SafetyNet 350, February 10, 2016
We welcome our subscribers to the third edition of SafetyNet for 2016. We hope you find the journal interesting. Feel free to circulate or use particular articles in your workplace.
For those of you who are reading this in an email - have you checked out our new-look site? We would appreciate everyone having a browse, and also sending in your views and any glitches/errors you might find. Thank-you!
Remember: February 25 launch of the OHS Activist Hub
You are invited to the launch of the OHS Network: We Fight for Health & Safety!
Meet people passionate about OHS, have some pizza and be the first to hear what's next for OHS campaigns in 2016
Thursday 25th February, 5.30-6.30pm
Meeting Room 1 (Access via Victoria Street Entrance)
Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, South Carlton
Join the hundreds of people who 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!
OHS Regulations review
As announced in last week's SafetyNet, Victoria's OHS Regulations are due to sunset in 2017. Work is continuing at pace - but in fact the hard work began well over a year ago! (not six months, as reported last week). We urge HSRs and workers to keep reading SafetyNet and so ensure that you too can have your say on the what the new regulations will end up looking like.
Is there any regulation regarding access to water during work time? I work in retail and my employer recently made a rule that workers are not allowed water bottles at the registers. This means that we have to go to the break room whenever our mouths get dry from talking to customers, or if we are thirsty. However, we are unable to go to the break room apart from scheduled breaks, as there is usually a queue of customers. Is the employer allowed to ban water bottles in this scenario?
Under the OHS Act, the employer must ensure that the health and safety of employees (including contractors) is protected so far as is reasonably practicable, and also provide adequate facilities and so on. (See the summary of the employer's duties)
The employer has a legal duty to provide adequate facilities, and this includes drinking water, and must ensure that the systems of work are safe and without risks to health – so combined, what your employer is insisting on is not acceptable in any way.
The Compliance Code for workplaces and amenities which sets out what an employer needs to do states:
Water should be "situated within 30 metres of each employee or within reach of employees who cannot leave their work task."
So suddenly making a rule that you cannot have bottles at the registers is not acceptable. Read more about Drinking Water, on our site.
Note too that the employer has a duty under Sections 35 & 36 of the Act to consult with employees (and their elected health and safety reps) when proposing any changes to the work procedures (see: Duty to consult), so it was not acceptable to just introduce this ridiculous and very unfair rule.
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 Workers Memorial day preparations
28th April, International Day of Commemoration of Dead and Injured Workers – or Workers' Memorial Day: it has been decided that this year's international theme is: "At work, your health and safety depends on Strong laws. Strong enforcement. Strong unions."
The reasoning of the ITUC-SCI is as follows:
- Strong laws because across the world workers either have inadequate legal protection from potentially deadly risks to their health at work, or existing safety protection is under threat from governments intent on deregulation.
- Strong enforcement because even if we have health and safety laws in place, these are of no use if they are not enforced. Many countries pay lip service to legislation but allow employers to ignore their obligations and put the health and safety of their workforce at risk. The degradation of labour inspectorates is part of these worrying trends.
- Strong unions because unions are the best protection for workers. Workplaces with strong union representation typically have much lower fatality, injury and ill-health rates than those that do not. Yet many countries are bringing in anti-union laws, are trying to replace unions with in-house "staff associations" hand-picked by employers or introducing other forms of "participation" as a way of keeping out unions. In Australia, the conservative Federal government continues to attack unions.
We will bring you more news of events planned for this year.
New research on Australia's mesothelioma rates
According to the authors of a new paper, published online on 22 January in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, "Australia is known to have had one of the highest per-capita asbestos consumption rates, yet there are few contemporary reports on malignant mesothelioma trends."
The authors analysed data on 10,930 people with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and 640 people with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosed in Australia during 1982–2009. The observed incidence rate trends were quantified, and the incidence rates were projected up to 2030 using observed incident cases during 1982–2012. The relative per-decade change in excess mortality during 1999–2009 was estimated.
The authors concluded that Australia's malignant mesothelioma incidence rates appear to have reached maximum levels but with differences over time by age, gender and tumour location. Improvements over time in survival provide a glimpse of hope for this almost invariably fatal disease.
Read more: Matthew J Soeberg et al, Incidence and survival trends for malignant pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, Australia, 1982–2009 [Abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-103309
Rare Victorian Asbestos conviction
Cat Site Clearing Pty Ltd, a rubbish and asbestos removal company has been convicted and fined $25,000 (plus costs of $3,350) for breaching the Victorian Asbestos regulations. On 13 January 2015, the company performed asbestos removal at a residential property - however, this work was illegal, as Cat Site Clearing did not have an asbestos removal licence, the licence having expired on 17 December 2014. Unfortunately, the company went into involuntary administration and a liquidator was appointed on 23 September 2015.
