SafetyNet 404, May 24, 2017
It is with great regret that we report that the worker who fell 4.3 metres from a ladder last Friday has since died in hospital.
Preventable workplace fatalities make it imperative that all workers be active and involved in OHS - you can make the difference! 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.
Another Victorian fatality
Last Friday, May 19, a 53 year old worker at a construction site in Maidstone, in Melbourne's west, fell 4.3m off a ladder. He died in hospital on the following day, Saturday.
According to WorkSafe, it appears the worker was doing 'renovation work' from a ladder near the edge of a mezzanine floor when he fell to the ground floor. He suffered severe head injuries.
WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the incident was a terrible tragedy. "It is a devastating reality that another family has lost a loved one due to an incident at work," Ms Williams said. "Falls are one of the most common causes of serious injury or death, which is why appropriate safety procedures are so important."
The Prevention of Falls chapter in the 2007 OHS regulations must be implemented for any work done at above 2 meters. These require the employer to implement a hierarchy of control, which seeks to eliminate or if not reasonably practicable to eliminate, then minimise the risks. Basically, the regulations say that ladders should only be used as the last resort if undertaking a task at heights. What controls were in place in this tragic incident? Read more: WorkSafe Media Release; Information on Ladders; Working from Heights; and Summary of the Falls regulations.
WorkSafe seeks witnesses to Rye Carnival tragedy
Subscribers will no doubt remember the tragic death of the little six year old boy last month at the Rye Carnival. WorkSafe's investigations are continuing, and the regulator has called on members of the public who may have witnessed the incident to get in contact by calling the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 or by emailing here.
I am a casual worker who gets work through an agency. Last week I was sent home from a job I was at and later informed through the agency that my services were no longer required. The reason given was that I was not wearing the safety vest properly while operating the high lift truck. I was actually wearing the vest tied to my chest and attached to the inertia reel - the only issue was it wasn't tied from my thighs. Is this fair? I had not been given any information or practical training on how to wear safety vests properly.
I do not believe you should have been dismissed if you had not been provided with the proper information and training on how to wear the vest.
It sounds like you are a labour hire employee – and in this case, both the agency and the site employer have a duty of care under s21(2)(e) of the OHS Act to provide employees with 'such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees.. as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.' Under s21(3) of the Act, you are defined as an employee of the 'host' employer'. (see Duties of Employers)
So no, if they had not provided you with the training, then you could not have been at fault – in fact, they were in breach of the law – and you should not have been dismissed from that position. I know you are a casual – and this could have consequences for what more work you get from the agency. It is not clear what action you can now take. You could try one of the following:
- Contact WorkSafe Victoria, the OHS regulator in this state. You should be provided with the same advice from there that I've given you, in writing. You could ask WorkSafe to follow up with the host employer and agency;
- Take the matter up with the agency – let them know that under the law the host should have provided you with the training and information and so you should not have been dismissed. The agency too has a duty to ensure that workers they place in workplaces receive the appropriate training. This may assist you in getting more work from them in the future;
- Join the union - the union would/should have been able to help with this;
- Next time, on any job – if you're not sure about something, or have a concern about safety, speak up: find out if there's an elected HSR on the site; contact the agency or the union.
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.
Have you sent in your workplace win story?
This is almost your last chance to tell us your workplace win story as the closing date is June 2, so do it now! 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 and you will have seen some online. 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. Check out how Craig, a parking inspector and HSR makes sure he gets all the issues here.
CFMEU slams 'dirty deal' letting mine death bosses off the hook
The CFMEU has condemned a 'dirty deal' that has allowed three mining bosses to walk free after their involvement in the fatality of coal mine electrician Ian Downes, who was killed when the mine wall failed and fell on him at Anglo American's Grasstree Mine underground mine in entral Queensland. Charges were brought against three mine managers and Anglo Coal, but charges against the managers were dropped after a guilty plea from the firm.
The union said Anglo had three fatalities at their mining operations in the period of May 2014 to February 2015 and "not one person has been held accountable to date, despite the fact Anglo had pleaded guilty to one charge which led to the death of Mr Downes". The Brisbane Magistrates Court convicted and fined Anglo Coal (Capcoal Management) Pty Ltd $284,625 for breaches of the State Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 - a record workplace health and safety fine in Queensland. Six months ago, the company was fined $137,500 over the May 2014 death of another worker at the Grasstree mine.
