SafetyNet 348, January 24 2016
Welcome to the first edition of SafetyNet for 2016. This edition was going to be sent last week - but due to a glitch with the translation of the new website, we were unable to do so. We are sending it out today - but hope to have the next edition this coming Wednesday!
What do the Essendon Football Club; Granville, NSW; and big cats have in common? Like our We Are Union: OHS Matters Facebook page to find out and keep up to date on the OHS angle of everything in the news and upcoming campaigns!
Queensland Government has plan to take action on black lung
Last December news broke that black lung disease was on the rise among coal miners in Queensland, and that regular health check x-rays were not being monitored. Stephen Smyth, from the CFMEU, estimates there are 80,000 to 100,000 "unread" x-rays from coal miners in Queensland Health's Health Surveillance Unit.
This week the Queensland Government released a five-point plan to tackle an important health issue for the state's past and current coal miners. The government's five-point plan includes a review to improve the existing screening system for coal miners, which will be headed by Monash University's Professor Malcolm Sim.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Division District President, Stephen Smyth, said that he was pleased with the minister's commitment to address the issue, but reiterated the union's insistence on transparency and consultation with the community through an open public inquiry.
"In the past few years we have seen dust levels at Queensland mines well above the legal limit according to the Government's own reports, which is totally unacceptable. It seems that this is what happens when you leave it to mining companies to monitor and manage dust.
"While there are concerns about the response to Black Lung from a health perspective, we can't forget that prevention is the only way to address this issue."
Read CFMEU's Mining & Energy Division's Press release here.
More about the campaign to end black lung disease "Dust to Dust" here.
Dole workers make case for OHS in extreme heat.
Advocacy group Australian Unemployed Workers Union published an account from a man on the work-for-the-dole scheme outdoors. Confusion over what regulations were to be followed and who was ultimately responsible for the health and safety of the crew resulted in a stop work when heat reached over 35ºC which is in direct contravention to Work for the dole principles stating an activity "must provide job seekers with the opportunity to gain skills, experience and confidence to move from welfare to work while at the same time making a positive contribution to their local community". Read more here.
'Mr Fluffy' demolitions to start this year
It is expected the demolition of New South Wales homes that are contaminated with Mr Fluffy asbestos will start this year.
Fair Trading has confirmed 84 houses in 27 local government areas contain the loose fill insulation containing asbestos, which was used in the 1960s and 1970s. In the last three months, 10 new properties have been confirmed contaminated.
"The government has determined the only enduring solution in terms of this contamination is to demolish homes and remediate the land." said Fair Trading Commissioner, Rod Stowe.
ABC News Article here.
AsbestosWise Vacancy: Committee of Management Member (voluntary) from Jan 2016
Do you want to part of the movement to reduce the impact of asbestos exposure on our community's health?
Asbestoswise is a non-for-profit organization seeking Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified volunteers for up to 3 non-executive positions on the Committee of Management.
Asbestoswise provides information and referrals, support group activities and advocates for a society free from the risk of asbestos exposure and the impact of Asbestos Related Disease (ARD). The role of the Committee of Management is to ensure that the strategic objectives are achieved and that risk is appropriately managed whilst upholding the interests of members and other key stakeholders.
For further information please contact the President, David Clement on 0422 524 566 or go to the website for full position description.
Applications Close: Feb 29th 2016
Subject: Mandated use of stairs over lifts in an office building
My wife works in an office consisting of 30 floors, and in most cases people would use the lifts to access their floors. There is security in place so people can only access certain floors due to multiple companies using the building. However, my wife has a slight phobia of lifts and would prefer to use the stairwells to access her company's floors. She has been told she is not allowed to do this and 'must use the lifts at all times'. I was wondering if there are legal implications for stopping somebody from wanting to use the stairs rather than the lifts? The measures seem rather draconian!
There are no regulations as far as I am aware that would mandate an employer always making stairways available at all times...however the stairway can't be blocked off as this would be needed for use during any emergency or fire, or if there were any problems with the lifts/power in the building.
In addition, if your wife's medical practitioner could provide documentation of her 'slight phobia', then it may be that she would be covered by the anti discrimination legislation. As long as her using the stairs instead of the lift would not interfere with her work, then the employer preventing her doing this could be seen as in contravention of the legislation. There may need to be some measures taken regarding security, but I can't see this as being too difficult - most doorways into floors can open out, but not necessarily in...
I suggest you contact the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission, now located at Level 3, 204 Lygon Street, Carlton 3053.
Enquiries/Complaints Line (9am-5pm Monday to Friday) for more information and advice: 1300 292 153 (TTY: 1300 289 621) Enquiries can also be sent via email.
Please send any OHS related queries in to Ask Renata - Although Renata will be on leave until February 1, we have systems in place to ensure your query will be responded to. If it is urgent, then contact your union.
A shocking start to the year in Victoria
Two weeks into the year the workplace death toll was already at 3. Last year, January was death-free.
Death 1: 24-year-old electrician electrocuted while working on the roof of a retail outlet in the northern suburb of Dallas.
