SafetyNet 295, September
We welcome our subscribers to SafetyNet 295 – and hope you find the contents interesting. Please note that there won't be an edition next week due to our editor's work commitments - but look out for the next edition on October 9.
And have you joined our small but growing number of discerning followers on Twitter? Please do so now: @OHSreps
When WorkSafe inspectors come into a workplace - for example, if a PIN is disputed - what is the "role" of the inspectors regarding how they should investigate the disputed PIN, and follow 'proper due process'? How do you know if they have applied rigor to the process?
When an inspector comes out to the workplace everyone expects that he/she at least follows the requirements of the OHS Act (for example: announce entry; ensure both the employer and the HSR/s are notified; issue an entry report; and so on). We have, however, had reports of some inspectors not following proper procedures, or not adequately supporting the HSR… that is, in your words, 'not applying rigor' to the process!
Take a look at this page on the site on Inspectors and PINS. Apart from the advice on the page, there are links to VWA publications on how inspectors deal with specific issues and what they are supposed to do. In addition, the VWA has a policy paper on how the organisation supports HSRs - which can be downloaded on this page of the HSR Portal website, under the section on Discrimination.
Remember too that if someone is unhappy with an inspector's decision (or non-decision), then that person can request a review of the decision/non-decision under Part 10 of the Act – see this page on the site for more information. If you are very unhappy with how an inspector has conducted him/herself, then you are also able to make a formal complaint. As a first step, I recommend contacting your union.
Please send any OHS related queries in to 'Ask Renata' - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can. Due to Renata's commitments in the coming week, there will be a few days' delay, however.
Principal directed to resign following asbestos exposures
The former principal of Wales St Primary school in Thornbury, has "formally relinquished" his position at the school following a departmental investigation into the possible exposure of children to asbestos. Mr Chris Sexton had been stood down in February after two prep classes were potentially exposed to asbestos particles in dust in the carpet. According to media reports, a departmental inquiry found he had been 'negligent' in his handling of the asbestos issue and he was told to resign.
More than 500 have people signed a petition to Education Department secretary Richard Bolt calling for the reinstatement of Mr Sexton. "He is excellent at his job and is much loved by both the children and parents," says the petition written by Vivian Hardwick. "The school community has written hundreds of letters to the department requesting that Mr Sexton be reinstated immediately."
Australian Education Union state president Meredith Peace said it would have been a difficult decision for Mr Sexton to resign. "We have supported him throughout … a long and difficult process and we will continue to support him," Ms Peace said. "We remain very concerned that a significant responsibility such as asbestos is left up to school principals to manage. Asbestos is an incredibly dangerous substance and requires significant expertise which our principals don't have. While they continue to be expected to do this we will continue to get incidents like this occurring." Ms Peace questioned what had been done to put in place a long-term plan for the removal of asbestos from school buildings.
OHS Act and the Asbestos regulations, the Department, as the employer and
ultimate body with management and control of the workplace, has the highest
legal duty. The principal, although the designated 'employer representative',
is nevertheless, an employee.
Read more: The Age and the petition on Change.org
Mr Fluffy updates
1 - Mr Fluffy homes can be demolished safely
Canberra residents have voiced concerns regarding potential hazards of a mass demolition of Mr Fluffy asbestos houses. Asbestos Taskforce head Andrew Kefford has moved to reassure people it can be done safely. The land would be remediated with soil removed to the point where tests showed no remaining asbestos, he said. Some Mr Fluffy home owners are concerned about ongoing stigma attached to their properties, even once the houses are gone and the topsoil replaced.
confirmed information would remain on the building file of the 1000 affected
homes, showing they had been part of the loose-fill program and the demolition
and remediation since. "It is possible to demolish a house with loose-fill
asbestos safely and without there being a risk to neighbouring property,"
he said. "It's an area of work which is very heavily regulated and at the
point where the houses are actually being knocked over, either the lose-fill
asbestos has been removed or it has been bonded to the structures so the
prospect of the fibres escaping is being controlled."
