SafetyNet 411

SafetyNet 411

SafetyNet 411, July 19, 2017

We're back! There's been a lot going on in the past two weeks - and several important events are coming up.

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Union News

July 31: What has changed in the 2017 OHS Regulations? Part II
Since Victoria's new OHS Regulations came into effect June 18, we gave you a little taste of what these changes mean for you, as HSRs and OHS Officers, with Part I of our Webinar series. 

Join us at 7pm on July 31 for Part II of "What has changed in the 2017 OHS Regulations?". 

Part II will cover what has changed, and what hasn't, to Chapter 4 of the new OHS Regulations: Hazardous Substances and Materials. Specifically, we will be looking at changes to asbestos, lead, and carcinogenic substances- areas that are more relevant to your workplace than you think! Co-hosted once again by Roxanne Chaitowitz and Renata Musolino, expect "expert" commentary and live answers to any questions you may have regarding this latest installment of Victoria's OHS Regulations.
Register your attendance here. And if you missed Part I, and would like to check it out, click here.

Ask Renata
Hello Renata. I would like to ask what is the maximum weight women can lift when working in a warehouse.

There is no set weight limit either for men or for women. This is because lifting 10kg could be safe and less of a manual handling hazard than lifting 5kg – it all depends on a number of other factors, such a body position, number of times the task is done, the nature of the load and so on. Also, our legislation, by law and unless absolutely necessary, does not discriminate between male and female workers.

Both under the general duty of care (s21) and under the Regulations, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, identify and then eliminate or minimise the risks of hazardous manual handling. Hazardous manual handling means work requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain -

  1. a thing if the work involves one or more of the following -
    1. repetitive or sustained application of force;
    2. sustained awkward posture;
    3. repetitive movement;
    4. application of high force involving a single or repetitive use of force that it would be reasonable to expect that a person in the workforce may have difficulty undertaking;
    5. exposure to sustained vibration;
  2. live persons or animals;
  3. unstable or unbalanced loads or loads which are difficult to grasp or hold.

Soooo.... in other words, while the weight of a 'thing' is important, there are many other factors which need to be taken into account. Check Part 3.1 (Hazardous Manual Handling) of the 2017 Regulations to see what the employer must do.

Strangely, Renata received several similar queries this week which involved hazardous manual handling. In one a worker was required to push around a food trolley which weighs about 150kg - and was ignored when she raised her concerns. In another case, a worker had to lift equipment weighing 18.5kg in and out of a car many times a day. When she complained about back soreness, her boss told her it was below the maximum weight and therefore 'perfectly legal'!  'Body stressing' accounted for 38 per cent of (successful) workers compensation claims in Victoria in 2015 - 2016, the biggest cause of injury. This illustrates that many employers are still not complying with the manual handling regulations, which first came into effect in 1989!

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.

Silicosis hits young tradespeople
In the last edition of SafetyNet we reported on the re-emergence of relatively 'forgotten' industrial diseases, such as silicosis (caused by exposure to silica) and black lung disease. This week Cameron Harper, a 27 year old former stonemason from Melbourne tells he was diagnosed with the disease just over a year ago. The disease is caused by exposure to crystalline silica dust. It is progressive, irreversible and can cause death. The tragedy is that it is avoidable: employers who comply with their legal duties can protect workers from exposure by implementing engineering controls and appropriated PPE. Cameron was exposed when he worked with stone benchtops.
Read more: The kitchen trend killing our tradies.; More information on Silica.

Backpackers in Australia: shocking and shameful exploitation
Australia is a popular destination for young travellers from around the world on 417 visas, which allow people aged between 18 and 31 from 19 eligible nations to work and holiday in Australia each year. Many then participate in the 88-day farm work scheme in order to secure a second year in Australia on their 417 visa. While some have no issues, unfortunately others find themselves financially exploited, abused or sexually harassed, and working in unsafe/unhealthy workplaces. Too often it is as if they are 'invisible' to regulators. While some unions, such as the NUW, have worked to help them, too many are afraid to join and speak up. Between a quarter and a third of the agricultural workforce in Australia is provided by backpacker labour.

The ABC's Australian Story has over the past two weeks featured British woman Rosie Ayliffe whose daughter Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 20, was murdered last August while doing farm work. She is now campaigning for reform of what she says is a flawed visa scheme that puts young lives at risk.

