SafetyNet 367, June 22, 2016
We welcome our subscribers to the latest edition of SafetyNet - the big news this week is the release on Monday of the Discussion Paper on the review OHS compliance and enforcement in Victoria.
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We operate in a building and we are about to re-sign our lease. Our unit is the largest one of 15 units. All the other units have both a back door fire exit plus a front door exit. Our unit however, does not have a back door fire exit, ONLY the front exit. Our unit is a two-storey unit and is double the size of all other units. We have raised this with the owner, who is saying it is safe - but if there were to be a fire at the front of the building or unit, we would not be able to get out. What is your advice?
It seems the unit/s were not designed very well! Under Section 28 of the Victorian OHS Act, a person who designs a building or structure that is likely to be used as a workplace has a duty to ensure that it is designed to be safe and without risks to people using it as a workplace... but it's too late to do much about this now...
However, under Section 26, persons who manage or control workplaces have a duty to ensure that the workplace, and the means of entering and leaving it, are safe and without risks to health. This duty is qualified by 'so far as is reasonably practicable' and applies only in relation to matters over which the person has management or control. (see Duties of others)
There are similar duties under all the OHS/WHS Acts in Australia.
In other words, if the situation as you describe it is accurate, then the owner of the building, which is a workplace, is in breach of their duties under the Act because the means of entering and exiting are NOT without risks to health and safety in the event of a fire.
Further, while I am not expert, there are also requirements under the Building Code of Australia - which has been given the status of building regulation by Australia's states and territories. (the National Construction Code 2016 is now available on a revamped ABCB website)
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.
Discussion Paper on Compliance and Enforcement released
The independent panel appointed by Minister Robin Scott MP, Minister for Finance to review OHS compliance and enforcement in Victoria, on Monday this week released a discussion paper for public comment. The discussion paper is available from the review website. (You may have to register on the site before being able to access the paper and other information).
The OHS Review Panel is keen to receive feedback from anyone interested in OHS, invites people to share their views by providing comment and responses to the questions in this discussion paper. Submissions can address any or all of the questions and can include any evidence, examples or case studies that may be relevant. All submissions will be acknowledged and posted on the review's website. Individuals and organisations can request their submission remain confidential. The review panel will assess all public submissions received. The closing date for submissions is 1 August 2016.
The VTHC OHS Unit is preparing an HSR Submission Portal which will make it easy for health and safety reps around the state to send in their views and comments. It should be ready to go early next week, so keep your eyes open for the announcement that it's live and ready to use.
Union welcomes Violence in Healthcare Report
The 'Violence in Healthcare Taskforce report - Taking action to reduce violence in Victorian hospitals', which contains findings and associated recommendations to inform the focus on reducing violence in the Victorian health services sector, was released last week by the Victorian Government. The Taskforce was established by the Minister for Health, in August 2015 with Ms Clare Amies (WorkSafe Victoria) as the Chair. The role of the Taskforce was to identify issues and make recommendations to the Minister for Health on opportunities to reduce violence in Victorian hospitals as well as support the implementation of the government's election commitments to address violence in healthcare. The State Government has accepted all recommendations of the report, including launching a public awareness campaign and training frontline workers to de-escalate potentially violent situations.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) welcomed the report and recommendations which, it says, address the grassroots changes needed for a systemic and cultural transformation of Victorian public health services. ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "Serious violence is an ongoing issue for nurses and midwives in hospitals including emergency departments, but also areas such as mental health wards, birthing suites, and palliative care and rehabilitation wards.
"These recommendations address the frustrating systemic inconsistencies and failures, from executive to the ward level, that allow unacceptable violence against nurses and midwives to continue happening in our hospitals and health services," Ms Fitzpatrick said. Read more: ANMF Media Release Real action to stop and reduce violence will make hospitals safer
News for teachers - Australian Education Union
1 - AEU OHS in Education Conference Friday, August 19, 2016
Are you an HSR, rep or interested member, keen to find out the latest on OHS for educators?
Join the AEU at this year's conference to discover how digital technologies impact on OHS. Professor Neil Selwyn analyses how technology is changing the nature of teaching, and how this impacts on work intensification and health.
In another engaging session, Associate Professor Michelle Tuckey will examine the role of the organisation in preventing workplace bullying and occupational stress.