Employers agree duty of care breached
A Victorian Supreme Court judge examined non-delegable duties of care in apportioning liability for a mesothelioma damages claim and found the worker's former employer was negligent in failing to address the risks he faced at workplaces it didn't control.
The electrician regularly performed asbestos lagging work in boiler rooms and service tunnels rife with asbestos dust while employed by Field and Hall Pty Ltd between 1964 and 1971. He later developed mesothelioma. He claimed damages from Field and Hall, as well as asbestos manufacturers Amaca Pty Ltd (formerly James Hardie and Coy Pty Ltd) and CSR (a former James Hardie partner). All three parties conceded they had breached their duty of care and agreed to settle the claim.
Justice Jack Rush said that in the context of this case, the non-delegable duty of care owed by Field and Hall "means that it cannot be relieved of its obligation to take reasonable care of the [worker] even though the [worker's] work was being undertaken in workplaces [Field and Hall] did not control". However, he also found that Amaca and CSR had a "higher level of responsibility and culpability for their breach of the standard of care than" Field and Hall.
Read more: Zwiersen v Field & Hall Pty Ltd & Ors  VSC 16 (29 January 2016)
Cleanup plan approved for asbestos-contaminated Montana town
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted final approval this week to a costly cleanup program for a Montana community where health officials say hundreds of people have been killed by asbestos.
The agency's action comes more than 15 years after cleanup work began in Libby, Montana, following media reports that revealed rampant, asbestos-caused illness in the small town near the Idaho border. Even with the cleanup costing more than US$540 million, contaminated material remains in the walls of many houses and in the ground, prompting continued concern. Approximately 700 properties have yet to be investigated to determine if their inhabitants are at risk.
Read more: abcNews
Decreasing Brazil's Asbestos production
For several years, Brazil has been the world's third largest supplier of chrysotile (white) asbestos – from a single mine in Minaçu run by the Sama company. In a recent report, Sama has confirmed that a fall in national and global demand led to the cancellation of production on three days in 2015 and the sacking of 119 workers. According to Sama officials, as well as the general economic crisis, the increasing unpopularity and fear of asbestos has impacted negatively on sales.
Source: IBAS Read more: Sama fechou turnos e demitiu 119 trabalhadores em 2015. A crise deve se aguçar em 2016 [Sama cancelled shifts and dismissed 119 workers in 2015. The crisis could sharpen in 2016].
Vic Police Minister on extended leave to recover from exposure to "unspeakable crimes"
The VTHC applauds Wade Noonan, Minister for Police, for having the courage to seek help. His actions also draw attention to the thousands of emergency services professionals - police, firefighters, paramedics, hospital staff - who confront horrific scenes on a regular basis as part of their work. Almost 8000 Australian emergency services workers live with PTSD.
If you think you're at risk of developing a psychological injury at
work, it's important to seek help. Speak to a colleague or friend, your
Health & Safety Rep, or call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224
Read more: The Age
Flag-Of-Convenience ship stopped in Newcastle
On January 27, a Flag-Of-Convenience (FOC) ship has been detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in Newcastle for endangering its crew's lives. The Orient Becrux was found by AMSA to have breached the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea after the Hong Kong-based charterer made the Filipino crew unlash the cargo at sea.
Australian Health and Safety law dictates that cargo should only be unlashed by qualified Australian stevedores while the ship is berthed. ITF Australia Co-ordinator Dean Summers said that unlashing at sea was an egregious breach of safety by Pacific Basin shipping that had put the whole crew's life at risk. "In this instance they were lucky there was no major incident," Summers said.
Late last week, the ITF released evidence of shocking safety breaches on board another FOC ship berthed alongside Pacific Aluminium's new foreign charter vessel in Newcastle. The Greek owners of the Panamanian flagged "Christine B" have not only been underpaying its 19 Filipino crew, but putting their lives at risk making them clean the cargo hold without proper safety harnesses or equipment. This ship is berthed along side the Skyfall, the FOC vessel chartered by Pacific Aluminium, which does not have an ITF agreement protecting its Seafarers most basic rights. Skyfall, operated by another Greek Company "Prime Bulk Ship Management" has replaced the Australian manned CSL Melbourne, carrying domestic product between Gladstone and Newcastle.