Death 2: Dairy farmer was electrocuted at a farm in Yarroweyah, near Cobram in northern Victoria.
Death 3: Farmer killed when tractor rolled into a dam on January 9 at Kialla West, south of Shepparton.
The deaths prompted a letter to the editor from WorkSafe CEO Marnie Williams saying
"Death at work is never acceptable. Everyone has a part to play in making the workplace safe, and every single worker has the right to return home safe at the end of the day. No family should go through the suffering that two Victorian families are now going through today. So make workplace safety your priority in 2016."
The letter included safety reminder to prevent electrocution:
Ensure that the power is disconnected or the power supply is isolated before starting work. Make sure that you always test that the power is in fact disconnected before doing repair or maintenance work. Do not rely on safety switches to protect you.
Regular maintenance of electrical equipment is also a vital part of workplace safety.
You can read the whole letter here. You can find more information about electrical safety on our website's Electrical Safety FAQ page.
Farm deaths rose in 2015: Quad bikes most common cause of death
The number of people killed in farming incidents in Australia rose by around 28 per cent in 2015, according to a new report from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety. The ACCC has issued a warning to quad bike riders and parents of quad bike riders given the alarming amount of people under 15 year old involved in the incidents.
Australian Farm Deaths & Injuries Media Monitors Snapshot January 1 ‐ December 31, 2015 here (pdf).
Full ACCC warning on quad bikes here.
Notorious electrical cables expected to break this summer
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned that Infinity-branded electrical cables, installed in 40,000 business and residential buildings in the three years to late 2013, could become defective and cause electrocutions or fires over the next three months.
The ACCC last year issued a national recall for the cables after finding they failed the "ageing tests" of the relevant Australian Standard. In October this year, the Commission warned that the cables' plastic insulation coating was likely to start becoming brittle from 2016.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said at least 2408km of unsafe Infinity cable hadn't been located or remediated since the recall began.
"We strongly urge homeowners who have had electrical cabling installed since 2010 in NSW and since 2011 elsewhere in Australia to make time this summer to book an inspection, to address this potentially serious safety risk," Rickard said.
"In some circumstances, suppliers, installers and property owners may be liable for any personal injury or property damage caused by Infinity cable installed in buildings," she said.
"Suppliers and installers who are not actively notifying customers of the risk also potentially expose themselves to regulatory action."
Infinity cable was sold in Vic 2012 - 2013 by:
Masters Home Improvement; John Danks & Son; Mitre 10 & Go Electrical. The cables were also supplied in smaller quantities by a number of other smaller suppliers. For information, refer to the recall announcement here:
Source: OHS Alert
Safer lead exposure standards flagged
Safe Work Australia is seeking comments on whether to amend the model WHS Regulations to reduce mandated blood lead removal levels (BLRLs) – some 18 months after one of its own reports found the current BLRLs don't protect workers' health.
In a new consultation regulation impact statement, SWA examines whether to:
- maintain the current mandated BLRLs;
- reduce the BLRL for women of non-reproductive capacity and men to 30 micrograms (from 50), and reduce the BLRL for women of reproductive capacity to 10 (from 20); or
- introduce a general neutral BLRL of 10 micrograms of lead per 100ml of blood for all workers.
The RIS also examines whether to maintain the current maximum airborne lead contaminant level of 0.15 milligrams of lead per cubic metre of air, or reduce this to 0.05 milligrams or lower.
Comments on the impact statement must be submitted by 26 February.
Regulator reveals strategies behind falling blood lead levels
WorkSafe WA says local extraction ventilation and other safety initiatives have resulted in a downward trend in blood lead levels among lead-risk workers since the mid-1990s.
In a new statistical report based on nearly 12,000 health tests of Western Australian workers exposed to inorganic lead, WorkSafe says average blood lead levels have more than halved since 1995, falling from 33 micrograms of lead per 100ml to 11 micrograms in 2014.
"Effective controls such as eliminating lead from some products, and installing local extraction ventilation have been implemented at some workplaces [over the last 20 years]," the regulator says.
However, the data is also affected by changes in industrial use of lead, and a shift from permanent employment to a more precarious workforce.
"Changes in industry have also occurred over the time of this dataset; for example changes in radiator construction have reduced lead use in radiator repair.
"Changes in employment structures, such as the use of casual or labour-hire employees, may also influence blood lead levels."
Employer to pay $13,000 for failing to provide reasonable adjustments
A tribunal has awarded more than $13,000 in damages to a customer service officer an employer discriminated against when it failed to make reasonable adjustments and then sacked her because of her inability to return to pre-injury duties.
The VCAT found that not-for-profit disability service provider Independence Australia Services (IAS) failed to accommodate the neck and shoulder injuries sustained by the customer service officer in the workplace or make genuine and reasonable adjustments before dismissing her.
Tribunal Member Elisabeth Wentworth said IAS failed to sufficiently distinguish between the duties of a CSO working in the call centre and that of a CSO working in the key accounts or enquiries section and in doing so, took too narrow an approach to its obligations under the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010.
Member Wentworth found that IAS terminated the CSO's employment because of the workplace injury, which was a disability within the meaning of the EO Act, and awarded her $3,325 in damages for economic loss and $10,000 for hurt and distress.