Venue: 126 Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford; Cost: $40
Read more, and register on this page.
2 - AEU HSR of the Year Awards
It's time for the unsung heroes of OHS to shine; nominations are now open for the AEU 2016 Health and Safety Representative of the Year Awards. The AEU says: Every day, our HSRs look after us at work, often in ways we're not aware of. From OHS systems and communications, to asbestos or tripping hazards, manual handling, occupational violence, not to mention stress - it's good to know a HSR has your back. Does your HSR go that extra mile to protect you against injury and illness? The inaugural HSR of the Year Award is your chance to recognise the great job they do.
Nominate them before COB on August 5 by completing an application form - contact the AEU for details (on (03) 9417 2822).
3 - AEU member surveys
Cyber bullying (secondary school)
A QUT student is surveying secondary school teachers on whether they have been cyber bullied by parents or students, and how this affects their use of social media. The survey is 2-3 minutes, and closes September 30. Click here to take the cyber bullying survey.
Children with ASD (prep)
A Griffith University student is conducting 20-minute surveys of prep teachers who work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Survey closes August 31. Click here to take the ASD survey.
NSW: Loose-fill asbestos homes should not be rented
Owners loose-fill asbestos properties should be prohibited from renting them out, rather than just being required to disclose the fact to potential tenants. The New South Wales government, through NSW Fair Trading, has made significant progress in developing the loose-fill asbestos insulation register (LFAI Register) and identify properties in the state that may be affected. From 30 May this year, owners of a property on the LFAI Register have been required to advise possible tenants that the property contains asbestos. The Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW) does not believe this goes far enough. "We are of the view that if the dwelling is on the LFAI Register it should not be made available for rent and have voiced our concerns with NSW Fair Trading," REINSW president John Cunningham said. "REINSW is concerned that unsophisticated tenants and other people in low socio-economic circumstances who may agree to lease premises listed on the LFAI Register will be adversely impacted if they receive a discounted rent," he said. Read more: Calls to remove loose-fill asbestos properties from rental market Your Investment Property
New Zealand: Series on the legacy of asbestos
The Otago Daily Times this weekend ran the first of a three-part series entitled "Asbestos - the silent killer". Focussing on the story of Maurice Hamilton, who died at the age of 62 of mesothelioma, Chris Morris counts the human cost of asbestos. From miracle mineral to silent killer, asbestos has left behind a toxic legacy of death and disease in New Zealand. The fibrous mineral, imported for use in homes and buildings across the country for half a century, is now blamed for 170 deaths each year, making it New Zealand's leading occupational killer. A study by Auckland researchers in 2000 estimated 12,000 people could eventually die from asbestos-related illness, with a peak expected to be reached by 2015. But Morris says the most recent WorkSafe data paint an even grimmer picture - the figures are now expected to get worse before they get better, with deaths not expected to peak for another decade or two.
Read more, and check out the video: Asbestos claimed him. Otago Daily Times
Nepal bans asbestos
Nepal is the first country in South Asia to ban the import, sale, distribution and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing products with the exception of asbestos-containing brake shoes and clutch plates. Although the prohibitions came into force on June 20, 2015, government data shows that the import of banned asbestos and asbestos-containing products continues. Attempts by a civil society organization in Nepal – the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development – to monitor the situation and implement measures to enforce these regulations are discussed here.
Commonwealth government breaching duties under WHS law
In a media release late last week, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said that they have ongoing concerns that the Commonwealth government continues to ignore its obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (WHS Act). The ALA refers to an incident reported in The Guardian that a mentally ill detainee on Manus Island was sent to prison and later beaten, instead of receiving medical treatment. The WHS Act requires that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) not do anything to compromise the psychological health of anyone in immigration detention: workers or detainees.
"While contractors such as Broadspectrum and Wilson may be directly involved in risky conduct, ultimate responsibility rests with the Department," said ALA spokesperson Greg Barns. "The Department is well aware of its obligations under the WHS Act. They have been reporting health and safety incidents occurring on Manus Island to the regulator, Comcare, for years.
"Just this month ALA released a report detailing the Department's obligations under the WHS Act. The report clearly demonstrates the Department's obligations to ensure that its actions in running immigration detention centres do not put the health and safety of detainees at risk. Comcare is obliged to investigate threats to health and safety, but they can only do that if the Department reports them."
