SafetyNet 412, July 26, 2017
Are you ready to participate over the coming week? We have our Network catch up tomorrow night, and part 2 of our new Regs webinar next week (see below).
To keep up to date and 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.
Hi Renata I have a question regarding first aid. We currently have first aid boxes throughout our factory and we also have trained first aiders. My question is are we required by law to have a first aid room or a sick bay room for staff to rest if unwell or when waiting for further first aid assistance?
There are no mandated requirements for first aid in the Act or regulations in Victoria. Under s21 of the Act, the employer has a general duty of care to provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, facilities for the welfare of employees – it's very vague, covers all sorts of things and is not specific at all. However, the First Aid Compliance Code, sets out what employers need to do to comply. The Code provides two options to employers: the 'prescribed approach' or the 'risk-assessment approach'. The second one requires that employers, in consultation with HSRs and workers, undertake an assessment of the needs of the workplace, and determine what the first aid facilities then need to be.
In both the advice on first aid rooms is similar:
Whether a first aid room is needed will depend on the type of workplace. The Code states that compliance is achieved by providing a first aid room in:
- low-risk workplaces with more than 200 employees
- higher-risk workplaces with more than 100 employees
Check out this FAQ on First Aid for more information.
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.
Amcor sues consultant over paper mill site asbestos fiasco
There is a messy legal battle over a large site involving Amcor, Glenvill Homes and development partner Alpha Partners, and environmental consultant Ramsey & Associates which is threatening one of Melbourne's largest 'infill' developments on the banks of the Yarra. The 16.5ha site, beside the banks of the river in Alphington, was before 2012 the site of the Amcor paper mill. It was bought by Glenvill and Alpha in 2013 for $120 million to transform it into Melbourne's first Tesla-powered housing estate, estimated at $2 billion.
Glenvill launched legal action against Amcor over an alleged $8.5 million in outstanding payments for remediation of asbestos-contaminated soil, and has asked that it be responsible for all further remediation costs, which could be as much as $25 million. In turn, Amcor is suing its original environmental consultant claiming that Ramsay made negligent representations, breached its duty of care and breached contractual arrangements.
This fiasco illustrates the huge issues that our 'legacy' of asbestos use is continuing to cause us. After long-running union campaigns, Australia eventually banned the import and use of asbestos in 2003 - decades after there was no doubt that the fibre is deadly. Now we face example after example where members of the public and workers continue to be potentially exposed. In the meantime, the global asbestos industry is still pushing the line that chrysotile asbestos is 'safe'... continuing to manufacture asbestos-containing materials which are legally sold in many countries - and illegally imported into Australia.
Sources: The Australian and Alphington must wait for 'Tesla town' as dispute over asbestos clean-up escalates The Age
Inquiry into non-conforming building products Public Hearings, Melbourne
After representations from the ACTU, the Senate Committee inquiring into Non-conforming building products extended its examination to specifically look into imported products containing asbestos. Written submissions were made, as well as submissions in person to the public hearings. At the hearing in Melbourne on July 14, the ETU, the AMWU, Asbestoswise and GARDS appeared.
Read more: Transcripts of all presentations on July 14; Transcript of Asbestoswise and GARDS presentations; Senate standing committee on Non-conforming building products homepage.
Queensland: Department convicted and fined for exposing workers to asbestos
For four months in 2012 the Queensland Department of Main Roads exposed six workers to asbestos when the RoadTek employees worked on a bridge site at Ripley before it was discovered the bridge, built more than 20 years ago, was riddled with asbestos and the fibres were already spread across the site. The department was convicted at trial in June of failing to comply with health and safety duties and fined $175,000 in Ipswich Magistrates Court this week. However, it appears no conviction was recorded. The department had admitted to exposing the workers to asbestos but did not admit there was a risk the workers would be exposed to serious illness or death - and yet these workers were definitely placed at risk as there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. One of the workers exposed said he had not received any support, and had not had either his car nor his home cleaned. The reality is that the six workers will spend the rest of their lives in fear of contracting mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.
