SafetyNet 394, February 22, 2017
Four Victorian workers were killed this week. With great sadness, we send our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of these workers.
We must keep up the fight to make our workplaces as safe as possible: like our We Are Union: OHS Matters Facebook page, and 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.
Tragic week for Victoria
Last weekend, in three separate incidents, two workers were killed and one sustained critical head injuries. The VTHC has learned that he passed away in hospital yesterday, Tuesday. Details are scarce at this point, and it is unclear whether one of the fatalities occurred at a workplace or whether it was a 'hobby farm'.
A man in his thirties was killed at about 9.30pm on Friday night when the quad bike he was riding rolled on a forest track at a property at Reedy Flat, near Omeo, in East Gippsland. Police and emergency services attended, but he died at the scene.
On Saturday, at about midday, a man aged in his 50s was killed after a steel item fell from a forklift and crushed him at a recycling business in Forster in South Gippsland.
On Sunday, a 69-year old painter suffered critical head injuries when he fell three - four metres at a construction site at Merricks North/Balnarring on the Mornington Peninsula near Dromana. It appears he had been working alone at the site. He was taken to hospital, but died yesterday.
WorkSafe is investigating all three incidents. WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, described each one as horrifying: "It is a tragedy that three men didn't make it home safely at the end of the day." Ms Williams said agriculture and construction were high-risk industries so safety had to be a priority.
"Quad bikes are involved in many fatalities in agriculture while falls from heights kill and injure far too many workers in the construction sector," Ms Williams said. "Forklifts are involved in many injuries and fatalities across a wide variety of industries. These are all well-known risks, which is why it is unacceptable that people continue to die and be injured using these types of machinery or undertaking these types of tasks."
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Note: The single official workplace fatality this year is that of a 61-year-old woman on 11 January. She had been moving fruit bins attached to a tractor and was driving across a main road near Mildura when she was struck by B-Double truck. It was originally expected that her death would be added to the road toll and had not been reported in SafetyNet. It has now been confirmed as a workplace fatality.
Fatalities related to the Bourke St tragedy and the three incidents reported above are still yet to be officially confirmed as workplace incidents.
Other Victorian Fatalities
Due to a number of factors, such as where a fatality occurs or which regulator has coverage, some worker fatalities in Victoria are not included in Victoria's statistics. Fatalities on public roads or in aeroplanes, for example, or those of workers whose employers are covered by Comcare.
These include: The death of an AFP police officer at work on February 6 this year in 'a shooting incident' - clearly related to the stress of the job; and the pilot in the tragic crash into the DFO complex near Essendon Airport yesterday morning. Both were working and in our view both are Victorian work-related fatalities.
Call out to current and past HSRs - send in your stories
Subscribers will know of our drive to get HSRs, who achieve so much and are often not recognised, to send in the stories of their wins, and how they achieved great outcomes for their fellow workers. The stories are slowly but surely trickling in, with over 40 now received. Here's a taste of some of what they have said:
My proudest moment as an HSR
- "When I got them to renovate our worksite that we'd been asking them to fix for 5 years. We had to raise it through higher levels of management. If a line manager says no it doesn't mean it's over. there is always a manager in charge of that manager so always look to escalate it." (KG, HSR)
- "What we have been able to achieve together as a team of HSRs. We work in outdoor events and in just one event alone, we were able to work together to provide staff standing for long periods of time with stools, greater shift rotation, better access to bathroom and kitchen facilities, longer breaks to compensate for hot weather." (Sean, HSR)
And from Lauren, HSR, "My tip: Don't be afraid to ask. It's a Win-Win you either get the documentation/proof it's safe and put your mind and others' at ease or you can follow the steps to make it a safer workplace for yourself and co-workers. I solved an OHS issue in my workplace through persistence and not accepting anything less than documented proof."
So send in your win story, your tips and tricks and help other HSRs to achieve more in their workplaces. It's because of you that your workplaces are healthier and safer - do not hide your light under a bushel! 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.
We need inspectors who understand workers - apply now
We believe workers who have had on the job experience as elected HSRs would made great inspectors - what do you think? From recent reports, it sounds like more inspectors could be more understanding of workers. If you agree, then apply for a job with WorkSafe Victoria! WorkSafe has announced it is recruiting inspectors. While WorkSafe says that having a 'technical qualification' is preferable, it is not mandatory. Having a good understanding of Victoria's OHS law, and the right skills is more important. To find out more, including how to apply, go to this page on the WorkSafe website. Hurry though, as applications close 1 March, 2017.