Read more: MUA Media Release Dodgy Shipping Operator Risks Crew for Money and ITF News, February 6.
Union: STC fails to provide safe workplace
The Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance has accused the Sydney Theatre Company of putting its commercial interest ahead of the health and safety of its staff. MEAA said two recent alleged assaults of staff working at the STC have highlighted how vulnerable and sometimes dangerous working with the public can be. On two separate occasions this summer, ushers at STC have been assaulted by patrons.
MEAA director of Entertainment, Crew & Sport Mal Tulloch said the incidents had left staff feeling violated, humiliated and isolated. During the first incident, an usher was forcibly pushed by a patron. In the second incident, a worker was slapped on the back a number of times and was subjected to an offensive gesture.
Mr Tulloch said the employees affected have been discouraged from making formal complaints and management has rejected an offer from the union to work together to develop new health and safety procedures for similar incidents. "There is no excuse for violence in the workplace."
Read More: MEAA Media Release and information on Violence
International Union News
Qatar: World Cup dream is a nightmare for workers
A union investigation has confirmed the migrant workers toiling to get Qatar ready for the 2022 World Cup are still facing overcrowded, squalid accommodation and deadly working conditions. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey part of a secret, after-dark trip delegation to a labour camp in Al Khor, north of the capital Doha, saw the conditions and speak to the workers. "Football is a beautiful game turned ugly by the heartbreaking ill-treatment of wave after wave of workers lured to Qatar on false promises, then trapped in a living hell," Mr McCluskey told the Mirror. Mr McCluskey said he will form a united front with MPs and campaigners after witnessing widespread abuse of migrants on his unofficial visit. He also plans to build an alliance with the players' union PFA and supporters' clubs to demand guarantees from the five candidates to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA boss. "Wages agreed in advance aren't paid and they're packed into dirty, hot, crowded rooms, with the inadequate cooking and washing areas, a severe health risk because they're so dirty," said Mr McCluskey. "Every football fan, trade unionist and anybody who cares about decency must protest loudly because we can't stand by and look the other way, letting these workers be tortured like this." Labour frontbencher Ian Lavery, who was part of the delegation, said: "These people are being treated like animals and the appalling wages and conditions trap them in a nightmare." The global union confederation ITUC estimates thousands more migrant workers could die in the run up to 2022 event unless conditions and workers' rights are dramatically improved (Risks 733). Read more: TUC Playfair Qatar campaign. The Mirror. ITUC multi-media investigation: Qatar Exposed and full report: Qatar: Profit and loss. Counting the cost of modern day slavery in Qatar: What price freedom? Source: Risks 737
UK: Incidents highlight risks of 'aerotoxic' syndrome
The revelation that two flights in two days were forced to turn back to the UK last week following an outbreak of sickness among the cabin crew has added further weight to calls for a public inquiry into 'aerotoxic syndrome', according to the union Unite. The union said the abandoned flights, one to South Africa and one to the US, provided further evidence that leaks from aircraft engines get into the cabins and not only cause the crew to feel sick but may also be further impairing their health. Unite is pursuing 60 cases on behalf of individuals who have symptoms it says are consistent with the syndrome, and is also acting on behalf of a deceased cabin crew member. Howard Beckett, Unite's executive legal director, said: "The case for a full scale public inquiry into aerotoxic syndrome builds daily. This is the second such incident in recent days - the aviation industry simply cannot continue to ignore the clamour for action." He said the union also wanted aircraft manufacturers to take immediate action. "The technology behind the circulation of air within aircraft has not moved on much at all since the 1950s, meaning that fume events are happening with regularity. Repeated exposure to these 'events' is what we believe leads to aerotoxic syndrome – so we say to the industry, sort this out because people are being put at risk." The union, which is running a 'Keep cabin crew safe' campaign, points out that the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner removes the problem because instead of recirculating potentially contaminated bleed air, air is supplied directly from the atmosphere and not through the engines.
Read more: Unite news release and Keep cabin crew safe campaign Source: Risks 737
UK: One in eight people experience violence at work
One in eight people have experienced violence at work, according to research published by the UK's peak union council this week. The poll, carried out by YouGov for the TUC and released today to coincide with the start of Heartunions week, reveals that 12 per cent of people have experienced work-related violence – such as being pushed or spat on, or being punched or stabbed.
With more than 31 million people in employment, the TUC is concerned that this could mean nearly 4 million people have experienced violence at work at some point in their career. Of those who have experienced violence in their workplace, one in five (20 per cent) report it happening more than 10 times.
