SafetyNet 376, August 24, 2016
In a horrific incident, another Victorian worker was killed in the past week - another family in grief. This fatality takes the workplace death toll to 21 this year - though the 'official' number is 19.
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Worker killed by collapsing structure
It is with great sadness that we report that a 33 year-old worker was killed after an incident in which he was crushed under a load of steel at a workplace in Wodonga on Thursday morning. The incident occurred at about 7am. According to Victoria Police, the Lavington father was crushed between two steel staircases at SJ and TA Structural. Emergency services including Wodonga SES and firefighters, called to the site, after he was found dead underneath steel. Paramedics could not approach as the structure was unstable. It is believed that the man and a colleague were using a crane to stack steel when the incident occurred. WorkSafe is investigating.
Source: The Border Mail; WorkSafe Victoria
The Instrument workshop seems to be very dark, and I find that I am battling to do my tasks. Is there a standard or minimum amount of light that is requiered?
If your workplace is too dark, then this is an OHS issue. Your employer has a duty of care under s21(2)(c) of the OHS Act to 'maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, each workplace under the employer's management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health'. This includes ensuring there is enough light!
However, there is nothing more specific in terms of light levels actually mandated, either in the Act or in Regulations. But there is information on what employers need to do in order to comply with their duties under the OHS Act the Workplace amenities and work environment Compliance Code: "Lighting from natural and/or artificial sources needs to be provided for employees to ensure working conditions that are appropriate to the nature of the work, the location of the work and the times at which the work is performed." The Code requires that employers take into account a number of factors, including the nature of the work activity and the nature of the hazards and risks. There is a table with recommended 'illuminancies' for various types of work. For areas where visual tasks are very difficult and with very small detail or with very low contrast - which might describe your instrument workshop - the recommended illuminance level is the highest, at 800 lux. Read more: Lighting - I think my workplace is too dark
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.
Independent OHS Review: update
The VTHC'S submission to the Independent Review into Victoria's Occupational Health and Safety Compliance and Enforcement has not yet been loaded onto the Review's website, so if you'd like to check it out, click here to download the PDF document. The Women's team also put in a submission which should also appear on the Review website eventually. Check out the other submissions on this page of the review website - you'll see quite a few of the short, to the point, submissions which came through our HSRs.
In his SafetyAtWorkBlog last week, Kevin Jones asks the question: "Is it time for on-the-spot fines for Victoria?" Certainly this is one of the suggestions made in the VTHC submission to the review, also made by several others. Read more: SafetyAtWorkBlog
ACT Asbestos Taskforce Newsletter
Readers will be aware that in the wake of the Mr Fluffy disaster, the ACT established a Taskforce to oversee the government's response, including purchase of affected homes, demolition, remediation of blocks, resale and so on. The August newsletter provides an update of completed work and more. Read more: ACT Asbestos Taskforce August newsletter
Royal Hobart Hospital: the saga continues
The issues regarding the discovery and removal at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) continued in the past week, with Tasmania's Health Minister Michael Ferguson finally acknowledging the State Government's responsibility in removing the asbestos, after saying it was the contractor's task alone. The state's unions and the Greens had attacked the Minister, arguing he wrongly gave the impression the managing contractors - John Holland Fairbrother Joint Venture - were in charge of asbestos-removal decisions.
The Tasmanian Labor party has accused both the Health Minister and also the Building and Construction Minister Guy Barnett of failing to follow protocol after RHH health staff and construction workers were potentially exposed to asbestos. Both ministers dodged questions in state parliament this week when asked if they had followed protocol in referring workers to the National Asbestos Register.
Read more: Health Minister Michael Ferguson accepts shared responsibility for issues ABC News online; Asbestos protocol in doubt for Tasmanian workers Construction Industry News
Perth Children's Hospital: Union concerns with asbestos removal
Both WA's opposition and the union are concerned that the removal of asbestos sheeting from within roof panels at the new $1.2 billion Hospital is a 'patch-up job'. The asbestos was discovered almost six weeks ago and was blamed as a major reason John Holland, the lead contractor, missed the recent handover date.
Instead of the safest option of completely replacing the panels, they are 'trialling' removing the asbestos-riddled fibre cement boards from inside their galvanised iron shell. Consulting company Coffey has concluded that hazardous materials had been 'satisfactorily removed'.
The CFMEU is concerned about the plan, saying it is too risky and the panels should be completely replaced, saying, "It seems to be built down to a price and not up to a standard." Read more: Concerns over WA hospital asbestos removal SBS
ASEA: International Asbestos Awareness and Management Conference
Remember: ASEA's conference 13 - 15 November at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC). More information here. There is a special price for community/non-profit organisations, as well as an early bird deal which closes September 30. Register here. Presentations and highlights from the 2015 ASEA Conference can be downloaded from the ASEA website.
