SafetyNet 368, June 29, 2016
We regret to inform our subscribers that there has been another fatality in Victoria in the past week: a Victorian farmer was crushed to death by his quad bike in Victoria's west on Sunday. This latest fatality takes the workplace death toll to 16 since the start of the year.
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Farmer killed by quad bike
A farmer in his late 60s was killed in a quad bike incident at his Pomborneit East farm in Victoria's west on Sunday. Police and paramedics attended the property 30 kilometres west of Colac after 8:30pm. It appears the man rolled his quad bike on a paddock in his property. According to Worksafe spokesman Peter Flaherty, investigators attended the property about midnight to collect evidence for an investigation and remained there until Monday morning. This latest fatality comes amid calls for quad bikes to be made safer for adults and for children to be banned from riding them.
This is the second quad bike death reported on a farm in Victoria this year and at least the seventh in Australia. According to Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety data, 15 people were killed while using quad bikes last year. They have been the leading cause of death on farms for the past five years. More than 200 people have been killed while riding quad bikes since 2001.
WorkSafe Victoria recently tightened rules around quad bikes, requiring businesses to install roll-over protection devices if they are used on a work site. The new regulation is expected to come into effect within 18 months.
Source: The Age
HSR Submission Portal - tell us what your experiences of WorkSafe have been
The VTHC wants to hear from health and safety reps about their views on WorkSafe's Compliance and Enforcement activities. What experiences have you had - with inspectors, for example? Your views will contribute to the VTHC submission into the the review of OHS compliance and enforcement in Victoria.
As noted in last week's SafetyNet, the independent panel has released its discussion paper for public comment. Many of us working in health and safety have been disappointed by WorkSafe's efforts over the past few years, particularly in the area of enforcement. Health and safety reps have had many issues, including dissatisfaction with their interactions with inspectors, the internal review process and more. Many have reported a feeling of lack of adequate support from WorkSafe. Now is the time to tell us your experiences - and contribute to the VTHC submission. Go to the HSR Submission Portal and tell us about your experiences. We also hope that some HSRs will also make their own, separate submissions.
Discussion Paper, which is not very long, poses 28 questions which the
Panel hopes will allow people to express their views. Submissions can
address any or all of the questions and can include any evidence,
examples or case studies that may be relevant. The closing
date for submissions is 1 August 2016.
Read more: 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).
Calling all HSRs! Nominate now for the WorkSafe HSR of the Year Award
With nominations to WorkSafe's Awards closing tomorrow, there have only been five nominations received for the most important award of them all - the HSR of the Year. It's very important that dedicated HSRs are recognised for the crucial role they play in Victorian workplaces. HSRs can nominate themselves, or members of their DWG can nominate them. The nomination process only takes about 15 minutes - so hurry up and do it now! For more information, call your union, or WorkSafe on 1800 136 089; send an email, or visit the Awards website where you can complete the nomination process. WorkSafe Media Release
I work in a heritage listed but renovated building. My work is entirely computer based. The room I work in has been recorded with a temperature as low as 14.5 degrees. It's consistently too cold for standard work clothes. It's never higher than 16 degrees. My employer leases the space. The owner of the building will not allow heaters of any kind. Anything I can do, short of wearing my ski gear to work?
That's a ridiculous temperature to be working in - and both your employer and the owner (as a "person who manages or controls a workplace") have duties under the OHS Act.
The law does not actually specify a temperature, because the OHS/WHS legislation in Australia is 'objective based' – that is, the duties on employers 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'. Persons who control or manage a workplace must, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure that the workplace is safe and without risks to health.
So what needs to happen? The Compliance Code for Workplace amenities and work environment includes provisions in relation to temperature – and this is what it says:
- Workplaces that are buildings need to be capable of maintaining a temperature range that is comfortable and suitable to the work. Workplace temperatures that are too high or too low can contribute to fatigue, heat illness and cold-related medical conditions. (Para 122)
- Optimum comfort for sedentary work is between 20°C and 26°C, depending on the time of the year and clothing worn. Employees undertaking work requiring physical exertion usually prefer a lower temperature range. (124)
It then lists a number of means to ensure a comfortable temperature is maintained. So, someone has to do something - whether it's your boss or the owner of the building who does something is immaterial - and they need to sort it out. Contact your union for help with this! Read more: Offices: Temperature and humidity - what are the 'rules'?
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.
