SafetyNet 405, May 31, 2017
Today is the last day of Autumn - if you work with kids, the public or in the health system, have you had your flu shot yet? Presenteeism can be a huge problem in the winter months: active HSRs could be negotiating flu shots and presenteeism policies with their employers.
To keep up to date, 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.
Hello OHS Unit
Can an employer take away the HSR role and give to another person because they think the current HSR has too much to do?
The answer is a resounding NO!
The employer cannot take the role away from an elected HSR and just 'give' it to another person. It's not theirs to give or take. Note the following:
- The HSR is elected by the members of his/her DWG - or should be.
- The employer/management cannot just "appoint" an HSR - and in fact should not even really be involved in the election - other than facilitating it.
- The employer/management has no right to relieve an HSR of his/her role – irrespective of the circumstances.
- There are a number of ways listed in the Act that an HSR ceases to be an HSR. These are:
- If the rep ceases to be a member of the DWG;
- If the rep is disqualified under s56 (this involves the employer taking it to the magistrate's court – on the basis of the employer's belief the rep did certain, unacceptable, things);
- If the rep resigns by giving written notice to the employer;
- If the majority of the DWG members resolve in writing that the person will no longer be their HSR.
- Otherwise, the default term of office for an HSR is 3 years - at which time another election is held by the DWG.
So, in conclusion – if the HSR has "too much to do" (remembering that time spent exercising his/her powers is to be considered as time working), then there probably needs to be a discussion on workload and so on.
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.
Governments called on to prevent cancer
The world's most respected medical publication, The Lancet, has just published advice calling on governments to act to prevent cancers, including work-related cancer that caused between 2,500 and 3,000 deaths in Australia in 2014. This figure is based on the assumption that six per cent of the 44,000 cancer deaths that year were related to work exposures (= 2,640)
The Lancet Editorial:
"A large-scale economic inefficiency clearly exists, with financial resources being divided into both the science of cancer prevention and also into efforts to help those who have developed cancer as a direct result of human mismanagement of the planet. To see a world in which fewer people die of cancer, both areas must be addressed.
To eradicate cancer, governments need to both identify and act not only on increased risk susceptibility, but also ensure that people are not exposed to carcinogenic materials through gross environmental mismanagement."
Read more - Cancer risk paradox: grand plans fall short? [Full text] The Lancet Oncology, Volume 18, Number 5, May 2017; Commentary: 'Risk paradox' means cancer prevention loses, Work Cancer Hazards
Winter blues; flu season and presenteeism
During the winter months in particular, workers have a tendency to 'soldier on' and struggle in to work no matter how sick. Advertisers promote medications which, while helping with symptoms, do nothing to address the causes of illness. Workers who go in to work 'doped up' on cold and flu tablets are still infectious. The best way to increase protection against influenza (the 'flu') is to be vaccinated. This is an issue HSRs should consider raising with their employers - particularly those who represent workers whose work means they come into contact with the general public or students and are at a higher risk of catching the flu. Read more on Presenteeism.
Adelaide: man with mesothelioma awarded $1m compensation
A 70 year old Adelaide man was last week awarded more than $1 million in compensation after being diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos in the 1970s. The exposure occurred when he used James Hardie asbestos sheets to build a fence beside his suburban Glenalta home. The South Australia District Court found the company, now known as Amaca Ltd, had shown "reckless indifference" to the health of those exposed to the asbestos fibres and motivated by a "thirst for profit". In addition to a payment for pain, suffering and medical expenses, the man was also awarded $500,000 to cover the pension payments he would have received were his life not about to be cut short. This was the largest compensation payment made to a sufferer of an asbestos-related disease in South Australia.
