SafetyNet 401, May 3, 2017
Last week we remembered those workers who lost their lives - over 2 million around the world. This week we celebrate May Day and go back to working to make our workplaces safer.
Get active; be involved. 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.
April 28, 2017 International Workers' Memorial Day
Last Friday April 28, workers around Victoria, Australia and the world stopped and remembered the more than 2 million workers who were killed at work or who died as a result of diseases contracted through their work. The commemoration event at the Trades Hall was sombre but also a call to arms: while the official statistics put Victoria's workplace fatalities at 25, the VTHC believes that over 200 workers lost their lives in the past year. Footwear reflecting the work of each of those killed was placed on a stool as the circumstances of their death was read out. Finally, a flower was placed on the last stool, to represent all those who died as a result of illness or serious injury sustained at work and not reflected in the official statistics. So while on International Workers' Memorial Day we stop to remember the dead - we fight like hell for the living every day of the year. If you were not able to attend, see the video here.
Read more: VTHC Media Release.
May 25: Next OHS Network Catch up
We invite all our OHS Networkers to the next catch up. Meet Health and Safety Reps from all industries to learn from each other and work on campaigns to improve health & safety in Victoria. Light dinner provided!
When: 5.30-7pm, Thursday 25th May
Where: Trades Hall: 54 Victoria St, Carlton, VIC 3053
Click here to RSVP (essential for catering!)
My question relates to start times: at my workplace we are currently able to start at 7.30, 8.00 and 8.30am. A few of us start at 7.00am (I have been doing so for about 5 years), and others would like to do the same. Management has refused their request, saying that it is an OHS issue, as there is no supervisor at 7am. However, one of the others is a supervisor and a first aider; and I am an HSR. Is there indeed an OHS issue with others starting early?
It is not uncommon for employers to use the excuse: "It's an OHS issue" to justify all sorts of rules and decisions! The OHS Act puts a duty on the employer to "provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health."
So, from what you've described, given the experience of the workers, the fact that one of them is a supervisor and that there also happens to be a first aider on (so would satisfy 21[d]), I do not believe that their excuse holds up.
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.
Bullying hits the headlines - again!
In the past week there have been a number of articles in the media on workplace bullying. Two articles in the Melbourne Age are particularly worth reading. In the first article, the paper reports that new data from Safe Work Australia shows that workers' compensation payouts for 'mental illnesses' cost more than double those for physical illnesses, with workers off the job almost three times as long. The median workers' compensation payment for serious mental health claims was $24,500 in the six years up to 2015, compared to $9200 for physical ones. A case study of a woman worker who developed panic attacks and had to be hospitalised for depression and anxiety, is used to illustrate how workplace bullying was what caused her mental health to deteriorate. Before the bullying began, she had loved her job.
The second article is a multimedia special report: The devils you know - which details the experiences of a number of workers, all subjected to different types of bullying behaviour. The workers are interviewed, and 'specialists' in the area - employment lawyer Josh Bornstein and psychologist Evelyn Field - provide comment. The problem is huge and has huge implications beyond the effect on the individual: in 2001, academics from Griffith University's School of Management estimated that workplace bullying costs the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion annually - a figure that has no doubt increased.
And yet both experts are critical of the performance of our regulators. "The complaints are pretty universal all over the country that in cases of workplace bullying the occupational health and safety [OHS] watchdogs aren't adequate. And why? One, because they don't investigate most complaints and two, if they do they're handled poorly," Bornstein says. The VTHC can only agree.
Read more: Mental illness workers' compo claims cost 'toxic' businesses double ; Special Report: The devils you know: the impact of workplace bullying , The Age. More on Workplace Bullying
ASEA Report: Legacy and dumped asbestos in remote Indigenous Australia
A report into asbestos in remote Australia has found that it is a huge problem, but sets out ways that communities and government can work together to manage the identification and removal of deadly legacy asbestos in remote areas to eliminate the ongoing risks.
The study, commissioned by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), looked at asbestos management practices and current issues faced in remote areas in Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Western Australia.
"Asbestos is a problem in all parts of the country, but there are unique challenges with asbestos in remote Australian communities," the Chief Executive Officer of ASEA, Peter Tighe, said. "The legacy of asbestos is felt everywhere, but for remote Indigenous communities it's an even bigger problem." Mr Tighe added that the cost of removing this asbestos could be up to three times higher than in other parts of the country. The report sets out seven approaches to better managing asbestos in remote communities including building partnerships and capabilities, and incorporating asbestos management into other community waste management initiatives. The Report, Report: Remote Australian communities - The asbestos legacy can be downloaded from this page of the ASEA website. Read more: ABC News Online.
