SafetyNet 364, May 25, 2016
It is with great sadness that we report that in the last week four Victorians were killed at work.
This brings the number of Victorians killed at work in 2016 to 14.
The VTHC OHS Unit hopes that our subscribers - old and new - find the latest edition of SafetyNet useful. 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 We are Union Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out - and ask to join.
Four fatalities in four days
WorkSafe is calling on all farmers to make safety their absolute priority following a horror period in which three men died in separate farming incidents over three days.
On Friday, a 61 year old farmer, was killed when he became entangled under a feed mixer being towed behind his tractor. The incident occurred on a dairy farm near Echuca.
On Saturday, a 49 year old farmer, was killed when he got caught in an air seeder being towed behind his tractor on a farm at Marnoo in the Wimmera.
Then on Sunday, a man was killed when his quad bike overturned and crushed him on his property near Merrijig, east of Mansfield. The man, 65, is believed to have been riding the bike up a hill when it overturned. It appears that he was not wearing a helmet, and that the bike was not fitted with a crush protection device (CPD). It has since been revealed that the man was prominent Melbourne barrister, Ross Ray, QC - who ironically in the past has represented quad bike manufacturers objecting to devices that can protect this type of incident. During his legal career Ray was involved in many workplace-related cases, including the Grocon wall collapse, the Essendon football club and more. According to Kevin Jones, "Ray seems to have sometimes defended companies from OHS prosecutions and helped OHS regulators, like WorkSafe Victoria, to prosecute OHS breaches."
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said it would be inappropriate to comment about the specifics of each case as WorkSafe investigations were continuing. However, she said the three tragedies had left families mourning the loss of loved ones and local communities in shock.
And a non-farming fatality: On Monday morning a man was killed after an incident in which the truck he was driving rolled into a quarry at Plumpton, north-west of Melbourne. Initial reports are that the worker was operating a dump truck at the site when the incident occurred. He was taken to hospital and died a short time later.
WorkSafe is investigating.
Sources: WorkSafe media releases: Plea for caution after three farm deaths in three days and Man dies after truck roll over in quarry;Kevin Jones SafetyAtWorkBlog Irony in tragedy masks an interesting legal career
Industrial manslaughter should be a crime
Two years ago, on May 20, Anthony ('Hollywood') Attard was killed at work when he was crushed under a trailer at Toll Shipping in Melbourne. Sam Hatfield, the VTHC's OHS Campaigns Organiser, was a work colleague. Last week Sam posted in our Facebook page: "WorkSafe are still yet to prosecute the company over Tony's death. This is despite Union and HSR investigations at the time that found a further 38 workplace practices that posed a serious, imminent or immediate risk to health and safety."
He added, "We need to push for stronger OHS laws in particular, jail terms for dodgy bosses who seriously injure or kill workers. It's not good enough on the street, it shouldn't be accepted at work. There needs to be a deterrent for industry because the current penalties aren't working." Sam reminded everyone to sign the ETU's petition calling for industrial manslaughter to be made a crime. Have you signed it yet? If not, sign it now.
At this year's national conference the MUA screened Safety - a video about safety in the industry, the fatalities and what has to be done.
We use Spray and Wipe, Ajax and other cleaning products in each classroom and these are stored in a cupboard under each room's sink. Would it be okay to install a magnet child lock or does it have to be a keyed lock?
The issue of storage of cleaning products is one for many workplaces, particularly those where 'chemicals' are not generally used, such as offices, child care facilities, and so on. Cleaning products are not necessarily safe, even if they are retail products. With regard to the storage of retail products, however, there is nothing specific mandated in OHS legislation - but the employer has a general duty of care under the Act both to employees and also to 'others' (such as students) to ensure that their health and safety is not put at risk.
Under s21 the employer has to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health and this includes ensuring an absence of risk in the use, handling, storage or transport of 'substances'. (See Duties of employers)
So... The cleaning products could pose a risk to the children - this risk should me eliminated or minimized. IF a magnet is judged to be a sufficient method of eliminating/minimising the risk, then fine. If this could still allow access, then something more secure needs to be installed - but not necessarily a keyed lock.
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.