Bullied worker's suicide sparks call for inquest
On December 6, 2013, Brenton Walsh, 30-year-old manager of the shelf-stacking team at Woolworths' Moe store, took his own life. His widow says he was a hard worker and thought took pride in his job. However, it was only days after the event that the family began to hear reports from other workers that he had been having problems at work. The Victorian Coroner is undertaking an investigation, and according to Fairfax Media Mr Walsh's co-workers have provided statements that he had been the victim of relentless workplace bullying. It appears that in the months before his suicide, he was being bullied every day by a man who would later be jailed for bullying two other staff members at the same store. (see SafetyNet 346) Mrs Walsh is now calling for an inquest into her husband's death amid concerns he was "subjected to sustained workplace bullying without any meaningful intervention by Woolworths".
Fairfax sources confirmed that the Gippsland police officers who investigated the suicide went on to arrest long-time employee Sean Clare for bullying. In December, Clare was charged under Brodie's Law with bullying the two other colleagues and sentenced to six months' jail - police advised that because Mr Walsh was no longer alive, that case would not be strong enough to proceed. In sentencing, the magistrate delivered a strong rebuke to Woolworths' handling of the situation and failure to be more proactive in addressing the problems that made Woolworths Moe a psychologically unsafe workplace. While the individual bully has been charged, sentenced and jailed, WorkSafe should be investigating a probable breach of the OHS Act by Woolworths as the employer.
Read more: Woolworths worker's suicide sparks call for inquest The Age
ASEA: International Asbestos Awareness and Management Conference
During November's National Asbestos Awareness Month and as part of the events around the country the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) will be holding its third International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management. Following the success of last year's conference in Brisbane, the 2016 conference will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) on Adelaide's North Terrace.
The event will bring together renowned local and international experts in asbestos management, health, advocacy and governance to look at best practice in managing the dangers of asbestos in our community and abroad. Bookings are now open and programme details will be available soon, please keep an eye on these pages and Twitter or Facebook for updates. Presentations and highlights from the 2015 ASEA Conference are now available online.
ASEA Matters Newsletter
The agency has also just sent out its latest electronic newsletter, ASEA Matters [pdf]. Apart from information on the Conference, there is news on the work the Agency has been doing with Customs agents in its efforts to control the illegal importation of asbestos; a new Research Portal on the ASEA website and an article on a report on illegal dumping of asbestos. The ASEA commissioned report estimates there are about 6,300 tonnes of asbestos containing materials illegally dumped across Australia every year, with a conservative estimated cost of cleaning up the illlegally dumped waste at around $11.2 million annually. It found those responsible for most incidents of illegally dumped asbestos containing materials to be household renovators, some building contractors and asbestos removalists.
In some very good news, funding has been confirmed, with the $3.4 million being reallocated to the Agency over the next two years. This is no doubt thanks to the efforts of many supporters, and will enable the Agency to continue its important work on implementing the National Strategic Plan.
NSW: council accused of dumping asbestos near homes
A group of about 20 south-western Sydney residents have launched a class action against their local council, alleging it is responsible for asbestos being dumped near their homes. A local man is spearheading the lawsuit against Liverpool City Council which was lodged in the NSW Supreme Court earlier this month.
Asbestos was discovered just metres away from his property last July, one of at least 22 sites potentially contaminated by landfill. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is investigating claims the council illegally dumped the waste, which could have come from the council's own storage facility.
A spokesman from Paramount Lawyers, the firm representing the residents, would not reveal how much money they were seeking, however said it could be "in the millions of dollars". Liverpool council would not comment on the legal proceedings, except to say it would be "manning a vigorous defence". The council had already spent almost $5 million trying to clean up the contaminated landfill, and had set aside a further $2.5 million.
Read more: ABC News online
New Zealand: asbestos ban near
On 15 June 2016, the New Zealand Minister for the Environment, Dr Nick Smith announced that a ban on the importation of asbestos-containing materials into New Zealand will come into force as of 1 October 2016. Dr Smith said that exposure to asbestos is the single biggest cause of work-related fatalities, at 170 per year.
Canada: City calls for mandatory licensing of asbestos removal contractors
Aware of the dangers of asbestos to both workers and the general community, Burnaby city council, Canada, has passed a resolution calling for mandatory certification and licensing of asbestos and hazardous material removal contractors. As well as the resolution, the city is sending a letter to the B.C. provincial government and the Premier with the request.
Mover of the resolution, Councillor Sav Dhaliwal, said certification for asbestos removal is a longstanding issue, adding there isn't adequate protection for workers in the industry and pointing out there was no provincial certification or licensing in B.C. to ensure standards or allow for the suspension of non-compliant contractors. An association representing the construction industry said it welcomes certification for asbestos removal contractors, but argued it may not be enough to address the issue.
