SafetyNet 352, February 24, 2016
On Sunday WorkSafe Victoria launched its new media campaign which aims to prevent Victorians from having a 'Really Bad Day' at work. The final message of the ad is to employers: "So if your workers aren't safe, neither are you." See more in the item below.
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VTHC supports WorkSafe's new campaign
Minister for Finance Robin Scott and WorkSafe Victoria Chief Executive Clare Amies last weekend launched an enforcement campaign urging Victorian employers to make safety their first priority to prevent workplace tragedies. The 'Really Bad Day' campaign shows the consequences for workers, employers, businesses and workplaces when there is a workplace injury or fatality.
"Too many Victorians are injured or killed at work every year. Their lives, their families' lives and their workplace community will never be the same again. It is workers who bear the risk and the tragic consequences when employers fail in their legal duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace," said VTHC Secretary Luke Hilakari. "WorkSafe's new campaign highlights those tragic consequences and tells employers everywhere: if your workers aren't safe, neither are you. VTHC wholeheartedly supports this important campaign."
New WorkSafe statistics quoted in The Age on Saturday, reveal that over 70 workers are injured every day, and in 2015, 26,074 Victorians were injured severely enough to receive compensation. While total workplace injury claims dropped 11 per cent since 2011, some types of injuries continue to increase. As unions, we know that statistics based on successful workers' compensation claims are just the tip of the iceberg: they do not tell the whole story. Many workers don't claim due to fear or ignorance of the system; others have their claims denied.
Check the campaign ad here. Read more: Minister for Finance Media Release New Campaign Aims To Prevent Victorians From Having A 'Really Bad Day' At Work; WorkSafe Media Release If your workers aren't safe then neither are you; Blood on the carpet: WorkSafe gets graphic in ad campaign The Age
More information on the Compliance and Enforcement Review
As reported in last week's SafetyNet, the Minister for Finance Robin Scott announced the commencement of a review into WorkSafe's compliance and enforcement policies and activities. The Review's Terms of Reference have now been made public on the WorkSafe Victoria website. This is a temporary measure as the Review will have its own website. The site is currently being developed but may take a few weeks to implement and go live. Read more: Occupational Health and Safety Compliance and Enforcement Review WorkSafe Victoria website
Young Workers Centre launches in Victoria
Last week saw the launch of the world-first Young Workers Centre at Victorian Trades Hall. The YWC is a one-stop-shop for young workers who want to learn more about their rights at work or who need assistance in resolving workplace issues. We are building a great team of lawyers, organisers, educators and researchers who work together to empower young Victorians with the knowledge and skills they need to tackle job insecurity and workplace exploitation and to keep them safe at work.
We are available to deliver training to young people in high schools, TAFEs, universities and young community groups designed to address the issues that young workers face when heading into the workplace, including:
- Bullying and discrimination
- Workplace rights
- Health and safety
- Social movements and unionism
We also provide legal assistance to young workers (aged 30 and under) in Victoria experiencing issues in their workplace such as underpayments, dismissals or safety issues.
To find out more, visit our website or call us on 1800 714 754. Follow our young worker campaigns on Facebook.
Young worker injured in explosion
A young worker jumped into the pool of a luxury home on Melbourne's bayside while on fire after an air-conditioning unit exploded this morning. The man, believed to be in his 20s, suffered burns to his face, chest and legs at the Brighton house about 10am. He jumped into the pool to extinguish the flames and stayed there until paramedics arrived. He was taken to The Alfred hospital in a serious but stable condition
Source: The Age
I have been asked whether there is any information on scissors on desks being a potential risk of self harm. I have looked on the WorkSafe website and in Officewise but not found anything preventing scissors being on desks. Thank you.
There is nothing so specific in our health and safety legislation – and I would never expect there to be.
This is because the legislation is what we call 'objective based' – that is, the employer has the duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. But the law is not 'prescriptive' – that is, it does not mandate HOW this should be done. (see: Duties of Employers) The only exceptions are to do with certain chemicals, such as lead and asbestos.