Clean up bill of $100,000 for dumped asbestos
Victoria's Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has announced that a West Wimmera man caught illegally dumping building waste has incurred clean-up costs of nearly $100,000. Three buildings at three locations were discovered to have been burnt and buried around the Edenhope area earlier this year, one site contained asbestos. The man, son of serving councillor Ron Hawkins, was earlier this year issued with $5,000 in fines for the offences but the remediation costs are about $95,000.
Read more: ABC News Online
Asbestoswise Annual Appeal 2016
Asbestos diseases support and advocacy group Asbestoswise is holding its annual appeal for donations. The organisation operates an Information Line, providing advice to anyone with an asbestos-related query. In addition to the Information Line, the Asbestoswise Information Service includes: Information Sheets, a comprehensive Website, Home Renovation DVDs, Home Show attendance and publication of the Snippets bulletin. The organisation also runs support groups for those with an asbestos-related disease and their families. Please donate - every dollar counts. Donations can be made securely online, or via cheque or credit card. Read more: Asbestoswise Annual Appeal
James Hardie: $US100m share buy back
Building products supplier James Hardie has announced it will buy back up to $US100 million of its shares over the next 12 months. The company is also expecting to see moderate growth in the US housing market and growth in Australian sales in 2016/2017, after a 16 per cent drop in annual year net profit in 2015/16 to $US244 million ($A338 million).
ASEA International Conference November 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.
UK: New guidance on Asbestos from the TUC
The TUC has developed new guidance for health and safety representatives: Asbestos - time to get rid of it!
Referring to the scale of the problem, not too unlike that in Australia, the TUC says, "Asbestos is the biggest cause of workplace
deaths. This year 5,000 people are likely to die prematurely as a result of asbestos exposure. This is around three times the number of road accident deaths. Most of those who die do so as a result of mesothelioma, a kind of cancer that can be caused by very low levels of exposure. Tragically it is always
fatal. Almost all of the people who are dying today were exposed to asbestos decades ago, so asbestos is now often seen as being a problem of the past as its importation and use have been banned since 1999." Australia banned asbestos import, use and reuse in 2003 - yet for us too it is not a problem
of the past.
Read more, and download the 6-page guide on the TUC site.
Brazil: Implications of Italian Court Ruling
Brazilian blog Amianto (Asbestos) underlines the significance for asbestos victims in Brazil of a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court expected on May 31, 2016 in Rome. Swiss entrepreneur Stephan Schmidheiny, whose Eternit asbestos group operated in Italy, Brazil and scores of other countries, faces charges related to the asbestos deaths of 258 people between 1989 and 2014; 66 were former Eternit workers, the rest were members of the public.
See: Corte Constitucional Italiana Julga em 31/5 mais um processo crime contra o Billardário Suíça do Amianto, Stephen Schmidheiny [Italian Constitutional Court Judgment May 31 on another Criminal Case against Swiss Billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny]. Source IBAS
Fiskville report finds firefighters deserve 'justice'
The report into the contamination at the Fiskville training facility was tabled in the Victorian parliament yesterday. The inquiry, set up in 2014, has found that contamination at the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA)'s training facility is likely to have caused cancer, confirming the long-held belief of many firefighters. The Victorian government permanently closed the sitelast year.
The report made 125 findings and 31 recommendations, including that the State Government set up a dedicated redress scheme. According to the report "epidemiological evidence suggests that the contamination at Fiskville is likely to have caused cancer and other illnesses" and "People who have been harmed by unsafe training practices at Fiskville have a right to justice." It was particularly critical of the CFA, the executives of which used "Big Tobacco" type tactics to hide scientific studies on the toxins at the site.
Mick Tisbury from the United Firefighters Union said he felt 'vindicated' by the findings that staff and their families were exposed to unsafe practices. "We knew how bad things were, we knew that there were cover ups, didn't know the extent of it, and this committee has found the unbelievable evidence to show that firefighters have been lied to," he said. "This has been a long hard battle. The truth had to come out. They [the CFA and MFB] failed in their duty of care to look after us. We've got no problem putting our life on the line to look after the public."
Read more: CFA Executives failed Fiskville trainees on safety, committee finds The Herald Sun; Fiskville report: Firefighters deserve 'justice' over toxic CFA training facility, report finds ABC Online
Reminder: VTHC Women's Conference, June 7
If you haven't yet registered for the VTHC Women's Conference, do so quickly. Women will have an opportunity to discuss what they want and how they are going get it. Join women from a diverse range of unions and women's community organisations at the VTHC in Carton. Keynote speakers are Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Ged Kearney, ACTU President.
