SafetyNet 366, June 15, 2016
After a week's absence, here's the latest edition of SafetyNet - a little shorter than normal due to Renata's absence and a public holiday this week. Please use as much of the material in your workplaces and please send us comments.
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According to the Law, are copy machines and printers
supposed to be in a closed room with walls and a door rather than in the open
near employees? Please provide any written documentation.
Thank you! J
The matter you're asking about is not specifically addressed in legislation. This is because OHS/WHS legislation in Australia is what we call 'objective based' – that is, the duties on the employer require that they provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This is called the 'general duty of care'. But the law is not 'prescriptive' – that is, it does not generally mandate HOW this should be done, except in some limited circumstances (like asbestos removal).
However, employers, in order to comply with the general duty of care, must ensure that hazards and risks at the workplace are identified, and then either eliminated or controlled.
Copying machines and so on should, where possible, be situated well away from workers. There is some guidance material for workplaces on such machines – this is because depending on the type, its age and condition, a machine can create hazards such as chemical fumes (from the toners) and noise. Some printers create extra fine particles (including nanomaterials) which are also a hazard. Go to this page on the site to get more information on the hazards, what you can do about them, and links to guidelines.
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.
Finally: an employer prosecuted for bullying young apprentice
A Geelong builder who repeatedly bullied his teenage apprentice over a two-year period has been convicted and fined $12,500 in the Geelong Magistrates' Court. Wayne Allan Dennert, trading as Quality Carpentry and Building Maintenance employed two apprentice carpenters and two subcontractors. In April 2015, an 18 year old apprentice carpenter made a complaint to WorkSafe that he had been bullied by Dennert since starting working for him in April 2013. The allegations included incidents of verbal, physical and psychological bullying and harassment. WorkSafe's investigation found that Dennert had failed to provide a safe system of work and the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to employees in relation to workplace bullying. During the two years, Dennert had himself engaged in workplace bullying and encouraged his employees to participate in bullying behavior - such as putting a live mouse down the apprentice's shirt, and smearing plaster across his face and into his eye and ear, and more. Dennert pleaded guilty and was, with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $12,500 plus $757.71 costs.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie
Williams, said Dennert's behaviour had been appalling. "Not only did he
use his position of power to encourage a bullying culture among his
workers, he actively participated," Ms Williams said. "No employee
should have to suffer such cruel, vicious and repeated behaviour at
work, particularly a young man just starting his working life. Because
of their inexperience, young workers are particularly vulnerable to
psychological and physical risks in the workplace, which is why
supervisors and employers must take a real interest in their health and
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release Geelong builder fined $12,500 for bullying teen apprentice and on this site Bullying
Asbestos/lack of fall protection prosecutions - no more than a tap on the wrist
BMC Demolition, one of the trading names of Controls Australia Pty Ltd, is a demolition, excavation, site cleaning and rubbish removal business. BMC was undertaking demolition work at a residential property in Ivanhoe. On 13 February 2015 a WorkSafe inspector saw a BMC employee working at a height of over two metres on the roof of the house without fall protection, removing corrugated roof sheeting - later confirmed to contain asbestos. The worker was not wearing any personal protective equipment to protect him from the asbestos. BMC was not licensed to conduct asbestos removal work and there was no safe work method statement in place for the high risk construction work being done. Employees were at serious of falling more than two metres and/or from exposure to asbestos. On June 1, BMC Demolition pleaded guilty in the Heidelberg Magistrates Court, and was without conviction fined $4,500 plus costs of $2,000.
Also on June 1, the company faced a second prosecution, relating to demolition work at a home in St Albans. On 6 August 2015, WorkSafe Victoria was notified that the home could contain asbestos. BMC employees had begun demolishing the building which was partially covered in asbestos containing material. BMC once again failed to ensure, so far was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health when it failed to ensure that it identified asbestos that was likely to be disturbed by the demolition work and ensure it was removed before starting the job. Once again, this created risks to the health and safety of the employees - by way of inhalation of asbestos fibres which have the potential to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. BMC pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $2,000 plus costs of $2,000.