Read more: Burnaby Now
Asbestos-related cancer costs Canadians billions
The first-ever estimate of the toll of asbestos-related cancers on Canadian society has estimated the cost of new cases as CAD$1.7 billion (AUD$1.77 billion) per year, and notes that is likely an under-estimate.
The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma from work-related asbestos exposure in Canada amounts to an average of CAD$818,000 (AUD$851,000) per case, according to a team led by health economist and senior scientist Dr. Emile Tompa at the Institute for Work & Health, whose calculation includes costs related to health care and lost productivity and quality of life.
This is the first time a tally of these costs has been made public. Asbestos remains the top cause of occupational deaths in Canada: Workers' compensation boards have accepted more than 5,700 claims since 1996. About 150,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces, the research project Carex Canada estimates, among them construction workers and contractors, mechanics, shipbuilders and engineers. Yet Canada continues to allow exports and imports of asbestos, which rose to a six-year high last year. Dozens of other countries, including Australia and Britain, have banned it. Read more: The Globe and Mail
Canada: manufacturers call for asbestos ban
ABS Friction is calling for a ban on asbestos and the importation of products containing asbestos into Canada. To create awareness, ABS has launched the ABS Asbestos Offensive - an information campaign aimed at the automotive industry where asbestos is still common in imported brake pads and consequently a lethal hazard for mechanics.
"In 2016 there are still too many brake pads that contain asbestos being imported and sold in Canada," said Rick Jamieson, President, CEO and Co-founder of ABS Friction. "In fact, imports of asbestos-related items rose to $6-million in 2014 from $4.9-million in 2013 and the bulk of these goods consisted of asbestos brake linings and pads, which hit $3.6-million in imports in 2014, a seven-year high. Though I am encouraged by the Prime Minister's recent statement that the government will ban asbestos, we want to keep the ban on asbestos top of mind. Here, in Guelph we are working with our MPs as well as automotive industry organizations across Canada and North America. We invite people to review the information on our site and welcome their comments."
Source: Asbestos News Worldwide
Commonwealth government breaching duties under WHS law (part 2)
Last week the Australian Lawyer's Alliance issued a media release on its concerns that the Commonwealth government continues to ignore its obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (WHS Act). (SafetyNet 367) . This week OHS journalist Kevin Jones further explores the issue in his SafetyAtWorkBlog article Selective duty of care being applied by the Australian Government. The article concentrates particularly on an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, from former WorkSafe Victoria prosecutions solicitor Max Costello published in the Australian Financial Review on 28 June 2016.
After discussing the letter, the points raised and the responses of our various political leaders, Jones concludes: "The OHS profession has been almost silent on the consequences of the inaction by Comcare and the alleged breaches of workplace safety law. OHS laws have always been broadly applied. In fact, it is this absolute application that has been one of its strengths. The Government seems to be applying a selective application of OHS laws to an admittedly difficult situation but one that involves rape, abuse and the deaths of people in a workplace under the Government's duty of care. This is unacceptable and must be addressed."
BE TRADES HALL TRAINED: VTHC OHS Training Centre
Don't settle for any training other than that provided by your union or the VTHC. HSRs are elected by their fellow workers to represent them. We understand what HSRs need and have been training effective HSRs for many years. Remember that under Section 67 of the OHS Act, both HSRs and deputies have the right to attend the training course of their choice (in consultation with their employer). Below are the dates for the next few courses at the VTHC OHS Training Centre - the full set of new dates until December is now on the Training program page where you can download a registration form. Contact Lisa Mott on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries.
HSR Initial OHS training course
HSR Refresher OHS Training Courses*
* HSRs are entitled to attend this course every year
International Union News
UK: Tell government "Don't cut a single workers' right when making the UK's new laws"
Britain's Trade Union Congress, has this week launched a petition urging workers to tell government not to cut workers' rights following the shock Brexit vote.The TUC says: "Many vital rights at work in the UK are derived from EU law, guaranteeing things like paid leave entitlements, protections from being forced to work excessive hours, discrimination protections and rights for working mums-to-be. Following the UK vote to leave the European Union, we now have to decide what happens to these rights."