Read more: Canberra Times
2 - Buyback scheme proposed for NSW houses
A Queanbeyan-based politician is lobbying his own State Government to do something about the toxic legacy of Mr Fluffy asbestos houses in southern New South Wales. Member for Monaro John Barilaro wants the Government to buy back all affected properties, demolish them and redevelop the land. Earlier this month a cross-party committee was established in the NSW Parliament to examine the role government should play in advising Mr Fluffy homeowners and occupiers. Authorities have already begun inspecting properties across NSW identified as potentially affected.
Read more: ABC News online and ABC South West NSW.
3 – Fallout about to hit the courts as homeowner
A Canberra family who unwittingly bought a Mr Fluffy home is suing the government for $2.46million in what could become a landmark case in the ACT. The lawsuit, understood to be the first of its kind, is a clear signal the Mr Fluffy crisis could spill over into the ACT court system. The family purchased the Forrest home for $1.87 million in November 2008 and spent a further $590,000 on renovations. According to papers filed in court, they were never told the property was potentially filled with deadly asbestos until the ACT Work Safety Commissioner in February posted letters to the owners of 1049 Canberra homes warning of the danger. The action, in the ACT Supreme Court, is against six defendants, including the ACT government, the former owner, a real estate agent, a law firm and two building companies.
Read more: Canberra Times
Last chance to eat a burger at Grill'd Degraves St and support Asbestoswise
This is practically the last chance to show your support for Asbestoswise and eat a good burger at the same time. Go to Grill'd in Degraves St, Melbourne CBD, before the end of September and help Asbestoswise achieve top spot and a $300 donation. Check out the Asbestoswise website to find out more about the organisation.
Asbestos Council of
Victoria/GARDS members fundraising
Please support Jenna and Anthony whose father, Neil Gray, died of mesothelioma 21 years ago, in their half marathon run in the Medibank Marathon Festival on October 12th to raise money for Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS. ACV/GARDS supports sufferers and families with 24/7 information and support, medical equipment, counselling , home and hospital visits, information booklets, pamphlets, support group meetings, advocacy meetings and education and awareness tutorials. Donations are gratefully received by using the donate button on the home page. Donations via the website generate an immediate receipt. Put in the message section that your donation is in support of Jenna & Anthony for the Marathon. Alternatively, donate by cheque, payable to ACV/GARDS Inc (please include name and address for receipt) and send to:
Jenna & Anthony Marathon Run
PO Box 111,
MOE, VIC 3825
Conference: November 16 – 18, 2014
Anyone who is interested in what's happening with asbestos in Australia should try to attend ASEA's 1st International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management: "Working towards an asbestos free Australia" (Crown Casino November 16-18). It's the last chance to secure an 'early bird' registration. SafetyNet will be there – so come along and chat to Renata – and hear Laurie Kazan-Allen, from the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.
Read more: ASEA Conference including program information, and registration details.
of Irish Fleet
After toxic asbestos materials had been found aboard Irish naval vessels the LÉ Ciara, LÉ Orla, LÉ Aoife, LÉ Eithne and LÉ Aisling, government ordered a fleet-wide asbestos survey. Investigations began on September 1, 2014 and are expected to take several weeks. In addition, the Naval Service has trained personnel in asbestos awareness and advised on low risk remediation of asbestos-containing materials. Defence Minister Simon Coveney has pledged that "medical concerns were and will continue to be addressed and a contracted civilian medical advisor on asbestos-related illness has provided briefs to all staff."
Read more: Fleet-wide check under way after asbestos found on Naval ships.
Pakistan: Unions Call
for Asbestos Ban
A one-day national stakeholders conference was held in Lahore, Pakistan by the Building and Wood Workers' Trade Union and its affiliates on September 3, 2014 to progress efforts to ban asbestos. The keynote speaker was Zahoor Awan, Secretary General of the Pakistan Workers Federation. Other eminent speakers included national labor leaders, international experts and representatives of asbestos victims. Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) General Secretary Ambet Yuson told delegates: "Asbestos kills, it is a danger to the workers, their families and the communities…" The delegates unanimously agreed a declaration calling for an asbestos ban in Pakistan.
Read more: BWI supports Ban Asbestos Campaign in Pakistan.
