SafetyNet 399

SafetyNet 399

SafetyNet 399, March 28, 2017

It is with great sadness - and anger - that we inform our readers that another two Victorian workers were killed last week. Both incidents involved tractors.

Again and again we will repeat: get active in OHS at your workplace. You can help save lives: every death is preventable. Go to 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.

This week's journal is being sent today, Tuesday: due to staff leave, the next edition will be after Easter.


Union News 
OHS Regulator News
OHS Prosecutions
International News

Union News

Two more Victorian workers killed in one day 
Thursday March 23 was another tragic day for Victorians with two more workers dying as a result of incidents involving tractors.

In the first incident, a 47-year-old man died in hospital on Thursday after falling from one of two trailers being towed by a tractor at a hop farm in Myrrhee, about 50k south of Wangaratta, on Tuesday, March 21

On Thursday a 53-year-old man was killed after he was run over by a tractor at a winery in the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne. According to WorkSafe, the man was involved in harvesting grapes with other employees at the winery in Wandin East.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said it was alarming that three workers had died in separate incidents involving tractors within one week (the first fatality occurred on Thursday the week before). "Tractors are an important farm tool but they are involved in more farm fatalities in Victoria than any other piece of equipment. It is critical that safety is at the forefront of everyone's minds when working with or around tractors," she said.

According to Trades Hall figures, these fatalities bring the number of deaths of Victorian workers this year to eleven - three more than WorkSafe's official number. 
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release

Queensland: Worker killed in industrial incident
Also last Thursday morning, a worker was killed in an industrial incident on the Sunshine Coast. The 42-year-old was working in the engine bay of a truck when the cabin of the truck reportedly fell on him. Police and emergency crews were called to the business in Coolum Beach at about 9.25am. The man died at the scene after resuscitation attempts failed. Workplace Health and Safety are investigating the incident.
Source: Safety Culture OHS News

NSW: Worker critically injured on construction site
A construction worker is fighting for his life in hospital after he was hit by a concrete pump at a construction site in Fairfield, in Sydney's west, yesterday. The 27-year-old worker was struck on the head before 8am by a concrete boom, according to SafeWork NSW.  A workplace health and safety officer said the concrete pump worker was pouring concrete at the time of the incident, which occurred on the top floor of a five-storey block of units. CFMEU NSW branch officials attended the site. The worker was taken by ambulance to Liverpool Hospital, in a critical condition.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Ask Renata
Hello Renata
I am being asked to stand on a step ladder and operate a drill at head level to make adjustments to a pole mounted board. I am not comfortable standing on the ladder and operating a power tool above shoulder level. The height I am being asked to stand at is not above two metres, but nethertheless I would prefer to have one hand on the ladder for support. However, I cannot do this if I am to safely operate the power drill. I am being told by the organisation's OHS officer that it is safe. Can you provide your opinion please?

If you don't feel safe then it's not safe - and from what you've written, in my view it's not safe.

Your employer has a duty of care to employees (and also employees of contractors) to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health (and this includes safe use of plant and safe systems of work). There should have been a proper assessment of the hazards and risks associated with this task.

The task is exposing you to a number of risks:

  • Falling – even though it is less than two metres, this does not mean that it is safe (even though the Prevention of Falls regulations apply at above two metres, people have died falling from heights lower less than this). In fact, in 2012 Victoria's Coroner recommended to "abolish the distinction between working at height above or below two metres". Unfortunately, despite the efforts of unions, we have not been able to achieve this. The case involved a worker who was killed when he fell off a ladder working on an air conditioning unit. The Coroner found the task required both hands, leaving the employee with no free hand to stabilise himself. He was on a standard ladder, but a fall from a stepladder can have serious consequences too.
  • Overreaching – and using an instrument which may have 'kick-back'
  • Strains and sprains – working above shoulder level and holding a piece of equipment (see the information on the site on manual handling, check the regulations, the old Code of Practice)

WorkSafe's guidance on selection of portable ladders states: 'Before choosing to use a ladder, [the employer] must identify whether a ladder offers the highest level of protection that is reasonably practicable. This is performed by following the hierarchy of control for prevention of falls.'

The hierarchy has five levels:

  1. Work from the ground or on a solid platform
  2. Use a passive fall prevention device
  3. Use a work positioning system
  4. Use a fall arrest system
  5. If the above measures are not reasonably practicable for the task, it may be appropriate to use a ladder, provided it is fit for purpose, appropriate for the duration of the task and set up
    in the correct manner. 

It also clarifies that employers must consult with employees when making decisions about risk controls.

Take a look at our pages on Stepladders and Ladders. I recommend that you go back to the OHS Officer, request a proper risk assessment and agree on a safe way to do this and similar tasks, including what the appropriate equipment is.

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. 

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Asbestos News
Northern Territory: Control of asbestos to pass to Territory government
In response to outrage voiced at last week's meeting of the Australian Labour Party, the Health Minister of the Northern Territories (NT) Natasha Fyles commented: "The Northern Territory Government takes the asbestos issues seriously and will consider all of the concerns raised at this weekend's Labor conference." Months after media reports exposed the scandal relating to asbestos contamination of housing in Tennant Creek, the lives of residents and young children were still "being put at risk" according to trade unionist Andrew Ramsay, Vice President of the Asbestos Diseases Support Society, who was among a group of protesters outside the conference.

CFMEU organiser Roley Cummins was also there, and was critical of NT WorkSafe. "We want unions and asbestos experts to sit down and come up with the plan along with the NT Labor Government," Mr Cummins said. "WorkSafe have been asleep at the wheel on this issue for a very long time. In a win for the CFMEU, workers and the community, a motion was passed at the Labour conference to include asbestos in the Public and Environmental Health Act.
Read more: Asbestos in NT to become responsibility of Territory Government after ALP pass motion. ABC News Online

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

Read more on Asbestos in the home and Asbestos in the workplace

April 28, 2017 International Workers' Memorial Day 
International Workers' Memorial Day - the day we remember the dead and fight like hell for the living - is coming up. With four workplace fatalities in just the past two weeks in Victoria, the importance of such a day cannot be overstated. All workers and all HSRs should plan to do something to mark the day - either attend an event near you or organise something yourself at work.

The VTHC Kit will be available to download soon from the IWMD page on the We Are OHS website very soon, so if you are unable to attend an event, the kit will help you run something at your workplace.

IWMD is both a global day of remembrance and action and one that is important for all Victorian workers as well. Globally, we remember the 2.3 million workers who die, the 1.2 million who are injured and the 160 million who fall ill each year from unsafe, unhealthy or unsustainable work and workplaces.

In Australia: Workers bear the cost of hazardous work It is workers, not employers, who overwhelmingly bear the costs of workplace injuries and diseases, an official Australian report has shown. The report by Safe Work Australia revealed three quarters of the costs of workplace injuries and diseases is borne by the injured workers themselves, with just 5 per cent borne by employers. (see Safe Work Australia Report).

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. HSRs can and do make a huge difference in workplaces. 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.

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Have you sent in your workplace win story?
If you have been thinking of telling us your workplace win story, and haven't yet got around to it, do it now! We are still looking for stories and tips on how HSRs have been able to get things done, and 'encouraged' their employer make the workplace healthier and safer. Your story could feature in our HSR Hero Handbook, which will provide inspiration to other HSRs. The more examples and tips we get, 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. So please share. If you have a story, or if you think your HSR deserves to be recognised, participate in this 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.)

Queensland: Black lung detection 'deliberately underfunded, under-resourced'
As the inquiry into the 're-emergence'* of the deadly disease black lung progresses, a scathing report has been tabled by the Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis (CWP) committee. It has found that the detection of black lung disease among coal miners Queensland has been deliberately underfunded with tragic results. The committee found evidence so far suggested "a massive systemic failure across the entirety of the regulatory and health systems intended to protect coal industry workers." The interim report is severely critical of the Mines Department, Queensland Health, medical professionals, mine operators and Workcover Queensland. "This report exemplifies the human tragedy when public administration in Queensland is corrupted by illusion and false beliefs that black lung was eradicated in this state, and by the deliberate underfunding and under-resourcing over more than 30 years," committee chair Jo-Ann Miller told the house.

There have been 19 confirmed cases of CWP and a 20th pending confirmation. "We expect more men and women to be diagnosed with this preventable disease, resulting in calamitous effects on their families," said Ms Miller.

* The committee found the disease did not "re-emerge" but was "merely re-identified" after more than 30 years of authorities failing to look for it! One of its more shocking findings was that the Health Surveillance Unit was overwhelmed with records which were not assessed and were kept in a cleaner's cupboard and shipping containers.
Read more: ABC News online

International Union News
March 26: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire anniversary
Last week the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and the labor movement remembered the 146 victims -- 123 women and 23 men -- killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire 106 years ago, one of the deadliest workplace events in New York City and the U.S. Most of the victims were young immigrant women aged 16 to 23. In the aftermath, unions and women's rights groups came together to fight the horrendous sweatshop conditions many immigrants were facing across the city.

Today, immigrant women continue to toil in sweatshop conditions in non-union garment factories in the U.S. In South Asia, 1,500 garment workers have died in recent years as a result of unsafe workplaces, lax government regulation, and a system of corporate-controlled monitoring that failed to uncover or address glaring safety violations. Two days before, a steam boiler explosion in a Cambodian factory producing for Levi's, C&A and Guess killed one worker and injured several others, including a pregnant woman (see below). Together we can demand a new system of true corporate accountability that puts an end to such workplace tragedies.
Source: International Labor Rights Forum

Cambodia: garment worker killed in explosion
A young woman worker was killed and 7 others hospitalised when a wood-fired boiler at their garment factory exploded last week. Chinese-owned Zhen Tai Garment Co Ltd, in the Thmey disctrict of Phnom Penh, employs nearly 2,000 workers and is a major supplier of Levi trousers. The garment sector in Cambodia employs hundreds of thousands of workers but is characterised by a Race to the Bottom where industrial injuries are common, and workers' organising and union activities frequently repressed. The situation for workers is further complicated by a political climate where general dissent is met by physical violence or ongoing detention.
Read more: Blast at Levi's supplier kills one, injures seven, The Phnom Pehn Post. Source: AAWL Mini news

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Two thirds of cancers caused by 'random' cell divisions
A study published on Friday has found that approximately two-thirds of all cancers are caused by random errors made during normal cell division. "Our research has broken the paradigm that most cancers are environmental or inherited," said Assistant Professor Cristian Tomasetti of the Johns Hopkins University school of medicine.

His study with Bert Vogelstein, published in Science, evaluated cancer occurrence in 69 countries, including Australia, and covered 4.8 billion people. Professor Vogelstein said: "Most of the time random mutations during cell division don't do any harm. That's good luck. Occasionally they occur in a cancer-driver gene. That's bad luck."

The study reviewed 32 types of cancer and found that about 66 per cent of cancer mutations result from random DNA copying errors, 29 per cent can be attributed to lifestyle or environmental factors - which include the workplace - and the remaining 5 per cent are inherited.  This means that about a third of cancers are preventable - and ensuring workers are not exposed to carcinogens remains important.
Read more: Cristian Tomasetti, Lu Li, Bert Vogelstein, Stem cell divisions, somatic mutations, cancer etiology, and cancer prevention [Full article] Science Volume 355, Issue 63331, March 2017; Two-thirds of all cancers caused by DNA replication errors, landmark study shows, Sydney Morning Herald

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OHS Regulator News

Victorian Bill proposes changes to OHS Act
From 1 July, failing to preserve a serious workplace incident site will be an indictable offence with high fines, and limitation periods for launching safety prosecutions could be extended or bypassed, under a 30-page OHS Bill introduced in Victoria.

The WorkSafe Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 will, if it passes Parliament, amend the State Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, Accident Compensation Act 1985, Dangerous Goods Act 1985 and Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013.

The proposed OHS amendments include:

