SafetyNet 387, November 9, 2016
Here's the latest edition of SafetyNet - full of the latest OHS news. As we get closer to the end of the year, there seems to be more and more to do! But it's also a dangerous time in workplaces: whether it's the pressure to finish things before the end of the year or something else, there are often more fatalities in November and December than at any other time. Safety must come first - so speak up, make sure you keep raising issues with your employer.
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.
VTHC HSR Conference
Several requests have come in for the presentations from the VTHC's recent hugely successful HSR Conference: Nothing about us without us. Some of these are now available on the We Are Union OHS site More will be added soon, including Dr Paul Sutton's presentation on Consultation.
November 9: National Day of Respect for Public Transport Workers
The murder of Brisbane bus driver Manmeet Sharma on October 28 has been marked by a National Day of Respect for Public Transport Workers, today Wednesday 9 November 2016. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) have asked commuters to honour the Day of Respect through the simple act of saying "thank you" to bus drivers, tram drivers, taxi drivers and other public transport workers.
At a rally held at the 8 Hour Monument outside the Victorian Trades Hall today, National RTBU president Phil Altieri said that tragically Manmeet had left his job as a taxi driver due to safety concerns, and had only been a bus driver for a short time. He called for a minute's silence in memory of the young RTBU member. Mr Altieri also launched the national RTBU & TWU safety campaign.
"Public transport workers have had enough - every day they are abused, spat at, and assaulted," said Mr Altieri. He added that the unions are seeing an increase in such anti-social behaviour around Australia. "We unions need to think about what needs to be done particularly for bus drivers. The debate not just about security screens, but also legislation similar to that for Emergency services personnel. Governments and private companies also need to consider the numbers of staff on stations, the dangers to Authorised Officers, and so on," he said. "Public transport is not safe. This murder has shaken the public transport community. Currently there is sadness and tears but this needs to be turned to anger, and then rage."
Chris Fennell, Assistant secretary of the VIcTas TWU, co-launching the campaign, said "We must ensure that Manmeet's death is not in vain. TWU will be taking action: 'Enough is enough'." Read more: RTBU Media Release: Tragic incident prompts National Day of Respect for Public Transport Workers; Public transport unions call for National Day of Respect, The Age
My workplace has a single entry/exit point. For security reasons the door is locked in the evening. The emergency exit button near the door is obstructed from both view and operation. I've informed my supervisor who replies that there is no issue. What do you think?
Of course there's an issue!
Under s21 of the Victorian OHS Act the employer has a general duty of care to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. In addition, under s26 of the Act, the person (being a company or an individual) who has management or control of a workplace, has a duty to ensure that 'the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health'. (see these pages:
Duties of employers and Duties of others)
If in an emergency people either have difficulty locating the emergency exit button (either because they are unfamiliar with the workplace OR because they are understandably panicked) then this is clearly putting their safety at risk – and clearly 'an issue'. Obstructing the button even slightly is a problem and it could lead to more 'stuff' being put in front of it, making it even harder to locate/utilise.
It's not a big deal for the employer to just fix the problem… !! (see also this page: Fire and emergency evacuation). Your elected HSR can and should raise this as an issue with your employer.
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.
Dumped asbestos in Cairnlea removed
Brimbank council has taken another swipe at the company which dumped asbestos in Cairnlea, saying it was "disappointed" the company did not tell the community it was going to remove the rubbish last Friday. The construction waste from demolished Carlton pub the Corkman which contained asbestos was dumped late last month.
According to the Environment Protection Authority, the company responsible conducted "unannounced works" to remove the asbestos under the supervision of asbestos risk specialists. The EPA was alerted on Friday by an "asbestos clearance letter" from the specialists saying that all asbestos had been safely removed. "EPA and WorkSafe attended the site while works were occurring and were satisfied that best practice was being followed, including active wetting down of the site to suppress dust, protective equipment for workers and monitoring on the boundary of the site," EPA Executive Director of Regional Services Damian Wells said.
