SafetyNet 365, June 1, 2016
There has been yet another fatality this week: a tradesman was killed when a brick and wrought iron fence collapsed in the Geelong suburb of Belmont yesterday afternoon. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
The VTHC OHS Unit welcomes our subscribers to the latest edition of SafetyNet - please use it, circulate it, and send us any comments you might have.
Note: Due to staff absences, there will be no edition of SafetyNet next week. But remember you can get by following 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. If you're not on social media, feel free to contact us via email.
Fatality in Geelong
A 66 year old tradesman died yesterday afternoon after being crushed by a brick and wrought iron fence in the Geelong suburb of Belmont. The man, a bricklayer, had been repairing the low level fence at the front of a home, when it collapsed on him. He suffered critical injuries to his upper body and died at the scene. Police said the man had been working at the property since Monday.
This is Victoria's 15th workplace death this year, and Geelong's second in less than four weeks, after a worker was crushed by a bobcat at a Grovedale worksite on May 6. Acting Sergeant Shane Dignan said it was two deaths too many. "We just have to be safe at work. We have to put things in place that this sort of thing doesn't happen," he said. WorkSafe is investigating the incident.
Source: The Geelong Advertiser
My workplace (a retail outlet) has for months now been operating at a very cold temperature probably around 12 degrees or less. We have been told that the reason for this is that the "temperature control" is broken. However management does not seem to have done anything about it, nor explained to us what the problem is. Not only have the workers complained, but many customers have as well.
We are even more concerned now that it's winter and we can expect colder temperatures. I feel the cold is severely impacting on my health. I am wearing several layers: a singlet, long-sleeve thermal sweater, the work polo, a ski-jacket, a beanie, two pairs of socks, leggings and pants and I am still cold. The other workers are the same. I was inquiring as to whether there was any possibility that you could intervene to fix this issue.
Under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act, your employer has a legal duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes ensuring that 'plant' is in working order and is properly maintained. The employer must also monitor conditions (such as temperature) and monitor the health of employees (check out Duties of employers).
Clearly 12 degrees is too cold to be working in. Although there is no minimum or maximum temperature mandated in the law, a workplace that is so cold is neither healthy nor safe and so your employer must take action. The Compliance Code for Workplace Amenities and Work Environment sets out what the employer needs to do to comply with their duties under the Act, and sets out what temperatures in a workplace should be.
Take a look at this page on the site - although its title refers to 'Offices', it applies to all workplaces
We are not able to come to the workplace and do anything about it, as we do not have the power or the resources to do this. I advise you to contact your union (or join one) and I suggest you do the following:
- talk with the other workers, get their views, and let them know what the situation should be;
- elect/choose a couple of you to meet with the manager/boss and discuss the situation, what the employer duties are under the law, and ask for the system to be repaired. Get a date on when this will happen;
- If it looks like it may take some time, ask that temporary heating be provided; and
- if you have problems, let him or her know the situation is not acceptable, and your next step may be to contact WorkSafe for advice (Advisory line: 9641 1444)
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.
Police Association: Mental Health & Wellbeing review welcomed
In congratulating Chief Commissioner Ashton for initiating the review, Ron Iddles, secretary of the Police Association Victoria (TPA) said, "The report shines a light on the highly-flawed leadership and workplace culture that exists within Victoria Police that has led to the unfair stigmatisation of those who suffer from mental health problems. In turn, this culture has caused members to suffer in silence for fear that reaching out for help would come at far too heavy a price by way of adverse consequences for their police career."
The TPA welcomed the report's 39 wide-ranging recommendations focusing on ensuring that the organisation, as a whole, becomes more 'literate' and equipped when it comes dealing with mental health, fixing the leadership culture, and adopting prevention and early intervention strategies. The Chief Commissioner has committed to accepting and implementing all 39 recommendations.
Read more: Victoria Police Mental Health Review, TPA Media Release and 'Suck it up': Mental health stigma entrenched in Victoria Police, review finds, The Age
Victorian government program to tackle hire rate of ambulance officer suicide
A state government $1 million mental health training program, to be delivered by Beyond Blue, is looking to address the high suicide rate among Victorian paramedics. The rate of suicide for ambulance workers is four times higher than the general public, demonstrating the high toll the job takes on them. The program has been welcomed by the AEAV, the ambulance union. For such a program to be as effective as possible, however, the work-related contributors to the high levels of stress will need to be addressed as well.
"They never know what they're going to expect, but that might be having to confront really serious road trauma, family violence, very challenging paediatric injuries as well," Health Minister Ms Jill Hennessy said. "It is not just being exposed to those immediate trauma, it is sometimes just the long, slow burn of being a paramedic that is taking its toll."
Read more: Victorian paramedics to benefit from $1m mental health training package ABC news online. Related: ISCRR Report - Compensation claims among nurses and ambulance officers [pdf]. May 2016
NSW: Council discovered illegally dumping asbestos - again!
Asbestos has been found in another Wollongong City Council soil mound put in place to curb illegal dumping. The latest discovery, at Kembla Grange, is less than three weeks after the council admitted it unwittingly dumped construction waste piles riddled with asbestos along the Old Princes Highway between Sublime Point and Waterfall. In a statement, general manager David Farmer said council had barricaded the latest site, erected warning signs and reported the find to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Read more: More Wollongong council dumped asbestos uncovered,The Northern Daily Leader
Italy: Constitutional Court's Landmark Verdict
After criminal convictions of Swiss billionaire Stephen Schmidheiny for the asbestos deaths of thousands of Italians were voided on a technicality by Italy's Supreme Court in 2014, charges for 240 other asbestos deaths were brought by the Turin Public Prosecutor. Schmidheiny's defense team had alleged these charges were invalid following the concept of double jeopardy (where person cannot be tried twice for the same crime). This argument has been considered by Italy's constitutional court which will issue its ruling over whether the case can proceed on May 31. See: Eternit bis, Casale torna a mobilitarsi per tutti i morti di Amianto [Eternit encore, Casale returns to mobilize over asbestos deaths]. Source: IBAS
Italy: consequences of asbestos in schools
More than 2,400 schools throughout Italy are contaminated with asbestos. Data from 2015, recorded 63 mesothelioma deaths amongst school staff; those worst affected included: primary school teachers (10), high school teachers (six), intermediate teachers (six), cleaners, etc. (six), chemical engineers (five), researchers, technical graduates and similar (three) and middle school teachers (three). A trial to being June 29, 2016 in Florence will be the first Italian case for the death of a school teacher from asbestos disease. See: Stop amianto nelle scuole, scoppia la polemica a sinistra [Eliminate asbestos in schools, controversy amongst left-wing parties]. Source: IBAS
France: Asbestos Exposures at EU Parliament
After hearing evidence regarding asbestos exposures at the European Parliament's Strasbourg headquarters in 2013, a guilty verdict was handed down last week on the behaviour of two of the three defendants. The guilty parties received suspended prison sentences of three months and fines of €20,000 (AUD30,800). A criminal case pending in this matter is yet to be decided as are claims brought by some of the 330 asbestos-exposed individuals and the European Parliament which has begun proceedings to recover sums spent on the remediation of the building. See: Amiante au Parlement européen: prison et amende avec sursis requis [Asbestos in the European Parliament: suspended prison sentence and fine]. Source: IBAS
Cleaner sacked for making a cup of coffee wins unfair dismissal case
With help from his union, United Voice, a young casual cleaner in NSW has won damages and been given the right to his old job back when the Fair Work Commission concluded his dismissal for having a cup of coffee before his shift was "unjust and unreasonable", and not theft, constituting "serious misconduct warranting summary dismissal" as the company Glad Group Pty Ltd claimed.
"In my view, describing his conduct as theft verges on an abuse of the English language as used and understood by the ordinary person," Fair Work Commission vice president Adam Hatcher said. "Equally the consumption of a glass of water drawn from a client's tap on a hot day would also constitute theft and the use of a client's toilets to answer an urgent call of nature without express prior permission would be a trespass."
It should be remembered that under OHS/WHS legislation, an employer/PCBU has a duty to provide adequate facilities for workers - including water, access to toilets and so on. Further, it would not be a stretch to suggest that there may be a number of other possible OHS issues for workers employed by a company such as the Glad Group, such as micro-management; stress and more.
Read more: Sacked for having a cup of coffee on the job The Sydney Morning Herald
Tunnel workers exposed to excessive ultrafine particles
A Norwegian study of tunnel construction work has identified the types of workers exposed to high concentrations of hazardous ultrafine particles, which are associated with respiratory and cardiovascular disease. The researchers found those most at risk of exposure were workers who performed PVC welding in a vertical position, with the next most at-risk workers were horizontal PVC welders, followed by slipforming machine operators and verge-finishing operators. The study was undertaken in the subsea tunnel project in Norway.
The researchers, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Trondheim University Hospital, said tunnel construction workers are exposed to particulate and gaseous air contaminants such as quartz, oil mist, oil vapours, organic carbon, elemental carbon, nitrogen dioxide, ammonia and thoracic, total and respirable dust. They said respiratory diseases are common in these workers. Similar types of exposures have been documented for other occupations, including metal welding, rubber manufacturing, asphalt and paving-related work, and work with industrial plants, as well as from cooking and surgical smoke.
Read more: Rikke Bramming Jørgensen, et al, Personal exposure to ultrafine particles from PVC welding and concrete work during tunnel rehabilitation. [abstract] Norway, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first 25 March 2016. Source: OHSAlert
WorkSafe Victoria News
WorkSafe Awards - now open!
Entries for Victoria's most prestigious workplace safety awards opened today, June 1, and WorkSafe is calling on everyone to help to ensure that 2016 is the most successful awards yet.
Both WorkSafe and the VTHC want workers to approach people and organisations that deserved to be recognised and then encourage them to apply. Last year there were almost 200 entries across
8 different categories. This year WorkSafe has added another category that reflects its increased focus on manual handling.
The regulator says it has improved the awards website and is planning "an exciting new format for the presentation of the awards" and holding a Gala dinner to replace the theatre style ceremony of last year.
This year's categories are:
- Health and Safety Representative of the Year
- Occupational Health and Safety Achievement Award (for an individual)
- Best solution to a manual handling issue (New for 2016)
- Best solution to a specific workplace health and safety issue
- Health and safety invention of the year
- Commitment to workplace health and well-being
- Employer excellence in return to work
- Return to work coordinator excellence Worker return to work achievement
In particular, we encourage people to think about recognising their HSR. Workplaces with active, informed and well-supported HSRs are healthier and safer workplaces. It is often a thankless task! If anyone would like further information, call WorkSafe on 1800 136 089; send an email, or visit the Awards website.
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
In the editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on May 26, Allan Beacom from the WorkSafe Construction Program writes about site housekeeping. He says that since the launch of its 'Back to Basics' campaign in 2009, WorkSafe has continuously sought to keep the issue of site housekeeping at the forefront of builders' and subcontractors' site management. He notes that while the level of site housekeeping has improved over the last seven years, poor housekeeping is still found too frequently on many sites. On average, WorkSafe inspectors are addressing substandard housekeeping in over 25 per cent of construction sites inspected.
As well as news from around the country, the newsletter also has links to a number of Victorian and other regulator Safety Alerts.
There were 64 Reported Incidents in the period from 6 May – 19 May 2016. These include: 22 lacerations, 19 near misses, eight fractures, four unknowns, three punctures, two electric shocks, one each of cardiac arrest, crush, amputation, multiple injuries, graze/bruising and broken teeth.
Read the May 26 edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox online, and download the list of notified incidents.
- from WorkSafe Victoria: Working near slopes in quarries - Issued after the recent fatality, this alert highlights the risk of working near the crest and toes of slopes in quarries and provides advice on how to reduce the risk of slope failure.
- Guidance: Walking scissor lifts - The Elevating Work Platform Association of Australia has released guidance on driving scissor lifts through doorways and other low openings and provides advice on reducing the risks.
- From the Department of Industry NSW, Exploding Lead Acid Batteries [pdf] - following four reported explosions involving lead-acid batteries in NSW open cut coal mines since November 2015.
Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
As of May 31, 2016, 63 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work Australia - this is thirteen more workers killed at work since the previously reported update on May 12. The fatalities this year have been in the following industries:
- 18 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 19 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 7 in Construction;
- 5 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- 3 in Arts & recreation services;
- 3 in 'other services';
- 2 in health care & social assistance;
- 2 in Information media & telecommunications;
- 1 in Public administration & safety;
- 1 in Retail trade;
- 1 in Mining and
- 1 in professional, scientific & technical services
More information and to check for updates, 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 (to download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
SA: Labour hire company fined $150,000
Queensland based labour hire company Fix Force (Qld) Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $150,000 in South Australia over an incident in October 2012 when a worker was almost killed when his head was crushed between a lifting arm and a welding table on a construction project. Industrial Magistrate Lieschke found that Fix Force had failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure employee safety.
After the conviction, SafeWork SA executive director Marie Boland said that labour-hire companies must "ensure hazard identification and risk assessments are completed at the host workplace before allowing employees to work in and around items of plant". She stressed: "This conviction reinforces that a labour-hire company has a work health and safety duty to employees which cannot be delegated to others including joint venture partners." Read more: Industrial Court imposes hefty fine on another labour hire company [pdf] SA WorkCover Media Release; Miserable failures in OHS of labour hire workers, discussion on Kevin Jones' SafetyAtWorkBlog
Millions of people trapped in modern slavery: global index
Almost 46 million people are living as slaves globally, according to the third Global Slavery Index launched on Tuesday with Australian actor Russell Crowe.
The index, by Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation, increased its estimate of people born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labor to 45.8 million from 35.8 million in 2014.
Andrew Forrest, founder of Walk Free, said the rise of nearly 30 percent was due to better data collection, although he feared the situation was getting worse with global displacement and migration increasing vulnerability to all forms of slavery. Incidences of slavery were found in all 167 countries in the index, with India home to the largest total number with an estimated 18.4 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population. North Korea ranked as worst in terms of concentration with one in every 20 people - or 4.4 percent of its 25 million population - in slavery and its government doing the least to end this with reports of state-sanctioned forced labor.
Read more: SBS News and The Global Slavery Index Findings
EU to propose shorter glyphosate license renewal
European Union states will meet next week in an effort to agree a far shorter license renewal for herbicide glyphosate before the current one expires, which would require the phasing out of products such as Monsanto's Roundup.
The EU executive will put a new proposal for a license renewal of between one and two years to experts from the EU's 28 nations on June 6, according to EU sources. The Commission initially proposed a 15-year authorization, which it later cut to nine years, amid a transatlantic row over whether glyphosate may cause cancer. It twice delayed a vote to extend the license because it lacked sufficient support, following opposition from France and Germany. If no decision is reached, manufacturers will have six months to phase out glyphosate products from the market.
Read more: Reuters.