SafetyNet 406, June 7, 2017
The man who was shot and killed at the serviced apartment block in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton this week had probably not done anything different that day - he had just gone to work as he did every day. Our sincerest condolences to this worker's family and friends.
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.
Monday: Worker killed in Brighton terrorist siege
Before being killed by police from the special operations group, gunman Yacqub Khayre shot dead a worker employed as a 'clerk' in the serviced apartment building and held hostage a woman he had lured to the Buckingham Serviced Apartments on Bay Street under the pretence he was a client.
Apparently he ignored the first police on the scene, including the critical incident response team and waited for the SOG. He then ran towards them and shot at them. The police, who were protected by body armour and shields, suffered pellet injuries to the hands and neck. One of the police was treated at the scene and two were taken to hospital. It is thought his actions, including calling the media, were designed to lure police so that he could ambush them.
Such incidents raise the issue of what measures may now be increasingly needed to protect workers from planned - and even random - violent attacks from people outside the workplace. Read more: The Age
Federal court ruling a blow to HSR rights
On Friday last week, the Full Federal Court of Australia handed down its decision in the matter of Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Powell , which was an appeal by the ABCC of a decision of His Honour Justice Bromberg in the Federal Court of Australia. The Court found that the CFMEU official who attended a site in Ringwood on a number of occasions following requests for assistance from an HSR under s58(1)(f) of the Act should have also held an Entry Permit under the Fair Work Act.
What this means is that if an HSR seeks OHS assistance from a person who is also a union official, the union official is required to hold a federal entry permit. Prior to this decision, an official required an entry permit to enter a worksite on the basis of a reasonable suspicion of an OHS breach (that is an entry as an ARREO), but did not require a permit if asked to assist a HSR to deal with safety issues. In its decision, the Court said, "To make such a distinction would lead to practical confusion at the workplace site in circumstances where such confusion may lead to allegations of trespass and the involvement of the police."
The CFMEU has said this ruling will have profound implications for the safety of all Victorian workers as it is not limited to the construction sector, and it will have particularly profound implications for hazardous industries. The head of the CFMEU's safety team, Dr Gerry Ayers was shocked by the decision. "This is about the safety of workers in an extremely hazardous industry. There simply shouldn't be any impediment for any OHS representative to seek the assistance of anyone who's qualified and has the experience to assist with safety," he said. "The ABCC have effectively forced their industrial agenda into the area of worker safety and they should be condemned for their actions."
Victoria's regulator said it was 'disappointed' in the decision. In a media release on Friday it said, "Victoria's HSRs play a significant role in keeping workplaces safe, and the power they have to seek advice from external safety experts is an important tool in their prevention armoury. (The) decision has a serious impact on this critical element of the Victorian OHS system. WorkSafe strongly supports HSRs being able to call on any person with sufficient health and safety knowledge to assist them to resolve OHS risks in the workplace. We continue to maintain that the safety of workers in Victorian workplaces is paramount and should not be constrained."
Both WorkSafe and the CFMEU are considering further legal options to challenge the decision.
According to the rules at which height can an electrician do his work with safety?
Unfortunately there is no really 'safe' height as there have been serious injuries and even fatalities after a fall from a standard ladder. There is no actual height at which one can say "this is safe and this is not", or "this is allowed and this is not".
Under the Victorian OHS Act, the employer has a legal duty of care to provide and maintain for workers a system of work that is safe and without risks to health (see Duties of employers). This includes ensuring that if a worker needs to be working at a different level to the ground, the risks are eliminated or minimised (see this page on Ladders, for example, and on Stepladders)
However, once work is being done at a height of more than two metres, then the Prevention of falls chapter of the regulations applies, and the employer MUST follow a hierarchy of control to eliminate or minimise the risk of falling.
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.
We would like to thank the 212 HSRs who sent in their stories - we surpassed our goal of 200 by the closing date of June 2! If you haven't yet seen our latest HSR Hero video - Jamila, who is a disability support worker, click here. Jamila has been an HSR for over seven years. Her advice: "Don't be afraid to ask questions!"
CFMEU: Illegal asbestos import triple - no prosecutions
The Australian Border Force has made 40 detections of products laced with deadly asbestos so far this year, a threefold increase on 2015-2016 figures. But construction firm Yuanda, which last year imported asbestos tainted building products from China including roof panels discovered by workers in the Perth Children's Hospital, has still not faced charges despite admitting responsibility. The information was revealed at a Senate Estimates hearing last week.
"Border Force can't inspect every shipment which comes into the country and that's why offenders should have the book thrown at them in order to send a message and change behaviour," said Dave Noonan, CFMEU Construction & General National Secretary. "If this soft touch approach to prosecutions continues we'll have no choice but to consider banning certain building products from certain countries on health and safety grounds until Minister Dutton is willing to take decisive action."
Read more: Detection of illegal asbestos imports triple, but still no prosecutions, CFMEU Media Release
NSW asbestos dumper sets up shop in Melbourne
One of NSW's worst serial asbestos dumpers who has continued to illegally dispose of hundreds of tonnes of deadly contaminated waste across Sydney after narrowly avoiding jail, has apparently opened for business in Melbourne - advertising cheap excavation and tipping under a new name, "David from Delta Civil Group Vic".
