SafetyNet 372, July 27, 2016
This week we are outraged that a company facing an $800,000 fine for the death of a worker, was wound up, only to reappear with a new name - while the directors were not prosecuted. Too often there is no justice for workers killed at work - or for their families.
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$800,000 fine for worker's crushing death unlikely to be paid
Melbourne recycling company Australian Box (AB) Recycling was last week convicted and fined $800,000 in the County Court after one of its employees was crushed to death under a lifting device designed and built by the 'company manager' Leandro Guisasola. On 22 August 2014 a worker operating the 'box stacking lift' was attempting to remove the rear supporting cross bar when the lift cable holding the suspended load of boxes snapped and the lift fell on him. According to WorkSafe, the four-day trial took place despite the company refusing to be involved and not appearing. The company attempted to deregister itself to avoid the criminal proceedings, forcing WorkSafe to successfully apply to the Supreme Court for its re-registeration so the trial could proceed. Leandro Guisasola said the reasons for closing AB Recycling were the regulator's criminal charges and heavy fines 'he knew were coming.' He is reported as saying:"Legal costs were not covered by the insurer. And the fine that was coming was definitely not covered by the insurer." There appears to be no chance that the fine will actually be paid.
Following the jury's guilty verdict, the court was told that the key players in the company - director Daniel Guisasola, his wife Marisa Giucamelli and their son Leandro - had started up a company called High Heat Pty Ltd in May 2015 making similar products to Australian Box Recycling and with the same clients.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said Australian Box Recycling had shown an appalling disregard for the safety of all employees who used the lift. "The lift design was fatally flawed. It forced employees to work underneath it whenever it was used, and it had no mechanical safety measures to protect the operator if it failed," Ms Williams said. "Employees were put in extreme danger every time they used it, and every day the risk of tragedy increased until one of their workers paid the ultimate price." Ms Williams also said Daniel and Leandro Guisasola also deserved "public condemnation" for their actions since the incident.
Unfortunately, "public condemnation" will do little for the worker's family. The VTHC asks why they were not prosecuted under any number of other sections of the OHS Act - primarily Section 32 (Duty not to recklessly endanger persons at workplaces) which carries not only large fines, but a potential jail term, but also possibly:
- Section 27 - Duties of designers of plant;
- Section 29 - Duties of manufacturers of plant or substances;
- Section 31 - Duties of persons installing, erecting or commissioning plant;
- Section 144 (or 145 as appropriate) - Liability of officers of bodies corporate (partnerships and unincorporated bodies or associations)
Read more: Lack of remorse a factor in $800,000 fine over worker's death WorkSafe Media Release; Supermarket recycling business liquidated to escape $800,000 worker death fine The Age
Very last chance to us what you think!
If you haven't yet told us what your views and experiences of WorkSafe are, then do it right now - time is running out. 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. Check out some of the things HSRs have told us on the We Are Union: OHS Matters Facebook page.
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 just wondering if you could tell me if a first aider is required during all shifts? Is is ever ok to be working and not have a first aider on site?
Section 21 of the OHS Act puts a duty on the employer to provide 'adequate facilities' for the welfare of employees. These facilities include first aid - but there is nothing specific regarding first aid or first aiders in the law.
However, what an employer needs to do (at least) in order to comply with Section 21 is set out in the First Aid Compliance Code. The number of first aiders an employer needs to have at a work site depend on how many workers there are and what the risks are. In order to determine the needs, an employer either needs to do a detailed assessment of the workplace (in consultation with workers and their reps) OR follow the 'prescribed approach' which sets out a number of requirements, including the number of first aiders, depending on what level of risk is at the workplace.
The minimum under the 'prescribed approach' is one first aider for between 10 – 50 workers IF it is a small, low-risk workplace. This means one for each shift if there are workers working at night and so on. There need to be more if the workplace is bigger OR if it is a high risk workplace. If there are fewer than 10 workers, AND it's a low-risk workplace, then there does not need to be a first aider present at all (!). However, most workplaces would need first aiders, first aid kits and so on.
See this FAQ: First Aid - What are the requirements?
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.