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
September 25: End violence against women
A reminder that the End Violence against Women campaign, managed by UN Women, is now making every 25th of the month "Orange Day" – a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls. Orange Day asks activists, governments and UN partners to mobilize people and highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls, not only once a year, on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), but every month.
Sign up for news and action alerts here! Follow @SayNO_UNiTE on Twitter. Like on Facebook. Read more: Take action to Orange your day
UK: London Fashion Week gets a dressing down
Protesters marked the opening of London Fashion Week on 12 September with the message 'Don't mention the garment workers'. The protest action – which included a banner bearing the slogan suspended from Waterloo Bridge - was intended to expose an event which promotes the creativity of the UK's fashion industry, but is silent over the millions of workers who produce clothes for high street chains. Anti-poverty campaign War on Want, which organised the protest, says these workers are often working long hours on poverty pay in unsafe conditions. Senior campaigner Owen Espley said: "London Fashion Week is a glittering showcase for the fashion industry. But fashion's dark side is kept in the shadows. The British Fashion Council would rather we all forget about those who often work long hours, on poverty pay, in unsafe conditions to produce the clothes we love." He added: "We can love fashion, but hate sweatshops and want a fashion week that lives up to its responsibility to all the workers who make the fashion we buy. The time has come for London Fashion Week to mention the garment workers." War on Want says all major UK brands who are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative have signed a pledge to pay workers a living wage, but none currently does so. It adds that London Fashion Week claims orders estimated at £100 million (A$183 million) will be placed during the event - enough to pay a month's wages for 2.4 million Bangladeshi garment workers who earn just £42 (A$77) each month.
Read more: War on Want news release. Source: Risks 672
Unsafe garment industry needs unions
Two years after 259 workers died in the 11 September fire at an Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi, Pakistan, the report of an official commission into the cause and the responsibility for the tragedy remains unpublished by the government. The company was not registered under Pakistan's factory Act; the building structure was not legally approved by the building authority; the majority of the workers did not have appointment letters; and all worked under an illegal third party contract system with working hours ranging from ten to 14 hours a day without overtime. And as there was no trade union, there was no right to collective bargaining. The failure of effective oversight was highlighted when it was revealed the factory had received a "clean bill of health" from an international social auditing company just two weeks before the inferno broke out, certifying that it met all required standards. More than 600 workers were trapped inside the factory which had no functional fire extinguishing system, windows that were closed and covered with iron rods and locked exits preventing the workers from escaping. After spending five months in jail, the owners of Ali Enterprises were released on bail. Monika Kemperle, assistant general secretary of the global union for the sector, IndustriALL, said: "Unsafe textile factories are not only found in Bangladesh. The problems are many and complicated in Pakistan and there is no Accord on Building and Fire Safety to set legally binding standards." Just as in Bangladesh, IndustriALL and national unions say increased union membership and collective bargaining rights are crucial steps towards making the Pakistan's garment industry safe. Many of the workers and families affected by the fire have not yet received any compensation; others have only received small amounts that do not cover the loss of income for the survivors and their families.
Read more: IndustriALL Media Release; Clean Clothes Campaign webpage. Bangladesh Accord on Building and Fire Safety. Source: Risks 672
in the mine
A new expert report on a mining disaster on May 13 that killed 301 miners and injured many more in Soma has revealed that the necessary safety measures were not taken to prevent the disaster. The report identified 20 instances of gross negligence that led to the disaster. According to the report, which was recently submitted to a public prosecutor's office investigating the disaster, sensors in the coal mine had reported a risk of fire months before, but no measures were taken to prevent the incident.
The explosion and blaze at the coal mine rapidly depleted oxygen in the shaft, causing hundreds of miners to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. The main cause of the mine disaster, according to the report, was negligence. Already many shortcomings have been identified including: no refuge chamber in the mine, the mine operator did not provide workers with functioning gas masks; insufficient gas sensors; faults in the mine's electrical system; no clear escape route and no proper plan; and more. In addition, the report said that overproduction was another contributing factor to the disaster. "Production in the mine was 2.5 times more than planned. More miners than planned were working in the mine, but the ventilation system was not strong enough to provide the miners with clean air."
