SafetyNet 362, May 11, 2016
Late last week a young man was killed at a work site in Geelong after being hit by a bobcat. He was just nineteen years old.
This is why we fight for safety.
This week all charges were dropped in an ACT case involving a young worker who was killed when a faulty concrete pump boom collapsed on him at a construction site. Four years later and no one has been held accountable for his death. (see Prosecutions)
This is why we fight for justice.
To get updates between our weekly journals, join the hundreds of people who follow our We Are Union: OHS Matters Facebook page. If you're an OHS rep, and passionate about health and safety, then consider joining the Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out - and ask to join.
Fatality in Geelong
At about 10.50am on Friday last week, paramedics were called to a rubbish transfer station in the Geelong suburb of Grovedale. A young man, just 19 years of age, had been killed after being struck by a bobcat. Initially reported as being in his late 20's, WorkSafe said it appeared the worker had been sorting rubbish when he was struck by the machine. He died at the scene.
I've been an HSR for a couple of years and something happened last week I want some advice on. A PIN notice was rejected by management and handed back to me without action. I believe that under section 60 of the Act they are compelled to display it even if they disagree with it. Is this correct?
Yes, you are absolutely correct. The employer is obliged under section 60(4)(b)(ii) of the Act to display a copy of the PIN "in a prominent place".
But wait: there's more! if the employer 'rejects' the PIN, then he has the legal obligation to contact WorkSafe within 7 days of the PIN being issued. This then triggers a visit to the workplace by an inspector (usually two) who will inquire into the PIN and then make a decision about it (to confirm, amend or cancel the PIN). The employer cannot just hand the PIN back to the HSR and do nothing.
(see this page on Issuing PINs)
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.
ASEA International Conference 2016
Save the date! The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has set the date for its 3rd International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management: Sunday November 13 to Tuesday November 15. It will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre. If last year is anything to go by, the Conference will have a really interesting range of guest speakers.
NSW: Asbestos found at roadworks site
Asbestos has been exposed during roadworks on Dog Rocks Road, west of Oberon, NSW. This has led to fears of exposure to council staff and landholders in the area. An exploration geologist who was driving past the worksite noticed the naturally occurring asbestos and informed the Oberon Council. The grading was suspended and mitigation measures were put in place to prevent dust particles from spreading - despite the mayor issuing an assurance that everything was 'safe'.
Read more: ABC News online
ACT: Residents fear Mr Fluffy homes demolition not safe
Residents in the ACT suburb of Lyons have raised concerns that the demolition of at least one Mr Fluffy house was not safe after observing that safeguards were not being strictly followed. However an ACT Asbestos Taskforce spokeswoman said "there is no temporary stop to works for safety reasons" and that the de-fitting of affected properties in Lyons "are being undertaken safely, with regulation by WorkSafe ACT and informed by licensed asbestos assessors".
Nevertheless, another resident said despite statements about the meticulous pre-demolition processes he worried the removal of built-in furniture with sledgehammers and crowbars could expose parts of walls or disturb fibres that are known to move.
Read more: The Canberra Times
Australian Federal Police investigating union OHS officer
The CFMEU has accused the Australian Federal Police of adopting an "unbalanced and aggressive" approach to union activities and executing the Turnbull government's union-busting ambitions. Peter Clark, one of the OHS Officers with the Victorian branch CFMEU, has this week become the subject of a criminal investigation after he tested the stability of a guard rail during a site visit and it immediately collapsed. A letter from the AFP - seen by The Age - details the allegation of property damage against him. The union said the case was "bizarre" and added to serious concerns that police were responding to political pressure to become more heavily involved in industrial relations matters.
Read more: The Age and check the video: CFMEU OHS Officer finds a death trap - police call it property damage
ACTU: OHS and Workers' Compensation Campaign Organiser
The ACTU is advertising for someone to fill the new role of OHS and Workers' Compensation Organiser. Working closely with Assistant SecretaryMichael Borowick, the elected officer with responsibility for OHS and workers' compensation, this role ensures that Australian Unions are positioned as a leader in delivering safe and healthy workplaces, fair and equitable compensation for injured workers and that these issues are part of the ACTU campaigning strategy. The closing date for applications for the position, which is permanent is 5pm 23 May.
Read more, including full job description and requirements: ACTU Jobs with Unions
Interested in a job at Trades Hall? Hurry!
The VTHC is seeking to employ a part-time (0.6) Women's Rights and Safety Online/Comms Organiser. The position is based at Trades Hall in Carlton, Victoria. The person will work as part of the We Are Union Women Team. The role of We Are Union Women is to educate and organise women workers about rights and safety at work and to create activism for social change to advance working women's rights. Applications close May 16. Find out more: Ethical Jobs
WA: Workers missing in remote Kimberley found safe
Two workers who set off a distress signal last weekend in Western Australia's north have been found. The two men were located by local volunteers about 15 kilometres from the Yulumbu Community. The men set off the signal, which sent an email alert to their company with their GPS coordinates, about 9:00am on Saturday. They had been providing a pest management service to residences in communities along the Gibb River Road, which runs north-east from Derby.
