SafetyNet 382, October 5, 2016
Welcome to our subscribers - especially all the new ones who have been added to our list following their registration to the upcoming VTHC HSR Conference (details below). If you're in Victoria, and have not registered yet, register now!
VTHC 2016 HSR Conference: "Nothing about us without us"
"Nothing about us without us": Your Right to Consultation under the OHS Act - this is the theme of the vent you've all been waiting for. The conference will take place at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Tuesday October 25. And this year, we are also running one in Bendigo! The Conference has approval under s69 of the Act, which means that as long as HSRs give their employers at least 14 days' notice, the employer must allow them to attend on paid leave - that is, must ensure that they are paid for the day. Deputy HSRs are also welcome, however there is no obligation for the employer to provide the paid leave - though many do.
We now have the course outline available. For more information, including the day's Program, go to this page. And remember, you can register NOW through the VTHC - the process is very easy and straightforward. Once you have registered, you will receive a confirmation email, as well as a copy of the WorkSafe approval.
Victorian HSRs have your say - it's not too late!
Consultation Research Project: Be part of a bona fide research project. This is one of the most common gripes HSRs have: their employer does not consult. So.. have you completed the consultation survey? If you haven't, then please do so NOW! This research is being done by HSR and OHS Network member Vasalia as part of her Masters in OHS at La Trobe University, and will feature in this year's HSR Conference. The project has had ethics approval, and participation is voluntary and anonymous. The online questionnaire should only take 20 minutes to complete. The consultation survey is on our website - please complete it now, and also share with other HSRs in your workplace.
VTHC Injured Workers Support Network news
In last week's SafetyNet we told subscribers how Allianz met with Gerard Wilkie and Trades Hall in response to the Ombudsman's report which slammed some of the tactics used by insurance companies. The Injured Workers Support Network then moved on to CGU - which unlike Allianz, locked the doors and refused to meet with the injured workers. However, after further calls from the VTHC, CGU management has agreed to publicly apologise for their behaviour - in one example CGU were caught out hiding evidence from medical experts to try and terminate an injured workers' claim. As a result, action planned at CGU today was cancelled. The Injured Workers Support Network had more to do though: they moved on to one of the remaining two insurers named: Gallagher Bassett. A petition has been set up to put some pressure on Gallagher Bassett - so please sign it, and then share it.
The newly formed Injured Workers Support Network is active and has already had two 'wins' - but there is still much to do. Network Groups are going to be established both in metropolitan Melbourne and elsewhere around the state to facilitate involvement of injured workers and offer support. If you are interested in joining the Network, email Sam Hatfield.
Hi Renata, I was hoping you were able to assist me with an OHS Assessment on a tree? Any documents / references would be great.
? an OHS/risk assessment of a tree? This is not the sort of thing I have information on, however, I have been able to find general risk assessments on chopping down trees (eg part of this document from WA)
But if what you're looking for is an assessment of how safe a particular tree is, whether there are risks of falling branches, etc, then this really needs to be done by a qualified arborist – someone who has the right qualifications and can properly check the tree for things such as disease, fractures, etc which could make it unsafe.
Remember that the employer has a duty of care under Section 21(2)(b) of the Victorian OHS Act to:
"employ or engage persons who are suitably qualified in relation to occupational health and safety to provide advice to the employer concerning the health and safety of employees of the employer"
If the tree is of concern and if it creates a risk (people have been killed by falling branches), then a proper assessment by someone suitably qualified needs to be done. The employer has a duty to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health for workers.. and also has duties to 'others' (see this page: Duties of employers)
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 Zealand bans importation of asbestos-containing materials
New Zealand has joined more than 50 countries, including Australia, in banning the importation of asbestos-containing materials from October 1. Cancer epidemiologist David Skegg, from the University of Otago, said the country's snail-pace reaction to asbestos as "shamelessly slow" and a clear failure to address the problem that had put thousands of lives at risk.
It is estimated there are 170 asbestos-related deaths in New Zealand each year, and is expected to rise with the peak to be some time between 2030-40.
