SafetyNet 393 February 15, 2017
Are you working more than 39 hrs/week? If so, you are putting your health at risk! Read more about the latest Australian research, and much more in this week's edition of SafetyNet.
A reminder: we are encouraging our elected health and safety representatives to share their stories of success at the workplace - and we are getting some fabulous contributions. These will form the pool from which we will choose those which help illustrate best how reps can use their rights and powers to help achieve healthier and safer workplaces. So please participate. Click here to submit your story online. Nothing will be published (either online or in hard copy) without prior permission - and yes, it's possible to remain anonymous. Be part of our exciting HSR Heroes Handbook.
And don't forget to join the hundreds of people who follow our We Are Union: OHS Matters Facebook page. For those who are HSRs and/or passionate about health and safety, join the Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out and ask to join.
World Cancer Day: Take a look at our Work-Related Cancer Webinar
Apologies to those who tried to access the VTHC's webinar on work-related cancers from the original link in the journal. It didn't work!! If you want to check it out now, then Click here. And while you're at it, go to this fabulous resource: Work Cancer Hazards - a continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research produced by Hazards magazine, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
When my DWG members raise issues with me, I take them up with management on their behalf. Sometimes they ask that I don't tell management who raised the matter - for fear of some sort of retaliation later on. So my question is: do I have to let management know the name of the person raising the issue if they ask? Can I tell management that I would like to keep the person's identity to myself?
This is a great question!
No, you do not have to identify the DWG member who raised the issue with you to management. Note the following:
- You are the person elected to represent the members of the DWG – and this is what you are doing when you go to management on their behalf;
- The issue resolution procedures as per the OHS Act and regulations specify that where there's an HSR, employees go to the HSR and the HSR seeks resolution with the management rep (see Resolution of issues);
- Most issues could potentially affect others in the DWG anyway, so who actually raised the issue is irrelevant - it could have been any one of several DWG members;
- As it's a hazard/risk that you're raising with management, this relates directly to the employer's duty to identify and either eliminate or minimise the hazard/risk. It is totally irrelevant who, or how many people have raised it. The employer has a duty of care to address the issue.
Do not let your employer insist and brow beat you into revealing names. Also, make sure that whenever possible you take issues to the wider DWG: that way you can get a better picture of how many workers are affected and also provide you with the confidence you are representing the whole DWG. If you keep having issues, contact the union!
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.
CFMEU: Safety will be further compromised
The construction union, the CFMEU, has said safety will be compromised if the amendments to the ABCC are passed in the Senate, following the backflip of Senator Derryn Hinch. CFMEU Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said workers had raised the issue in conversations with him and hundreds of officials around the country, as well as social media forums.
"These amendments will deliver worse safety outcomes for workers as it will be harder for union officials to go on site to inspect problems, lead to excessive overtime and further casualise an already itinerant industry." Appearing before the Senate Committee in Canberra to discuss the union's submission on the amendments, Mr Noonan said thousands of workers are furious with Senator Hinch and Senator Xenophon for publicly declaring one thing and then voting for another. "Both Senators like to boast about their support for safety, for jobs going to Australian citizens before the hiring of temporary visa holders and for the use of Australian made products over cheap, non- complying imports. Yet they are supporting amendments that severely restrict the union's ability to deliver on all of this – and more." Read more: CFMEU Media Release; The Adelaide Advertiser; Send a message to Senator Hinch
Principals stressed; suffer physical violence
Schools need to be properly resourced to relieve rising principal stress level, the AEU has said. The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey released today by Teachers Health Fund has found that the main cause of stress is the "sheer quantity of administrative work" principals are required to perform, and the lack of time to focus on teaching and learning.
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said school systems needed to do more to support principals and ensure all schools had the resources they needed for their students. "This report paints a concerning picture of growing demands on principals, and rising levels of personal stress," Ms Haythorpe said. "Being a principal will always be a difficult and challenging job, but we can reduce some of this stress by making sure all schools have the resources they need."
An analysis of the Report in today's Age reveals that one in three principals had experienced physical violence (over 50 per cent in the NT), while 44 per cent had been threatened with it. Read more: AEU Media Release; The Age The 2016 Principal Health and Wellbeing Report can be downloaded here. Read more on Stress and Occupational Violence
Tasmania: Workers exposed at Royal Hobart Hospital
Up to 25 workers may have been exposed to asbestos at the Royal Hobart hospital redevelopment site while undertaking rewiring and other electrical work. This is not the first time there have been asbestos exposure problems there. The breach is being blamed on a possible "administrative error" made by an independent consultant, who failed to identify a positive test result for the asbestos. Laws require that anyone undertaking asbestos identification work be competent, and such an error is hardly 'administrative'! The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union had already called for all asbestos-containing materials to be removed from the site, after claiming that up to 12 workers had been potentially exposed to asbestos fibres from asbestos containing pipe lagging in August 2016. Both the CFMEU and the state's Labor Opposition want a new audit done.
