SafetyNet 297, October
Welcome subscribers! This is a short edition of the journal due to Renata's attendance at the ACTU OHS/WC conference. A brief report is provided below.
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The ACTU, Australia's peak union council, this week held its annual Workplace/occupational health and safety and Workers Compensation conference in Melbourne. Union officials from around the country attended to consider matters to do with both prevention and compensation. Issues discussed included workplace bullying; the increasing encroaching of 'worker health' programs into the occupational health and safety arena; ohs campaigning; workplace alcohol and other drugs policies; mental health and the workplace; and injured workers and workers compensation. Of serious concern to unions are the on-going attacks from the Federal government on our current ohs legislation and workers' rights to proper compensation. The ALP shadow minister for Employment Relations, Brendan O'Connor, was the keynote speaker. In his speech, Mr O'Connor said, "Proper and robust workplace safety protections are not red-tape, they are the safeguards that ensure safe workplaces."
Read more: Shadow IR Minister addresses trade union OHS conference SafetyAtWorkBlog
Yesterday, October 15, marked the 44th anniversary of the collapse of the West Gate Bridge. At 11.50am, two years into its construction, the 365ft (112m) 2000-tonne span between piers 10 and 11 of the West Gate Bridge collapsed164ft (50m) onto the muddy edge of the Yarra River below. Thirty-five construction workers were killed. There were those on their lunch break who perished inside workers huts beneath the structure, crushed by the falling span. Others were working on and inside the span when it fell. The annual commemoration service was held at the memorial beneath the bridge, bringing together the families, colleagues and representatives of the workers' unions remembering what is still Victoria's greatest workplace tragedy.
Read more: Features on the West Gate Bridge on this page
ANMF member wins VWA
Health and Safety Rep of the Year
Ms Sue Smith, from the residential aged care provider Hepburn Health Service, was this week named Health and Safety Rep of the Year at the VWA Health and Safety Awards. Sue, who is a member of the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation, has been in the role for almost 10 years, and has been a proactive and positive representative for her DWG. In her acceptance speech, Sue thanked her union generally, and Zoran Bukarica from the ANMF's OHS team in particular for their assistance and support. Read more: Sue's entry
Winners in some of the other categories included:
Best solution to a Specific workplace health and safety issue: The A.G Coombs Group for the development of the "Prefabricated Building Services Riser". Previously, the single biggest safety risk in the construction of high rise buildings was the installation of services risers – one piece at a time, with tradies working at height over the riser void. The new approach has significantly reduced the construction risks. Read more
Health and Safety Invention of the Year: Safescape Laddertube – a state-of-the-art bright yellow polyethylene product which has mitigated the risk of injury or death to workers installing, using or performing maintenance on emergency escapeway systems in hard rock underground mines. Read more
A friend of mine working is having issues with her managers who are harassing her at work. Amongst other things, they've given her a warning for using the restroom outside of official break times. Can they do this? Isn't it illegal?
There's nothing in the OHS/WHS legislation that makes it clear that workers have the right to go to the restroom when they need to – but this is because the legislation in Australia is not specific, but rather 'objective' based.
The employer has what we call a 'general duty of care' (see Duties of employers) - to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, and this includes ensuring that there are safe and healthy systems of work in place.
Not allowing workers to go to the toilet when they need to is an unsafe/unhealthy system of work and it places workers at risk. While it is clear that the law (under the Award/Enterprise Agreement) provides for scheduled breaks, there is also the need to recognise that workers are entitled to unscheduled breaks in some circumstances: The following is an extract from the FAQ on Breaks
Further, workers must be allowed to go to the toilet when they need to - NOT allowing workers reasonable time and access to toilets puts their health at risk and this is a breach of the employer's duty of care. In addition, the provision of toilet facilities is a legislated duty - so the law recognizes that workers need to use toilets during work hours!! (see Toilet Facilities - what should workplaces have?).
Not being able to go to the toilet when you need to can cause a range of health problems, including digestive and urinary tract problems and kidney infections which can develop into more serious health conditions. Also people on certain medications may need to visit the toilet on a more frequent basis and working in the cold (for example on construction sites or in food cold stores) may also increase the need to use the toilet. Women may need to go to the toilet more frequently in certain circumstances as well.
Please send any OHS related queries in to 'Ask Renata' - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can – usually within a couple of days.