Canada: Encouraging news expected
Kathleen Ruff, founder and head of RightOnCanada, and one of the international speakers at this year's ASEA conference, said last week that after years of Canada's asbestos policy being under the control of the Department of Natural Resources, (where under the previous government, the Minister and his officials did everything in their power to promote the interests of the asbestos industry and the export of asbestos), it is "extremely encouraging to learn that the current Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, is actively involved with her cabinet colleagues in setting a new policy on asbestos". She says, "I am hopeful that in the next session of Parliament, which commences on September 19, the government will announce its plans to ban asbestos, take measures to protect Canadians from asbestos harm and play a leadership role at the UN in support of the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance under the Rotterdam Convention." Read more: RightOnCanada
International: Why most ships still contain asbestos
Although asbestos has been banned from ships since July 2002, it is still found in over 90 per cent of ships. This article by John Chillingworth, reveals that asbestos has been found in over 80 per cent of new ships, even though the shipbuilders have declared the ships to be asbestos free. Chillingworth's company has found as much as 15 per cent asbestos in materials that have been declared asbestos free in China - a problem we have encountered in products imported into Australia. Shipyard declarations, which are accepted by the authorities, are often inaccurate as a result of which hazardous exposures continue to occur aboard vessels. The author makes recommendations regarding action shipowners could take to remedy this dangerous situation.
Read full article; Source IBAS
Geelong: Worker carjacked
A female worker at the McKellar Centre in Geelong was attacked by three armed men who jumped out of a van, threatened her with knives, and tried to steal her car and phone. She had been parking her car on Calvert St, in Hamlyn Heights, when the incident occurred at 6.30am Tuesday last week. Barwon Heath workers have been targetted before: in 2013, police were forced to step up patrols around the Ballarat Rd centre after more than a dozen staff had their tyres slashed.
This followed the introduction by the Centre of fees for on-site parking: employees began to park on roads surrounding the McKellar Centre. Under the OHS Act, the employer has a duty to provide safe access to and egress from the workplace - if such attacks continue, then the workers at the Centre need to raise it as an OHS issue, preferably through their elected HSR. Read more: The Geelong Advertiser
More bio-aerosol concerns raised
Last week's SafetyNet had an item on SafeWork Australia's report on workplace asthmagens. This week it has been reported that European researchers have found that workers exposed to common bio-aerosols are prone to fatigue, in addition to respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and nose congestion.
The Norwegian and Dutch researchers found that: blue-collar workers exposed to grain dust, endotoxins, bacteria, fungal spores and beta-glucans are more likely to experience airway complaints and stinging eyes than office staff from the same organisations; and fungal spores and dust are strongly associated with fatigue. They concluded that fatigue and nose symptoms are strongly associated with fungal spores, while coughing, and coughing with phlegm, are equally strongly associated with grain dust and spores.
Read more: Anne Straumfors, et al, Norway, Cross-shift study of exposure–response relationships between bioaerosol exposure and respiratory effects in the Norwegian grain and animal feed production industry. [abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online first July 29 doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-103438. Source: OHS Alert
WorkSafe Victoria News
Regulator releases details of Quad bike rebate scheme
WorkSafe Victoria and the Victorian Farmers Federation this week released further details in relation to the Victorian Government's $6 million quad bike safety rebate scheme, announced last month by Premier Daniel Andrews last month.
The rebates, for purchases made from 1 September, 2016, are up to $600 for the purchase of a rollover protection device for a quad bike or up to $1200 for the purchase of a safer vehicle such as a side-by-side vehicle (SSV) or a small utility vehicle (SUV). Eligible farmers will be able to claim their rebate from 1 October.
Minister for Finance, Robin Scott, said "I encourage all eligible farmers to use the rebate to fit an appropriate rollover protection device to their quad bike, or consider buying another vehicle so that they, their families and their workers can stay safe."
Read more, including answers to frequently asked questions on the scheme: WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe's latest Safety Soapbox was sent out August 19 - and marked fifteen years since its first edition. There have now been more than 500 of the e-journal produced. In the editorial, Barry Dunn, Acting Manager of WorkSafe's Construction Program says, "Safety Soapbox has become, and will continue to be, a key communication tool for the Construction Program, allowing us to regularly update the construction industry on trending issues and current initiatives.
"The first public e-newsletter (email) was sent out on 17 August 2001 to approximately 80 recipients and by July 2003 subscriber numbers had increased to 1,235. Today the subscription is well over 17,000 including subscribers from interstate and across the world."
This edition provides an update on the asbestos import situation in Victoria (good news), as well as the usual list of notifiable incidents from 28 July to 10 August 2016: There were 50 reported, and include 16 near misses, 11 lacerations, seven electric shocks, two each of fractures, punctures, and dislocations and one amputation.