Employers, in order to comply with the general duty of care, must regularly ensure that hazards and risks at the workplace are identified, in order to then take action to eliminate them or minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable. So for example, if there is a hole in the floor, then this is a hazard and creates a risk to the safety of employees and others. If practicable, the hole in the floor should be closed. However, in some workplaces, the must be a hole in the floor for work-related purposes.. so it's not possible to fill it in. However, the employer must then take action to reduce the risk – eg by putting up barriers.
Similarly the same would apply to any equipment that might create a risk to workers – be it scissors, staplers, etc. (I've never heard of anyone questioning whether or not scissors should be supplied though.) The relative risk is low, I would think. If the issue is that patients in a hospital or school students may grab the scissors and use them either against staff or on themselves, then that's another matter. In this case, the employer needs to do an assessment of whether there is a risk, and if so, what should be done. This must be done in consultation with affected workers and the HSRs - and then controls implemented. It may be that in certain environments, for example nurses' stations, or teachers' desks, the scissors should be kept out of sight and in a locked drawer.
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.
International Women's Day - a week long festival
The WRAW Festival is a week-long celebration coinciding with International Women's Day on March 8th.
We Are Union Women have put together a packed calendar of events covering everything from campaigning to art exhibitions, a hackathon, seminars, marches, and a closing gala night. Get more information on what's on here! Of particular interest:
- The WRAW Festival Opening - a free event
- The International Women's Day Rally and event at the Hall afterwards
- The closing event: Feminista Gala Night at Bella Union - a fundraiser for APHEDA Women's Projects
Crane catches fire on St Kilda Rd
There will be an investigation into how a crane caught fire and then collapsed on St Kilda Rd yesterday. The fire, which broke out on a development site on the corner of St Kilda Rd and Moubray St, shut off the area for hours and brought traffic to a standstill. Melbourne Fire Brigade sent two firefighters up in a second crane to use thermal imaging cameras to detect hot spots and collect information. It is believed the fire started in a fuel tank about 3.15pm and engulfed the crane's cabin before the boom crashed to the ground below. It was not known whether the driver was in the crane when it caught fire. About 12 people were evacuated from the site.
A number of workers had been sent home earlier in the day due to the heat. Cars were damaged when the crane collapsed but no injuries were reported. The CFMEU's OHS manager Gerry Ayers said the crane
company Hickory had a good safety record. The fire had started in the fuel tank, but "No one is quite sure why yet," he said.
Source: The Herald Sun
UnionsNSW wants governments to commit to an asbestos eradication fund
Unions NSW has renewed its call for state and federal governments to support its push for an "asbestos eradication fund that is levied on [the sale of] construction materials". The plan, designed to remove all asbestos from the built environment, also involves giving asbestos removal work full tax deductibility status, as well as amending WHS laws to ensure only licensed asbestos removalists perform the work. Unions were successful in having the proposal passed at the NSW Labor conference on the weekend of February 13/14.
"We have to remove the cycle of exposure to asbestos if we are going
to stop the intergenerational carnage being experienced by our
community," Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said. "Much of the asbestos in the built environment is now disintegrating
and the bonding is beginning to fail making it friable and highly
Read more: UnionsNSW Media release
Last chance: Asbestos in Your Home - Asbestoswise Public Information Sessions Feb/ Mar 2016
Asbestos diseases support and advocacy group Asbestoswise has two more public information sessions on 'Asbestos in Your Home' at two municipal councils. The sessions are free, and those attending will be provided with an interesting presentation and up to date information sheets to take home. Light refreshments will also be served.
- Monday March 7 - 10.30am & 7.00pm
City of Monash, Civic Centre
293 Springvale Rd, Glen Waverley
Registration Contact: 9518 3539
- Wednesday March 9 - 9.30am & 6.30pm
Hume City Council, Global Learning Centre
1093 Pascoe Vale Rd, Broadmeadows
Registration Contact: 9205 2599
Everyone is welcome, but Registration is crucial!
