SafetyNet 377, August 31, 2016
Victorian HSRs: an URGENT request for you to complete the online consultation survey asap. Also, a reminder to register for the Injured Worker and OHS forum on September 10 (see more information on both items, below)
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Is there a work standard requirement to provide working lights and toilet paper in toilets?
WHAT?? Your company/boss does not supply their workers with toilet paper, and expects them 'to go' in the dark!!! How is this possible? How can there be such employers out there?? A wild guess: but I assume your workplace is not unionised, and you do not have an elected health and safety representative...
Under the law (s21 of the OHS Act) an employer has a legal duty to provide 'so far as is reasonably practicable' adequate facilities for the welfare of employees. What this means an employer needs to do is set out in the Compliance Code for Workplace amenities and work environment. The Code states:
"Workplace amenities need to be maintained so that they continue to meet the needs of employees. This means they need to be hygienic, safe, secure and in serviceable condition.
Consumable items, such as soap and toilet paper, need to be replenished regularly. Broken or damaged infrastructure and fittings (such as plumbing, airconditioning and lighting) needs to be repaired promptly."
It goes on to give more detail regarding the number of toilets required, what they should be fitted with and so on. To read more check this page on the site: Toilet facilities - what should workplaces have?
(note that other jurisdictions place similar requirements on employers/PCBUs)
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.
Foreign/migrant workers injured/killed at increasing rates
A feature article in the Fairfax press last weekend confirms what many unions have been telling government for a long time: migrant and foreign workers are at higher risk of being killed or injured in Australian workplaces. Fairfax Media has documents which expose increasing concerns as a result of 'confidential research' undertaken by Safe Work Australia regarding an increase in injuries and fatalities among poorly paid migrant workers. SWA concludes that visa-holders, refugees and permanent migrants are largely hired in low-end jobs such as farm labour or meat processing, and are suffering deadly workplace injuries at higher rates than other workers. Obtained through FOI requests, the documents expose the failure of state and federal authorities to track and share crucial data that is urgently needed to respond.
Several unions, including the NUW and the CFMEU, have helped expose the shocking treatment of these vulnerable workers on Australian farms, food processing and construction sites, for example. Many of these workers speak little English, have little idea of what their rights are, and are too frightened to join a union.
Read more: Fears over rise in migrant workers killed, injured in industrial accidents The Age
CFMEU wins battle for dismissed injured miner
Last week the Federal Court fined a "recalcitrant" Rio Tinto subsidiary $50,000 for the adverse action it took against a mineworker. The company stood down the Hail Creek Coal drill rig operator after he won $600,000 in damages for a serious workplace injury.
In his penalty judgment, Justice John Reeves said the company's absence of "any concern" for its conduct toward the operator "makes particularly hollow its claims to be acting out of concern to comply with the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act (CMSH) Regulations and the Act". He said those provisions "are directed at the health and safety of mine workers, not to Hail Creek Coal's operational considerations".
The company's argument that the operator should not be compensated for its adverse action against him because he had already received a $600,000 payout for serious injuries he sustained on the job was also rejected. Justice Reeves ordered Hail Creek Coal to pay the penalty to the CFMEU. The hearing to finalise the amount of compensation will be held shortly. Read more: CFMEU Media release Source: Workplace Express
WA: Worker killed at recycling plant
WorkSafe WA is investigating a fatal incident at a recycling site, at Henderson, south-west of Perth, last week . Police and paramedics were called to the Brajkovich Landfill and Recycling worksite shortly after 4.00pm last Monday. Ambulance paramedics provided emergency treatment to the worker, in his early 20s, who reportedly suffered serious head injuries in a fall. He was taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Queensland: Mining contractor killed at Newlands open cut mine
It is with great sadness that SafetyNet reports that a 55-year-old mine contractor was killed at Glencore's Newlands open cut operation, near Glenden, central Queensland, at about 10am yesterday, Tuesday August 31. The worker conducting maintenance at the site's coal handling and preparation plant.
Glencore said, "Operations at the preparation plant and open cut mine remain suspended while an official investigation by police, emergency services and the mines inspectorate continues."
Asbestos imports here alarm New Zealand
Discoveries of asbestos in major new building projects in Australia have alarmed authorities in New Zealand, and triggered a warning to authorities. Peter Tighe, CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency warned that the scale and variety of contaminated products left no room for complacency. "If it's a problem in Australia then the chance that it's a problem in New Zealand is quite likely, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed."
ASEA: International Asbestos Awareness and Management Conference
The program for the 3rd International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management, 13 - 15 November at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) has now been released.
Some of the highlights include:
- An update from The World Health Organisation
- Results of the 2016 national asbestos awareness survey
- Updates on the latest ARD treatments
- A plenary on managing the importation of asbestos
- International approaches to asbestos management
View the full program 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.
