SafetyNet 370, July 13, 2016
Welcome subscribers to the latest SafetyNet. This week WorkSafe investigated the death of a member of the public at a hyperbaric clinic in South Yarra.
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Workplace fatality: Man dies in hyperbaric chamber
On Saturday July 9, a man died in a hyperbaric chamber in a South Yarra clinic. His death is being investigated by both WorkSafe Victoria and the Coroner. Under Section 23 of the OHS Act, an employer has a duty to 'other persons', that is, 'to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer.' Further, Section 32 of the Act places a duty on a person to not 'recklessly engage in conduct that places another person who is at the workplace in danger of serious injury.'
Health Minister Jill Hennessey has also asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate medical claims made by Melbourne clinic Hypermed over its hyperbaric chamber treatments. Ms Hennessy said WorkSafe and the chief health officer had been asked to issue a safety warning to Victorians. The dangers of hyperbaric chambers should be known, especially to operators
Read more: ABC News Online;
Reminder: HSR Submission Portal - what are your WorkSafe experiences?
If you haven't yet told us what your views and experiences of WorkSafe are, do so now... we want to hear from both health and safety reps and workers. Telling us what you think will help us put together a great submission to the Review into WorkSafe Victoria's Compliance and Enforcement activities. 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 was wondering. How long can you work behind a computer and how often should you rest your eyes?
This matter is not specifically covered under OHS legislation – this is because OHS laws are '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'. Under the general duty of care, the employer must ensure that systems of work are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. (see Duties of Employers)
But the law is not 'prescriptive' – that is, it does not mandate HOW this should be done. So, in this case, the employer must ensure that the hazards and risks of working at a computer are identified and then either eliminated or minimised (so far as is reasonably practicable). The hazards include sore eyes, manual handling and posture, and also long periods of being seated. The employer must take into account the 'state of knowledge' – so any guides, information, etc - when implementing controls, and must also consult with workers and their representatives.
Take a look at these pages for more information and advice:
- Offices: what OHS legislation applies?
- Office hazards: computers and VDUs - what are the guidelines?
- Offices - computers and eyesight
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.
Queensland: Coal mining industry slammed in black lung review
SafetyNet has been reporting on the cases of black lung disease (pneumoconiosis) that have recently been diagnosed in Queensland. Last night, in a shocking story on the ABC's 7.30, we learnt that the problem is much more widespread and miners have been contracting the condition for decades. Reporter Matt Peacock speaks with Steve Mellor, a 39 year old miner diagnosed recently with black lung who also discovered he had had the condition for almost nine years, despite being given the all-clear in regular company medical checks to continue working underground. Stephen Smyth, President, CFMEU Mining Queensland, said this and other cases demonstrate that doctors, radiologists, the coal companies, the health surveillance unit and the government have 'not done their jobs' and failed every past and present mine worker in the state.
A review of the Respiratory Component of the Coal Mine Workers' Health scheme headed by Monash University's Professor Malcolm Sim has found 'major system failure at virtually all levels'. Not only were x-rays read incorrectly, but crucial lung function tests were mainly carried out by unqualified operators, using poorly maintained equipment - missing potentially hundreds of cases.
Watch the 7.30 story: Queensland coal mining industry slammed in black lung review
Queensland: Asbestos in Government's new executive building
Asbestos been found at the State Government's new Executive Building, one of Brisbane's most controversial building projects, forced construction to be suspended. It was discovered on Monday at the base of the building in metal skirting imported from China. It has since been removed and work was expected to resume yesterday.
The State Government has demanded a report into the incident even though it will only be a tenant in the privately owned and developed high rise. The building was commissioned by the former Liberal National Party government in 2012 to house public servants, replacing the current Executive Building at 100 George Street.
CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor said it was totally unacceptable that workers have been exposed to the gasket material, imported from China, without any knowledge that it contained asbestos. Mr O'Connor said that the union has been calling for action from the Federal Government on the importation of building materials and nothing has happened. "There are growing fears about the importation of unsafe and poisonous building materials that pose a risk not only to workers, but to the community. The Government has sat on their hands while people's lives are being put at risk."
Sources: ABC news online; Asbestos shutdown at the government's tower of power worksite 7News; CFMEU Media Release: Union calls for urgent national meeting with Yuanda following asbestos exposure in Brisbane
NSW: Paramedics and union demand promised upgrades to stations
According to paramedics fearing exposure to asbestos, ageing ambulance stations at Wyong and Toukley on NSW's Central Coast are a disgrace. They want to know why the NSW Government failed to honour last year's $9.1 million election promise to replace the buildings. The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) subsequently sent a series of photos to the Express Advocate demonstrating the state of the stations.
Read more and check the photos: The Daily Telegraph
1- Reminder International Asbestos Awareness and Management Conference
People interested in things asbestos should 'save the date': 13 - 15 November at Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) on Adelaide's North Terrace. 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 from the ASEA website.
2 - Reminder: Website survey
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is 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. Please take the survey and provide feedback - visit the agency website.
NZ: Buying more Chinese trains despite asbestos headache
KiwiRail has confirmed it will buy another 15 Chinese locomotives, despite reliability problems and asbestos contamination in the engines it already has. KiwiRail has spent at least (NZ)$12 million clearing asbestos from the engines, and documents show that 24 - at least half of them - that had been given the all-clear still contain asbestos.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson said the DL class locomotives were unreliable and did not meet international performance benchmarks. "The sad reality is the we've only just learnt in the last couple of days that the KiwiRail board have authorised the purchase of another 15. And I think everyone is aware that unless these locomotives become more reliable, then actually the future of the industry will be in jeopardy." Read more: Radio New Zealand
Capo Verde: call for asbestos ban
At a June 28 event to promote asbestos awareness in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, the head of a Portuguese environmental non-governmental organization (Quercas) called for action to prevent hazardous asbestos exposures. Highlighting the need for asbestos audits of the built environment, John White called for legislation to ban future use throughout the country's ten islands. Measures for quantifying the scale of the asbestos problem in the country were urgently needed said environmental campaigner Paulo Ferreira. : Quercus quer inventário sobre edifícios com amianto em Cabo Verde [Quercus want inventory of buildings containing asbestos in Cape Verde]. Source: IBAS
Quad bikes: reminder of UNSW survey
More than 220 Australians have been killed in quad bike incidents since 2001. Unions, farm safety authorities and health and safety regulators have called for operator protection devices to be made mandatory. This is a reminder of the University of New South Wales quad bike safety survey which is looking 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.
ACT: public servants report increasing workloads
A new survey conducted by Community and Public Sector Union has found that over 30 percent of public servants in the ACT have complained of increasing workloads resulting to more sick days. According to ABC, of the 500 survey respondents across the ACT public sector, 40 percent reported that their workload increased significantly over the past 18 months. Thirty-one percent of the respondents said the increased workloads have affected their health.
"We've got hundreds of members indicating they're having real problems dealing with workload, to the extent that it's causing stress at home with the family," said CPSU regional secretary Vince McDevitt. "Coming and going in the dark, and you're stressed out all the time – it's just not sustainable."
Over 30 percent of the respondents also said they were forced to skip meal breaks because of time pressures at work. Twenty-one percent of them said their workload was hard to complete during normal working hours. Mr. McDevitt warned that the increase in workload could eventually affect productivity.
Source: SafetyCulture OHS News
International Union News
Bangladesh: Justice at last for Tazreen fire victims
Compensation payments to the victims of the Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh have finally been completed. More than a hundred people were killed and about 200 injured in the garment factory disaster in Ashulia on 24 November 2012. In one of the worst disasters to hit the garment industry in modern times, workers burnt alive behind locked exits, while others leapt to their death from factory windows. Many suffered life-changing injuries in the fire at the 1,600 worker factory.
Claims Administration Trust says a total of US$2.17 million has now been
paid to the families of 112 dead and missing workers, and to 174 people
injured in the fire. IndustriALL's general secretary, Jyrki Raina,
said: "Finally we have some form of justice for the victims of this
dreadful tragedy. IndustriALL and UNI Global Union continue to work
through the Accord for a safe and sustainable garment industry in
Bangladesh and elsewhere, to make sure that disasters like Tazreen never
Read more: IndustriALL
Botswana: IndustriALL calls for immediate action at deadly mine
In the last five years, 15 mineworkers at Bamangwato Concessions Ltd (BCL) mine in Botswana have died on duty in separate accidents. Despite numerous appeals to government to improve safety at the state-owned mine, conditions are in fact deteriorating. The BCL mine employs approximately 5,000 employees, of which over 3,200 are members of the Botswana Mine and Allied Workers Union (BMWU).