"If you kill a worker, you should go to jail – it's that simple," said the CFMEU's Queensland District President Steve Smyth. "These guys will now be free to continue managing mines, without having to face justice and be held accountable for their poor management that led to the death of Mr Downes."
Read more: CFMEU news release; Sources: OHSAlert; Risks 800
Indonesia: Campaigners win recognition of asbestos diseases
The Indonesian authorities have for the first time recognised officially the existence of asbestos disease cases in the country. Until this year, Indonesia had never formally recognised a case of asbestosis, with sufferers routinely misdiagnosed with tuberculosis. The knock-on effect was that there had not been a single successful claim for workers' compensation for work-related asbestos disease. (see SafetyNet 403) Indonesia is a major consumer and manufacturer of asbestos products, and is a key target for asbestos industry lobbyists, whose well-resourced campaign has targeted officials with the message than chrysotile asbestos can be used safely.
Out of sight but not out of mind in Asia
Please note: this article, sourced from and linking to the Independent Australia website, has been removed due to copyright issues.
UK: Labour pledges removal of asbestos from schools
According to its party manifesto, a future Labour administration in the UK would ensure the phased removal of asbestos from schools. The document, launched by Jeremy Corbyn on 16 May, commits Labour to "make sure schools are properly resourced by reversing the Conservatives' cuts and ensuring that all schools have the resources they need. We will introduce a fairer funding formula that leaves no school worse off, while redressing the historical underfunding of certain schools. Labour will also invest in new school buildings, including the phased removal of asbestos from existing schools." The phased removal of asbestos from schools has been identified as a priority by the All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group, the TUC, unions and campaign groups. It is believed 86 per cent of schools contain asbestos, with unions warning that asbestos management programmes are dysfunctional, with few staff made aware of the presence or location of asbestos in their workplace.
Read more: Labour Party Manifesto 2017 [pdf]. Source: Risks 800
Asbestoswise - EOFY appeal and support groups
Victorian asbestos diseases support and advocacy group Asbestoswise has many years of experience providing support to workers and families. Please consider joining Asbestoswise and/or donating via GiveNow preferably in the form of a regular donation to this wonderful organisation. Any donation over $2 is a tax deduction.
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? Have you filled in the VTHC's survey? The Victorian Trades Hall Council is the main organisation representing unions in Victoria. We want to help all workers in Victoria, including migrant workers, feel safe at work, so we want to know 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!
June 10: Victorian Truck Drivers Memorial Service
The annual memorial service for truck drivers will be held at 2pm on Saturday June 10, at the Rotary Park (36 Grant St) in Alexandra, Victoria. The service is to remember and honour those who have worked and died in the Transport Industry. The names of those killed in the past year will be added to the Memorial Wall. After the service there will be an afternoon tea. For more information, please contact Bette Phillips-Campbell on 0409 788 883.
International Union News
UK: Union takes action against diesel exhaust fumes 'time bomb'
A major new initiative to protect workers from the 'ticking time bomb' caused by exposure to diesel exhaust fumes has been launched by the UK Unite. The union's new diesel emissions register allows Unite members to record when they have been exposed to excessive diesel exhaust fumes. The union says the information will be used "to report accidents, force employers to clean up their workplaces and could be the basis of future legal claims."
Diesel exhaust fumes exposure has been linked to cancer, respiratory disease and other chronic and acute health effects. The union initiative comes in the wake of a court case this year where the UK government was told it must publish its overdue revised plan to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere by a 9 May deadline.
Read more: Work cancer hazards
15 June: International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards
UNI, the global union for skills and services, has announced the International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards for 2016. On Thursday, 15th June 2017 cleaning and security unions will be gathering on all continents for a day of global solidarity and strength to highlight the fight of cleaners and guards for decent jobs, safe work and respect. As part of the action, UNI is inviting people to send in a "Yellow Glove" Solidarity Selfie, and there's a competition to find the world's worst cleaning/security contractor and worst client. To find out more, and to access resources such as a tool kit, click here.
Australian research projects
1 - Workplace Aggression Experiences of Victorian Nurses and Midwives
Monash University is undertaking research to identify the experiences of Victorian nurses and midwives in relation to workplace aggression from patients, from patients' carers or relatives, from other persons external to the work setting, and from co-workers. The research initially involves a survey in which participants will also be asked about their responses to these experiences and accessing support services. The research will provide crucial information towards developing effective and lasting solutions to this widespread health and safety problem. An article in The Conversation last week - Violence against nurses is on the rise, but protections remain weak - highlights the growing problem of violence in the health care sector.