International Union News
UK: February 26 is Work Your Proper Hours Day
The peak UK union council, the TUC has declared 26 Feb 2016 as Work Your Proper Hours Day - the day when the average worker in the UK who does unpaid overtime finishes the unpaid days they do every year, and starts earning for themselves. The TUC says they think that's a day worth celebrating.
Over five million people at work in the UK regularly do unpaid overtime, giving their employers nearly £32 billion (A$62.5 billion) of free work in 2014 alone. The TUC says to UK's workers: "If you're one, why not take some time to reflect on how well (or badly) you're balancing your life? This is one day in the year to make the most of your own time."
Read more: TUC WorkSmart website
UK: Bullying widespread in the police service
About half of all police staff surveyed by UK union UNISON said they had been bullied, with female staff significantly more likely to have been targeted. More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of female police staff said bullying is a problem at work, and almost three-quarters (72 per cent) reported they were not confident that their force will deal fairly with any complaints of bullying. UNISON said the survey of 1,000 police staff is the first to explore the prevalence of bullying in the police since the introduction of the police code of ethics in April 2014. Its research found women who work as police staff – 999 call handlers, police community support officers, crime scene investigators, fingerprint experts and detention officers – are 28 per cent more likely to be bullied than their male counterparts. Almost six in ten (58 per cent) of the female police workers surveyed said they had been bullied, compared to 45 per cent of their male colleagues. UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: "This survey reveals the unpleasant truth about what it can be like for women working in the police today. Such levels of bullying are completely unacceptable." The UNISON leader added: "The scale of bullying means there is a real risk that policing will no longer be seen as an attractive career option for women. Bullying is specifically prohibited by the police's own code of ethics. Top police officers ought to be taking the issue much more seriously than appears to be the case."
Read more: UNISON news release. Source: Risks 739
UK: Unions demand action on lasers
This week both the pilots' union BALPA and the Rail union RMT have warned that lasers pose unacceptable risks to pilots and train drivers respectively. This is in the wake of a recent incident when a New York-bound Virgin plane was forced to turn back to London Heathrow Airport after a laser beam hit the cockpit after take off, causing a 'medical issue' for one of the pilots. While it is illegal to shine a light at a plane "so as to dazzle the pilot", it is not an offence to own or carry a laser. BALPA said they are "incredibly dangerous", and could blind pilots.Jim McAuslan, the union's general secretary, said: "This is not an isolated incident. Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength." He added: "We repeat our call to the government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them. This incident shows why this is becoming more-and-more urgent."
RMT said that the risks from illegally wielded lasers are a threat
to rail as well as aircraft safety. The union said any review in the
wake of the Virgin Atlantic incident must include the impact of the
ready availability of high-powered lasers on the wider transport
industry. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The threat of lasers
being shone into the eyes of train drivers is an issue that the
government and the authorities must start taking seriously as the
broader issue of the availability of these devices hits the headlines.
Pilots work in pairs and at least have some back up whereas train
drivers work alone and a laser in the eyes before approaching a signal
could have a
catastrophic impact. It is also a lot easier to target trains with these
devices from alongside and above the tracks."
Read more: TUC Risks 739
USA: How to bury occupational brain cancers
Chemical giant Union Carbide responded to unexpectedly high numbers of brain tumours at one of its US plants by launching a flawed study to obscure the extent of the problem, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has found. The CPI investigation, the latest in its 'Science for sale' series, examined the cancer cluster affected workers at the huge UC plant in Texas City. More than 7,500 people had worked at the plant since it opened in 1941. It took three years, but by the late 1970s scientists at the federal safety regulator OSHA and its research arm NIOSH, discovered 23 brain tumour deaths there - double the normal rate. It was the largest cluster of work-related brain tumours ever reported, and in 1979 became national news.