Victoria: Asbestos deaths revealed in Sunshine North
Another asbestos tragedy has been revealed in a hard to miss Sunday Herald Sun. The paper reveals that after a five month investigation it has found at least 16 people have died of asbestos related diseases – they all grew up within a kilometre of the Wunderlich (CSR) factory which was closed in 1983. Locals say that on some days in the factory's peak years from the 1950's to the 1970's there would be clouds of asbestos swirling above the suburb, and a white powder would cover windows and cars. In an associated special feature, 'Devil in the Dust', journalist Ruth Lamperd says 25 people are known to have died or contracted an asbestos disease from exposure to asbestos from the Wunderlich factory. The investigation has also revealed that Crown land behind where the factory had been located is still contaminated by asbestos – placing children in the suburb today at risk. It appears that though an EPA order – made 15 years after the factory closed - meant that contamination on the site was controlled by being capped by asphalt, the order did not extend to the Crown land.
Department has ordered an urgent investigation by the Victorian Cancer Registry
into cancer cases in the area. Since the Herald
Sun report, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, whose electorate takes
in the Wunderlich factory site, has written to the Victorian Premier, Denis
Napthine demanding an independent analysis of asbestos levels in homes around
the old site, and community meetings. Also since the
articles appeared, more people who either lived or currently live in the area have come
forward to tell their stories and voice their concerns.
Source: The Sunday Herald Sun. Read more: Devil in the Dust
James Hardie's 'moral obligation'
In his opening address to the ACTU conference this week, Secretary Dave Oliver, vowed to hold James Hardie management to its "moral obligations" at a meeting on the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF) next week. He said that unions would be prepared to recommence our long campaign against James Hardie if it failed to top up the compensation scheme. "We've got a meeting next week with the leaders of Hardie's and we want to put to them a way of trying to resolve the issues to ensure that they will meet not only their legal obligation, but their moral obligations as well," Oliver said. "If we don't make any headway, we'll no doubt be looking at resurrecting the campaign."
James Hardie announced in September that it was "reasonably foreseeable" that from 2017, the AICF would not be able to fully fund personal injury claims made by victims of the company's products. James Hardie contributes up to 35 per cent of annual free cash flow to the AICF – formed in 2006 under an agreement with the NSW Government reached after a long ACTU campaign – to cover injury claims. Due to the possible funding shortfall, the AICF board had proposed establishing an "approved payment scheme", under which asbestos victims would be paid compensation in instalments instead of in lump sums, and other liable companies would be blocked from cross-claiming contributions from the fund.
Loose-fill asbestos found in
WorkCover NSW has discovered loose-fill asbestos (like that used by Mr Fluffy) in houses in Sydney's western and northern suburbs. The authority's Peter Dunphy told the ABC that investigators had found four laboratory tests from the early 1980s that positively identified houses in Warringah, the Hills and Bankstown. A fourth test identified a house in Lithgow. Mr Dunphy is leading an investigation into the number of homes across the state that could contain the deadly product, which was pumped into roof cavities during the 1960s and 1970s. He said the authority expects more positive tests in the city.
Read more: WorkCover NSW Investigation and ABC online
November 16 – 18, 2014
A reminder of ASEA's 1st International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management: "Working towards an asbestos free Australia" (Crown Casino November 16-18). SafetyNet will be there with Renata being one of the presenters on the session on Asbestos and "DIY" together with Mr Peter Dunphy (see item above). Also of great interest will be Ms Laurie Kazan-Allen, from the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.
Read more: ASEA Conference including program information, and registration details.
Asbestos Awareness Week
This is an early reminder that Asbestos Awareness Week is coming up during the last week in November. There will be a number of events on, including:
The Australian Education Union will be hosting an Asbestos awareness forum on November 25th (4.30 pm to 6.00pm) at the AEU in Abbotsford. The focus will be "Asbestos Free Schools – What will it take?" In the lead up to the state election the AEU is working to gain a commitment from all parties to embark on a prioritised eradication of asbestos in all government schools.