If you have not yet done so, sign Ron's petition demanding the Federal government "Stop asbestos importation NOW" - please do so, and share it widely. With increasing concerns regarding how much asbestos is illegally entering Australia, putting workers and the public at risk for decades to come, there should be millions of signatures!
Fears of illegally imported asbestos growing
More and more cases of imported building materials containing asbestos are coming to light. Australian Portable Camps, a South Australian company, that imported more than 8000 sheets of cement board containing asbestos from China is now under investigation. The company imported the cement sheets during 2010 and 2011, mistakenly believing they were asbestos free. Now there are fears the products are being used at construction sites across Australia.
The asbestos was only identified in the sheets late last year, leading to an Australian Border Force and Safework SA investigation. Companies that have awarded contracts to APC — including energy giant Chevron at its $US54 billion Gorgon gas plant in Western Australia — are being forced to conduct emergency testing for asbestos in response to the threat. Source: The Australian
Federal: Only two companies prosecuted for importing asbestos
Federal authorities have confirmed that just two companies found to have imported asbestos-laced materials have been prosecuted since 2008 - and fined a measly $64,000 - despite increasing evidence of thousands of contaminated products are slipping past border controls.
Not only unions, but the industry in general, have been calling for urgent action after recent asbestos scandals at building sites in Brisbane and Perth. Yet despite the fact that asbestos kills, the maximum fine for illegally importing asbestos - $180,000 - has never been imposed. Michael Shepherd, president of the Asbestos Industry Association which represents businesses engaged in 'abating asbestos, said companies importing cheap materials were unconcerned about being fined because of the rarity of Australian prosecutions. Companies knew they could save millions of dollars by taking a chance on importing cheaper materials from China, rather than sourcing them in Australia. Source: The Australian
Xenephon, ACTU call for greater controls
Crossbench Senator Nick Xenophon said yesterday that Australia should consider imposing World Trade Organisation sanctions on countries that do not have robust regulatory systems that prevent goods containing asbestos from being exported. He has announced that he would seek to reconvene a Senate inquiry into building products following discovery of asbestos-contaminated building products supplied by Chinese company Yuanda. He said such products did not just have public health consequences but also economic ones for Australian industry, and for companies that had unknowingly used these products and therefore faced possible legal action or obligations to replace them.
Senator Xenophon said using the international trading regime could force a change. "We have to work through this with some urgency," he said. "Companies are receiving compliance certificates that are worthless. There ought to be scope for action and we ought to be able to apply WTO sanctions to countries that don't have robust regulatory systems to prevent asbestos products from being sent out of their countries," he said.
The ACTU joined Senator Xenophon in calling for the federal government to enforce the ban on asbestos importation by ensuring that companies and individuals who breach the ban face serious consequences, up to and including jail time.
Read more: The Australian Financial Review; ACTU Statement
NSW: Rally over asbestos
Dozens of union workers in protective suits protested outside Ausgrid's head office in Sydney last Friday, calling on the electricity distributor to urgently remove asbestos from substations throughout the city. According to the Electrical Trades Union, Ausgrid's efforts to remove the carcinogenic material had stalled. The union said documents obtained through Freedom of Information revealed that at least 29 current and former employees were diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases between 2002 and 2012.
ETU organiser Mark Buttigieg said that with the imminent sale of the company, workers feared the NSW Government was trying to pass the buck, leaving a future owner to deal with the problem. "Huge amounts of asbestos remain across the electricity network, from substations in the city to transformers in suburban streets," Mr Buttigieg said. "Most concerning is the fact that much of this asbestos is friable, which means the individual fibres are loose and - when disturbed - can easily be inhaled."
Read more: Protesters clad in asbestos equipment demand largest NSW power company remove deadly product ETU media release
WA: Government scheme to recycle construction waste raised as asbestos risk
The WA State government's new scheme to encourage recycling of construction and demolition waste has created another asbestos hazard. In a $10 million incentive scheme, the government is offering local governments financial incentives to use recycled construction and demolition materials in civil projects such as roads, car parks and drains.
However, it's impossible to guarantee there is no asbestos in the recycled products, given the extensive use of asbestos in old buildings, and further, asbestos fibres could be released during the concrete crushing process.
The federal government's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency acknowledges the industry is fraught with risk. "If there is a question over the demolition material from a site and we know it's a site where there was asbestos, my view is that you wouldn't even consider beneficial reuse," said ASEA chief executive Peter Tighe. "The asbestos should be removed before the demolition starts, but realistically that's not always the case."
Read more: Herald Sun
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. You can now register here 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 can be downloaded 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 complete the survey and provide feedback.
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 June 2017, including Comcare courses, is now on the Training program page where you can download a registration form or register online. Contact Lisa Mott on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries. (Note: from August 1, 2016, the cost of all courses will increase. Please check the website)
|HSR Initial OHS training course||HSR Refresher OHS Training Courses*|
When HSRs undertake the initial course?
As soon as possible after they are elected!!
* HSRs are entitled to attend this course every year
International Union News
UK: While Australians workers face the cold, UK workers 'swelter'
UK"s peak union council, the TUC, has called on employers to temporarily relax workplace dress codes so staff can work through the heatwave as comfortably as possible. The TUC says where people are working outdoors, employers should consider reviewing working times so that, where possible, it is being done in the morning and afternoon, rather than around midday when temperatures are highest. It adds that as temperatures spike employers can help their staff by allowing them to leave their more formal work attire at home. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Working in sweltering conditions can be unbearable and dangerous. Employers should relax dress code rules temporarily and ensure staff doing outside work are protected." She added: "While shorts and vest tops may not be appropriate attire for all, nobody should be made to wilt in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances." Regular breaks and flexible working can help, along with provision of sun screen, cool drinks and covered rest areas for outdoor workers. The TUC has for a number of years been pushing for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum indoor temperature. It wants this set at 30 degrees Celsius – or 27 degrees for those doing strenuous jobs – with employers obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24 degrees.
Read more: TUC news release and temperature at work guide. Source: Risks 760
Firefighters: research proves increased risk of certain cancers
A study by researchers from the Monash for Occupational and Environmental Health (MonCOEH) to investigate mortality and cancer incidence of paid male Australian firefighters has found significant increases in overall risk of some cancers.
They examined records of individual firefighters including their job histories (duration) and types and number of incidents attended supplied by participating fire agencies. The data was linked to the Australian National Death Index and Australian Cancer Database. Standard Mortality Ratios and Standard Incident Ratios were calculated. Firefighters were grouped by duration of employment and by number of incidents attended and relative mortality ratios and relative incidence ratios calculated. Analyses were carried out separately for full-time and part-time male firefighters.
Compared to the Australian population, there were significant increases in overall risk of prostate cancer and melanoma for all paid firefighters. Kidney cancer was associated with longer service for paid firefighters. Prostate cancer was associated with longer service and increased attendance at fires, particularly structural fires for full-time firefighters. However, the overall risk of mortality was significantly decreased and almost all major causes of death were significantly reduced for paid firefighters.
Source: D C Glass, et al Mortality and cancer incidence in a cohort of male paid Australian firefighters [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-103467. Published online first 25 July, 2016
WorkSafe Victoria News
Government announces Quad Bike rebate scheme
Following two quad bike deaths in the state just this year, Victorian farmers are being encouraged to take part in a $6 million rebate scheme to help reduce quad bike deaths in Victoria. Premier Daniel Andrews announced the scheme at the Victorian Farmers Federation annual conference in Melbourne on Friday.
Eligible farmers will be offered up to $600 each for up to two quad bikes to fit rollover protection (known as an operator protection device, or OPD), or $1200 towards the cost of buying a more appropriate work vehicle. WorkSafe Victoria and the Victorian Farmers Federation are working through final details of the scheme, which will begin later this year. The scheme will be administered by the VFF.
The rebate supports a recent decision by WorkSafe to include appropriately fitted rollover protection devices on quad bikes to its list of approved safety measures to help drive down workplace fatalities and injuries. This is encouraging. However, given the high number of fatalities, the view of the VTHC is that not only should all quad bikes must be retrofitted with OPDs, and no new bikes sold without them in place, but that WorkSafe needs to deal with quad bikes in a Compliance Code.
