SafetyNet 353, March 2, 2016
Today is just the second day of March: the month has had a tragic start with another worker killed yesterday in regional Victoria. She was the fifth worker to die in Victoria so far this year.
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Fatality at quarry in South Gippsland
Yesterday, just after 1pm, a driver was killed when her truck rolled down an embankment of a quarry on the Gippsland Highway at Nyora. Both police and WorkSafe attended the scene. A Victoria Police spokeswoman said: "It is believed the female driver of a truck has tipped over the edge of a quarry and has been pinned under the vehicle." She died at the scene of the incident. Reports are that the truck was at the top of the embankment when it gave way. The vehicle then rolled up to 30 metres. Tragically, the young woman, who has a nine month old baby girl, was the niece of the worker was killed at the same quarry in 2010, when a landslide swamped his excavator. The quarry is now under different management.
Bette Phillips, from GriefWork, said, "Workplace fatalities are not just statistics: they are real people, with real families - this family is now grieving this young woman - the third workplace related death in their family." She added, " The stories behind the deaths also need to be heard, as they impact very heavily on the grief felt by the community."
This death marks the fifth fatality for the state since the beginning of the year. All the staff at the VTHC sends the young woman's family and friends our sincerest condolences.
MacDonald's worker still traumatised by fall into hot oil
A MacDonald's worker who suffered serious burns after falling in hot oil in 2013 continues to suffer because of the incident. The female shift manager suffered third-degree burns to her body after falling into a bucket of hot oil at a McDonald's store in Warragul. She was treated in the Alfred Hospital for five days and was later readmitted due to infections. She had to have skin grafts on her right foot, thigh and hip.
Worksafe's lawyer told the court oil changes were done every two weeks; a 22 year old employee estimated he would have used buckets to do that task up to 20 times before the incident. He was not stopped by a manager and oil spilled onto the floor, causing the shift manager to fall.
The company's lawyer told the court it had taken reasonable steps to keep its employees safe, had cooperated with the Worksafe investigation and complied with improvement notices (Renata: issued after the incident, I assume!). Store operator Wilbridge Securities pleaded guilty to the charge of failure of supervision brought about by Worksafe, but argued a conviction would be too harsh a penalty.
Read more: ABC news online
Can you tell me what is the optimum temperature for a primary school classroom please?
There's nothing mandated regarding temperature in our health and safety legislation. However, the employer has a general duty of care (see Duties of Employers) to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment, and to monitor both the conditions at the workplace and the health of employees.
The Compliance Code for workplaces and amenities then provides guidance on what employers need to do in order to comply. On temperature it states that the optimum comfort range for sedentary work is between 20°C and 26°C, depending on the time of the year and clothing worn. However, there would probably need to be other considerations with regard to a classroom full of children on a hot day!
Take a look at this FAQ: When is it too hot? and also this hazard page on Heat. These pages set out what is recommended and what you as an HSR can do to raise the issue. The Australian Education Union has a Member Advice Sheet: Heat - Does your workplace have a policy? The sheet provides advice on how to identify the hazard, strategies to deal with it, and how to go about developing a policy. If you are a member, contact the union for a copy.
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 next week
The WRAW Festival, coinciding with International Women's Day on March 8th, is less than a week away! It's a week to remember the struggles of women, and to fight to achieve better rights and conditions. 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! Come along and join us!
Immigration and Border Protection Inquiry into illegal asbestos imports
The ACTU has for some time been campaigning for an enquiry into the effectiveness of Australia's asbestos importation ban - which has become increasingly urgent given the high number of reported incidents of imports coming into the country from China. Senator Abetz agreed to an ACTU request for an examination of this issue, and on becoming Minister for Employment, Senator Cash agreed to continue with Senator Abetz's initiative.
However, on Friday, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton MHR announced that he had initiated an independent review of Australia's asbestos border control management, conducted by KGH Border Services. The review will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2016 - in just six weeks' time!
The ACTU's Assistant Secretary, Michael Borowick, said, "The ACTU was not consulted about the terms of reference and believes that their narrow scope will prevent a proper consideration of why the ban is regularly and flagrantly breached."