The ALA is also calling for the incident-notification provisions of the WHS Act to be amended to ensure Comcare investigates all deaths and other serious incidents in immigration detention facilities.
Read more: Imprisoning mentally ill asylum seekers suggests offences committed ALA Media Release. The ALA report: Untold Damage.
UK: MPs to investigate high heels at work
A call for it to be made illegal for a company to compel women to wear high heels at work is to be investigated by Britain's MPs. Over 140,000 people have signed a petition to the government calling for the move after temp worker Nicola Thorp, 27, was sent home without pay after refusing to change into high heels (Risks 751). The cross-party petitions committee noted: "MPs have decided to investigate this petition." It added the investigation is going to look at what the law says and "what could be done to make the law better." Those who have been affected were invited to pass on their experiences via a web forum. The petitions team added: "We also plan to hear from people affected and various experts in person. These 'oral evidence sessions' will be open to the public and available to watch live on Parliament TV." Head of safety at peak UK union council TUC, Hugh Robertson commented : "The issue is more than just high heels, it is the misogynistic standards that managers impose on woman workers that portrays them as objects rather than human beings. This also means that women have to risk their health, wellbeing or safety to comply with inappropriate standards."
Read more: High heels forum. Petition - Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work. Source: Risks 755.
Canada: Union action on chemical sensitivity
Canadian public service union PSAC has produced a new video as part of a long-running campaign on multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). 'Demystifying multiple chemical sensitivity' features MCS expert Dr John Molot and a PSAC member affected by the condition. PSAC says the video provides an introduction to the issue and a discussion starter in workshops and union health and safety events. The union says people with MCS can suffer debilitating physical symptoms when exposed to chemicals in the environment. These include trouble breathing, headaches, unexplained pain and chronic fatigue. PSAC says the most common triggers are chemicals in commonly used products such as perfumes, deodorants and cleaning products. The union's campaign started over 20 years ago, and has included MCS conferences, regional and national workshops and publications. In the workplace, PSAC has used human rights and disability laws to require employers to accommodate affected workers.
In Australia, NICNAS undertook a review on MCS in 2010, and found "The pathogenic mechanisms involved in MCS have not been established, and precise diagnostic methods and treatments have yet to be agreed by the medical profession." It recommended that further research be undertaken, however this has not occurred.
Read more: PSAC news release and video, Demystifying Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. NICNAS MCS Factsheet. Information on Chemicals Source: Risks 755
Overworked women at greater risk of chronic disease
A major US study has found that women who work excessive hours - over 40 hours per week over an extended period - are significantly more likely to develop four types of chronic diseases: heart disease, non-skin cancer, arthritis and diabetes.
Researchers from Ohio State University and the Mayo Clinic based their findings on data collected in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 covering 32 years of job history (1978 to 2009) on 7492 workers. They also found that for women who worked more than 60 hours per week, the risk increased three-fold. Men who worked long hours were at an increased risk of arthritis, but not the other chronic diseases. In fact, they found that men working moderately long hours (41 to 50 hours per week) was actually associated with less risk of contracting heart disease, chronic lung disease, or depression.
Source: OHS Alert Allard E Dembe, et al, Chronic Disease Risks From Exposure to Long-Hour Work Schedules Over a 32-Year Period. [abstract], Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online first doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000810, June 2016.
Night shift work and stomach cancer risk - no link
Our readers will be aware that night shift work has been classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, based on experimental studies and limited evidence on human breast cancer risk. A group of mainly Spanish researchers evaluated the association between night shift work and stomach cancer risk in a population-based case-control study, and found no clear evidence of an association between the two.
They analysed 374 incident stomach cancer cases and 2481 population controls from the MCC-Spain study. They collected detailed data on lifetime night shift work including permanent and rotating shifts, and their cumulative duration (years). They found a total of 25.7 per cent of cases and 22.5 per cent of controls reported ever being a night shift worker. There was a weak positive, non-significant association between ever having had worked for at least one year in permanent night shifts and stomach cancer risk compared to never having worked night shifts. However, there was an inverse 'U' shaped relationship with cumulative duration of permanent night shifts, with the highest risk observed in the intermediate duration category. There was no association with ever having had worked in rotating night shifts and no trend according to cumulative duration.