Tasmania: Joint campaign for DIYers
A new campaign for asbestos awareness and education has been announced for Tasmania, as a partnership between WorkSafe Tasmania and the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA). The campaign encourages home renovators to check the WorkSafe website for information on asbestos before beginning renovations for information on asbestos risks and best practice on managing the hazardous material. Read more: WorkSafe Tasmania
Call for international asbestos trade crackdown
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for international action to prohibit the trade in chrysotile asbestos, which is still being exported especially in developing countries.
"A key step would be to for chrysotile to be included on the list of substances under the Rotterdam convention on trade in hazardous substances. Trade unions and many governments will be pushing for the listing at the next international Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva starting on 24 April. Under its current rules, full consensus is required to list a chemical so any single country can block the inclusion of a substance on the list. The ITUC is therefore also backing a proposal from 12 African governments to allow a 75% majority vote when consensus is not possible. A small group of the 157 countries who have ratified the Convention, including Kazakhstan and Russia, both exporters of chrysotile, have been blocking its inclusion on the list. Canada, previously in the blocking camp, announced it would support inclusion in 2012 after its last asbestos mines closed," ITUC said in a statement. Read more: ITUC Statement
Just save the date: Old Parliament House 26-28 November 2017, focussing 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. Details to come.
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.
VTHC Migrant workers survey
Are you an International Student? Were you born overseas? How safe is your workplace? Migrant workers get injured more than other workers. If we work together, we can reduce the number of people getting injured at work.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council is the main organisation representing unions in Victoria. We have been fighting for workers' rights for over 150 years. We want to help all workers in Victoria feel safe at work, so it's important that we hear about your experiences. If you were born overseas, and are working in Victoria, please complete our short survey by clicking HERE. If you know of someone who should complete our survey, please pass on the link!
Queensland to introduce labour hire licensing legislation
Queensland's Palaszczuk Labor Government will introduce legislation this month to mandate the licensing of labour hire companies from next year, setting the pace for other Labor states such as Victoria and South Australia. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the move on Monday at a Labour Day rally in Brisbane, arguing that Queensland had been forced to "go alone" by the Turnbull government's inaction over labour hire rorts. "You need a licence to operate a real estate agency or to be a motor car dealer, so why shouldn't you need a licence to run a labour hire firm?" the Premier asked.
"Just last month a Queensland labour hire company was found to have underpaid workers $77,649 over a seven week period. Some of these workers were at times forced to work entire days harvesting produce without food or drink, without pay, as well as being forced to live in isolated transient accommodation."
Under the legislation, all labour hire providers operating in Queensland would need to:
- pass a fit-and-proper person test;
- comply with workplace laws, including OHS, workers' compensation, wages and
- pay a license fee;
- report regularly on their operations; and
- report the number of employees they have engaged, along with the number of those on work visas.
Source: Workplace Express
UK: TUC releases guide on PPE and women workers
The UK's peak union council, the TUC has produced guidance for workplace representatives on ensuring that PPE for women is a safe fit: Personal Protective Equipment and Women [pdf]. The findings in the report are based on 2,655 responses to a TUC survey and 3086 responses to a Prospect/WES survey.
This report covers:
- The (UK) law on personal protective equipment
- Problems with PPE for women
- Examples - Case study
- Taking action
The TUC is calling on employers to:
- avoid suppliers who do not provide a range of sizes for men and women, and ensure that their suppliers have properly assessed the appropriateness of their equipment to women and men
- work with trade bodies to pressure manufacturers and suppliers to provide a full range of PPE
- make sure that they provide the same range of sizes for women as for men
- ensure that women try on several sizes or types of PPE before it is issued to ensure it is best fit
- let staff feedback on the suitability of PPE
- work with safety committees and trade union health and safety representatives to ensure that the correct range of suitable PPE is provided.
Victims of bullying more likely to retire with disability
A Norwegian study has found that victimisation from bullying is associated with a 55 per cent "excess risk" for disability retirement. The researchers from the National Institute of Occupational Health, who studied data from 14,501 Norwegian employees, ound that while bullied women had the highest overall risk, and both male and female workers who are bullied are at higher risk than non-bullied colleagues.
Th researchers concluded that he establishment of a relationship between bullying and disability retirement suggests that bullying has detrimental consequences both for exposed workers and for organizations in which the bullying occur. Consequently, employers must tackle workplace bullying to reduce the high risk of disability retirement among victims.
Read more: Nielsen, Morten Birkeland; et al. Workplace Bullying as a Predictor of Disability Retirement: A Prospective Registry Study of Norwegian Employees.[Abstract] or Full article [pdf]. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: Post Author Corrections: April 25, 2017 doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001026. Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
New OHS regulations now available
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations 2017) and the Equipment (Public Safety) Regulations 2017 (EPS Regulations 2017), which will take effect on 18 June 2017. These are available to download from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents page of the Victorian Legislation website. The Regulations section of the OHSReps@work website will be updated before the new regulations take effect.
