to Grill'd Degraves St to support Asbestoswise
Readers may be aware that hamburger chain Grill'd runs a 'Local Matters' donation program. Every month, Grill'd donates $500 to local groups and asks their customers to decide who the money goes to. When customers buy a burger, they will receive a token to put into one of 3 jars representing different groups. Whoever has the most tokens at the end of the month receives $300. The other two groups receive $100 each. This month, asbestos diseases support group Asbestoswise has been nominated to participate in the program at the 13 Degraves St store. So please head down there and choose Asbestoswise.
The Female Face of
Britain's Asbestos Catastrophe
Laurie Kazan-Allen, from the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, has written a very interesting feature which traces the landmark cases through which the British asbestos reality has been revealed, and which relate to the tragic experiences of female victims – even though the vast majority of victims have been male. These cases have included the first named victim of an asbestos disease, the first successful British claimant, the establishment of the world's first asbestos victim's group, and the first successful environmental claimant.
Read more: The Female Face of Britain's Asbestos Catastrophe
A Deadly Ongoing EpidemicTwice
as many Britons die of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma as die in road traffic
accidents. The mesothelioma epidemic is claiming the lives not only of people
who worked directly with asbestos but of others exposed to contaminated
products incorporated into the national infrastructure. Victims like consultant
anaesthetist Dr. Andrew Lawson, M&S employee Janice Allen, GP Graham Abbott
have contracted the cancer having being exposed to asbestos at their
is today," reports journalist Harry de Quetteville "at the peak of a
Read more: Asbestos: the killer that still surrounds us.
Brazil: Huge Victory for Asbestos Victims
As reported in SafetyNet 291 Brazilian prosecutors filed a class action on August 22 against asbestos giant Eternit, Brazil's leading manufacturer of asbestos-cement products. On September 1, Minister Celso de Mello of the Federal Supreme Court rejected an injunction by the company, which barred a US$1 billion lawsuit filed by the Public Attorney's Office of the São Paulo Labor Court on behalf of former employees at the Eternit factory in Osasco, Sao Paulo. As a result, the public prosecutor can now proceed with the compensation claims for 1,000 injured employees and the surviving families of those who have died.
See: STF mantém ação de R$ 1 bi contra Eternit por expor trabalhadores a amianto [STF holds share of R$ 1 billion against Eternit for exposing workers to asbestos].
Canada: Quebec Rejection of
After more than a century of asbestos profits, Quebec politicians have finally rejected asbestos, a natural resource once called "white gold." The political climate in Quebec has undergone a complete reversal from one in which the asbestos industry was regarded as sacrosanct to one in which the cessation of asbestos mining and the remediation of contaminated sites are regarded as a priority. Bernard Coulombe, the President of Canada's last asbestos mine (which closed in 2012), and an aggressive asbestos proponent now admits that asbestos contamination is "dangerous." He and other owners of the mine are demanding compensation for lost profits.
Read more: The end of the Jeffrey asbestos mine in Quebec
This week we have been working hard to update broken links on the site – the VWA has changed many of its urls and this has led to many links on our site which needed fixing. We apologise if you've come across any (please let us know!) We have also split the Bullying and Violence: More information into two separate pages – there was just too many references and links and the page was getting unwieldy.
Read more: Bullying: More Information and Violence: More Information
working harder while real income declines
Labour productivity recorded an annual growth rate of 3.2 per cent in the last financial year, according to the latest national accounts. The data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed gross value added per hour worked in the market sector increased on a trend basis by 0.9% in the June quarter 2014. That amounted to an annual rate of 3.2 per cent from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, which was a substantial increase from the 2.3 per cent for 2012-13. The accounts also showed real national disposable fell by 0.2 per cent in the quarter.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary
Paul Bastian said the income figures meant Australians were poorer now than
they were three months ago. This news comes at the same time as an agreement
between the Federal Government and the Palmer United Party sees the planned
increases in superannuation payments postponed to 2025 - and general
agreement that it will be unlikely that employers will pass this on to workers
as pay increases. Add to this the Government's Fair Work Amendment Bill, due
before the Senate, which will strip away current protections around individual
contracts and make it easier for employers to force workers to give up their
penalty rates – putting even more pressure on workers.