Read more: ABC News Online
Queensland: ETU calls on Main Roads work to stop
The ETU has called on Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads to halt all below ground work on traffic lights and street lights statewide until all asbestos in the network is located. Earlier this month, Department/Roadtek workers were exposed to asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in traffic light and street light pits and conduits throughout the state-owned network, as well as some local and regional council networks the Department maintains.
ETU Queensland and NT Organiser Brenton Muller said despite the discovery of the dangerous materials the Department had not stopped work in the suspect areas. "Hundreds of employees of the Department have been put at risk by their decision not to adhere to the Safe Work Method Statements and Asbestos Management Framework and put a stop to the work," Mr Muller said. "These employees aren't the only people at risk of exposure to asbestos – their families could also be impacted by them unknowingly taking home asbestos dust on clothing." Read more: My Sunshine Coast
UK: Boss jailed over asbestos crimes on demolition job
A demolition company director has been jailed after putting workers and nearby residents at risk of "serious harm" by exposing them to asbestos. David Briggs, of Briggs Demolition, was contracted to demolish a former Training Centre in 2015. After advising the owners of the site to commission a survey before demolition, about 230 square metres of asbestos were found. Despite this, Briggs began tearing down the building without having the asbestos safely removed. About half of the building was demolished by the time the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) got a a tip-off from a member of the public in May 2015. HSE inspectors visited the site, but Briggs denied there was any asbestos. Work was stopped and HSE tests confirmed asbestos. Three workers were potentially exposed. Briggs pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of safety law, including removing asbestos materials without a licence. He was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison by the Manchester Magistrates' Court. HSE inspector Matt Greenly said: "Mr Briggs wilfully ignored a professional asbestos survey, instigated by himself, and in doing so failed in his duty to protect his workers and anyone else around this site from a foreseeable risk of serious harm." He added: "This case sends a clear message to any individual or company that it does not pay to ignore known risks on site, especially to increase profits at the expense of people's lives." Read more: HSE news release.Source: Risks 787
Italy: Jail for asbestos managers
Two managers of the Italian asbestos-cement company Fibronit which operated a factory in Broni have been found guilty of manslaughter by a court in Pavia for asbestos deaths which occurred after 2002 of 20 factory workers and local people. A four-year sentence was handed down to Cardinal Michele, 74, former chief executive with Lorenzo Mo, 70, former factory director, receiving 3 years and 4 months. Fibronit adviser Alvaro Galvani 68 was acquitted. It has been estimated that 4,000 people worked at the plant before the company went bankrupt in 2011.
See: Amianto, condannati due ex manager della Fibronit di Broni per omicidio colposo [Two former managers of Broni, Fibronit convicted of manslaughter]. Source: IBAS
Algeria: Asbestos imminent hazard
Families living in government housing in the city of Chelghoum Laïd in, Mila Province, Algeria have repeatedly warned the authorities of the threat posed by the deterioration of asbestos-containing products in the thirty-year-old housing units they have occupied. The premises, built in 1987, are full of asbestos insulation, a material which is highly friable. According to local inhabitants, "10 to 12 [local] people died of cancer and asthma in 20 years." Asbestos was banned in Algeria by Executive Decree No. 09-321 published on October 14, 2009. See: Sous la menace permanente de l'amiante [Living under the permanent asbestos threat]. Source: IBAS
Asbestoswise support groups
Victorian asbestos diseases support and advocacy group Asbestoswise has many years of experience providing support to workers and families. The organisation holds regular Support Group meetings. The next Mesothelioma Support Group meeting will be held on Wednesday February 15, 11am - 2pm, at the South Melbourne Community Centre, Cnr Park St and Ferrars Place, Sth Melbourne. The group provides support to those diagnosed with mesothelioma, their carers, families and close friends. It meets the third Wednesday of every month. Asbestoswise also holds a Bereaved Group which meets monthly. More information, contact: Shirley Bare by phone 0412 537 819 or by email.
Don't forget: the sun can kill
With hot weather continuing around Australia, HSRs and workers need to check that your employer is taking steps to protect workers from the dangers of UV radiation. Outdoor workers receive up to ten times more exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation - putting them at significantly higher risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Each year 200 melanomas and 34,000 other skin cancer diagnoses in Australia can be attributed to UV exposure in the workplace.
CCV has many useful resources for workplaces:
- UV Safety Training;
- Policy template and best practice support;
- Brochures and other resources;
- SunSmart App and widget.
