SafetyNet 415, August 16, 2017
It is with great sadness that we report the death of a beef farmer on his farm near Echuca last Friday. Too many farmers and farm workers are killed at work.
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Fatality in northern Victoria
A man has died after being attacked by a bull at a beef farm, approximately 30km south east of Echuca. Paramedics were called to the scene at about 3pm on the afternoon of Friday August 11 after reports a man had been injured by a bull. The man, who was the farm's owner, was declared dead at the scene. Police will prepare a report for the coroner, and it is assumed that WorkSafe will also conduct an investigation.
Hi - I have a simple question and was wondering if you can answer it for me. I am currently employed in a timber and hardware store and was told that we were not allowed to have chairs behind our desk. Is it actually legal for an employer to dictate these kind of working conditions?
I can't believe your employer has banned workers having chairs! Were you given any reason for this?
From a legal point of view, this matter is not specifically covered in OHS legislation - but this is because the legislation in Victoria (and the whole of Australia) is what we call 'objective-based'. The employer has what is known as a 'general duty of care' to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes providing plant/equipment and systems of work which are safe and without risks to health (s21 in the Vic OHS Act). The law does not go into specifics about chairs, desks or any particular thing.
Requiring workers to stand all day by not allowing suitable chairs behind desks is not a safe and healthy system of work. Apart from contributing to worker fatigue, standing most of the working day every working day is not good news for the lower limbs - it can damage joints, make muscles ache and cause a range of problems with the feet. There are also a number of longer term health problems that may be caused by prolonged and frequent standing. (see this page for more information).
So in short, it is not reasonable for the employer to refuse to provide suitable chairs - and your boss is in breach of the OHS Act by trying to do so.
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.
August 26: Free forum for migrant communities
Let's talk about Workplace Health & Safety
A reminder about the forum coming up. The VTHC has been fighting for workers' rights for over 150 years. Migrant workers get injured more than other workers, and to assist all workers. We have organised this free event to hear about the experiences of migrant workers and their communities. Guest speaker will be the Honourable Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Affairs. The forum will be followed by a light lunch.
Illegal supplier given 'slap on wrist'
Chinese construction giant Yuanda has escaped with what is most likely a paltry fine for using lethal asbestos-laced building products in a Brisbane skyscraper. Although Australian Border Force issued three fines for supplying asbestos-tainted gaskets for the $650 million building last year and contaminated roofing panels for a children's hospital in Perth, the maximum penalty is just $15,750 per offence. Border Force identified 8643 shipments as "high risk" for asbestos during 2016-17, but examined only 761.
The federal Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency warned that 64 asbestos seizures at the border last financial year were just "the tip of the iceberg''. Agency CEO Peter Tighe said "no one's really had a kick in the backside'' for flouting the asbestos ban. "I know it's se*y to catch drug smugglers and tobacco smugglers but this is just as important … asbestos can cause deaths too,'' he said. "The certification documents from China really don't hold any water. "If a product comes out of China, and China still mines asbestos, you're going to see a degree of contamination. "In cement board, they still use asbestos in the mix. If we don't control this, we'll end up with a second legacy of asbestos — and we won't know where it is."
Source: Lethal asbestos pouring through our borders in dodgy goods made in China, The Courier Mail
Australian asbestos removalists health study
Researchers in WA and Victoria are recruiting people who are currently, or who have ever, worked in asbestos removal to be part of an asbestos removalist register. Asbestos removalists are a group of workers who are potentially at high-risk of asbestos exposure by virtue of their occupation. Despite this, very little is known about the health of these workers. The register will be used to track the health of removalists and to conduct studies to ensure the safety of workers is continually being assessed.
This initiative is funded and supported by the Cancer Council of Western Australia.
For more details of the project call Nita Sodhi Berry (08) 6488 1312 (Mon-Wed), Dr Peter Franklin (08) 6488 7091 (Mon-Tues) or Ms Deborah Olow (08) 6488 1286 (Wed-Fri).
WA: Demolition rubble piles up amid fears of asbestos
A new WA Waste Authority report estimates stockpiles of building rubble reached in excess of 1.6 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste last year. While about half of that amount has been "processed" for re-use, there is little demand in the marketplace for recycled materials, mainly because of concerns about asbestos content.
Read more: Perth Today
ASEA 2017 News:
Summit - November 26 - 28, 2017
A reminder to register for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency's 4th annual event, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Summit 2017, which is being held at the Old Parliament House, Canberra between 26th-28th November 2017. If you haven't yet checked out ASEA's short promotional video for the Summit - watch it here. Book tickets here. Take advantage of the generous early bird discounts (book by September 22).
Report: Australians suffer from insufficient sleep
The Sleep Health Foundation last week released the results of a research by Deloitte Access Economics showing that four in ten Australians suffer from inadequate sleep. The total cost of this to the Australian economy was estimated to be $66.3 billion in 2016-17.
