SafetyNet 373, August 3, 2016
Victorian subscribers: Are you under 30? Do you have members in your DWG who are under 30? If so, then complete/ask them to complete the VTHC's 'snapshot' survey before August 21.
Just a reminder that 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 join the We are Union Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out - and ask to join.
VTHC Young Workers snapshot survey
The Young Workers Centre at the VTHC is running a survey for all young workers under the age of thirty to create a snapshot of life at work.
The Centre wants to hear the untold stories from young workers around their safety and treatment at work, their pay and conditions, what's working and what's not!
While there has been an excellent response so far, with well over 200 young workers responding, the sample so far has underrepresentation of males and blue collar industries. So tell everyone you know to go to the survey and fill it out now. Closing date: Sunday 21st August
As part of a 'restructure' my employer has said the company would like to change from Designated Work Groups (DWGs) to "Work-site Safety Committees". Is this acceptable?
My answer is an emphatic 'no'!!
A DWG is a group of workers (and the grouping must be agreed between the employer and the workers, and certain factors MUST be taken into account – see this page on DWGs) - but the CRUCIAL THING about a DWG (and how it's established) is that each member of the DWG has direct access to and can be represented by one of their OWN that they elected to be their health and safety representative (HSR). The DWG is NOT a committee – it's a mechanism will allows workers to have a collective voice through their elected HSR. I have no idea why your workplace would even consider changing what's in the Act and what their reasons would be. Perhaps unfairly, I am quite suspicious of their motives
I would ensure that you make it clear that this change is not acceptable – and make sure you contact the union if you need help with this. Remember, any variation to DWGs must be agreed by both the employer and employees.
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.
New report on falls fatalities in Victoria
The Victorian State Trauma System and Registry annual report 2014/15 reveals that more Victorians die from falls than from road accidents. 459 people aged over 64 have been fatally injured from falls from a height of less than a metre, compared with 301 in transport-related incidents. The report also noted a significant rise in serious injury and fatality in people falling from ladders, especially among older men.
Falls account for a significant number of work-related deaths and injuries across Australian workplaces annually. Figures from Safe Work Australia reveal that 232 workers were killed following a fall from a height over the eight-year period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2011.
Workers in the construction industry account for most fatal falls. The industry accounted for 37 per cent of falls-related fatalities and recorded a fatality rate four times the overall rate in the 2008–11 period according to Safe Work Australia figures. House construction workers face the greatest risk of fatal falls, followed by workers in the painting and decorating industry.
Despite these figures, current Prevention of Falls regulations 'kick in' at work above 2 metres - and although Victoria's Coroner recommended some time ago that the height qualification be eliminated, WorkSafe has not proposed a change to the definition in the draft Regulations, currently open for public comment.
Read more: Annual Report of the Victorian State Trauma Registry and System, 1 July 2014 - 30 June 2015.
In the lead up to World Day against Trafficking in Persons (Saturday July 30), the ACTU called on the Federal Government to end the scourge of trafficking and slavery.
Modern slavery is growing in Australia and going undetected and unpunished, the ACTU warned, with the 2016 Global Slavery Index estimating there are approximately 4,300 people living in slavery here. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 21 million people worldwide who are victims of trafficking and forced labour, with the Asia Pacific region accounting for 56% of the figure. An equal number are trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labour servitude.
The recent scandals in Australia exposing exploitation on a massive scale in agricultural supply chains and the retail industry clearly demonstrate that these are not just random occurrences. In 2013 the Australian Parliament passed legislation to expand the legal definition of servitude to include labour, but so far no convictions against any employer have been recorded. ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said, "The Federal Government must do more to end trafficking and slavery in Australia. Better regulation, more transparency and greater resources should be used to prosecute those responsible, regardless of where they sit in the supply chain."
Read more: ACTU Media Release; ILO Their photos, their stories
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!
Asbestos imports: The Project
It must be news when popular program The Project does a story on it. Last Wednesday night, Waleed Aly and Carrie Bickmore explore the shortcomings of our system which is allowing thousands of products containing asbestos into the country. They interview ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick, as well as Senator Nick Xenephon, who was part of the Senate inquiry held last year into illegal imports. Well worth a look! Check it out here at the 4 minute 12 second mark (Expires in 3 months).