Read more: Effective management of asbestos at the border Peter Dutton Media Release
Bosses fail to give workers asbestos warnings
A national survey commissioned by law firm Slater & Gordon of more than 2,000 workers found that only one fifth (21 per cent) of them across all industries had been warned by their employers about the potential of asbestos in the workplace.
Alarmingly, 71 per cent of manual workers and 68 per cent of manufacturing workers said their bosses had never spoken to them about the threat of asbestos exposure at work. Seven out of ten (59 per cent) manufacturing workers said they believed they could be exposed to asbestos, while six out of ten (59 per cent) manual workers feared exposure.
The firm's Asbestos National Practice Group Leader Margaret Kent said employers had
a duty to warn workers of the potential risk of asbestos in the
workplace. "Many Australian workplaces still contain asbestos as does some equipment used by workers." Ms Kent said. "Products imported from overseas that contain asbestos are also
finding their way into Australia illegally, putting unsuspecting workers
at further risk of exposure."
Read more: High risk workers say bosses fail to give asbestos warnings, according to new research Slater & Gordon Media Release
Victorian Supreme Court rules on Mesothelioma responsibility
The Supreme Court of Victoria has apportioned responsibility for a worker's mesothelioma between his employer and two manufacturers of asbestos products. The electrician had been exposed to asbestos at work for 17 years, from 1964 and 1981. He contracted mesothelioma and claimed damages from his employer, Field & Hall Pty Ltd, as well as from the insulation material manufacturing companies: Amaca Pty Ltd (formerly James Hardie & Coy Pty Ltd) and CSR Ltd. The claim was settled, but the defendants made a contribution claim against each other according to the Wrongs Act 1958. The court apportioned 20 per cent of the responsibility to the employer and 40 per cent each to the two asbestos manufacturing companies.
NSW: Unions renew calls to combat asbestos
Unions NSW has called on the Baird government to urgently introduce measures to curb deadly illegal asbestos dumping and commit to the safe removal of asbestos from our built environment once and for all. The peak union body said reports of a 50 metre trail of asbestos laden material near homes in western Sydney was 'just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to illegal dumping'.
Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said unless the safe and proper removal of asbestos was funded, illegal dumping would continue by unscrupulous builders and renovators trying to avoid costly disposal. "This problem is not going to go away. It's time the Baird government faced up to the reality that until the safe and legal removal of asbestos is properly funded, whole communities are being put at risk," Mr Morey said.
Unions NSW is pushing for funding for local governments to build the
infrastructure and recruit the personnel needed to safely receive
contained asbestos, as well as the introduction of an asbestos
eradication fund to reduce workers' and the community's exposure to
asbestos. The fund would be levied on construction materials so that
asbestos removal can be adequately resourced.
Read more: Unions NSW Media Release
USA: Ford spent $40m to influence asbestos science
Ford Motor Company spent US$40 million (A$56 million) on scientific studies designed to cast doubt on the link between asbestos brake linings and cancers including mesothelioma, an investigation has found. The probe by the Washington DC-based Center for Public Accountability found the firm, the subject of asbestos disease lawsuits involving mechanics, first retained toxicologist Dennis Paustenbach, then vice-president at the consulting firm Exponent, in 2001. "Thus began a relationship that, according to recent depositions, has enriched Exponent by $18.2 million and brought another $21 million to Cardno ChemRisk, a similar firm Paustenbach founded in 1985, left and restarted in 2003," CPI claims. "All told, testimony shows, Ford has spent nearly $40 million funding journal articles and expert testimony concluding there is no evidence brake mechanics are at increased risk of developing mesothelioma."
This finding, recounted countless times in courtrooms and law offices over the past 15 years, is an attempt at scientific misdirection aimed at extricating Ford from lawsuits, critics say. John Dement, a professor in Duke University's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, said: "Fifteen years ago, I thought the issue of asbestos risk assessment was pretty much defined. All they've accomplished is to try to generate doubt where, really, little doubt existed." David Egilman, a clinical professor of family medicine at Brown University and editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, argues that the papers are deceptive by design. "They can throw a lot of things at the wall and hope something sticks with the jury," he said. "It forces people like me or other scientists to try to clean up each thing that was thrown at the wall, one at a time. And by the end of the day, that could be confusing to a jury or judge." Read more: CPI investigative report. Source: Risks 740
Albania: Asbestos Crisis
Reports from the Albanian capital of Tirana have raised concerns about ongoing work in the city center on the demolition of asbestos-cement roofing material during the refurbishment of the central market. According to Professor Romeo Hanxhari the work "is being carried out in an unsafe and unacceptable manner resulting in airborne fibres being inhaled and environmental pollution being dispersed in adjacent areas." European groups representing asbestos victims, trade unionists and health and safety campaigners issued a public health warning and communicated their concerns to municipal and national officials. Read more: ANEP Media Release [pdf] Source: IBAS
Find out more about Asbestos in the workplace
Reminder: VTHC Young Workers Centre
The Young Workers Centre at Victorian Trades Hall 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. The YWC can deliver training to young people in high schools, TAFEs, universities and young community groups, and provide information and advice on issues young workers face, including:
- Bullying and discrimination
- Workplace rights
- Health and safety
- Social movements and unionism
you are a worker in Victoria, 30 years old or under, and you are having
issues at work - or know of one - please contact the YWC for legal
assistance on issues such as underpayments,
dismissals or health and safety.
To find out more, visit our website or call us on 1800 714 754. Follow our young worker campaigns on Facebook.
International Union News
Zika virus: ITF releases guidelines for seafarers
The ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) has issued an information factsheet in a bid to help seafarers around the world to protect themselves from the Zika virus.
The virus, caused by the 'bite' of an infected Aedes mosquito, is currently circulating in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. There have also been reported cases of the virus being spread through blood transfusion and sexual contact.
The Zika virus disease usually causes a mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis for a period of two to seven days but it is particularly dangerous for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and has been linked to genetic birth defects. There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith said: "Our business is helping to protect the health and safety of seafarers. They are a particularly vulnerable group to this type of disease because they are in transit a lot of the time and there are a number of major trade routes passing through areas impacted by the Zika virus.
"The reality for seafarers is that if they're going to be able to take any precautions against contracting the virus - things like sleeping under mosquito nets, using repellent, wearing light covering clothing, covering water containers - they need to prepare in advance, before they are at sea for a number or weeks or even months." The guidelines can be downloaded here. Source: ITF Media Release
Study confirms aircraft fumes risks
Union warnings about the dangers of toxic chemicals inside aircraft have been borne out by a new scientific study. Earlier this year, UK Unite called for a public inquiry into 'aerotoxic syndrome', with the union raising concerns about both short- and long-term health risks associated with in-air exposures. Now a study carried out by researchers in Germany has confirmed flight attendants and passengers are exposed to toxins in cabin air.
Researchers from the University of Göttingen tested 140 patients, many
of whom were cabin crew, and found
organophosphates and volatile organic compounds in their blood and urine
samples. The study suggests that these compounds may have been leaked
into the cabin air supply from engine fuel, oils or antifreeze.
Organophosphate compounds cause symptoms such as nausea and
light-headedness and can attack the nervous system, circulation and
airways. David Robinson of the law firm Thompsons said: "These latest
findings support long-term concerns over aerotoxic syndrome and
underline the serious health risks associated with contaminated cabin
air. As it stands, there are no official guidelines on what is a 'safe'
level of exposure for cabin staff and passengers, despite growing
concerns around aerotoxic syndrome." He added:
"The passenger airline industry must acknowledge the findings of this
latest research and a thorough investigation is urgently needed to
establish how cabin crew, pilots and passengers can be better protected
from the risks of exposure to contaminated cabin air."
Read more: Thompsons Solicitors news release. Unite Keep cabin crew safe campaign. Source: Risks 740
Chronic stress increases cancer spread through lymphatic system
The ABC has reported on Australian research, published this week in Nature Communications, which found that stress acts as a "fertiliser" for cancer, helping it to spread through the body's lymphatic system. The study, carried out on mice, also showed that a well-known blood pressure drug may reduce the risk of the cancer spreading.
