SafetyNet 398, March 22, 2017
Another tragic week - two workers were killed in separate incidents last Thursday. Two more families who have lost a loved one.
This is why being active in OHS is so important. Get involved: 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.
Two Victorian workers killed in one day
Thursday March 16 was a tragic day: In the first incident, a 65 year old delivery driver was killed when he was run over by his truck at a storage depot in Tullamarine. According to WorkSafe, the man was believed to have been at the rear of his vehicle at the time of the incident and died at the scene.
On Thursday night, a farmer was undertaking maintenance work on a tractor, and was seriously injured when he was struck by it at his farm at Meredith, near Geelong. The man, 68, suffered serious head injuries and died later in hospital.
Both incidents are being investigated by WorkSafe. WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the men were working alone when the incidents happened. "Both incidents will be thoroughly investigated, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of each man," Ms Williams said.
According to Trades Hall figures, these fatalities bring the number of deaths of Victorian workers this year to nine - more than WorkSafe's official number.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release; Working Alone.
Tasmania: Worker killed after fall
WorkSafe Tasmania is investigating the death of a contract worker last Friday at Grange Resources' iron ore mine, which has been placed in an immediate trading halt.
Reports are that the 32-year-old worker was from Queensland and that he fell a considerable distance.
Australian Workers Union assistant secretary Robert Flanagan said it was understood the contractor was working in the mine's north pit when he fell. "It's the union's understanding that the contractors were engaged in scaling operations in part of the mine's operations," he said. Source: ABC News online
HSR hero stories - keep them coming
Time is running out to send through stories and tips on how HSRs have achieved great outcomes for their DWGs and helped the employer make the workplace healthier and safer. The end result of our drive will be a booklet to help other HSRs. We'd love some stories from office based HSRs - there are many issues office workers in a huge range of industries face. The more stories 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.
Your tips and experiences can help other HSRs achieve safer workplaces - share, share, share!! 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. (If you haven't yet checked out Dean, an AMWU HSR, on our Facebook page, click here. )
Could you please clarify the employer's obligation under the OHS Act to provide first aiders? Specifically: at the moment there is a first aider on night shift who wishes to take up a new position on day shift. If he moves to day shift there will be no first aider on night shift. There are only four employees on the night shift, none of whom want to take this role. Do we have to have a first aid officer for the night shift with four employees? There are first aiders for both the morning and afternoon shifts.
Under the 'general duty of care' (s21 of the OHS Act ) the employer has a duty to provide 'adequate facilities for the welfare' of employees - this includes facilities such as dining, toilets, and first aid facilities. There is nothing more specific or definite in the Act. More detail is found in the First Aid Compliance Code. A Compliance Code is not law, but sets out what employers need to do 'so far as is reasonably practicable' so that they can be confident that they are complying with the relevant duty.
What is basically required is that the employer do an assessment, in consultation with affected workers and the HSRs to establish what the needs are in the workplace, taking into account the hazards and risks, the proximity to medical facilities, and so on. The code provides guidance for a range of workplaces. It may be that given the risks to those workers on night shift, a first aider is needed - alternatively the assessment may lead to a decision that a first aider is not necessary.
Read more, and access the code here: First Aid - What are the requirements?
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.
International: listing of asbestos on Rotterdam convention
In a few weeks, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations' Rotterdam Convention (RC) on the Prior Informed Consent Procedures for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade will meet for the eighth time. Pivotal to the success of the meeting and, indeed to the long-term viability of this multinational Convention, will be the decision taken regarding the inclusion of chrysotile (white) asbestos on a list of substances subject to mandatory trade regulations. In light of the intransigence of asbestos lobbyists and the delegations which support them at the RC, a proposal by the African Group of Nations may be the last hope for the Convention's survival.
Read more: Rotterdam Convention 2017 - make or break. IBAS
Italy: Remediation of Casale Monferrato
According to Giorgio Demezzi, a former Mayor of Casale Monferrato, to date more than €80m (AUD$83.7m) has been allocated by the Italian government for asbestos remediation of the town over the last 20 years. Unfortunately, disputes are ongoing over the administrative processing and bureaucratic dispensation of remediation funds by city hall personnel. The municipality aims to make Casale Monferrato asbestos free by 2020. To that end, work is proceeding, says the current Mayor.
See: I conti dell'amianto in 20 anni: ecco le bonifiche. Finora trasferiti dallo Stato 80 milioni [20 years of asbestos land reclamation has, till now, cost the state 80 million].
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.
Save the date: April 28, 2017 International Workers' Memorial Day
The VTHC OHS Unit is developing a kit for HSRs and others who will be unable to attend an event - like that at the Trades Hall - to commemorate International Workers Memorial Day on 28 April. The kit to assist those planning an event at the workplace should be available over the next week or so.
A reminder that IWMD is both a global day of remembrance and action and one that is important for all Victorian workers as well. First commemorated by unions in Canada in the 1980s, this year's international theme 'Good health and safety for all workers whoever they are' focuses on inequalities in occupational health and unions' role in narrowing the inequalities gap. There is a lot that HSRs can do and in fact do every day to make their workplaces safer. For ideas and resources, including a terrific poster which can be downloaded, go to 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: Unions join forces to fight abuse at work
Collective bargaining from trade unions can play a key role in tackling violence against women, campaigners have said, but they add the government must also take action. Delegates at the TUC women's conference heard how Britain has some of the highest levels of workplace violence against women in Europe. Dr Jane Pillinger said that abuse of women must be incorporated into existing equalities policies. "When this issue is recognised in government legislation, it will make it much easier to use collective bargaining power," Dr Pillinger said. She suggested that Britain should look to the example set by Denmark, where a joint task force made up of trade unions is a model for collective bargaining agreements in tackling violence against women in the workplace. "Everyone thought that the problem had been solved," Ms Pillinger said, "when actually it has got worse." A Morning Star report of the TUC event said women are particularly affected in service industries like retail, as well as health and transport. It said the TUC, alongside public sector union UNISON and shopworkers' union Usdaw has drawn up model policies but they argue that more must be done from the top first. Usdaw's Elizabeth Williams said: "Union workers need to be active politically to hold the Tory government to account, and they need to be active in the workplace supporting women members, and on the campaigning front — understanding that it is a trade union issue."
Read more: TUC head Frances O'Grady speech to the TUC women's conference. Morning Star. TUC guide to reporting workplace violence. Source: Risks 792
Japan: Agreement on new overtime ceiling
The biggest employers' group in Japan, Keidanren, and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) have agreed new monthly and annual overtime limits. The deal came after the government's Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform proposed a 100 hours per month overtime ceiling. Under the new overtime should be limited to 45 hours a month or 360 hours a year. The monthly limit can only be exceeded six times a year, with an absolute cap of 100 hours in any one month. Ryo Sasaki, a lawyer who works with a legal team that represents employees who say they were exploited, criticized the agreement, calling it "insufficient." He said 100 hours of overtime is considered enough to lead to karoshi, or death from overwork. Rengo president Rikio Kozu said the agreement was 'merely' a first step. "We don't want to send out the wrong message that companies are allowed to make employees work up to 100 hours," he said. "Labour and management have agreed to work to bring overwork hours close to 45 hours, which is the limit in principle."
Read more: Japan Times. More on Working Hours and Health, Hazards. Source: Risks 792
South Korea: Anniversary of death marks 10 years of struggle
Hwang Yu-mi died on 5 March 2007 on the way to hospital from acute myelogenous leukaemia. She was the first publicly known victim of what later became known as the Samsung Electronics blood disorder cluster cases. Yu-mi was only 23 and had worked at Samsung for less than four years. Since then, there have been over 350 cases of occupational disease and 79 deaths among Samsung's Electronics workforce. The tenth anniversary of Yu-mi's death was remembered with a ceremony in front of Samsung's corporate headquarters. Samsung's power in South Korean society was recently highlighted by the censoring of an article in a university paper that was critical of Samsung's work practices. Source: AAWL Mini News
Mining study shows trade unions save lives
A strong trade union presence makes mines safer, according to the preliminary finding of a major international study. The researchers confirmed that health and safety representatives supported by a trade union were more effective in getting important safety matters addressed and resolved than health and safety representatives acting on their own. The comparative research project, led by Professor David Walters from Cardiff University, was based on the experiences of worker health and safety representatives in Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia and South Africa. The research involved interviews with trade unions nationally and regionally, miners and government inspectors, as well as other key parties. "This welcome research reinforces our message that trade unions play a critical role in health and safety awareness and training. We believe that workers have rights, employers an obligation and governments a responsibility to improve safety in mining," said Glen Mpufane, mining director with the global union IndustriALL. The preliminary findings of the study were presented this month at a Johannesburg workshop, organised by the University of the Witwatersrand's Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry and IndustriALL. The final report is expected later this year.
Read more: IndustriALL news report. Source: Risks 792
Stress on the increase globally
In July 2015 the International Occupational Medicine Society Collaborative (OMSC) surveyed its then 30 member countries, 21 of which responded. The countries, including Australia, the U.S, Canada, the UK, Italy and Japan at that time covered approximately one third of the world's workforce.
An analysis of the results identified a a shift in the types of work-related health problems seen by occupational medical specialists: problems such as stress and burnout are becoming more common. For example, in Denmark, OM specialists have seen a decline in
'traditional' occupational health problems as lung disease and
musculoskeletal issues; while work-related mental illness, including
psychosocial stress and burnout, has risen dramatically. In the UK, musculoskeletal problems are still prevalent, but the incidence of mental health conditions needing treatment is increasing.
Read more: Loeppke, Ronald MD; et al, US Global Trends in Occupational Medicine: Results of the International Occupational Medicine Society Collaborative Survey [Full article] Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: March 2017 - Volume 59
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria updating website
Victoria's regulator is gradually updating its website, section by section. This means that many links on the OHS Reps@Work website may be broken. If you come across any broken links, please please send Renata an email! Thank you!!
SafeWork NSW: Tree work safety
SafeWork NSW has launched a new project with the tree work industry to improve safety and protect workers and consumers. The Focus on Industry: Tree Work project is a Commerce Regulation Program initiative and involves working with tree industry businesses across NSW over the next six months to ensure that they are meeting work health and safety requirements, and workers' compensation responsibilities.
It is a joint project of SafeWork NSW, NSW Fair Trading and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA). The regulator has produced a video safety alert for tips on working safety with trees, and suggest workers in the industry use its tree work guide and conducting a self-assessment of the workplace.
Safe Work Australia News
SafeWork Releases New Report
Safe Work Australia has published a new report that explores processes for gathering and communicating work health and safety performance information.
The Measuring and Reporting on Work Health and Safety report provides an evidence based framework for:
- identifying appropriate WHS key performance indicators
- designing useful WHS reports, and
- considering WHS performance data in a way that adds value to business decisions.
The report proposes a range of lead WHS KPIs specific to the level of training, knowledge and involvement of officers of the PCBU (WHS term for 'employer'). Other leading indicators include: the number of workers who have completed risk assessment training; the percentage of risk assessments reviewed by people with WHS qualifications; the percentage of procurement and contracting decisions made after a WHS risk assessment; and the number of improvement programs relating to safe design and supply chains, or introduced to meet best practice. The Measuring and Reporting on Work Health and Safety report is available on the Safe Work Australia website.
These are produces regularly and can be downloaded from the SWA website as podcasts. This week: Workplace violence is not OK – keeping emergency departments safe
Alcohol, illicit drug use and pressure on the mental health sector mean the risks to hospital staff and bystanders are growing. In this seminar panellists discuss how each day in Australia hospital staff are exposed to serious physical and psychological risks.
Registered nurse Tiffany Plummer, Secretary of the NSW Health Services Union Gerard Hayes, and Petrice Wallis from WorkSafe Victoria, discuss the wicked problem of occupational violence in emergency departments. They examine the environmental and work design solutions that ensure health workers can get on with their jobs safely. This seminar is available here and as a podcast.
SafeWork Australia has not updated its site since the last edition of SafetyNet. As reported last week, as of 14 March, there had been 32 fatalities notified to SWA - this is five more than the previous update on 27 February. 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.
Unforeseen workplace fatality - company fined $50,000
In a case reheard by the Director of Public Prosecutions, CLM Infrastructure Pty Ltd was fined just $50,000 without conviction over an incident which resulted in the death of a worker. The company had been subcontracted to undertake under-road boring works to facilitate the connection of a new water main in Ascot Vale, in Melbourne's north. A bed borer was used to bore a hole under the road. On 11 September 2013, two CLM Infrastructure employees were undertaking a 'break out' procedure which was the removal of the sections of drill rods after boring was completed. They had difficulty disconnecting the final rod according to the company's procedures, so they took the bed borer out of the pit, connected a stilson to the rod and placed it under power - the bed borer then kicked back under the force striking of one of the workers, knocking him against the truck and into the trench. He suffered serious head injuries and died 10 months later.
The company was charged with breaching s21(1) and 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act. There was no allegation of deficiency in either the training provided by the company nor in its system of work. Rather, its written procedures did not specifically address safety measures or risks associated with the use of stilsons on the bed borer to perform the break-out process when the machine was out of the trench. The fatality was the result of a number of unforeseen events. The company cooperated, pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $50,000.00. In his reasons for sentence, Judge Ryan found that seriousness of the consequences of the breach was high, although the breach was at the lower end of the scale. He also said that had the company not entered an early plea of guilty, he would have fined it $75,000 with conviction. Read more: Director of Public Prosecutions v CLM Infrastructure Pty Ltd (ACN 131 091 971)
Partial amputation: fine of $5000 and no conviction
In November 2015, an employee of cabinet and joinery manufacturer Gamma Doura Australia Pty Ltd was operating a banding machine, and reached into the machine to clear offcuts that were caught behind the machine near the end cutter. Because the existing interlock device was not functioning, it allowed access to the danger areas of the plant including moving blades. The blades cut the back of the worker's left hand behind the index finger, resulting in a partial amputation and requiring surgery to repair tendon and nerve damage. The company pleaded guilty to breaches of the OHS Act and was without conviction fined $5,000 plus $3,400 costs. The Broadmeadows Magistrates Court was satisfied, after hearing evidence, that a total financial penalty any more than this would have rendered the offender insolvent.
Worker severely burnt: export company convicted, fined $50,000
Australia Auto Export Co. Pty Ltd is an auto wrecking and parts export business which dismantles vehicles and exports parts (including engines, transmissions, fuel tanks) overseas. Employees use oxy cutters, grinders and other tools to dismantle vehicles and a forklift to move the vehicles. Fuel tanks were stored at the workplace close to the wrecking area where the oxy acetylene equipment and other power tools were being used. This created a risk of death or serious injury to employees as a result of fire or explosion. On 19 December 2015, a 22 year old worker was dismantling a yellow van. He removed the LPG tank from the van, placed it nearby on the ground. He then cut the van's gas line and noticed a gas leaking from the line. He waited for 30 minutes for the gas to release, then started up a forklift by connecting three wires, creating a spark which caused a large explosion. The worker suffered severe burns to his arms, face and neck. It appears that the company also breached their duty to ensure that forklift operators were appropriately licensed. Australia Auto Export Co pleaded guilty to breaching 21(1)&(2)(a); 21(1)&(2)(e); 39(1) of the OHS Act, and was convicted and fined $50,000 (plus $3,400 costs).
Transport company fined $10k after worker injured by forklift
Schenker Australia Pty Ltd, a company providing transport of goods worldwide via land, air and sea was fined $10,000 after a worker was injured by a forklift at one of its sites, a warehouse in Altona. The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard that although the company had Safe Working Procedures and a Traffic Management Plan in place, these were generic and were not specific to the workplace, and did not address identified hazards relating to the operating of powered mobile plant and pedestrian interactions. On 28 August 2015, a forklift in the docking area struck a Schenker employee causing an injury to his left foot. Schenker Australia Pty Ltd was found guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000 (plus costs of $2,946).
Read more about Forklift Safety
For updates, check the: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
International: Global cancer agency under attack
The the role of the World Health Organization's cancer agency, the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), is to investigate and make decisions about listing chemicals as carcinogens - bad news for some industries. With business claiming IARC puts out 'fake news' and Republicans in total control, U.S. funding crucial for IARC's work is under threat. President's proposed budget would cut $6 billion, or nearly 20 percent, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). IARC's carcinogen classifying work relies most heavily on NIH funding.
The chemical lobby recently launched a campaign accusing IARC of scaremongering, and of ignoring actual human exposure to potential hazards; U.S. lawmakers are already investigating whether taxpayers' money should be funding its work. According to IARC's director, Christopher Wild, the industry's attacks on the agency's science pose a "real risk." He said, "It plays into that populist view of experts telling us that everything is bad for us, and therefore let's ignore all that information."
An example of how IARC has angered industry is its classification of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundaup, as a probable carcinogen two years ago. This has put it at odds with other EU agencies which have deemed it 'safe' - though there are questions about the influence of industry. Read more: Politico
Japan: Court rules government liable
Last Friday, a Japanese court ruled that Tokyo Electric Power and the government are both liable for negligence in a case involving compensation for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first time the judiciary has ruled the state has liability. Read more: Reuters