SafetyNet 420, September 20, 2017
For those who didn't see our late addition to last week's journal, last Wednesday saw another work-related fatality: a 39 year-old male worker died in hospital from his injuries after an incident on 11 August where the elevating work platform he was operating was struck by a car at Braeside.
And have you registered to attend our HSR conference in October? If you are an HSR in Victoria, and haven't registered yet, do it now!
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.
Can I use a platform ladder 1.8 metres high to clear leaves from the school gutters and filter traps? What is the rule for step ladders to change light bulbs inside 8 ft roof?
The prevention of falls regulations 'kick in' when work is done at a height of more than two metres (see the summary of the Prevention of Falls chapter), so do not apply for the roof work. But 8 feet = 2.44 metres; so the regulations may apply for the changing of light bulbs - depending on the height the worker stands at.
Nevertheless, you employer – and in this case even if you are not a direct employee, this is likely to be the school, so the Education Department if it's a public school - has a duty of care to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicalbe, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health (see Duties of employers). This includes developing safe systems of work, providing information and training, ensuring the ladders are safe and so on.
For more information on working at height, ladders and safety, see these pages 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.
CFMEU calls for mandatory asbestos training for apprentices & tradies
The Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union has called for mandatory national training on asbestos safety for all tradespeople. The call comes after the publication of a Curtin University study finding that three out of four tradespeople cannot identify asbestos in a workplace.
"Aussie tradies are at great risk from exposure to asbestos that remains in buildings in Australia, as well as from illegal imports," CFMEU National Construction Secretary, Dave Noonan, said. "Asbestos has been banned for some time in Australia, but it's still being imported illegally." Read more: CFMEU media release.
Victoria: $16.25m to replace asbestos-ridden buildings in ten schools
Buildings at ten schools to be demolished and replaced with state-of-the-art modular classrooms will cost $16.25 million in the Victorian government's $155m School Asbestos Removal Program. The current phase includes the demolition and replacement of buildings at 30 schools. The ten schools include both country and metropolitan schools. When elected, the Andrews Government undertook an extensive, state-wide audit of 1712 government schools: it revealed that 497 schools contained high-risk asbestos. The asbestos was removed from all of these schools by March 2016. The Victorian Budget 2017/18 provides $85 million to remove more asbestos from more schools, including funding to install the first 30 of the 100 proposed modular school rooms.
Source: Education Today (Principals magazine)
CFMEU urges NT government to take action
The CFMEU is calling for urgent and immediate action to be taken by the Gunner Government to implement an education and awareness policy for asbestos in the Northern Territory after another case of workers and the public being exposed to the deadly fibres. A pathology laboratory in Alice Springs Hospital was closed last week as 27 staff and 60 patients were potentially exposed to the deadly fibres while a new air conditioning unit was being fitted.
In a media release, the CFMEU condemns the false and misleading statement made by a Government spokesperson that "air sampling and swab testing for asbestos returned a low positive result. The CFMEU's Health and Safety Co-ordinator Andrew Ramsay is completely dumbfounded and outraged over the comments. "There is no such thing as a low positive result for asbestos," he said. "It is either a positive or a negative result. Any exposure can have deadly consequences." Mr Ramsey said that asbestos contamination was raised six months ago in a major Labor conference but since then, the government failed to act. Read more: CFMEU media release
QLD: Truckie risked $500k fine
A truck driver has last week fined $25,000 after admitting to the illegal transport of asbestos. Ipswich Magistrates Court heard Wayne Morris Wharton, or others procured by him, illegally transported asbestos in Ipswich between October 2015 and August 2016. The asbestos was being transported to landfill operations. Wharton admitted to 65 separate offences relating to the illegal transport of the potentially hazardous material. Transporting asbestos requires an environmental authority, and though Wharton had held one in the past, it had been cancelled due to non-payment of fees.
Read more: The Star
Asbestos awareness information for electricians
ASEA has teamed up with the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Master Electricians Australia (MEA) to produce a leaflet aimed specifically at those working in the sector who may encounter asbestos. Electricians can be exposed to asbestos in a wide range of field specialties; from power stations to fixing up a cable in a street pit or conduit to a suburban home. Download the leaflet here [pdf].
The economic burden in Canada of mesotheliomas and lung cancers due to work-related exposures to asbestos diagnosed during a one-year period is $2.35 billion (A$2.4 billion). This amount is according to an economic evaluation by the Institute of Work and Health (IWH). The estimate, higher than previously reported, was recently published in an open-access article. A study update is available in the IWH publication At Work.
Read more: Tompa E, Kalcevich C, McLeod C, et al. The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma due to occupational and para-occupational asbestos exposure. [Open Access] Occup Environ Med Published Online First: 29 July 2017. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2016-104173
USA: Asbestos imports double
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the largest independent nonprofit asbestos victims' advocacy group in the United States - along with the Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy group that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment - has released a statement in response to new data showing asbestos imports nearly doubled in 2016, after years of decline.
Data from the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that 705 metric tons of raw asbestos were imported last year, compared to 343 metric tons in 2015. The U.S. Geological Survey reported asbestos imports came from Brazil and Russia. The only remaining user of raw asbestos in the U.S. is the chloralkali industry, which uses it to "manufacture semipermeable asbestos diaphragms." Much of the surge in imports in 2016 came in the fourth quarter of the year, following the passage of the revamped Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. Lobbyists from the American Chemistry Council, on behalf of the chloralkali industry, are now pushing for an exemption from the new chemical safety law that would allow it to continue to import and use asbestos just as it does today. Read more: ADAO Media release
International union news
UK: legal claims grow over exposure at work to toxic diesel fumes
UK unions are warning toxic air in the workplace is a 'ticking time bomb on a par with asbestos' as the number of legal claims over exposure to diesel exhaust fumes at work grows. Major employers, including
Royal Mail, are being sued over their alleged failure to protect staff from the damaging health effects of diesel pollution from vehicles.
Dan Shears, health and safety director for the GMB union, said: "We strongly believe it is a major problem. It needs a test case and then there will be an increase in claims. It's almost like the early days of asbestos. There are potentially lots of people who have unnecessarily suffered premature death who may have been affected by industrial exposure. We are now with diesel in the same place we were with asbestos in the 1930s."
Aerotoxic syndrome: frequent flyers at risk
A study recently published by the World Health Organisation confirms a link between chemical contaminants in aeroplane cabin air and chronic and acute health problems. Clearly airline crew are most exposed to the risks, but it is also a health hazard and flight safety issue potentially affecting anyone onboard, particularly those who fly frequently.
The air is 'bled' into the cabin via the engine compressor, explains the study's head researcher, Dr Susan Michaelis. This makes it liable to infiltration from engine oil vapours containing toxic chemicals such as tricresyl phosphate, an organophosphate known to damage the nervous system. Organophosphates were originally produced to kill in nerve gases and pesticides.
The 2017 study by Dr Michaelis, a global authority on the subject, analysed data from British Airways pilots and 15 cabin-air incidents across Australia, Germany, the UK and USA. It found symptoms reported by aircrew and passengers include exhaustion, breathing issues, disorientation, headaches, tremors, vision problems, paralysis and vomiting. The study concluded: "A clear cause and effect relationship has been identified linking the symptoms, diagnoses and findings to the occupational environment. Recognition of this new occupational disorder and a clear medical investigation protocol are urgently needed."
Read more: Michaelis, S et al Aerotoxic Syndrome: A New Occupational Disease? [Full article pdf] Public Health Panorama. Source: The New Daily article.
Employees thrive on being empowered
Employees who are empowered by their bosses by being given independence and the responsibility to self-manage are more likely to thrive at work, new research involving a Curtin University researcher has found. The paper, published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour, concluded that empowering leadership enhanced work performance, creativity and a willingness to take on extra roles outside of normal duties, at both the individual and team levels.
Co-author Dr Amy Tian, from the School of Management at Curtin Business School, said it was important to analyse the concept of empowering leadership given it was increasingly being used by organisations. "Increasing competition in the business landscape, economical shifts, and technological developments have brought with them changes in organisational structures and the nature of work," Dr Tian said.
Read more: Curtin University media release.
OHS Regulator News
SA: Practical Solutions focus of new Hospitality Action Plan
SafeWorkSA has released a new action plan to reduce workplace injuries in hospitality. It says that practical safety solutions addressing the challenges of a young and often transient workforce are a key focus in the plan. SafeWork executive director Martyn Campbell said: "Through the 'Hospitality Action Plan' we will be working with industry to focus on young workers, practical and effective induction policies and procedures, physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as dealing with the anti-social behaviours that may result from drugs and alcohol abuse." Download the plan: Practical safety solutions a focus for new Hospitality Action Plan September 2017 [PDF 107kb]
Safe Work Australia News
New Safe Work Australia Infographic
SWA has released a new Infographic which highlights the occupations most at risk for work-related mental health issues. These are:
- Defence Force members, fire fighters and police - 16 per cent
- School teachers - 15 per cent
- Health and welfare support workers - 13 per cent.
The Infographic can be downloaded from this page of the SWA website.
SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
There has still been no update on the workplace fatalities reported to the national body since August 28, at which time 115 had been reported. 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.
Worker's finger amputated: company gets an EU
IVE Group Australia Pty Ltd, manages and controls a factory which prints and wraps materials including books. One of the pieces of plant, the 'Plastic Wrap Machine' which wraps books using ply sheets created a of serious injury, as the rear hopper covers did not have an interlocked switch and there was no safe system of work to ensure the safe setting, maintenance and repair of the plant. This meant workers could access the area where the rotating cams and belts were located and their hand(s) or finger(s) could become entangled. On 7 January 2016 a worker using the plant noticed it was not operating correctly. He opened the rear hopper guard and started to re-set the rollers. The plant energised, and jammed the worker's hand. He sustained an amputation to his left middle finger above the knuckle. The company entered in an Enforceable Undertaking with the Authority - however the EU does not appear to be available on WorkSafe's site.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: Cake firm fined £1m over death of contractor
A cake manufacturer has been fined £1m (A$1.60m) over the death of a contractor at its factory in Hull. David Shanks, 55, died from a head injury the day after falling from a stepladder while working at Greencore Grocery Ltd. The self-employed electrician, who worked almost exclusively for the firm, was not being supervised, was using a "totally inadequate" stepladder for the height, and had not been required by a project manager to provide a written risk assessment or method statement in line with company policy, Hull Crown Court heard. The father-of-two suffered a serious head injury in the 11 October 2013 fall, which happened when he "over-reached." He had placed one foot on the cantilever lid of the machine he was working on, which moved, while his other foot was on the top of the 5ft 6ins stepladder. A Working at Height permit he was issued gave the height of the job as two metres, when the actual height was three metres. The company, which has an annual turnover of £210m (A$355.6m), initially denied responsibility, but admitted a criminal offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act at its first court appearance. The judge said the project manager "did not seek from, and therefore did not discuss with David Shanks, a risk assessment and method statement, which had he done so would have revealed the ladders he had used were totally inadequate." He added the stepladder "was clearly not tall enough, and it would have been obvious he would have had to over-reach." Read more: HSE news release. Source: Risks 817
Global: Modern slavery and child labour
New research developed jointly by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has revealed the true scale of modern slavery around the world. The data, released during the United Nations General Assembly, shows that more than 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016. The ILO have also released a companion estimate of child labour, which confirms that about 152 million children, aged between 5 and 17, were subject to child labour.
The new estimates also show that women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting for almost 29 million, or 71 per cent of the overall total. Women represent 99 per cent of the victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry and 84 per cent of forced marriages.
Read more: 40 million in modern slavery and 152 million in child labour around the world, ILO Newsroom
Pakistan: More coal workers killed
Two weeks ago, four workers were killed due to a build-up of poisonous gases deep inside the Sanjdi coal mine near the city of Quetta, Balochistan province in Pakistan. Labour activists have long complained of the poor working conditions that they have to endure, the lack of proper protective gear, and of no compensation payments for injuries. Last week, in a similar workplace incident, three more coal miners were killed at a mine in Harnai district, also in Balochistan. In many countries around the world, the coal industry has an appalling safety record with mine owners routinely disregarding workers' lives. Source: AAWL Mini Nnews
EU: Work-related accidents and injuries cost EU €476 billion a year
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) says the economic case for safety and health at work has never been clearer. New estimates from the project on the costs and benefits of OSH indicate that work-related injuries and illnesses cost the EU around €476 billion(A$714.3 billion) each year. The cost of work-related cancer alone amounts to €119.5 billion (A$179.3 billion).
Through the project, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other partners, EU-OSHA is developing an approximate economic costing model for ineffective or non-existent OSH measures. The model allows for comprehensive measurement of the resulting societal burden, and the results will enable policy-makers to better understand the economic impact of poor workplace safety and health. The latest findings from the project and an interactive, accessible data visualisation tool are presented at the XXI World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore.
Read more: EU-OSHA media release; Access the Visualisation tool
EU: Good practice guides on agriculture and fishing
Two comprehensive sectoral good practice guides on occupational safety and health are now available for download in over 20 languages. Published by the European Commission, they cover agriculture, livestock farming, horticulture and forestry; and small fishing vessels (which make up 80 per cent of the EU's fishing fleet). Packed with examples of good practices for risk prevention, real-life case studies and practical resources, they are excellent guides to keeping workers in these sectors safe from harm. The guides are a user-friendly reference with glossaries, illustrations and charts.
Download the good practice guides: Protecting health and safety of workers in agriculture, livestock farming, horticulture and forestry and European guide for risk prevention in small fishing vessels
And also from EU-OSHA, two new NAPO films on safe driving and transport
- Napo in ... on the road to safety - The film takes a light-hearted look at topics including maintenance, adverse weather and using alternatives to driving when appropriate. It highlights the importance of good planning and preparation, including safe cargo loading, planning the most efficient route and allowing enough time to safely complete a journey.
- Napo in ... safe moves about workplace transport