International Union News
New Zealand: Crew member killed on Australian ship
A crew member was killed by a gas explosion on the Australian cruise ship Emerald Princess last week in New Zealand's Port Chalmers. The explosion on the Sydney-based liner operated by Princess Cruises and part of Carnival Australia, happened on February 9 while the ship was docked in the Dunedin port. Maritime Union Port Chalmers-Dunedin secretary Phil Adams was working in the port's control room. "I just heard this massive explosion and got up and I saw this pipe or a tube lying on the wharf ... it was a gas cylinder, by the sounds of things, that had just blown straight off the ship and on to the wharf," he said. Reports are that the crew member was not an Australian national. Read more: The Daily Telegraph
Also in New Zealand, a member of the Maritime Union died this week in Wellington Hospital of severe head injuries sustained while working at CentrePort on Tuesday 31st January. The MUNZ has said it will support the investigations now taking place into the tragedy.
"Yet another worker has died on the job in New Zealand, and that's not good enough," says National Secretary Joe Fleetwood. "Nobody should lose their life while trying to earn a living." His comments were seconded by Assistant Wellington Branch Secretary John Whiting. "The waterfront industry by its very nature is a high hazard workplace," says Mr Whiting. "Safe work practices must be rigorously implemented and enforced, both by management and by organized workers ourselves. Otherwise the worst can happen."
UK: Insecure work up by over a quarter since 2011
The number of people in the UK in insecure work – those working without guaranteed hours or baseline employment rights – has shot up by more than 660,000 (27 per cent) over the past five years, according to new research for the Trade Union Council. The TUC says the trend toward more precarious work, which has been linked to higher rates of occupational injuries (Risks 675) and work-related ill-health (Risks 698), can be a financial 'nightmare' for families. Insecure workers are also far less likely to feel able to take sick leave, an official UK study found (Risks 711). The TUC found the growth in people being forced into vulnerable, precarious work is being driven mainly by traditional industries, rather than newer tech sectors. Restaurant and pub waiters make up one fifth of the increase. Education workers account for over one tenth, and social care accounts for a tenth of the increase. The TUC estimates that over 3 million people now work in insecure jobs – up from 2.4 million in 2011. That represents 1 in 10 workers in the UK. The study, commissioned by the TUC from the Learning and Work Institute, defines insecure work as seasonal, casual, temporary or agency work, those on zero-hours contracts and low-paid self-employed workers. The findings also show that people in unionised workplaces are twice as likely to be in secure jobs. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Insecurity at work is becoming the new normal for too many workers. It's happening across new and old industries, with workers forced onto shady contracts whether they're Uber drivers, bar staff or teaching assistants. People need jobs they can live on and build a life around. But if you don't how much work you will have from one day to the next, making ends meet is a nightmare." She added: "The rules that protect workers need to be dragged into the 21st century. The government's Taylor review is a prime opportunity to sort this. But we also need to get more people into unions. Workers in unionised workplaces are twice as likely to be on secure contract. So I say to working people: If you're not in a union, get some mates together and all sign up if you want a better deal at work."
Read more: TUC news release. The Independent. More on health and safety and insecure work. Source: Risks 787
Japan: Union chief blasts proposed 100-hour overtime limit
Management and union negotiators in Japan are locking horns over how much overtime employees should be allowed to work during busy periods, as the government considers a ceiling of 100 hours per month. After attending a meeting of the government's Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform last week, union leader Rikio Kozu dismissed the 100-hour limit floated as "totally impossible" and suggested lowering it sharply. The government has proposed that overtime be capped at 720 hours a year per employee, or an average of 60 hours per month. At the same time, it proposed letting employees work up to 100 extra hours per month during busy periods, on condition that the average is limited to 80 hours over two consecutive months. The government came up with the number based on the legal criteria for approving posthumous workers' compensation applications involving people who die from overwork! The threshold is 100 hours a month. But Rikio Kozu, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), said the government should respect an existing management-union agreement that restricts overtime per employee to 45 hours a month and 360 hours a year, when considering a specific limit. He also called on the government not to exempt any industry from the new rules on overtime. He added that it is necessary to set a mandatory interval of hours between when one working day ends and another begins. Earlier this year, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said only 2 per cent of about 1,700 companies surveyed had minimum daily rest periods. Read more: Japan Times. Nikkei Asian Review. Source: Risks 787
39 hours per week 'Healthy work limit'
People who work more than 39 hours a week are putting their health at risk, new Australian research has found. Lead researcher Dr Huong Dinh from the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Population Health said about two in three Australians in full-time employment worked more than 40 hours a week, with long hours a bigger problem for women who do more unpaid work at home. "Long work hours erode a person's mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly," said Dr Dinh.