While the VTHC welcomes these rare asbestos-related prosecution, two fines totalling just $6,500 and handed down without conviction, to a repeat offender are hardly more than a tap on the wrist. BMC Demolition placed its workers not once, but at least twice (and probably more) at risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease. This is unacceptable, and it's time that magistrates understood the implications of such actions to workers.
New Zealand: KiwiRail still paying for asbestos in trains
The ongoing KiwiRail headache over asbestos in its trains resumed this week with a special hearing before the Employment Relations Authority. The Rail and Maritime Transport Union has asked the authority to determine whether Chinese workers hired to do the job were given New Zealand pay and conditions. It also wants any future remedial work to be done by New Zealand workers, and it said KiwiRail breached its employment contract in allowing the work to be done by Chinese workers under warranty.
The problems began when KiwiRail bought 48 locomotives from China. Forty of them were found to have asbestos sprayed on metal sheeting in the engine room and were removed from service in February 2014. After the discovery, the trains were sidelined and progressively restored to service under varying conditions, depending on how clean they were.
According to the union, 15 to 20 Chinese workers were employed at any one time fixing the trains in New Zealand. KiwiRail reached an out-of-court, confidential, settlement with the Chinese manufacturers.
Read more: RNZ News
Qatar: Eleven killed in labour camp fire
The deaths of 11 workers in a Qatar labour camp fire on 1 June is yet another example of the government's complete disregard for the migrant workers building the huge infrastructure programme in the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup, global union ITUC has said. A further 12 workers were injured in the fire, which happened in a labour camp housing workers on the Salwa tourism development, which includes a 362-room Hilton Hotels resort. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: "Yet more families of migrant workers have been deprived of their loved ones due to the shocking conditions of the workers, adding "1.4 million workers are living in these labour camps, the vast majority of them in crowded, squalid and dangerous conditions. Open cooking plates, faulty electrical wiring, gas bottles where they shouldn't be – these are hazards that those who are forced to live in labour camps have to face each day, on top of their often dangerous and unhealthy working environment." The global union leader said: "The construction companies and global brands such as Hilton cannot escape their responsibility to workers who are trapped in Qatar without rights. Huge profits are being made on the back of modern slavery, and another 11 lives have been lost simply because Qatar refuses to bring its laws into the modern era." Qatar pledged to build an extra 40,000 hotel rooms as part of its bid for the 2022 World Cup. ITUC said the country is notorious for poor fire safety, with fatalities from fires a common occurrence.
Read more: ITUC news release and BWI news release Source: Risks 754
Stroke severity could be worse for shiftworkers
Shiftwork may increase stroke severity by interfering with the body's internal clock, with men faring worst, new research suggests. Study co-author David Earnest, of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, said: "A person on a shiftwork schedule, especially on rotating shifts, challenges or confuses their internal body clocks by having irregular sleep-wake patterns or meal times." The study's conclusion that shiftwork may increase stroke severity came after analysing the stroke outcomes of male and female rats that were subject to circadian rhythm disruption. The team found that the rats exposed to a shiftwork schedule had much more severe stroke outcomes than the control group. They were more likely to have brain damage, loss of sensation, and poorer limb movement as a result of ischaemic stroke. "This research has clear implications for shiftworkers with odd schedules, but probably extends to many of us who keep schedules that differ greatly from day to day, especially from weekdays to weekends," said Earnest. "These irregular schedules can produce what is known as 'social jet lag,' which similarly unwinds our body clocks so they no longer keep accurate time, and thus can lead to the same effects on human health as shiftwork." The authors say their findings indicate that shiftworkers and other individuals with irregular sleep schedules should be monitored more closely for cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and obesity.
