SafetyNet 386, November 2, 2016
Welcome to the latest SafetyNet - a week of news done in a day, due to a short week at the VTHC. And welcome to a whole new group of subscribers, following our conference. Remember you can stay up to date between our weekly journals by joining the hundreds of people who follow our We Are Union: OHS Matters Facebook page. If you're an OHS rep, and passionate about health and safety, then consider joining the Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out and ask to join.
Construction fatality - October 26
About an hour after the last edition was posted last Wednesday, we received the tragic news that a 54 year old worker was killed in a fatal crushing incident at Melbourne's South Wharf - ironically close to where over a thousand HSRs had gathered for the VTHC HSR conference just the day before. The boilermaker is understood to have been operating a boom lift on the ProBuild Melbourne Convention Centre site when the tragedy occurred. He was a Stilcon employee and AMWU member. It was reported that emergency services were called just before 3.35pm. AMWU and CFMEU officials were on site. The CFMEU said: "The building industry is dangerous, but workplace fatalities are unacceptable." The fatality triggered the Industry Fatality Policy to be implemented by the CFMEU immediately on all sites:
- Step 1: Provide a report on the incident to workers on-site.
- Step 2: Observe 1 minute silence.
- Step 3: Full OHS audit of your site.
This latest tragedy brings the fatalities in Victoria this year to 24. This is why we fight for health and safety. Other than updating the number of fatalities this year on its site, there has been no comment from WorkSafe.
Do you have any advice as to why a workplace should have HSRs? Beyond pure compliance reasons, WorkSafe provides the following guidance: "Research shows that when employees have input into health and safety, workplaces have better health and safety outcomes. This means fewer workplace incidents and injuries." This doesn't address HSRs specifically. You could, in theory, have adequate consultation without HSRs
It's not just about consultation and the duty of the employer to consult - if it were, then you are right, theoretically, there could be adequate consultation without HSRs, as under s35 of the Act, the employer must consult with affected employees. If there are HSRs this consultation must be with them, with or witout the involvement of all the affected employees.
The OHS Act gives HSRs far greater powers for actually making the employer address issues (hazards and risks) which put the health and safety of workers in danger. It's about prevention - if an employer does not follow through and do something with regards to an issue raised by the HSR (or the workers) the HSR has a range of options – these include issuing a PIN, seeking the assistance of someone for advice, calling the union, calling an inspector and even ordering that work cease - on behalf of the members of the DWG.
Also, without an HSR, who has the right to attend a five day course on paid leave as well as regulat Refresher training, the majority of workers often have no clue of what their rights are. Often, an HSR, particularly in a smallish workplace, knows more than the employer. The HSR is a spokesperson, so it can take the heat and pressure off individuals to take issues to the management themselves.
By the way, it's not actually a legislated requirement for workplaces to have HSRs. The election of HSRs is triggered when DWGs are formed, and while these can be established by an employer there is no legal requirement to do so unless there is a request from employees, at which point the employer must initiate the process to establish them.
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.
The Corkman Irish Pub: 'We're sorry!'
The "cowboy" developers who illegally knocked down Carlton's Corkman Irish Pub have apologised for their demolition of the 159-year-old hotel, and have said they will rebuild it. They have also hired well-connected Labor lobbyists and spin doctors to help them negotiate with the Andrews government. Late on Thursday afternoon, Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski sent a letter to Planning Minister Richard Wynne saying they were sorry for knocking down the historic pub without warning. Renata wonders if they were also sorry for everything else they did wrong - like continuing the demolition after the Council had ordered them to stop; taking away asbestos contaminated waste after the EPA telling them not to; and illegally dumping it at one of their other sites?
Read more: The Age
Queanbeyan tops the Mr Fluffy count in NSW
A recent program update from the NSW Loose-fill Asbestos Implementation Taskforce reveals that Queanbeyan has the highest number of homes affected by loose-fill asbestos insulation (Mr Fluffy) in NSW. Of the 3554 households registered for inspection in the Queanbeyan-Palerang area, 1560 tests have been completed and 61 of those houses have been found with asbestos. Council Administrator, Tim Overall says: "It is no surprise that the Queanbeyan-Palerang local government area has the highest number of affected homes given its close proximity to Canberra, where Mr Fluffy operated for more than 10 years." Read more: City News
ASEA Conference November 13 - 15 It is really your last chance to register to attend Australia's leading conference on asbestos. If you haven't yet registered, you've missed out on the early bird discount, but it's still worthwhile. If you are interested in any aspect of asbestos - research, disease support, legislation, import and more, then register for conference. It will no doubt be a terrific event, and this year is being held in Adelaide. Read more.
Russia to 'educate' Sri Lanka to keep asbestos
On-going pressure from the Russian government has secured a substantial delay to Sri Lanka's proposed ban on chrysotile asbestos. An October 10 story in the Mirror Business newspaper first revealed a ban scheduled for 2018 had now been pushed back to 2024, after Russia warned the ban could damage relations between the countries. The article, headlined 'Russian experts ready to educate Lankans on safe use of chrysotile asbestos', quoted Russian ambassador Alexander Karchava, saying he had discussed the issue with Sri Lanka's president and prime minister. He warned a ban on Russian sourced chrysotile could strain relations between the two countries. He added he was willing to bring in a group of experts to Sri Lanka to educate the country on the 'safe use' of asbestos. This has been the sales pitch used by the asbestos lobby for decades, with Russia recently taking off the lead promotion role from Canada, whose asbestos mines have gone bust. "Thanks to the goodwill of the Sri Lankan government, we managed to postpone the ban on the import of chrysotile asbestos until 2024," Karchava told the 13th annual general meeting (AGM) of the Sri Lanka-Russia Business Council in Colombo. Meanwhile the ambassador called on Sri Lankan businesses to step up their activities in Russia. "We are not only talking about seafood and tea companies, but also apparel, agricultural producers," he said. Tea is top Sri Lanka's top export to Russia, making up about half of all exports.
Read more: Mirror Business. Daily FT. Ceylon Today. Source: Risks 774
ADAO November Newsletter
The US Asbestos Diseases Awareness Organisation (ADAO) November newsletter has been posted with news of that organisation's ongoing fight to have asbestos banned in the US. The newsletter has information on their upcoming conference. Linda Reinstein, founder and CEO/president of ADAO, will be a guest speaker at the ASEA Conference later this month.
Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work Inquiry: Final Report
The final report of the Victorian Government's Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work was released last week. he inquiry followed reports of exploitation and widespread job insecurity across Victorian industries. The multi-billion dollar Labour Hire Industry is currently unregulated and includes a range of operators, from small to large commercial operations. Victorian Unions submitted that there needs to be a licensing scheme that applies to all operators.
"We received over 600 individual submissions to this inquiry, from working Victorians employed in every industry across the state. Labour hire and insecure work is not an issue contained to any industry, it is rife and across the board" said Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Luke Hilakari.
"58 per cent of Victorian workers who made submissions had felt unsafe at work, and just under half said that they didn't feel like they could raise health and safety concerns with their employer," he said. "Rogue, dodgy employers are ripping off Victorian workers. These so called companies are usually little more than individuals with a mobile phone, an ABN and a call sheet of people desperate for work."
In fact, the Inquiry has recommended that a licensing scheme be set up to regulate labour hire operators. The report also called on the Victorian Government to advocate for a national licensing scheme for labour hire operators, through COAG (the Council of Australian Governments). The Victorian Government has accepted in principle the recommendations regarding licensing and advocacy to the Commonwealth.
Read more: A full copy of the report as well as information on the inquiry, can be downloaded from this page of the Victorian government website.
Scotland: Public sector faces soaring violence
Violence against Scotland's public service workers has doubled in a decade, union research has found. UNISON's Violence at Work Survey 2016 shows recorded violent assaults have risen from 20,000 to over 40,000 per year over the last decade, the highest level since the annual survey began in 2006. The union says part of the increase reflects greater awareness of the problem, better reporting and possibly changes in reporting methods. "However the doubling of reported incidents in decade cannot be explained just by better awareness and reporting. Violence against workers happens too often and must be addressed by employers and government," the union notes. It adds that the "significant rise" in violent incidents affecting local authority staff "is after a few years of seeing the figures drop." Scott Donohue, UNISON health and safety committee chair, said: "Violence against public service workers has increased, with significant increases against local authority workers. We cannot ignore a doubling of the figures over 10 years." He added: "It is also reasonable to make the correlation between the swingeing cuts to councils and increase in violence to council workers. Staff tell us if you have to wait longer, or the service you need is no longer available, or a support worker has less time to spent with a client, it's being taken out on those working face to face with the public."