However Brimbank council is considering legal action over the dumping. It is organising an information session at the Cairnlea Community Hub this week. "(The) council is pleased that action is being taken to remove the materials and that WorkSafe has confirmed the proper controls for the safe removal of the asbestos were in place," it said in a statement last week. Read more: Star Weekly
Expanded building products inquiry reviewing penalties for asbestos end-users
The re-adopted Federal Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products will consider increasing restrictions and penalties for end-users of asbestos-containing products, under additional terms of reference.
The Economics References Committee has agreed to inquire into the illegal importation of asbestos-containing products, as part of its broader inquiry, following a series of incidents where asbestos was found in new products used at building sites, inquiry chair Labor Senator Chris Ketter said. These include the discovery of asbestos-containing gaskets and roof panels at major construction projects in Brisbane and Perth, and 21-metre-high asbestos-containing cylinders at the Port Pirie redevelopment project in South Australia – all imported from China.
Shadow Ministers Brendan O'Connor (Employment and Workplace Relations) and Shayne Neumann (Immigration and Border Protection) pushed for the expanded inquiry, and said in a joint statement that its recommendations should inform polices that "ensure a proper total ban on asbestos is enforced". Read more: Brendan O'Connor Media Release Labor forces inquiry into asbestos importation; The extra terms of reference, as well as details on how to make a submission by December 1, are on the Committee's website. Source: OHSAlert
ABCC would put safety at higher risk
Online OHS journal OHSAlert last week reported that a report from the McKell Institute has highlighted that the proposed 2014 Building Code, in the Federal Government's ABCC-restoration Bill, would undermine workplace health and safety, citing as an example, the Yuanda asbestos importation debacle. according to new report from a progressive research institute.
The progressive research institute's report says that the Code's strict entry requirements will have a "significant impact" on the deterrent effect that drives safety cultures. It was union safety officials, who currently have relatively free access to
construction sites, who detected the asbestos-containing roof panels and gaskets imported and supplied by Yuanda Australia to at least two major construction projects in Brisbane and Perth.
Read more: Unfounded and Unfair: An analysis of the Building and Construction Code (2014) [pdf] McKell Institute Report (October 2016)
November 24: Asbestoswise Commemoration Service
We are now in national Asbestos Awareness month, and the asbestos diseases support and advocacy organisation Asbestoswise is holding its annual Commemoration Service at 10.45am on November 24 at Deakin Edge at Federation Square. Everyone is welcome to come to light a candle for those touched by asbestos disease. The service will be followed by a barbeque on the banks of the Yarra, provided by the CFMEU.
Summer and skin cancer
Cancer Council Victoria is asking: "Is your workplace ready for summer?" According to CCV, workplace sun-related injuries and disease have cost Australian workplaces $63 million in compensation payments over the last decade. Outdoor workers receive up to 10 times more exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, placing them at significantly higher risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Every year in Australia, 200 melanomas and 34,000 other skin cancer diagnoses can be attributed to UV exposure in the workplace.
The Cancer Council has many useful resources for workplaces, including the FREE SunSmart App which can tell users when sun protection is recommended for their location using forecast information from the Bureau of Meteorology website and live UV data from ARPANSA.
In addition, CCV's SunSmart program offers workplace training
sessions to help educate organisations and their workers about the
harmful effects of UV radiation. Delivered by trained educators, these
include an overview of skin cancer and UV-related injuries, practical
solutions to reduce UV risk in the workplace, a guide to skin checks,
and the optional inclusion of a Skin Damage Viewer that reveals hidden UV
To book, or for more information, contact SunSmart on (03) 9514 6419, email email@example.com, or visit the SunSmart website. Read more on Sunlight: UV Radiation.
Queensland govt to ban 100% FIFO mines
Queensland's Palaszczuk Government has introduced legislation to ban large new resource projects from engaging a 100% fly-in, fly-out workforce. The Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill, introduced this week, will apply to large resources projects within 100km of a regional centre and require them to consider employing locals .