The Asbestoswise annual commemoration service will be held on Wednesday November 26 at St Paul's Cathedral at 11am, followed by the CFMEU barbeque on the banks of the Yarra. Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 03 9654 9555
1 - Tuesday November 25, 10am: Asbestos Awareness Morning Tea Venue: ACV/GARDS office - 41 Monash Road, Newborough Gold Morning tea with scones, jam and cream and:
- ACV/GARDS Information on asbestos removalists, Respiratory Doctors, Surgeons, medical equipment, books & DVDs on asbestos, info sheets on where you might find asbestos
- Cancer Council Vic - booklets on health & well being
- Law firms Slater & Gordon; Maurice Blackburn; Advice Line Injury and Acclaim will be on site to answer any questions from the general public about litigation and personal injury
- Mairin OHS&E Consulting to answer questions on sample testing, auditing of houses and they will have examples of asbestos containing products on display for your viewing
- Latrobe City - will be available with a display of the Domestic Asbestos Removal Kit & answer any questions
2 – Friday November 28, 11am: The annual memorial event at the Centenary Rose Garden. Commercial Rd, Morwell at 11am on. Speakers are: Russell Broadbent MHR Federal Member for McMillan, and Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Group for Asbestos Related Disease (PGARD); Lyall Watts, an activist and ACV/GARDS member who is living with asbestos disease; Steve Dodd - Secretary of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council and AMWU organiser; and Vicki Hamilton OAM - CEO/Secretary - Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS. There will be a free community BBQ with the compliments of the GTLC - along with musicians, choirs and the ACV/GARDS bagpipers.
UK: 1.3 million
tradespeople at risk from dangers of asbestos
The UK's Health and Safety Executive has launched a new safety campaign as an average of 20 tradespeople die every week from asbestos related diseases. Tradespeople, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, could come into contact with deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year according to a new survey commissioned by the regulator. As well as illustrating how often tradespeople can be exposed to asbestos, the survey revealed some common myths believed by those at risk, with 1 in seven (14 per cent) believing that drinking a glass of water will help protect them from the deadly dust and one in four (27 per cent) thinking that opening a window will help to keep them safe. Only a third (30 per cent) of those asked, were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, whilst more than half (57 per cent) made at least one potentially lethal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe.
key feature of the campaign is a new web app for phones, tablets and laptops
that helps tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with
the deadly material as they go about their day-to-day work and gives them tailored
help on how to deal with the risks. Read more: HSE launches new asbestos campaign The new APP can
be downloaded here
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more – go to the Asbestos section on the site.
against nurses – Union action
The ANMF (Vic Branch) has developed and published a strategy to tackle the growing rate of violence and aggression in Victoria's public health system. A recent Monash University survey has revealed almost 70 per cent of the branch's members had experienced violence or aggression in the workplace in the past year, with a quarter reporting experiencing violence or aggression on a regular basis. Data released to Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws showed over 14,000* violent 'Code Grey' or 'Code Black' incidents were recorded across 14 major Victorian hospitals in 2012/13. As reported in The Age newspaper, the Branch is seeking political support for its '10-point plan to end violence and aggression against Victorian healthcare workers'. The Union says its 10-point plan outlines the actions required to improve security and implement proactive measures to identify and address risks. It also aims to improve the reporting culture in Victoria's hospitals and improve the tools to assist with reporting and investigation, recognising that the reporting system VHIMS/Riskman is woefully inadequate.
The Union has
delivered the document to the leaders of the major Victorian political parties
and has asked them to commit to the plan on behalf of their parties and pledge
to implement change within a reasonable time frame.
Read more: ANMF Media Release and 10 point plan ANMF launches 10-point plan to end violence against nurses Information on the website on Workplace Violence
International Union News
UK: Stress biggest issue identified by safety reps
Advance findings from a new TUC survey of union health and safety representatives published last week on World Mental Health Day find stress to be the top concern in UK workplaces. Over two-thirds of safety reps (67 per cent) taking part in the 11th biennial survey said that stress, and the effect it is having on their colleagues, is one of the main concerns they have to deal with at work.The survey suggests that stress is a particularly high concern in the public services that have been most affected by austerity. Top-down reorganisations and back-door privatisation are having a huge impact on staff morale and well-being in the NHS, schools, local government and the civil service, says the TUC. TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We may sometimes joke about health and safety culture, but it's no joke when you become the person lying awake at night from stress, made ill through long hours, a lack of control over your work or bullying in the office. Employers and managers need to do more to identify and reduce risks and to provide support to employees struggling to cope."
