SafetyNet 397, March 15, 2017
More quad bike fatalities - including a six year old girl in NSW. These are dangerous machines and something more must be done. But in good news for all workers, the ACTU has elected its first female Secretary, Sally McManus. Congratulations!
I'll repeat my weekly request: please '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.
More quad bike fatalities
A six year old girl was killed in a quad bike crash in NSW on the weekend. Despite governments offering rebates to retrofit safety measures, these fatalities keep occurring. These must now become mandatory if lives are to be saved. See item below.
Sally McManus - elected first female secretary of the ACTU!
The Australian Council of Trade Unions' (ACTU) Executive has today elected Sally McManus as the new Secretary. Ms McManus is the 10th elected ACTU Secretary in the organisation's 90-year history and the first woman to hold the prestigious position. She fills the role vacated by former Secretary Dave Oliver, who left the ACTU in January. Ms McManus was previously an ACTU vice president. She has worked many jobs, including delivery driver, retail worker and cleaner.
"We are living through a time when corporations and the very rich
have become far too powerful and this has happened so quickly that our
laws and rights that keep things in balance have not kept up.
Australians are less secure in their work and rights for working people
are just not strong enough. The penalty rates decision makes this fact
unavoidable for our political leaders, and those who ignore that will do
so to their detriment," said Ms McManus. "So my first challenge is to stop the attack on Australian workers
through penalty rate cuts. Workers, in their unions, will fight until
this unfair decision is reversed by the Government, no matter how long
it takes, so that no worker can ever be worse off by a Fair Work
Commission decision again."
Read more: ACTU Media Release See Ms McManus' address to workers.
HSRs current and former - keep sending in your stories
We have received some wonderful stories and tips from over 50 HSRs, but we want more! The more we have, the more varied the industries the HSRs are from, the better our HSR Handbook will be! The OHS team has been following up those HSRs who have sent in stories, and the latest clip to go on to our Facebook page is AMWU HSR Dean, who has a tip to make sure management really 'gets' there is an issue. Check out Dean's tip - it's fabulous! (by the way, you might like to then check our pages on Body Mapping)
Don't be shy - your tips and experiences can help other HSRs achieve safer workplaces. Something you might think is no big deal might end up saving a worker's life, so share, share, share!! 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.
I am an elected HSR and would like to know how HSRs can use s32 of the Act ("Duty to not recklessly endanger persons at the workplace"). Recently a lock out tag on a machine was removed by someone who should have known better - this could have had serious consequences.
S32 is not a part of the OHS Act that HSRs can access/use. It's there for WorkSafe and unfortunately, has mostly been used against individual workers. This is because there is a level of proof that the person who put people's health or safety in danger had to have done so not only in a 'reckless' manner, but also did so knowingly. The provision has been used 'after the fact' – someone has been seriously injured and the person charged was directly responsible, or in the case of two workers 'planking' on a fork lift, after they posted video online.
So in the case you've given me, it would have been unlikely that the company would have been charged, most likely it would be the person who removed the tag.
What you could have done had you been aware of it at the time, was to order a ceasework - citing that the machine had been tagged so it would not be used, and not place anyone in danger. By removing the tag, with no repair work having been done, and using the machine placed workers' safety at an immediate risk.
Read more: Resolution of OHS Issues; Reckless Endangerment
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.
Australia Post: more evidence of disrespect for workers
Just before last Friday's Australia Post rally in Melbourne's CBD, the Injured Workers Support Network heard some horrific news. The day before a worker died while unloading a truck at an Australia Post warehouse in Nambour, Queensland. Apparently the deceased man had a tarp placed over him and some safety cones placed around him. The other workers were expected to keep working around the man's body.
The New Daily reported that Australia Post employee Chris Nitschke, who was working on the site at the time, said the incident was "disgusting".
"One of the truck drivers came in at about 1.30am, started unloading crates of parcels from the back of a truck and had a heart attack," he wrote in a public Facebook post."People were wondering why he wasn't doing his job and unloading, and found him dead in the back of the truck." Mr Nitschke said the man was "dragged out and put on the ground", surrounded by witches hats and covered with a blanket. "Employees kept on working around his dead body until 6am when the undertakers came," he wrote.
A spokesperson for Australia Post denied that any workers were forced to keep working - but Australia Post refused to provide The New Daily with a comment on the record confirming whether employees were asked to leave the scene or relocated. They did not deny the man's body had been left in the middle of the warehouse.
Read more: The New Daily; The Northern Star; The Daily Mail (UK); The Bulletin
It's not too later to sign now to demand
fair treatment from Australia Post, a self-insurer that has been
executives for delaying or intimidating workers out of making workers
Sign the petition and tell Australia Post to treat all their workers, including those injured, with dignity and respect!
New WA Labor Government may consider union-led OHS prosecutions
According to Labor Party policy documents, the Western Australian Labor Party, which won in a landslide victory over the weekend, could amend the state's draft WHS laws to include union-led prosecutions and 20-year jail terms for recklessness. The party's 'State platform' stated a Labor Government would strengthen workplace health and safety laws, work with other jurisdictions to ensure the harmonised WHS laws are maintained and strengthened, develop a stronger regulatory framework for the safety and wellbeing of fly-in-fly-out workers, and more. The party said the maximum jail term for work-related reckless or gross negligent conduct should be 20 years, instead of five years under the current model Act, and unions (or other parties "with an interest") should have the right to initiate a prosecution where a regulator has failed to do so. Source: OHSAlert
TGA approves Keytruda for lung cancer treatment
The Therapeutic Drugs Administration has now approved the chemotherapy-free drug Keytruda for use in the treatment of lung cancer, including mesothelioma. The approval comes after a trial involving 300 people. The cost of the drug is extremely high, but the pharmaceutical company behind the drug has said it is working with the Federal Government and lung cancer experts to have the drug added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Meanwhile, in Melbourne, new drug being trialled
A new drug developed in Melbourne has been shown to shrink tumours in the laboratory. There are now plans for a human trial to treat mesothelioma. Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute senior clinical research fellow, and Austin Hospital oncologist specialising in mesothelioma, Associate Professor Tom John said the drug was an "antibody drug conjugate". It binds to a target on the surface of the cancer cell and releases little packets of chemotherapy - destroying just the bad cells. The team, which includes Professor Andrew Scott, Associate Prof Hui Gan, and Dr Puey Ling Chia, aims to begin human trials this year. The Cancer Council Victoria has awarded two research grants totalling $700,000, one to the team from ONJRI, and another to Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Source: The Herald Sun
WorkSafe Vic: Warning to avoid Brisbane asbestos testing company
Businesses and consumers who need asbestos testing services have been told to avoid using Brisbane company Asbestos Audit Pty Ltd, which is being investigated by the Queensland Office of Fair Trading.
The company and its director Mark Dougal Rentoul are being investigated for allegedly charging companies to test asbestos samples but failing to have them tested. The OFT began investigating after receiving a complaint from a regional Queensland council. It found that the company had been consistently invoicing clients for samples taken but not tested.
"Not only is Asbestos Audit making misleading representations about its services and accepting payment for services not delivered, but this behaviour is potentially putting peoples' health at risk," said OFT's Executive Director Brian Bauer.
WorkSafe's Executive director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said that if the allegations proved correct, the company's behaviour was outrageous.Any Victorian business or consumer who have used the company and have concerns about its testing procedures should contact the Queensland OFT by calling 13 74 68 or make a complaint online. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
NB: Mark Dougal Rentoul and his company has no association with the Victorian-based company Asbestos Audits (Australia) Pty Ltd or its directors.
Geelong man sues Alcoa
An 82-year-old Geelong man is suing Alcoa for asbestos exposure. Mr Stanley Cook was employed at Alcoa's Point Henry site and claims he was exposed to asbestos during the late 1960s and early '70s. In his writ, Mr Cook claims Alcoa owed him a duty of care to ensure he was not exposed to risk of injury and that he suffered asbestos- related diseases as a result of the company's negligence. Mr Cook is seeking damages, interests and costs from the company.
He is not the first to sue Alcoa over exposure to the deadly product in Geelong. In 2012, law firm Maurice Blackburn sought out employees who could testify about conditions at the company's Point Henry smelter in the early 1960s for a client who had died of mesothelioma. Source: The Geelong Advertiser
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.
Brazil: Push to ban asbestos
Brazilian Senator Paulo Paim last week submitted a draft bill (PLS 30/2017) to a committee of the Brazilian Congress delineating a road map to make the transition from a national asbestos policy based on the controlled use of asbestos to one banning mining, manufacture, import, storage and transport of asbestos fiber and products containing asbestos within a strict phased timescale. Citing the global consensus regarding the proven risks posed by asbestos exposures, the proposal will, if approved, prohibit all asbestos use, sales, marketing, storage, import and export within four years.
See: Manejo do amianto pode se tornar proibido no país [Transition from asbestos management to asbestos ban]. 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. 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.
IWMD has become a global day of remembrance and action since it was first commemorated by unions in Canada in the 1980s. The international theme for the day this year is 'Good health and safety for all workers whoever they are' and focuses on inequalities in occupational health and unions' role 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: Father of airline worker 'killed by toxic air' speaks out
The father of a cabin crew worker whose death was linked to exposure to toxic air on aeroplanes has warned cabin crew from more than 40 countries of the dangers. Unite member Matt Bass died in 2014 after returning from a flight to Ghana. A special post mortem paid for by his family found evidence of chronic exposure to poisonous organophosphates. His father, Charlie Bass, addressed the cabin crew meeting of the London-based International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) on 8 March 2017. He said he wanted to meet the union delegates attending the global transport union's meeting "so that together we can all build pressure on the industry and government to do more about the scandal of toxic cabin air. The ITF and its unions have been brilliant in our campaign; they recognise the seriousness of the issue and are raising it at the highest political levels. Together we can make sure no one else dies like Matt did." ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: "The campaign around cabin air quality is an example of what ITF unions do best – fearlessly exposing issues when the industry falters. The union movement has always led the way in improving safety and well-being for workers, and passengers alike - and long may this continue."
Read more: ITF news release. Source: Risks 791
Ukraine: Explosion highlights deadly mine perils
Global mining union IndustriALL has condemned the poor safety record of Ukraine mines. The comment was made after a 2 March explosion at state-owned mine in Stepnova killed eight miners. The workers were members of an IndustriALL affiliate, the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU). Over 20 other miners were hospitalised. Operations at the mine were temporarily suspended following the blast, with authorities declaring 3 March a day of mourning. NPGU chair, Mychailo Volynets, said state mines had been starved of the funds necessary to operate safely. "Last year NPGU warned about the critical situation in the coal industry. State coal mines had not received full funding from state budget. There was lack of money for providing safety, buying new equipment and modernisation of mines," he said. "All these factors create the danger of accidents at state mines." IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan commented: "We mourn for our killed miner comrades. Our support and solidarity with their families and unions." He added: "Ukraine's mining health and safety record is completely unacceptable. IndustriALL Global Union urges the Ukrainian Government to take necessary measures without delay."
Read more: IndustriALL news release. Source: Risks 791
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria: Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was posted last Friday. In this edition, the team decided to republish the editorial by Worksafe's Construction Program Manager, Dermot Moody, from August 2016, on the need for electricians to take precautions to prevent electric shock. The reminder is timely with the launch of WorkSafe's latest Construction Safety Focus – Electrical Safety, which started this Monday, 13 March.
Also in this edition is a round-up of prosecutions and incidents here and around Australia. In the period February 17 - March 2, there were 78 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries, including: one fatality, 31 near misses, 22 lacerations, five fractures, four electric shocks, and one amputation. The fatality occurred on February 21, in Merricks, when a worker died after falling from height of four metres. As usual, many of the incidents could have resulted in workers being killed. Access the March 10 Safety Soapbox online, including the link to the list of reported incidents.
NSW: Third quad bike fatality in one week
A man died on Saturday night after a suspected quad bike crash in the New South Wales Upper Hunter Valley. The 60-year-old John Begg went missing from his Blandford home that night. His body was found Monday morning after an extensive search by family members, police and a rescue helicopter.
Mr Begg's death follows two separate fatalities on quad bikes in the state near Narrabri and Bathurst the Sunday before.
A six-year-old girl died after a quad bike crashed, with two girls, both 13, on the bike with her. The young girl's death have led to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and the Australian Injury Prevention Network (AIPN) to call for laws prohibiting children under the age of 16 from riding quad bikes of any size. A Bathurst man, 60, died in an accident on the same day.
There have been four fatalities in NSW from four-wheeled accidents since the beginning of the year, including the seven-year-old boy who died on a quad bike near Griffith, in the state's south-west in January. SafeWork NSW called for helmets to become mandatory on the vehicles last week in response to those deaths. The NSW Government announced last week that it would double the value of quad bike safety rebates to $1,000. Between 2011 and 2016, 109 people have died on four-wheeler motorcycles.
Read more: NSW Media Release. Source: ABC News online
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 14 March, 32 fatalities had been reported to SWA - this is five more than the previous update on 27 February. Three of these deaths were in the Construction industry.
- 10 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 5 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 9 in Construction;
- 2 Arts and recreation services
- 3 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- 1 in Manufacturing
- 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 October 2016, during which there were were 27 work-related notifiable fatalities: 18 male workers, three female workers, four male bystanders and two female bystanders. To download the report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
WorkSafe Victoria has not updated the information on its website since our last edition. For updates, check the: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
USA: Senate votes to kill worker safety rule
President Trump and congressional Republicans are rolling back a series of Obama-era worker safety regulations disliked by business groups. Last week the Senate voted to kill a rule requiring federal contractors to disclose and correct serious safety violations. In a narrow result (divided along party lines), the Senate voted 49 to 48 to eliminate the regulation, dubbed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. Finalised last August but blocked by a court order in October, the rule would have limited the ability of companies with recent safety problems to complete for government contracts unless they agreed to remedies. The measure to abolish it had already cleared the House. The next step after the Senate vote will be the White House, where Trump is expected to sign it. A half-dozen other worker safety regulations are in the Republicans' sights. "This is the opening salvo of the Republican's war on workers," said Deborah Berkowitz of the National Employment Law Project. "It sends a signal that Congress and the administration is listening to big business and their lobbyists and they are not standing up for the interests of the American workers." Republican lawmakers are employing the rarely used Congressional Review Act (CRA) to target safety rules. The CRA allows Congress to roll back recently enacted regulations by a simple majority vote. Once a rule is killed, it is killed forever. No future administration can pass a substantially similar measure unless Congress is persuaded to pass a law instead — a far more difficult task.
Read more: NELP news release. Washington Post. The Hill. Source: Risks 791
Global: UN experts slam myth that pesticides are necessary
Two United Nations experts have called for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming, and move towards sustainable agricultural practices. The report, which is highly critical of the claims made by the pesticide industry, notes: "The assertion promoted by the agrochemical industry that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security is not only inaccurate, but dangerously misleading." It adds: "The industry frequently uses the term 'intentional misuse' to shift the blame on to the user for the avoidable impacts of hazardous pesticides. Yet clearly, the responsibility for protecting users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle and throughout the retail chain lies with the pesticide manufacturer." Farmers and agricultural workers, communities living near plantations, indigenous communities and pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposure and require special protections, the report notes. It was authored by the UN's Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak. They told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that widely divergent standards of production, use and protection from hazardous pesticides in different countries are creating double standards, which are having a serious impact on human rights. The Special Rapporteurs pointed to research showing that pesticides were responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year. The overwhelming number of fatalities, some 99 per cent, occurred in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations were weaker. Urging a new approach to farming, they say: "It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production."
Read more: UN news release. UN OHCHR news release and report, which is available here. Source: Risks 791
Europe: Accidents, deaths and health problems at work
Each year, work-related accidents result in long periods of absence from work, and even death. Furthermore, a significant proportion of Europe's working population suffers from one or more work-related health problems.
As a first step towards estimating the Europe-wide costs of work-related health problems, accidents and deaths, EU-OSHA has produced a new report evaluating the quality and comparability of the available data that can be used to determine those costs. Although the authors identified a lack of robust and reliable data in this area, they suggest methods that would allow a partial estimation of costs to be made.
Read more: EU-OSHA (Download the report or the summary here)
Eu-OSHA: Online interactive Risk Assessment website revamped
Whether involved in managing safety and health risks at work, a worker rep or a member of the occupational safety and health community, EU-OSHA says there's something for everyone on the updated OiRA website .
There are a range of tools for micro and small enterprises, tailored to specific sectors and countries, and the new user-friendly interface that allow easy access to the best one to help undertake a risk assessment. The new sections include 'Promotional resources', which offers a range of materials, including infographics, factsheets and videos, that are free to download and which can be used to promote OiRA to enterprises.
Check out the revamped OiRA website now.