Read more: 9news.com
NZ: Exposure from washing husband's clothes, widow sues
Patrick Halliday, a factory worker for James Hardie from the mid-1950s until 1976, died of lung cancer in 1992, having never smoked. His widow, Elva, now 84, has recently undergone radiation treatment after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. She claims the exposure came from regularly washing her husband's work overalls, which were covered in asbestos dust, and from the offcuts he took home from the Penrose factory in Auckland to use for home renovation. In a New Zealand first – is taking legal action against his former employer for failing to protect the family against asbestos, which it knew was a toxic substance. Her biggest concerns, however, are for her three children, due to asbestos-related diseases being diagnosed sometimes decades after exposure. "Their father always played with them when he came home from work. They were always about when I was washing the clothes," she said this week from her home near Brisbane. All three are now in their late 50s and 60s.
Read more: Widow sues James Hardie over asbestos exposure from washing husband's clothes Stuff.co.nz
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!
International Union News
Canada: Factory workers to be helped after union-backed study
Ontario will do the "right thing" for factory workers left fighting work-related cancer and other diseases but who have been routinely denied compensation, the province's labour minister Kevin Flynn has said. The commitment came following a 173-page report by General Electric (GE) retirees and the union Unifor which documented working conditions in a GE plant in Peterborough from 1945 to 2000.
The report said workers were exposed to more than 3,000 toxic chemicals, including at least 40 known or suspected human carcinogens. "These GE workers have suffered horrific and often terminal diseases at a disproportionate rate, yet approximately half of the compensation claims filed have been rejected, abandoned or withdrawn due to what was deemed to be insufficient proof," said Joel Carr, Unifor national representative.
Read more: Work Cancer Hazards
Workplace fume mixtures as hazardous as smoking
By comparing chest radiographs and spirometry tests of 3150 construction workers (done every six years from 1998) US researchers have found that non-smoking workers exposed to mixtures of occupational vapours, gases, dusts and fumes (VGDF) can experience the same decline in lung capacity as a 20-packs-per-year smoker.
The results showed that workers in the intermediate and high VGDF exposure categories had significantly poorer results in forced expiratory volume tests, and those in the high exposure category also exhibited an accelerated loss of lung function. The researchers found those workers experienced an average yearly decline of about 15.7 millilitres in the total amount of exhaled air, or forced vital capacity (FVC).
The study contributes to the growing body of research on the respiratory effects of VGDF, including that exposure to mixtures of various vapours, gases, dusts and fumes causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Read more: John M Dement, et al. Longitudinal decline in lung function among older construction workers. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first May 2017 doi: 10.1136/oemed-2016-104205 Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
SafeWork NSW latest newsletter
The NSW regulator last week sent out its latest newsletter, SafeWork Wrap - in which there are number of interesting articles, including one on the tragic statistics in construction; another identifying 220 reasons to be careful with quad bikes; and 'Sitting is the new smoking' according to a US researcher.
Read more: NSW SafeWork Wrap
Queensland govt introduces several safety-related bills
Last week Queensland's Palaszczuk Labor government introduced into Parliament two safety-related bills:
- the Building and Construction Legislation (Non-conforming Building Products – Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2017 which will require designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers to ensure building products are safe and fit for purpose; and
- the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 which will establish the mandatory labour-hire licensing scheme flagged by the State Government. The main purpose of the Bill is to protect labour-hire employees from exploitation by requiring labour-hire companies to obtain a licence and demonstrate strict compliance with WHS, workers' compensation and other employment laws.
The Queensland Parliament passed the following bills:
- the Public Health (Infection Control) Amendment Bill 2017 passed Parliament on Tuesday (to on a day to be fixed by proclamation). The amendments will: require owners/operators of healthcare facilities to provide a copy of their infection-control management plans; empower inspectors to issue improvement notices; empower the Government to shut down facilities creating public health risks; and empower inspectors to enter facilities without waiting for local government approval; and
- the Transport and Other Legislation (Personalised Transport Reform) Amendment Bill 2017 - which reforms the personalised transport industry, focusing on safety and licensing and introducing a new chain of responsibility for all industry participants. The reforms include requiring both booking entities and operators to manage driver fatigue, reflective signage on the front and back of ride-booking services, and making security cameras mandatory in vehicles that are not pre-booked or take cash or payment during a journey.