Read more: UNISON Scotland news release and Violence at Work Survey 2016. Source: Risks 774
UK: Number of people working night shifts up by more than 250,000
As British Winter time began this weekend, the UK's TUC urged people to spare a thought for the millions of UK workers who regularly work through the night. New analysis published by the TUC shows that the number of people who work night shifts increased by 275,000 (9 per cent) between 2011 and 2016 to 3,135,000. Britain's large army of night-workers now accounts for one in eight (12 per cent) employees.
Most night-workers were men working in manufacturing plants but this has changed drastically: in 2016 one in seven male employees (14 per cent) were night-workers, compared to one in 11 (9 per cent) female employees. However, women now account for more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of the growth in night-working over the past five years. Between 2011 and 2016 the number of women regularly doing night work increased by 190,000, while for men it increased by 86,000. Read more: TUC Press Release
Europe: Coalition calls for whistleblower protection
Over 40 trade unions and civil society organisations from across Europe are calling for improved protection for workers who blow the whistle on wrongdoing, from financial misdemeanours to environmental and workplace safety abuses. "Member States have either no whistleblower protection or laws with mixed track records," said ETUC confederal secretary Esther Lynch at the coalition's www.whistleblowerprotection.eu launch in Brussels last week. "There is an opportunity now with the preparation of the European Pillar of Social Rights to live up to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees of freedom of expression, protection from unjustified dismissal and a right to effective remedies by bringing forward measures that will mean that workers can come forward without fear of retaliation and with a sense that their disclosures will be listened to." A statement agreed by the initial 44 signatories notes: "Whistleblowers often risk ending up paying a high price for disclosing information. Yet whistleblowing can be essential in bringing to light – for example – illegal activities, corruption, activities which are contrary to public interest and threats to public health and safety. Whistleblowing can save lives, the environment and money. It is high time for legislation on EU-wide whistleblower protection." Read more: ETUC news release. ETUI news alert. Source: Risks 774
WorkSafe Victoria News
Safety Soapbox - October 28
In the editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on October 28, Steve Darnley from the regulator's Construction Program writes about the danger of snakes and asks industry to minimise the risk to workers from snakes by reviewing their emergency procedures in relation to snake bites. The CFMEU produced advice on 'Snakes on Site' some time ago, which we placed on our website (read it here). The edition also has news from around the country, including a link to a new fact sheet from NSW on Tower Crane Safety.
There were 57 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from 7 October - 20, and include: 26 near misses, 15 lacerations, three fractures, three electric shocks, and two crush injuries. As always, several of the near misses could have been fatal - for example a load falling from a crane, narrowly missing the operator. Access the October 28 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
Queensland: Dreamworld tragedy sparks safety blitz
It has been announced that specialist inspectors and engineers would be visiting Queensland theme parks from last weekend, carrying out checks on amusement rides as part of a month-long safety blitz. Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said urgent action was required to ensure the safety of theme park visitors following the tragic deaths of four tourists on a rafting ride at Dreamworld on Tuesday last week.
"Tuesday's tragic events reverberated around Australia and the world, and my heart goes out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives," she said. "These events are being thoroughly investigated by authorities and in addition to this, safety auditors will be hitting Queensland theme parks from today."
The Minister said the audits, focussing on records inspection, maintenance and repair and manufacturer documentation, would be completed by the end of November.
Source: Queensland govt statement
Safe Work Australia news
Online safety quiz
At the end of National Safe Work Month, Safe Work Australia has asked you to "Test your work health and safety knowledge" in their interactive online quiz. Questions cover a range of issues in the work health and safety space including types of workplace injury and disease, to the difference between safety data sheets and material data safety sheets. Each question comes with a full explanation of the results, with links to more information. Take the quiz here.
