SafetyNet 356, March 23, 2016
Welcome to our latest edition of SafetyNet. All the team at the VTHC OHS Unit wish our subscribers a healthy and safe Easter break. Please note that due to staff leave, there won't be an edition of the journal next week. .
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April 28: International Workers Memorial Day
We'd like to remind all HSRs and workers that April 28 will be International Workers Memorial Day. This is the day we remember those that have been killed, maimed, injured and made ill by work and the day we renew our pledge to fight for the living, by raising safety concerns in the workplace and raising public awareness of the importance of health and safety.
Workers Memorial Day was started in 1985 by the Canadian union CUPE. We have been observing IWMD in Australia for many years.
Worldwide over 2.3 million people are killed by work each year. In Australia, it is estimated that we have over 600 mesothelioma related deaths, an average of 200 workers killed at work, up to 5,000 deaths due to disease, and over 500,000 workers suffering a work-related injury or disease each year.
There will be an event at the Victorian Trades Hall Council, beginning at 10.30am. There will also be an event, run by the Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS, at 11am in the Centenary Rose Garden, Commerical Road, Morwell. More details on the events will follow in upcoming SafetyNet journals. For those who cannot attend these events, think about organising something at work - we will have some ideas and suggestions for what you might do. Anyone on Twitter can already start using #IWMD2016
Is it a legal requirement for a warehouse owner/occupier to supply an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for ALL products that are used, handled and stored in that warehouse?
Strictly speaking, under Part 4.1 (Hazardous Substances) of the OHS regulations, the employer is only required to provide an MSDS or SDS (Safety Data Sheet) for all substances that are classified as 'hazardous', but this is not actually legally required for substances that are not classified as 'hazardous'.
However, under s21(2)(e) of the Act, the employer must provide as much information, training and supervision as are necessary to employees so as to enable them to work safely, etc. The argument I would be putting to your employer is that all the information on all the substances in the warehouse which employees may be exposed to, should be provided. Otherwise how will workers be able to be sure that what they're dealing with is not putting their health or safety at risk. Further, while a substance/product may not be classified as 'hazardous', this does not necessarily mean that it is 'safe' and that certain precautions should not be taken.
If you have issue with getting the information, then I recommend you contact your union organiser, if you are a member of a union, or alternatively, WorkSafe's Advisory Line.
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.
Asbestos not here, not anywhere - Stop Asbestos Importation Now!
Australia banned the importation of asbestos in 2003 but it continues to get through customs and into Australia where it puts workers at risk.
As reported in SafetyNet 353, Peter Dutton, Minister for Border Protection launched a review, but is not allowing ordinary Australians have their say on this issue. Ron, who was exposed to asbestos when he worked as a brick layer, is asking everyone to sign the petition to toughen our customs laws to protect workers and families from imported asbestos. Ron says, "I don't want any other worker to be put in danger like I was."
Victoria: VTHC welcomes new asbestos agency
Victoria's Minister for Finance (and WorkSafe) this week announced that the government will be establishing an agency to focus on the eradication of asbestos from workplaces - beginning with government workplaces including schools and hospitals. The establishment of the Victorian Asbestos Eradication Agency (VAEA) will enhance the safety of the Victorian community by working toward minimising the threat of asbestos related diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Minister Scott said, "By working toward the eradication of asbestos from all government buildings, we will reduce the risk of asbestos related diseases."
The VAEA will begin by creating a comprehensive and consolidated register of asbestos in Victorian government buildings to ensure the removal of asbestos in buildings of greatest concern are dealt with first. The agency will work across all relevant departments and agencies and provide independent, authoritative advice to Government on best practice risk management of asbestos removal.
Luke Hilakari, Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, said, "We've seen too many workers over the years suffer from illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, and this will go a long way to ensuring those numbers are only part of our past – and not the future." Ministerial Media Release
Campaign to ban asbestos in Asia
An initiative by our own Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA in collaboration with ban asbestos activists was launched in South East Asia during February 2016 under the banner: "ASBESTOS. Not here. Not anywhere." The focus of this campaign is the human and environmental threats posed by increasing consumption of white asbestos throughout the region. A video highlighting the problems caused by asbestos usage in Indonesia documents the total lack of public and occupational awareness of the asbestos hazard and daily exposures to 7,000 workers at 26 factories.
More information: ASBESTOS. Not here. Not anywhere.
Italy: Shipbuilder fined for asbestos death
The Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri – Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A. – was fined €1.1m (A$1.63m) by a Labor Court on February 26, 2016 for the death in 2006 of a 55-year-old electrical welder who had been hazardously exposed to asbestos on a daily basis whilst employed from the 1970s to 1990 by the company. The damages were awarded to the three children of the deceased worker. The company, which is based in the northern city of Trieste, was formed in 1959 and is owned by the Italian State. It is the largest shipbuilder in Europe. Read more: Fincantieri to pay 1.1 million. Source: IBAS
Regional healthcare workers most at risk
New WorkSafe statistics show the highest number of injury claims in regional Victoria last year came from healthcare and social assistance workers. Minister for Finance (and WorkSafe) Robin Scott toured the new Bendigo Hospital site last week and urged regional employers to make safety their first priority after also revealing that almost half of last year's workplace fatalities were in regional Victoria. Of the 20 people who tragically lost their lives in workplace incidents last year, nine were in regional Victoria.
Statistics also revealed that:
- Last year, WorkSafe received 7112 claims – which is almost 20 claims a day – from country Victorians injured at work
- Industry sectors in regional Victoria with the most claims were health care and social assistance (1237 claims), manufacturing (1180 claims) and construction (739 claims)
- Poor manual handling was the leading cause of injury in regional workplaces, followed by slips, trips and falls
Mr Scott said, "WorkSafe is working with employers and stakeholders in the health sector to address the high number of work injuries affecting the staff who keep us healthy." The Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards, said, "The new state-of-the-art Bendigo Hospital will have the latest facilities and technology to help keep our doctors, nurses and patients safe."
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation welcomed WorkSafe's focus
on employers in the health sector. Ms Kathy Chrisfield, ANMF OHS Coordinator, said "The union will continue to work closely with WorkSafe
to identify ways that our members can be kept safe in their workplaces.
Too many of our members are injured in workplace incidents, and it is time the
health and safety of the workers is a focus of employers."
Read more: Media Release Regional Healthcare Workers Most At Risk From Workplace Injury
Victorian government to support weed sprayers after inquiry
The government is urging Victoria's workers historically exposed to certain chemicals now linked to cancer to undergo health screening to check for a history of chloracne, soft tissue sarcoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, under the State Government's response to an inquiry into at-risk Lands Department employees.
Environment Minister Lisa Neville also said the Government will also lead a review of current practices in departments and agencies engaged in spraying activities to ensure they meet current standards.
The 2015 inquiry was prompted by concerns
raised by employees of the former Victorian Department of Crown Lands
and Survey about the use of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (24D) and
2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (245T) – both ingredients of the
notorious herbicide Agent Orange – in the 30 years to 1995. Current and
former workers may contact the Department on 1800 987 767 for more
information and to schedule their free health screening.
Read more: Chemical Inquiry Report Available (Government Response) Former Lands Department Inquiry
But Union urges extension of inquiry
After the announcement, the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) has called on the Victorian Government for a "full and fearless investigation" of the chemicals used by workers across state departments and local government. AWU Victorian secretary Ben Davis said the initial inquiry was limited to a narrow range of chemicals used by a single department in the Ballarat region, and the Government must now order a more comprehensive investigation. Mr Davis said the union had interviewed dozens of current and former public servants who had misused a wide range of chemicals under instruction from supervisors, and suffered illnesses ranging from cancer to debilitating headaches and persistent skin complaints.
"Unfortunately, I suspect that what we have heard and seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "The next inquiry must not be limited in any way... Workers need to know the truth, and the community needs to be told the extent of the problems left behind." Read more: 'Big as Fiskville' says Australian Workers' Union The Weekly Times
Federal Inquiry backs labour hire licensing
The Senate Education and Employment References Committee's inquiry into exploitation of temporary work visa holders has released its report. The Labor-Greens majority report, A National Disgrace: The exploitation of temporary work visa holders [pdf], recommends that Treasury and the ACCC review the franchising code of conduct to determine whether there may be scope to impose "some degree of responsibility" on franchisors for franchisees' compliance with workplace laws. It proposes that such a review also consider an amendment allowing franchisors to terminate a franchise agreement without notice where there are "reasonable grounds for believing that serious contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 have occurred". Other recommendations include requiring labour hire companies to be licensed, imposing a $4000 levy on 457 visaholders, "one-for-one" employment of foreign and Australian tertiary graduates and stronger regulation of franchisors, and protection for temporary workers who come forward to report exploitation.
However, the Coalition minority members on the committee have slammed the key majority recommendations, despite saying they are "broadly supportive" of the report, warning there must be "no incentives" for workers to contravene the Migration Act and that it would be "inappropriate" for agencies to withhold information about unlawful activity. Source: Workplace Express
International Union News
New global tools from ITUC
The global union confederation ITUC has made new resources available online. A brochure for use around International Workers' Memorial Day on 28 April is available in English, French and Spanish editions. The guide spells out the reasons behind the three pronged theme for this year's global activities – strong laws, strong enforcement and strong unions. ITUC has also produced a 'Supply Chain Resources Hub' to support action to clean up supply chains, including links to reports and "international policy decisions through to solidarity actions to support workers who are trying to organise for decent pay, conditions and job security."
Read more: 28 April 2016: Mobilising for strong laws, strong enforcement and strong unions, ITUC, English language edition; ITUC news release and supply chains resource hub.
Europe: Unions call for an end to work cancers
Unions, warning that occupational cancer kills 100,000 people every year in the European Union (EU), are calling for an end to this preventable waste of life. Europe-wide union federation ETUC says occupational cancer is the most common work-related cause of death, with between 8 and 16 per cent of all cancers in Europe the result of exposures at work. Criticising the EU's do-nothing workplace health and safety strategy, Esther Lynch, confederal secretary of the ETUC, said: "Occupational cancer is the ignored epidemic. Workers are dying, literally in the thousands every year, and for 12 long years the EU has done nothing about it. These deaths are the result of preventable workplace exposures." She added: "Trade unionists demand binding workplace exposure limits now for these predictable causes of cancer. The Commission needs to stop stalling, delaying until 2020 is irresponsible and unacceptable. The EU should aim for zero workplace cancer. Workers who have been exposed to cancer-causing substances or processes should get regular health checks during and after their employment."
list of 50 targeted causes of occupational cancer includes diesel
engine exhaust, leather dust, formaldehyde, refractory ceramic fibres,
respiratory crystalline silica, cadmium and cadmium compounds,
benzo(a)pyrene, chromium VI compounds, ethylene oxide and
trichloroethylene. A new report from ETUC's
research wing, ETUI, identifies more than 70 carcinogenic substances for
which it says binding limit values for exposure of workers at the
workplace should be set at the EU level.
Read more: ETUC news release. ETUI publication alert. Carcinogens that should be subject to binding limits on workers' exposure,[pdf] ETUI report no.136, March 2016. Stop cancer at work infographic. Source: Risks 743 More on Cancer
International Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Union calls for the EU to ban glyphosate
In a March 22 editorial, the IUF UITA IUL outlines the recent developments in the EU with regard to the postponement renewing the authorization for glyphosate. The editorial ends with:
"Europe needs a strategy for exiting the pesticide treadmill. The alternative to glyphosate is not paraquat, which annually kills some 40,000 people, mostly agricultural workers, or enhanced formulations like Dow Chemical's 'Enlist' weed control system, based on seeds which have been genetically modified to resist a pesticide formulation combining glyphosate with the highly toxic 2,4-D - the active ingredient in the US military's Agent Orange used to destroy food and forests in Vietnam. The alternative is comprehensive support for a safer, saner food system which does not put agricultural workers in the front lines of exposure.
Maximum pressure must now be applied to the European Commission, EFSA and the Standing Committee to ensure that glyphosate is banned in the EU and consistent resources are made available to promote transition to non-chemical food production which sustains and enriches, rather than destroys, the food system on which we all depend." Read more: The European Union must exit the pesticide treadmill: time to ban glyphosate
Weak Magnetic Fields Can Promote Cancer
An article in last week's edition of Microwave News reports that according to two leading members of the EMF/RF research community, weak radiofrequency (RF) fields may in fact be able to promote cancer. Professors Frank Barnes and Ben Greenebaum are offering theoretical arguments to explain how low-level RF radiation can alter the growth rates of cancer cells. They present their ideas in a very recent article in the IEEE Power Electronics Magazine. Read more: Microwave News. More on Non-Ionising Radiation
OHS Regulator News
The latest edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out last week (March 17). In this edition's editorial, Barry Dunn, Construction Advisor from the WorkSafe Construction Program discusses the need to have a formwork structural inspection signed off before allowing workers to access the formwork deck to prepare for the concrete pour. The newsletter also has news of the recent fatality at a quarry in Gippsland, of recently released and/or updated guidance, and its regular 'Absolute Shocker', which this week shows workers taking a very dangerous 'short cut', instead of following a procedure which should have been detailed on the Safe Work Method Statement.
88 incidents reported to WorkSafe from 26 February to 10 March 2016.