The program features:
- What women want – results from the WRAW Chat process to date
- Perspectives on power pre and post the federal election
- Campaigning skills frameworks
- Interactive workshops facilitated by organisers and educators who are leading social change
All women are welcome. Contact your union to find out to register as part of your union's delegation. If you are not a member of a union you can register as a Community Activist.
Find out more here or contact one of our Women's Organisers on 96593 537
Queensland: CFMEU confirms eighth case of black lung disease
Last week we reported that the seventh case of black lung had been confirmed, with the union predicting there would be more. The eighth case was confirmed this week. According to CFMEU, the worker who is in his early forties worked as a contractor at several mines in Queensland and New South Wales. CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President Steve Smyth said the union is aware of at least twelve cases already.
International Union News
South Africa: Gold miners can sue over deadly silicosis
Former gold miners in South Africa can go ahead with a class action against mining companies over health damage they believe was caused by exposure to silica at work, a court in Johannesburg has ruled. The high court decision paves the way for what could become the largest class action in South African history. The ex-miners say they contracted silicosis, an incurable lung disease, after years of working in the mines. The court said that a class action was "the only realistic option." The case could last up to 10 years. Among the defendants in the case are Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and African Rainbow Minerals.
Most of the miners who contracted silicosis while working underground have been unable to work for many years, dependent on government grants for a living. National union federation COSATU welcomed the decision to allow the cases to proceed. A statement noted: "So many lives have been destroyed by the reckless failure of mine bosses to ensure that mineworkers are not exposed to the silica dust. The mine bosses through greed, mismanagement, short-sightedness and narrow focus on their profits have destroyed the industry and people's lives." It added it was "disconcerting that mining companies are failing to prioritise health and safety of workers over profits. We have seen mine managers and bosses using all the tricks available to avoid provision of a safe and healthy working environment. All of these things need to change and they need to change soon. Mineworkers are the ones who did the back-breaking work to build this economy and this country and they deserve justice." As well as silicosis, workplace silica exposure is known to cause conditions including lung cancer, kidney damage and autoimmune diseases. Read more: COSATU news release. Source: Risks 751.
And in India - silicosis kills hundreds in stone quarries
After over 230 deaths due to silicosis in quarries in India's Godhra, workers are still being exposed to silica and those with silicosis are still waiting for compensation.
Read more: The India Express. Find out more about Silica
Workers who are bullied or harassed at higher risk of suicide
Australian researchers from Deakin and Melbourne Universities surveyed 932 people from a range of occupations, and found participants that experienced bullying or harassment at work were more likely to have "suicide ideation" (or suicidal thoughts), and scored much higher on the Kessler-6, or K6, psychological distress scale.
Their findings include:
- psychosocial factors such as low job control and job insecurity were "predictors of suicide ideation",
- low supervisor support, high job demands and high job insecurity were predictors of bullying.
- those who thought about suicide were more likely to be employed in medium-low and low skill occupations,
- more women reported bullying than men,.
They said there was increasing evidence of the relationship between psychosocial job stressors such as bullying and mental ill-health, although limited data on how those stressors are connected to suicide ideation, especially in the Australian context. The researchers concluded that their results suggested the need for organizational level intervention (rather than individual intervertion) to address psychosocial job stressors, including bullying.
Read more: Milner, A, et al Psychosocial Working Conditions and Suicide Ideation: Evidence From a Cross-Sectional Survey of Working Australians. [abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published ahead of print doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000700, May 2016.
Pesticides linked to childhood leukaemia
Belgian researchers conducted a systematic review of published studies on the association between residential/household/domestic exposure to pesticides and childhood leukaemia,in order to provide a quantitative estimate of the risk. Their findings support the assumption that residential pesticide exposure may be a contributing risk factor for childhood leukaemia but available data were too scarce for causality ascertainment. It may be opportune to consider preventive actions, including educational measures, to decrease the use of pesticides for residential purposes and particularly the use of indoor insecticides during pregnancy.
Read more: Van Maele-Fabry G, Lantin AC, Hoet P, Lison D. Residential exposure to pesticides and childhood leukaemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. [abstract] Environ Int. 2011 Jan;37(1):280-91. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.08.016
Flame Retardants a significant health risk for women
Recent US research has found that exposure to flame retardants, widespread in developed countries, may be linked to thyroid problems, especially in post-menopausal women. Safety standards have led to materials such as furniture foams, mattress and carpet padding, and many other consumer products and building materials are treated with flame retardants. The study published in Environmental Health suggests that exposure to one of the most widely used class of flame retardants, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, which are known to 'migrate' out of products cause these problems.
PBDEs have been found in household dust, food, in animals and nearly everywhere else scientists have looked. PBDEs have previously raised health concerns because of their environmental persistence, their ability to build up in fat tissue and because some have been linked to cancer in animal studies. Additional studies have shown PBDEs to interfere with endocrine hormones, including thyroid hormones.
Read more: Flame Retardant Exposure Poses A Significant Health Risk to Women Earth Island Journal; Allen, J et al PBDE flame retardants, thyroid disease, and menopausal status in U.S. women Environmental Health 201615:60 DOI: 10.1186/s12940-016-0141-0
Australia's National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has assessed some of the polybrominated flame retardants in use in Australia for both environmental and health concerns under the Priority Existing Chemicals program. The NICNAS PEC report was published in February 2016 [PEC 20: Polybrominated flame retardants (PBFRs) (opens as a word document)].
OHS Regulator News
Safe Work Australia News
SWA releases new cancer Exposure Surveys showing most workers exposed to carcinogens
A random, population-based sample of 5528 Australian workers participated in the Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES). Workers answered questions about the tasks they completed and the controls used at work. Based on their responses to those questions, the likelihood of exposure to 38 known or suspected carcinogens was estimated.
Safe Work Australia has now produced three reports
- The Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES): Carcinogen Exposures in the Construction Industry, May 2016
459 AWES respondents were categorised as working in the construction industry. Most construction workers in this study (96 per cent) were estimated to have a probable exposure to at least one carcinogen and just over half (53 per cent) were estimated to have probable exposures to at least four carcinogens. The most common carcinogens they were probably exposed were solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation (86 per cent), environmental tobacco smoke (59 per cent), crystalline silica (38 per cent), diesel engine exhaust (37 per cent), wood dust (36 per cent) and lead (24 per cent). The reported use of controls to prevent or minimise exposures varied considerably by task and circumstance. For example, controls were considered adequate for only about 7 per cent of the time for outdoor workers exposed to solar UV radiation, but 63 per cent of the time for painters engaged in certain aspects of painting preparation work.
- The Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES): Carcinogen Exposures in the Agricultural Industry, May 2016
This report describes the responses provided by 156 AWES participants working in the agriculture industry. Most agricultural industry workers in the study (99 per cent) were estimated to have a probable exposure to at least one carcinogen. The most common carcinogens they were probably exposed were solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation (99 per cent), diesel engine exhaust (94 per cent), benzene (82 per cent), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (76 per cent) and wood dust (71 per cent). The main circumstances or tasks associated with probable exposure included working outside, using diesel powered equipment, refuelling petrol powered equipment, repairing motors and other farming equipment and cutting wood. The reported use of controls to prevent or minimise exposures varied considerably by task and circumstance.
- The Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES): Carcinogen Exposures in the Manufacturing Industry, May 2016
There were 281 AWES respondents categorised as working in the manufacturing industry. Approximately two-thirds (67 per cent) of manufacturing workers in this study were estimated to have a probable exposure to at least one carcinogen. The most common carcinogens to which AWES manufacturing workers were probably exposed were diesel engine exhaust (20 per cent), chromium VI (19 per cent), environmental tobacco smoke (17 per cent), nickel (16 per cent), solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation (15 per cent) and wood dust (14 per cent). Once again, the reported use of controls to prevent or minimise exposures varied considerably by task and circumstance. For example, about half (47 per cent) of those workers who soldered were considered to be adequately protected but ventilation systems or respiratory protective equipment were used by all workers when using power tools.
The AWES states: "While most workers will not develop cancer as a result of work-related exposures, those exposed to known or suspected carcinogens are at greater risk." While this is technically correct ("most" means more than half), and additionally, the exposures are broad and not quantified. Nevertheless, the AWES demonstrates that a huge number of workers are being exposed to carcinogens; and the level of exposure is unknown. Even if we were to estimate that 10 per cent of cancers are work related that is a huge number of preventable cancers.
Safe Work Australia asks: "Are you GHS ready?"
The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) becomes mandatory for workplace hazardous chemicals from 1 January 2017. SWA has answered frequently asked questions on what the GHS is and what needs to be done. Go to the SWA website for more information.
Fatality statistics There had been no update on these stats since May 12, when 50 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work Australia. To check whether this has been updated, go to 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.
Victoria: slap on wrist for exposing workers to deadly asbestos
On 17 February 2015, a WorkSafe Inspector attended a domestic renovation being undertaken by Construction company Shane Cook Homes Pty. Ltd. The inspector noted some workers removing rubble from the partially demolished dwelling, and others working around suspected asbestos containing material ('ACM'). Later tests confirmed the material contained asbestos. None of the workers were wearing protective clothing or equipment; no-one on site or the company held an asbestos removal licence. The area of asbestos containing material removed was greater than 10 square meters and the total time over which asbestos removal work was performed was greater than 1 hour within a 7 day period in breach of the asbestos chapter of the OHS Regulations 2007. The company pleaded guilty in the Bacchus Marsh Magistrate's Court and was without conviction sentenced to an adjourned undertaking for a period of 6 months and ordered to pay $5,000 to the Country Fire Authority plus costs of $1,500.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
NSW: Company fined $240,000 for explosion
Brilliant Along Developments, a Sydney construction company, was this week fined $240,000 over a July 2013 explosion at a house construction site. The blast at the Eastwood site occurred when an unqualified contractor, hired by the company, dragged one of three petrol storage tanks earmarked for removal out of the ground with an excavator, a SafeWork NSW investigation found. The explosion destroyed a building at the site, other properties and damaged windows across the road. He had already removed two of the tanks before the explosion involving the third tank. It was pure luck that no one was injured in the incident.
USA: Toilet breaks blocked by chicken firms
Workers in America's poultry plants are being routinely denied bathroom breaks, research by Oxfam America has found. Its report, No relief, is based on months of research and exposes how poultry workers struggle to cope. The study found workers are forced "to urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers [nappies] to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security." Oxfam concludes "they are in danger of serious health problems," with women hit particularly hard. "I was stunned when poultry workers in Arkansas told me that people regularly wear diapers to work in the plants," said Minor Sinclair, director of Oxfam America's US programme. "They feel they have to put up with this, to keep their jobs. The supervisors do whatever they can to keep the line running at breakneck speed, and the companies turn a blind eye, as they're racking up record profits."
Read more: Oxfam America news release and report, No relief: Denial of bathroom breaks in the poultry industry, May 2015. Source: Risks 751
USA: Oregon Governor issues order to company to stop burning toxic metals
Last week Oregon's Governor Kate Brown issued an unprecedented order requiring Southeast Portland's Bullseye Glass to stop burning toxic metals in unfiltered furnaces. State officials said the decision was based on a crucial new piece of data: a one-day spike in airborne lead detected at a daycare center. Lead is a neurotoxin which has harmful effects on children's developing brains.
The order marked a dramatic shift for regulators who for months have ignored the discovery of lead in Southeast Portland's air. Monitors had already found a one-day spike of lead nearly four months ago, but they did not act, excluding lead from subsequent rules meant to control Bullseye's toxic pollution.
Air testing released in early February found a concentration of lead in late October that was 1.6 times above the state's short-term safety goal. The state acted last Thursday after finding a single reading 2.7 times higher than the standard. According to a state health official, a level capable of
permanently lowering a child's IQ
Read more: State does turnaround on lead in Portland air, now says levels unacceptable, The Oregonian
Bangladesh: At lease three workers killed in factory fire
At least three workers were killed and five others are injured in a fire at a textile factory in Narsingdi on the weekend. The police said the fire originated with stored chemicals on the ground floor. Workers sleeping inside the factory building were trapped and died of suffocation.
Mom Tex deputy general manager Nazmul Islam said, "We suspect the electricity short-circuited, causing a fire in the storage room where dyes and paints were kept. The workers who were resting in the upper floors died due to suffocation from smoke."
Bangladesh's garment industry accounts for 80 percent of the country's exports. The industry has a shocking safety record, with several catastrophic workplace incidents claiming many lives, such as the November 2012 fire that killed at least 111 workers, and the Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 1,130 workers. Source: SafetyCulture OHSNews