"I consider that the way in which she was treated would not be regarded by the community as fair," Member Wentworth said.
Postal workers awarded $300,000 in sexual harassment suit
The Tribunal found in July last year that the postal worker was victimised by her manager over a four-month period after he made repeated unwanted physical and verbal sexual advances and subjected her to more than 30 incidents of discrimination in the workplace (see Related Article).
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC ) intervened in the case after the employer argued that the
From Workplace Express
UK: Military veterans to qualify for asbestos lump sums
Military veterans with mesothelioma can now receive lump sum payments of £140,000, after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revised compensation rules. The move came after the Royal British Legion said British veterans who developed the terminal cancer caused by asbestos exposure during their military service were being unfairly treated, as they were only eligible for incremental war pension payments after being diagnosed with the rapidly lethal cancer. This prompted prime minister David Cameron to promise to review the situation (Risks 728). MoD said the changes to the scheme give it similar features to the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme for civilians (). Veterans newly diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of their military service prior to 6 April 2005 will now have the option of receiving a one-off payment of £140,000 under the War Pensions Scheme. Claimants who prefer the current arrangements can opt to receive weekly or monthly payments.
The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme was introduced after a high profile campaign by asbestos victims' advocacy groups.
SOURCE: More about Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme for civilians Risks 690Trade Union Council, UK
SOUTH KOREA: Samsung reaches partial deal with sick factory workers
South Korea – Technology giant, Samsung Electronics has reached partial agreement with sick workers almost ten years after a 22-year-old worker died of leukemia raising concerns on exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace.
Samsung and Banolim, the main advocacy group for sick workers signed a workplace safety deal on Tuesday to establish an external committee overseeing safety in Samsung.
Its mandate includes workplace safety measures, which include giving workers access to information related to their health and safety when they apply for government insurance covering occupational diseases. The committee will also be tasked to check workplace conditions that affect the health and safety of workers in Samsung's facility.
News source: The Himalayan Times
SOUTH KOREA: Fight for safe rates for truck drivers continues
Drivers with the South Korean food company Pulmuone have been on strike since early September, because of pay rates that have not risen for 20 years as well as appalling safety and working conditions. Drivers are employed as 'independent contractors' for the company and must pay a daily fee to maintain the contract - whether they work on a particular day or not.
One driver for Pulmuone, Changoh Park, recently said: "I came out this morning at 9am and drove until 1am. That's 640km in one day, loading and unloading five times.
"I'm not making a fuss and asking for a lot of money. I'm not refusing to work hard. I just want to be treated fairly for the work I've done."
By going on strike for a safe rate of pay, drivers and unions representing them have been arrested and imprisoned. The Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union is demanding that a system similar to Australia's Safe Rates laws be implemented in Korea, to hold companies like Pulmuone accountable at the top of the supply chain.
More from the Transport Workers Union of Australia.
'BE TRADES HALL TRAINED': VTHC OHS Training Centre
Remember that elected health and safety representatives and also deputies have the right to attend the training course of their choice – both the initial 5 day course and a 'refresher course' each year after that. Below are the dates for upcoming courses at the VTHC OHS Training Centre. For more details, and to download an application form, go to the Training program page or contact Lisa Mott on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries.
UPCOMING OHS TRAINING DATES
Initial 5-day HSR Training
February 1- 5, Carlton
February 1- 5, Ringwood
Feb 29 – March 4, Frankston
Feb 29 – March 4, Carlton
HSR Refresher Courses
January 27, Carlton
February 10, Ringwood
'Union Pride' March Contingent!
All LGBTIQ union members and friends, family and allies are welcome to march with the Victorian trades Hall contingent this Sunday 31st at Pride March!
TIME: Assemble at 1pm for 2pm start.
DRESS: Wear your orange We Are Union t-shirt.
BRING: Dogs, friends and families welcome! Water and sunscreen to be safe in the hot weather.
This year's theme is MARRIAGE EQUALITY, an issue unions strongly support.
Latin American Open Air Alter-Cinema
An open invitation from LASNET (Latin American Solidarity Network) to all our friends to enjoy a set of documentaries from Latin America in the park in summer from 8:30pm.
Featuring Docos from Zapatistas communities, Mapuche people, Argentina, Guatemala & Brazil. Themes of social justice, activism, decolonisation and environmental degradation by multinational companies. All fundraising for this year's 'Multinational Out!' conference.
SHOWING THIS WEEK: 'Guatemala, Green, Land, Food' (30min) & 'The Chinese Take-away (Chinese Tale)' (Argentinean Film (El Cuento Chino))
AT EDINBURGH GARDENS, MELBOURNE
Alfred Crescent, Fitzroy North
Tram 11, Stops 20 & 21 (Follow the signs)
Please BYO chair or pillow or/ and blanket - DONATIONS WELCOME (Drinks and snacks available)
JANUARY Thursdays 28th at 8:30pm, films start at 9PM (Sharp)
FEBRUARY Thursdays 4th and 11th at 8:30pm.
Event on Facebook.