Their vehicle was heavily bogged and, due to excessive rain in the area, they were not able to be reached by road. Police said the men appeared to be in good health and the search helicopter had been sent to the location. Having the appropriate means to alert their employer of their whereabouts no doubt saved their lives.
Source: ABC News online. Read more: Working Alone
Sunsmart warning - workers need to protect themselves even in winter
Last week, Caoimhe Geraghty, SunSmart Workplace and Community Coordinator with Cancer Council Victoria, met with Renata, editor of SafetyNet, to discuss the dangers of UV radiation for outdoor workers. After just a short discussion, it became clear that while many workers are aware of the dangers of exposure to the sun during the summer months, too many may underestimate the risk during winter months.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) recommends, for example, that with a UV Index of just 3 it would take only 26 minutes to exceed the Exposure Limit. (A typical cloudy day in winter may have a UVI of 1, 2 or 3... )
Read more: Sunlight - Ultraviolet Radiation
International Union News
Cambodia: Garment workers' hellish commute
The most dangerous part of a Cambodian garment worker's day is the commute home. When they finish a shift, they can't rest, exhausted after 12 hours stitching clothes for brands like Zara, Gap, and H&M for a basic monthly wage of US$140 plus overtime. Instead, they often have to endure a sometimes multiple-hour commute standing on the back of a truck or in an overloaded minibus. On a good day, they must just suffer dizziness - induced by crazy driving, compounded by malnourishment - and searing heat of the April summer or a rainy season downpour to contend with. On a bad day, there's a crash.
In April, about 70 workers were injured after a truck overturned in Kampong Speu. More than 7,000 workers were injured and 130 killed in crashes in 2015 while another 73 died in 2014, according to the National Social Security Fund, a government body established to deliver compensation for workplace accidents. "The number of factories [and] the number of workers in the industry have grown over the years, the number of vehicles on the road has increased; therefore it's not surprising," says William Conklin, Cambodia director for the international labour rights NGO Solidarity Center.
Read more: Broadly
UK: Lawyers confirm Brexit rights threat
The TUC reports that a new legal opinion has confirmed that workers' employment rights are at risk if the UK votes to leave the EU. The report says that even if the UK was to remain in the single market, but outside the EU, some rights would be at risk, including working time protections, discrimination compensation, and protections for agency workers. The assessment by GQ Employment Law examined a Brexit scenario where the UK negotiates a deal similar to Norway of paying to remain in the single market and abide by all its rules, but outside the EU and without a say in making those rules. Under this scenario, the law firm found that several protections for working people could be reduced.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "A lot of the debate has focussed on how many people might lose their job because of Brexit. But even people whose jobs are not a risk would still face the threat of losing hard-won rights at work." She added: "GQ Employment have optimistically assumed that the UK would negotiate a similar Brexit deal to Norway. But even on this basis, they think that some important employment rights will still be at risk. Nobody knows for certain how bad it could get. But all the employment law experts agree that it will be worse for workers' rights." A March 2016 independent legal opinion for the TUC (Risks 745), noted "it can no longer be assumed that there is a political consensus about improving health and safety standards at work, despite the long history of legislation in this area which has mostly been left intact by successive governments… the regulations which implement duties in EU health and safety directives are both legally and factually vulnerable in the event of Brexit..."
A TUC report on the safety implications of Brexit published in April concluded that if the UK votes to leave the EU, the government would be able to choose whether or not to keep protections derived from EU laws (Risks 748). It warned there is no guarantee ministers would keep health and safety legislation at its current level, noting the UK government has already indicated it wants to reduce the 'red tape' of EU protection. TUC news release. GQ Employment Law news release. Opinion by Michael Ford QC, March 2016. EU Membership and Health and Safety, TUC, April 2016.
Global: The price of your cup of tea
A damning report on the working and living conditions of India's tea workers has been published by the global food and farming union IUF and the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition. 'A Life without dignity - the price of your cup of tea' is the outcome of a fact-finding mission led by the IUF and involving members of the network. The team found that poverty wages and harsh working conditions lead to massive violations of the right to food and nutrition and other human rights of tea workers. Women make up 70 per cent of a workforce of 1.2 million. The report makes detailed recommendations which IUF says will be raised in in the coming months with the Indian government, the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the Committee on World Food Security as well as with tea packers and retailers. It notes the Indian government should "formulate, carry out and periodically review a coherent national policy on safety and health on tea gardens," in line with the ILO's safety in agriculture convention. "This policy shall have the aim of preventing accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with, or occurring in the course of work, by eliminating, minimising or controlling hazards in the agricultural working environment," the report notes. In a recommendation to the industry, it adds: "Tea garden owners must take immediate steps to improve occupational health and safety especially reducing use of highly hazardous pesticides starting with paraquat."