The leading suspect: vinyl chloride, a chemical used to make polyvinyl chloride plastic. Industry studies had already found higher-than-expected rates of brain cancer at vinyl chloride plants, and in 1979, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) took the unequivocal position that vinyl chloride caused brain tumours. "Yet today, a generation later, the scientific literature largely exonerates vinyl chloride," notes CPI. A 2000 industry review of brain cancer deaths at vinyl chloride plants found that the chemical's link to brain cancer "remains unclear." Citing that study and others, IARC in 2008 reversed its position. However a CPI review of thousands of once-confidential documents showed that the industry study cited by IARC was flawed, if not rigged. Although the Union Carbide study was supposed to tally all brain cancer deaths of workers exposed to vinyl chloride, the company's researchers counted only one of the 23 brain tumour deaths in Texas City. The Center's investigation found that because of the way industry officials designed the study, it left out workers known to have been exposed to vinyl chloride, including some who had died of brain tumours. Excluding even a few deaths caused by a rare disease can dramatically change the results of a study, flipping a positive association on its head. CPI warned that the decline in public funding for studies meant the "dominance of industry-funded research for specific chemicals has become more common."
CPI investigative report: Making a cancer cluster disappear. Work Cancer Hazards blog. Source: Risks 739 More information on Cancer
High rate of death and injury due to falls from ladders
According to research by The Alfred hospital that was recently published in the journal Injury, three Victorians are killed falling off ladders on average each year. Although most have been men over 55 who fell doing odd jobs at home, this has also affected 'tradies' and other workers. Most had fallen from less than three metres, many from two metres and one died after falling just one metre.
In the five years from 2007 to 2011, 584 Victorians were admitted to The Alfred hospital after falling off ladders. Of those, 194 were major trauma cases, 58 ended up in the intensive care unit where they relied on machines to breathe, and 15 were killed. Dr Helen Ackland, who led the study, said that of 58 patients who were admitted with extremely serious injuries, only 43 per cent were at home able to care for themselves a year after the accident. The numbers of serious ladder injuries have continued to rise in the years since the research was completed, Dr Ackland said, with total admissions for ladder falls nearly doubling from 100 in the year to June 2007 to 190 in the year to June 2014.
Read more: More men being injured and killed falling off ladders, study finds The Age; More information on Ladder safety
Victoria's Prevention of Falls regulations only kick in at 2metres and above - despite calls from the Coroner to remove this arbitrary height level. Steve Rocco, OH&S Officer with the Plumbers' Union (PTEU) recently looked at the issue of falls in the context of the review of the regulations in an article in the union's journal [pdf] 'A tragedy that must force change'. He said the union had raised its concern at WorkSafe's Regulatory Review Forum on the Falls Chapter with the current distinction of above and below 2metres. The PTEU's position is that Victoria's regulation must be aligned to the national standard with the definition of a "fall" as being from "one level to another". Central to the union's submission is the Coronal Inquest into the fatality of one of their members, Keith Dickman who fell from a ladder whilst installing air conditioning duct. Highlighted in the Inquest was, in the words of the Coroner, the "illusory distinction between above and below 2 metres".
Night and evening shift work increases risk of diabetes
Night shift work has been associated with poor sleep, weight gain, metabolic syndrome - all recognised risk factor for diabetes. However, only a few studies have examined the effect of shift work on diabetes risk. In this study, Danish researchers looked at the association between shift work and incidence of diabetes in Danish nurses. Using the Danish Nurse Cohort (of almost 29,000 nurses) the researchers followed them in the Danish Diabetes Register for incidence of diabetes. Nurses reported whether they worked night, evening, rotating or day shifts. Of almost 20,000 nurses who worked and were diabetes-free at recruitment, 837 (4.4 per cent) developed diabetes during 15 years of follow-up.The researchers concluded that compared with nurses who worked day shifts, nurses who worked night or evening shifts had statistically significantly increased risk of diabetes.
Hansen, A, et al: Night shift work and incidence of diabetes in the Danish Nurse Cohort, [abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 17 February 2016 Read more on Shift Work.