UK: MP attacks government asbestos inaction
A Labour MP has accused the UK government of failing to protect children and teachers from "an asbestos timebomb" in our schools. Rachel Reeves said up to 21,000 schools across the country could still contain asbestos, but added: "The truth is that we do not fully know the full extent of the problem or the nature of the risks faced by staff and pupils. There is also the uncertainty surrounding newly established free schools – some of which are housed in former office blocks and other redundant buildings – and whether those new schools contain asbestos." She said as the new chair of the Asbestos in Schools (AiS) group she would "be pressing the new education secretary to do more to deal with the threat that a report from the all-party parliamentary group on occupational health and safety described as the 'timebomb in our schools'." She warned that asbestos is not yesterday's problem. "Sue Stephens, a primary school teacher for 30 years, died a few weeks ago in June after she was exposed to asbestos in the classroom. Sue asked her family to start a campaign so that every child's potential exposure to asbestos has to be disclosed to families. More than 6,000 people have signed a petition created by Sue's campaigning daughter Lucie Stephens." The MP added: "Sadly, Sue's heartbreaking case is not unique. Between 2003 and 2012, an estimated 224 teachers in England died of mesothelioma. Evidence submitted to MPs suggests the death rate for former pupils may be up to 300 a year… It's time for the government to get a grip and act to end this needless risk to the health of thousands of teachers and children." Source: Risks 765
Strategies for older shift workers
With increasing numbers of workers, including older workers, doing shift work, recent US research on strategies to improve sleep is very topical.
The researchers, from Boston Massachusetts, tested whether a sleep and circadian-based treatment which has been shown to improve circadian adaptation to night shifts and attenuate negative effects on alertness, performance and sleep in young adults would also be effective in older adults.
They assessed subjective alertness, sustained attention, sleep duration and circadian timing in 18 older adults in a simulated shift work protocol. Four day shifts were followed by three night shifts in the laboratory. The participants slept at home and were randomised to either the treatment group (scheduled evening sleep and enhanced lighting during the latter half of night shifts) or control group (ad-lib sleep and typical lighting during night shifts).
They found that compared with day shifts, alertness and sustained attention declined on the first night shift in both groups, and was worse in the latter half of the night shifts. Alertness and attention improved on nights 2 and 3 for the treatment group but remained lower for the control group. Sleep duration in the treatment group remained similar to baseline (6–7 hours) following night shifts, but was shorter (3–5 hours) following night shifts in the control group.
They concluded that the combined treatment of scheduled evening sleep and enhanced lighting increased sleep duration and partially aligned circadian phase with sleep and work timing, resulting in improved night shift alertness and performance.
Source: Evan D Chinoy, et al: Scheduled evening sleep and enhanced lighting improve adaptation to night shift work in older adults [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2016-103712
Work is a pain in the neck – officially
A study has found that work factors are a major pain in the neck, highlighting the prevention measures that could resolve the problem. Working with academics, investigators at the US government's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) confirmed the link between neck pain and specific psychosocial and organisational risks in the workplace. According to NIOSH, neck pain and other injuries to the upper arms and back are the underlying causes of approximately one-third of injury-related lost work days in manufacturing in United States. Across all US industry, neck pain affects an estimated 15 per cent of workers, it said.
The NIOSH-backed study, which analysed data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), found that neck pain was significantly more common among workers who reported one or more psychosocial and organisational risks in the workplace than it was among other workers. Findings published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine indicated these risks included: work-family imbalance; exposure to a hostile work environment and job insecurity; non-standard work arrangements, such as contracting, consulting, on-call, or temporary work; multiple jobs; and long work hours. Intervention programmes targeted to these specific risk factors for neck pain could benefit workers, according to the investigators. In addition, long-term studies of both psychosocial and physical risks for work-related neck pain are important to confirm these findings and identify other risk factors, they said.
Read more: NIOSH Research Rounds, volume 2, issue 2, August 2016. Haiou Yang and others. Workplace psychosocial and organizational factors for neck pain in workers in the United States, [abstract] American Journal of Industrial Medicine, volume 59, issue 7, July 2016. NIOSH resources: Persistent pain in the neck! What resources help you prevent MSDs in the workplace? Source: Risks 765
Good safety management is good management
There is no trade-off between excelling in safety or production management – in fact they are 'complementary', a Canadian study has found. Researchers Emile Tompa and Lynda Robson from the Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health (IWH) examined the performance of nearly 200 manufacturing organisations in Ontario and found no evidence of a trade-off. Instead, their findings suggest a 'complementary relationship', with organisations that focus on both operations and occupational health and safety (OHS) through 'joint management system' (JMS) practices achieving the same operational outcomes - better cost, quality, delivery and flexibility outcomes - as organisations that emphasise operations over safety. According to IWH: "In essence, employers that adopt the JMS approach, which allows for the coordinated management of both operations and safety, do significantly better across the board compared to those that don't." The findings support the idea that organisations with JMS practices can be competitive and, possibly, even leaders in both operations and OHS performance, the researchers concluded. Organisations that focus on both operations and safety can do well on both fronts, they said.
Read more: IWH news release. At Work, Issue 85, IWH, Summer 2016. Source: Risks 765
Queensland: Warning on powerlines following fatalities
The Queensland government today issued a media release following a number of recent fatalities across that state. Energy Minister Mark Bailey visited Energex's EsiTrain complex today ahead of Electricity Safety Week (5-9 September) and raised the issue in Parliament, has urged the community to 'look up and live'.
"Last week we had a tragic accident when a tree lopper died after coming into contact with powerlines at The Gap in Brisbane," Mr Bailey said. "There was also a near miss last week when a sign-writer came into contact with powerlines at West End in Brisbane."
Twp farm workers were electrocuted this year, as well as a pilot who died from injuries sustained when his chopper crashed after contacting powerlines on a farm. The minister said all these incidents are being investigated by the Electrical Safety Office and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
Read more: Queensland government Media Release Tragedies highlight powerline dangers
Safe Work Australia news
New research released - what management thinks it's doing
The national body says that two important aspects of safety climate are management safety empowerment and management safety justice, which are the perceived degree to which employers respectively empower their workers to influence aspects of their own safety and deal with health and safety incidents fairly and justly. This research investigated these two aspects in order to better understand leadership and culture as it relates to work health and safety.
The research found that most employers (80 to 90 per cent) believe they performed management safety empowerment behaviours frequently in their businesses, including consultation and ensuring a safe environment. However, a proportion of employers indicated they did not display management safety empowerment or justice frequently in their workplaces - in particular small business.
Read more: Perceived levels of management safety empowerment and justice among Australian employers
The SWA site has not been updated since August 23, at which date 112 fatalities had been reported to the national body. To check for updates, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page).
The latest monthly fatality report remains that for March 2016, during which there were 18 work-related notifiable fatalities. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Care provider's conviction confirmed, fine increased
In September 2015 Golden City Support Services Inc. (GCSS) was found guilty of breaching s 21(1) of the OHS Act relating to a failure to provide a safe working environment for carers when transporting a particular client, who had previously assaulted her carer. At the time, GCSS was fined $15,000, without conviction, and ordered to pay WorkSafe's costs.
On Appeal: GCSS was again found guilty. The appeal was heard from 24-26 August 2016. HH Judge Patrick set aside the orders imposed at the Magistrates' Court and GCSS was convicted and fined $10,000 and ordered to pay WorkSafe's costs of the Magistrates' Court and County Court proceedings.
To check for updates, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Worker seriously injured in fall: roofing company fined
A Sydney roofing company and its director have been fined more than $60,000 after a worker was seriously injured when he fell from a roof in November 2014. The worker, who was on a work trial, was assisting with tiling the roof of a single story dwelling when he fell approximately three metres, striking a pallet of roof tiles in the fall.
SafeWork NSW's investigation found that the employer, High Top Roofing Pty Ltd had organised for roof rails to be delivered to the site however when they did not arrive, sent the inexperienced worker and a co-worker onto the roof to work without fall protection. High Top Roofing Pty Ltd was charged with breaches of the WHS Act for failing to ensure the health and safety of workers. The Director was also charged with breaches of section 32/ 28 for failing to comply with his duty to take reasonable care for the safety of others at the workplace. Both were found guilty in the District Court and fined $61,875. Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the incident was another fall from heights injury that could have been prevented.
Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media release
Two companies fined after worker killed by falling object
Two employers have been fined a total of $525,000, after a labour-hire worker, allowed to stand in what should have been an exclusion zone, was killed by a one-tonne falling object.
In separate judgments, the NSW District Court Judge Bill Kearns found that principal contractor Ceerose Pty Ltd should have ensured subcontractor DSF Constructions Pty properly secured the object (a steel skylight); and that DSF had been aware that the object was liable to fall. Ceerose had subcontracted DSF to design, manufacture, supply and install structural steel at a Ceerose refurbishment project in Sydney.
In August 2013, a crane raised three steel skylights into position on the building's roof frames under the supervision of a DSF manager, but DSF didn't bolt or weld the skylights into place because it was waiting on connection details from an engineer. During the lifting task, an exclusion zone was in place beneath the skylights, but this was then disbanded, despite another crane proceeding to perform other lifting work in the same area. The second crane or its load then struck one of the skylights, causing it to fall 11 metres and fatally strike the labour-hire worker, who had been instructed to perform duties beneath the crane.
Ceerose and DSF both pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19 and 32 of the State WHS, in failing to maintain and enforce an exclusion zone below the skylight frames until they were secured. Source: OHSAlert
South Korea: 76 Samsung workers dead
There have been several items on Samsung in South Korea in past editions of SafetyNet. Online activism organisation, SumOfUs is asking people around the world to sign a petition compensate the sick workers and their families and improve safety measures so this never happens again. Samsung deliberately kept secret the harmful chemicals its workers were exposed to, fearing its competitors would learn trade secrets. 76 workers are now dead. Most of the dead were in their 20s or 30s. According to one former worker, a breast cancer survivor, reported that Samsung brought in "uninformed kids" and treated them like they were "disposable cups."
There have been 200 cases of serious illnesses at Samsung's LCD factories, including leukemia, lupus, lymphoma, and multiple sclerosis. Samsung repeatedly refused to reveal the carcinogenic chemicals workers were exposed to in its factories, the exposure levels, or how it managed the chemicals. And the only reason it gave was protecting its bottom line: "our company's competitiveness would be lowered," it told the government, which then helped them keep it secret. Read more and sign the petition.