As at October 27, there had been 143 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is four more notifications since the last update on October 20 - that is four more families who have lost a loved one in just one week. Three of these deaths were in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector, and the fourth in the construction sector. The fatalities this year:
- 49 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 34 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 23 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; Public administration & safety; and in professional, scientific & technical services; and
- 1 each in Manufacturing, 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 remains that for May 2016, during which there were 17 work-related notifiable fatalities - one fewer than in April. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Comparison of Workers' Compensation
SWA has released its 2016 Comparison of workers' compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand. The 300-page report (which can be downloaded here) includes developments that commenced in each of Australia's 11 workers' comp schemes between July 2014 and September 2015. The report aims to provide all stakeholders with information to assist them in understanding workers' compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand, including discussing the way each scheme deals with key aspects such as:
- eligibility for benefits
- return to work provisions
- self-insurance arrangements
- scheme administration and funding arrangements
- dispute resolution
- cross-border arrangements.
Muesli company convicted and fined for incident resulting in amputated finger
Popina (Vic.) Pty Ltd, a company manufacturing and supplying muesli based cereal and snack products in Dandenong South, used a '4 Screw Mixer', an item of plant made up of four rotating screw augers inside a hopper mixing wet product and feeding it onto a conveyor leading into an oven. This item of plant created a risk to employees of entrapment, entanglement and crushing as access to the danger area of the plant, namely the four moving auger screws, had not been eliminated. The company had failed to adequately guard the machine at multiple areas of the plant that allowed access to the moving screw augers. It also failed to provide a safe system of work as it had failed to conduct a risk assessment for the 4 Screw Mixer. On 3 July 2015, an employee was injured when he reached into the underside of the hopper between the out-feed area and conveyor belt to remove a clump of product, resulting in the amputation of his finger from the top knuckle. The offender pleaded guilty in the Dandenong Magistrates' Court, and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $30,000 plus costs of $4,564.
Demolition company fined without conviction after worker's leg amputated
On 4 March 2015 an employee of P.P.K. Demolition Pty Ltd was operating a skid steer loader at a construction site in Prahran. The company had not identified hazards associated with and appropriate controls for avoiding overloading the skid steer loader, did not have a safe work instruction on estimating load size or safe loading of the plant, and had not ensured employees were competent in assessing the weight of a load to ensure the skid steer loader was not loaded above its rated operating capacity. The employee was not wearing a seatbelt. The worker loaded an oversized 920kg piece of concrete debris into the bucket, exceeding the plant's rated operating capacity of 748kg. He drove the skid steer to a skip bin, and in the process of releasing the load, the loader tilted forwards, ejecting him from his seat with his right leg outside the cabin. The skid steer boom came down and pinned his right leg just above the knee, and required amputation. The company pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court, and was without conviction fined $45,000 plus costs of $4,564.
Tyre fitting business fined for potentially fatal incident
Re-Tyre Latrobe Valley, is the trading name of the R.J Brown and S Brown Partnership, operating as a tyre fitting business for cars and heavy machinery at the workplace in Trafalgar. An inflation cage at the workplace used to inflate split rim tyres was not used by employees, and inflating split rim tyres outside the inflation cage was unsafe and exposed employees to the risk of death or serious injury from an exploding tyre. This is what happened on 27 March 2015 when an employee was injured whilst inflating a split rim tyre outside of the inflation cage. The tyre exploded throwing him into the air and causing injuries including a broken ring finger, tendon damage to his right ring finger, lacerations and bruising. Raymond John Brown, an "Officer of the partnership", pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $13,000 plus $4,030 costs in the La Trobe Valley Magistrates Court.
To check for updates go to the Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
China: Mine gas explosion kills at least 15 people
Fifteen people have been found dead following a gas explosion some time before midday on Monday at the privately owned Jinshangou mine in the Chongqing region, with 18 others still trapped, according to state news agency Xinhua. The condition of those trapped by rubble was not known more than 24 hours after the blast ripped through the mine. Just two miners were confirmed to have survived the blast. Xinhua reported that the 400 workers trying to rescue more miners were being hindered by debris blocking some of the mine's passageways.
Gas explosions inside mines are often caused when a flame or electrical spark ignites gas leaking from the coal seam. Ventilation systems are supposed to prevent gas from becoming trapped. The State Administration of Work Safety ordered an investigation into the blast, "adding that those responsible must be strictly punished".
Read more: Al Jazeera; ABC News Online.