According to the authors, stress-related psychosocial factors have been linked to increased cancer-related mortality, supported by accumulating preclinical data showing chronic stress acts through sympathetic nervous system (SNS) signalling to promote progression of multiple tumour types. However, the role of the lymphatic system in stress-induced tumour cell dissemination was unknown Their study demonstrated that chronic stress restructures lymphatic networks within and around tumours to provide pathways for tumour cell escape.
The study demonstrated that exposure to chronic stress not only increases the number of lymphatic vessels draining from the tumour, but increase flow in existing vessels. "So not only do you get new freeways out of the tumour but the speed limit is increased and so the tumour cells can flow out of the tumour much more rapidly," said one of the study's authors, Dr Erica Sloan from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Read more: Chronic stress enhances cancer spread though lymphatic system ABC News online; Carolyn Le, et al Chronic stress in mice remodels lymph vasculature to promote tumour cell dissemination [full article] Nature Communications 7, Article number: 10634 doi:10.1038/ncomms10634
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe announces 'new approach' to quad bike safety
Our readers will be well aware of the tragic number of deaths as a result of incidents with quad bikes - and of the efforts of the ACTU and unions to make quad bike design safer. This week, WorkSafe Victoria announced that ithas revised its approach to quad bike use to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries in Victorian workplaces. A key part of its new approach is to accept rollover protection devices on quad bikes as a means of controlling the risk to operators in the event of a rollover.
This decision means that if a duty holder (normally an employer) wants to use a quad bike in the workplace – and there is a risk of rollover – WorkSafe will require a suitably designed and tested operator protective device (OPD) to be fitted.
Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said WorkSafe had been closely following the debate on the suitability of rollover protection on quad bikes for a number of years. This included the views put forward by the manufacturers. "We have also been listening to the concerns of the medical profession, hospitals, community groups and agricultural safety bodies about the high fatality and injury toll associated with quad bike use," she said. Ms Williams said there was enough collective evidence from several coronial inquiries, hospital injury data and academic research to convince WorkSafe that this was the right thing to do. "The simple fact is that doing nothing is no longer an option," Ms Williams said. "We are confident that, when added to our current quad bike activities, these extra measures will help save lives."
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release New approach designed to make quad bike use safer
Safe Work Australia news
Safe Work Fatality statistics
There has still 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.
The latest monthly fatality report remains that for September 2015 during which there were 26 work-related notifiable fatalities - compared to 14 in the month of August. The report can be downloaded from the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Employee falls through roof: no controls implemented; employers receive paltry fines
Two domestic construction companies operating 'South West Roofing' as a partnership, Leo Duynhoven Pty Ltd and Gerard Duynhoven Pty Ltd, were each fined $3,250 (plus costs of $1,693) after an employee fell on April 23 2015 while he and another worker were replacing a section of clear roof sheeting at a residential dwelling. Perimeter railing was installed around the roof, however there was no fall protection under the polycarbonate roof sheeting and neither worker was wearing a harness. The worker suffered a broken left wrist and left foot. He could have been killed. Both employers failed to identify the hazard into the task's safe work method statement; and failed to control the risk of a fall from height by way of a suitable fall arrest system, such as erecting scaffolding under the fragile roof area.
Sadly, the incident did not lead to the employers ensuring the risk of falls were controlled: just a month later, on 22 May, two other employees were on a roof removing an aerial from a chimney at a height greater than three metres. No fall from height risk controls were implemented. The employers failed to ensure that employees used a travel restraint system such as a harness when undertaking work on the roof.
Worker loses thumb and three fingers: Pasta making company fined just $18,000
In November 2014, an employee of Rinoldi Pasta Pty Ltd, a Mulgrave pasta and related food manufacturing company, lost the thumb and three fingers of his right hand while cleaning the Grondona Pasta Mixer. Interlocked guarding was used as a measure to control risk in the areas of the Grondona Pasta Line known as the upper, middle and lower mixers and the rotary valve, and functioned to de-energise power to each respective mixer when a mixer lid was opened. However, it was possible to access the danger point of one mixer via another mixer which had engaged the interlock because each interlock was not wired to stop all of the mixers when a lid was opened. This exposed workers to the risk of contact with the rotary valve situated between the upper and middle mixers in the course of cleaning. The employee was cleaning the middle and lower mixers whilst the rotary valve was still operating, which led to the amputations. The company pleaded guilty in the Ringwood Magistrates Court, and was without conviction fined $18,000 plus costs of $3,386.
