SafetyNet 407

SafetyNet 407

SafetyNet 407, June 14, 2017

Victoria's new regulations start on June 18 -  do you know what the changes are? Register for our first Webinar on what's changed and what hasn't, on June 27 - details below

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.


Union News
OHS Regulator News
OHS Prosecutions
International News 

Union News

Tuesday June 27: Webinar on 2017 regulations (Part 1)
The 2017 OHS Regulations will commence next week, June 18. We are currently amending the Regulations section of our site, chapter by chapter, to reflect the content and numbering changes. 

The OHS Unit will be running a 40 minute webinar at 7pm on Tuesday June 27 to take HSRs and other interested people through the main changes in the new regulations. If you are interested in participating, register here.

WorkSafe has produced comprehensive guides to the OHS (and the Equipment Public Safety) regulations 2017 which can be downloaded from this page of the WorkSafe site. You can check a summary of the changes that we think HSRs and workers should know about on this page of our website.

Ask Renata

Hello Renata
My employer organised a fire and evacuation drill this week - but the workers on switchboard were told they could not participate as they needed to be able to answer the phone in case of a real emergency (for example a bomb threat). This means that they have not had the chance to be involved in the drill. Is this right?

Whenever there is a real emergency, or need to evacuate a workplace, the employer has a legal duty to ensure that all employees and anyone else present, such as clients, are evacuated. Not to do so would be to place them at risk. In this case, it was a drill, and so their lives were not at risk.

However, the employer needs to ensure that anyone who was either directed not to participate in the drill, or was unable to do so (if they were absent, for example), must be trained in what to do when there is an emergency evacuation. The employer has a duty under s21(2)(e) to provide all employees with information, instruction, training and supervision - and this includes emergency evacuation procedures.  Take a look at this page for more information, including links to guidance for workplaces.

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.

Asbestos News
New app maps the prevalence of asbestos in WA homes
Curtin University researchers are aiming to map the prevalence of asbestos in homes across Western Australia and help home renovators identify potentially deadly risks with a free new app, released yesterday. Aimed at combatting asbestos-related illnesses from do-it-yourself (DIY) renovators, ACM Check, which is available on Android and Apple devices, offers a step-by-step guide to assessing the level of risk that homes contains asbestos products.

The app, developed by Curtin University PhD student Matthew Govorko, under the guidance of Associate Professor Alison Reid and Professor Lin Fritschi, from the School of Public Health at Curtin University, can be downloaded at no cost from the Apple store and Google Play.

"The app guides users through a series of questions, aided by photographs, to identify the potential level of risk in and around their homes before they start to renovate," said Mr Govorko. "If a material is possibly or likely to contain asbestos, the user is asked to report the current condition of the material and specify if it is likely to be disturbed during home renovations. Once they have completed the questionnaire through the app, they are offered a series of recommendations about what action to take based on the level of risk identified for each product."  Read more: Curtin University Media Release 

International: New union resource
On June 8, 2017, the Building and Woodworkers' International (BWI) launched a new website in English, French, Spanish and German – Russian and Arabic versions are also planned – to provide useful information for workers in the construction and other sectors including its 12 million members in 334 trade unions from 130 countries. Since the mid-1980s, the BWI has lobbied for the banning of asbestos, working closely with ban asbestos groups and occupational health and safety campaigners around the world.
Check out the Building and Woodworkers' International new website. Source: IBAS

ASEA  Matters - Winter Newsletter
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has published its ASEA Matters Winter Newsletter. There are a number of interesting items in the newsletter - as well as those below, there is ASEA's recent report on the impact of asbestos on remote indigenous communities, and also an item on the Senate Inquiry into Non-conforming Building Products.  Read more: ASEA Matters [pdf]

2017 Summit
In it the Agency provides details of the upcoming Asbestos Safety and Eradication Summit 2017 which will take place at Old Parliament House Canberra from Sunday 26th to Tuesday 28th November 2017. The major focus of the Summit will be on engagement and debate in preparation for developing Australia's next National Strategic Plan beyond 2018. The summit will again bring together renowned local and international experts in asbestos management, health, advocacy and governance to look at what is best practice in managing the dangers of asbestos in our community and abroad. Registrations will open later in June - we will inform subscribers when this occurs.

National Asbestos Exposure Register
ASEA manages the National Asbestos Exposure Register for the Australian Government which has the details of over 5,000 people who have been exposed or believe they have been exposed to asbestos in the past. The agency provides annual statistical analysis of the register in its annual reports which show in the 2015-16 year:

  • 69 per cent of registrants were male
  • 64 per cent of exposures occurred in the workplace
  • One third of registrants were from NSW
  • 72 per cent were first exposed before the age of 40.

If you have been (or suspect you have been) exposed to asbestos, then register. If you know of someone else in this position, please pass on the details of the register to them. For more information, to register and to access the statistical summaries, visit the National Asbestos Register page on the agency website.

Japan: Asbestos used in public housing
A new survey has revealed that asbestos was used in the construction of 22,000 public housing apartments in Japan. Professor Takehiko Murayama from the Tokyo Institute of Technology has estimated that this contamination could have damaged the health of more than 230,000 people. One former resident, 53-year-old Kazuko Saito, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015; she had lived in contaminated public housing from 1963 until 1984. Read more: Survey and Former resident develops mesothelioma, NHK World. Source: IBAS

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

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

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VTHC Migrant workers survey
We are still wanting to hear from International Students or workers born overseas about how safe their workplace is. If this is you, have you filled in the VTHC's survey? As the union peak body in the state, the Victorian Trades Hall Council wants to help all workers, 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
UK: School staff routinely victims of attacks at work
Almost a third of UK school support staff have been injured in a violent attack at work and many report they are attacked on weekly basis, a survey by the UK union GMB has found. The union says the 'disturbing statistics' from its nationwide survey of members found almost one in five support staff (18 per cent) experience violence on a weekly basis, and nearly a third (30 per cent) have been injured in violent incidents at school. Over half of the attacks (57 per cent) were by a pupil. Incidents highlighted in the GMB study including members of staff being strangled, punched, kicked, having tables and chairs thrown at them and working in fear of violent gangs marauding the school corridors. Read more: GMB news release. Source: Risks 803

The reality of working for Ivanka Trump
This week we learnt more about the working conditions of workers in several countries who make clothes for Ivanka Trump, businesswoman and now assistant to President Donald Trump, her father.  Disturbing news from Indonesia and China have been reported by The Guardian this week. Workers complain of verbal abuse, impossible targets and 'poverty pay' so low they have to live away from their children.  Read more: Revealed: reality of life working in an Ivanka Trump clothing factory The Guardian 

India: Explosion kills up to 25 workers
Last week a massive explosion destroyed a firecracker factory in Balaghat, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, killing up to 25 workers and injuring many other workers. The immediate cause of this disaster is not known, but unfortunately this was not an isolated incident. Explosions and fires at factories producing firecrackers are common in India because of inadequate safety measures, regulations that are breached with impunity, and the lack of independent unions. It has been reported that police have lodged a criminal case against the factory owner.  Read more: Blast at Indian firework factory Aljazeera Source: AAWL Mininews 

India: Worksite accidents and safety raids in Kerala
Four construction workers were killed and one injured after a cave-in at a construction site in Pangappara in Kerala. The 19-storey apartment building was being constructed by excavating a hillock. Due to poor safety provisioning, a section of the hillock slid over the construction site, burying the workers. Reports claimed that the excavation of earth for the construction was done 'indiscriminately' without concern for the safety of workers and nearby residents. An enquiry has been ordered. Following this incident, the Kerala labour department conducted a series of raids on construction sites, which revealed major safety lapses, labour law violations and even human rights violations. This prompted the department to issue half a dozen 'stop' memos. Source: The Wire

Bangladesh: Three construction workers killed in Dhaka
Three young construction workers were killed last week when the bamboo platform they were working on collapsed from the 10th storey of a building. While investigations are still ongoing, preliminary signs point to the lack of standard safety measures and negligence by supervisors of the construction company. Unfortunately, repression of independent unions, lax regulations and corruption all lead to the development of a deadly environment for workers in Bangladesh
Read more: 3 workers die falling off Bailey Road building,The Daily Star. Source: AAWL Mininews 

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Few rights and job insecurity make you sick
Work factors including a lack of paid sick leave, job insecurity and workplace bullying are linked to worse health status, a study has found. The research from the US government's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at data from 10,767 adults employed across many occupations who participated in the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. It found workers with no paid sick leave were 35 per cent more like likely to report fair or poor health. Workers who were worried about becoming unemployed were 43 per cent more like likely to report fair or poor health. Those who reported difficulty combining work and family were 23 per cent more likely to report fair or poor health and workers who reported being bullied at work were 82 per cent more likely to report fair or poor health. According to NIOSH: "Work is an important determinant of health. The influence of work on a person's health manifests in various ways, such as: Employment conditions, how the work is organised, specific job-related tasks, exposures to hazardous agents, and long work hours. Work-life balance takes on a whole new meaning when these issues are perceived by the workers themselves as having a negative effect on their well-being."
Read more: NIOSH science update. More on health and safety and insecure work on the UK Hazards website. Source: Risks 803

Reminder - Australian research projects you can participate in
1 -  Workplace Aggression Experiences of Victorian Nurses and Midwives

The Monash University 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 is still open. 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 on this page.

2 - Working in heat
The research for the University of Adelaide national project to better understand the circumstances underpinning workplace injuries that occur in hot conditions is continuing to June 30. The project will be examining the relationship between hot weather and workplace injury, and exploring stakeholders' and workers' perception in order to aid in the prevention of heat-related occupational injuries. Find out more, click here. There are several opportunities for people to participate in this research and have their say  - including for HSRs and 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: contact Alana Hansen: email or telephone (08) 8313 1043.

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OHS Regulator News

WorkSafe investigates excavator incident near Melbourne
WorkSafe Victoria has launched an investigation after a man was seriously injured in an incident involving an excavator near Melbourne on Sunday afternoon. According to reports, the man was attempting to load the excavator onto a trailer when the machine flipped and fell on him. Emergency crews arrived at the scene shortly after the incident and freed him.  Source: SafetyCulture

Cancer Bill passes Lower House without proposed change
The Victorian Firefighters' Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017 passed the Legislative Assembly last week without amendment and was introduced to the Legislative Council. State Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh proposed withdrawing the Bill and redrafting it to retain the new presumptive rights for firefighters but scrap amendments to metropolitan and country fire authority laws, but his motion was defeated.

The Bill provides automatic workers' compensation to career and volunteer firefighters who are diagnosed with certain types of cancer and have served for the relevant number of years, depending on the cancer type. Source: OHS Alert

NSW: SafeWork blitz on food industry
SafeWork NSW will be blitzing restaurants, cafes and bakeries using LPG cylinders after a Marrickville baker was critically injured last week. The 32-year-old baker suffered serious burns to his face, neck and arms following an explosion at the bakery when he attempted to light a portable gas burner.

SafeWork NSW is conducting inspections of food businesses across the state in an effort to prevent further incidents and improve public safety. SafeWork's Director of Hazardous Chemical Facilities and Safety Management Audits, Meagan McCool, said portable gas appliances presented many risks and they should only be used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release

Queensland: Updated tool for young workers
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has updated its resource for young workers: Young Worker Safety Toolkit [pdf]. The resource is designed to help employers, youth service providers, parents and education and training providers connect with young workers on work health and safety. The toolkit includes films, presentation templates, and checklists based on how young people learn and communicate with others.

Queensland: new WHS criminal offence to be introduced
The Queensland Government has announced it will introduce a new criminal work health and safety offence of 'negligence causing death', following a recommendation from independent reviewer for the Best Practice Review of WHS, Tim Lyons.

Following the fatal incidents at Eagle Farm and Dreamworld last year, public demand for tighter criminal laws, harsher penalties against corporates and individuals has been strong. The government has said it will consult with stakeholders on the nature of the offence, but it appears that it will not establish a 'gross' negligence threshold, which is the usual benchmark for criminal manslaughter offences.
Read more: Queensland Government announces new criminal offence: 'negligence causing death' , Safety Solutions, NSCA Foundation

South Australia: legislation to protect remote nurses
The South Australian Government is going to introduce legislation to enact "Gayle's Law" following the murder of remote area nurse Gayle Woodford in March 2016. Gayle's Law seeks to prevent nurses from working alone in remote areas.

Ms Woodford was raped and murdered in the APY Lands of SA's far north, and her death led to a campaign to abolish single nurse posts. South Australian Labor MP and former nurse, Annabel Digance said the SA Government would take the measure to Parliament within this year.
Read more: ABC News online 

Safe Work Australia fatality statistics
As of 7 June, 76 workplace fatalities had been reported to SWA - this is four more notified fatalities since the last update on 2 June.  The workers killed were in the following industries:

  • 30 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
  • 15 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
  • 13 in Construction;
  • 4 in Manufacturing
  • 3 Arts and recreation services
  • 3 in Electricity, gas, water and waste services
  • 3 in Public administration and safety
  • 2 in Accommodation and food services
  • 1 in Mining
  • 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 webpage).

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.

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Vegie business to pay over $100k for safety breaches

It was just 'luck' that two workers were not killed in two incidents at a Gippsland vegetable farm. Covino Farms Pty Ltd, specialising in vegetable growing, processing and distribution, was convicted and fined $85,000 (plus $22,933 costs) for two separate incidents in which one worker was run over by a tractor attachment and another fell into an uncovered drainage pit. The company pleaded guilty in the Latrobe Magistrates Court to breaching the OHS Act 2004 twice for failing to provide and maintain safe systems of work. Both incidents occurred at the company's Longford farm near Sale in East Gippsland.

On 31 January 2015, a worker was operating a tractor towing an improvised spinach seed planter. He had reduced the speed of the tractor to check if seeds were being planted properly when he fell and was run over by the seeder attachment. He had to run more than 100m after the moving tractor to stop it, and suffered four fractured ribs, a fracture to his cheek bone and a dislocated neck which put pressure on his spinal cord. He remained in hospital for two weeks and was required to wear a neck collar for two months.

The company had no standard operating procedure in place for the safe operation of tractors. For this incident the company was fined $70,000.

In the second incident, on 23 February 2015 a worker climbing down a ladder in the carrot cleaning area stepped into an uncovered box drain at its base. A steel mesh grate covering the drain had been removed to prevent flooding in the area but had not been replaced. The worker suffered a serious laceration to his right leg which required stitches. For this incident the company was fined $15,000.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the company's lack of consideration for the safety of its workers was staggering."This company has failed completely in its duty to provide safe systems of work for its employees," she said. "The fact that two workers were seriously injured in separate incidents within the space of three weeks is appalling. Tractors and their attachments cause more deaths and injury on farms than any other piece of machinery, while falls are another leading cause of death and injury. That is why it's critical for employers to ensure appropriate systems are in place." Read more: WorkSafe Media Release

Company fined $25,000 after worker's hand caught in machine
Kingspan Environmental Pty Ltd, a company involved in the manufacture of steel water tanks and garden beds, was last week fined $25,000 after a worker sustained serious injury to his hand. On 17 October 2015 the labour hire worker was operating a manual curving machine to bend longs sheets of metal to form circular water tanks. The machine had two vertical rollers with stop pull wire switches either side of the rollers but no guarding to prevent access to the danger points of the machine. The worker had to stand within the circular piece of metal and manually feed the sheet into the rollers, and operate it with a foot pedal to control the direction of the sheet. He was also required to make constant operator adjustments by way of the manual wheel. While doing all of this, his hand was caught in the in-running nip point of the rollers. The trip wires did not shut the machine down so he was able to extract his hand by reversing the direction of the rollers. The worker sustained injuries to his thumb, first and middle fingers of his left hand and required surgery. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $25,000 plus $3,500 in costs.

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

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International News

Norway proposes adding second PFC to UN POPs Convention
Norway has submitted a proposal to list perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), its salts and related compounds, for action under the UN Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
If approved there, it will become the second listing of a perfluorocarbon under the treaty, joining perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and its precursor, perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride.

The PFHxS compounds are used in firefighting foam, carpets and textiles, electronics and non-stick cookware. The Norwegian environment ministry says these qualify as POPs because they are persistent, bioaccumulative, travel long-range distances and are toxic.

Earlier this year, Norway added the chemicals to its national list of priority substances, which means emissions must be eliminated or substantially reduced by 2020 and companies must find safer alternatives.
As well as describing them as a very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) substance, Norway says they are suspected of being an endocrine disruptor.
Source: Chemical Watch

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