Read more: TUC Media Release More information on Stress
Reminder: Indonesian Workers and
All over the world, one of the ways that employers and the State keep women un-organised is through the use of sexual violence against them. A group of women workers in the industrial area of KBN Cakung in Jakarta are making a film (check out the trailer) , as the next step in addressing this issue for female workers in Indonesia. The film project, "Female Workers Break Open the Sexual Violence Cases" is being co-ordinated by the local community radio, Radio Marsinah. They are looking for funds so if you can help, please do. Radio Marsinah is named after the worker activist murdered in 1993.
Read more: The Jakarta Post
catalogues problems for ship breaking workers in South Asia
As reported previously, most large ships in the world get taken to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to be broken up. Workers are kept un-organised so that wages are low and health and safety standards shockingly low, leading to many deaths and injuries. A new report by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform looking at the last three months, has established that this year at least 21 workers have being killed at work, with countless others receiving injuries. Source: AAWL Mini-news. Read more: Shipbreaking Platform Quarterly Update [pdf]
Precarious workers face higher risks
Three out of four workers killed last month at a mine in Indonesia part-owned by Rio Tinto were precarious workers, according to global union IndustriALL. It says cases like this highlight the importance of its 'Stop precarious work' campaign. The union body is demanding that Rio Tinto respects workers' rights and health and safety and stops undermining real jobs through the use of precarious work. IndustriALL says the tragedy in Indonesia "shows once again that precarious workers at Rio Tinto are no exception to the rule that they are more likely to be victims of a health and safety accident than permanent workers." It adds that unions at some Rio Tinto worksites indicated that outsourced workers are treated differently than permanent workers when it comes to health and safety. On one site, an affiliated union reported that unlike permanent workers, temporary staff were provided with 'antiquated protective equipment.' Unions at Rio Tinto have already fought back to limit the use of precarious workers. In 2012, in Canada, after a six-month lockout at Rio Tinto in Alma, the United Steel Workers (USW) succeeded in negotiating a collective agreement limiting the use of outsourced workers to 10 per cent of all hours worked. Studies have linked precarious work to higher injury and sickness rates and poorer health overall. There is also evidence of a greater risk of suicide, together with higher rates of depression and mental health problems and other of chronic health conditions. Read more: IndustriALL news release. More on the hazards of insecure work from the Hazards website
worried about skin cancer
A recent study by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has found that more than half of outdoor workers worry about developing skin cancer. 51 per cent of the 150 workers from 14 workplaces rated UV radiation exposure at work as one of their biggest concerns. The workers were from farming, construction, public service and local government.
In collaboration with Cancer Council Qld and Curtin University,
QUT developed tailored sun protection action plans and examined how workplace
interventions could improve workers' behaviours and attitudes towards sun
protection. After 12 months, 80 per cent of participants conducted skin checks
and 40 per cent of workers had a doctor examine their skin compared to 30 per before
the study. More workers reported seeking natural shade (+20%) and wearing more
personal protective equipment, including broad-brimmed hats (+25%),
long-sleeved collared shirts (+19%), and long trousers (+16%). The proportion
of workers reporting sunburn over the past 12 months was lower at
Read more: Rye, S et al. Changes in outdoor workers' sun-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors: a pre-post workplace intervention. [abstract ] J Occup Environ Med. 2014 Sep;56(9):e62-72. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000244.
High intensity work
linked to stress
A new study examining psychosocial risks has found that a quarter of European workers suffer work stress that negatively impacts their health. Psychosocial risks in Europe: Prevalence and strategies for prevention was jointly published by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions. Psychosocial risks, such as monotonous tasks, high work intensity, low autonomy, tight deadlines, work-life imbalance, violence and harassment from the public or from colleagues, contributed to work-related stress. While fewer people reported working long hours, job insecurity and work intensity increased due to the economic situation in Europe. The report states higher job control, more learning and development opportunities, greater job clarity and stronger social support from work colleagues improved psychosocial work environments.
Read more: The report can be downloaded free from this page of the EU-OSHA website.
Vehicle exhaust damages workers' DNA
Chinese research has shown that those regularly working near vehicles and exhaust fumes are at a high risk of DNA damage. In a study of more than 100 traffic policemen (and a control group of 101 office workers) in Shanghai, researchers from Fudan University and other institutions found a link between short and long-term exposure to fine particles (less than 0.0025mm in diameter) and the development and progression of cancer. This was because exposure to fine particles such as vehicle exhaust, soil dust and coal combustion could cause DNA damage. "In many big cities such as Shanghai, vehicle exhaust has become a major source of ambient [fine particles] and the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) [that] are the main constituents of vehicle exhaust," they said. The PAH levels in traffic officers' urine was 2.04 times higher than in the control group. "Environment-related DNA damage is mainly associated with the PAH pollution," the researchers said. "The traffic-related [fine particles contain] much more PAH, which can lead to many health problems."
Read more: Pengkun Li, et al. Association Between Individual PM2.5 Exposure and DNA Damage in Traffic Policemen. [Abstract ] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 56, Issue 10, October 2014.
VWA's Health and Safety Week
If HSRs and other OHS activists are interested in the activities and events being offered by the VWA during Health and Safety Week (October 20 – 24), then they need to register as events are filling up. Beginning at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre events then go to Melbourne's west (Altona) and ten regional Victorian locations including: Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Horsham, Mildura, Morwell, Shepparton, Warrnambool and Wodonga. This year's keynotes include the Hon. Jeff Kennett AC, Chairman of beyondblue on mental well-being in the workplace; Bernard Salt, leading cultural commentator; and Darren Flanagan (Beaconsfield mine).
And don't forget: Tuesday October 21 has been designated for elected Health and Safety Representatives meaning they are entitled to paid leave from work to attend the Melbourne sessions. Read more Information for HSRs
The latest edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out this week (October 15). The edition features an article on the WorkCover Awards, more on Health and Safety Week, and a warning that recalled ladders are still being used in some workplaces. There's a link to the recall notice. The newsletter also has news from around the country, the 'Absolute Shocker' and information on construction/utility/quarrying/mining prosecutions.
There were 51
incidents notified to the VWA since the last edition, for the period September
25 – October 8, including the amputation of a worker's fingers, several
lacerations, fractures and crush injuries, five electric shocks, workers
exposed to asbestos, and a worker who was badly injured when he fell from
Read more, including link to the list of reported incidents: October 15 Safety Soapbox
Safe Work Australia
As of October 10, 135 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work Australia. The fatalities: 37 in Transport, postal and warehousing; 32 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing; 19 in Construction; 14 in Mining; 11 in Manufacturing; five each in Arts & recreation services and in Accommodation & food services; four in Wholesale Trade; three in Electricity, Gas & Water Services; two in Health care/social assistance; and one each in Government administration & defence; Public administration and services, and 'other services'.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities
The June monthly fatality report remains 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.
1 – Martin Bourke: High risk work without a license On 25 September 2013 a forklift being driven by an employee of Penhalluriack's Building Supplies collided with another employee who was pushing a trolley loaded with timber. This resulted in an injury to the second worker's foot and ankle. The forklift driver did not hold a high risk work licence at the time of the incident, and he pleaded guilty to breaching section 40(4) of the OHS Act 2004 relating to operating a forklift without a licence. He was fined $800 without conviction and ordered to pay costs of $1,796 (Moorabbin Justice Centre).
2 - Francis Penhalluriak: Failure to provide a safe system of work; Forklifts; Traffic management; High risk work without a licence
In a prosecution related to the one above, the employer of the
unlicensed forklift driver pleaded guilty to one charge under sections 21(1)
& (2)(a) of the OHS Act 2004 and one charge under regulation 3.6.2 of the
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations2007. He was fined an aggregate of
$3,000 without conviction and ordered to pay costs of $1,796 (Moorabbin Justice
Source for the above prosecution summaries: VWA Prosecution result summaries
America: efforts against child labour redoubled
A group of 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries have announced the launch of a regional initiative to boost efforts to combat child labour, and achieve the goal of total eradication by 2020. The document signed by Labour ministers, representatives of Governments and the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, announces the "firm commitment to achieve the goal of eradication" and establishes a series of commitments based on strengthening intergovernmental cooperation.The Regional Initiative was signed at the 18th American Regional Meeting of the ILO in Lima, in the presence of more than 400 delegates from governments and employers' and workers' organizations from across the continent.
"The initiative is part of a global effort to restore the rights of 168 million children and adolescents affected by the scourge of child labour," said the ILO Director-General.
the presentation of the initiative he noted that Latin America and the Caribbean
had proposed to eradicate the worst forms of child labour by 2016 and to
eliminate all forms of child labour by 2020. However, these particular goals may
not be achieved.
Read more: ILO Media Release