Read more: David Earnest and others. Sex differences in the impact of shift work schedules on pathological outcomes in an animal model of ischemic stroke [abstract - article can be downloaded in full], Endocrinology, published online ahead of print, 2 June 2016. Medical News Today. Source: Risks 754
WorkSafe Victoria News
WorkSafe Awards - nominate now!
It has now been over two weeks since we announced that the nomination for Victoria's workplace safety awards opened. The VTHC encourages workers to approach people and organisations that deserved to be recognised and then encourage them to apply - in particular health and safety representatives, who are often unrecognized and unrewarded. Workplaces with active, informed and well-supported HSRs are healthier and safer workplaces.
Last year there were almost 200 entries across eight different categories. This year WorkSafe has added another category that reflects its increased focus on manual handling.
According to WorkSafe, the awards website has been improved (good!). It is planning a new format for the presentation of the awards, and will be holding a Gala dinner to replace last year's theatre-style ceremony.
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
Partnerships to stop bullying
Two organisations devoted to educating young people and employers about the trauma caused by bullying have been given a significant boost, as a result of a new partnership with WorkSafe Victoria. Bully Zero Australia Foundation and Brodie's Law Foundation will each deliver a range of education and training sessions to young workers aged 16 to 24 and their employers across Victoria. The sessions will aim to improve awareness of bullying in the workplace, its devastating impact, how it can be prevented, and how it can be dealt with.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said she was delighted that both organisations had agreed to partner WorkSafe in the fight to eradicate bullying from the workplace. "Bullying is a significant issue in Victorian workplaces," Ms Williams said. "Of more than 26,000 injury claims in Victoria last year, 3087 were mental injury claims. And, of these, almost 1300 mention bullying behaviour as a cause. These figures are likely to be very conservative because, in many cases, bullied workers simply quit their jobs, while others don't complain for fear of losing their job."
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
New inspectors intake at WorkSafe
Fourteen new recruits last week began an intensive 14-week training course as they prepare for their new role on the front line as WorkSafe inspectors. They will join the 48 new inspectors appointed in 2015. Minister for Finance, Robin Scott, said it was important that Victoria's community was supported by a strong and well-resourced workplace safety inspectorate. "Ensuring the health and safety of Victorian workers is a priority for the Andrews Government," he said. "WorkSafe's inspectorate is passionate about workplace safety and it is through their dedication that Victoria remains one of the safest states in which to work."
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
The editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on June 9, was written after the tragic death of a worker in Geelong following the collapse of a fence structure. This highlighted, according to WorkSafe, the need for employers and self-employed workers to assess and constantly monitor the structural stability of freestanding structures, if they are:
- going to be working on the structure
- working in the fall shadow of the structure
- excavating (either mechanically or by hand) near the structure.
The editorial then goes on to provide advice on what employers and self-employed workers need to do to ensure that the risks are properly identified and eliminated/controlled.
The Soapbox also has other news items and the list of notified incidents. There were 52 Reported Incidents in
the period 19 May - 2 June, 2016. These include: 2 fatalities, 12 near misses, 15 lacerations and one asbestos-related injury. The near-misses include punctured gas pipes, an excavator going over an edge and toppling on its site; a crane hitting power lines; and other potentially fatal incidents.
Read the June 9 edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox online, and download the list of notified incidents.
WorkSafe Safety Alerts
Number 1: Working outdoors
This Safety Alert highlights some of the hazards associated with working outdoors and follows recent incidents including the death of a worker from a snake bite. The construction union, the CFMEU long ago issued an alert to its members on the dangers of snakes on construction sites.
Number 2: Escalator and travelator void in-fills
This Alert warns people with management or control of workplaces, employers, and designers of buildings and structures, of the dangers associated with in-fill areas around escalators and travelators.
Number 3: Pressure testing of pipes
This Alert highlights the potential for explosions when pressure testing water or sewer pipes with high pressure air and provides advice to prevent explosions.
Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
The national body had not updated its reported fatalities page since May 31, at which time there had been 63 fatalities had been reported, thirteen more workers killed at work since the previously reported update on May 12. More information and to check for updates, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
Safe Work Australia has now published the monthly fatality report for December 2015 during which there were 11 work-related notifiable fatalities: seven male workers, three male bystanders and one female bystander. Of the 11 fatalities, three fatalities each resulted from a fall from a height and vehicle accident - public road crash and two fatalities resulted from electrocution. The remaining three fatalities were all different types of incidents. Five fatalities occurred in agriculture, forestry & fishing workplaces, four in transport, postal & warehousing workplaces and two construction workplaces.
The December report also gives the totals of reported fatalities for 2015 also broken down by industry and jurisdiction. The total reported work-related fatalities were 163 workers and 42 bystanders. The most fatalities occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing; Agriculture, forestry & fishing; and Construction. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Building company fined $300K over fatal brick wall collapse
Melbourne building company, Bilic Homes, was this week fined $300,000 over a "foreseeable" wall collapse that killed a father of two at a Brighton East construction site two years ago. The company had pleaded guilty in the Victorian County Court to failing to maintain a safe workplace after the brick wall collapsed during strong winds, crushing 30-year-old contractor.
The man had been working on the site with another builder who attempted to free him from the rubble. In sentencing the company, Judge Jane Campton said the director of Bilic Homes, Stanko Bilic, had visited the site on the day of the incident and discussed the severe weather warning for strong winds. "Given the way the brick wall was constructed … it was foreseeable that on a high-wind day it could collapse," she said. Despite this, Bilic directed the men to keep working on the bottom level of the construction site and failed to instruct them to brace the wall properly.
Source: ABC News
Company convicted and fined $60k for unguarded machine injury
The Geo Group Pty Ltd, a company contracted by Corrections Victoria to operate Fulham Prison, was last week fined $60,000 following a serious injury to a prisoner. On 31 March 2015 the man, who was making a wooden bird perch in the prison workshop, was using a rip saw. He was pushing wood into the unguarded saw with a push stick when the wood kicked up and his finger and thumb made contact with the blades of the saw. At some point the saw's guard had been removed and not replaced - it was located against a wall in the workshop. The lack of guarding created a risk of serious injury to anyone using the saw. The tendons in the prisoner's finger and thumb were severed and he was treated in hospital. Geo Group pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $60,000 plus $3,386 in costs.
Quarry prosecuted, convicted and fined for two potentially fatal incidents
Gippsland Premium Quarries Pty Ltd operates a sand quarry in Shady Creek, north of Warragul. Sand slippage at the quarry created a risk of serious injury or death from engulfment to plant operators and pedestrians. The company failed to address this risk as it did not have suitable systems of work in place to identify and understand the geotechnical hazards of sand slip. Further, the company failed to prevent access to identified hazardous areas (Charge 1). On 11 November 2014 a labour hire employee was driving a CAT scraper (towed by a CASE tractor) down a haul road, close to a terminal batter wall. The wall collapsed on the tractor, pushing it one metre sideways and causing the engine to stall. Luckily, the worker was able to restart the tractor and drive to safety.
On 14 November 2014 an excavator was operating at the quarry close to high voltage (22,000 volt) overhead powerlines. There was a risk of serious injury or death due to electric shock. The company failed to enforce no-go zones around overhead powerlines, place signage next to overhead powerlines, use spotters where mobile plant was operating near overhead powerlines and use alternative vehicle paths to minimise risk of contact with overhead powerlines (Charge 2). The excavator struck the powerlines. The operator was trapped in the cabin for about two and a half hours before the electrical asset manager attended the quarry to disconnect the electricity.
Gippsland Premium Quarries pleaded guilty to both charges: was fined $8,000 without conviction for Charge 1, and convicted and fined $30,000 for Charge 2, in addition to costs of $4,564.