Source: Georgina Gyarmati, et al Night shift work and stomach cancer risk in the MCC-Spain study [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2016-103597
Italy: Mesothelioma rates in Lombardy
Asbestos was extensively used in Italy from 1945 to 1992. Researchers from the Department of Preventive Medicine, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, in Milan evaluated the impact of exposure to asbestos on occurrence of malignant mesothelioma (MM) in Lombardy, Italy's most populated and industrialised region.
They selected all incident cases of MM diagnosed between 2000 and 2012 from the Lombardy Mesothelioma Registry, described sources of exposure to asbestos and examined time trends of MM rates. They then derived projections of burden of MM in the Lombardy population for the period 2013–2029.
There were 4442 cases of MM (2850 men, 1592 women) recorded in 2000–2012: Occupational exposure to asbestos was more frequent in men (73.6 per cent) than in women (38.2 per cent). Non-occupational exposure was found for 13.6 per cent of women and 3.6 per cent of men. The average number of cases of MM per year was still increasing (about 3 per cent), and incidence rates were still increasing in individuals aged 65+ years and declining in younger people. A maximum of 417 cases of MM (267 men, 150 women) are expected in 2019. They forecast 6832 more cases (4397 in men, 2435 in women) in the period 2013–2029, for a total of 11,274 cases of MM (7247 in men, 4027 in women) in 30 years.
This study documented a high burden of MM in both genders in the Lombardy Region, reflecting extensive occupational (mainly in men) and non-occupational (mainly in women) exposure to asbestos in the past. Incidence rates are still increasing; a downturn in occurrence of MM is expected to occur after 2019.
Read more: Carolina Mensi, et al Incidence of mesothelioma in Lombardy, Italy: exposure to asbestos, time patterns and future projections [absract and Full article] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2016-103652
WorkSafe Victoria News
WorkSafe Awards - nominate now!
Have you nominated yet? The VTHC encourages workers to approach people and organisations that deserve recognition and 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 - and we want to encourage union HSRs to nominate. If you would like further information, call WorkSafe on 1800 136 089; send an email, or visit the Awards website. Entries close soon, so get onto it now!
NSW: $2million for quad bike safety
Quad bikes are now one of the leading causes of death on Australian properties with 220 deaths reported over the past 16 years. Thousands more are injured due to quad bike incidents. SafeWork NSW has developed a Quad Bike Safety Improvement Program due to start in late July. The program includes a $2-million-dollar rebate package to encourage and support farmers to adopt a range of harm prevention strategies. A rebate of up to $500 will be offered to allow the purchase of compliant helmets, Operator Protective Devices, as well as the purchase of safer vehicles, including a side-by-side vehicle, and undertaking training courses tailored to farmers.
NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello said it the country's most comprehensive program. "Quad bike-related injuries and fatalities are at an unacceptable level. Every death is one too many and has devastating effects on families and communities," he said.
Queensland: Quad bike safety on the agenda there too
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace this week launched a new public safety campaign in a bid to cut the number of quad bike deaths and injuries in Queensland. Ms Grace said the new Ride ready campaign urges riders to always wear helmets and parents to keep their kids off adult sized bikes.
"Over the last 15 years, 70 people have been killed using quad bikes in Queensland," Ms Grace said. "There are around 300 quad bike related hospitalisations, 600 emergency department presentations and 200 ambulance attendances every year. These are amongst the highest figures in Australia and quite clearly, we need to ramp up our efforts to educate Queenslanders about quad bike safety."
Queensland government Media Release.
Education and public awareness programs will only go so far; it is imperative that the designers and manufacturers of quad bikes minimise the risk of rollovers by improving their design and including rollover protection.
Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
There has been an update on the SWA fatality statistics page - however, the date of the update was not recorded. At May 31, there had been 63 fatalities reported - the total is now 76 - this is thirteen more workers killed at work since the previously reported number. The fatalities this year have been in the following industries:
- 24 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 21 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 9 in Construction;
- 4 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- 5 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;
- 2 in Mining and
- 2 in professional, scientific & technical services
The numbers and industries may vary as Safe Work receives more detailed information (to check for updates, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page).
