SafetyNet 408, June 21, 2017
Victoria's new regulations commenced at the beginning of this week, 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.
Tuesday June 27: Webinar on 2017 regulations (Part 1)
The 2017 OHS Regulations are now in place - and we are in the process of amending the Regulations section of our site, chapter by chapter, to reflect the content and numbering changes. We had hoped to be done by now, but it has proven to be a slower and more tedious process than we thought!
In any case, this is a reminder that the OHS Unit will be running a 40 minute webinar at 7pm this coming 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. This will be Part 1, with Part 2 to follow in a few weeks.
Remember too that 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. This is a lot of information, but you can 'cheat' by checking a summary of the changes that we think HSRs and workers should know about on this page of our website.
My organisation is changing its policy around paying for staff getting their first aid certificates. In the past, they have paid when staff are required to have these, but now they are saying that it is the individual staff member's responsibility to pay. Is anything in the Acts or elsewhere about employers duty to pay if they state it is necessary for work?
WHAT?? (sorry, that was my immediate response!)
If a worker is required to have a valid and current first aid certificate for their job (for example teachers or teacher aides who've been told they need one as they are working with kids; or service staff who are expected to provide first aid to customers), in no way should they be required to pay for this themselves.
The employer has an ABSOLUTE duty of care under s21(2)(e) of the OHS Act to 'provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health'.
If they are being told they must have a first aid certificate, then the employer must provide (ie arrange and pay for) the training.
The other situation where employees are required to have a first aid certificate is if they are designated first aid officers at the workplace. In these cases, note these points:
- It's the employer's responsibility (legal duty under s21[d] of the OHS Act) to provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees – re first aid, there's the Compliance Code which employers need to follow.
- Part of the code is determining how many first aiders are required.. .and in the case of public places, this should take into account whether the designated first aiders are also expected to provide first aid to persons other than employees.
- The code sets out the necessary training and also states that 'The employer needs to ensure that the qualifications of first aid officers are current'. (clause 95)
- Normally, taking on the role of first aider attracts an allowance, so this is then part of a person's 'job' – and again s21(2)(e) of the Act applies.
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.
Bendigo now has an injured workers support group
Have you been injured at work?
Dealing with a workplace injury can be stressful and frustrating but you're not alone.
Together injured workers can take action to change the status quo.
The Injured Workers Support Network is a supportive environment run by injured workers for injured workers. We support each other by sharing common experiences and seeking community support to change the system! The group is open to any one who has been injured at work and their families.
Please contact Sam Hatfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details.
When: We meet on the 4th Wed of each month, 12:30pm - 2:30pm.
Where: Bendigo Trades Hall, 40 View St Bendigo
The next meeting, its second, will be on Wednesday June 28 - get along to it!
Union welcomes increased funding to protect health care workers
The Andrews Labor Government has announced it will double its investment in making hospitals and mental health services safer. The Labor Government will invest an extra $20 million in the Health Service Violence Prevention Fund, taking its total investment to $40 million. Minister for Health Jill Hennessy and Minister for Finance Robin Scott launched a confronting community awareness campaign designed to reduce occupational violence and aggression against healthcare workers, making it clear that it is 'never OK'.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association (ANMF) has welcomed the new community campaign and further funding as important steps toward ending the everyday violence nurses and midwives experience in healthcare facilities. The ANMF (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "It's really important that the community understands that a large number of attacks on nurses and midwives are by angry people under stress. The violence has to stop and people have to learn to manage their frustration in difficult circumstances rather than hurt the people who are trying to care for them or their loved ones."
Read more: Victorian Government media release; ANMF media release
ASEA National Asbestos Exposure Register
In last week's SafetyNet we promoted the National Asbestos Exposure Register which is managed by ASEA for the Australian Government. The register has details of over 5,000 people who have been exposed or believe they have been exposed to asbestos in the past. We recommended that if any of our subscribers have been (or suspect they have been) exposed to asbestos, then they should register.
After SafetyNet was posted, Renata received an email from a concerned subscriber who said she had heard that once someone put information on the register, that information was passed on to life insurance companies, which then either rescinded policies, or increased premiums to unaffordable levels.
This is not correct. The ASEA Register webpage categorically states:
All information contained on the register is kept confidential and details will not be released to a third party without your express consent.
ASEA was contacted and confirmed that this is in fact the case. So do not be afraid to register your exposure to asbestos - your information will be confidentifal. For more information, to register and to access the statistical summaries, visit the National Asbestos Register page on the agency website.
Kids' quad bikes found to contain asbestos: national recall
A brand of children's quad bikes has been recalled Australia-wide after fears parts of the bikes could contain asbestos. The bikes being recalled are at least twelve models of the Polaris youth quad bike sold after 31 December 2003: up to 13,000 bikes could be affected.
According to the recall notice issued by Product Safety Australia this week, parts that could contain asbestos include the front brake shoe, rear brake shoe, front brake pad, heat shield washer and the rear brake shoe, depending on the vehicle. The recall also states: "Available information indicates that these quad bikes do not pose a measurable health risk through normal use" but warns, "Consumers should not perform any maintenance, repairs or modifications on these quad bikes that may contact or disturb the bike parts that may contain asbestos." Our advice is to take the bikes back for removal of the asbestos containing parts as soon as possible. Read more: ABC News
UN agency makes new call for an asbestos ban
A United Nations agency has again added its voice to calls for a global asbestos ban. A new World Health Organisation (WHO) factsheet, released on 13 June at the 6th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Ostrava, Czech Republic, notes: "There is no evidence for a safe threshold for the carcinogenic effect of asbestos. As increased cancer risks have been observed in populations exposed to a very low level, the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases it to stop using all forms of asbestos." The factsheet adds: "All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are carcinogenic to humans." Chrysotile is the only form of asbestos still in commercial use, and has been the subject of a well-resourced and ongoing global promotional campaign by the asbestos industry.
The UN agency warns that most workers worldwide affected by frequently fatal asbestos diseases have no access to compensation. It argues there is no business case for continuing asbestos use. "There are no observable mid- or long-term negative economic impacts from bans or a decline in asbestos production or consumption at the country levels, nor observable persistent negative effects at the regional level," the factsheet notes. Instead it warns: "There are substantial and increasing costs associated with the continuing production and use of asbestos. The long-term negative effects far outweigh any short-term economic benefits. Substantial health costs, long-term remediation and additional litigation costs further reinforce banning all uses and the production of asbestos as early as possible in favour of sustainable and healthy economic development."
Read more: Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases [pdf], World Health Organisation, 13 June 2017. International Ban Asbestos Secretariat blog
Does different light improve alertness in night workers?
Night workers often experience high levels of sleepiness due to 'misalignment' of their sleep-wake cycle. They can also suffer acute and chronic sleep loss. Exposure to light, in particular short wavelength light, can improve alertness and neurobehavioural performance. Australian researchers led by Dr Tracey L Sletten, from the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, ran a randomised controlled trial to examine the efficacy of blue-enriched polychromatic light to improve alertness and performance in night workers.
The researchers collected information and tested 71 night workers. On the night following at least two consecutive night shifts, they attended a simulated night shift in the laboratory which included subjective and objective assessments of sleepiness and performance. They were randomly assigned for exposure to one of two treatment conditions: blue-enriched white light (17 000 K, 89 lux; n=36) or standard white light (4000 K, 84 lux; n=35). Subjective and objective sleepiness increased during the night shift in both light conditions, but no significant effects of light condition were observed. The blue-enriched light, however, did improve subjective sleepiness relative to the standard light.
The researchers concluded that the study suggests that, while blue-enriched light has potential to improve subjective sleepiness in night shift workers, further research is needed in the selection of light properties to maximise the benefits.
Read more: Tracey L Sletten, et al, Randomised controlled trial of the efficacy of a blue-enriched light intervention to improve alertness and performance in night shift workers [abstract] Occup Environ Med, June 19, 2017 Online first
Five 'classes' of bullying affecting workplace absenteeism identified
Australian researchers from the University of Wollongong and other institutions have identified five "classes" of workplace bullying experiences that affect absenteeism, and have explained how employers can prevent conflict from escalating.
The researchers found workers experiencing severe and frequent workplace bullying are at high risk of conditions such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems, hypertension and migraines, and have high absenteeism rates. Workers experiencing less severe and infrequent workplace bullying are also less engaged and more inclined to take days off work than their non-bullied counterparts.
500 Australian workers were surveyed on their exposure to 22 types of bullying behaviour including: withholding information; humiliation or ridicule; allocating work below the person's competence levels; removing responsibility; gossip; ignoring or exclusion; personal insults; shouting; intimidating behaviour; hints to quit the job; reminders of mistakes; hostile reactions; persistent criticism; opinions ignored; practical jokes; unreasonable deadlines; making allegations; excessive monitoring of work; pressure to not claim entitlements; excessive teasing; unreasonable workloads; and threats of or actual violence or abuse.
They categorised the respondents' experiences into five workplace bullying "classes":
- Frequent bullying (10 per cent): both direct and indirect, putting these workers' mental health and continued employment at high risk;
- Task-related bullying (18.6 per cent): particularly from supervisors to subordinates - predicts poor employee well-being and stressful work environment;
- Limited indirect bullying (28 per cent): not as harmful to health, but can contribute to mistrust and overall stress;
- Occasional bullying (7.6 per cent): can reflect an unpleasant working environment;
- No bullying (28 per cent)
The researchers say their results suggest "tailored strategies are needed to address different workplace bullying experiences". All forms of less severe negative acts require early intervention, because they can escalate to more severe bullying, but are difficult to address because they are not easily recognisable. Where frequent bullying occurs, it is important that clear and decisive action is taken to address these behaviours.
Magee, C, et al. Workplace bullying and absenteeism: The mediating roles of poor health and work engagement. [abstract] Human Resource Management Journal, online first May 2017 DOI: 10.1111/1748-8583.12156 Source: OHSAlert
Suicides blighting workplaces worldwide
Recent reports have highlighted the wide range of work factors leading to increasing work-related suicides worldwide.
A University of Iowa (UI) study of suicides and homicides among farmers and agricultural workers across the US from 1992 to 2010 found 230 farmers killed themselves during that time, an annual suicide rate that ranged from 0.36 per 100,000 farmers to 0.95 per 100,000. The rate is well above that of workers in all other occupations, which never exceeded 0.19 per 100,000 during the same time period. Study co-author Corinne Peek-Asa, professor of occupational and environmental health in the UI College of Public Health, commented: "Occupational factors such as poor access to quality health care, isolation, and financial stress interact with life factors to continue to place farmers at a disproportionately high risk for suicide."
The higher rates of suicides seen in domestic workers in Lebanon have a very different cause. According to statistics obtained by the news agency IRIN from General Security, Lebanon's intelligence agency, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are dying at a rate of two per week. Many of the deaths are suicides or botched escape attempts in which migrant women choose to jump off buildings rather than continue working in abusive and exploitative situations.
A report in Hazards magazine this year warned: "Studies in the United States, Australia, France, Japan, China, India and Taiwan point to a steep rise in work suicides. Researchers have linked these suicides to a generalised deterioration of working conditions, including unmanageable workloads and increased job insecurity."
Read more: University of Iowa news report. IRIN News. Suicidal work: Work-related suicides go uncounted and unaccounted for in the UK, Hazards magazine, number 137, 2017. Hazards quick guide to work-related factors linked to suicide.Source: Risks 804
OHS Regulator News
Construction inspectors focus on regs compliance
WorkSafe Victoria's construction branch has announced that their inspectors are currently visiting construction sites to ensure duty holders are complying with their obligations required by the Construction Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHS Regulations). WorkSafe stresses that employers and self-employed persons must prepare a Safe work method statement (SWMS) before commencing High risk construction work (HRCW), if that work poses a risk to the health or safety of any person (including persons on site and members of the public).
Read more: Construction Safety Focus [pdf]
Safety Soapbox - June 16
In the latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox, posted on June 16,Tony Cockerell, Worksafe Senior Construction Advisor, writes about powered mobile plant becoming unstable in soft ground on construction sites. WorkSafe inspectors recently attended a number of construction sites where powered mobile plant has overturned.
The edition also has the list of reported incidents for the period 26 May - 4 June, during which there were 56 incidents reported. These included a number of electric shocks, lacerations, two puncture wounds, a degloving, a number of workers suffering bone fractures and an incident where a worker had two fingers amputated. There were several 'near misses' - some of which could have had tragic consequences.
Read the June 16 edition of Safety Soapbox here.
Safe Work Australia news
Podcast/Broadcast: Risk managing hazardous manual handling tasks
This week's broadcast from Safe Work Australia introduces workplaces to the Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks (PErforM) program, a simple risk management program used by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. The PErforM program helps employers engage with workers at all levels to identify, assess and control manual task risks within the workplace.
"PErforM is a really simple risk management program that workplaces can implement to help address their hazardous manual tasks," explains Michelle James from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
Check out the video, transcript and access resources on this page of the SWA website.
The SWA page has not been updated since 7 June, at which time 76 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body. 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 is for January 2017, during which there were 22 work-related notifiable fatalities - this compares to eight notified in December. Of the 22 fatalities, 14 were male workers, three female workers, and five female bystanders. According to Safe Work Australia, eight of the fatalities involved a vehicle incident on a public road, four were as a result of being hit by moving objects on a public road, three were as a result of a fall from a height while the remaining seven fatalities were from other types of incidences. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Demolition company fined $25,000 over live power line incident
A demolition company has been convicted and fined $25,000 (plus over $5,000 in costs) over an incident at Phillip Island in which an excavator pulling down a house collided with live overhead power lines. Bittern company Budget Demolition & Recyclers Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Korumburra Magistrates Court last week to one charge of failing to provide and maintain safe systems of work.
On 12 February 2015, the company was using an excavator to demolish a house at Cowes. Because the worker operating the excavator was not licenced, he was supervised by the owner of the business and spotted by other workers.While the worker used the excavator bucket to pull down guttering at the front of the house, it struck overhead power lines. He heard a loud bang and saw a blue flash, so he shut down the machine and got out. He was not injured in the incident.
The company failed to prepare a Safe Work Method Statement for demolition before work commenced, failed to ensure the work was performed in accordance with that statement and failed to obtain a permit for the work.
WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Marnie Williams said inspectors were stunned by the company's lack of basic safety knowledge, which put employees and the public at serious risk of injury. "Demolition work is considered high risk and appropriate safe systems are required for a reason," Ms Williams said. "The fact that the employer told inspectors he didn't have a SWMS and didn't really know what that was is mind boggling." Read more: WorkSafe media release
For updates go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: Cargo firm fined £500k after ignoring HSE radiation warning
Cargo handling company Dnata Limited has been fined over £500,000 (A$837,520) after criminal safety failings in its handling of radioactive materials were discovered by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection. Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that on 23 April 2015 an HSE specialist radiation inspector attended the firm's Middlesex site and identified breaches of the lonising Radiations Regulations 1999. The regulator served two improvement notices on the company requiring compliance by no later than 12 June 2015. However, a follow up visit on 2 July 2015 found Dnata Limited had not complied with the requirements of one of the notices. Shielding provided by the dedicated radioactive substances store was still inadequate. Dnata Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and on 24 May was fined £534,000 (A$894,469) and ordered to pay costs of £88164 (A$14,767). HSE principal inspector John Crookes said: "Dnata failed to comply with enforcement action, and put employees at risk of exposure to ionising radiation, by failing to install the appropriate level of shielding in the radioactive substances store."
Read more: HSE news release.Source: Risks 804
Europe: Titanium dioxide a carcinogen?
The risk assessment committee of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has proposed that the white pigment titanium dioxide be classified as a potential carcinogen. The request came from Anses, the French environmental and occupational health agency. TiO2 is the world's most widely used white pigment. It provides white color, opacity, and UV blocking to consumer goods including paints, plastics, paper, foods, cosmetics, and medicines. It is also used in tattoos and toothpaste. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has listed TiO2 as possibly carcinogenic to humans since 2006. The ECHA committee has concluded that TiO2 is a potential carcinogen - a less restrictive legal status than a presumed carcinogen. It says studies suggest the carcinogenic action of the pigment is due to inflammation and oxidative stress on the respiratory system. The ECHA committee agrees with Anses that toxicological effects are due to TiO2's biopersistence and poor solubility.
Read more: Europe may call TiO2 a carcinogen, Chemical & Engineering News.
EU protects citizens from toxic mercury, paves the way for global action
At the UN headquarters in New York recently, the European Union triggered the entry into force of the global treaty aimed at reducing exposure to mercury. The ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, confirms Europe's leading role to protect citizens' health and the environment around the world. Upon initiative from the EU, the new global treaty on mercury was negotiated and concluded in 2013. The EU has one of the most ambitious policies for protection against mercury. However, as 40 to 80 per cent of mercury deposited in Europe comes from mercury emissions in other parts of the world, strong international action is needed to protect the health of our citizens.
The Minamata Convention, which is named after the location of the worst-ever case of mercury pollution, will not only tighten environmental standards worldwide, but also help create a level playing-field, as all major economies will apply environmental requirements similar to those already in force in the EU. The EU's Mercury Regulation sets rules that put the union firmly on track for becoming the first mercury-free economy. This includes putting an end to all uses of mercury in industrial processes and prohibiting any new use of mercury in products and industry, unless proven that it is needed for the protection of health and the environment.
Source: Europa, May 2017