UnionsNSW is seeking stronger entry rights to curb exploitation of visa workers, specifically the reinstatement of powers to inspect non-members' time and wages records. This comes after its analysis of 200 job advertisements aimed at Chinese, Korean and Spanish-speakers showed that almost four out of every five pay less than the award.  Its report, Lighting up the black market: Enforcing minimum wages [pdf] provides alarming insight into the prevalence of migrant exploitation and wage theft.
Read more: Backpackers reveal stories.. ABC News online; Watch the Australian Story Long Way from Home Part 1 and Part 2  UnionsNSW media release 

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Asbestos News
ASEA 2017 Summit - November 26 - 28
A reminder that 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).

UN treaty 'discredited' as asbestos lobby claims victory
A United Nations (UN) treaty on the control of toxic exports has been 'utterly discredited', unions have said. The charge came after a bid to add chrysotile asbestos – the only form of the cancer-causing fibre still traded – to the Rotterdam Convention's list of the most hazardous substances was blocked for a sixth time.

On 3 May 2017, at a UN-organised conference in Geneva, out of the 156 countries party to the convention, just seven with commercial interests in continued asbestos use – Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Syria and Zimbabwe – vetoed chrysotile's addition to the treaty's 'prior informed consent' list, a measure that would require exports to be accompanied by a health warning. It requires a unanimous decision of government representatives for a substance to be listed. Addition of chrysotile to the list cannot now be considered until the next conference, in two years' time. This outcome caused anger and exasperation in the contingent of global unions, campaigners and asbestos disease sufferers who were in Geneva to put the case for long overdue action that would both save lives and that met all the UN's criteria for listing.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said a 'front organisation' for the global asbestos industry, the International Chrysotile Association (ICA), has "managed to get the recommendation for listing blocked for over a decade. The ICA is notorious for spreading false and misleading information to keep the chrysotile trade afloat."
Read more, including statements from the international union bodies, on Work Cancer

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

Project 2483 - Remembering the Melbourne Tailoress' strike
Project 2483 is an art installation that will commemorate the Melbourne tailoresses strike of 1882. It is supported by the TCFUA and VTHC. The 1882 strike by seamstresses protested the proposal by textile employers to reduce wages to below the poverty level and is recorded as the first by women workers in Australia. It led to the formation of the Tailoresses Association of Melbourne, Australia's first female trade union at a meeting held in Trades Hall on 15 December 1882.

Artist Justine Fletcher is inviting current female union members to contribute a small piece of fabric which will be integrated into one of 2483 resin pendants, each representing one of the women who signed the 1883 Victorian Tailoresses Membership book. The pendants will form part of a public installation displayed at Trades Hall. The fabric piece can be meaningful or simply scrap and should be no larger than a 50c coin.  Along with the fabric, participants should provide their name, union, email/postal address and a very short description of the fabric. The fabric and information should be dropped off at the Hall (Corner Victoria and Lygon Streets, Carlton South), by the end of July.
More information is available on the Project 2483 Facebook page

International Union News
UK: Workers at risk from Tube nano dusts

The concerns of Tube union RMT about dangerous levels of airborne dust in the London Underground system have been confirmed by the company's own measurements. Peaks measured by Transport for London (TfL) and released to The Sunday Times in response to an FOI request found that dust levels on the Central line exceeded two million particles for every litre of air. Professor Stephen Holgate of the British Lung Foundation told the paper: "The particles in underground railways are rich in iron and other metals such as copper, chromium, manganese and zinc. Metal particles increase our risk of asthma, lung and cardiovascular disease and possibly dementia." RMT general secretary Mick Cash commented: "RMT has been raising issues of major concern over the contents of air for a long time." He said the company had 'fobbed off' the union. "The fact that millions of passengers and thousands of staff on a daily basis are exposed to poor air quality and with raised iron levels and who knows what else is a scandal. We demand with immediate effect that a high level face-to-face meeting with RMT and the other unions is called and that RMT's concerns for its thousands of members breathing in this polluted air are acted on." Calling on the London mayor to "act now to protect his staff and Tube passengers", he added: "RMT also recognises that emergency measures may have to be taken with immediate effect to protect passenger and staff health and safety." Read more: RMT news release. Sunday Times. Source: Risks 808

UK: Women are invisible to the safety watchdog
An official failure to acknowledge the serious risks faced by women at work means there is little pressure for preventive action, a new report has warned. Women's work? says while many jobs dominated by women can be more physically and emotionally arduous than traditionally male jobs, a serious emphasis on addressing these risks is missing because of the relatively low occupational fatality rate in women, with 7 killed at work last year compared to 137 men. The report in Hazards magazine notes these headline Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics do not tell the whole story, with overall injury rates far closer for males and females – but these figures are "relegated to a background excel file". It warns that other evidence of the true extent of the problem has been buried by the safety enforcer. "HSE's 2016 statistics annual report says nothing on the gender breakdown of either occupational injuries or diseases. In fact, neither 'gender' nor 'women' are mentioned at all," the report notes. It adds: "HSE's main publications, including its annual statistic report and its headline occupational disease figures have no gender breakdown. Look behind the HSE's chosen message and a more concerning picture of the risks faced by women begins to emerge. For stress, depression and anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders, the two most prevalent work-related conditions making up about 80 per cent of the total, the 2015/16 figures show the occupational rates for women are higher." It concludes: "If the occupational risks to women go unrecognised, then prevention will be another casualty." The report recommends that to ensure health and safety concerns of women workers are taken serious, union safety reps use the TUC gender checklist. The resource is included in the union body's new guide to 'Gender in occupational health and safety.'
Read more: Women's work? Ignore occupational risks to women and you hurt us all, Hazards, number 138, 2017. Gender in occupational health and safety [pdf], TUC guide including safety reps' action checklist, 2017. Source: Risks 808

Bangladesh: Deadly factory blast shows need to expand Accord
The death of at least 13 garment workers in a boiler explosion at the Multifabs Limited factory in Bangladesh on 3 July demonstrates that the current safety accord must be extended to include boiler safety, unions and labour rights campaigners have said. UNI deputy general secretary Christy Hoffman said: "The Bangladesh Accord has made significant progress in making work safer in this sector, but this explosion shows the need to expand the agreement's scope to include boiler safety." The non-union factory was covered by the Accord, but its current scope does not cover boiler inspections, which are monitored instead by the Bangladesh government. In light of the explosion, UNI, with IndustriALL, the Clean Clothes Campaign and other labour rights campaigns are demanding that it be expanded to include boiler safety. Since the Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013, the Accord has completed fire and building safety inspections at 1,800 garment factories supplying more than 200 signatory brands. Accord engineers have identified over 118,000 fire, electrical and structural hazards at these factories. To date, 79 per cent of workplace dangers discovered in the Accord's original round of inspections have been remediated.
Read more: Dhaka Tribune. UNI news release. IndustriALL news release. Clean Clothes Campaign. Source: Risks 807

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Work and work stress affects diet
In two recent studies, Chinese researchers analysed the behaviour of employees to find out what compelled them to suddenly indulge in unhealthy food.

In the first study, 125 employees from five Chinese telecommunications companies kept a diary for three weeks, filling it in four times a day. They also completed a survey every night before going to bed. The results showed that when workers experienced higher levels of job demands in the morning, they ate more types of unhealthy food and fewer types of healthy food in the evening. However, if they managed a good night's sleep then this 'buffered' the effect of morning job demands on evening unhealthy food consumption.

In the second study, 110 call centre employees were asked to fill out a diary four times a day over a month detailing their eating patterns. This study demonstrated a positive association between morning customer mistreatment and evening overeating behaviors, as well as the buffering effect of sleep quality. It also showed that sleep provided a buffer.
Read more: Liu Y, et al Eating Your Feelings? Testing a Model of Employees' Work-Related Stressors, Sleep Quality, and Unhealthy Eating. [abstract] J Appl Psychol. 2017 Apr 10. doi: 10.1037/apl0000209. [Epub ahead of print]. How your job makes you eat your feelings, The Age

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OHS Regulator News

WorkSafe Victoria News
Bullying Prevention Workshop Ballarat
Bullying can significantly impact a workplace. WorkSafe Victoria is running a workshop in Ballarat to gain practical information and resources on preventing workplace bullying.

When: Thursday, 27 July 2017; 9.00am to 12.30pm (light lunch will be included)
Where: Ballarat Golf Club, 1800 Sturt St, Ballarat VIC 3355
Please RSVP by Friday, 25 July 2017. Register here.

Free WorkSafe small business seminars
As part of the Small Business Festival Victoria, WorkSafe has organised a number of free WorkSafe seminars in Geelong, Warrnambool, Shepparton, Traralgon and Ballarat over the month of August. Experts will discuss Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws, and employer obligations under the Workplace Injury, Rehabilitation and Compensation law to help injured workers return to work. Employers are invited to share their experience with others and get advice from WorkSafe experts on OHS and Return to Work problems or concerns.  Check out the dates and register here.

Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
The latest edition was posted on July 14 with news that WorkSafe would be focusing on scaffolding safety over the next month. During this time inspectors will be visiting sites to ensure employers (and self-employed people) are managing the hazards and risks associated with use of scaffolds. In the editorial, Tony Cockerell, WorkSafe's Senior Construction Advisor, writes about managing the risks with the use of modular scaffolds on construction sites.

Other items in this edition include reports on serious incidents, and a link to a CFMEU Safety Alert. Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period June 26 - July 6, with 62 incidents reported to WorkSafe - these included the death of the worker who fell from the second level of a home being constructed in Kalkallo, and many lacerations, falls and potentially serious 'near misses'.
Access the July 14 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page. 

SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at June 29, 98 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body (this is four more than previously reported - though the date is the same).  The workers killed were in the following industries:

  • 40 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
  • 20 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
  • 17 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
  • 2 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 2017, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage).

The latest monthly fatality report published is that for March 2017, during which there were 22 work-related notifiable fatalities (there were 22 reported in January and 20 in February). Of these, 16 were workers, and and six were 'bystanders' - 15 male workers, five male bystanders, one female worker and one female bystander.
To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.

National Farm Safety Week
This week is national Farm Safety Week - and the official theme is "creating a resilient, safe and healthy ag community".

Safe Work Australia has, however, chosen to focus on quad bikes, noting that nearly two-thirds of the country's 115 quad bike fatalities since 2011 occurred on farms. There have already been nine quad bike fatalities this year already: over half involved rollovers, and two were children (aged 16 and under). In 2016 there were a total of ten, and there are fears that this year may see more fatalities than the 'horror' 2105 tally of 21.  Safe Work Australia stats show that in 2015-16 the agriculture industry made up 2.3 per cent of the workforce, but accounted for 23 per cent of worker fatalities. Between 2005-15, an average of 41 workers lost their lives in the agriculture industry each year, and 3,015 serious claims were made.

WorkSafe Victoria, also in a media release, has urged farmers to make safety a critical part of their daily routine after a shocking six months in which eight people have died in workplace incidents on farms across the state. "The eight fatalities already equal the total number of farmers and workers killed on farms in Victoria last year. The grim toll also makes up more than half of the 15 workplace deaths that have occurred in Victoria so far in 2017."  WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the toll was horrific: "Agriculture is a high-risk industry but that should never mean fatalities and injuries are accepted as part of the job. However, it makes it essential that that the risks involved in every task must be planned for and the work carried out accordingly."
Read more: National Farm Safety Week; Safe Work Media Releases: This year's quad bike fatalities nearing total for 2016 and Farming: a way of life, let's keep it that way  WorkSafe Media Release: Farmers urged to put safety first as fatalities soar.

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Victorian prosecutions
Retaining wall construction company fined for lack of controls

In January and February of last year, Pro Wall Retaining Walls & Excavations Pty Ltd, a company that builds retaining walls and undertakes excavation work on construction sites, was engaged as a subcontractor to construct a retaining wall at a a development in Pakenham. As part of the construction of the retaining walls there were about 80 holes drilled into the earth,(approximately 600 millimetres in diameter and ranging between 2.5 and 4 metres deep) There was a risk of people falling more than two metres into the holes and being seriously injured. Control measures included star pickets and para-webbing around the holes or covering the holes with covers that could be secured attached and would prevent a person falling into a hole. The company pleaded guilty to one charge and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $35,000 and costs of $3,750.

Second employer prosecuted in amputation case
SPTC Services, a labour hire company, provided Ellerslie Hop Estate Pty Ltd, a hops producing and processing company, with labour services. On 16 March 2016, an SPTC Services employee was sweeping floors and ensuring hop flowers and waist product was removed from the floor area around the machinery when she got close to a hop picking machine with a rotating shaft on the waste disposal auger. This machine created a risk of entanglement or severing.

WorkSafe found SPTC had failed to provide and maintain systems of work that were safe and without risks to health: SPTC had failed to attended the workplace, including at the shed containing the plant, regularly to observe the work related activities that employees performed there and properly undertake risk assessments. The company also failed to liaise with Ellerslie Hop Estate regarding the risks from the work related activities performed, including in the shed containing the plant, and the means to control the risks, what information was provided to employees that the energised danger area was a hazard or prohibit employees (by instruction) from placing any part of their body near the energised danger area during cleaning or maintenance. On 16 March 2016, the worker was cleaning up around the Bruff machine when her left arm became entangled within the rotating shaft, resulting in her arm being amputated at the shoulder. SPTC Services pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $20,000 plus $4,116 costs.
(note prosecution of Ellerslie Hop Estate Pty Ltd was reported in SafetyNet 410)

For updates go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

Wales: Company director jailed for manslaughter
A golf company director has been jailed over the manslaughter of a man with learning difficulties who drowned as he dived for lost balls in a cold, murky course lake at Peterstone Lakes Golf Club, near Newport, Wales. 

Cardiff crown court was told Dale Pike, of Boss Golf Balls, had considered the cost of hiring professional dive operators but decided on the much cheaper option of employing 29-year-old Gareth Pugh, who had no diving qualifications and whom he paid between £20 and £40 per day. Gareth Pugh died on 11 February last year while collecting balls. Iwan Jenkins, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said Pike "stood by and watched" as Mr Pugh entered the water "knowing that safety regulations were being breached. His deceit and callousness resulted in Gareth losing his life." Pike, 25, was jailed for 32 months after pleading guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence.
Read more: The Guardian. CPS News release.

UK: Property firm boss jailed after two workers die in balcony fall
The boss of an upmarket property firm has been jailed for 14 months and his company fined after the deaths of two employees when they plunged from the balcony of a multi-million pound central London flat. Polish workers Tomasz Procko, 22, and Karol Symanski, 29, died in an "entirely foreseeable and preventable" incident on 21 November 2014, while hoisting a sofa up from the pavement through a first floor balcony a luxury apartment. The workers leaned against a 130-year old Victorian cast iron 'balustrade' as they pulled the sofa up: the railing gave way and two of the men fell to their deaths A third was only saved by other workers as he started to fall. Delivering the "big and cumbersome" sofa safely required a lift which would cost £848. But Martin Gutaj, the director of Martinisation (London) Limited refused, saying they "do not have time for all that". At an earlier hearing, the jury found the company guilty of criminal health and safety breaches and two charges of corporate manslaughter, while Gutaj, 44, was convicted of two criminal health and safety offences. Sentencing Gutaj to 14 months imprisonment for each death - to run concurrently - Judge Gerald Gordon said: "Those who are wilfully blind to the risks despite warnings – as you were – have got to expect to go immediately to prison." Gutaj was also disqualified from being a company director for four years. His company was fined £1.2 million (A$2m) for each death and £650,000 (A$1.08m) for criminal safety offences.
Read more: Metropolitan Police news release. Evening Standard. Source: Risks 808

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International News

Samsung's own records show extent of toxic workplaces
Labour activists and Samsung Electronics victims were buoyed last week by the decisions of two long running court cases that validated that workers' health was seriously compromised by the toxic work environment they had been exposed to. The family of Lee Eun-joo is now able to claim compensation for her death while another claimant Kim, will now receive damage payments for contracting chronic myelogenous leukemia. These cases have also highlighted that Samsung Electronics' own records confirm the unhealthy nature of its workplaces. A new documentary of workers' stories has been released. Stories from the Cleanroom uses the stories and experiences of Samsung workers to detail the hazardous conditions that they were forced to work in at Samsung Electronics.
Source: Australian Asia Worker Links Mini news




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