The TUC points out that the official Leave campaign's plan for managing Brexit said: "Parliament will decide carefully which areas of existing EU law should a) be kept, b) be amended and c) be removed." The TUC reminds workers that prominent Leave campaigners called for a halving of regulations derived from EU law, or flexibility in interpreting rights, claiming that British business would benefit from a reduction in "red tape".
The TUC is asking UK workers to help them put the pressure on MPs by signing their petition the TUC will use to show them how many of their own constituents support strong rights at work. Read more: TUC media release
Stress affects perception of bullying
A group of Spanish researchers have found that workers are more likely to believe they are being bullied when they are under stress,. However positive factors such as good salaries, resources and constructive feedback can alleviate that stress.
Based on a survey of 261 teachers, the researchers found reducing job demands by reducing working hours, avoiding too boring or too complex tasks, ensuring clear job descriptions, and positive work relationships can also reduce the prevalence of bullying. They found workplace hostility is a growing problem affecting a significant proportion of teachers, is highly stressful and can have serious consequences, including depression, anxiety and even suicide.
They found factors in teaching conducive to bullying include competing for limited resources, professional rivalries, ideological confrontations relating to work methods, and power struggles. The job demands on teachers, including heavy workloads and role conflict, result in stress and frustration that needs to be balanced by motivating work factors like support from colleagues, accomplishing useful work, career advancement and a good salary.
Source: OHSAlert. Ariza-Montes, Antonio, et al, Workplace Bullying Among Teachers: An Analysis From the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) Model Perspective. [Abstract], Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, June 14, 2016, doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000804
WorkSafe Victoria News
Victoria now has Australia's highest OHS fine
Victoria now has the highest maximum work health and safety fine in Australia, with a Bill amending the State's OHS and workers' comp laws passing the Lower House last week.
First introduced to Parliament in March, the Victorian Treasury and Finance Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 increases the maximum penalty for a body corporate that recklessly endangers a person at a workplace (a breach of s32 of the OHS Act) from 9000 penalty units (currently $1,365,030) to 20,000 units ($3,033,400).
This makes it higher than the maximum $3 million fine for the equivalent offence in the harmonised jurisdictions. The Bill does not, however, amend the maximum penalty for an individual who breaches s32, which remains at 1800 penalty units (currently $273,006) and five years' jail.
Advisory Service Jobs at WorkSafe
Have you got broad knowledge in OHS and are interested in perhaps learning more about Workers' Compensation and Return to Work? WorkSafe has advertised two WorkSafe Advisor positions - the role of Advisors is to provide expert advice and guidance to the Victorian community, initially regarding Occupational Health & Safety and Licensing. The ad says: "Handling a wide variety of questions, you'll provide advice predominately by phone, but also face to face and in writing. You will need to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the OH&S Act and Regulations, and an exceptional track record in customer service." Applications close 5pm Monday 4 July
Safety Soapbox - June 23
The editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on June 23, focusses on WorkSafe's upcoming Prevention of Falls Focus Campaign commencing 1 July 2016. Dermot Moody says that one of the leading causes of death and serious injury to construction workers is falls from height.
In the last decade 17 Victorian construction workers have died after falling from height. Also in the last five years over 1,350 construction workers have required workers' compensation whilst being off work as a result of a fall from height.
There were 62 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from June 2 - 15, and include: six falls incidents, five electric shocks, five punctures, four fractures,15 lacerations, an incident that resulted in multiple injuries, two crushed limbs, a shoulder injury, a spinal injury, a back related injury. These and any of the 21 near misses, could have been fatal.
Access the June 23 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
There has not been an update on the SWA fatality statistics page since June 22, at which time there had 76 deaths notified. To check for updates, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page).
The latest monthly fatality report remains that for January 2016 during which there were 15 work-related notifiable fatalities. To download the report, and to check for more recent updates, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Company fined for failing to notify WorkSafe
Metropolitan Express Transport Services Pty Ltd, a third party logistics company was this week fined a total of $2,500 for failing to notify the regulator after a worker was injured and received hospital treatment. On 9 May 2015 an employee was injured when he was ejected from a 2.5 tonne Moffett Boom reach forklift - he was subsequently admitted to hospital with four fractured ribs and nine fractured vertebrae. The company failed to notify WorkSafe of the incident immediately or in writing within 48 hours and failed to preserve the incident site. Metropolitan Express Transport Services pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $1,000 for Charge 1 [38(1)], $500 for Charge 2 [38(3)] and $1,000 for Charge 3 [39(1)], plus $1,500 costs.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage
NSW: Auctioneer fines after forklift fatality
A Sydney car auctioneer was last week fined $255,000 for breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to ensure the health and safety of workers over an incident in which a forklift operator was fatally injured while unloading a truck at Milperra in 2013.