Dib Hanna, who owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, has failed to appear in court as the NSW EPA chases him over eight fresh offences. A number of Victoria's councils are aware of this person's activities and will be keeping an eye out.
Read more: Sydney asbestos dumper Dib Hanna at it again. The Age
NSW: Rebuke following high pressure cleaning of asbestos roofs
SafeWork NSW has issued a warning to tradies and homeowners after high pressure water blasters were used to clean asbestos roofs. The most serious incident occurred on Sydney's northern beaches where two properties had to be vacated after a water blaster was used to clean a roof containing asbestos debris spread to neighbouring properties. Similar incidents have occurred in Victoria in the past.
Read more: SafeWork NSW issues warning after tradies busted cleaning asbestos roofs Media Release
The Third wave mesothelioma sufferers
Last weekend The Age newspaper ran a story on the 'Third wave' of people affected by asbestos. The article looks at the increasing numbers of people contracting mesothelioma due to past home renovations.
Herman Maifoffer bought his Cabramatta home in 1976 for $30,000. The house was small for the three children family, so he added an extension using fibro cement sheeting bought from a hardware store. The family lived there for 40 years. As he was wheeled into an ambulance, his wife Rosemary asked if he wanted one last look around. "No," he said. "I just want to go, because this house killed me". Six days later, on August 17, 2015, he died of mesothelioma.
Read more: 'This house killed me': DIY home renovators the third wave of asbestos victims, The Age
Asbestoswise 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.
US: September 11 death toll could rise by millions
There are fears that the death toll from the New York September 11 attack could rise into the millions as a result of the toxic asbestos dust that blanketed the city when the Twin Towers collapsed. Residents have already started to develop cancers caused by the asbestos-filled ash that erupted from the World Trade Centre skyscrapers. Leading health expert Dr Raja Flores, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital, has warned it will only get worse. Read more: 9news.com.au
Quad bike incidents continue
Last Sunday a nine-year-old boy was flown to hospital after crashing his quad bike in north-east Victoria. The incident occurred at a farm, about 18km southeast of Wangaratta, and according to reports, the boy was towing a trailer downhill when he lost control. He sustained serious injuries after he became trapped underneath the bike. After being treated at the scene by paramedics, he was airlifted to the Royal Children's Hospital.
There were a number of other serious quad bike incidents around the country in the past week also. In March this year, both the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) called for a five-star safety rating system for quad bikes.
The Supreme Court proceeding issued by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and other quad bike manufacturers against WorkSafe Victoria was dismissed just prior to a trial that was listed to commence last week. The manufacturers had wanted the Supreme Court to rule that WorkSafe's public announcements about quad bike safety were unlawful. The challenge was dismissed and will not proceed to trial.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, described the outcome as vindication of WorkSafe's new approach in relation to quad bike safety. "WorkSafe was always confident that its public announcements were lawful and appropriate, so having this case dismissed is very pleasing," she said. "As we have always said, suitably designed and tested rollover protection devices on quad bikes are a means of reducing the risk to operators in the event of a rollover. The use of rollover protection devices on quad bikes will save lives and we will continue to promote this safety message."
And the NSW Government is calling for stronger national action on quad bike safety following the release of the largest ever survey into quad bike use in the workplace. Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the state government had made inroads to keep farmers safer on rural properties, but more could be done on a national level. "There have been 32 deaths from quad bike incidents across NSW since 2011 and that's simply not good enough," Mr Kean said.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release and SafeWorkNSW Media Release
Strategy to prevent hernias
European researchers have discovered a way for employers to reduce the risk of workers suffering abdominal hernias, which affect about one in three men. Researchers from the Danish Ramazzini Centre and the University of Copenhagen found that reducing the number of hours workers stand or walk from more than six to fewer than four hours per day could prevent one third of first-time inguinal hernia repairs, they found.
Looking at data from 17,967 male workers, the researchers identified a relationship between walking and standing in occupational settings and the need for surgery for lateral (but not medial) inguinal hernias, which affect 25 to 30 per cent of men at some stage in their lives. However, little is known about the link to occupational mechanical exposures. According to the data, workers who spend more than six hours a day standing or walking at work have a 45 per cent higher risk of undergoing lateral inguinal hernia repair than those who walk or stand fewer than four hours a day.
The researchers said that although the current study did not find a statistically significant association between frequent heavy lifting and hernias, a previous study they conducted did find that regularly lifting loads weighing more than 20kg is a risk factor for lateral inguinal hernia.
Read more: Marie Vestergaard Vad, et al, Inguinal hernia repair among men in relation to occupational mechanical exposures and lifestyle factors: a longitudinal study. [abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first May 2017 doi: 10.1136/oemed-2016-104160 Source: OHSAlert
Lack of awareness of reproductive hazards
An occupational health researcher who has done a major literature review has said that chemicals hazardous to employees' reproductive health are common in workplaces, but workers continue to be exposed to them due to a lack of awareness on individual and organisational levels.
Toxicology expert Kyung-Taek Rim of the South Korean Occupational Safety and Health Agency focused on six toxicants that adversely impact on the structural and functional components of sex and reproductive organs, potentially causing infertility or damage to pregnant women and foetuses. These were:
- Metals: significantly decreases human sperm motility.
- Nanomaterials: which can translocate from a mother's respiratory tract to the placenta and foetus - as with all matters nano, there are "large uncertainties".
- Organic solvents: used as degreasers in paints, varnishes, dyes, adhesives, etc, which are easily inhaled and readily absorbed through the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and skin.
- Pesticides: recent studies have found associations between pesticide exposure and decreased sperm concentration, motility and morphology, and that organochlorine pesticides have adverse effects on the development of the female reproductive system during puberty.
- Endocrine disruptors: (eg dioxins, styrene and bisphenol A) which are widespread in work environments.
- Genotoxic and nongenotoxic carcinogens: increased reports of synthetic chemicals causing testicular cancer, male reproductive tract abnormalities and decreases in semen quality. As well as potentially posing a risk to the mother and foetus during pregnancy these may also have long-term effects on newborns.
Rim makes the point that apart from the need for employers to educate workers on the risks of these substances, there is a need to eliminate them where possible, to eliminate/reduce the incidence of exposure, implement health surveillance, and more.
Read more: Reproductive Toxic Chemicals at Work and Efforts to Protect Workers' Health: A Literature Review. [Full text] Safety and Health at Work, Volume 8, Issue 2, June 2017.Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria News
New Safety Alert
Carbon monoxide poisoning and LPG powered floor cleaning equipment - This alert highlights for employers the risk of employees being over exposed to carbon monoxide when operating LPG powered floor cleaning equipment such as a floor burnisher or buffer.
Safety Soapbox - June 2
In the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, WorkSafe's Construction Program Strategy Manager, Barry Dunn, writes about the need to control the risks of falls, following the death of a man who fell 4.3 metres from a ladder on Friday 19 May 2017, at a construction site in Maidstone, Victoria. Falls are a leading cause of death and serious injuries in Victorian workplaces and include falls from ladders from relatively low heights. Over the past month there has been numbers of workers in the construction industry who have fallen and sustained serious injuries.
The edition also has news from other jurisdictions as well as the list of reported incidents from April 28 - May 25. There were 75 incidents reported in this period, including several falls from heights, electrocutions, workers being crushed by falling plant, and more. Download the June 2 edition of Safety Soapbox here.
Safe Work Australia News
As of 2 June, 72 workplace fatalities had been reported to SWA - this is nine more notified fatalities since the last update on 22 May. Five of these fatalities were in the transport, postal and warehouse sector. These were in the following industries:
- 29 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 15 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 12 in Construction;
- 3 Arts and recreation services
- 3 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- 3 in Manufacturing
- 3 in Public administration and safety
- 1 in Mining
- 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.
Canopy collapse during construction - company fined 10K for near miss
Monty Group Pty Ltd was engaged to manufacture, supply and install precast concrete panels to the construction of an apartment block in Springvale. The panels had cast-in connection plates attached, intended to connect a canopy to the panels. The canopy was approximately 50m x 3m. The Monty Group constructed eight of the panels with cast-in connection plates that were each missing three additional 16 millimetre reinforcement bars which had been stipulated in the engineering plans and the shop drawings prepared by the company. On 7 October 2015, after the panels had been installed and the canopy had been fixed to the connection plates by a separate contractor, roof plumbers from another company were working on the canopy. Several of the cast-in connection plates separated from the panels. The canopy collapsed approximately 3.5 metres to the ground. The roof plumbers jumped to safety, escaping injury. While the failure to ensure the three reinforcement bars were installed contributed to the risk of injury to persons other than employees, the separation of the plates and the precast panels may have occurred in any event. Monty Group pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000 and to pay costs of $ 2,000.
UK: Another zoo keeper dies in a tiger attack
A 34-year old zoo keeper has died after a tiger entered an enclosure at a wildlife park in Cambridgeshire, UK. The death happened at Hamerton Zoo Park, near Huntingdon, on the morning of 29 May. This fatality came almost four years to the day after another zoo worker died in a tiger attack at a different UK zoo. A Cambridgeshire Police spokesperson said: "A tiger had entered an enclosure with a keeper. Sadly the female zoo keeper died at the scene." At no time did the animal escape from the enclosure. Hamerton Zoo Park said in a statement: "This appears to have been a freak accident. At no point during the incident did any animals escape their enclosures and at no point was public safety affected in any way. All our thoughts and sympathies are with our colleagues, friends and families at this dreadful time." The wildlife park said an investigation was under way. The zoo's barriers and escape procedures were heavily criticised in an inspection by officials in 2013. Its licence was only renewed after improvements were made. The zoo opened a new enclosure for its Malaysian tigers in July 2016. Last year South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria received a six figure fine for criminal health and safety offences after a 24-year-old was killed by a Sumatran tiger. The worker suffered fatal injuries when she was pounced on by the tiger on 24 May 2013.
Read more: BBC News Online. Source: Risks 802