Read more: Premier's Media Release; WorkSafe Media Release
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was posted July 22 – this edition's editorial focusses on the proposed draft OHS and EPS regulations, now open for public comment. The newsletter also includes items of interest from other jurisdictions.
The list of Reported Incidents in
the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from 30 June - 13 July 2016 is attached to the bulletin. There were a total of 56 incidents including 22 near misses, 13 unknowns, eight fractures, five electric shocks, six lacerations and one concussion and amputation. Several of the reported incidents could
have led to fatalities: a 50kg load of aluminium panels fell four to five levels to the ground below when the crane sling slipped; several incidents of walls collapsing; a window falling five metres into a walkway; and more.
Access the July 22 Safety Soapbox online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Reminder: Review of the OHS and EPS Regulations
Public comment on the draft OHS Regulations, EPS Regulations and the Regulatory Impact Statement closes Friday 9 September 2016. While it seems a long way away, the draft OHS Regs are 535 pages! So if you've got an interest, go to the dedicated website - which has the draft documents and information materials to provide a clear overview of the changes proposed to the OHS and EPS Regulations.
Further, a series of free information sessions is being held across the state in July and August 2016 to assist the public to understand the proposed changes and the public comment submission process. Details of dates and locations are on the website - registration is easy.
Submissions can be made online, via email or by post. The VTHC will be developing a submission - so if you have any issues you would like to raise, please send them through to OHS Info.
SafeWorkNSW issues ladder warning
SafeWork NSW has today issued a reminder to NSW businesses to work safely with ladders after one worker was killed and four were seriously injured in falls over the past two months.
A 58 year old electrical contractor suffered fatal head injuries when he fell three metres from a ladder at a Smithfield business in June. Other incidents involved a 38 year old form worker suffering a fractured skull when he fell two metres from a ladder at a Surry Hills construction site earlier this month and a 39 year old roofer who suffered a broken pelvis and internal injuries when he fell from a ladder at a Dural property in May.
Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said most incidents occurred due to incorrect or inappropriate use and that, where possible, other safer alternatives should be used. "Ladders are used in workplaces throughout NSW but they need to be used safely to prevent the risk of serious injury," Mr Dunphy said.
Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release More information on Ladders.
Safe Work Australia news
As at July 26, there had been 86 fatalities reported - this is five more workers killed at work since the previously reported number at July 7. Four of these fatalities were in the Agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, the fifth one was in the Retail trade. The fatalities this year:
- 25 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 27 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;
- 2 in Retail trade;
- 2 in Mining;
- 2 in professional, scientific & technical services;
- 1 in Accommodation & Food services; and
- 1 in Public administration & safety.
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 remains that for February 2016 during which there were 12 work-related notifiable fatalities - seven male workers, three male bystanders and two female bystanders. To download the report, and to check for more recent updates, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Reminder: ADG Code 7.5 Draft. Public Comment closes 9 August
The proposed Code and an overview of the changes, including how to make a submission, are on the National Transport Commission website. This links to the overview of the changes document, within this document are the links to the sections of the Code, or press 'more information' and scroll down. Submissions are due by Tuesday 9 August. For details: Philippa Thode, Senior Policy Analyst, NTC, Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000; T: (03) 9236 5017 email: PThode@ntc.gov.au
Moree farm fined over bulldozer operator's death
Pegela Rural Enterprises Pty Ltd's grain and beef cattle farm, 35 kilometres north of Moree, has been fined $90,000 following the death of a 69 year old bulldozer operator who was fatally injured in June 2013 when he was crushed between a skid steer loader and an equipment hoe while cleaning built-up soil.
SafeWork NSW's investigation found that though the worker had been given verbal instructions on how to attach the hoe to the skid steer, he did not receive a demonstration or a copy of the equipment's manual. While he had previously operated the skid steer loader, he had not operated it with the hoe attached and the investigation found he was crushed between the gears and metal bars of the hoe and the protective cage of the skid steer due to the hoe being attached incorrectly.
Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the incident could easily have been prevented if the deceased worker was given training and a copy of the manual. Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release