If you are a nurse, midwife, or care worker, please take this survey. If you know one, share this survey with them! Read more and access the survey here.
2 - Working in heat
A reminder of the University of Adelaide national project to better understand the circumstances underpinning workplace injuries that occur in hot conditions. Funded by the Australian Research Council, the project will be examining the relationship between hot weather and workplace injury, and exploring stakeholders' and workers' perceptions. The ultimate aim is to facilitate resources to aid in the prevention of heat-related occupational injuries.
The project website provides several opportunities for people to participate in this research and have their say - including for those who have had an injury while working in hot conditions can participate in a confidential interview (face-to-face or via telephone) lasting 30-60 minutes. Interview participants will receive a $50 gift voucher. Closing date in 30 June. More Information: click here, or or contact Alana Hansen: email or telephone (08) 8313 1043.
More evidence links welding fumes to cancer
More priority needs to be given to protecting the world's estimated 111 million welders and other workers from exposure to toxic welding fumes, according to Harvard University's David Christiani.
The professor of environmental genetics at the university's TH Chan School of Public Health was among 17 scientists from 10 countries who met last month at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, to review scientific literature and evaluate the carcinogenicity of several welding chemicals to humans.
The Working Group found new evidence to support the conclusion that welding fumes are a likely cause of lung cancer in humans, possible cause of kidney cancer, and definite cause of melanoma of the eye," Christiani said. In addition to fumes, welding can expose workers to radiation and asbestos, which are known to cause cancer.
Two other chemicals evaluated at the IARC meeting — molybdenum trioxide (sometimes used in welding) and indium tin oxide (used to make computer screens) — were determined to be possibly cancer-causing in humans.
Read more: Carcinogenicity of welding, molybdenum trioxide, and indium tin oxide, Lancet Oncology, published online first 10 April 2017. Source: Work cancer hazards
Manage arm movements to prevent injury
European researchers have found that workers who perform tasks requiring them to raise their arms beyond 90 degrees are significantly more likely to undergo surgery for subacromial impingement syndrome (SIS).
In a case-control study of thousands of workers, the researchers from the Danish Ramazzini Centre similarly identified an association between the cumulative effects of occupational exposure to repetitive shoulder movements or forceful shoulder exertions and SIS – commonly known as painful arc syndrome or swimmer's shoulder. "The association between occupational mechanical exposures and surgery for SIS in this case-control study supports our previous findings, in which [an odds ratio] of up to 2.0 were found using similar exposure categories," they say.
They also found positive associations between SIS surgery and hand-arm vibrations, smoking, high body mass index and diabetes. The link between lifestyle factors like smoking and SIS could be explained by the changes they make to the body, making it more predisposed to tendon degeneration and rupture, they say.
According to the researchers, little is known about occupational risk factors for SIS surgery, but it is increasingly accepted that the condition is related to "occupational mechanical shoulder exposures". They say measuring exposure intensities – like the amount of time workers are required to lift their arms, or angular velocities – can help workplaces regulate exposure limits.
Read more: Annett Dalbøge, et al, Surgery for subacromial impingement syndrome in relation to occupational exposures, lifestyle factors and diabetes mellitus: a nationwide nested case–control study. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2016-104272 Source: OHSAlert
Female lab workers at increased cancer risk
Work in chemical laboratories is associated with exposure to chemicals, including known or suspected carcinogens. A cohort study of 2245 female laboratory workers in Stockholm followed until 1992 showed an excess of hematolymphatic malignancies in chemical laboratories and an excess of breast cancer among women working for more than 10 years in such laboratories - the follow-up of this cohort has now been extended by 20 years.
There were 383 cases of cancer. There was a higher risk of breast cancer among those who had worked for at least 10 years in chemical laboratories, and was especially high in women who had worked for more than 10 years in chemical labs before 1970. The researchers found no excess of breast cancer in non-chemical labs.
The Swedish researchers concluded the increased risk of breast cancer, as well as the earlier noted excess of hematolymphatic malignancies, could be related to exposure to carcinogenic chemicals/organic solvents (eg, benzene) used in chemical laboratories, especially during earlier periods.