Reminder: WorkSafe Victoria updating website so please help!
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!!
Safe Work Australia News
National body has new website too!
While Safe Work Australia assures users that the new website looks a lot different, it will be 'much easier to find what you're looking for'. However, this will also mean more broken links on the OHS Reps@Work website! so again, please help out by contacting Renata if you come across any broken links, Thank you!!
The SWA website has not been updated since last week: as of 26 April, 51 fatalities had been reported. These were in the following industries:
- 19 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 11 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 9 in Construction;
- 3 Arts and recreation services
- 3 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- 2 in Mining
- 1 in Manufacturing
- 1 in Accommodation and food services
- 1 in Public administration and safety
- 1 in Retail Trade
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 is December 2016, during which there were 8 work-related notifiable fatalities: six male workers, one female worker, and one female bystander. In November 2016, however, there were 21 fatalities notified. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
NSW: Quad bike safety training free for farmers
Farmers will now receive free quad bike training in a major boost to the safety improvement program aimed at significantly reducing the number of deaths on rural properties across NSW. There have been 113 deaths from quad bike accidents across Australia since 2011, of which 32 have been in NSW.
Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean said farmers who complete an approved training course would also receive a free helmet – worth around $120 - suitable for use while they are riding their quad bikes. The changes announced today represent a further saving to farmers of up to $230.
Read more: SafeWork NSW Media Release
Scaffolding sub-contractor convicted and fined after scaffold collapse
Pro Guardrail Pty Ltd, a scaffolding subcontractor on a site being developed by another company, Purity Developments Pty Ltd (which previously pleaded guilty to related offences), was prosecuted over an incident on 3rd September 2015. A carpentry subcontractor stepped onto the scaffold planks which, as they were inadequately installed/secured to scaffolding, collapsed. The worker fell about 5 metres onto the concrete floor, and sustained cuts, grazes and impact damage. Following the incident, the scaffolding was correctly installed and a system of providing and requiring handover certificates was implemented in accordance with the Australian Standards and Worksafe Victoria guidance. Pro Guardrail was found guilty and was with conviction fined $15,000 plus $2000 costs.
Snow clearing business fined $40,000 after trailer lost load
Stadelmann Enterprises Pty Ltd, as the operator of an earthmoving, plant-hire, worksite traffic management and snow clearing business in Bright, consequently transports heavy equipment to site. On 25 September 2015, a 17 tonne excavator was being transported with a truck and trailer. The trailer had no weight gauges to determine overload, and had no markings to indicate how the excavator should have been positioned. The workers were performing the task by observing how the load was impacting the tyres and whether the tyres were evenly impacted. There was a risk of serious injury or death to employees and other road users as a result of the trailer becoming unstable or overloaded. While the two employees were in the truck, the pintel connection attaching the trailer failed and the trailer lost its load, tipping the excavator over. It landed upside down on a bike track, and the trailer tipped and landed upside down over the top of a ditch. One of the workers suffered a sore neck and back, with a fractured vertebrae and soft tissue damage. Road users travelling on the Back Porepunkah Road at the time were also exposed to the health and safety risks. The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined an aggregate fine of $40,000 plus $2349 costs.
For updates, check the: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Europe: Effective OHS representation in decline
Europe's peak OHS agency has warned that a rise in management-led health and safety arrangements can reduce the effectiveness of worker representation processes. In a 136-page report based on a survey of workers from 143 organisations across seven EU member states, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) says there is evidence of a "growing divergence" between statutory requirements for worker participation in safety issues and actual workplace practices.
According to the report, the survey identified an increase in the "management systems approach" to OHS across Europe, and a decline in worker representation. In many cases, OHS representatives' roles and functions are being steered by safety managers or other specialists, it found.
"A strong employer commitment to participatory approaches to OSH, supportive worker organisations within or outside establishments, and well-trained, well-informed worker representatives are key to effective worker representation," EU-OSHA director Dr Christa Sedlatschek says.
But when safety representatives are incorporated into an organisation's OHS managerial arrangements, their behaviour differs from what is considered the most effective form of worker representation, the report says. They become less effective as they become less autonomous, and start acting as the "the eyes and ears of safety managers", it says. When OHS representatives work in close cooperation with safety practitioners, "good practice" requires both parties to acknowledge that there are differing perspectives on OHS issues; and consultative procedures to be in place to resolve any conflicts.
It found that in less balanced relationships, representatives function under managerial arrangements, follow safety practitioners' leads and often report to them, it says.
Read more: Worker participation in the management of occupational safety and health: qualitative evidence from ESENER-2 [pdf]