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe publishes advice on glyphosate (main ingredient in Roundup)
As reported last week (SafetyNet 251), councils are continuing to use pesticides containing glyphosate. This week WorkSafe Victoria published a Fact Sheet which provides advice to employers regarding use of such pesticides. While noting that there is some controversy regarding its carcinogenicity and "the levels of risk to human health posed by glyphosate remains a matter of debate among international health and regulatory bodies, WorkSafe believes it is appropriate ... to remind employers of their occupational health and safety duties relating to the use of this chemical."
South Australia: Greens politician introduces industrial manslaughter bill
Greens MLC Tammy Franks has introduced a bill into that state's parliament which seeks to introduce reforms to improve workplace safety through corporate criminal responsibility. Employers causing the death of a worker because of negligence and indifference would be fined up to $1 million or jailed for a maximum of 20 years.
"The primary objective of this bill is to ensure that culpable employers are held responsible for their actions," said the Hon. Franks. "This bill seeks to introduce industrial manslaughter. The offence covers the situation where an individual or corporation's conduct causes the death of a worker, where that individual or corporation's recklessness or negligence caused serious harm and obviously death to that worker."
After quoting both South Australian and national figures of workplace fatalities, and referring to ACTU figures that up to 7,000 workers die annually as a result of work, the Hon. Franks said, "Clearly, there is an argument that we need safer workplaces and that we need to strengthen workplace laws. We need to set the highest bar for deterrence so that employers take seriously the work health and safety of their employees. I know that the majority of employers already do the right thing and that they follow occupational health and safety procedures, but we do know that we do have a small minority who do not."
Read more: Work Health and Safety (Industrial Manslaughter) Amendment Bill - Second Reading Source: SafetyCulture OHS News
The latest reported fatality in South Australia was last Saturday, when a man was fatally injured in a work-related incident at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site - he was crushed between a scissor lift's handrail and a doorway. This was the second similar fatality at the same site: in 2014, a worker died after suffering serious head, neck and back injuries at the worksite when he was crushed between a scissor lift and a concrete slab above. The man's partner called for an inquiry on scissor-lifts after the second fatality. Read more: ABC news online
Safe Work Australia news
Safe Work Fatality statistics
There has been no update to the SWA page since February 17, when there had been 15 fatalities reported to Safe Work. More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
Safe Work has now released the monthly fatality report for September 2015 during which there were 26 work-related notifiable fatalities - compared to 14 in the month of August. There were: 21 male workers, one female worker, two male bystanders and two female bystanders. Of these fatalities, seven workers died as a result of an incident on a public road and one died in an air incident.
Ten fatalities occurred in transport, postal & warehousing workplaces, four in construction workplaces and three each in manufacturing and agriculture, forestry & fishing workplaces. Two fatalities occurred in mining workplaces and one fatality each in public administration & safety, arts & recreation services, administrative & support services and education & training workplaces. The report can be downloaded from the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Managing the risks when unpacking shipping containers
Safe Work Australia has developed a series of information sheets that provide guidance on managing the health and safety risks when unpacking shipping containers, including exposure to hazardous chemicals like fumigants and solvents.
The newly released information sheets:
- Managing risks of hazardous chemical exposure when unpacking shipping containers;
- Managing risks of methyl bromide exposure when unpacking shipping containers; and
- Managing risks when unpacking shipping containers.
Director of Occupational Hygiene Dr Paul Taylor said that research commissioned by Safe Work Australia indicates that workers may be exposed to chemicals including fumigants and solvents when unpacking shipping containers. "This raises concerns and businesses must take all practical measures to control the exposure of workers to hazardous chemicals," said Dr Taylor. "There are a wide range of health effects that can result from exposure to these chemicals, including skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, headaches, nausea, and respiratory disease. Our information sheets will help employers and workers develop appropriate safe work practices to manage these risks."
Read more and download the Information Sheets: SWA Website
Manager prosecuted for putting other employee at risk
Andrew William Ault, a Sales Manager at Barwon Timber & Hardware Pty Ltd, has pleaded guilty, convicted and fined $2,000 (plus costs of $2,500) for breaching s25(1)(b) of the OHS Act. On 10 July 2015, he fired a loaded nail gun into the foot of a sales assistant, placing him in danger of serious injury. The assistant had asked the manager if he could borrow a nail gun, asking whether it was loaded. The manager said he would 'double check' and then, as a joke, pointed it towards the assistant's his foot - it discharged, nailing the foot to the floor. The Country Fire Authority attended and used a hacksaw to free the sales assistant's foot and he was taken to hospital to have the nail removed.