Frustrated at the government's
inaction the BMWU staged a demonstration on 6 July 2016, in Botswana's
capital Gaborone where union leader Jack Tlhagale handed over a petition
to the country's vice-president Mokgweetsi Masisi. "The mine has
been a problem for a long time - security and productivity have
declined. Despite the mineworkers' appeals to the company management and
the government there has been no improvement. The company also
threatens to retrench many of our members and close some of the shafts,"
Read more: IndustriALL
USA: Union blackballed for insisting on safety
At the most contaminated worksite in America – the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland – workers should be required to wear personal protective equipment, including breathing masks similar to what firefighters use.
But a KING 5 investigation reveals that this not the way it always works at Hanford. In many locations at the 586-square-mile facility, wearing the highest level of protective gear, known as self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), is optional. The workers have to decide if they would like to upgrade to this level of protection to ensure they're free from possible exposure to toxic chemical vapors that vent without warning from underground nuclear waste storage tanks.
After a rash of chemical vapor exposures in 2014, one union decided to take a stand – all of its members would wear full SCBA on every job, every day at Hanford, whether or not the contractor in charge of the operations, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), required it. What this led to was the company blackballing the union - the Local 598 Pipefitters, representing approximately 1,200 men and women who work at Hanford as plumbers, welders and pipefitters - and giving their work to others not insisting on the protection.
Read more: Hanford union blackballed for insisting on safety KING 5
UK: Postal union slams 'unacceptable' dog attacks
The number of dog attacks on postal workers in the UK is at an "unacceptable" level, post workers' union CWU has said. The union was speaking out as new Royal Mail survey, launched at the start of the CWU-backed Dog Awareness Week, revealed there were more than 2,600 attacks on postal workers across the country in the last year. CWU said more than a third of attacks happen at the front door and warned "irresponsible" owners risk fines or a jail term. The number of dog attacks rise by 10 per cent during the school holidays, when dogs are more likely to be in gardens unsupervised, the Royal Mail said. Its research confirms that in the last year, 36 per cent of attacks on staff happened at the front door, while 35 per cent took place in the front garden. CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce said: "The vast majority of our customers and their dogs aren't a problem but irresponsible and reckless dog owners are. The new dog control laws now identify and penalise chronically irresponsible dog owners." He added: "One owner was recently fined £8,800 after his dog injured a postwoman as she put letters through the door." CWU said there are indications that the dangerous dogs campaign in which the union has played a leading role is now having a positive effect, with the latest statistics indicating a 10 per cent reduction in incidents. Dave Joyce said: "This figure is still unacceptably high. Through initiatives such as Dog Awareness Week, we want to keep on driving those figures down." TV presenter Paul O'Grady, who is backing the campaign to reduce the number of dog attacks, said: "No one should feel unsafe in the workplace and it's important we as dog owners, take the necessary steps to give postmen this same respect." Read more: CWU news release
WorkSafe Victoria News
Have your say on the review of the OHS and EPS Regulations
Victoria's Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 (OHS Regulations) and Equipment (Public Safety) Regulations 2007 (EPS Regulations) will expire in June 2017. WorkSafe Victoria (WorkSafe) is required to review and remake these regulations by this date, and has considered how the Regulations are currently working, opportunities for improvement to streamline and modernise their content, as well as better reflect current Victorian work practices without reducing safety standards.
Public comment on the OHS Regulations, EPS Regulations and required Regulatory Impact Statement will commence for a period of two months from Monday 18 July 2016 until Friday 9 September 2016.
Everyone with an interest in these regulations is invited to review and provide their comments.
From next week, you will be able to access information with an overview of the changes proposed to the OHS and EPS Regulations on a dedicated website. Further, information sessions will be held across the state in July and August 2016 to assist the public to understand the proposed changes and the public comment submission process. Submissions will be able to be submitted online as well as by email or by post. Keep your eye on SafetyNet - next week we'll put the links to the website.
The latest edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out last week (July 8). In this edition's editorial, WorkSafe's Construction Program Strategy Manager Barry Dunn writes about his experience of the underlying causes of falls; as the fall prevention focus began last week. One of the leading causes of death and serious injury to construction workers are falls, including falls from relatively low height.
The newsletter has links to new Safety Alerts, as well as items from other states and territories of interest to the construction, utilities, mining and quarrying industries. Attached to the newsletter is the list of incidents notified to WorkSafe for the sector. In the period 16 - 29 June 2016, there were 60 Reported Incidents, which included one fatality, 24 near misses, 16 lacerations, six electric shocks, three fractures and one burn. Read more: July 8 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Queensland: Government to ban use of PFOS and PFOA firefighting foam
The Queensland Government last week announced it will ban the future use of the chemical firefighting foams which are at the centre of recent land contamination issues. Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection was implementing a "strict policy with respect to firefighting foams and their environmental management."
"Queensland is adamant that firefighting foams containing highly persistent organic pollutants including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) implicated in the contamination of the Oakey Defence base need to be phased out,' Dr Miles said. Read more: Queensland Government Media statement
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 July 7, there had been 81 fatalities reported - this is five more workers killed at work since the previously reported number at June 22. The fatalities this year have been in the following industries:
- 25 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 23 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 10 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 Accommodation & Food services;
- 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. To download the report, and to check for more recent updates, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Virtual Seminar Series returns in October with extended broadcast schedule
Safe Work Australia will once again run the popular Virtual Seminar Series, where they will showcase the latest thinking, research, developments and best practice in work health and safety. The SWA 2016 seminar schedule will be available soon, and this year they will be broadcasting regularly throughout October, November and December. When the schedule becomes available, SafetyNet will provide a link to it. In the meantime, click here to access Virtual Seminars from 2014 and 2015 - including videos on road safety and a collection of perspectives from safety experts and leaders on leading a positive safety culture.
UK: Chemical Companies Face Brexit REACH Compliance Questions
British chemicals companies and companies using the U.K. as their point of entry into the European single market could face years of uncertainty over compliance obligations under the European Union's REACH regulation, following the U.K.'s Brexit referendum.
Legal and industry experts have emphasized that until the day the U.K. departs the EU, REACH and other EU laws on substances will continue to apply. But beyond that, there are few certainties. The preferred option for chemicals companies would be that business continues as usual to the greatest possible extent. Steve Elliott, chief executive of the U.K.'s Chemical Industries Association (CIA), said "the whole of the business community will want to retain tariff-free access to the single market."
Read more: Bloomberg BNA
Worker loses part of arm in badly guarded machine - trustee prosecuted
Robert Grumley, is the trustee of a trust operating a dairy farm, has been fined following an incident in which a worker's arm was partially amputated. On 2 March 2015, an employee was undertaking maintenance on an inadequately guarded Rotary Dairy Platform ('RDP') - which created a risk of serious injury to employees coming into contact with the RDP's drive wheel. The employee had not received any information, instruction and training on the operation of the RDP with respect to maintenance. Although there were no witnesses, it appears worker was performing unscheduled maintenance on the drive wheel. He was found by a fellow employee under one of the drive motors with his arm caught between the drive wheel and I-Beam, and sustained a partial amputation of the right arm. Robert Grumley pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $15,000 plus $2,000 costs.
Employer convicted and fined when untrained worker on skid steer injures other worker
On 31 August 2015, a truck overturned in Inverleigh, spilling its cargo of oranges: Modern Towing and Salvage Pty Ltd was engaged to perform salvage and clean up services. An employee was using a skid steer, for which he had not received any information or training on how to operate it safely, to clear the debris. This created a risk of serious injury to anyone in the vicinity. The employee had difficulty operating the bucket of the skid steer, and called a nearby employee of Harcom for help. Harcom had also been engaged to clean up the site. The second employee stood in the bucket of the skid steer and spoke with Modern's employee. Modern's employee manipulated the bucket control, causing the bucket jaws to open and Harcom's employee to fall through the jaws. Modern's employee then panicked and closed the jaws of the bucket. Harcom's employee sustained a serious leg injury and was transported to hospital where he underwent surgery, skin grafts and considerable rehabilitation. Modern Towing and Salvage pleaded guilty and was with conviction fined $20,000 plus $3,975 costs.
Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage