SafetyNet 410, June 28, 2017
This week saw news that 'forgotten' industrial diseases have begun to reappear in Australia - demonstrating lack of controls which are now killing workers. Another reason we fight for health and safety.
Join the fight, be informed: 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.
Note: due to work commitments there will be no edition of SafetyNet next week.
'Forgotten' diseases killing workers
The re-emergence of relatively 'forgotten' industrial diseases, such as silicosis (caused by exposure to silica) and black lung disease in Queensland coal mines, is alarming to unions and health professionals.
A NSW parliamentary inquiry last week heard people are now being diagnosed with potentially life-threatening silicosis, linked to newer engineered stone products increasingly used for kitchen and bathroom benchtops.
Fairfax Media reports that Sydney respiratory physician Dr Anthony Johnson, who addressed the parliamentary inquiry, saud he and other doctors in Sydney and Melbourne have come across a growing number of silicosis cases. "It's a disease we saw quite commonly in the 1940s, '50s and '60s in people who were jack-hammering Sydney sandstone," said Dr Johnson. "Control measures were introduced, mainly just putting water on the process to keep the dust down and with those measures, it basically disappeared. But in the last five years, we have seen quite a number of cases from the artificial stone industry where people are working with things like Caesarstone making kitchen benches."
Read more: New cases of silicosis in Australia linked to bathroom and kitchen stone products, The Age
The Webinar on the new 2017 regulations went well last week, with a number of participants sending in questions. Here is one of them:
Do employers have to re-label chemicals so they are consistent with the GHS (Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) already?
No, importing suppliers, manufacturers and employers are able to 'use up' any substances they already have which do not have GHS consistent labels. Once these have been used up, the manufacturer/supplier must ensure that the labels are GHS consistent.
Any newly purchased substances coming into the workplace post June 18 (including substances that have been used before) must have GHS consistent Safety Data Sheets (SDSs, replacing the old MSDSs) . This should not be an issue as suppliers/manufacturers have had to comply with this in most jurisdictions in Australia since January 1, 2017. Furthermore, employers should contact their suppliers and request they provide GHS consistent SDSs for any substances they have in the workplace currently which do not have up to date SDSs. Suppliers must provide these.
If you missed the webinar, check it out here. You can watch/listen to the webinar and download the powerpoint presentation. We will also be loading up the questions from participants and our answers soon.
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.
ACT: Asbestos closes Harvey Norman store
Asbestos has closed a large Harvey Norman Fyshwick warehouse in the ACT after a customer found asbestos on a product they had just purchased. The warehouse sells both furniture and electrical goods. It is thought the installation of a new skylight dislodged asbestos that had been used in the construction of the warehouse. Within hours of the customer complaining about the store WorkSafe ACT Commissioner Greg Jones issued a prohibition order on the building.
Read more: Channel News
ASEA 2017 Summit - November 26 - 28
Registration is now open for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency's 4th annual event, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Summit 2017.
The Summit will take place in the stunning setting of Old Parliament House, Canberra between 26th-28th November 2017 and will take on a new format from the previous conferences. During the two-day Summit, we will provide delegates with a real opportunity to be a part of Australia's next National Strategic Plan to manage asbestos. This year, there will be a major focus on debate and ASEA wants all those with an interest in asbestos to have input in how best everyone can work together to create an asbestos-free Australia. ASEA has produced a short, but informative, promotional video for the Summit - watch it here. Book tickets here. Take advantage of the generous early bird discounts (book by September 22).
UK: Brexit minister 'supports removing asbestos laws'
New UK Brexit minister Steve Baker has lobbied the government to weaken asbestos laws, Unite has revealed. The union says it is concerned by the minister's 'alarming' position and is demanding that the government now provide 'cast-iron guarantees' that asbestos regulations won't be watered down. Much of the existing legislation, which bans the use of asbestos and controls how the substance is removed, is based on European Union directives. Unite says Mr Baker's appointment raises concerns that when the Tory's 'Great Reform Bill' becomes law, he will be able to use his position to weaken asbestos laws, bypassing effective parliamentary scrutiny. In October 2010, in a series of parliamentary questions regarding asbestos, the Conservative MP asked the secretary of state for work and pensions: "If he will bring forward proposals to amend the provisions of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 to distinguish the white form of asbestos and the blue and brown forms of that substance," also questioning: "If he will commission an inquiry into the appropriateness of the health and safety precautions in force in respect of asbestos cement." In a further question, Baker asked the minister if he would "bring forward proposals to amend existing regulations governing the safe use of asbestos cement…". Unite's Gail Cartmail said: "Following these revelations it is essential that very senior government ministers give a cast-iron guarantee that the existing asbestos regulations will not be weakened or modified and the safety of workers will remain the priority. With thousands of people dying every year, directly as a result of being exposed to asbestos, the priority must be to ensure that the existing safety laws are adhered to and employers who ignore this life saving legislation are prosecuted and convicted." Read more: Unite news release. Source: Risks 806
USA: ADAO Newsletter
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation (a US-based advocacy group) has posted its latest newsletter. The edition is chock-full of interesting items, such as "Colombian Anti-Asbestos Activists Partner with Greenpeace to Fight Back Against Eternit". Check it out here.
Ukraine: Asbestos ban puts pressure on producers
Ukraine's government has announced its national ban on all asbestos use has come into force. The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), which has supported campaigns for a ban in countries across the globe, said the new regulations, which ban the use of all types of asbestos including chrysotile (white) asbestos, were achieved in the face of 'fierce opposition' from domestic and foreign asbestos lobbyists. "This is no surprise given that amongst Ukraine's neighbours are two countries which account for around 65 per cent of global asbestos output," noted IBAS coordinator Laurie Kazan-Allen. Between 2009 and 2015, Ukraine imported an average of 42,200 tonnes of asbestos a year. "There is no doubt that this ban will adversely impact on the financial prospects of Russian and Kazakhstan asbestos mining companies, however, perhaps of even greater import is the strategic significance of Ukraine's action," reported Kazan-Allen. "After all, if Ukraine can ban asbestos, so too can other asbestos-using countries in the region such as Uzbekistan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan."
Read more: IBAS news release.
Oman: ban on import of asbestos products
A ban on the import of goods and products which contain asbestos has been announced by Ministerial Decision. The Minister of Trade and Industries has announced a ban on any import of products that contain asbestos, through Ministerial Decision 139/2017.
Read more: The Times of Oman
ANMF OHS campaign awarded at ACTU's NextGen conference
The Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation (Vic Branch) was recognised last week at the Australian Unions #NexGen17 awards for the most innovative Work Health & Safety campaign.
ANMF members were recognised for their action to stop occupational violence and aggression against nurses, midwives and colleagues. While the union says they still have a long way to go, it's heartening to see their efforts thus far acknowledged.
See the ANMF Occupational Violence and Aggression campaign here.
Full bench supports unpaid domestic-violence leave
A Fair Work Commission full bench majority has this week stressed that family and domestic violence (FDV) is a "workplace issue that requires a workplace response", in finding that workers should have access to unpaid FDV leave and FDV-related carer's leave.
But Deputy President Ann Gooley and Commissioner Paula Spencer rejected the ACTU's proposal to amend the modern awards to provide all employees with a right to 10 non-accumulative days of paid leave per year – plus unpaid leave if the former was exhausted – to attend "activities related to the experience of being subjected to" FDV. Many unions have taken the issue up, and there are already numbers of employers who have agreed to such clauses in Enterprise Agreements.
Read more: We Are Union Women Domestic Violence campaign
It was plain 'good luck' that neither workers and members of the public were injured, or worse, when scaffolding collapsed at a demolition site in North Melbourne on Monday this week. It appears that three levels of scaffolding fell from a building being demolished at the corner of Flemington Rd and Villiers St, leading to a partial closure of Flemington Rd. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Psychological safety survey: frontline lower income-earning workers feel less safe
icare (Insurance & Care NSW) and R U OK?, a suicide prevention charity recently launched a world-first study into psychological safety in the workplace showing that frontline lower income-earning staff fell less safe and are permitted to take risks at work compared to higher income-earning workers.
The study, The Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey examined 1,176 Australian workers and found that only 23 percent of lower income-earning frontline employees felt their workplace was "psychologically safe" to take risk than 45 percent of workers on higher incomes.
"This is the first time a country has ever measured psychological safety in the workplace," said R U OK? Board member and workplace mental wellness expert, Graeme Cowan.
Read more: Results of world-first workplace psychological safety survey reveal frontline lower income-earning workers feel less safe, SafetyCulture OHS News.
Last chance: Workplace Aggression Experiences
The Monash University research on workplace aggression from patients, from patients' carers or relatives, from other persons external to the work setting, and from co-workers is open until July 11 - so you have a little longer for this one. If you are a nurse, midwife, or care worker in Victoria, please take this survey. If you know one, share the survey with them! Read more and access the survey here.
For more information, contact Dr Danny Hills via email or on 03 99055440.
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria News
WorkSafe videos - safety for health care workers
As announced in an earlier edition of SafetyNet, Victoria's regulator has launched a campaign to improve the safety of workers in the health sector. WorkSafe has now launched three short videos:
- Aged care: I care for your loved ones
- Nursing: I am here to help when you need it the most
- Paramedic: In an emergency I am here for you
Our health care workers need to be able to focus on assisting those in need. They should never feel that violence and aggression are 'part of the job' even when it's committed by someone whose judgement may be affected by their condition.There are preventative actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of violence and aggression. Check out the videos here.
WorkSafe Victoria is seeking comment on OHS in 2030
Victoria's OHS regulator has released a discussion booklet on its 2030 strategy, and is seeking public comment/feedback by July 17. The regulator says the paper raises many challenges that are confronting OHS and claims management like never before. To simplify feedback, there is a section in the back of the booklet that poses the most pressing matters on which WorkSafe wants to receive feedback from the community. It is also possible to provide feedback online.
Read more: Strategy 2030
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
The latest edition was posted on June 30 and has an editorial on nail gun safety: injuries from nail guns are not uncommon and can be very serious. Incidents often involve young or inexperienced workers being shot or shooting themselves or their workmates in the hands, arms, feet, legs or even the head. A main cause of these incidents is when the nail gun is set to 'bump-fire' rather than 'single shot' mode. The edition has a number of other items, including links to a company safety sheet on walking on flat roofs and to a NSW safety alert. Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period June 9 - June 23. During this period 56 incidents were reported to WorkSafe - these included many lacerations, falls and potentially serious 'near misses'.
Access the June 30 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
Victorian Taskforce to investigate non-compliant cladding
The Victorian Government this week announced it will establish an expert taskforce to examine the extent of non-compliant cladding on Victorian buildings following the Grenfell Tower fire in London. The Victorian Cladding Taskforce will be jointly chaired by former Premier and architect Ted Baillieu and former Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning John Thwaites.
The new taskforce will bolster the state's ability to detect and address non-compliant cladding, and ensure residents, owners' corporations and building managers are better informed about the issue. After the Lacrosse Building fire at the Docklands in 2014, Victoria embarked on Australia's first ever audit to identify buildings fitted with cladding. The original audit and subsequent investigations have now assessed more than 220 Victorian buildings. Although all have been declared safe to occupy, many do not comply with regulations.
The Taskforce will oversee the continuing audit to identify where cladding has been used inappropriately and ensure buildings are rectified more quickly. It will also make recommendations to the Government on how to improve compliance and enforcement of building regulations to better protect the health and safety of building occupants.
"This is a critical public safety issue – agencies, stakeholders, and all Victorians need to work together to ensure cladding complies with our strict regulations and buildings are safe," said Victorian Cladding Taskforce Co-Chair Ted Baillieu.
Read more: Victorian Government Media Release
Regulator announces construction industry safety crackdown
Last week SafeWork NSW announced a safety crackdown on the construction industry, following a recent spike in serious injuries to workers on Sydney building sites.
In just the previous week alone, three workers sustained injuries in falls from heights on construction sites across Sydney, including one fatality at Lidcombe. Between January and May 2017, at least 13 construction workers were killed or seriously injured in falls. Last week one of Victoria's fatalities was caused by a fall at a construction site.
In response to these alarming statistics, SafeWork NSW is planning a safety blitz on construction sites across Sydney. This will include the launch of a new Construction Safety Team. Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy, said Sydney's construction and infrastructure boom is no excuse for neglecting worker safety.
Read more: SafeWork NSW Media Release
NSW newsletter: Safe Work Wrap
The latest edition of the NSW regulator's newsletter has informative items on safe chemical handling "6 Ways to Stay Safe" and guidelines on working with trees.
SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at June 29, 94 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body - this is nine more deaths notified as at June 22, and eight more than at the same time last year. Of these, six were in Transport/postal and warehousing; and one each in construction, Arts/recreation, and Health care and social assistance. The workers killed were in the following industries:
- 38 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 20 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 16 in Construction;
- 4 in Manufacturing
- 4 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
- 1 in Health care and social assistance
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 that for January 2017, during which there were 22 work-related notifiable fatalities - this compares to eight notified in December. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Proposed national road rules affect heavy vehicle sector
The National Transport Commission is calling for submissions (by 11 August) on proposed amendments [pdf] to the Australian Road Rules and an accompanying consultation paper [pdf].
Draft changes directly affecting the heavy vehicle industry include: directly referencing the upcoming new edition of the Load Restraint Guide and load restraint performance standards so that non-compliance will be an offence; and allowing large vehicles to drive over roundabouts' central traffic islands to the right of the centre if they are physically incapable of staying to the left and can do so safely.
The changes also outline work-related tasks, like fatigue and safety management, that drivers can use visual display units and mobile phones for in vehicles.
To make a submissions go to this page. Source: OHSAlert
Individual convicted fined for offences relating to inspectors
On 24 June 2015, an incident was reported to WorkSafe that a person was seen running from a building with their clothes on fire at a car workshop in Delacombe. That afternoon two Inspectors and one Investigator attended the workshop to commence inquiries into the incident. During their visit, John Arthur Bradley gave a wrong name to an Inspector, hindered an Inspector by refusing to answer relevant questions, acted in an intimidating and threatening manner by aggressively striking metal with a hammer, saying he hated them and making threats of violence, pushed an Inspector, and ordered the Inspectors to get out of the workshop. The man was charged with offences under s125 and s119 of the OHS Act 2004 - relating to assault, intimidation and hindrance/obstruction an Inspector and providing a false name to an Inspector. He pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $1,000.00 plus $3,038 costs.
Staircase business convicted and fined $22k
A business manufacturing staircases from a factory at Moorabbin, Leeming Furniture Pty Ltd, had been issued numerous Improvement Notices between 1 April 2015 and July 2016. On 25 August 2016, a WorkSafe Inspector noted a number of contraventions of the Act, namely
- failure to fit a non-conductive/non-flammable cover to the electrical switchboard which exposed workers at the workplace to the risk of injury by electrical shock;
- failure to fix a 3 phase high speed rotating fan which was approximately 800 mm high, inadequately guarded and situated in the rear doorway at a low level protruding into aisles, corridors or other such walking areas to a wall above head height;
- failure to store Class 3 flammable liquids and paints in specifically designed storage cabinets with provision for spill containment
- failure to ensure that persons present in the workplace did not smoke cigarettes in close proximity to those dangerous goods
- failure to remove excess debris, equipment and materials from walkways and work areas and /or implement a system to ensure regular housekeeping tasks were undertaken exposing workers to a risk posed by slips, trips, falls or coming into contact with hazardous objects in the workplace.
The company pleaded guilty to two charges under s26(1) and was with conviction fined $22,500 plus $4,027 costs.
Hops company fined $20k after worker's arm amputated
Ellerslie Hop Estate Pty Ltd a company that produces and processes hops has been fined - but not convicted - over an incident in which a woman's arm was amputated. On 16 March 2016 an employee - a farm hand - was sweeping floors and ensuring hop flowers and waste product was removed from the floor area around the machinery.She was required to work in close proximity to various pieces of plant such as a hop picking machine with an energised rotating shaft on a waste disposal augur. This created a risk of entanglement. The company failed to inform and instruct its workers that the rotating shaft was a hazard or prohibit them from getting too close during the cleaning process. The worker was cleaning up around the machine when her left arm became entangled within the rotating shaft resulting in it being amputated at the shoulder. Ellerslie Hop Estate pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000 plus $3,519 in costs. An appeal is being considered by the prosecution in this matter.
Sovereign Hill fined after quad bike incident
Sovereign Hill Museums Association, a large organisation that operates a museum based on a re-created 1850's gold mining town, including a Comfort Inn and other accommodation, was last week fined after a labour hire employee was injured in a quad bike incident. The young worker was required to collect and deliver linen and toiletries at the workplace driving a quad bike towing a homemade trailer at low speeds on gravel roads. There was a risk of a quad bike rollover causing death or serious injury. The company failed to provide information regarding the hazards of quad bikes, instruction and training in safe operating procedures, and information instruction and training including requiring operators of the quad bike to wear helmets. On 9 February 2016 the young worker was driving the quad bike when it rolled. The rollover caused in a broken right humerus, gravel rash and scratching down the right side of his body. Sovereign Hill Museums Association pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $25,000 plus $5,221 in costs.
For updates go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
USA: Use of contractors despite allegations of migrant labor abuses
Each year, seed-corn companies like Monsanto bring thousands of laborers into the US to produce hybrid corn seeds, most of which are genetically modified. Companies then sell these high-yield hybrid seeds to farmers worldwide, in an $11-billion GMO corn industry. The farmers grow the seeds into corn for sale as food, ethanol, livestock feed and components of a range of industrial products, from fireworks to ceiling tiles.
In a two-year investigation of GMO seed-corn production, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found repeated allegations of labor violations over the past decade against Monsanto, its counterpart DuPont Pioneer, other seed companies and the companies' contractors.
Read more: Monsanto, seed-corn companies continue use of contractors despite allegations of migrant labor abuses, Report by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting