SafetyNet 383, October 12, 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 - It's not too late to register for the event of the year, the VTHC HSR Conference on at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Tuesday October 25 (and in Bendigo on the same day). 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. While the 14 days notice expired yesterday, many HSRs and Deputy HSRs have very reasonable employers who will still allow them to attend.
The course outline is also now 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 - Consultation
If you haven't done the easy and straightforward survey, 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.
Hi Renata, Can you tell me whether primary school students able to work with or use spray cans [aerosol] in the school art room?
This issue (like many others) is not directly addressed in OHS legislation - but under the employer's general duty of care (to employees under s21 and to 'others' under s23) the issue must be dealt with if there are concerns.
The school must ensure that a risk assessment is completed on the use of aerosol cans by children (and staff). Are there risks created by their use and storage? What is the likelihood that someone might be injured or that someone's health may be affected? If there are risks, what controls need to be put in place to eliminate/minimise these risks? What training/supervision is needed? And so on. The affected staff (and any HSRs) must be consulted in the whole process.
For assistance and more information, you should contact the union, or the Department of Education and Training. There are also other potential sources of information – check this page on my site.
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.
Renata appreciates it when subscribers write in to comment on items in SafetyNet. Last week several came in which we will share with you.
1- Two of our subscribers sent in their thoughts on last week's question on a risk assessment of a tree, which Renata thought were worth sharing:
- From Gordon: "... the assessment for felling of a tree is complicated. There are a number of basic functions that must be undertaken but there are aspects that rely on the feller's experience and level of competence which cannot be covered by a list. .. things such as species and age of the tree, the weather, other trees etc. The list can be quite extensive and my thoughts are if you need to ask for a list, you do not have the skills required and should as you recommended, employ a skilled and qualified operator. It is a fact that serious injuries and fatalities are occurring with regularity across all regions of the country."
- From Safe Work Australia: "SWA has
published a guidance document which provides information on how to trim
and remove trees safely and looks at some of the risks and controls that
can be considered. Further information is available here." Also, we've just seen an Alert from NTWorkSafe: Maintenance and risk management of large trees and palms
2 - From Terry: a couple of recent high profile events have prompted me to write.
The first concerns the wide publicity given to the fining of a real estate firm of (something in the order of) $300,000 for the grievous sin of under-quoting. Now while this is a serious breach of the law and worthy of grave retribution, surely it highlights the priorities of our legal system. On the one hand, a practice that surely is laden with "caveat emptor" whereby if you have "x" amount of money to spend on a house and think (wrongly) that you will secure it, and don't, no real harm has occurred. On the other hand we read here of a company fined an unbelievable $500 for sacking an injured worker, and a fine of $110000 (just over a third of the above) for causing the loss of life of a worker!!! I know you will have at hand even more glaring discrepancies which will make the oohing and ahing over the real estate agents fine even more laughable.
Renata's comment: Thanks Terry. I thought the same thing when I read about the real estate fine - endemic under-quoting is a serious matter, but surely not as serious as workers being killed on the job, or a family's life being ruined. The VTHC and many others, in our submissions to the review of WorkSafe's compliance and enforcement activities, made the case for increased prosecutions and increased penalties
of employers who put workers' lives at risk.
Young Workers Health and Safety Snapshot
The VTHC Young Workers Centre last week released a report Young Workers Health and Safety Snapshot [pdf] Through a survey of more than 1000 young Victorians and case study interviews they found some shocking but perhaps unsurprising statistics:
- 1 in 2 young people have experienced bullying or harassment at work – most commonly from customers or clients followed by their boss or supervisor and co-workers. Sexual harassment was reported to be 'daily occurrence'
- 1 in 4 young people have experienced workplace injury or illness. 1 in 3 of those young people said they did not report this to their boss or supervisor for fear of losing shifts or contracts or not having their injury or illness taken seriously.
- 1 in 4 young people have been asked to do unsafe work. Less than half (44.4 per cent) felt they could raise it with their boss or supervisor, for fear of being targeted and losing shifts or contracts.
