SafetyNet 369, July 6, 2016
We welcome our subscribers to the latest edition of SafetyNet - and apologise to our website users for the site being 'down' the past few days! Apologies too for the late posting of the journal - more technical glitches, all resolved now.
To get news between editions, please follow our We Are Union: OHS Matters Facebook page. If you're an OHS rep, and passionate about health and safety, then consider joining the We are Union Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out - and ask to join.
Reminder: HSR Submission Portal - tell us what your experiences of WorkSafe have been
In preparing our submission to the Review of WorkSafe Victoria's Compliance and Enforcement activities, the VTHC wants to hear from health and safety reps and workers. What have your experiences with WorkSafe been like? Have you had any interaction with inspectors, for example, and what did you think? 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. Download the Discussion Paper the review website - or email the VTHC if you want a copy emailed to you. The closing date for submissions is 1 August 2016.
I just wanted to check that if we have an appliance in the workplace that is under 12 months old do we need to have it tested and tagged? The appliances in our dining area for example.
Generally with new appliances it's considered that they are safe when purchased and don't need to be tested and tagged at that time. An electrical appliance or piece of equipment only needs retesting/tagging after a longer period of time, According to AS/NZS3760 In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, this depends on what it is and how it's used – for office equipment, this is recommended to be 3 – 5 years. However, all equipment should be regularly checked for damage. See this page on the site for more information:
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.
1- Reminder International Asbestos Awareness and Management Conference
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) will be holding its third International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) on Adelaide's North Terrace 13 - 15 November .
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. Once again, renowned journalist Matt Peacock will be facilitating the conference. 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.
2 - Website survey
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is currently reviewing the effectiveness of its website to ensure the delivery of digital services that will be simpler and easier to use as a 'one-stop-shop' resource of information on asbestos awareness and management.
The agency has developed a survey for stakeholders to provide feedback to guide improvements to the website. To complete the survey, visit the agency website.
Brisbane: Science teacher develops cancer
According to lawyers, the case of a former Queensland science teacher who was diagnosed with cancer after working with equipment made from asbestos is not isolated. The 69-year-old taught in a Toowoomba school in the 1970s and 80s. He was probably exposed through the asbestos Bunsen burner safety mats, which were slowly disintegrating as they were used in classrooms. Read more: Brisbane Times
Wittenoom's indigenous legacy: the world's worst mesothelioma rate
ScienceNetwork this week reports on a study by University of Western Australia researchers which found that WA's indigenous population has the highest rate of mesothelioma deaths in the world, with more than two-thirds of cases caused by asbestos mining in the Pilbara's Wittenoom. The study found fewer than 25 per cent of cases in non-Aboriginals. The disparity was not due to any biological differences but rather because the indigenous population was predominantly exposed to crocidolite, or blue asbestos, the most potent form, UWA epidemiologist Dr Peter Franklin says. "Many of the Aboriginal cases worked in the dusty, lower-paid job of loading raw crocidolite for transport to the ports, more than 300km from the mine," he said. "So as a proportion, Wittenoom affected them [Aboriginal people] much more than it did non-Aboriginal people."
Read more: ScienceNetwork Source: Bernie Banton Foundation Asbestos in the News Worldwide (closed Facebook group)
New Zealand: Asbestos the silent killer
The second and third of three articles on asbestos in New Zealand have now been published by the Otago Daily Times. The second instalment looks at the dangers of asbestos exposure to renovators. The lengthy feature provides information and advice on where asbestos can be found in homes, what renovators need to look out for and more. There is also a video in which a Dunedin-based businessman talks of how he used to buy older homes and renovate them to build up a rental property portfolio in the 1990s. However, like many people, he was ignorant of the risks and "didn't even think about'' the possible health consequences that might follow. The article refers to Australian research undertaken by ASEA in 2014 which suggested that 61 per cent of DIY renovators surveyed had been exposed to asbestos during home renovations, as well as nearly 40 per cent of their partners and 22 per cent of their children.
The third and final instalment provides advice on how to remove asbestos safely. While it is not illegal, either here or in New Zealand for home owners to do their own removal work, the VTHC strongly recommends calling in a professional and licenced asbestos removalist. Read more: Asbestos the Silent Killer Part 2 Keen renovators at risk of disease and Part 3 Carefully removing asbestos The Otago Daily Times
Quad bikes: UNSW survey
Subscribers will be aware that there have been two quad bike deaths in Victoria over the past month. In fact, quad bike related incidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury on Australian farms, with more than 220 Australians killed in quad bike incidents since 2001. Due to the increased number of deaths, not only unions, but farm safety authorities too have called for operator protection devices to be made mandatory.
