SafetyNet 396, March 8, 2017
Happy International Women's Day to all women and all those who support our fight for equality and justice both inside and outside the workplace!
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.
International Women's Day Rally - Today 5.30pm!
Come along to what promises to be one of Melbourne's biggest rallies in a long time. The International Women's Day Rally, will take off today at 5.30pm from Parliament House. The first International Women's Day march in Melbourne occurred in 1931, and focused on equal pay for equal work. This year's theme is Peace! Bread! Land!, a call made 100 years ago on 8 March 1917 during the women-led demonstrations that sparked the Russian Revolution.
'We are building the post-millennial women's movement, most recently seen in the Women's Marches following the election of Donald Trump,' said International Women's Day Melbourne spokesperson Elizabeth Thorne. 'Our event in Melbourne is part of the global resurgence of feminism. We stand with women struggling for survival and liberation all over the world.'
The Rally demands focus on an end to racism, a liveable income for all women, reproductive justice, transgender rights, freedom from gendered violence, disability rights, climate change, and accessible education. Read more about the Rally and the demands on the Facebook event page. Read about the Australian working class militants who brought IWD to Australia.
VTHC We Are Union Women Conference: Action to Stop Gendered Violence
Last Thursday, as part of the now annual WRAW Fest, the VTHC We Are Union Women team ran an important and well-attended conference. 'Gendered Violence' is actions and behaviours which express power inequalities between women and men and cause physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm to women.
Gendered violence is violence perpetrated against women because they are women. It also includes violence perpetuated against those who do not conform to dominant gender stereotypes or those who don't conform to socially accepted gender roles. Gendered violence is a disease in our workplaces which must be addressed. The WAUW team have produced a report which among other things found:
- 64 per cent of women have reported experiencing bullying, harassment or violence at their workplaces;
- 60 per cent reported having felt 'unsafe, uncomfortable or at risk' in their workplace;
- 19 per cent cited 'unsafe work environment' as a factor in their decision to leave paid work.
Cut in penalty rates will affect workers' OHS - Mark 2
Last week we had an item on how the cut in penalty rates will potentially negatively affect workers' health and safety. One of our subscribers, Dr Wendy Macdonald, Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Ergonomics & Human Factors, School of Psychology and Public Health at La Trobe University, provided us with more information. Work done by her team has shown that as well as increasing the risks of disease (such as hypertension, heart attacks and more) and increased mental health issues (such as depression, anxiety and so on), increased stress levels can lead to an increase in musculoskeletal disorders.
In an article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Dr Macdonald concludes: "Exposures to occupational hazards substantially increase workers' risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and can exacerbate pre-existing disorders. The effects on MSD risk of the physical requirements of work performance are well recognised, but there is now ample evidence that work-related psychosocial hazards can also have substantial effects; further, some hazards may be additive or interactive. This evidence is not reflected in current workplace risk management practices."
Read more: Wendy Macdonald and Jodi Oakman, Requirements for more effective prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders [Open Access] BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders201516:293 DOI: 10.1186/s12891-015-0750-8 and on the site: Sprains and Strains and Stress
HSRs current and former - keep sending in your stories
Well - we are still asking! We have received some fabulous win stories from all sorts of HSRs - but we know there are many more out there. Don't be shy - your tips and experiences can help other HSRs achieve safer workplaces. All too often HSRs face recalcitrant employers who don't believe spending the money to fix something is worth it... until something happens. Send in how you achieved resolution to an OHS issue - whether it was through consultation and negotiation, or whether you had to use your other powers under the Act, such as issuing a PIN, or calling in WorkSafe. So if you have a story, or if you think your HSR deserves to be recognised, participate in our HSR Hero project. 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.
It has been common practice at our workplace for the HSRs to report back to the DWG members the day after the OHS Committee meetings during the morning 'pre-start' meeting. However, our new manager has told the HSRs they cannot report back until the minutes of the meeting have been confirmed. This normally does not occur until the next Committee meeting. Is there something in the Act that allows the reps to give feedback immediately after the meeting?
My advice would be for your HSR to inform the manager that he has no right to determine HOW she/he as the HSR represents her/his DWG and keeps them informed of what is going on. What the HSR should tell the manager that the DWG will be informed that the debrief is based on the HSR notes, or draft minutes rather than the official minutes, and to keep this in mind.
This is because for the HSR to properly represent the DWG in the committee meeting (which is the HSRs role) the HSR must be able to:
- inform the members of the DWG of what was discussed (and even agreed) at the meeting and
- get their feedback on both these matters and any other/new agenda items at the next meeting.
So the HSR/s need to let the new manager know that his 'direction' makes no sense at all!
Also, note that this seems to be a change to the previously accepted procedures for consulting workers (which to date have included HSRs debriefing their DWG after the OHS Committee meeting) - so I would say that this change should not have occurred without consultation (see Duty to Consult).
If you or the HSRs have any issues, then contact the union for more assistance..
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.
Young worker killed at Barangaroo construction site
In a totally preventable tragedy, a young worker was crushed to death while working on a barge last Wednesday afternoon. 32-year old Tim Macpherson was killed instantly after being struck with a metal beam on a New South Wales Government construction site at Barangaroo, near Sydney's Darling Harbour. The construction site is part of the Barangaroo Ferry Hub - a NSW Government project designed to make the area where a casino is also being built, more accessible.
The day after the tragedy, the Maritime Union of Australia said it had been recently prevented from conducting a safety inspection at the construction site. MUA spokesman Paul Keating said he attempted to inspect the site when his union was notified in November 2016 about concerns that the barge being used on the site did not comply with maritime standards. "At the time I came down with another official to speak with the workers to have a look at the barge to assess if it was up to maritime standard and to make sure that the operation was safe," he said, adding "These companies refuse our right on entry even when we raise these issues of safety with them."
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's (CFMEU) state secretary Brian Parker said there had been an unacceptable spike in deaths at building sites in NSW, and across Australia - at one stage over one each week. Mr Parker claimed that the Federal Government's construction watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), was making work sites more dangerous by preventing union organisers from entering them.
"We can make it safer by not having legislation like the ABCC that restricts union and union officials from entering the workplace," he said. "Where we have got good access to building sites, the statistics show there is a drop in the amount of serious incidents and serious accidents and also deaths in the industry."
Sources: MUA; ABC News online; Sydney Morning Herald.
Australia Post petition - sign to demand justice injured workers
Apologies: the link to the Australia Post petition in last week's SafetyNet was not functioning properly - but it's not too later to sign now to demand fair treatment from Australia Post, a self insurer that has been rewarding its executives for delaying or intimidating workers out of making workers compensation claims.
Sign the petition and tell Australia Post to treat injured workers with dignity and respect! We will be rallying outside the Australia Post HQ at 111 Bourke St, Melbourne again this Friday at 12.30pm - will you join us? Read more about the Rally.
Vale Trevor Grant, respected sports writer
Trevor Grant, one of Australia's finest sportswriters, died last Sunday of the cancer mesothelioma, aged 65. In 2015 he was diagnosed with the disease, contracted almost certainly from decades of working in two newspaper offices. While undergoing treatment, he pursued the media companies for damages, wrote and spoke about his experiences, and petitioned the Federal government to have Keytruda added to the PBS. After retiring early from journalism, Grant became an energetic and compassionate activist for the disenfranchised and downtrodden. He worked on behalf of refugees, especially from Sri Lanka, and wrote a book on atrocities in their homeland, Sri Lanka's Secrets – How the Rajapaksa regime gets away with Murder.
Read more: Perth Now
UK: Asbestos exposure risk in one in five schools
Schoolchildren and teachers are being put at risk of asbestos exposure in around one in five schools across England, according to new government figures. A report from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) revealed 19 per cent of schools have not been safely managing asbestos risks and in more than 100 schools the situation has been so serious that the Department for Education (DfE) had to step in. More than 5,500 schools took part in the research into asbestos management in schools, which was conducted last year. Of those, 4,646 (83.1 per cent) reported that asbestos was present. The research results also revealed significant failures to guard against the risks of asbestos. There were 114 schools where there was "significant cause for concern". The findings prompted the EFA to issue new guidance, with the agency warning "poor management of asbestos in your school could endanger lives." Responding to the report, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "It is deeply concerning that 20 per cent of those schools responding to the data collection were not fully compliant with regulations. It is shocking that 2 per cent were sufficiently concerning for the DfE to follow up with the respective responsible body."
Source: Risks 790
Undermining the international asbestos campaign
While it is now illegal to mine, import, sell, use or store asbestos in Australia, we all know the shameful history of companies such as James Hardie and CSR in continuing its use despite knowing its toxicity for decades. Unfortunately, the industry still thrives overseas, with particularly strong growth in Asia, where poor nations are targeted by the new asbestos lobby of producers, manufacturers and their lawyers. A special investigation by British journalist Michael Gillard and New Matilda editor Chris Graham reveals details of a global spying operation on Australian and other international activists and officials, who are battling to stop the trail of death and misinformation in poorly regulated Asian economies. Read more: Lethal Lies: how a corporate spy for a Kazakhstan company infiltrated the global anti-asbestos network, New Matilda
2017 ASEA Summit, Old Parliament House Canberra
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has announced it has booked Old Parliament House, Canberra as the venue for the 2017 Summit on Asbestos Awareness and Management between Sunday 26th to Tuesday 28th of November 2017.
ASEA says that this year's summit will be different from previous conferences, with focus on delegate engagement and discussion around what is the next step for the agency to eradicate asbestos and be the champion of change for the wider international community. More details to follow.
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. These are usually held in the morning on the third Wednesday of every month 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 . 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
Save the date: start planning an event at your workplace to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day on 28 April - if you can't make it to the VTHC or other event in your area.
Since unions first commemorated it in Canada in the 1980s, IWMD has become a global day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. According to the ILO, 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. These are terrible and frightening statistics.
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. The day is also remembered by governments and other organisations such as the ILO - but for us it is and will always be a day for unionists to remember the dead and fight for the living.
International Union News
UK: Teachers say stop talking, start acting on workload
Teaching staff in the UK already know they are overworked and want the government to get on and do something about it, their unions have said. The comment came after the long-overdue findings of the Department for Education's Teachers' Working Time Survey – finally published on the TUC's Work Your Proper Hours Day - revealed teachers in England are working on average 54.4 hours per week, with 93 per cent of teachers saying workload is a fairly or very serious problem.
NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney said new government guidance is "no more than a belated step in the right direction." He said: "Teachers are calling for an enforceable limit on their working hours outside teaching time, as the open-ended nature of the teacher contract is clearly failing them and their pupils." NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: "The education of children and young people will not be improved if teachers remain shackled to workload demands that are impossible to deliver." She added: "A coherent government–wide strategy is needed which secures effective downward pressure to the workload and working hours which are driving teachers and head teachers out of the profession." And ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said "the action plan published today is unambitious and will struggle to change cultures or to make an impact on workload levels." She added the government "needs to better support leaders and make national level interventions relating to the things in its power. The government must tackle the key driver of workload and reform its school accountability structures and systems. And the government must conduct workload impact assessments for all policies, and control the cumulative effects of policy change and implementation."
Read more: NUT news release. NASUWT news release. ATL news release. Teachers workload survey 2016 and DfE webpages on reducing teacher workload and action plan [pdf]. Source: Risks 790
OHS Regulator News
NSW: regional service station project launched
A new project to assist small, independently-owned service stations in regional NSW do business safer and more efficiently was launched this week. The Regional Service Station Project involves SafeWork NSW inspectors visiting 150 service stations in regional NSW to help them with safety and workers compensation, as well as obtaining fuel pricing information. This project is a Commerce Regulation initiative and involves SafeWork NSW, NSW Fair Trading and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA).
SafeWork NSW Group Director, Regional and Sector Initiatives, Tony Williams, said "Due to their isolation, small independently-owned service stations in regional NSW have received less frequent assistance in the past. By supporting them to understand their work health and safety, workers compensation and trading obligations, workers will be safer and consumers better protected."
Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release
Comcare releases 2015-16 stats
Comcare has released its Compendium of WHS and Workers' Compensation Statistics for 2015-16.
The 58-page report shows the incidence of accepted claims fell by 45 per cent in the five years to June 2016, but the number of notifiable worker fatalities increased from eight in 2013-14 to 14 in 2015-16. The incident of mental stress claims has decreased, however, the average cost of these has increased to $350,000 while the average cost of other claims is under $100,000.
Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
SafeWork Australia has now released the monthly fatality report for October 2016, during which there were were 27 work-related notifiable fatalities during October 2016 - 18 male workers, three female workers, four male bystanders and two female bystanders. This is an incredible 14 more than had been reported in September!
Of the 27 fatalities, eight fatalities involved a vehicle accident - public road crash, five fatalities resulted from a fall from a height, four fatalities each resulted from being trapped in machinery and crushing and three fatalities were caused by vehicle accident - other. The remaining three fatalities were all different types of incidents. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
The SafeWork Australia work-related fatalities web page has not been updated since the last edition of SafetyNet. As of the latest update on 27 February, there had been 28 fatalities reported. To check for updates and full figures for 2016, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
Local builder convicted and fined after eye injury
Nepean Builders Pty Ltd, a small locally owned building company dealing in the construction of new homes, renovations and development projects, was this week convicted and fined after an apprentice suffered a serious eye injury. On 10 March 2015, the apprentice was working at a building site in Somers, trimming nails with a reciprocating saw. He was not wearing eye protection which would have reduced the risk injury, and was not supervised to ensure he wore the necessary protection which was available on site. Part of a nail has struck him in the left eye; he suffered a penetrating injury which left him temporarily blind and required surgery. The offender pleaded guilty to failing to provide information, instruction, training or supervision; and failing to provide a safe working environment. The company was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $6,500 (plus costs of $ 3,000).
For updates, check the: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
QLD: Council fined for worker fatality
Charters Towers Regional Council has been fined $170,000 after the Townsville Magistrates Court found it guilty of breaching the Queensland Work Health Safety Act.
In November 2013, four council workers had just completed minor roadworks on a highway when one of them was directed to reverse a truck down a stretch of road to compact the ground. The truck struck and killed one of the other workers, who was picking up brooms and walking across the road. The Court found the Council had failed develop adequate traffic management procedures or develop and monitor safe procedures for reversing plant near pedestrians. It also found it would have been reasonably practicable for the Council to restrict the movement of workers while trucks were reversing, provide a spotter to alert the truck driver to the presence of pedestrians, or implement an exclusion zone. Charters Towers Regional Council has appealed against its conviction and fine. Source: OHSAlert