Tasmania: Asbestos discovered at Royal Hobart Hospital
The discovery last week of asbestos in a Royal Hobart Hospital office area led to the temporary relocation of about 40 employees and raised concerns about the long-term health of staff. The material fell from the ceiling in an office space on Wednesday during renovation works.
Tasmanian Health Service's clinical operations group director Wendy Rowell said "Immediate action was taken following the incident to ensure the safety of staff and the public." Community and Public Sector Union state secretary Tom Lynch said, however, he was not convinced everything had been done to prevent the situation, and the discovery of asbestos in the office area was shocking and disturbing. "We've got staff who have been potentially impacted by this exposure," he said "They will be at home tonight not knowing whether they have asbestos fibres in their lungs, not knowing whether within 20 or 30 years' time they will have this horrible disease. Action should be taken immediately to ensure that this doesn't happen again."
Read more: Royal Hobart Asbestos Alert, The Mercury
UK: problem with imports from China
It should be of no surprise that Australia is not the only country facing problems with imports containing asbestos. Yuanda, the company at the centre of the imported materials used at the Perth Children's Hospital, also operates in the UK. A statement issued by a number of groups including Hazards, IBAS and others asks, "If Yuanda Australia imported asbestos-containing building materials, it is not unreasonable to suspect that Yuanda UK Co. Ltd could have done likewise. The company's website boasts of several high-profile UK projects."
Commenting on the situation, Fiona Murie, Director of Health and Safety and Construction for the Building and Woodworkers International, said: "The authorities in Australia have been complacent regarding the threat posed by the import of illegal building materials from China, the world's second largest asbestos user. Our organization is extremely concerned about the welfare of building workers in the UK and other countries where Yuanda is active. Until the situation has been resolved, we urge national and regional authorities responsible for enforcing asbestos prohibitions to take every appropriate action to prevent asbestos-containing products from China entering the country."
Read more: UK Toxic Asbestos Imports from China? [pdf]
International Asbestos Awareness and Management Conference - Speakers announced
ASEA this week announced the international speakers for its conference 13 - 15 November at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC). These are:
- Kathleen Ruff - Founder and Head, RightOn Canada (ROCA). A long-time human rights activist and board member of the Rideau Institute. Kathleen Ruff is a former director of the Court Challenges Program and a former director of the BC Human Rights Commission.
- Edward Emmett - Professor and Director of Academic Programs in Occupational Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the United States - and from 1988 to 1996 Chief Executive of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (Worksafe Australia) during which time national standards for asbestos were developed.
- Linda Reinstein - President and Chief Executive Officer, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, the United States
Once again, the conference will be facilitated by Matt Peacock, senior journalist with the ABC. 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.
UK: Musicians to check safety performance - useful for Aussie musos too!
Live performance risk assessments take time and bring their own set of stresses, the UK Musicians' Union (MU) has said. But it hopes a new, free online tool will take the worry out of risk. The Online Interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA), which was developed by the European Agency (EU-OSHA) and has tailored versions for sectors including 'live performance', provides a simple checklist that can be supplemented by the user and has other interactive functions. OiRA has been produced by representatives of employers, unions, government ministries and those working on the ground, and it aims to make risk assessment easier. MU health and safety specialist Roger Sutton was on the OiRA working party. "The tool fills an important gap for the industry. It does cover the key problems facing those who have to get involved in risk assessment. It goes much further than most in risk assessment roles could do without its assistance. For the small outfits that have to do risk assessments there is nothing similar available and is far better than most commercial offerings - and is free," he said. "It is mainly designed for those in smaller set-ups or those with no health and safety experience but it has proved useful well beyond these categories. Health and safety officers in larger organisations have found it useful as an aide memoire on the many things that may need looking at in a production or show. It can similarly give a guide to safety reps as to what managers should be looking at. It is also an educational tool for those wanting to find out more about risk assessment in the industry."