Apart Australia and now New Zealand, no other nation in the region has a policy preventing the use and importation of asbestos. Read more: ABC News online
Spain: Asbestos Protest at School
Last week, on September 29, dozens of schoolchildren and their parents held a a protest over asbestos roofing at the Vasco Nunez de Balboa primary school in Benidorm. The parents said the dilapidated and leaking asbestos-cement corrugated roof was installed 41 years ago and constitutes a health risk to the schoolchildren and staff. Parents say calls for urgent remediation and repair work to the school have repeatedly been ignored by the authorities including the Ministry of Education and the City Council.
See: Clamor contra el amianto en el Vasco [Outcry against asbestos at Vasco school]. Source: IBAS
Federal government launches taskforce on migrant workers
Last week there was a report in SafetyNet of Victorian research exposing the exploitation of student visa holders. Unions such as the NUW and the CFMEU have long been exposing how workers in their industries have been unpaid and treated badly. Yesterday the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash announced that former ACCC chair Allan Fels will head a migrant workers taskforce that will advise the government on policies to improve employment protections for overseas workers and monitor 7-Eleven's rectification of underpayments. Professor Fels, sacked by 7-Eleven in May as leader of the independent Fels Panel, will chair the new 18-month taskforce while the other former panel member, David Cousins, will be the deputy chair.
The Taskforce will be required to hold the first of its minimum of four meetings per year "as soon as possible" and to issue a communique each time. Updates on 7-Eleven and Taskforce Cadena are to be standing agenda items at taskforce meetings, according to the terms of reference. It will have members from the departments of employment, immigration and border protection, attorney-general, education and training, and treasury, plus the FWO, ATO, Australian Border Force, ACCC, ASIC and other "relevant agencies".
Read more: Government to launch Migrant Worker Taskforce, Sydney Morning Herald
Save the Date: October 15 Anniversary of West Gate Bridge Collapse
This year the Memorial for the West Gate Bridge Collapse will take place at 11.30am on Saturday October 15. When the bridge, which was under construction, collapsed just before noon on that day in 1970, 35 workers were killed and many more seriously injured.
Check out the CFMEU's video on Facebook.
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.
|HSR Initial OHS training course||HSR Refresher OHS Training Courses*|
* HSRs are entitled to attend this course every
Europe: Cancer main cause of death
Cancer is now the main cause of death in western Europe, overtaking cardiovascular diseases. This is the main conclusion of a study published in August 2016 by the European Heart Journal. 'According to the most recent data more men die from cancer than cardiovascular diseases in 12 countries and in two countries for women. All of these countries are in Western Europe', wrote the report's authors. Cardiovascular disease remains however the most common cause of death in Europe as a whole.
The researchers at the British Heart Foundation's centre at Oxford University based their study on the most recent figures issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning 52 countries as of 25 November 2015. While 33 per cent of annual deaths occurring in the EU15 now have a cardio-vascular cause – particularly myocardial infarctions and strokes – this proportion is 38 per cent in the EU28 and 54 per cent in non-EU member states. 'The main result is that there are enormous inequalities in Europe with regard to mortality, morbidity and treatment, with the worst outcomes usually in eastern Europe', explains Professor Nick Townsend (Oxford University), who directed the study. 'It is not really a surprise because this development has been observed for many years, but the magnitude of inequalities is shocking', he added.
Read more: The full article can be downloaded from the ETUI News item.
WorkSafe Victoria News
October is WorkSafe Month
WorkSafe Victoria has now made the entire month of October WorkSafe Health and Safety Month. WorkSafe says it is the 24th year such an event has been run. The state-wide program kicks-off on Tuesday 4 October and concludes 27 October 2016 with events as far and wide as Mildura, Shepparton, Bendigo, Echuca, Swan Hill, Melbourne, Suburban Melbourne and Geelong (and more). The regulator says the purpose of the diverse calendar of events is to raise awareness of WorkSafe and the role it plays in the community to deliver excellent workplace safety and return to work outcomes.