Source: Read more: ABS Data Media Releases: AMWU Australians now poorer than three months ago (download from this page); AWU Attacking retirement security of workers the lowest of the low; ACTU Whatever the name – Government agenda is anti-worker
Africa: Health workers and the Ebola virus
The worsening Ebola epidemic has put the lives of doctors and health care workers at risk, with the latest news from the WHO reporting that more than 240 have been infected, and 120 killed. Overall, the Ebola virus still has the "upper hand" in an outbreak that has sickened more than 2,600 (now more than 3,000) and killed more than 1,400 (now more than 1,500), according to Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many health care workers from humanitarian organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres are knowingly putting their own lives at risk to fight the epidemic and provide care to those infected. In Sierra Leone, however, it's been reported that health workers at a major state-run Ebola treatment centre have gone on strike over pay and poor working conditions, including lack of appropriate personal protective clothing, tools and even stretchers.
Read more: Ebola has killed more than 120 health workers, WHO says. USA Today; Doctors and Nurses Risk Everything to Fight Ebola in West Africa. National Geographic; Ebola health workers in Sierra Leone go on strike - over pay and conditions The Daily Mirror
Workers forced to clean up human excrement
The Indian government should end "manual scavenging" - the cleaning of human waste by communities considered low-caste - by ensuring that local officials enforce the laws prohibiting this discriminatory practice, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. In a 96-page report released this week, HRW says the government should implement existing legislation aimed at assisting manual scavengers find alternative, sustainable livelihoods. 'Cleaning human waste: Manual scavenging, caste, and discrimination in India' documents the 'coercive nature' of manual scavenging, with 'low-caste' workers compelled to remove waste by hand from dry toilets, sewers and septic tanks. "Successive Indian government attempts to end caste-based cleaning of excrement have been derailed by discrimination and local complicity," said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW's South Asia director. "The government needs to get serious about putting laws banning manual scavenging into practice and assisting the affected caste communities." HRW interviewed more than 135 people, finding that women who clean dry toilets in rural areas often are not paid cash wages, but instead as a customary practice receive leftover food, grain during harvest, old clothes during festival times, and access to community and private land for grazing livestock and collecting firewood – all at the discretion of the households they serve. In other instances, wages have been withheld, with the workers forced against their will to continue clearing the human waste.
Read more: HRW news release and full report, Cleaning Human Waste: 'Manual scavenging,' caste, and discrimination in India Source: Risks 669
sunscreen may harm marine life
A new study shows that nanoparticles of titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide in sunscreen can react with sunlight to harm phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants and an important food source for small fish, shrimp, and whales.
Louise Sales, coordinator of Friends of the Earth's Emerging Tech Project, said "Phytoplankton are the basis of the entire marine food chain. These results, coupled with recent research suggesting that nano titanium dioxide could harm coral, raise serious questions about the impact nanoparticles in sunscreen are having on Australian marine life. These ingredients should never have been allowed in sunscreen without testing to demonstrate that they are safe for human health and the environment."
The study's authors found that titanium dioxide and zinc
oxide in sunscreen both produce hydrogen peroxide when exposed to sunlight.
Previous studies have shown that this can damage phytoplankton.
Read more: FoE Media release and Information on Nanotechnology on the site.
Victoria: Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out this week (September 3). In this edition, VWA Senior Construction Advisor from the Construction Practices Unit, Tony Cockerell writes about the high number of nail gun injuries in the construction industry. He says that while there are a number of factors contributing nail gun incidents, a common thread is the gun being set to 'bump-fire' rather than 'single-shot' mode. The Bulletin also has news from around the country, and its usual interesting 'Absolute Shocker'.
There were 41 incidents notified to the VWA since the last edition, for the period August 14 – 28, including 9 lacerations, six electric shocks, 10 near misses and a nail gun injury. There were four falls, one from a height of three metres – any of these could have been fatal. Read more, including link to the list of reported incidents: September 3 Safety Soapbox
Safe Work Australia
The Safe Work webpage on reported workplace fatalities has been updated: as at 2 September, 125 fatalities had been reported – that's eight people killed since the last update. The fatalities: 46 in Transport, postal and warehousing; 29 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; 14 in Construction; 10 in Mining; eight in Manufacturing; five in Accommodation & food services; four in Electricity, Gas & Water Services; three in 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
The latest monthly fatality report remains that for May. Monthly reports can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
- From WHS Queensland: a video on Bat Handling. The 3.34 minute film illustrates that bats should only be handled by workers and volunteer carers who have a current rabies vaccination against being infected with Australia bat lyssavirus. It discusses the importance of training in the safe handling of bats and wearing personal protective equipment.