We are going to have a noisy and busy photocopier placed in an office of seven staff. How can we take action to have this copier placed away from our desks in a separate space where we don't have to breathe in toxic matter and have to put up with the constant noise?
You are right: it's not a good idea to have a photocopier in an enclosed space – particularly in an office with seven people in – for several reasons:
1. The noise – while the level is probably below the exposure standard (85dB[A] over eight hours – click click here) lower noise levels contribute to stress (see: Why is noise a problem?)
2. Potential fumes and/or particulates – you will need to check the Safety Data Sheets for the toners and colour cartridges, and see what the recommendations are, but many photocopiers produce fumes, such as ozone, and laser printers create emissions which are also unsafe. Click here for more information.
Remember that your employer has a duty under s35 & 36 of the Act to consult with your elected HSR (either with or without potentially affected employees) when PROPOSING changes to the workplace. If you do not have an HSR, then the employer must consult directly with affected employees. So if your employer has just informed you, rather than consulted, then this is a breach of the Act (see Duty to Consult) So, the process should involve looking at the issues, the concerns, identifying the hazards and so on…
Do you have an HSR? If so, then ask the HSR to immediately raise the matter with the employer and request that the photocopier not be placed in this office as it will place the health of workers there at risk. The HSR can raise this under s73 of the Act, and point out the lack of consultation and so on. If the employer persists and places the photocopier in this office, then the HSR, after again raising concerns, should issue a PIN.
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.
16 February: Ash Wednesday Anniversary
On Ash Wednesday, February 16, 1983 in the south-eastern part of Australia there were a series of serious bushfires. Within twelve hours, more than 180 fires fanned by winds of up to 110 km/h caused widespread destruction across the states of Victoria and South Australia. Years of severe drought and extreme weather combined to create one of Australia's worst fire days in a century. The fires became the deadliest bushfire in Australian history, until the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
In Victoria, 47 people died, while in South Australia there were 28 deaths. This included 14 CFA and three CFS volunteer fire-fighters who died across both states that day. Over 3,700 buildings were destroyed or damaged and 2,545 individuals and families lost their homes. Livestock losses were very high, with over 340,000 sheep, 18,000 cattle and numerous native animals either dead or later destroyed
The largest number of volunteers were called to duty from across Australia at the same time - an estimated 130,000 firefighters, defence force personnel, relief workers and support crews.
Medicare rejection of test subsidy means huge cost for meso sufferers
The media last week reported that due to a decision made by 'government bureaucrats' to not subsidise a $60 test, thousands of lung cancer (including mesothelioma) patients could face a yearly bill of $100,000 for treatment that could save them. The test determines the 30 per cent of such patients who would benefit from the immunotherapy drug Keytruda. Without approval for the test, the government cannot approve a subsidy for Keytruda, that would cut its price to as $38.80 for general patients and $6.30 for pensioners. A recent trial showed Keytruda tripled the life expectancy of many terminally-ill, non-small cell lung cancer patients. After one year, only 15 per cent of patients on standard chemotherapy were alive compared to 50 per cent of the patients receiving Keytruda. The drug is approved for use in lung cancer patients in 65 countries and is subsidised in the US and Europe. Source: The Sunday Telegraph
Keytuda and BNC105 in Victorian tests
The Victorian Government has provided a grant of $2.25m to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Olivia NewtonJohn Cancer Wellness and Research Centre through the Victorian Cancer Agency to undertake an evaluation of cancer drug candidate BNC105 in a combination trial with immune-oncology drug Keytruda. This will be the first clinical assessment of the combination of the PD-1-inhibitor Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) with the vascular disrupting agent BNC105. It will be tested in patients with advanced cases of melanoma, who have been unresponsive to standard treatments. Professor Jonathan Cebon, a leading Australian oncologist in immune therapies for cancer and medical director of the ONJ Centre, will lead the trial in collaboration with Professor Grant McArthur of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Source: Nine.com.au
ACT Asbestos Health Study
The ACT Asbestos Health Study, established in 2015 to investigate the health concerns of people who have lived in a house with loose-fill asbestos insulation, last week released its third report, which found that one in three people "had seen a health professional" for mental or physical health issues specifically related to living in such housing. Associate Professor Martyn Kirk, the study's Chief Investigator, in an interview on the ABC, said that although the level of risk of people living in Mr Fluffy homes developing mesothelioma is extremely low, they found a relatively high level of distress. He encouraged people with an overwhelming sense of anxiety to see their general practitioners.