Read more and check out the events.
Award Finalists announced
Twenty-eight Victorian businesses, health and safety representatives and individuals are finalists in the 2016 WorkSafe Awards, which recognise outstanding contributions to workplace health and safety and to helping injured workers return to work. The finalists come from a wide range of industries including health care, local government, manufacturing, emergency services and education.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said each finalist should be enormously proud of their achievements in helping to make Victorian workplaces safer. "Our finalists may come from diverse backgrounds and fields but they share an incredible passion for keeping workers safe and supporting injured workers return to safe work," Ms Amies said.
The three finalists for HSR of the Year are:
- Paul Pascu – MUA member at DP World Australia West Swanson (West Melbourne)
- Kim Stirzaker – Yoowinna Wurnalung Healing Service (Lakes Entrance)
- Kelly Christie – Police Association member with Victoria Police (Melbourne)
The winners will be announced at a special ceremony at the Regent Plaza Ballroom on 7 October during Health and Safety Month. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia news
National Safe Work Month launched
The CEO of Safe Work Australia, Michelle Baxter, has launched 2016 National Safe Work Month in a video message that appeals to workers to save lives by having a conversation, sharing stories and raising awareness about work health and safety.
"Work health and safety is something every single worker needs to be aware of," said Ms Baxter. "National Safe Work Month has been running for over a decade and during this time there has been a steady decline in the number of workers injured or killed at work. However, each year almost 200 people are still heading off to work and not returning home," said Ms Baxter. "We can do better than this. We can improve these statistics and this can start with a simple conversation. The more we talk about work health and safety the more it becomes a normal part of our conversation and everyday work life."
Read more: Safe Work Australia Media Release
Renata's comment: While workers should speak up, unless employers take more action to eliminate hazards and risks, and regulators increase their compliance and enforcement activities, preventable workplace injuries and fatalities will continue.
This year Safe Work Australia is supporting National Safe Work Month by developing resources for businesses, a resource kit, hosting the workplace participation reward program and sharing stories and statistics about work health and safety. To find out more - how to get involved, to download the resource kit and more, visit the National Safe Work website. Safe Work is also be running its Virtual Health and Safety Seminar series in October, and invite anyone who is interested to subscribe. Read more.
Safe Work Australia had not updated its reported fatalities page as of the afternoon of October 5: as at September 23, there had been 125 fatalities. To check for updates before the next edition of SafetyNet, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page. The latest monthly fatality report remains that for April 2016, during which there were 18 work-related notifiable fatalities - the same number as in March. All were male. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Cancer Council and workplace cancers
The Cancer Council is using National Safe Work Month to warn of the risks associated with diesel-fuelled machinery, after finding exposure to diesel fumes is Australia's second-most prevalent work-related cancer-causing agent. It is calling for greater cancer awareness in the workplace, following new estimates that about 130 workers are diagnosed each year in Australia with lung cancer as a result of work-based exposure to diesel fumes.
Terry Slevin, Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Occupational and Environmental Cancer Committee, said an estimated 3.6 million Australians were exposed to cancer-causing agents at work, with around 5,000 cancer cases diagnosed each year as a result. "Awareness of the risks of exposures like asbestos and UV radiation is increasing, and is reflected in gradual improvements in work safety practices," Mr Slevin said. "By contrast, awareness of the hazards of exposure to diesel fumes is low, especially in relation to the potential harms. It's estimated that around 1.2 million Australians are exposed to diesel
engine exhaust at work each year... [and] those who work with
diesel-fuelled heavy machinery are at high risk."
Read more: Cancer Council Media Release Diesel fumes at work cause 130 lung cancer deaths every year; and resource page: Workplace Cancer Information on Diesel
ABD Group fined $80k in County Court
Construction company ABD Group Pty Ltd, was in May 2011 was the principal contractor for the building of an apartment complex in Doncaster. On 9 May 2011, employees of a sub-contractor undertaking carpentry works were on Level 7 of the complex, installing particle flooring to joists. Levels 1-6 had been constructed with suspended concrete slabs. There was an unprotected stairwell void in the area where the carpenters were working. As ABC Group failed to ensure that stairwell void protection was installed by the subcontractor, this created a risk of serious injury or death from a fall from height, being 2.8m onto a concrete slab.