An investigation is currently under way. Eight people, including a
general manager and the chief executive of the mining company, have been
arrested on charges of "causing multiple deaths by negligence." While the head
of the local branch of mine workers' union Maden-İş has resigned, not a single
government official has accepted any blame, though evidence indicates that it
does bear responsibility in the accident, as many experts say it was only
possible because of a relaxation of work safety rules intended to increase
Read more: Expert report: Gross negligence led to Soma mine disaster Today's Zamin
takes a tiny step away from toxins
Five months after labour and environmental campaigners called on Apple to remove highly toxic chemicals including benzene and n-hexane from its supplier factories in China, the hi-tech multinational has announced it will "explicitly prohibit the use of benzene and n-hexane" at 22 of its final assembly supplier factories employing nearly 500,000 workers.
Benzene, one of the best known and
long-recognised occupational carcinogens, can cause leukaemia and other blood disorders.
The chemical n-hexane is a potent neurotoxin that can cause nerve damage and
paralysis. Workers in electronics supplier factories - including those making
Apple products - use both chemicals to clean touch screens. Undercover
activists from China Labour Watch found the workers doing the job had little to
no protective equipment and inadequate safety training.
Read more: ITUC News
work campaign October 7
Remember IndustriALL's World Day for Decent Work part of its global 'STOP Precarious Work' campaign will be on October 7. IndustriALL says: "The world is on an unsustainable path. Vast numbers of working people face insecurity in their jobs and the highest levels of inequality in living memory. One half of working families have experienced unemployment or reduced working hours in the past two years, while 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty."
Read more: IndustriALL September 14 News release and Report, Negotiating security: Trade union bargaining strategies against precarious work. IndustriALL World Day for Decent Work website Hazards information on health and safety and insecure work
Pesticide exposure and
A systematic review and a series of meta-analyses of nearly three decades worth of epidemiological research on the relationship between non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide active ingredients and chemical groups has shown a clear link. Estimates of associations of NHL with 21 pesticide chemical groups and 80 active ingredients were extracted from 44 papers, all of which reported results from analyses of studies conducted in high-income countries. Random effects meta-analyses showed that phenoxy herbicides, carbamate insecticides, organophosphorus insecticides and the active ingredient lindane, an organochlorine insecticide, were positively associated with NHL. In a handful of papers, associations between pesticides and NHL subtypes were also reported; B cell lymphoma was positively associated with phenoxy herbicides and the organophosphorus herbicide glyphosate. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma was positively associated with phenoxy herbicide exposure. Despite compelling evidence that NHL is associated with certain chemicals, this review indicates the need for investigations of a larger variety of pesticides in more geographic areas, especially in low- and middle-income countries, which, despite producing a large portion of the world's agriculture, were missing in the literature that were reviewed.
Read more: Leah Schinasi and Maria E Leon Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Occupational Exposure to Agricultural Pesticide Chemical Groups and Active Ingredients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Int J Environ Res Public Health. Apr 2014; 11(4): 4449–4527.
Asbestos in talc
A scientific paper published in the October 2014 issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health has concluded that "a specific brand of talcum powder [Cashmere Bouquet] contained identifiable asbestos fibers [anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos] with the potential to be released into the air and inhaled during normal personal talcum powder application." Asbestos fibers consistent with those found in the talcum powder were identified in the lungs and lymph node tissues of a woman who used this product and died from mesothelioma.
Read more: Gordon, et al. Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women. [abstract] Int J Occup Environ Health. 2014 Oct;20(4):318-32. doi: 10.1179/2049396714Y.0000000081. Epub 2014 Sep 3
Mesothelioma risk continues for over 40 years
Western Australian researchers have determined the risk of developing mesothelioma continues to increase even 40 years after a person's first exposure to asbestos. The Curtin University and UWA School of Public Health study, one of the first of its kind, investigated over 22,000 people exposed to asbestos across the globe using data from six cohort studies of exposed workers and two of residential exposures.
The researchers found the rate and risk of pleural mesothelioma increased until 45 years after the first exposure. After 45 years the risk rate then appeared to slow down. However, the rate of peritoneal mesothelioma over 10-50 years continued to increase.