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.
Forklift hits worker - company fined $20,000
Southern Star Windows Pty Ltd manufactures windows and sliding doors at its factory in Geelong North. In early 2016, the company installed a sliding door near the assembly line which caused a change in the interaction between pedestrians and forklifts at the workplace. Forklifts transported large L – Frames up the ramp and had to reverse whilst on the ramp and turn sharply to maneuver the load to the outside storage area. Employees also were required to walk up and down the ramp in order to get to the sliding doors area or dispatch area of the workplace - placing them at risk of serious injury by being hit. It was reasonably practicable for the risk to be eliminated by implementing a pedestrian exclusion zone on the ramp. On 19 April 2016, an employee was injured by a reversing forklift on the ramp. The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $20,000 plus $2,000 in costs.
For updates, check the: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
SA: John Holland fined again
Construction giant John Holland Pty Ltd has been fined heavily for WHS breaches on Adelaide's South Road Superway construction project for the second time. On Monday, the Adelaide Magistrates Court fined the company a total of $281,250 from a maximum $450,000 after it pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Commonwealth's mirror WHS Act. Had the case been heard in a higher court, the maximum fines would have been $1.5m.
In July 2013, project workers were working under lights in a yard where two large portal cranes were loading sections of a road bridge onto trucks, when one of the cranes collided with an elevated work platform (EWP), pushing the EWP's basket under the second crane. The labour-hire worker operating the EWP was held in place by his harness and was unable to jump free. Luckily, he was able to lean out of the basket, avoiding being crushed. He suffered leg and back injuries.
"This was an accident waiting to happen, with inadequate communication and isolation measures in place and shortfalls in supervision, instruction and training," Comcare CEO Jennifer Taylor said, "It was only through quick thinking and a degree of luck that the worker was not seriously injured or killed."
UK: Three directors jailed following fatal roof fall
Three company directors have been jailed following the death of a man who fell during a cut price roof job in Essex. The 63 year old died in hospital after falling through the roof of a warehouse in Harlow on 13 April 2015. At Chelmsford Crown Court, Koseoglu Metalworks Ltd pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter and its sole director, Kadir Kose, admitted a criminal safety offence. Ozdil Investments Ltd denied corporate manslaughter and a criminal safety offence but was convicted following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court. Two of its directors, Firat Ozdil and Ozgur Ozdil, were convicted of a criminal safety offence. Firat Ozdil was jailed for one year, Ozgur Ozdil for 10 months and Kadir Kose for eight months. The court heard how Ozdil Investments Ltd was the owner of the warehouse, Ozdil House, where the roof needed repairs. Both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Harlow District Council issued warnings to the company about the dangers involved in the repair work and specifically the need for safety measures such as netting to be put in place. Despite this, Firat Ozdil and Ozgur Ozdil paid their friend Kose to carry out the work without netting or other safety measures. The court heard Koseoglu Metalworks Ltd had no experience of roofing work and the fee paid by the Ozdils was approximately £100,000 less than a recognised roofing contractor would have charged. Kose did not carry out a risk assessment at the site and sent staff onto the roof without training. While working on the roof, the worker stepped onto a discoloured skylight and fell to his death. Luke Bulpitt, a specialist prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: "By ignoring the safety measures they knew were required, the Odzils and their company risked the lives of everyone working on the roof in an attempt to save money." He added: "Faced with the evidence against him, Kose and Koseoglu Metalworks admitted their guilt but the Ozdils and their company contested the charges. However, having heard the compelling case put forward by the prosecution, the jury returned guilty verdicts." The prosecution followed an investigation by Essex Police. Read more: CPS news release. Source: Risks 801
Germany: Munich set to ban 'dirty diesels.'
To fight air pollution, Munich may soon implement bans on diesel vehicles in the city center. This leaves car dealers with vehicles no one wants to buy. Diesel has been categorised a Class 1 carcinogen by IARC. Watch a short video: Deutsche Welle, Germany.