These included one fatality, 38 lacerations, 19 near misses, 10
"unknowns", seven electric shocks, six fractures, three dislocations,
two punctures and one each of bruising, amputation and burns. and few
potentially serious near misses. In one incident, a worker was
inadvertently lifted on a load by a crane to a height of approximately
40 metres - this could have resulted in a fatal fall.
Read more: March 17 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
WorkSafe investigates potentially fatal forklift incident
WorkSafe has initiated an investigation at the Wodonga Abattoir where two workers were injured in a forklift incident last Wednesday afternoon. It seems the workers had been using a forklift to lift heavy bags onto the back of a truck in the rendering area of the abattoir at the time. In the process, the forklift tipped sideways and hit one of the workers. Both workers were taken by ambulance to the Albury Hospital. Firefighters, SES and police were also in attendance.
WorkSafe inspectors were onsite on Thursday. Wodonga Abattoir manager Matthew McPhee said the forklift had been operated on uneven ground. He said the main thing was everyone was OK - both workers were out of hospital.
Source: The Border Mail Read more on Forklift Safety
Worker loses arm in machinery
A woman has lost her arm after it was completely severed by machinery at a Myrrhee business in country Victoria last week. The 25-year-old Malaysian woman was working on an industrial auger running off a conveyor belt and trapped her arm about 5.15pm on Wednesday. She and her husband had been working at the business for only three weeks and she had been brought in to help harvest hops at Ellerslie Hop on Upper Fifteen Mile Creek Road. The arm was placed on ice and the woman was flown to hospital in Melbourne for treatment. It appears unlikely her arm, which was severed between her shoulder and elbow and severely damaged, will be reattached. WorkSafe is investigating the incident.
Source: Machinery severs arm and Screams as woman's arm severed by machine. The Border Mail
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Review Evidence on the Effects of Sedentary Work
With half of Australian workers across a number of industries and occupations reporting that they are sitting often or for all of the time they are at work, Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter last week called on employers and workers to aim to reduce their time sitting at work.
Ms Baxter's call follows the release of a literature review commissioned by Safe Work Australia to examine the most recent evidence from Australia and overseas on sedentary work, its likely consequences and potential control options.
Undertaken by Curtin University, the review shows that prolonged unbroken sitting time is associated with a range of health problems including musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, some cancers and premature mortality. Compounding this, health problems caused by prolonged sitting remain even if a worker exercises vigorously every day, highlighting that excessive sitting and physical inactivity are separate health hazards.
The report shows that negative health effects from prolonged sitting are due to insufficient movement and muscle activity, low energy expenditure and a lack of changes in posture. "Early evidence suggests occupational interventions targeting sitting reduction can substantially reduce occupational sitting, at least in office workplaces," said Ms Baxter. These interventions include using substitution and breaks to minimise the total time spent sitting and to break up periods of sitting at work.
In an excellent post, blogger Kevin Jones tells us that at about the same time the SWA review was released,the Cochrane Library released an update of its literature review into the use of sit-stand desks and other interventions: Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work [pdf] - suggesting the evidence of effectiveness was limited. Perhaps better to be 'safe than sorry'?
- SWA Media Release and the publication: Sedentary Work – Summary of the Literature Review Evidence on an Emergent Work Health and Safety Issue
- SafetyAtWorkBlog piece: Sedentary work risks - Two new research reports
- More information on Sedentary Work.
The latest update on national fatalities remains as at March 7, when 22 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work Australia. 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.
No new prosecution results had been posted on WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings page when this edition of SafetyNet was completed. Check WorkSafe's site for updates.
UK: National crane company fined £750,000 for two deaths after collapse
A crane hire company has been sentenced for failings that led to the death of two men as a crane collapsed in London in September 2006. A 37 year old crane operator died after falling from the crane as it collapsed. It fell onto a 23 year old member of the public, and also killed him. The court heard that sections of the tower crane, which was on a housing development, separated when 24 bolts failed due to metal fatigue.
The 24 bolts were a significant safety feature on the crane's slew ring, which connected the mast (tower) to the slew turret. This allows the arms of the crane (jib) to rotate through 360 degrees. When the bolts failed the slew turret and jib separated from the mast and fell to the ground. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident, in September 2006, found Falcon Crane Hire Ltd did not investigate a similar incident which happened nine weeks before, when the bolts failed on the same crane and had to be replaced.
HSE found the company had an inadequate system to manage the inspection and maintenance of their fleet of cranes. Their process to investigate the underlying cause of components' failings was also inadequate. It told the court the particular bolts were a safety critical part of the crane. The court also heard the bolts failing previously was an exceptional and significant occurrence, which should have been recognised by Falcon Crane Hire.