- From WorkCover NSW: also a video - Split rims and multi-piece wheels Safety Alert. In the last 10 years there have been 25 incidents in which workers have been killed or seriously injured. This short video provides advice on how to safely work with large tyres.
- From Work Safe BC (British Columbia, Canada): A great resource, an "e-book", Confined Space Hazards which has very clear information, photos and a number of videos on incidents, testing the atmosphere, systems of work, and more.
- From the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work:
- on the agency's OSH WIKI site, a new article on Harassment at Work. The article defines harassment, discusses the 'antecedents' to harassment, including workplace and individual factors, examines the consequences and then looks at interventions.
- Free NAPO for teachers: educational resources on health and safety suitable for use in schools, in 20 languages.
Victoria: Pasta maker fined after worker's hand caught in
On 22 January 2014, an employee of Pasta Al Dente Pty Ltd was injured while scraping the side of the hopper on a cannelloni machine. The employee's hand was caught on a rotating screw and pulled into the hopper. An investigation revealed that the electronic interlock on the lid of the hopper had been disconnected by the company. After pleading guilty to breaching sections 21(1) & 21(2)(a) of the 2004 OHS Act 2004, the company was fined $50,000. The prosecution summary did not provide information on whether a conviction was recorded. Source: VWA Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings
Tasmania: Sub-contractor fined $55,000 after young
worker killed in fall
A Tasmanian construction company was this week fined $55,000 over the death of a 20 year old worker, who died from head injuries in August 2012 after falling from the roof of the Devonport Homemaker Centre onto a concrete slab. He had been reattaching his safety harness to anchor points along a gutter when he fell.
Sherwood Enterprises had last month pleaded guilty to failing to ensure an employee was safe from injury and risks to health. In issuing the fine, Magistrate Michael Brett said there was a clear and foreseeable risk of injury as the worker had been working at height. Mr Brett said attaching a fixed line to the building would have been a relatively simple matter and would have achieved acceptable protection from the risk – he added that Sherwood had adopted a safer work method days before the incident, but was under contractual pressure to get the job done quickly.
Much to the disappointment of the young man's family, the fine was not
even half of the maximum penalty, and the charges against the main contractor,
Fairbrother, had been dropped. The ABC reports that Sherwood
had said the fine was not justified, and workers had been told that morning to
keep their harnesses attached - in what appears to be the company attempting to shift the blame.
Source: ABC News Online
Australia: Company fined $80,000 for crush injuries
Tru-coat Pty Ltd, a company whose main business was painting heavy steel, has been convicted and fined $80,000 over an incident in which a 22-year-old casual employee suffered severe crush injuries to his legs in 26 July 2012. In spite of a similar incident having occurred eight years earlier, the employer had not maintained a safe system of work for lifting heavy beams while they were being painted. The young worker, a qualified dogman, was painting a 10-metre-long steel beam 720 kilograms. When he turned it around with an overhead crane in order to paint the other side, it dislodged from its trestle and fell onto his thighs. He sustained compound fractures to both legs, and suffered trauma to his back and hips which left him with ongoing pain. His injuries were likely to adversely affect him for the rest of his life. Read more: Perry v Tru-Coat Pty Ltd  SAIRC 24 (28 July 2014)
fines Lend Lease $200k for fatality
In a complex case involving a number of subcontractors, Lend Lease Engineering Ptd Ltd (formerly Abigroup Contractors Pty Ltd) has been convicted of two offences under the previous NSW OHS Act 2000 and fined $200,000 after a worker was killed in March 2009. In the incident, several other workers were also severely injured by faulty rail panels. The companies Boom Logistics (crane crew), Taylor Railtrack (railway construction and maintenance), MVM Rail and GTE recruitment management were all involved in installing the panels, with Abigroup Construction the head contractor.
Inspector Christensen, who initiated the prosecution, argued Abigroup's
failures included a lack of an appropriate risk assessment; not providing an
adequate system of communication between the subcontractors, and not ensuring
all workers were in a safe position so they could not be struck. Lend Lease
accepted the offence was a serious one, but argued the sub-contractors on site were
responsible as experts to undertake their own risk assessments, and that they
had taken adequate steps. Justice Walton accepted the other companies had contributed
to the incident, but that as Abigroup was the principal contractor, it "remained
fully responsible". Taking into account Abigroup's prior convictions,
Justice Walton convicted the company and fined it $200,000.
Read more: Inspector Christensen v Lend Lease engineering Ptd Ltd (formerly Abigroup Contractors Pty Ltd),NSWIRComm 42,22/08/14