Panel shop convicted and fined for not complying with improvement notices
On 8 May 2015, inspectors attended the South Melbourne site of automotive panel repair company, Chassis Pty Ltd, as part of WorkSafe's Victoria's Automotive Repair and Maintenance Project. The inspectors issued three improvement notices in relation to unguarded plant, a lathe and a pedestal drill, each with a compliance date of 19 June 2015. On 22 June 2015, the inspectors returned to the workplace to follow up on compliance and found the notices had not been complied with. After multiple follow up inspections, the notices remained non-complied. The offender pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $2,000 plus costs of $1,366.
Fined for forklift and traffic management issues
Winnipeg Textiles Pty Ltd, is a wool commission operator receiving and subsequently dispatching wool bales to other locations. On 1 April 2015 a delivery truck driver employed by a transport company was preparing his truck for unloading at the Winnipeg Textiles. Winnipeg's usual process involved using three forklifts to unload the wool bales. Two unload the bales from the trailer from opposite sides; the third then took the bales from the unloading area to the warehouse. This process created a risk of serious injury or death to persons other than employees of the employer (for example, truck drivers) of being struck by a forklift and/or wool bales during unloading. The company had a traffic management plan in place which separated delivery drivers from forklifts but they did not enforce it or induct delivery drivers into it. On that day, both forklift drivers commenced unloading the delivery driver's truck while he was still readying the trailer. A forklift operated by a Winnipeg employee dislodged a wool bale which then hit the delivery driver. He was then struck either by the wool bale or the trailer gates. Winnipeg Textiles pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $7,000 plus costs of $2,649.
Prosecution and fine for high risk work
Mr Harinder Singh, a sole trader trading as 'All Signs Australia', has been convicted and fined for failing to provide a safe system of work; failing to provide information, instruction, training or supervision; Falls/work at height offences; Inexperienced employee; High risk work without a licence; and failing to provide a safe working environment
On 22 June 2015 a WorkSafe inspector observed employees of Singh working on top of the 4.8 metres high canopy at a petrol service station in Sunbury. An incomplete mobile scaffold (missing handrails and edge protection at its top) more than four metres in height was at the front left corner of, but not secured to, the canopy. There was a gap of 200-300 mm between the scaffold edge and the canopy. The employees said their supervisor had left the site just prior to the inspector's attendance, and that they continued to work in his absence. Singh, his employees and their supervisor did not hold appropriate high risk work licences for the erection of scaffold over four metres in height. Singh was charged with allowing employees to perform high risk work without the appropriate high risk work licence; failing to provide or maintain systems of work by failing to ensure scaffold was complete and secure prior to allowing employees to access it; and failing to supervise employees to ensure that they did not access the incomplete and insecure scaffold. Mr Singh pleaded guilty and was, with conviction, sentenced to pay an aggregate fine of $10,000 plus $3,441 in costs. .
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
EU- OSHA produces materials for coping with an ageing workforce
In tandem with its Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign, EU-OSHA has released an e-guide on managing safety and health at work for an ageing workforce. It is suitable for employers, workers, human resources managers or OSH professionals, the e-guide has something for everyone. The Agency says to simply select the appropriate 'profile' to discover more. This material should prove useful to workers and others in Australia too - with our workforce ageing.
The e-guide is structured around four themes: (1) ageing and work, (2) healthy workplaces for all ages, (3) health-promoting workplaces and (4) return to work. No matter your age or job role, the e-guide can help you find out more about healthy ageing and sustainable work.
Explore the e-guide Find other practical tools and guidance for workplaces. Visit the Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign website.
EU-OSHA: new Napo film
Healthy Workplaces hero Napo leads us to a healthy future. In his new film, we see Napo given the power of time travel. With his new power, he explores both the past and the future, uncovering the key elements of healthier and more productive workplaces in the context of an ageing workforce.
From ergonomic positions and correct lifting procedures to training workers of all ages and return-to-work initiatives, Napo shows us the importance of managing risks from the beginning of a worker's career to its close. He also reminds us that we need to tackle age discrimination whenever it occurs. The overarching message? Good safety and health management is good for business.
Watch Napo in ... back to a healthy future