Loose fill insulation was installed in more than 1,000 Canberra homes between 1968 and 1979, and in 2015 the ACT Government commissioned the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health to undertake a two-year study to improve understanding of the health risks of Mr Fluffy loose fill asbestos insulation.
Read more: One Third Of Australians With Asbestos In Their Home Now Have Health Issues MSN News
SafeWork NSW waives five-day asbestos removal work notification timeframe
The NSW regulator is waiving the five-day asbestos removal work notification timeframe to allow immediate clean-up of asbestos debris during the weekend's fierce bushfires. "This five-day timeframe allows for SafeWork to review the adequacy of safety systems and site arrangements," said SafeWork NSW Executive Director, Peter Dunphy. "SafeWork is fast-tracking assessments to ensure fire damaged asbestos can be removed as soon as possible.
Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release.
ASEA Conference 2016 - videos now available
Videos of the presentations from the 3rd International Conference on Asbestos Awareness and Management, held in Adelaide at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in November 2016 are now available for viewing on the agency's website. There are a number of interesting presentations, for example: Kate Lee, Executive Officer, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, and international activists Winranta Ginting and Apolinar Tolentino, on International campaigns to ban asbestos; John Mitchell, Manager, Government Relations, NATA on Managing the importation of goods or materials containing asbestos into Australia, and many more. Access all the videos on this page of the ASEA website.
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.
April 28, 2017: International Workers' Memorial Day
Since its origins in Canada in the 1980s, International Workers Memorial Day on 28 April has become a global day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.
Globally, the International Labour Organisation estimates that 2.34 million people die each year from work-related accidents and diseases. From these fatalities, the majority or 2.02 million are from occupational and work-related diseases. Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives.
In 2017 the international theme for the day is 'Good health and safety for all workers whoever they are' and will focus on inequalities in occupational health and the role unions play in narrowing the inequalities gap. There are ideas and resources, including a terrific poster which can be downloaded from the International Workers' Memorial Day website.
Vital to take precautions in the sun
Although we have had a coolish week, remember it's vital that employers protect their workers from the effects of our sun's UV radiation. With outdoor workers receiving up to ten times more exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, they are at a much higher 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
Korea: Samsung job caused multiple sclerosis, court rules
In a ground-breaking judgment, a Seoul court has ruled that the multiple sclerosis suffered by a former worker on the LCD production line at Samsung Electronics is a work-related disease. While cancers and other disorders have been recognised officially at other Samsung plants, the 10 February ruling marks the first work-related disease to be recognised on Samsung's LCD line. The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favour of multiple sclerosis sufferer Kim Mi-seon. Supported by the campaign group SHARPS, she had asked the court to force the Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMEL) to reverse its decision not to approve her request for compensation for medical treatment. Kim contracted multiple sclerosis while working on the LCD production line for Samsung Electronics. She began working at Samsung Electronics' Giheung factory in 1997, when she was 17-years-old. She contracted the disease in March 2000 and left the company three months later. Kim filed the lawsuit in 2013, after KCOMEL refused to recognise her multiple sclerosis as a work-related illness. The judge commented that her working conditions (such as exposure to organic solvents; shifts, including night shifts; insufficient exposure to ultraviolet rays appear to have been factors that caused or exacerbated her multiple sclerosis. and noted there had already been four confirmed cases of multiple sclerosis among workers at Samsung Electronics.
Read more: SHARPS news report. Source: Risks 788
Is sitting as bad as they say?
Our readers may have heard reports this week that new research indicates that sitting for long periods may not be as bad for health as previously thought. Do not be fooled into complacency! What the latest research, published in the British Journal of Medicine, found was that the strength of the association between sitting and diabetes depends on many factors, and is not very straightforward. Factors such as obesity, physical activity, the length and even the 'type' of sitting impact on people's health. Researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, writes in an article in The Conversation, that while sitting is not necessarily strongly linked to type 2 diabetes, "for people who are physically inactive, though, the story's different. Two recent studies show the total time spent sitting a day is linked with developing diabetes, but only in people who are physically inactive or both physically inactive and obese." Stamatakis refers to a large recent review which combined data from over one million participants: it found that 60-75 minutes of physical activity a day eliminated the harms of sitting when it came to measuring death from cardiovascular disease or death by all causes.
Read more: Why sitting is not the new smoking, The Conversation
Heavy work and shifts make it harder to get pregnant
Being employed as a shift worker or in a physically demanding job appears to make it harder for a woman to get pregnant, according to new study. Scientists found working outside of normal office hours or having a strenuous job may lower a woman's chances of conceiving via IVF. The US-based study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at 473 women attending a fertility clinic. Women with physically demanding jobs had a lower ovarian reserve – the number of remaining eggs - than those whose work did not regularly involve heavy lifting. Among those going through IVF at the clinic, women with more physical jobs had a lower total reserve of eggs and fewer mature eggs. Women who worked evenings, nights or rotating shifts had fewer mature eggs than those working normal hours. The researchers cautioned that the findings were drawn from a sample of women attending a fertility clinic so may not apply to those trying to conceive naturally. However, the paper concluded: "Women working non-daytime shifts and those with physically demanding jobs had fewer mature oocytes retrieved after controlled ovarian hyperstimulation. Our results provide insight into possible mechanisms linking these occupational exposures with decreased fecundity."
Read more: Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, Irene Souter, Paige L Williams and others. Occupational factors and markers of ovarian reserve and response among women at a fertility centre, [abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published Online First, 6 February 2017. London Evening Standard. Source: Risks 788
UK: Disabled people hide impairments to stay in work
More than half of disabled workers have experienced bullying or harassment at work because of their impairments, a UK study has found. Nearly six out of 10 (58 per cent) disabled people reported feeling at risk of losing their jobs and one in two (53 per cent) has experienced bullying or harassment at work because of their impairments, according to the research by disability charity Scope. The findings, based on 501 interviews and published ahead of the 17 February end of the consultation period on the UK government's green paper on work, health and disability, have highlighted the issues disabled people face in work. Scope discovered one in five (21 per cent) hide their disability from employers and one in four (24 per cent) say their current employer is not supportive of their disability.
Mark Atkinson, chief executive of Scope, said: "These figures demonstrate that employers and government need to be doing much more to support disabled people in the workplace." He added: "It's clear that support for disabled people both in and out of workplace need to radically improve. If the government is serious about halving the disability employment gap it must set out reforms which not only lead to a change in employer attitudes but also offer disabled people better access to in work support." Read more: Scope news release. Morning Star Source: Risks 788
Without doubt disabled workers face similar issues in Australia. A January Productivity Commission report found a drop of six per cent in workforce participation since 2009 for some people with a disability. The report and the issues this raises were discussed on an edition of the ABC Radio Life Matters program this week. One of the guests, Jessica May, CEO and founder of Enabled Employment, said that in her experience, many disabled people hid their disability in order to gain or remain in employment.
Listen to the Life Matters podcast: Workplace participation rates drop for disabled employees. and Workplaces still see disability as barrier to employment, advocates say, ABC News online
OHS Regulator News
Safe Work Australia news
As of 16 February, 21 fatalities had been reported to SWA - this is seven more than the previous update on 10 Februray:
- 8 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 4 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 3 in Construction;
- 2 Arts and recreation services
- 2 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- 1 in Accommodation and food services
- 1 in Public administration and safety
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.
There have been no new prosecution results posted on WorkSafe Victoria's website since the last edition of SafetyNet.
NSW: Earthworks business fined $90,000 over worker injuries
A Bathurst earthworks business has this week been fined $90,000 for failing to comply with safety standards that led to two workers being injured in January 2015. One labourer was fully buried and another had his right leg trapped after the side walls of a trench in which they were working collapsed during excavation works.
SafeWork NSW charged Bustin' Free Earthworks Pty Ltd with breaching the Work Health and Safety Act (NSW), for exposing workers to the risk of serious injury or death as a result of being engulfed in a trench that was not properly secured from collapsing. SafeWork alleged that Bustin' Free Earthworks failed to obtain a geotechnical report or ensure appropriate shoring was completed before work commenced in the trench. SafeWork also alleged the business failed to ensure that workers were sufficiently trained to remain within the protective shoring box at all times.
Bustin' Free Earthworks Pty Ltd was found guilty in the District Court and fined $90,000. Following the incident, Bustin' Free Earthworks Pty Ltd committed to spend over $2 million to improve safety measures, including on additional staff training and to engage a safety consultant to review safety practices.
Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release