Source: Risks 749 Read more: IUF news release. A Life without dignity - the price of your cup of tea, IUF, May 2016.
Occupational particulates affect heartbeat
A new US study has found that occupational exposure to particulate matter causes irregular heartbeat associated with cardiovascular mortality.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut, Harvard and other institutions assessed the cardio responses of 72 male boilermakers exposed to small particulate matter (PM) while welding, and found a significant increase in heart arrhythmia six to seven hours after exposure. At the same time they monitored the workers' electrocardiograms and PM exposure levels, and found their chances of experiencing ventricular ectopy – irregular heart rhythm caused by a premature heartbeat – increased by three per cent for every 100 micrograms per cubic metre increase in PM.
Read more: Jennifer Cavallari, et al, Environmental and occupational particulate matter exposures and ectopic heart beats in welders. [abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online first doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-103256, May 2016.
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe orders dust suppression to continue at North Melbourne wall site
In a media statement issued last Friday, Victoria's regulator has said that dust suppression measures must continue at the site of a collapsed wall in North Melbourne.
WorkSafe visited the site on Friday following a complaint that strong winds and dry weather over the past few days had caused a dust problem. WorkSafe had been monitoring the site since the wall collapsed on 20 April. Demolition work has not proceeded on the site while the site's management resolves a number of safety issues. Air quality tests in and around the site for asbestos fibres will continue to be conducted until the site has been cleared.
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
There has still been no update to the statistics on fatalities Australia-wide since April 20, at which time 41 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work Australia - this is ten more workers killed at work since the previously reported update on April 8 - each one preventable. 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 November 2105 during which there were 29 work-related notifiable fatalities - compared to 21 in October 2015. The report can be downloaded from the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Construction company fined $50,000
Ducon Pty Ltd, a construction company engaged as Principal Contractor in a project to build a 36 storey apartment building at 175 Kangaroo Road Hughesdale, has been convicted and fined in the Melbourne Magistrates Court after a worker was seriously injured in 2012.
On 5 April a subcontracted concrete pumping truck set up its outriggers on the 'capping beam' in the laneway next to the workplace. A 'capping beam' is solid concrete supported by piles and is usually a suitable place for heavy machinery with outriggers such as concrete pumping trucks to be set up. However, there was an unidentified ventilation shaft within this particular capping beam. The offender had covered the shaft with 100mm layer of concrete, but in doing so created a hazard because the shaft looked like part of the capping beam. There was a real and obvious risk of serious injury or death to a person if the shaft was penetrated. Ducon failed to ensure that the workplace was safe when it failed to visually identify and/or barricade the location of the ventilation shaft.
On that day, a worker was on a mobile scaffold, holding and directing a hose into formwork columns. Six columns had been poured and the concrete pumping truck swung its boom over to the seventh column. The left rear outrigger of the concrete pumping truck penetrated the 100mm layer of concrete, tipping the truck over, The boom came down and hit the scaffold. The worker on the scaffold suffered a crushed right hand, broken right ankle and foot, and a fractured spine. He also required skin grafting. He could easily have been killed.
Ducon was found guilty, convicted and fined $50,000 plus $20,000 costs.
Conviction of employee under s25
Employees have a duty under s25 of the OHS Act - last week a worker was prosecuted and fined for breaching this duty.
On 15 July 2015, the labour hire worker was driving a tipper truck at a site in Brooklyn. While unloading the truck, it came into contact with the overhead power lines, causing it to become enlivened and blowing out one of the front tyres. The worker also had in the truck an unknown non-employee, which was against company policy. Both were put at risk of electrocution, and potential serious injury or death.
The court found the driver had been adequately trained and inducted to be able to carry out his work near power lines safely. That morning of the incident, the site supervisor had given him specific instructions, including the location of the power lines and where to unload his truck. The driver had also been made aware of the dangers of the use of tipper trucks around power lines in April 2015 by way of a Safe Work Method Statement. When the incident occurred, the driver was completing his second unload at the site, having completed one load already, which he had done correctly. He did not have the passenger with him at the time that he completed the first unload. The man pleaded guilty to breaching s25 and was, with conviction, fined $2,000 plus $1,230 costs.
Source: WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings page.
ACT: Case dropped over Ben Catanzariti worksite death
Four years ago, Ben Catanzariti was killed when a faulty concrete pump boom collapsed on him at a construction site on the ACT's Kingston Foreshore. The death put pressure on government to get tough on work safety, and prompted a high-profile prosecution of a multinational concreting company and an engineer, who were responsible for the machine's maintenance.