The legislation will amend the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 to prohibit discrimination against locals during the recruitment processes for new workers and enable FIFO workers to move into the local community if they choose, for existing large resource projects that have been subject to an Environmental Impact Statement. The proposed laws follow a parliamentary inquiry into FIFO and regional work practices, which also highlighted the terrible effects on FIFO workers. Source: WorkplaceExpress
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
UK: Uber victory for workers
In a decision that has been welcomed by unions worldwide, a London employment tribunal has ruled that two drivers for cab-hailing firm Uber are entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and at least the National Minimum Wage. The union GMB, which supported the claimants and which has been at the forefront of the campaign to expose employment conditions at Uber, described the 28 October tribunal ruling as a 'monumental victory'. Uber says it will appeal. The ruling in favour of the Uber drivers who brought the case paves the way for 40,000 drivers around the UK to be classed as workers – who have basic statutory rights at work – rather than self-employed people. GMB ldescribed the ruling as "a monumental victory that will have a hugely positive impact on over 30,000 drivers in London and across England and Wales and for thousands more in other industries where bogus self-employment is rife." TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady commented: "For many workers the (so-called) 'gig economy' is a rigged economy, where bosses can get out of paying the minimum wage and providing basics like paid holidays and rest breaks. What is happening at Uber is just the tip of the iceberg. Lots of people are now trapped in insecure jobs, with low pay and no voice at work." Read more: GMB news release ITF/ITUC news release. Source: Risks 775
Pakistan: Horror death blast in Gadani shipbreaking yard
At least 16 workers have been killed and more than 50 injured after a huge blast on 1 November ripped through an oil tanker being broken for scrap in a Gadani shipbreaking yard, trapping many workers inside the vessel. "We have recovered at least 16 bodies so far and shifted 55 injured to Karachi," Zulfiqar Ali Shah, the deputy commissioner of the area, said. "All the injured had severe burns," he added. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the National Disaster Management Authority along with rescue teams from the navy, fire brigade and other welfare organisations participated in the rescue operation.
Nasir Mansoor, the deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF), said the explosion in the yard 45km northwest of Karachi sent pieces of metal flying up to two kilometres. The union said it feared the death toll will increase as many workers are grievously injured and around 170 workers were trapped in the burning ship. The NTUF announced three days of mourning and a strike at all yards after an emergency meeting at the Gadani yard. Two days before the tragedy, Gadani shipbreaking workers had held a demonstration in front of the Karachi Press Club, demanding the government of Pakistan enact a new law in line with the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The NTUF organised the protest demonstration to highlight poor working conditions, particularly the lack of health and safety measures. Kan Matsuzaki, director for shipbuilding and shipbreaking at the global union federation IndustriALL, said: "We deplore this terrible industrial homicide, and mourn the victims together with their families and friends." He added: "We will strengthen our campaign and action to combat the unacceptable health and safety conditions in Gadani. The government must immediately take practical measures to protect human lives at the yards, as well as fundamental workers' rights." As Greg Platt, SafetyNet subscriber and a member of AAWL said, "Murder, not tragedy!" Read more: IndustriALL news release. The Nation Source: Risks 775.
Fracking linked to cancer-causing chemicals
Hydraulic fracturing could result in exposures to a wide range of cancer causing substances and many more that have been inadequately tested, a new analysis by Yale School of Public Health has found. The research team, publishing their findings in the journal Science of the Total Environment, said the potentially carcinogenic chemical cocktail used in 'fracking' has the potential to contaminate air and water in nearby communities. They highlighted the increased cancer risk to children in neighbourhoods adjacent to fracking sites, noting in the US "millions of people liv(e) within one mile of a fracking site."