Young Workers Centre coordinator Keelia Fitzpatrick says "Young people are telling us that bullying, harassment and unsafe work are seen as a normal part of going to work. They worry if they raise these issues they'll be targeted as troublemakers and lose shifts, which is a real possibility when so many are working casually or on contracts. Keeping quiet has become the status quo."
Download the Snapshot from this page of the Young Workers Centre website
What do regulators say should happen?
This week, as part of National Safe Work Month, Safe Work Australia has loaded up a 10 minute video "Young workers tell us their views on work safety". Perhaps because it appears to have been filmed at a SafeWorkNSW event, these young workers seem very well informed about their rights and generally very sure they would not put up with unsafe work. View the video.
VTHC Injured Workers Support Network news
Subscribers will be pleased to learn that, through injured workers taking direct protest action and with some public support, the newly formed Injured Workers Support Network has now successfully secured apologies from all the WorkCover insurance agents named in the damning Ombudsman's report: Allianz, CGU, Gallagher Bassett, Xchanging, QBE.
The damning report slammed the behaviour of insurance companies and their treatment of injured workers.
the Injured Workers Support Network is active and has had five '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.
Read more about the Network and if you are interested in joining, email Sam Hatfield.
The past week has been a tragic one in the construction industry: two workers were killed at the Eagle Farm Racecourse in Queensland on Thursday October 6, and this week a female construction worker died after falling 13 storeys at a construction site in the Perth CBD.
The two men, a 35 year old and a 54 year old, were crushed to death by a concrete panel that collapsed at at the Eagle Farm Racecourse construction site in the Brisbane suburb of Ascot. The CFMEU's workplace health and safety coordinator, Andrew Ramsay, has said one worker had come forward on Friday and another on Saturday morning to reveal they had walked off the job days before the deadly incident.
In the Perth incident, the woman fell down a lift shaft, from the 15th floor to the 2nd floor at a building on Adelaide Terrace. WA's CFMEU state secretary Mick Buchan said the 27-year-old from Germany was working on the site as a labourer. Another woman working just metres away from her said the young woman was not wearing adequate safety equipment at the time. The death comes less than a year after two other workers - both Irish - were killed at another East Perth construction site when a wall panel fell on them.
Following the tragedy, the CFMEU has called on state governments to introduce industrial manslaughter charges which would make
organisations, directors and senior offices of organisations criminally
liable for workplace fatalities. the Queensland Labor
government has said it will wait until after the investigation is completed before deciding on whether to introduce such legislation.
See more: Ten Eyewitness News
Drug trial showing positive results for lung cancer patients
Doctors at a Sydney hospital say a new drug is offering hope to lung cancer patients - including those with mesothelioma. The immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab, also known under proprietary name Keytruda, is being trialled at Westmead Hospital in Sydney's west as part of a global study running in 16 countries.
Long-time asbestos activist, and GBAN Australian Director Lou Williams has been on Keytruda since March 2015. She says in her Living in Australia with Mesolothelioma blog: "In March 2015 I was on death's door. With a couple of weeks of living on oxygen 24/7, morphine, 42 kilos, red blood cells stopped producing needing blood transfusions, appetite non existent, body shutting down fast and bed ridden. At a cost to us, I was given a lifeline to Keytruda. It brought me back to good health within 3 months, weight improved, appetite returned, no need for oxygen or high morphine meds giving me excellent quality of life and my life back! Tumours shrunk significantly and fluid decreased in peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma. I continued on Keytruda infusions every 3 weeks for 1 year." Lou has been a tireless advocate to have Keytruda fast tracked on the PBS for Mesothelioma (Asbestos cancer) and other rare less common cancers (RLC) and has a petition on change.org - sign it now if you haven't already
New Director appointed to ADRI
The Board of the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation (ADRF) has announced that Professor Ken Takahashi has been appointed as the new ADRI Director. He will take over from Prof Nico van Zandwijk – the Institute's inaugural Director who has held the position since 2008 – in February of 2017. Professor Takahashi was an international guest speaker at the 2014 ASEA Asbestos Awareness and Management Conference. Read more: ADRI website
1 - Released this week, the fifth edition of the ASEA matters stakeholder newsletter covering the planning for the 2016 conference, results of the 2016 national survey on asbestos awareness and attitudes, guidance on asbestos sampling and surveys, the 2016-17 agency operational plan and National Asbestos Exposure Register statistics for the 2015-16 year.