One of the carpenters was using a circular saw to trim flooring overhanging the stairwell void when the power cord pulled out and hung down into the stairwell void. When he moved across to get it, he slipped on sawdust and the remaining piece of excess flooring broke off, causing him to fall 2.8m to the concrete floor below. He landed on his right side, luckily not hitting his head, and although he suffered internal bruising, no bones were broken. The offender was found guilty by jury and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $80,000.
Employer convicted for sacking injured worker
In a rare case, an employer, MMPF Pty Ltd has pleaded guilty to discriminating against an injured worker in September 2014. The man was employed as a motor vehicle mechanic from May 2014. In August, he developed back pain during the course of his employment, and on 3 September, was provided with a WorkCover certificate of capacity stating that he was unfit for any duties from 3 September to 30 September. He telephoned the employer on the 3rd, to advise that he had been certified as unfit to work for this period and provided his medical certificate the following day. The worker subsequently became aware he had been dismissed on 3 September, the day he had given notice of the injury. The offender pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $500 and to pay costs of $1,366.
Renata's comment: I wonder whether the worker got his job back? I'd say probably not!
To check for further updates go to the Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
WA: Company fined after fatal incident at a Pilbara mine
XOW Nominees Pty Ltd, trading as Rod Mitchell's Transport and Exploration Services, has been fined $110,000 in Perth Magistrates Court over an incident which killed a worker in January 2015.
The worker, a heavy duty mechanic was conducting maintenance work on a bulldozer at a manganese mine site in Pilbara when he was crushed by the vehicle's belly plate. An investigation by the Department of Mines and Petroleum was found that the bulldozer had been modified, was damaged and had missing parts which contributed to the incident. The company had no record of the bulldozer's damage or modifications, despite its policies requiring employees to record and report damage to plant and equipment, Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum mines safety director Andrew Chaplyn said.
US: New York State adopts measures to protect nail salon workers
In late July, the New York State Department of Health issued a report on workers' exposure to hazardous chemicals in nail salons. The report's authors reviewed the scientific literature and consulted experts from health and environmental agencies across the United States. They found that people working in the nail care industry are potentially exposed to about 100 chemicals that are present in manicure products, including some carcinogens (benzene, formaldehyde) and reprotoxics (toluene).
'Our review of product Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) showed that a single nail polish, for example, can contain dozens of chemical constituents', wrote the authors. When examining the labelling of nail products, they also found discrepancies between the chemicals listed and the chemicals actually present in the product. For instance, toluene was found in 10 out of 12 products with labels stipulating that they were 'toluene-free'.
Following the release of the report, the governor of the State of New York announced the entry into effect in October of new regulations imposing ventilation requirements in nail salons across the state. 'Nail salon workers have been grossly exploited and exposed to dangerous chemicals with little or no protection', stated governor Andrew Cuomo in a press release. Read more: ETUI News
China: 'Illegal' coal mining caused deadly explosion
Chinese authorities have blamed illegal mining activities for a gas explosion at a coal mine that killed 19 people and left one other miner missing. The explosion on the morning of 27 September occurred at a small coal mine when 20 miners were working underground in the city of Shizuishan, in the northwestern region of Ningxia, China's official press agency Xinhua reported. It said an initial investigation found the blast was caused by illegal mining, but did not provide details. Local officials said at a press conference that representatives of the company that owned the mine, the Linli Coal Mining, were in police custody. At the briefing, Wu Yuguo, the city's deputy mayor, said an excessive concentration of gas and the destruction of the mine shaft had hindered rescue efforts. China's mines have long been the world's deadliest, but safety improvements have reduced deaths in recent years. Source Risks 770