Lead author Nicole Deziel said: "To our knowledge, our analysis represents the most expansive review of carcinogenicity of hydraulic fracturing-related chemicals in the published literature." The team warn childhood leukaemia is a particular concern because of the severity and short latency period of the disease. They examined an extensive list of more than 1,000 chemicals that may be released into air or water as a result of fracking. Deziel's team found the majority of chemicals – over 80 per cent - lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential. Of the 119 compounds with sufficient data, 44 per cent of the water pollutants and 60 per cent of air pollutants were either confirmed or possible carcinogens. Furthermore, 20 chemicals had evidence of increased risk for leukaemia or lymphoma specifically. Among these is benzene, which has been linked to adverse health effects in fracking workers. The authors note that while fracking has increased the production of domestic oil and natural gas in the US and decreased prices, it is controversial because of the significant amounts of water that must be used as well as transported to fracking sites, as well as for the release of carcinogens. Read more: Yale School of Public Health News release. Deziel, N, et al: Unconventional oil and gas development and risk of childhood leukemia: Assessing the evidence [Full article] Science Direct. Volume 576, 15 January 2017, Pages 138–147 Source: Risks 775
In 2012 the then Labor federal government tasked several departments/regulators with reviewing the health impacts of chemicals used in fracking (or 'coal seam gas extraction') in Australia. The work was supposed to be completed by 2014. It is unclear whether this work was ever completed, but no results have been publicly released by the Liberal/Coalition government, which came to power in September 2013. Luckily, the Victorian Labor government, following an inquiry, has decided to continue the current moratorium against coal seam gas extraction.
WorkSafe Victoria News
Warning to prioritise safety
WorkSafe Victoria has warned: "Workers and employers must put safety first in the busy lead-up to Christmas to prevent workplace fatalities."
WorkSafe says workers are more likely to die in November and December than any other time of the year: the terrible statistics are that almost 25 per cent of all workplace fatalities have occurred in November and December over the past ten years. The statistics were released as WorkSafe launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with working at this time of year.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release; Worker death toll likely to climb even higher in pre-Christmas rush The Age
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 November 8, there had been 148 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is five more notifications since the last update on October 27 - five more families who have lost a loved one. Once again, three of these deaths were in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector. There were two fatalities in the mining sector. The fatalities this year:
- 53 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 the Mining sector and in Arts & recreation services;
- 5 in 'Other services';
- 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.
WorkSafe comment on PPK Demolition prosecution
Last week we reported on the prosecution of Prahran-based demolition company PPK Demolition Pty Ltd which was fined $45,000 over an incident in which a worker had his right leg crushed and later amputated when the overloaded skid steer loader he was operating tipped. WorkSafe has since issued a Media Release on the prosecution. WorSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said it was critical for employers to ensure everyone on site understood the risks associated with operating heavy vehicles and machinery. "A young man lost his leg because a discussion about safe operation of this machine was not had," Ms Williams said. "Construction and demolition are high-risk due to the heavy machinery and vehicles involved, which means assumptions should never be made as they can turn a high-risk task into a deadly one."
Mt Buller company fined for failing to notify after incident
Buller Ski & Snowboard School Pty Ltd is a business which employs, amongst other people, ski instructors who carry out work on the ski slopes of Mt Buller. On 13 September 2015 a ski instructor employed by the company was injured on a ski run whilst at work. She was admitted to hospital and treated for rib fractures and right pneumothorax. The company failed to notify WorkSafe of the incident immediately or in writing within 48 hours as required by Part 5 of the OHS Act. Buller Ski & Snowboard School pleaded guilty in the Mansfield Magistrates' Court, and was without conviction sentenced to pay an aggregate fine of $1,000 and to pay costs of $3,386.
To check for updates go to the Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
China: Mine gas explosion kills at least 15 people
Last week we reported that a gas explosion in a Chinese mine had killed at least 15 miners. State media has now confirmed that all 33 miners trapped in the mine in 31 October explosion have been found dead. Rescuers worked round the clock for more than two days to reach the miners in the Jinshangou mine in the south-west Chongqing region. Two miners escaped the blast. Local authorities ordered an investigation into the incident and instructed smaller coal mines in the region to close temporarily. The State Administration of Work Safety added that "those responsible must be strictly punished." China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal. The Jinshangou mine is licensed to produce 60,000 tonnes of coal a year, local media said. Read more: BBC news online; Aljazeera Source: Risks 775.