The University of New South Wales is now conducting a quad bike safety survey that seeks to establish the cause of quad bike-related crashes and injuries that occur in the Australian workplace. If you are over 18 and use a quad bike for work, please fill out the survey. It can be done online here or you can request a hard copy.
Bullying: Employer justified in sacking two workers
The Fair Work Commission this week found that Toll Holdings was right to terminate the employment of two workers who persistently humiliated a fellow worker in front of others, thus contributing to an unsafe workplace. The workers were sacked last year after a Toll dockhand in Brisbane made a formal complaint against them for pushing him into a van he was unloading and pretending to sexually assault him. Senior Deputy President Peter Richards found they were part of a "wider workplace culture which targeted a vulnerable employee". It is never acceptable for workers to bully or humiliate other workers – all workers have the right to a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, and is free from bullying and harassing behaviours.
Read more: Mr R and Mr Y v Toll Holdings Limited Read more on bullying and harassment.
International Union News
Bangladesh: Surge of fatal accidents in Chittagong
At least five shipbreaking workers have been killed and five more severely injured in a series of fatal accidents in Bangladesh in just one month. On 23 May, a 21-year old died at Seiko Steel shipbreaking yard when he fell from great heights. He was working without safety equipment. Six days later, on 29 May, five workers were struck by falling steel plates at the same yard. One worker died on the spot, another in hospital. The three remaining workers were severely injured. In a third accident on 5 June at Laskar Shipbreaking, a 35-year old worker was crushed by a falling steel plate. On 19 June, two workers fell victim to a cylinder blast at Bhatiary Steel shipbreaking yard. One of the workers died in hospital three days later, while the other one has suffered severe burn wounds in his face and upper body, and is struggling for his life. On 23 June, another worker suffered severe injuries from a fall at Kabir Steel, a yard that was in the headlines in April after Kabir's private security personnel shot at workers and locals protesting a fatal accident. Read more: Platform News
Updates on work cancer hazards
It is now possible to receive email notification of updates to 'Work Cancer Hazards', the continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research provide by Hazards, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC). You can sign up here
UK: New Fatigue Guide for HSRs
The Trade Union Congress in the UK has just released a new guide for elected reps on Fatigue. The guide provides information on what fatigue is, the causes and the effects, how it's covered under UK law, advice from their regulator the HSE, and the role of unions. Download the guide here.
UK: Teaching union to start workload strikes
UK teaching union NUT members in England took strike action on 5 July over an erosion of working conditions and spiralling workload, after 91 per cent of those who voted backed the action. NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said "In light of the huge funding cuts to schools, worsening terms and conditions, and unmanageable and exhausting workloads, teachers cannot be expected to go on without significant change. The effects on children's education are also real and damaging." The union is calling for an increase in funding for schools and education, and wants the government to resume negotiations on teacher contracts to allow workload to be addressed. The Department for Education said the decision to strike was "disappointing" as they had offered and committed to formal talks between ministers and the unions to address their concerns about pay. The union said the government was misrepresenting the reasons behind the dispute: "The Department is being entirely disingenuous when it says that our action is about levels of pay. The NUT is taking strike action in response to the funding crisis in our schools, which is impacting on teachers' terms and conditions and children's education," said Kevin Courtney, adding: "Teachers do not take strike action lightly. It is essential that the government listens. We need investment in education, not harmful cuts."
Read more: NUT news release and related release. Source: Risks 757.
Organisational characteristics associated with shift work practices
A group of Canadian researchers have undertaken a preliminary study which sought to determine the organisational determinants of shift work practices, as these currently not well characterised. They said that with shift work being a common working arrangement with wide-ranging implications for worker health, such information could be used to guide evidence-based research and best practices to mitigate shift work's negative effects. The study aimed to describe and assess organisational-level determinants of shift work practices thought to affect health, across a range of industry sectors.
Through phone interviews with 88 organisations across the British Columbia, the researchers collected data on organisational characteristics, shift work scheduling, provision of shift work education materials/training to employees and night-time lighting policies in the workplace. They then assessed the relationships between organisational characteristics and shift work practices.
Long-duration shifts, provision of shift work education materials/training to employees and night-time lighting policies were reported by approximately one-third of participating organisations. Odds of long-duration shifts increased in larger workplaces and by industry. Odds of providing shift work education materials/training increased in larger workplaces, in organisations reporting concern for shift worker health and in organisations without seasonal changes in shift work. Odds of night-time lighting policies in the workplace increased in organisations reporting previous workplace accidents or incidents that occurred during non-daytime hours, site maintenance needs and client service or care needs.
Source: Amy Hall, et al Organisational characteristics associated with shift work practices and potential opportunities for intervention: findings from a Canadian study [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2016-103664
Chemicals: their impact on public health
The World Health Organisation's recently released report, Public health impact of chemicals: knowns and unknowns, estimates that 1.3 million lives and 43 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost in 2012 due to exposures to selected chemicals. The stats are only indicative, however, as data are only available for a small number of chemical exposures and people are exposed to many more chemicals every day.
Unintentional poisonings are estimated to cause 193,000 deaths annually, with the major part being from preventable chemical exposures, however only 47 poisons of countries have a poisons centre.
Addressing lead exposure would prevent 9.8 per cent of intellectual disability, 4 per cent of ischaemic heart disease and 4.6 per cent of stroke in the population, yet many countries do not regulate lead paint.
The report provides examples of effective interventions to prevent death and disease caused by chemicals, and the economic benefits to be gained.
WorkSafe Victoria News
Safety blitz to prevent falls on construction sites
WorkSafe inspectors will target construction sites across Victoria as part of a month-long campaign to prevent deaths and injuries caused by falls. There will be about 1000 visits to construction sites in July with a key focus of assessing safety measures in place to prevent falls and provide information to builders and sub-contractors on their responsibility to control the risk.
Falling is one of the major causes of death and serious injury in the construction industry. According to WorkSafe statistics, of the 62 construction workers who have died at work since 2005, 21 have died as a result of a fall. The most recent fatality occurred on a high rise building site in Carlton in February, when a worker fell 20m down a service shaft after the platform he was working on collapsed.
Since 2005, more than 3400 construction workers have been injured seriously enough in a fall to make a compensation claim.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release Summary of Prevention of Falls regulations
WorkSafe and VicRoads joint project
WorkSafe Victoria and VicRoads are working on a strategy to improve safety for workers and the public when construction work, pedestrians and road traffic interact. The aim is to educate the construction industry on the need to ensure their traffic management arrangements meet both road safety and workplace safety requirements.
VicRoads Chief Executive, John Merritt, said that changes in traffic management technology and the impact of increased traffic volumes on the road meant it was time to reassess how traffic and pedestrians were managed around construction sites. "Between 2003 and 2006, VicRoads and WorkSafe worked successfully together with the construction industry on a campaign called Safety for Workers and Traffic (SWAT) and as a result, we saw a significant improvement in how traffic was managed at construction worksites," Mr Merritt said.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, agreed, adding: "What was acceptable in 2006 may no longer be suitable for the volumes of traffic now being seen at construction workplaces."
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe issues Alert: Refueling Portable Equipment
WorkSafe Victoria issued this Alert on the risks of refueling portable equipment, such as petrol generators and demolition saws, and advice on controlling the risks, following a number of incidents in which a number of workers sustained serious burns. Download the Alert from the WorkSafe website.
Safe Work Australia news
There has still not been an update of the SWA fatality statistics page. As at June 22, 76 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body. 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 check for more recent updates, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
New chemical database provides easy access to chemical information
A new, easy to search chemicals database is available on the Safe Work Australia website. The Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS) provides information on chemicals that have been classified in accordance with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).
The new database features classification and labelling information for over 4 500 chemicals, including pictograms as well as a searchable database of workplace exposure standards.
HCIS replaces the previous Hazardous Substance Information System (HSIS) and will make it easier for manufacturers, importers, suppliers and end-users of chemicals to meet the requirements of the GHS, which becomes mandatory under the model work health and safety laws from 1 January 2017.
EU: Glyphosate registration extended for 18 months
The European Commission decided last week to extend its approval for weed-killer glyphosate by 18 months. Contradictory findings on the carcinogenic risks have sparked conflicts between EU and U.S. politicians, regulators and researchers. Campaign groups urged governments to exercise caution and EU member states repeatedly failed to take a decision to extend the license approval, which would have expired on June 30.
Read more: Reuters
USA: 'Slow Down Law' passes after garbage worker killed
New York State has become the latest in the US to introduce a 'slow down' law to protect garbage workers. This comes after a 27-year-old Taylor Garbage Services employee was struck and killed by a driver last year. The change to state law will require all vehicles to slow down and use caution around sanitation vehicles. The amendment to the 'Move Over Law' was approved by the state legislature seven months after the worker was killed. Under the new legislation, sometimes referred to as the "Slow Down Law," sanitation or garbage trucks would be classified as 'hazard vehicles' while engaged in collecting refuse on a public road. This would include them in the state's already-existing "Move Over Law," which requires vehicles to change lanes or slow down when encountering police or fire vehicles parked on the roadsides. The bill, which was passed unanimously, is expected to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and could take effect as early as 1 November. "We truly believe and hope that this will save lives," Democratic assemblywoman Donna Lupardo said. 'Slow down' laws already exists in 11 states: Virginia, Indiana, West Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Illinois. This law has become a trend within the last decade in response to distracted driving that has led to sometimes fatal incidents for collection workers. Read more: Press and Sun Bulletin. Source: Risks 757.