Read more: Pier Gustavsson, et al. Cancer incidence in female laboratory employees: extended follow-up of a Swedish cohort study [Full text] Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Published Online First: 19 May 2017. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2016-104184
Heart risk warning as inhaled nanoparticles found in blood
Researchers have issued a workplace health warning after a study showed gold nanoparticles can cross from the lungs into the blood, where they accumulate in fatty plaques inside arteries. The study of the effects of these tiny particles on human subjects by UK and Dutch researchers provides further evidence of a link between nanoparticles and cardiovascular disease, the authors warn, and has 'major implications' for risk management of engineered nanoparticles in the workplace and wider environment.
For the study, 14 healthy volunteers inhaled gold nanoparticles. Fifteen minutes to 24 hours after exposure, the nanoparticles showed up in blood and urine samples and could still be detected three months later. Inhaling smaller particles – 5 nanometres (nm) in diameter compared with 30nm - resulted in higher numbers reaching the blood. Separately, the team recruited 12 patients due to undergo surgery on their carotid arteries. Three inhaled gold nanoparticles before surgery and these showed up in arterial plaques.
The authors said their inhalation study findings have "immediate relevance" for the nanotechnology industry, noting a better understanding how these substances behave in the body is "vital" for a safe-by-design approach for new nanomaterials. The work results from a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), VU University and Utrecht University.
Read more: Full ACS Nano paper. Chemical Watch. Evening Standard. Source: Risks 800. More information on Nanotechnology
OHS Regulator News
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was sent on May 19. In a very short edition, WorkSafe reminds subscribers to send in nominations for this year's WorkSafe Awards, specifically mentioning Lend Lease Building Contractors which won an award last year for creating a flexible system for edge protection and site containment. There was no list of Reported incidents attached to this edition. Read the May 19 Safety Soapbox here.
Reminder: Public Comment on Compliance Codes
With the Minister's approval, eight draft Compliance Codes have now been issued for public comment. These are:
- Hazardous Manual Handling Compliance Code
- Hazardous Substances Compliance Code
- Plant Compliance Code
- Confined Spaces Compliance Code
- Demolition Compliance Code
- Facilities in Construction Compliance Code
- Excavation Compliance Code
- Noise Compliance Code
The links to these proposed codes are on this page. Summaries of proposed changes to the codes can be found here. Public comment, which closes on Friday June 9, can be submitted online or by using a submission form.
2017 WorkSafe Awards - last chance to nominate!
May 31 is the closing date to nominate yourself or your HSR for the WorkSafe HSR of the Year Award. The awards "honour businesses and individuals who have shown excellence in health and safety, or helping injured workers get back to safe work sooner". There are nine award categories - but the one that really matters is the HSR of the Year Award, which recognises HSRs who have represented their DWGs in an outstanding manner. So hurry up - get nominating! WorkSafe should be drowning in union HSR nominations! Read more.
Safe Work Australia News
As of 22 May, 63 workplace fatalities had been reported to SWA - six more people died since the last update on 11 May. These were in the following industries:
- 24 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 13 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 10 in Construction;
- 3 Arts and recreation services
- 3 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- 3 in Mining
- 2 in Manufacturing
- 2 in Public administration and safety
- 1 in Accommodation and food services
- 1 in Rental, hiring and real estate services
- 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 published remains that for December 2016, during which there were eight work-related notifiable fatalities: six male workers, one female worker, and one female bystander. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Road Transport Industry injuries and fatalities
Safe Work Australia's latest data on injuries and fatalities in the Road Transport Industry shows 77 per cent of fatalities are due to vehicle collisions and 43 per cent of injuries are due to body stressing.
The industry accounts for 2 per cent of the Australian workforce, however, it accounted for 17 per cent of work-related fatalities in 2015 and 4 per cent of serious workers' compensation claims in 2014-15, according to latest data.
The statistics show over the 13 year period from 2003 to 2015, 583 road transport workers were killed on the job. This was 18 per cent of all work-related fatalities in Australia over this period. Read more: New Road Transport Industry Profile (and download the report)
Worker loses three fingers - company fined $20,000
Beyston Group Pty Ltd, trading as ABC Trusses and Frames, specialises in the manufacture of roof trusses, floor trusses and wall frames. On 5 June 2015, an employee was operating an Apollo cross-cut saw to cut components of dressed pine timber for roof trusses. He was cutting a short and awkward piece of timber when the wood got caught under the saw blade. His fingers were severed - only his middle finger and index finger were able to be reattached. Investigations found the company had failed to:
- provide a system of work that identified unsafe cuts;
- provide written instructions to workers to adjust the guard to as low as practicable; and
- instruct that no more than two pieces of wood were to be stacked and cut at a time on the Apollo saw.