Access the ASEA matters newsletter [pdf] from the agency website.
2 - ASEA Conference early bird registrations extended to October 21. There is still time to register for conference being held in Adelaide November 13 - 15, and get a good deal. Read more.
The Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia this week released its latest newsletter [pdf] - written by ADSSA's current president Ian Sheppard, he announces his resignation due to his failing health, and says it will be his last. The new president of ADSSA is Kevin Purse.
October 15 Anniversary of West Gate Bridge Collapse
This year the Memorial for the West Gate Bridge Collapse will take place at 11.30am this coming 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. More information: The West Gate Bridge Memorial Committee website "dedicated to the 35 working men who went to work on the 15th October, 1970 and never came home, and those who were injured, and to their brave comrades and the rescue crews.."; and on the Public Record Office Victoria website Disaster at West Gate: The West Gate Bridge Collapse of 1970
UK HSRs: Workplace stress at record levels
According to a Trade Union Congress (TUC) study published Monday on World Mental Health Day, stress is the top health and safety concern in UK workplaces. The TUC's biennial survey of more than 1,000 health and safety reps around the UK asks them to pick out the hazards at work that most trouble them and their workforces.
Stress was at the top of the list in this year's survey, with 7 in 10 reps (70 per cent) citing it as a problem – up 3 per cent since the last survey in 2014 when 67 per cent did so, and a higher proportion than in any previous TUC study. Stress is one of the main causes of mental health problems, in particular anxiety and depression.
- Stress is higher in the public sector: concern over stress is higher in the public sector, most affected by government cuts, than the private sector. It is especially prevalent in central government (where 93 per cent of reps cited it as a top five workplace hazard), education (89 per cent) and health services (82 per cent).
- Big rise in concern about stress at medium-sized companies: Stress is the most common concern faced by reps and workers regardless of the size of the workplace. Since 2014, it has become more widespread in some workplaces – most notably in those with 50-99 workers, where 75 per cent of reps cited it as a top-five concern compared with 62 per cent two years ago.
- Stress levels rising across the UK: The survey also reveals that stress is the most widespread concern all over the UK.
Read more: TUC Press release
International: Campaign against gender-based violence at work
Global trade union confederation ITUC is warning that gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It says more than 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence and between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of women experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work. The union body says that women can also be subject to verbal abuse and threats of violence, stalking, bullying and psychological abuse and intimidation. Domestic violence has a clear impact on the workplace, ITUC adds, through factors including absenteeism and loss of productivity and job security for the victims. The union body is calling for a new global standard on prevention. It notes: "Trade unions are taking action to end gender-based violence at work and are campaigning for a new international labour Convention to tackle the various forms of gender-based violence that occur in the world of work," through the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Read more: ITUC gender-based violence at work campaign webpage. Join the campaign! [pdf] Source: Risks 771
Canada: Powder given to miners linked to brain disease
Thousands of Canadian miners deliberately exposed to aluminium dust that was supposed to protect their lungs may have developed brain and respiratory disease as a result. As many as 20,000 miners were exposed to a dust called McIntyre powder, developed at McIntyre Mine more than 60 years ago. The gold and uranium miners were told the powder would coat their lungs and prevent them from contracting deadly silicosis. More than half a century later, there is no evidence it prevented silicosis and, in fact, it may have caused respiratory and other problems in workers who breathed it in.