Read more (the Diversion and other prosecutions): Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings. WorkSafe Victoria
WA: Company allowed unsafe task which led to fatality to be done for 10 years
Exact Mining Services had not carried out a risk assessment on a task which involved the moving of heavy objects - a task that before a worker was crushed to death, had been carried out for 10 years. As a result, the Perth Magistrate's Court convicted and fined the company $130,000 for breaching the State Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 in failing to provide a safe environment..
In December 2014, two Exact Mining workers were working on one section of a 60-metre-long polyethylene pipe, while an industrial forklift moved another section, when the workers' section suddenly slipped. The pipe hit one of the workers and fatally crushed the other against the ground.
Department of Mines and Petroleum state mining engineer Andrew Chaplyn said the employer's failings placed the two workers "in the direct line of fire in the event of uncontrolled movement of the pipe". "[The worker's] death was the result of the company's failure to put adequate safety measures in place and serves as a strong reminder that safety needs to be the number one priority for everyone, including mine operators," he said. Source: OHSAlert
NSW: Company convicted and fined almost $200k after modified machine severed worker's hand
The sole director of Waycon Bulk Pty Ltd, a company producing and supplying firewood, made unsafe modifications to a machine which resulted in a worker's hand being severed in April 2013. The wood-splitting machine had been designed and manufactured so that two splitting rams, with blades attached, had to be controlled by two people operating independently on opposite sides of the machine. When the manufacturer delivered the machine in February or March 2013, the rams/blades would only come down where an operator simultaneously depressed two buttons located underneath the splitting table. If the operator removed their hand(s) from one or both buttons the ram/blade would retract. At some time between the delivery of the machine and the incident in which a worker's hand was severed, the director authorised a modification which would allow an operator to cause the ram/blade to extend by pressing only one button. The idea was that this would be safer as it allowed employees to have one hand free to defend their face or chest area in the event that a log 'exploded' when it was split by the blade. When the incident occurred, the company failed to notify the regulator.
When Safe Work NSW prosecuted the company, the court noted that the risk was 'obvious': the modification had rendered the machine non-compliant with the Australian Standard, and that there was a risk of serious injury, such as
amputation of a hand or part of an arm, and also the risk of death as a
result of blood loss from the injury. The company pleaded guilty to two charges under the NSW WHS Act, which led to a lower fine of $187,500 for one charge and $7,500 for the other.
Source: WorkplaceOHS Read more: Safe Work New South Wales v Waycon Bulk Pty Ltd  NSWDC 254 (10 September 2015)
USA: OSHA fines meat plant after saw worker injury
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $67,270 in fines against Augusta, Georgia.-based FPL Food, citing the company for 15 serious safety violations at the meat processing plant.
OSHA initiated an investigation after learning a worker was hospitalized after a workplace injury.
On December 3, 2015, a hydraulic saw lacerated the abdomen of a 36-year-old saw operator as he cut meat. The worker was severely injured. OSHA discovered that the saw's safety cut-off switches were not functioning properly.
The agency cited FPL Food LLC for exposing workers to falls on platforms without rails; electric shock from improper wiring; and amputations from unguarded cutting blades. In addition, OSHA cited the employer for not providing a fully functional eyewash station for workers handling leaking batteries. The company also failed to train workers on the specific procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing.
"The results of this investigation clearly indicate that FPL Food's safety and health management plan is ineffective and not being enforced," said William Fulcher, OSHA's area director in the Atlanta-East Office. "Management must make worker safety its top priority and be engaged in enforcing it."
Read more: OSHA Regional News Release.
USA: California confirms glyphosate is a carcinogen
In a development that has shocked Monsanto, California's Environmental Protection Agency will now list glyphosate - the toxic main ingredient in the U.S.' best-selling weedkiller, Roundup - as known to cause cancer. Under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm are required to be listed and published by the state. Chemicals also end up on the list if found to be carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Source: Healthy Life and Fitness