The latest monthly fatality report is that for January 2016 during which there were 15 work-related notifiable fatalities: eight male workers, one female worker, five male bystanders and one female bystander. Of these fatalities, two workers and four bystanders died as a result of an incident on a public road. To download the report, and to check for more recent updates, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Company fined after worker trapped and injured by grape waste
Australian Tartaric Products Pty Ltd is a company that collects grape waste ('marc') from wineries in the Riverina, Sunraysia and Barossa Valley wine regions, which it then stockpiles in a large bunker. The stockpile had vertical (rather than battered) edges, and was between 11 and 13 metres high. The product is later recycled as tartaric acid for use in the wine making and food manufacturing industries. It is also burned to create fuel to power a boiler on site. Retrieval of the marc from the stockpile was done by scraping it down to the ground with the outstretched arm of the excavator.using an excavator. There was a risk to employee health and safety in the event that the stockpile collapsed or the scraped marc landed on top of the employee.
On 10 June 2015 the risk eventuated when large chunks of marc fell on an employee who was attempting to retrieve the marc. It entered the excavator cabin, pinning him down. He was rendered unconscious for a short time and suffered a head injury. It took about half an hour to rescue the man: the bars off the machine had to be cut, and the marc that had fallen inside the cabin had to be removed. The injured worker was taken by ambulance to hospital, and made a full recovery. At the time of the incident the company had no safe system of work in place for the task of managing the stockpile and retrieving marc from it. Australian Tartaric Products pleaded guilty and was, without conviction. fined $22,000 plus $1,156 costs.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
UK: Zoo fined after tiger kills worker
A British zoo has been fined for criminal health and safety offences after one of its employees was killed by a Sumatran tiger. Sarah McClay, 24, died at South Lakes Wild Animal Park (now South Lakes Safari Zoo) in Cumbria, after she was pounced on by the tiger on 24 May 2013. The tiger, which entered the keeper's corridor of the zoo's tiger house through an unlocked gate, left deep puncture wounds in Sarah McClay's neck and body. She suffered 'unsurvivable' multiple injuries and was airlifted to hospital where she was formally pronounced dead. The zoo was fined £255,000 (AUD$499,450) plus £150,000 prosecution costs (AUD$293,830).
A £42,500 (AUD $83,240) fine was also imposed for other health and safety law breaches relating to an incident where a zoo keeper fell from a ladder while preparing to feed big cats in July 2014. The company, whose sole director David Gill founded the zoo, entered guilty pleas as a trial was about to commence. The prosecution offered no evidence against Mr Gill, 55, who had faced individual charges on the same allegations, but was formally acquitted. A day before the South Lakes Safari Zoo sentencing, Hamilton City Council in New Zealand pleaded guilty to safety charges relating to the death of zoo keeper Samantha Kudeweh, 43, who was mauled by a Sumatran tiger at a council-owned zoo on 20 September 2015.
Source: Risks 755
UK: Veolia fined £750,000 after bin lorry crushes worker
Leading international environmental services firm Veolia has been fined £750,000 (AUD$1,468,200) plus costs after a worker was crushed to death beneath the tailgate of a rubbish collection vehicle. The 25 year old worker suffered serious injuries and went into a cardiac arrest at welding firm John Fowler and Son. The father-to-be was supposed to be on holiday on the day of accident and had only gone into work as a favour. But after arriving at the firm's yard on 17 May last year, the welder was crushed between the tailgate and the vehicle when safety mechanisms failed. Veolia Environmental Services Sheffield Ltd admitted a criminal safety offence after the worker died as he was working on a Mercedes Econic vehicle, owned by the company. John Fowler and Son was fined £65,000 (AUD$127,170) plus costs after the court was told it had failed to undertake adequate risk assessments to protect its employees. Investigations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed a handwritten and undated risk assessment and no method statement to put measures in place to secure a safe working environment on the day of the incident. It also emerged Veolia Environmental Services Sheffield Ltd had failed to carry out routine inspections to its refuse collection vehicles and four other bin lorries in the fleet also had faulty safety limiting switches - although there had been no further incidents as a result. Veolia also operates in Australia.
Read more: HSE news release and waste machinery webpages. Source: Risks 755