SafetyNet 388, November 16, 2016
The latest edition of SafetyNet - again a shorter edition due to lack of time, but still 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! Remember that this is 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.
We had a safety meeting yesterday at my workplace. For weeks I had been asking when and at what time the meeting would be held so that I'd be available for it, as there are multiple concerns I wanted to raise. When I arrived at work today and asked about the meeting, I was told by my manager and supervisors that they forgot to invite me! I am a HSR and given I had been asking, I suspect they deliberately excluded me from the meeting. I feel like this is an uphill battle just trying to make it to a meeting to raise concerns. Have they contravened the Act?
As a member of the committee and an HSR of course you should have been notified! Remember too that for the OHS committee to be compliant with the Act, and for the meeting to be above board, there must be at least half of the committee members being workers (elected) and not management.
However, as management has claimed they simply 'forgot' to notify you, it is unlikely that WorkSafe would be able to do anything about this. But there are a few things that you can and should do:
- formally request in writing:
- who attended the meeting
- who are the members of the committee
- how people were notified
- what the agenda was and a copy of the draft minutes
- that a proper process be implemented and followed that ensures that meetings are held regularly, that the dates of these meetings be established at the next meeting in consultation with all members, that draft agendas be developed and circulated to all members prior to the meetings, and that a system be introduced that ensures all members are given plenty of notice
- with the assistance of the union if necessary, start raising those issues which you have been wanting to raise for a while. If they are OHS issues which are affecting your DWG, you do not need to wait for a meeting to raise these matters/issues. You have every right to raise issues whenever you like.
If management tells you to wait until the meeting, or won't meet with you, then you have the right to take further action - see these pages:
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.
Asbestos News - Asbestos Awareness Week
November 23: AEU Annual Asbestos Forum Each year, the Australian Education Union hosts a statewide forum to provide current information on the management of asbestos in our schools and centres, and the quest to eradicate asbestos from our built environment.
Topics to be covered:
- Asbestos-free schools by 2020
- Managing asbestos in-situ
- Soil contaminated by asbestos
- Importation of asbestos
- Establishing a Victorian Asbestos Eradication Agency
Attend in person or online. This is a free event, and everyone, those in the education sector in particular, is invited to attend.
Date: Wednesday, November 23
Time: 4.30pm - 6.00pm
Where: AEU Victoria, 126 Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford
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.
National Skin Cancer Action Week is coming up (November 20 - 26), why not promote UV safety in your workplace?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the SunSmart website. Read more on Sunlight: UV Radiation.
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
WorkSafe Victoria News
Safety Soapbox November 11In the editorial in the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on November 11, Cameron Ellis, Worksafe's Construction Advisor writes about WorkSafe's state-wide focus on demolition. He says that demolition is always high risk and it is unacceptable that any worker or member of the public is exposed to death or injury from unsafe demolition work. During November and December, WorkSafe inspectors will be focusing on demolition.
The edition also has links to WorkSafe guidance relevant to the fatality at South Wharf recently, as well news from around the country.
There were 66 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries from 21 October - 3 November, and include: the fatality, 25 near misses, 20 lacerations, three fractures, two electric shocks, and one crush injury. As always, several of the near misses could have been fatal. Access the November 11 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.
NSW: SafeWork Wrap bulletin
SafeWork NSW has circulated its latest bulletin with the lead item It's not always a long way down pointing out that a worker does not have to be on top of a 12-storey building to be at risk of death from a fall. This is an interesting article in a bulletin that has a lot more of interest to HSRs and workers.
Read more: SafeWork Wrap
SA: Industrial manslaughter on the agenda
A recent report from the Occupational Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Committee inquiry has called for the South Australian Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Solicitor to develop a protocol for initiating work-related manslaughter prosecutions under the State Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, "where it is appropriate to do so".
It stressed however, that any such protocol should not delay prosecutions under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, for which limitation periods apply. The inquiry also recommended that in cases where an individual is charged under the crimes Act following a work death, the Crown Solicitor should still give due consideration to charging the relevant PCBU under the WHS Act.
Read more: Occupational Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Committee inquiry into the Work Health and Safety (Industrial Manslaughter) Amendment Bill, November 2016 [pdf] Source: OHSAlert
Safe Work Australia news
There has not been an update to the SWA fatality statistics since November 8, when there had been 148 fatalities reported. 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.
Employer fine increased by more than 700%
Footscray warehouse operator Winnipeg Textiles Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $50,000 in the County Court following a successful appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions over an incident in which a truck driver could have been killed by a falling 185kg wool bale.
The company was charged with breaching the 2004 OHS Act by failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, was originally found guilty in June by the Melbourne Magistrates Court and fined just $7000 (plus costs of $2649) without conviction. The court heard that the Winnipeg Textiles warehouse received about 6000 wool bales each week from numerous transport companies and subcontractors.
After the judgment, WorkSafe Victoria health and safety executive
director Marnie Williams said it was a source of frustration for the
regulator when a company had a safe system on paper but didn't put it
into action. In this case, a man suffered serious and potentially fatal
injuries when he was hit by a 185kg wool bale "because the company did
not act on the systems they'd set up", she said.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Construction company fined of $116k plus $30k in costs
Eliana Construction and Developing Group Pty. Ltd, the principal contractor for an apartment development in Bulleen has been convicted and fined $116,000 over a number of breaches of the OHS Act, identified when inspectors attended the workplace on 26 July 2014. The charges were heard in the absence of the offender and was sentenced as follows:
- Charge 1 - s23 of the Act: The offender failed to control the risk of unauthorised entry into the workplace. It was reasonably practicable to reduce the risk by installing fencing of suitable height to prevent unauthorised entry, around the perimeter of the workplace. Convicted and fined $20k
- Charge 2 - s21(1) & 21(2)(d) of the Act: The offender failed to provide adequate facilities, so far as is reasonably practicable, for the welfare of employees. It was reasonably practicable to reduce the risk by providing clean drinking water; hand washing facilities; and dining facilities. Convicted and fined $5k
- Charge 3 - s21(1) & 21(2)(e): The offender failed to provide safety inductions. It was reasonably practicable for Eliana to reduce the risk by providing site specific occupational health and safety training for the workplace. Convicted and fined $10k
- Charge 4 - s21(1) & 21(2)(a): High risk construction work was being undertaken (mobile plant and excavation) and the offender had not prepared a safe work method statement before the work commenced. Convicted and fined $25k
- Charge 5 - s21(1) & 21(2)(a): The offender failed to control the risk of fall from height into at the workplace. It was reasonably practicable to reduce the risk by way of a barrier of para-webbing and star pickets two metres from the edge of the excavation. Convicted and fined $25k
- Charge 6 - regulation 5.1.15 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007: The offender failed to ensure the placement of signs that are clearly visible from outside the workplace where construction work was being performed, showing the name and contact details of the principal contractor. Convicted and fined $1,000
- Charge 7 - s26 of the Act: The offender failed to provide a system of work associated with the excavation at the workplace. It was reasonably practicable for the offender to reduce the risk by conducting regular inspections of the excavation; and completing a daily checklist which prompts the request for an opinion of a geotechnical expert when signs or situations of failure occur. Convicted and fined $30k
The offender was found guilty and with conviction sentenced to pay total fines of $116,000 and to pay costs of $30,828 (Heidelberg Magistrates' Court)