The 36-year-old forklift operator and a young labourer tried to move a cabinet from a truck onto a forklift at the company's motor vehicle storage and auction site. The 19-year-old labourer had only been employed two months earlier and had not been trained in how to perform the work task safely. He asked the forklift operator for help, but they lost control of the cabinet and were both stuck. The forklift operator died while the labourer suffered from fractures to his ribs and an injured knee.
"Forklifts continue to be a major factor in workplace deaths and injuries," said Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy. WorkCoverNSW Investigations found a lack of safety systems, instruction and supervision were major contributors to the fatal incident when the company failed to train and provide instructions to the worker on how he can safely remove the cabinet from the truck and which forklift could safely be used for the task. "This resulted in the workers selecting the wrong sized forklift with tragic results.," Mr Dunphy said. "The incident highlights the need for employers to have appropriate systems in place to ensure that all workers, particularly young workers, receive training and support to work safely."
Northern Territory: Tour company admits failing in health and safety duty
A tour company has admitted to health and safety failures in the case of a British backpacker who fell to her death while posing for a photo at a popular tourist spot in the NT. The 23 year old tourist died after stumbling backwards off a cliff edge Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park in June 2014. In the Alice Springs Local Court last week, directors of Alice Springs-based company, The Rock Tour, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with their health and safety duty to the tourist, which exposed her to a risk of injury or death. The matter was due to return to court for sentencing sometime later, with a maximum penalty for the charge being $1.5 million.
Read more: ABC News online
EU officials to decide on Roundup herbicide after political impasse
An impasse between EU nations on whether to allow Monsanto's Roundup and similar weed-killers to continue to be sold means that the European Commission, rather than national politicians, will decide the issue this week.
Despite much attention on Britain's shock decision to leave the EU, everyday work continued in Brussels last week where an "appeal's committee" of representatives from the 28 member states failed to agree on whether to extend the license for the herbicide glyphosate after it expires this week. Contradictory findings on the carcinogenic risks of the chemical have pitted farming and chemical lobbies against consumer and environmental groups. However, the committee could not reach a majority decision, and so the issue was the Commission's agenda this week. If the license is not extended, manufacturers will have six months to phase out products containing the widely used herbicide. Read more: Reuters
China: After deadly tornado, rescuers clean up hazardous chemicals
After a deadly tornado hit eastern China on Thursday, killing at least 98 people and injuring more than 800 others, Chinese state media has reported that rescue workers have been trying to safely dispose of hazardous chemicals. The chemicals, including ammonium gas and silane, were stored at a solar panel factory in China's Jiangsu province, which was destroyed in Thursday's storm. Read more: Reuters
ACTU Health and Safety Training
The ACTU provides a number of courses in OHS and related areas. These courses include:
- Certificate IV in OHS Course, seven days face to face (offered in two parts of 3 and 4 consecutive days each).
- Organising for Safer Workplaces (two days)
- Workplace Bullying and Harassment (one day)
- OHS for Union Delegates – choice between a One or Two day course
For information on these and other courses, download the ACTU's course guide and go to the Upcoming courses page on the ACTU website or contact Anna Pupillo or Chris Hughes for more details (ph ACTU: 9664 7334).
Tuesday 12 July - Central Safety Group meeting: Rethinking incident investigations
How well do we carry out incident investigations and how useful are they? This issue will be explored by Greg Splatt, National HSE Manager for the Johns Lyng Group, at the CSG lunchtime meeting on 12 July. Greg, a former detective with the Victoria Police Force, is an experienced risk auditor and safety professional now working in the construction industry.
He believes traditional incident investigation models used by the safety industry often fall short.
He also questions how much value is derived from the results of investigations. This is important as incident investigation is a vital part of improving safety performance.
Greg will discuss investigative techniques used by detectives for crime and traffic accidents. While some of the methods used in safety investigations are similar, Greg says the follow up and resolution are often different. While sharing his experience and insights, Greg will be inviting discussion by the audience.
When: 12 noon-1pm, Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Where: Level 1, 333 Queen Street Melbourne (AMS Consulting Group)-
Cost: Members free, non-members $10. Lunch (optional) sandwich and juice lunch $15
Individual membership fee for 2016 is $60.
Please book if you are coming and indicate whether you are having lunch: Jane Loudon, Secretary, Central Safety Group. Ph. 9387 9768, mobile 0417 040 252