Read more: August 19 Safety Soapbox
Review of the OHS and EPS Regulations - time running out
Remember: The draft OHS Regulations, EPS Regulations and the Regulatory Impact Statements are now available for public comment, which closes Friday 9 September 2016. Go to the dedicated website - for the draft documents and materials which provide a clear overview of the changes proposed. There is now just one free information session if you're interested in understanding the proposed changes and the public comment submission process: Melbourne CBD - 1pm, 31 August 2016
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
SafeWork NSW releases Roadmap to Safety
On Monday, SafeWork NSW launched a new work health and safety Roadmap for NSW which set ambitious targets to reduce the rate of injury, illness and fatalities in NSW workplaces. The Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022 is a six year plan to make the lives of NSW workers and business owners healthier, safer and more productive.
Under the vision 'Healthy, safe, and productive working lives', the Roadmap aims to reduce work-related fatalities by 20 per cent, serious injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent and serious musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent through engaging and empowering workplaces to manage health and safety more effectively.
Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said while NSW had made good progress towards meeting national safetytargets, the rates of work-related of injuries, illnesses and fatalities were still too high. "Over the last ten years, fewer people are being seriously or fatally injured in NSW workplaces," Mr Dunphy said."But the number of workplace serious injuries and illnesses remain too high with 30,902 NSW workers harmed during 2015/16. And when we consider the economic cost of these injuries and illnesses, which at more than $17 billion or 3.7 per cent of gross state product, it's clear that we must do more." Read more: NSW Media Release
Queensland: Powerline electrocution deaths prompt safety warning
A spate of incidents involving overhead power lines has left two people dead and seven others seriously injured - all of which could easily have been avoided.In the most recent incident, on Monday afternoon, a 28-year-old worker was electrocuted and died when the pruning tool he was using came into contact with powerlines.
Head of Queensland's Electrical Safety Office, Victoria Thomson said
these tragedies leave families and colleagues devastated, and should
never happen. "It's a tragic reminder to be aware of overhead powerlines and respect the safe exclusion zone distances around them. The exclusion zone around most powerlines, which is the minimum safe distance for workers and any equipment they are using, is three metres".
Read more: Media Release
Safe Work Australia news
The SWA site has been updated and as at August 23, there were 112 fatalities had been reported - this is twelve more workers killed since the last update! The fatalities this year:
- 34 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 32 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 17 in Construction;
- 6 in Arts & recreation services;
- 5 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- 3 each in Mining; and in 'other services';
- 2 each in Health care & social assistance; Information media & telecommunications; Retail trade; professional, scientific & technical services; and Accommodation & Food services; and
- 1 each in Public administration & safety, and Administrative & support 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).
SWA has now released the monthly fatality report for March 2016, during which there were 18 work-related notifiable fatalities: 11 male workers, two female workers, three male bystanders and two female bystanders. Of these fatalities, seven workers and three bystanders died as a result of an incident on a public road and one worker died as a result of an air incident.
Of the 18 fatalities, nine fatalities involved a vehicle accident - public road crash and two resulted from electrocution. The remaining seven fatalities were all different types of incidents.
Nine fatalities occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing workplaces and six in Agriculture, forestry & fishing workplaces. Public administration & safety, Construction and Mining workplaces had one fatality each. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Victorian Prosecutions: no updates since last edition
WA: employees fined for OHS breaches
1 - Forklift operator fined over fatality
A forklift operator, who complied with a request to raise a worker on his tines, has been fined nearly 40 per cent of the maximum OHS penalty for failing to take reasonable care of the worker, and causing his death in a fall. In February 2014, a truck driver asked the forklift operator to use the forklift to raise him in a wooden fruit bin so he could wash the roof of his truck. While the truck driver was washing the roof, the fruit bin slid from the tines. He fell two metres to the ground, the bin fell on his head, and inflicted fatal injuries.
The Harvey Fresh forklift operator, who pleaded guilty to breaching WA's OSH Act, held a high-risk work licence, meaning he was the "holder of responsibility in this situation... [and] should have known better than to agree to such a dangerous course of action", WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said.
2 - A senior employee has been fined over a serious "horseplay" injury after a man sustained serious burns in a prank gone wrong. The senior plant mechanic pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care of the safety of a co-worker and causing him serious harm. He was fined $6000 (plus more than $500 in costs) and granted a spent conviction in the Perth Magistrates Court.
In August 2014, the mechanic had sprayed a highly flammable brake cleaning chemical on the back of his co-worker's shirt while they were servicing and repairing a skid-steer loader at a Densford Civil Pty Ltd workshop. The co-worker, who didn't realise he had been sprayed, then proceeded to perform welding work on the loader bucket and the chemical on his shirt ignited, seriously burning the left side of his torso. He was hospitalised for 10 days, needed a large skin graft and remained off work for a month.
Source: OHS Alert
Colombia: Workers narrowly escape being crushed to death
Two workman escaped death by inches after an enormous crane came crashing down at a worksite in Colombia, South America. Two cranes were being used to transport a large concrete beam on August 11 when it suddenly crumbled.
The incident caused one of the cranes to topple over and crash into the ground near a group of construction workers. The massive piece of machinery barely just two of the men who ducked for cover as debris rained down around them.
See the video: 9News