Read more: Musicians' Union news release. OiRA online health and safety risk assessment tool. Source: Risks 761
More evidence on sedentary work and the need to move more
In an article this week in his SafetyAtWorkBlog, award-winning OHS journalist Kevin Jones looks at recent research "A Cluster RCT to Reduce Office Worker's Sitting Time: Impact on Activity Outcomes" done by Australians. It found that a:
"workplace-delivered multicomponent intervention was successful at reducing workplace and overall daily sitting time in both the short- and long- term"
Kevin says the significance of this study is that the intervention program focused on "organisation, physical environment, and individual behavioural change to reduce sitting time" and that it used a multi-component approach of workshops, changes to the work environment, physical monitoring of activity as well as more common survey techniques and questionnaires. In summarising the research in the area, the researchers say:
"Workplace-delivered interventions have the advantage of being able to address multiple influences on prolonged sitting behavior, including intrapersonal, interpersonal, policy, and environmental (physical and social) factors. Several studies have now demonstrated the effectiveness, feasibility and acceptability of a range of strategies to reduce sitting time in the office workplace. Consistent with workplace health promotion frameworks, interventions that address multiple levels of influence (i.e., the environment, the organization, the individual) have tended to show greater reductions in sitting than single-component interventions, such as individual-based counselling, computer prompt software, and sit-stand workstations."
Read more: Evidence to support Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More More information on Sedentary Work on the site
Risk of kidney cancer following exposure to metalworking fluids among carworkers
Metalworking fluids (MWF), used to cool and lubricate metal in occupational settings, are linked to several cancers but data on kidney cancer are limited. Researchers in the US examined how MWF influence the rate of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) in a large prospective study.
The team followed 33,421 Michigan autoworkers from 1985 to 2009, linking them to the Michigan Cancer Registry to identify new cases of RCC. They found 135 cases and observed an increase with increasing cumulative exposure to each MWF type and total MWF exposure. They concluded that their results provide evidence for a dose-dependent association between MWF exposure and RCC - albeit a small increased risk. The researchers noted that the influence of components of oil-based and water-based MWF needed further examination.
Source: Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2016-103769 [abstract]
WorkSafe Victoria News
Record fines for failing to keep workplaces safe
Almost 130 businesses and individuals were fined a record amount by the Victorian courts in 2015-16 for breaching OHS laws. New figures released this week by WorkSafe reveal 108 businesses and 21 individuals were fined or ordered to pay restitution totalling more than $6.2 million.
The 108 businesses were ordered by the courts to pay fines and costs totalling almost $5.56 million. Of these, almost 40 were involved in the construction sector. They included:
- Frankipile Australia and Vibro-pile Australia: each convicted and fined $750,000 for the 2011 death of a worker who fell over 40 metres when the mast of a piling rig collapsed at Southbank.
- Thiess Services Pty Ltd: convicted and fined a total of $600,000 after two incidents involving an overloaded barge working on the Patterson River. In one incident the barge capsized, throwing three workers into the water and trapping one in the excavator in the water, seriously injuring him.
- Bilic Homes: which was convicted and fined $300,000 over an incident in which a carpenter died after being crushed by a brick wall on a construction site at Brighton East in 2014.
- Aussie Signs, which was convicted and fined $250,000 over its involvement in the attachment of a timber hoarding to a wall which increased the risk of the wall collapsing at Carlton. The wall collapsed and killed three people in 2013.
Minister for Finance, Robin Scott MP, said health and safety had to be everyone's priority in order to prevent workplace tragedies: "No worker should have to suffer the pain of being injured at work, and no family should ever have to suffer the anguish of knowing their loved one did not get home safely at the end of the day."
Read more: WorkSafe Victoria Media Release
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. 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 this month to assist the public to understand the proposed changes and the public comment submission process:
- Warrnambool - 10am, 4 August 2016
- Bendigo - 2pm, 10 August 2016
- Ballarat - 10am, 11 August 2016
- Geelong - 2pm, 16 August 2016
- Melbourne CBD - 1pm, 31 August 2016
Register for these sessions on the dedicated website.
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. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
NSW Alert: Angle Grinders
SafeWork NSW has issued a Safety Alert following an incident in February 2016, where a Queensland worker received fatal injuries while operating a 230 mm (9 inch) angle grinder. The worker was killed when part of a broken disc struck the worker's chest. It appears that due to the high impact of the projectile it caused fatal internal injuries. In another incident the disc jammed and the angle grinder kicked back and cut a worker's wrist. The regulator says the purpose of this safety alert is to highlight the risks associated with removing guards and using incorrect discs on angle grinders.
Read more: Guards and discs on angle grinders
Safe Work Australia news
As at August 2, 97 fatalities had been reported to SWA - this is ELEVEN more workers killed at work since the previously reported number at July 26. Five of these fatalities were in the Transport, postal and warehouse industries, three in Construction. The fatalities this year:
- 30 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 28 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 13 in Construction;
- 5 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- 5 in Arts & recreation services;
- 3 in Mining;
- 3 in 'other services';
- 2 in health care & social assistance;
- 2 in Information media & telecommunications;
- 2 in Retail trade;
- 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.