A McIntyre Powder Project is being led by Janice Martell, who believes exposure to the powder caused her father's Parkinson's disease, as well as Alzheimer's disease and other dementias in other former miners. A University of Toronto study of stored aluminium dust in 1987 prompted the Ministry of Labour to do a study that showed miners exposed to McIntyre powder scored "statistically worse" on Alzheimer's tests than did miners not exposed to the dust. "That was the first real finding to show that McIntyre powder could have been a neurotoxin," Martell told a meeting last week in a union hall. She began speaking out in April 2015 about the possible link between aluminium powder and neurological diseases, after a year of researching the subject. She is now compiling a registry of workers who were exposed to McIntyre powder in mines. In 18 months, 313 people have signed the voluntary registry. The United Steelworkers union (USW) is putting its resources behind the project. Of the 313 on the voluntary registry, two-thirds suffer from respiratory ailments. One third of those workers is suffering from neurological disorders. In the 18 months since she launched the registry, as least half a dozen people on it have died, said Martell. "Their voices die with them, their stories die with them."
Read more: Sudbury Star. McIntyre Powder Project. Source: Risks 771
Squatting damages nerves
Researchers from Japan's Shinshu University have concluded that workers can sustain degenerative nerve injuries after just a few hours of prolonged squatting. They examined the medical case of a 38-year-old sewer pipe worker who had difficulty flexing his feet at the ankle, and experienced numbness in his lower limbs, after six hours of not being able to stretch his legs properly.
The worker had had been working in a narrow pipe about 150 centimetres in diameter without standing, sitting or stretching his legs fully. His symptoms persisted for two weeks, before deteriorating after another week of undertaking the same task. He was then admitted to hospital. According to the researchers, the worker suffered compression of the common peroneal nerve (CPN) at the fibula head, and was diagnosed with bilateral CPN palsy.
According to the researchers, while bilateral CPN palsy is a common condition caused by prolonged squatting, little is known about it in an industrial setting. There have, however, been reports of the condition in seasonal farm workers, and one study of such workers with squatting-induced CNP palsy found they first experienced symptoms one to six weeks after the start of a harvesting season.
Read more: M Kodaira, et al, Squatting-induced bilateral peroneal nerve palsy in a sewer pipe worker. [abstract] Occupational Medicine, Online first September 2016, doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqw133. Source: OHS Alert
WorkSafe Victoria News
WorkSafe Health and Safety Month - October
There have already been a number of events during this month's WorkSafe Health and Safety Month. Running from 4 October to 27 October 2016 there are events as far and wide as Mildura, Shepparton, Bendigo, Echuca, Swan Hill, Melbourne, Suburban Melbourne and Geelong (and more). The diverse calendar of events seek 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, check out the events and register.
Award Winners announced
Twenty-eight Victorian businesses, health and safety representatives and individuals were chosen as finalists for the 2016 WorkSafe Awards. The winners were named at a gala ceremony at the Regent Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne last Friday night.
More than 330 people attended the event, including the finalists, colleagues, families and friends, and senior WorkSafe staff. Minister for Finance Robin Scott also appeared as a special guest, and praised all the finalists for their contribution to making their workplaces safer. "Every finalist has achieved remarkable things and has an inspiring story to tell," Mr Scott said. "Safety at work can never be compromised and I hope the fantastic example of all our winners inspires others to implement their own health and safety ideas across Victorian workplaces."The winner of the HSR of the Year was Kelly Christie – Police Association member with Victoria Police (Melbourne). Nominated by her union, Kelly sought improvements to the Ringwood prosecutions building where she and other colleagues worked after identifying a range of hazards. While some safety issues were resolved, Kelly reached the conclusion that to achieve a positive outcome to a long-standing problems, was to 'drive action' by issuing a number of PINs. Members were eventually moved into a new, fit-for-purpose building and the old building was demolished.
The other finalists in this category were: Paul Pascu, MUA member at DP World Australia West Swanson (West Melbourne) and Kim Stirzaker, Yoowinna Wurnalung Healing Service (Lakes Entrance).
Read more, including about the winners of the other categories: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia news
National Safe Work Month
If you have not yet checked out Safe Work Australia's resources for National Safe Work Month take a look now: a resource kit, on 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. The seminars will remain on the Safe Work Australia website as a lasting and free resource . Read more.
Enter the Workplace Participation Reward as part of National Safe Work Month
National Safe Work Month is now underway and Safe Work Australia says it's time to start thinking about how your organisation can recognise work health and safety and win a reward worth $5,000.