The healthy work limit for women was 34 hours per week once their other commitments were considered, whereas for men it was up to 47 hours a week, generally because they spend much less time on care or domestic work than women. "Given the extra demands placed on women, it's impossible for women to work long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health," she said. The research used data from about 8,000 Australian adults as part of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Professor Lyndall Strazdins, who co-authored the study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, said "Australia needs to do more to change attitudes to work and to support men to take time to care without penalty or prejudice. Australians also need to dispel the widespread belief that people need to work long hours to do a good job."
Read more: ANU Media Release; Huong Dinha, Lyndall Strazdins, Jennifer Welsh. Hour-glass ceilings: Work-hour thresholds, gendered health inequities,[abstract] Social Science & Medicine, volume 176, pages 42–51, March 2017.
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria News
Regulators heading to Geelong and Surf Coast
Builders will be able to access to a range of construction industry experts when regulators visit Geelong and the Surf Coast next week to examine safety and building compliance. Representatives from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA), WorkSafe Victoria, Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV), Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) and Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) will be part of a week of inspections.
The inspections are part of the Build Aware joint initiative, created by the five regulators to increase awareness in the construction and demolition sector about the importance of complying with building, construction, environment, consumer rights and OH&S laws and regulations. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe investigates crushing incident
A man suffered severe abdominal injuries after being crushed in a workplace incident at a Torquay worksite last Wednesday afternoon. It appears he had been crushed between a scissor lift and a building; he was freed by fellow workers before being brought back down to the ground suffering severe pain. WorkSafe is investigating.
Source: The Geelong Advertiser
On February 10 the first Safety Soapbox for 2017, landed in inboxes. Barry Dunn, WorkSafe's Acting Construction Program Director, welcomes readers by reminding them to make safety a priority this year. In this edition there is a round-up of prosecutions recently launched (already reported here) and news from other jurisdictions. In the period December 2 - January 26, there were 180 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries, including: 47 near misses, 63 lacerations, 18 fractures, and 17 electric shocks. Some of the 'near misses' which caught our attention: a forklift colliding with a member of the public on a bicycle; the partial collapse of a building with an asbestos roof being demolished under an emergency works order; and more. Access the February 10 Safety Soapbox online, including the link to the list of reported incidents.
Safe Work Australia news
As of 10 February, 14 fatalities had been reported to SWA - this is four more than the previous update on 30 January:
- 6 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 2 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 2 in Construction;
- 2 Arts and recreation services
- 1 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- 1 in Accommodation and food services
The numbers and industries may vary as Safe Work receives more detailed information (to check for updates and full figures for 2016, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page).
The latest monthly fatality report remains that for August 2016, during which there were 15 work-related notifiable fatalities, five fewer than in July 2016. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Worker's hand trapped in unguarded machinery
Seymour Rural Equipment Pty Ltd, a company manufacturing structural steel and agricultural machinery, was last week fined $20,000, plus $3,386 costs without conviction, after a worker's hand was entrapped. This is despite the company pleading guilty.
On 1 October 2015 three employees were assembling spreader machine. During the assembly one of the workers leant across an A frame which was close to a moving chain, which was not guarded at the time. His hand became jammed between the chain and the sheet steel front of the hopper. He couldn't remove his hand out, he used his right hand to try to remove it, and wedged the fingers of his right hand in the process. He suffered injuries to his hand including severed tendons in two fingers, and a broken bone in the index finger knuckle.
Worker awarded $600k+ for breakdown: employer breached duty of care
The Victorian Supreme Court has awarded more than $600,000 in damages to a state government employee with known mental health issues for a "breakdown" after managers failed to properly consider her condition when they addressed a mounting conflict with a supervisor.
Judge John Dixon found that the State Department of Human Services breached its duty of care and exacerbated the youth welfare case manager's psychological injuries when it failed to exercise the standard of care "reasonably expected of an employer". This included the department's failure to formally recognise the worsening relationship between the worker and the supervisor; to develop and implement policies to handle bullying complaints and serious interpersonal conflict; and to refuse her request to be transferred.
Source: Workplace Express
USA: Workers exposed to high lead levels
More than 6,000 California workers in munitions, manufacturing and other industries have elevated levels of lead in their blood that could cause serious health problems, according to a recent report from the state's public health agency.
The report, which contains results of tests
conducted between 2012 and 2014, was released as California's workplace
health and safety agency, Cal/OSHA, is considering a major update of
its safety standards for workplace lead exposure for the first time in
decades. The current standards are based on 35-year-old medical
findings, which at the time did not recognize the dangers of even
low-level exposure to lead. More recent science shows chronic, low-level
lead exposure can cause lasting harm. Australian OHS authorities have
just advised Ministers that we should lower our exposure limits – the
current limit is decades old and in the mid 90s the health authorities
recommended it be lowered.
Read more: Kaiser Health News; Hazard information on Lead