On Monday, prosecutors were embarrassingly forced to back down, dropping the charges against both defendants. This means that despite all the tough rhetoric no one has been held to account for the failures that caused the boom to collapse.
Schwing Australia Pty Ltd and NSW engineer Phillip James O'Rourke were responsible for maintaining the concrete pump that collapsed on July 21, 2012, killing Mr Catanzariti and seriously injuring two others. It had been alleged that the pump had only recently been serviced and that bolts were incorrectly tightened, and then not checked properly.
After many delays the case concluded when on Monday, when prosecutors said they had no evidence to offer. A new expert report, commissioned by Schwing, had found the failure of the bolts was not due to incorrect tightening, but due to a "metallurgical phenomenon" called hydrogen embrittlement. WorkSafe ACT got its own report, which came to the conclusion that the bolts failed due to stress corrosion cracking. Both reports dealt significant blows to the prosecution's theory pinning responsibility to Schwing and Mr O'Rourke.
The CFMEU says the case raises serious questions about the abilities and expertise of WorkSafe ACT and the Director of Public Prosecutions in handling complex, expensive work safety cases, particularly when they are pitted against wealthy multinationals. CFMEU ACT secretary Dean Hall called for an investigation into the failed prosecution.
Mrs Catanzariti said she felt abused by the process. She said, "Ben is yesterday's news. A number. A statistic. We are nobodies in the high end of town. We are real people." Knowing she would never get her son back, she said, "... I guarantee there will be another death in the ACT because charges have been dropped."
In a written statement she said, "I now realise that Australia's legal system has little to offer ordinary people like us....Justice only exists for those cloaked in money and power."
Source: The Canberra Times
ANZ liable for trip in office
The ANZ bank has been ordered to pay almost $600,000 in damages to a worker who tripped on office cables.
NSW Court of Appeal last week rejected Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd's claim that the worker was contributorily negligent in failing to notice the "obvious" cables under her desk, but reduced her original award of more than $700,000 after reassessing her losses.
March 2011, the Hoban Recruitment System employee, assigned to ANZ's
Five Dock branch in NSW, tripped when she got up from her chair and her
left foot became entangled in the cables under her desk. She sustained
serious knee and shoulder injuries and sued ANZ, arguing it was
negligent in failing to ensure the cables couldn't trip her. The bank
denied liability, arguing it didn't have a duty to warn her of the
risk. It said that as the worker knew there was a telephone and
computer on her desk, it should have been obvious to her that cables
were attached, and she had contributed to the fall by failing to keep
her feet clear of them.
Source: OHS Alert Read more: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd v Haq  NSWCA 93 (3 May 2016)
Mushroom farm fined $165,000 following amputation
In September 2014, a 76-year-old cleaner at was conducting maintenance work on a conveyor at a mushroom farm Oakville, a suburb of Sydney, when a piece of rubbish got stuck between the tail-end pulley and conveyor belt. When he tried to remove the rubbish, his shirt sleeve became caught, and he suffered a serious injury to his right arm. The arm was later amputated. The company was charged for failing to comply with its duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and was convicted and fined $165,000 in the District Court.
SafeWork NSW Executive Director Peter Dunphy said, "SafeWork NSW's investigation found that the business failed to take a number of actions which could have prevented the incident." Following the incident, it installed guarding, implemented a lockout-tagout procedure, improved training and supervision, modified the layout of the plant, implemented exclusion zones and installed limiting switches and residual current devices on electrical components, he said.
EU: New tool for risk assessment in the Sports sector
According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the sports sector accounts for a very high rate of work-related accidents. Comprehensive risk evaluation is the first step forward to proper risk management and employee protection.
The social partners of the sports sector are running a social media campaign on their Online Interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA) tools. The tools are made for comprehensive risk evaluation especially in small and medium sized companies. The three tools respond to the great variety of activities in the sector: active leisure, not for profit and professional sports. Social partners as well as OiRA partners at national level are invited to adapt these EU sports tools to their own needs and context.
Learn more about OiRA and check out the OiRA sports tools on: active leisure, non-for-profit and professional sports
5875 Indian workers died in Gulf countries in 2015
As many as 5875 Indian workers died in Gulf countries last year with maximum number of deaths of 2691 reported from Saudi Arabia, government said last week.
Saudi Arabia was followed by UAE which reported 1540 deaths in 2015, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said while replying to a written question in Lok Sabha. While Qatar reported 279 deaths, there were 520 Indian workers who died in Oman, he said, adding 223 deaths had occurred in Bahrain, 611 in Kuwait and 11 in Iraq.
It is concerning that Singh ruled out any co-relation between cases of deaths of Indian migrant workers and employment in hazardous occupations, and said as reported by the Indian missions/posts in Gulf countries, the death of Indian workers is mostly due to natural causes and traffic accidents.