They are asking organisations to tell them how they have made their workplaces safer by entering the National Safe Work Month Workplace Participation Reward. The reward encourages organisations to think of new and creative ways to build awareness of work health and safety and make the workplace safer. Entries opened Monday 4 October and close Monday 7 November 2016.
For more information visit the Workplace Participation Reward web page.
As at October 11, there had been 132 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is seven more notifications since the last update on September 23.Three of these deaths were in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector; and another three were in construction. The fatalities this year:
- 42 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 34 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 21 in Construction;
- 7 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services;
- 6 in Arts & recreation services;
- 5 in 'Other services';
- 4 in Mining;
- 2 each in Administrative & support services; Accommodation & Food services; Retail trade; Information media & telecommunications; and in professional, scientific & technical services; and
- 1 each in Public administration & safety; Health care & social assistance; and Wholesale Trade.
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 is 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.
- From WorkSafeWA: an overview: Working with Pesticides and also an Alert Grain fire and dust explosion in silo
- From NTWorkSafe - an Alert Maintenance and risk management of large trees and palms
Maroonda Council enters into Enforceable Undertaking
On 17 February 2015 two Maroondah City Council employees were scarifying the ground at Springfield Park, Croydon ('the workplace') using a Turf Tec Australia scarifier attached to a Fendt tractor. The Council is responsible for maintenance at the workplace. The blades of the scarifier were insufficiently guarded and partially exposed. Further, Maroondah City Council did not have a traffic management plan in place for mobile plant operating at the workplace. While one of the workers operated the tractor and scarifier attachment, the other walked behind observing the results. At times he would adjust the height of the scarifier while it remained under power. On one of these occasions, the employee's foot became entangled with the blades of the scarifier while they were energized. He suffered serious injuries to his foot and toes.
On 19 September 2016 Maroondah City Council entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe Victoria (as per section 16 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004). As a result of the incident, the Council has taken a number of actions: added additional guarding; engaged a consultant to review operations and work practices in relation to powered plant; reviewed and implemented new SOPS; and run a toolbox meeting. It has further undertaken to: conduct a Local Government Industry Sector OHS Information session; investigate and implement enhanced safety technology for employees working alone; and funding Certificate II Pre-apprenticeship traded training and WorkSafe 'white card' training for disadvantaged community members.
In some ways, this EU illustrates some of the issues raised in the VTHC submission to WorkSafe Victoria's compliance and enforcement activities. A number of the actions taken by the Council are things which it should have been doing; others are not directly related to the breaches of the Act and regulations.
ABD Group conviction: WorkSafe Media Release
In last week's edition of SafetyNet, we reported on the conviction and $80,000 fine of the ABD Group following an incident in which a carpenter survived a fall of almost three metres down an unguarded stairwell void at a construction site in Doncaster in 2011. In a media release, WorkSafe's Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said all duty holders, including principal contractors, needed to take responsibility for the safety of everyone on a work site. "Safety is everyone's responsibility," Ms Williams said. "We know that construction sites are dynamic workplaces with hazards changing from day to day as the site changes. That's why it's so important to implement the right safety measures."
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
To check for further updates go to the Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK:Two Tesco firms fined after worker's roof fall
Two of the giant supermarket Tesco retailer's companies have been fined a total of half a million pounds after a worker plunged nine metres through a skylight roof. Andrew Burgess miraculously walked away with cuts, bruises and some muscle damage; he was off work for a number of weeks for physiotherapy, but was able to return to work. His employer, Tesco Maintenance Ltd, was fined £300,000 (AD$489,500). Tesco Stores Ltd was fined £200,000 (AD$326,330). They have to jointly pay £9,379 (AD$15,300) prosecution costs. The judge said it was "a minor miracle" the worker had not been killed or seriously injured after plunging into the store and landing on shelving in the soft drinks section. The judge added that customers could also have been hurt and although Mr Burgess was not seriously injured it was the risk of harm that was the issue. Workers had been on the roof at the premises, a Tesco Express in Liscard, on seven or eight occasions in the preceding five years. Read more: HSE news release Source: Risks 771