Medical and health workers were the biggest group to say they have faced work-related violence (22 per cent), followed by workers in education (12 per cent), hospitality and leisure (11 per cent), retail (9 per cent) and manufacturing (6 per cent). These figures are not surprising, and probably reflect the situation in Australia.
Read the full press release More information on Violence
Occupational exposure to textile dust linked to rheumatoid arthritis
Researchers from the Allergy and Immunology Research Center at the Malaysian Institute for Medical Research have found that workers are exposed to textile dust may double the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Occupational textile dust exposure is also linked to an increased risk of genetic susceptibility to the antibody that hastens disease progression known as ACPA.
The researchers studied 910 Malaysian women diagnosed with early stage rheumatoid arthritis and another group of 910 women who have no rheumatoid arthritis. They were interviewed and blood samples taken to see if they had any ACPA antibodies, indicative of the disease. Only female workers were included in the study because of the small population of male workers in the textile industry and the high prevalence of smoking among men. Smoking is a known risk factor for the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
Forty-one of the female respondents with rheumatoid arthritis (4.5%) were exposed to textile dust compared to 15 (1.7%) of the women free from the disease. Those exposed to textile dust were almost three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who never worked in the textile industry.
Almost two-thirds of workers with rheumatoid arthritis (63%) tested positive for ACPA. Less than 40% had a generic risk factor (HLA-DRB1 SE) that increases the risk of developing the disease. Those with the risk factor, who had been exposed to textile dust, were 39 times more likely to test positive for ACPA than those without the risk factor and who had not been exposed to textile dust.
Read more: Chun Lai Too, et al: Occupational exposure to textile dust increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: results from a Malaysian population-based case–control study Ann Rheum Dis doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-208278
Work-related EMF radiation linked to menstrual disorders
A group of Chinese researchers investigated the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) among female operators of plastic welding machines. They found that those exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are at increased risk of menstrual disorders and other health problems like fatigue.
The researchers examined 180 female operators in shoe factories as the exposed group - exposed to medium to high levels of EMF radiation from welding machines, and 349 female workers from nearby supermarkets as the unexposed group. They identified a higher prevalence of "neurovegetative symptoms" – such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia and a loss in concentration.
In addition, a third of the shoe factory workers, who were aged up to 40 and had been in the job for at least one year, experienced menstrual disorders indicated by one or more abnormalities in their menstrual cycle. In comparison, only about 12 per cent of the 349 female supermarket workers, who weren't exposed to EMFs, showed similar symptoms.
The research revealed that women exposed to EMFs had lower levels of the hormone progesterone, which is involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, suggesting EMF radiation had a direct impact on the ovaries.
Read more: Youqiong Xu, et al, China, Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields on Reproductive-Age Female Operators of Plastic Welding Machines in Fuzhou, China. [Abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 58, Issue 2, February 2016. More information on Radiation
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe recruiting more inspectors
A reminder that WorkSafe is looking to recruit more inspectors. The closing date for applications is February 19. We urge more HSRs and in particular more women to apply. In the latest intake, only two of over twenty new recruits were women!
Find out more, including the position description
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was posted February 4 – it features Dermot Moody, WorkSafe Construction Program Manager, welcoming back industry for 2016 and reminding Soapbox readers to be aware of the annual influx of inexperienced young workers.
The list of Reported Incidents in
the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from 10 December 2015 - 21 January 2016 is attached to the bulletin. There were 121 Reported Incidents including: one fatality, 37 near misses, 36 lacerations, 12 fractures, six electric shocks and four punctures. It was a tragic start to the year. As is always the case, several of the reported incidents could
have led to fatalities: a fall from a scaffold, electric shocks, and more.
Access the February 4 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work announces new Chair
Safe Work Australia's Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter yesterday welcomed the appointment of Ms Diane Smith-Gander as Chair of Safe Work Australia. "Ms Smith-Gander brings to the role an extensive background in high-level executive positions."
"Safe Work Australia Members and I look forward to working with Ms Smith-Gander to deliver our strategic objectives to improve work health and safety and workers' compensation arrangements across Australia over the next three years," Ms Baxter said.
A childhood experience of her father's workplace injury was the seed of her passion for improving workplace safety and she has taken active governance and operational roles in this area throughout her career.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Media Release
Safe Work Fatality statistics
As at February 3, 11 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work. The final terrible statistic for fatalities reported to Safe Work in 2015 was 190. The fatalities this year have been in the following industries:
- 1 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 3 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 3 in Construction;
- 1 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- 1 in Health care & social assistance;
- 1 in 'other services';
- 1 in professional, scientific & technical services
More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
The latest monthly fatality report released was for August 2015 during which there were 14 work-related notifiable fatalities: 10 male workers, one female worker, two male bystanders and one female bystander. Of these fatalities, four workers died as a result of an incident on a public road.