Inadequate sleep can result due to poor personal sleep habits, shift work or when people experience sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). According to the report, Asleep on the Job: Cost of Inadequate Sleep in Australia, the total cost is made up of $26.2 billion in financial costs and $40.1 billion in the loss of wellbeing. Inadequate sleep can lead to fatalities or work-related incidents, including falling asleep while driving, and medical staff making errors when on shifts. Chronic inadequate sleep can cause heart disease, obesity, depression and a range of other serious health conditions.
Researchers recommend implementation of public preventive health measures to promote healthy sleep. They also urge Work Health and Safety authorities to tighten regulation in work sectors where sleep is irregular but responsibility is high, such as defence, transport and health.
Read more and download the report: Asleep on the Job: Cost of Inadequate Sleep in Australia, Sleep Health Foundation
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria News
Reminder: Seminars around the state
As part of the Small Business Festival Victoria, WorkSafe is holding a number of free WorkSafe seminars - with Warrnambool (August 29) and Shepparton (August 22) still to come. To register for one of these seminars, go to this page of the WorkSafe website.
Safe Work Australia News
Reminder: August is Tradie month
August is Tradies Health Month, with Safe Work Australia and the state/territory regulators calling on tradies to make their health – and the health of their co-workers – a priority. SWA will be publishing a collection of data, videos, resources and information on its website.It is probably no surprise that trades workers make the second highest number of serious claims related to musculoskeletal injuries compared with other occupations. Source: SWA media release and website; Tradies National Health Month website.
Virtual seminar: No place for drugs and alcohol
This Safe Work Australia video features carpenter Jonno discussing the risks of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and the importance of stopping work and going home if you are under the influence.
For some jobs – such as those in road and rail transport, maritime, and mining – the law sets a legal blood alcohol limit and may prohibit a worker from working while under the influence of any drugs – legal or illegal. Alcohol and drugs can affect reflexes, concentration and more: particularly risky when working in high-risk environments like construction, where tools and machinery are being used.
The seminar can be accessed on this page of the Safe Work Australia website. For Victorian construction workers, IncoLink provides services and assistance.Another good Victorian site is Not At Work.
SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
There has been no update on the SWA webpage since last week - as at August 2, 110 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body. 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 remains that for April 2017, during which there were 13 work-related notifiable fatalities. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
UK: Guidance on Preventing accidents to children on farms
Farms continue to be one of the few workplaces where children still get killed. Earlier this year in the UK a three year old toddler was killed when he was run over by a vehicle driven by his father. Tragically, this is the case not only in the UK, but also in Australia - where children on farms have been injured and killed in quad bike incidents, for example.
The UK's HSE says that school holidays are a good time to remember it is against the law to allow a child under 13 to ride on or drive agricultural self-propelled machines (such as tractors) and other farm machinery.
The regulator warns that when children are introduced to farm activities the adults cannot supervise children and be involved in work at the same time. People often believe that farm children understand farm risks, but most children who die in farm incidents are family members. A few straightforward steps, and proper supervision of children, will reduce these risks.
Read the HSE's practical guidance: Preventing accidents to children on farms. A free copy can be downloaded from this page.
There has been no update to the WorkSafe Victoria webpage on prosecutions since the last edition of SafetyNet. To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
NSW: Company convicted and fined after worker crushed by forklift
A NSW employer has been convicted and fined $375,000 (plus $32,000 costs) for WHS offences after a worker was fatally crushed when a forklift with a faulty handbrake rolled and pinned him against a wall. NSW District Court Judge David Russell found Macleay River Protein Pty Ltd could have "completely" avoided the fatality if it had taken the simple step of storing wheel chocks it already owned on its forklifts, and requiring workers to use them.
In August 2015, the plant worker was using the forklift to move an empty steel bin, and parked it on sloped paving before getting out to manoeuvre the bin against a wall. About 30 seconds later, the forklift's hand brake released and it moved forward, pinning the worker between the bin and the wall for 10 minutes before he was discovered by his brother, who also worked at the plant. The worker died from traumatic asphyxia.
Source: OHS Alert
NT: Education provider fined just $50k after 12-year-old boy killed
NT Christian Schools Ltd has been convicted and fined $50,000, from a maximum $1.5 million, after a 12-year-old student was killed at its Gawa Christian School sports carnival on Elcho Island in August 2015.
He was run over by a Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier in a novelty tug-of-war game where students used a rope to pull the vehicle. The Court found his death could have been avoided if the employer conducted a risk assessment before the carnival.
"When the [tug-of-war] event was introduced in 2012, a risk assessment was conducted and a number of safety measures were put in place to protect the participants," NT WorkSafe executive director Stephen Gelding said after the decision. "In 2015, the teacher who introduced the event no longer worked at the school and the carnival organisers did not conduct a risk assessment or review the safety measures in place before the event," he said.
Source: OHS Alert