New guide: Managing risks with tree trimming and removal work
Safe Work Australia has published a new guide to help arborists, tree climbers, horticulturalists, gardeners, tree workers, landscapers, builders, developers and others involved in the amenity tree industry.
Tree trimming and removal work includes lopping, pruning, trimming, repairing, maintaining and removing amenity trees as well as wood chipping and stump grinding operations.
The guide is work presents various hazards for workers, such as:
- slips, trips and falls
- manual tasks like lifting and holding machinery
- punctures and cuts from branches
- falling objects like branches or felled trees.
The Guide is also useful for workers and helps to ensure the health and safety of other people who may be affected by tree trimming and removal work including members of the public
SA: Farmer killed
A farmer was been killed on Monday in a tractor incident at Greenock in South Australia's Barossa Valley. Police and emergency crews were called to the property Monday morning, but were unable to revive the 62-year-old man: he was declared dead at the scene. SafeWork SA is investigating the incident.
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
There have been no updates to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage since the last edition of SafetyNet.
High Court rejects Baiada bid in decapitation case
Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd has been refused special leave to appeal to the High Court against a decision upholding an OHS charge relating to the horrific death of a worker August 2010, and ordered it to pay costs.
Baiada was charged with breaching the Victorian OHS Act after the worker, an employee of Baiada contractor Ecowize Specialised Hygiene Services Pty Ltd, was decapitated while cleaning a chicken processing chain line at a Baiada factory. WorkSafe alleged the company failed to provide an "adequate system" to prevent workers from cleaning the chain line while it was operating, or from coming into contact with the line's sprockets, shackles and wash boxes.
Source: OHS Alert
Sydney builder fined after worker falls 12 metres
A Sydney construction company has been fined $87,500 after a labourer fell 12 metres from a scaffold at a Lane Cove construction site on 7 December 2012, and suffered head and neck injuries. The labourer had been bracing pre-fabricated walls on an unguarded scaffold extension platform within a second floor lift shaft when he stepped off the platform onto an unsecured piece of timber and fell .
The labourer had been employed by sub-contractor, Ultra Wall Pty Ltd who was charged with a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 but later went into liquidation. SafeWork NSW also charged principal contractor, JSN Hanna Pty Ltd with a breach of section 32 of the Act for failing to comply with its duty to have guardrails around the scaffold extension platform as well as failing to ensure the labourer was instructed to not work near the unprotected edge of the extension platform. JSN Hanna Pty Ltd was found guilty in the District Court and fined $87,500. Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release
Food company convicted and fined $75,000 after worker's fingers amputated
Ccereal manufacturer Freedom Foods Pty Ltd was this week fined $75,000 plus costs of $25,000 after a worker's fingers were amputated by a machine it had modified and failed to do a risk assessment on. As well as problems with how the machine had been modified, the court heard that the workers, who had been in the role for about a week, was working alone when a flake roller machine became blocked, despite the employer's policy to have a supervisor at the premises at all times.
The judge also found the worker wasn't trained on how to safely operate, isolate or clear blockages from the machine, and the employer's "systems in place at the time of the incident were behavioural controls only". However, he found employees had been "generally instructed" not to remove guards from moving machines, and the worker defied this training and "put himself in a position of peril by attempting to clear the blockage in the way that he did".
WA: Council fined $110k over easily preventable death
Western Australia's Shire of Waroona pleaded guilty and was fined $110,000 (plus costs of $8300) over a workplace death that could have been prevented by spending just $14,000 in fencing and equipment.
A Shire refuse site manager's uncle was killed in August 2013 when he fell into one of the site's five septic-tank waste ponds inside a wastewater treatment compound. Although the compound was enclosed by a high wire fence with lockable gates, none of the ponds were individually fenced.
The man was not formally employed at the site, but occasionally assisted with tasks there. On the day he was killed, the uncle's dog was agitated and smelled of septic waste.The manager realised his uncle was missing, and found that his uncle hadn't turned off a pump to one of the ponds as expected. The man's body was found at the bottom of one of the ponds two days later.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the incident could have been prevented if the ponds had been properly secured and automated pumps installed. "After this tragic event, WorkSafe inspectors issued the Shire of Waroona with five improvement notices, one of which required them to install a fence around each pond within 24 hours," he said.