  • Creating a separate offence (and fine) for contravening an enforceable undertaking, and ensuring proceedings relating to the initial safety breach can be reinstated or issued if an undertaking is contravened (or withdrawn). 
  • Amending the definition of "medical treatment" – relating to the duty to notify WorkSafe of serious incidents – to include treatment by nurses, as well as doctors.
  • Making the failure to notify WorkSafe of serious incidents or preserve serious incident sites indictable rather than summary offences, and significantly increasing fines (from 240 to 1200 penalty units for bodies corporate and from 60 to 300 units for individuals) - but introducing a "reasonable excuse" clause for defendants. 
  • Allowing provisional improvement, improvement, prohibition or non-disturbance notices to be served electronically to allow a "more efficient response to contraventions of health and safety laws and [reflect] modern work and communication practices". 
  • Clarifying that the prohibition on discriminating against an employee for raising health and safety issues with an employer, inspector, health and safety rep or other applies if an employee raises a safety issue directly with WorkSafe.
  • Clarifying inspectors' rights to ask questions and request documents in workplaces.
  • Amending the current two-year limitation period for launching most prosecutions so that the "time limits will be the later of – within two years after the offence first came to the attention of [WorkSafe]; within one year after a coronial report if it appears from the report an offence has been committed; within six months after an enforceable undertaking is contravened or it comes to the attention of [WorkSafe] it has been contravened or it has been withdrawn; at any time with the authorisation of the DPP". The explanatory memorandum also states: "A proceeding may also be brought after the end of those above time limits if fresh evidence relevant to the offence is discovered and the court is reasonably satisfied that the evidence could not reasonably have been discovered within the relevant limitation period."
  • Making the offence of providing false or misleading information when complying or purportedly complying with the Act or the Regulations an indictable rather than a summary offence.

Read more: WorkSafe Legislation Amendment Bill 2017; Explanatory memorandum. Source: OHSAlert

Reminder: 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!!

Safety Soapbox
The last edition of WorkSafe Victoria's Safety Soapbox was sent on March 24. Two weeks into the Construction Safety Focus - Electrical Safety, Steve Darnley from WorkSafe's Construction Program writes about preventing electrical shocks from portable electrical tools and equipment. "The mandatory requirement to fit residual current devices (RCDs) - also called safety switches - to construction switchboards and portable outlet devices on Australian construction sites has reduced the risk of fatal electric shocks to construction workers."

In the period March 3 - March 16, there were 72 Reported Incidents (attached to Safety Soapbox) in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries, including: 13 near misses, 22 lacerations, 5 fractures, 5 electric shocks, 2 amputations, 1 dislocation, 1 muscle tear, 7 punctures and 3 eye injuries. Some of the incidents which caught our attention include three which are 'unconfirmed:

  • While during the removal of a wheel from a crane truck there was an explosion and a worker was hit in the head by a rattle gun;
  • A scaffolder fell from the second level of a scaffold at a domestic construction site; he is reported to have received head and hip injuries; and
  • A worker on the first floor of a new construction lent on a wooden rail over the window void which came loose. The worker and the rail fell to the ground; the worker was coughing blood and complaining of back pain.

Access the March 24 Safety Soapbox online, including the link to the list of reported incidents.

Queensland: in the wake of Cyclone Debbie
As Cyclone Debbie batters the sunshine state, WorkSafe Queensland has warned of the dangers of asbestos exposure in the storm's aftermath. It has urged those involved in the clean-up to protect themselves. Patient and victim support group, the Asbestos Disease Support Society, is also encouraging people to be aware of the dangers from a post-storm clean-up.
Read more: WorkSafe Queensland Advice Storms and Floods

Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 24 March, 43 fatalities had been reported to SWA - this is eleven more than the previous update on 14 March. These figures are appalling. Eight of these deaths were in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;  and three in Agriculture, forestry and fishing

  • 18 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
  • 8 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
  • 8 in Construction;
  • 2 Arts and recreation services
  • 3 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
  • 1 in Mining
  • 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.

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Repeat offender Warrnambool abattoir fined - Union appalled
Midfield Meat International Pty Ltd, operator of a Warrnambool abattoir was last week convicted and fined $47,000 after a worker suffered serious head injuries. A chiller room at the workplace was fitted with an automated retrieval system (Storage Room Retrieval System or SARS) - a complex piece of equipment with three sets of components: a carriage propelling the SARS forward and backward along its X-axis; a cradle onto which products are loaded; and a mast on which the cradle travels up and down on the Y-axis.

An employee, a fitter and turner, was removing the SARS motor and its gearbox, which was about a metre from the floor, for repair. Once the employee had removed the motor, the SARS cradle fell and hit him, causing serious head injuries. The manufacturer and installer of the SARS had provided the company with a hazard identification document when it was commissioned which advised that all operators, maintenance and cleaning staff be trained in the SARS safe operation, and that only trained personnel should carry out maintenance on the SARS. However, the SARS manual did not identify the specific risk associated with separating the motor and gearbox. The company did not have a documented procedure for replacing the SARS motor; it did have a general cleaning and maintenance procedure for the SARS mandating that tasks such as replacing the motor required a task-specific job safety analysis (JSA). The company failed to prepare a JSA to identify risks associated with replacing the SARS motors, failed to require the work to be undertaken with regard to the identified risks and failed to allow only employees aware of the risks to perform the maintenance work. Further, the company failed to instruct maintenance staff that once the motor is removed, there is no brake to stop the cradle from falling, failed to induct maintenance employees in the SARS manual and the SARS hazard identification document, failed to require that all maintenance employees working on the SARS be trained in safety requirements and failed to restrict persons not provided with that training from working on the SARS. Midfield Meat International pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $47,000 and to pay costs of $9,304.

The meatworkers union, the AMIEU, is appalled that the fine is only $47,000 when Midfield Meats has pleaded guilty to Failure to conduct a risk/hazard assessment; Failure to conduct a risk/hazard identification; Failure to provide a safe system of work; Failure to provide information, instruction, training or supervision. This employer is a repeat offender e.g. on 14 November 2016, Midfield Meats entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe Victoria after four workers developed Q Fever when they were exposed to the zoonotic disease without any protection.

For updates, check the: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage

Queensland: Ride operator fined a record $80,000 for death of worker
A sole trader operating an amusement ride business was last week been fined a record $80,000 after a worker was fatally crushed by an amusement ride at Collingwood Park State School's Christmas Carols in 2014. The defendant pleaded guilty In the Ipswich Magistrates Courtto breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after staff worked on a dangerous component of a "chair-o-plane" ride with little action to remove or minimise risk.

This prosecution followed the death of a 20 year old casual workeron 9 December, 2014. Despite having no training on the chair-o-plane, the worker was told to climb the ride and remove bolts from the centre pole. As he removed the last of the bolts, the centre pole dropped and the young man was trapped by the pole and chains attached to it. Despite attempts to remove the centre pole and chains, he died at the scene from traumatic asphyxiation.

The court found the defendant did not ensure the health and safety of his workers by not identifying hazards or putting in controls for hydraulic failure during set up and dismantling, and no adequate training or information was provided for the victim to identify possible danger and risk. "If you expect staff to work with or around dangerous machinery, then you must identify risk and manage it to keep workers safe at all times," said Head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Dr. Simon Blackwood. "That includes setting up, operating and packing up."

As an owner/operator of the business, the defendant faced a maximum penalty of $300,000. However, the magistrate noted the defendant had no previous WHS convictions and was a young man with a young family. While no conviction was recorded, the $80,000 fine was the largest penalty issued to an individual in Queensland under this Act.  Read more: WorkCover Queensland Media Release  

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International News

India: The horror of the 'modern slaves' in brick kilns
Approximately 25 million people work in over 100,000 brick kilns across India, according to Anti-Slavery International. But these are not normal jobs. An estimated 50,000 of these are thought to be working in slavery-like conditions, according to  Sudhir Katiyar, project director of the Prayas Centre for Labour Research and Action. The organisation, which focuses on promoting worker welfare across several key informal worker groups in India, says violence against these vulnerable brick kiln workers ranges from verbal abuse to beatings and rape. An economic and construction boom has been built largely on the back of cheap labour, with Indian brick kilns particularly earning a reputation as sites of extreme exploitation. "Often, brick kilns hire 'muscle men' to prevent labourers from leaving. It is almost like a mafia operation," said Ashok Mathews Philip, director of the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM). "They take away any jewellery the women have. If the husband has to leave the kiln for a trip back home, they will hold the wife back as surety," Philip said. "In many brick kilns, the creditor-debtor relationship determines the working atmosphere and makes kiln workers vulnerable to abuse," commented Naveen Gautam, a human rights lawyer. He says the conditions in the kilns are horrific. "It is like hell," he said. "Often, there are about 100 people living in small rooms built out of the bricks they made themselves. Open defecation is common, with a large number of workers – both male and female – sharing a single hole in the ground for the purpose, due to which illnesses are also common."
Read more: Equal Times.Source: Risks 793

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