Of the 14 fatalities, five occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing workplaces, three in Construction workplaces and two in Manufacturing workplaces. Administrative & support services, Agriculture, forestry & fishing, Education & training and Public administration & safety workplaces had one fatality each.
as reported in the last journal. The report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Second prosecution in fatal wall collapse incident
"No amount of money can make up for the deaths" - CFMEU
Last Thursday the County Court convicted and fined Melbourne sign writing company Aussie Signs Pty Ltd $250,000 over its role in the collapse of a wall in Swanston St in 2013 that killed three young pedestrians. The company pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching Section 23 of the OHS Act (failing to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, people other than its employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety as a result of its work). It pleaded guilty on the basis of its involvement in the attachment of the timber hoarding to the wall which increased the risk of the wall collapsing.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release Wall collapse sentence a reminder to keep public safe
Hazelwood Power Corporation charged
Last week WorkSafe charged the Hazelwood Power Corporation Pty Ltd with 10 breaches of the OHS Act 2004 in relation to preparedness for the fire which took hold in the Hazelwood open cut coal mine on 9 February 2014 - five under section 21(1) and (2) (c), and five under section 23 (failing to ensure that people other than its employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from the conduct of its operations). In its media statement, WorkSafe said that as the matter was before the Court, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment.
WorkSafe also announced it had completed its investigation into alleged
breaches of the Act by the Country Fire Authority, the Metropolitan
Fire and Emergency Services Board and the Fire Services Commissioner in
relation to risks to firefighters from exposure to carbon monoxide and
contaminated water during the early stages of the coal mine fire. After reviewing evidence, the regulator "has
determined that each party took steps that were reasonably practicable
to protect the health and safety of their employees and others." Consequently, it would take no further action.
Read More: WorkSafe Media Release
Company fined $90k after worker dragged into machine
Veyance Belting Pty Ltd, which manufactured conveyor belts for the mining industry throughout Australia and Asia, ran facilities to produce uncured rubber for production requirements. The Ringwood Magistrates Court heard that in October 2014, the employer was using a line machine to manufacturer a heavy pipe conveyor belt for the first time when a worker's fingers made contact with a nip point – between a mobile inspection platform and the static belt. The worker was dragged into the machine up to his shoulder, fracturing his arm..
At the time of the incident he was standing on the platform, which moved back and forth at walking pace, and reached up to touch a possible defect on the new belt. The company was found guilty and fined $90,000 (plus $5,000 costs) for breaching section 21(1) and 21(2)(a), for guarding breaches.
Worker suffers serious crush injuries - company fined $40k
A company operating a service station in Drysdale, Perrowood Pty Ltd trading as DA & NJ Mortimer Petroleum, has been convicted and fined in Geelong Magistrates' Court over an August 2014 incident. Two employees were working on a truck at the workshop used for servicing the company's fleet of vehicles. Employees worked underneath the trucks using hydraulic bottle jacks, placing them at risk of serious injury or death should the jack slip or collapse. This is what happened on 26 August - crushing one of the employees working under the truck, resulting in serious injuries. The company pleaded guilty to breaching s21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act, and was convicted and fined $40,000 (plus $6,120 costs).
EU: Napo films – easy to browse and download
As part of the new Napo website, EU-OHSA has developed a download centre. The Napo series of films are produced in computer graphics. They feature characters in the world of work, faced with safety issues. The main character, Napo, and his partners express themselves in wordless language - so suitable for use everywhere Their stories have an educational value. They provoke questions and stimulate debate on specific aspects of safety at work. Sometimes they provide practical solutions or lead to them. It is this blend of education, cultural neutrality and humour set in a cartoon style that gives the "Napo" series its identity.
All Napo's films can now be easily browsed, and users can add entire films or just scenes of films into their 'download basket'. These can then be simply downloaded - all saved items at once. This new feature will make watching and downloading Napo's films quicker and simpler. It is now even easier to use and enjoy Napo!
Access the Napo films
Napo for teachers brings safety and health to school
A new Napo film seeking to introduce occupational safety and health topics to primary school children is Napo for teachers, an online toolkit for delivering educational yet fun and imaginative lessons. Key messages and learning objectives, creative activity ideas and flexible lesson plans are provided in resource packs, and all are designed to fit alongside current curricula.