Incidents involving nail guns are more common than what one might think - these are dangerous pieces of plant.
Construction company convicted and fined $1000 after sub-contractor falls
A company providing cleaning services through subcontracted cleaners, Orbit Cleaning Services Australia Pty Ltd (Orbit) has been convicted and fined $20,000 (plus costs of $7,000) as a result of an incident where a cleaner's hand was caught in a machine. On 6 March 2014 a cleaner offender was sub-contracted to clean at a Preston meat and poultry production business. The cleaner was cleaning a mixer which, though it had an interlocked grate on top of the trough, had an area at the bottom which remained accessible. This posed a risk of serious injury if the mixer was not isolated from power. On this day the cleaner thought the mixer was not powered. While cleaning the mixer with a hose and a scourer he put his hand through the bottom opening. The mixer began to operate and his left hand was caught by a rotating auger, severing three fingers, only two of which were able to be surgically re-attached. Orbit failed to ensure the workplace was safe by failing to ensure that the employer at the workplace provided adequate information, instruction and training to any subcontractors in a lockout/tagout system for isolation of the mixer prior to dismantling and cleaning it, and failed to prohibit its subcontractors from working at the workplace until this was provided. Orbit pleaded guilty to breaching s26(1) of the OHS Act.
Read more (the Diversion and other prosecutions): Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings. WorkSafe Victoria
Queensland: Two men plead guilty to work safety failure which resulted in worker death
Two men this week pleaded guilty in the Industrial Magistrates Court to charges arising from the death of a young worker at a quarry in Queensland's Central Highlands in 2012. The 21 year old worker died after becoming entangled in a conveyor belt at the Moranbah Quarry.
Stuart Mitchell Weiland and James Andrew Kinross, and their company Global Crushers and Spares, were charged with failing to "discharge a workplace health and safety obligation". The company had manufactured a part for the conveyor but did not ensure there were guards in place. A sentence for the two men is due to be handed down next month. The young man's employer, MCG Quarries, and four of its directors are expected to face trial at a later date.
Source: ABC News online
China: Lung cancer deaths in steel country
The death rate from lung cancer in the heavily industrialized province surrounding Beijing has more than quadrupled in the last four decades, with researchers saying this is probably due to worsening air pollution, according to a local cancer hospital and a report published last week. From 1973 to 2012, lung cancer cases in the province, Hebei, soared 306 percent, well above the national average, and accounted for almost a quarter of all cancer deaths, according to figures from the Tumor Hospital of Hebei Province.
The hospital reported that new cases of lung cancer were "rapidly surging" in Hebei, without exploring possible causes. The New York Times speculated that this may be because it touches on the very politically sensitive area of air pollution. A report in The Paper, a website based in Shanghai that cited the Hebei figures, approached the issue gingerly, citing an anonymous provincial environmental official as saying that since 2008, air pollution in the province had severely worsened.
Read more: Lung Cancer Deaths Soar in China's Steel Country The New York Times
USA: Former BP well-site manager faces court
US Federal prosecutors have one last chance to send someone to jail over the deadly 2010 BP Plc Gulf of Mexico well blowout and the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Robert Kaluza, the former BP well-site manager on trial in New Orleans federal court, could get up to a year in prison plus fines if convicted. The jury will decide though, whether this is the case: others who were prosecuted on charges connected to the spill successfully fended them off.
Read more: U.S. Gets Final Shot at Verdict in Ex-BP Manager's Trial Bloomberg
Reminder: UK HSE Statistics page
If you haven't taken a look at the UK's HSE statistics page, take a look now. It has very detailed information, and is easy to navigate.
Check it out: HSE Health and Safety Statistics