Read more: 'Living in fear': Workers' anger over asbestos safety breach, The Queensland Times
ASEA 2017 News:
Summit - November 26 - 28, 2017
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).
ASEA in Asia
The agency has been working closely with APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad to strengthen ties with South East Asian nations in banning the production and use of asbestos. ASEA CEO Peter Tighe and Director Nick Miller were in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam recently, helping to deliver workshops and seminars on the dangers of asbestos and the need to introduce national bans on asbestos in those countries.
During a 5-day training initiative in Siem Reap, representatives of 13 Cambodian Ministries as well as trade unions built capacity regarding the asbestos hazard. In addition to Peter Tighe and Nick Miller, other speakers were Canadian expert Professor Yv Bonnier-Viger, Dr. Rokho Kim (WHO), Mr. Jungho Choi (ILO), and Phillip Hazelton (APHEDA). The initiative was organised by Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) in collaboration with multiple partners including the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. As a result of these meetings, work will begin on a Cambodian Asbestos Profile as the first step towards a national ban. This was a direct outcome of the engagement with the Cambodian government during the 2016 International conference in Adelaide. Read more: Press Release [pdf] Sources: IBAS, ASEA
Vietnam: July 19 and 20, 2017, Tackling asbestos
Meetings in Hanoi between international and local asbestos experts and government officials, representatives of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, civil society campaigners from the Vietnam Ban Asbestos Network and other groups considered the multifaceted nature of the asbestos challenges facing the country including the impact of hazardous exposures on human health, the availability of safer materials, and the problems regarding demolition and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. Technical and medical information presented by Canadian, Australian and Japanese speakers was warmly received. Source: IBAS
Female paramedics celebrate 30 years with Ambulance Victoria
Just 30 years ago, women were not allowed to be paramedics because under the laws of the time, women were not allowed to lift loads heavier than 16kgs at work. Then the laws changed - there are no longer maximum weights, as manual handling injuries are caused by a number of factors, weights being just one. With the right equipment, lifting a heavier load can be less of a risk than lifting a light load in some circumstances. As with all OHS hazards, the risk must be eliminated/minimised at source - banning half the population from a particular job doesn't cut it. This week, just 30 years after the first woman started as a paramedic, they make up 47 per cent of Ambulance Victoria's staff.
Read more: Female paramedics celebrate 30 years on the job for Ambulance Victoria The Age
New study on the high incidence of suicide in working men
The recipient of a fellowship from the Andrews Labor Government's medical research strategy is set to tackle the high incidence of suicide in working men.
Initial studies show stressful working conditions are a major risk factor for mental health problems and suicide among men, and the research aims to find the reasons and link workplaces into health services which can help.
Dr Allison Milner has received a four-year fellowship to research the issue and develop solutions – one of three worth up to $800,000 each – granted under the Labor Government's $20 million plan to ensure Victoria stays a world leader in health and medical research that has the power to change lives.
Read more: Victorian government media release
EU: union strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate workplace harassment and violence against women
A report produced as part of the 'Safe at Home, Safe at Work' Project of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) draws together evidence collected from interviews carried out as part of 11 detailed country case studies of European-level developments on gender-based violence and harassment at work, including domestic violence at work.
Gender-based violence and harassment is a form of discrimination that causes significant harm to women, whether it take place in the workplace, in public places, on public transport, in schools and colleges, or in the family. The report shows how trade unions and/or social partners have approached the issue in negotiations, collective bargaining, union awareness-raising, training and campaigns, and partnerships with women's organisations working to end gender-based violence.
The report points to good practices in the workplace and shows the added value of trade unions actions, innovations and negotiations to support victims and create workplaces free from violence and harassment. Read the report in 5 languages (EN, FR, BG, DE and ES) and the different country reports.
Britain: TUC concern at 'Downing Street power grab'
The UK government's draft plan to repeal European Union laws is a 'power grab' that could put workers' rights in jeopardy, the peak union council has warned. Commenting on the publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which brings EU laws - including workers' rights and the major safety regulations - into UK law, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This is a Downing Street power grab. The PM promised to protect all workers' rights after Brexit. But there is nothing in this Bill to stop politicians shredding or watering down our rights in the future." She added: "Nobody voted for Brexit to make life harder for working people. That's why any deal with the EU must ensure that workers' rights in Britain don't fall behind the rest of Europe." On proposals for the UK to be no longer subject to European Court of Justice rulings from the day the UK leaves the EU, the TUC leader said: "An early commitment to walk away from the ECJ will tie our hands in Brexit negotiations. The government should leave all options on the table, instead of creating yet more inflexible red lines." The repeal bill will give the government powers to repeal and amend existing rules – powers which will apply to employment, safety and equality laws. The TUC says there is a risk the government could seek to scrap or water down key workers' rights. It argues the Bill should include non-regression clauses guaranteeing that the new powers cannot be used to repeal or dilute legal protections.
3D printing: a new industrial revolution
As 3D printing is a relatively new industry, there is not very much known about the possible impact on safety and health at work. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has published an expert review which provides a brief introduction to 3D printing and examines the risks involved in it, which include exposure to hazardous substances, the proliferation of non-conforming building products and poor worker well-being.
The review provides users with a better understanding of the issues and of the changes needed to ensure risks are identified and minimised - for example, it recommends workplace ventilation for some materials used in 3D printing, but says it should be mandatory for others.
Read more: 3D Printing review publication. More on printers and photocopiers.
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria News
Education program targets workplace bullies
WorkSafe has announced it will target workplace bullies with a three-year program to educate employers about preventing abusive behaviours.
The regulator will conduct a series of workshops across Victoria over the next three years to give business owners information about how to recognise, prevent and manage workplace bullying, and how to better help employees return to work after suffering mental health injuries associated with bullying behaviour.
The workshops will also be accompanied by a program of targeted inspections in the local area, with WorkSafe focusing on industries which have a higher number of mental injury claims lodged due to workplace bullying. During these visits, inspectors will offer practical advice to employers on how to put appropriate systems in place to prevent and deal with bullying behaviour.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said allowing bullying behaviour to occur was a serious breach of workplace health and safety laws and employers risked prosecution.
In the most recent case, a Geelong builder was last year convicted and fined $12,500 after an 18-year-old apprentice was subjected to verbal, physical and psychological bullying and harassment at work. It has been of extreme concern to unions that to date there have been few prosecutions for bullying, with many workplace investigations leading nowhere.
Read more: WorkSafe Victoria Media Release. Bullying and Violence in the Workplace.
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.
SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at July 20, 103 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body. The workers killed were in the following industries:
- 42 in the Transport, postal and warehouse sector;
- 21 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
- 18 in Construction;
- 4 in Manufacturing
- 5 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 - note the total in the introductory paragraph is incorrect).
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.
Company fined $150,000 after worker's hand amputated
SKM Services Pty Ltd the Coolaroo waste recycling operator which last week was the scene of a huge fire emitting toxic fumes, has been convicted and ordered to pay almost $200,000 in fines and costs over an incident in 2014 where a worker lost his hand.
The workplace had two items of plant (the aluminum baler and the steel can baler) used to crush and compact metal waste into a cube. Workers were tasked with strapping the bales outside of the aluminum baler, putting them at risk of serious crushing or shearing injuries by working close to the exit point of the balers. On 24 October 2014, a worker was removing a bale of cans from the exit point when his right hand was severed, and subsequently found in the baler chamber.
The company was charged with failing to provide plant that was safe and without risks to health with regard to the balers. It was reasonably practicable to reduce the risk to health and safety by using engineering controls (guarding) on the discharge point to prevent access to the danger area. Charge 1 related to the aluminium baler, charge 2 the steel can baler and charge 3 was for failing to provide safe systems of work associated with the task of external strapping of bales at the workplace.
SKM contested the charges and told the Broadmeadows Magistrates Court that it took all reasonably practicable steps to ensure worker safety by ensuring the manufacturer of the baling machines had appropriate assurance certificates and assessments before procuring the machines. But Magistrate Megan Aumair found the employer guilty, saying it wasn't entitled to rely solely on information from suppliers for safety, and could have taken further steps to reduce risks to its workers. She also found it didn't have a safe system for workers to secure metal blocks after they were ejected from the balers.
SKM was found guilty in June 2017, and on 19 was convicted on all charges and fined $75,00 for charge 1, $25,000 for charge 2, $50,000 for charge 3 and ordered to pay $45,000 in costs.
For updates go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
NSW: $450,000 Enforceable Undertaking
Sydney-based printing company, Offset Alpine Printing Pty Ltd, has committed $450,000 to various work health and safety undertakings after a worker was hit by a forklift. The injured worker was standing near his truck when he was struck by a forklift as the forklift driver attempted to load pallets onto the tray of the truck.
As a result of the incident, Offset Alpine Printing will spend $78,025 completing a traffic management plan at both its despatch dock at Lidcombe and its warehouse at Warwick Farm; over $209,000 to establish a uniform framework of policies to reduce incidents in key risk areas and $165,000 to a six-month forklift safety awareness campaign, which will include videos, public relations, posters, brochures, blog posts, infographics and social media updates.
Read more: SafeWork Wrap
Comcare: two self-insurers face fines of up to $12million
Two Department of Defence contractors face WHS fines of up to $6 million each, after a vehicle rolled and struck a worker. Comcare announced last week that Linfox Australia Pty Ltd and Thales Australia Ltd had been charged with breaching the Commonwealth's mirror WHS Act following the vehicle incident. Each employer was facing four criminal charges, with each charge attracting a maximum fine of $1.5 million.
The Department of Defence contracted with Linfox for the warehousing and distribution of supplies and equipment, and with Thales for the maintenance of its fleet of Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles for transporting soldiers.
In July 2015, two Thales workers and a Linfox employee were towing a damaged Bushmaster to a recovery truck at Brisbane's Damascus Barracks, when the Bushmaster rolled forward and pinned a Thales worker to a tow motor, inflicting serious injuries.
Comcare, which investigated the incident, said the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions would allege the employers breached their WHS duties in failing to: ensure the Bushmaster was towed properly; ensure the vehicle was secured using wheel chocks; or provide workers with adequate supervision, training and instruction for the task. The matter was listed for mention in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 18 August 2017. Source: OHSAlert
EU-OSHA resources for safe vehicles
The VeSafe e-guide is an interactive one-stop shop for information on vehicle-related risks at work. It covers safe driving, workplace transport and working on or near a road. A joint effort by EU-OSHA and the European Commission, the guide includes many examples of good practice and an overview of relevant regulations. What's more, it's free and easy to use, and you can filter the information by risk or vehicle type.
Vehicle-related accidents account for 29 per cent of all fatal occupational accidents in the EU — so the guide provides useful advice for workers, employers and safety and health experts. EU-OSHA also has information on accidents and injuries to drivers and how to manage these risks.
India: Four workers asphyxiated in tank
Four daily wage labourers died in south Delhi on July 15 after inhaling poisonous fumes while trying to clean a water harvesting tank. Five workers attempted to clean the 10-foot-deep tank located in an under-construction building. No safety equipment was to the workers before they entered the tank. Only one survived. Read more: The Hindi
Pakistan: Four factory workers die after falling into chemical tank
Four labourers died after falling into an underground chemical tank of an industrial unit one after another in the Bin Qasim area in Karachi on July 20. The incident was a grim reminder of last year's tragedy that killed five people dead in a Korangi factory, indicating gross violation of safety measures and the Sindh social security rules, officials said.
It appears the workers died after inhaling chemical fumes inside the tank of the under-construction Scada chemical factory near Ghaggar Phatak. An investigating officer said one of the labourers had been apparently trying to fix the tank's ventilator when he slipped and fell into it. Three other workers died while trying to save their colleague. A fifth worker was, however, rescued and later hospitalised.
Read more: Labour Watch Pakistan