University Associate Professor and lead author Alison Reid says the study is
important because it examines the long-term impacts of asbestos exposure and
further highlighted the dangers of asbestos. It was recently revealed that WA has the highest rate of mesothelioma incidence in Australia.
Read more: Mesothelioma risk endures over long-term Science Network Western Australia, Australia
Diesel emissions on underground WA mine sites
above WHO standards
A study by the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) has found that that 28 of 29 mines tested had peak "diesel particulate'' levels over the recommended safe limit set by the World Health Organisation. Diesel particulate is produced by the exhaust from underground mine machinery and vehicles. The study included mines in the WA Goldfields run by some of the state's biggest resources players.
Only one of the 29
mines had a peak level below the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline of
0.1 milligrams per cubic metre of submicron elemental carbon, while nine mines
peaked at more than six times the recommended level including one site 11 times
the maximum. Diesel fumes have been
linked to cancer in US miners, and diesel has been declared a Category 1
Read more: Study reveals cancer-causing diesel emissions on many underground WA mine sites are above World Health Organisation standards Perth Now; Hazard information on Diesel
Victoria: VWA opens registrations for this year's Health and Safety
HSRs and other OHS activists will be interested to find out more about the activities and events which are being offered by the VWA during Health and Safety Week. The VWA is inviting people to find an event and register and provided some information on what is being planned. This year's keynotes include the Hon. Jeff Kennett AC, Chairman of beyondblue, who will speak on mental well-being in the workplace; Bernard Salt, a leading commentator on cultural and demographic trends, who will speak on our ageing demographic; and Darren Flanagan, the explosives expert responsible for rescuing the two miners trapped at Beaconsfield mine.
The event will be held at the Melbourne Convention and
Exhibition Centre on Monday 20 October to Wednesday 22 October, before traveling
to Melbourne's west (Altona) and ten regional Victorian locations including:
Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Horsham, Mildura, Morwell, Shepparton,
Warrnambool and Wodonga. The VWA has also designated one day, Tuesday October
21, for elected Health and Safety Representatives – on this day HSRs will be
entitled to paid leave from work to attend Melbourne sessions. It warns
however, 'there are conditions' , and so has asked HSRs to read the information
for Health and Safety Representatives page carefully.
Read more: Information for HSRs
VWA issues 2013/2014 result
On Friday last week the VWA issued a media release Strong commitment to safety delivers impressive result. Victoria's regulator attributed the positive 2013/14 financial results to "a strong commitment to improving workplace safety from employers and workers across the state." The number of injury claims per million hours worked fell to 7.37 in 2013/14, an improvement of 5 per cent on the previous year. The VWA says this means that the number of Victorian workers injured at work "has fallen to a new record low" … however it could just mean that fewer workers are claiming workers compensation – or had their claims accepted.
Read more: VWA Media Release The report can be downloaded from the Parliament of Victoria website
Safe Work Australia
The Safe Work webpage on reported workplace fatalities has not been updated since 16 September at which time 129 fatalities had been reported. Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
The June monthly fatality report is also the latest which has been released, as reported in the last edition of SafetyNet. Monthly reports can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
- From WorkSafeBC (British Colombia, Canada): an online Update with recent publications/resources, including a 7 minute video of an employer sharing the hard lessons he learned after one of his workers was seriously injured on the job. The Update also has links to a number of bulletins.
- From the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the US government's occupational health research agency: an updated dangerous drugs listing to accompany its guide to the hazards posed to healthcare workers by the medicines they administer. The new list is a supplement to its 2004 guide 'Preventing occupational exposures to antineoplastic and other hazardous drugs in health care settings'. In the introduction to the updated drugs list, NIOSH notes: "Hazardous drugs include those used for cancer chemotherapy, antiviral drugs, hormones, some bioengineered drugs, and other miscellaneous drugs." It adds: "The actual risk to health care workers depends on what is done with the drugs - how they are manipulated, how often they are handled, and what type of engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) are used." NIOSH news alert, 2004 guide and updated drug list, NIOSH List of Antineoplastic and Other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings, 2014. [pdf]