Beyston was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay costs of $5,153.
Aged machine; poor work practices cause crushing injury
Signal & Hobbs Pty Ltd is a manufacturer of roofing and guttering products. On 28 October 2016, a relatively new employee was the secondary operator on a metal folding and cutting machine – feeding sheets of metal into the machine. It was an old machine: the only hazard controls in place were to stand behind a yellow line and communicate with the operator! However, the job actually required secondary operators to stand in front of the yellow line and feed metal sheets into the machine with precision and within millimetres of the danger zones on the machine, whilst the primary operator lowered the folding/cutting arm. This was a very clear risk of serious crush injury to workers using this system of work. On this occasion, the primary operator lowered the folding/cutting arm of the machine the secondary operator shouted 'up' for the machine to be lifted up. However it continued to lower and crushed the secondary operator's four fingers, fracturing the tips of the bones and loss of fingernails. The workers needed skin grafts. The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction placed on an adjourned undertaking to be of good behavior for 12 months, was ordered to pay $25,000 to the Court Fund and to pay costs of $4,087.
Worker's hand crushed in machine - employer failed to notify
On 7 March 2016 a bindary tradesman operating printer machines at Adams Printers was working on a saddle stitcher machine that staples and cuts books. At the time he was working on the machine, its door was open and it was in operation. His hand was knocked by the staple mechanism and crushed in the stitcher. He suffered a torn thumb muscle, ligament damage and a bone fracture requiring surgery. The company acknowledged the plant had a design flaw as the interlocking device did not shut off the plant when the door was opened. Modifications were made to the stitcher within two days of the incident and upon inspection WorkSafe found that the interlocking device was working and when the sliding door was opened the machine stopped. Adams Printers was charged with failing to provide safe plant, failing to notify WorkSafe and failing to preserve the incident scene. The company pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, fined $15,000 plus $4,000 in costs.
Happy Hens egg farm fined for unguarded plant
GW Colla Pty Ltd ('the offender') and VM Colla Pty Ltd are partners in the Happy Hens egg farm in Meredith. On 25 January 2016 a worker's hand was caught in an unguarded conveyor, causing grazes, abrasions and bruising. A WorkSafe inspector attending the workplace on 3 February observed a similar conveyor in another part of the workplace which was also unguarded. The offender was charged with two charges under the OHS Regulations for failing to ensure that any risk associated with plant was eliminated so far as was reasonably practicable. The company pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000, without conviction, on the first charge and convicted and fined $15,000 on the second charge - as well as $3,000 in costs.
Lucky escape for shocked worker
Fishers Supermarkets Pty Ltd is the operator of 16 supermarkets, six fuel sites, four liquor outlets and one newsagency. On 15 March 2016 an employee became aware that the refrigerators at the Ararat store were 'playing up' and contacted a refrigerator technician, who told him to turn off all four compressors using the circuit breakers. He went to the plant room and switched off the four circuit breakers that turn off the compressors which involved touching switches. He returned ten minutes later to turn the compressors back on. On touching the fourth switch he got an electric shock, causing him to drop to the floor. Apart from suffering a 'tingle' in his right arm, he did not receive any lasting injury or treatment.
An initial examination by an electrician found no faults in the switchboard. However, a WorkSafe Inspector found several problems, including poor lighting, unlocked covers to live wires and so on. Fishers pleaded guilty to breaching s21 of the Act and was, without conviction, placed on an adjourned undertaking with a special condition to pay $1,000to the Ararat CFA plus $3,000 costs.
For updates, check the: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Europe: EU to propose 10 year extension for glyphosate
The European Commission will propose extending by 10 years its approval for weed-killer glyphosate, used in Monsanto's Roundup, according to a spokeswoman. There has been an ongoing international row over possible risks to human health. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - the World Health Organisation (WHO) cancer agency - classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic. Yet big industry pressure has led some government regulators, including in the United States, to declare that it is 'unlikely to pose a cancer risks to humans'!!
Meanwhile, new research into glyphosate, which is currently the world's most widely-used pesticide, raises concerns for foetal health, according to researchers from the Children's Environmental Health Network (CEHN). The study discovered a correlation between glyphosate exposure during pregnancy and lower birth weights, as well as shorter pregnancies.
Read more: Eu to propose 10-year licence renewal for weed- killer glyphosate, Reuters; Research Raises Concerns for Pregnancy Complications from Pesticide Exposure, Foodtank