SafetyNet 421, September 27, 2017
On Friday last week a man died as a result of a quad bike incident - bringing the official workplace fatality death toll in Victoria to 19.
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.
Farmer dies in quad bike rollover
A man in his late 60s has died after a quad bike he was operating overturned on a mixed farm at Hesket, near Romsey, about 80km north of Melbourne. It is believed the man was herding sheep in a laneway at about 6pm on Thursday when the incident occurred. His body was not found until Friday morning.
WorkSafe attended the scene and its investigations are continuing. This latest death takes the official workplace death toll in Victoria to 19 (although there are others which do not figure in the official statistics). Tragically, 10 of the deaths so far this year have occurred on farms. WorkSafe Director of Operations and Emergency Management, Phil Grimson, said agriculture was a high-risk industry, so it was vital that farmers paid attention to safety.
Quad bikes are unstable, roll over easily and have killed too many people - not only workers, but also children. The Victorian Government has in place a $6 million rebate scheme for approved safety solutions to help reduce quad bike deaths in Victoria. Eligible farmers can apply for a rebate of either:
- $1200 for the purchase of an alternate vehicle such as a side-by-side vehicle (SSV) or a small utility vehicle (SUV). The alternate vehicle must be designed for use in agriculture and at point of sale have rollover protection and a fitted seatbelt. (Sport vehicles and small commercial vehicles, such as utes, are excluded.)
- Up to $600 for the purchase of up to two operator protection devices (OPD). The OPD must have been designed and manufactured in accordance with approved engineering standards and independently tested to be eligible for the rebate. There are currently two OPD devices that meet this criteria and are eligible for the rebate. They are the Quadbar™ and the ATV Lifeguard.
Another fatality in country Victoria
A 65 year old man sustained serious head injuries shortly before midday in Wedderburn, 214km north of Melbourne after it appears he was run over by his own tractor. A Victoria Police spokesman said: "Police are investigating. Investigators have been told the man was attempting to connect a trailer to a steam powered traction engine when it ran over him. Nobody else was physically injured during the incident and police are preparing a report for the coroner." According to a WorkSafe spokesperson, however, it has been determined that this was not a work-related fatality.
At my place of work I'm required to carry what I consider heavy loads up two flights of narrow stairs. As well as being heavy, the boxes are so large I have to hold them on an angle, or in an awkward position to carry them. Sometimes there as many as 40-60 of them in one day! Do I have any legal rights to ask for the couriers to carry them upstairs?
What you're being asked to do is putting your health and safety at risk – the carrying of these boxes up the stairs in such a way is clearly hazardous manual handling, and in addition, there is a risk to your safety from a potential slip, trip or fall. You should not be required to do this job in the way that you are being told to do it!
Firstly, your employer has a general duty of care under the law to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health – see Duties of Employers. Basically, your employer has a duty to identify and then eliminate or minimise the hazards and risks to you. Your employer must also comply with the duties in the Hazardous Manual Handling chapter of the regulations. This means applying a hierarchy of control to eliminate/minimise the risk of a musculoskeletal injury to you. Potential solutions might include
- requesting smaller and lighter boxes from suppliers
- purchasing a stair climbing trolley (has special wheels)
- where necessary, have two staff members carry a large box
However, the solution is not to require the couriers to carry the boxes upstairs, thus placing their health and safety at risk; rather, the employer must take action to eliminate or minimise the risk by changing the task.
Take a look at these other 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.
Union activists make a difference
The WorkSafe Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 passed the Victorian Parliament last Thursday night, and gained 'Royal Assent' yesterday. Among changes, the Bill:
- amends the OHS Act to extend the time limit for prosecuting indictable offences where a Coronial report identifies that an offence has been committed, where an enforceable undertaking (EU) is breached or withdrawn or where fresh evidence is uncovered and where a court is satisfied the evidence could not have been identified within the limitation period;
- introduces a new offence for a breach of an EU; as well as a mechanism to allow WorkSafe to prosecute the offence which was originally the subject of the undertaking if the undertaking is breached or withdrawn;
- quadruples maximum fines for failing to report safety incidents or preserve incident sites to more than $190,000;
- extends the notification duty in the OHS Act to also include incidents where a person has a serious injury and receives treatment from a nurse;
- enables the continuation of the Governor in Council's current ability to make emergency Asbestos Orders under the Dangerous Goods Act, in response to large scale emergencies, such as bushfires;
- amends workers' comp legislation to increase travel allowances for the family members of deceased or injured workers, and amend provisions on the diminution of hearing, pre-injury average weekly incomes to include casual loadings, and self-insurers' obligations and breaches
The Bill faced resistance from the Liberal/National Coalition because of the higher penalties on employers who breach the OHS Act. A number of VTHC OHS Network volunteers met with and lobbied the cross benchers in the Upper House. They met with the Shooters & Fishers and the Australian Conservative members, all of whom voted in support of the Bill with the Labor government.
Melbourne: Pub wreckers fight order to clean up asbestos
The developers who illegally demolished Carlton's Corkman Irish Pub in October last year (see Asbestos News in SafetyNet 385) are challenging an order to remove more asbestos from the site and prop up an unstable wall. The company owned by Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqiri, 160 Leicester Pty Ltd, last week appeared before the Building Appeals Board, to appeal against an order from Melbourne City Council. Eleven months after the levelling of the 159-year-old pub – formerly known as the Carlton Inn – the site is a vacant lot covered in rubble and tarpaulins. Read more and watch video: The Age
Pacific island countries vote to ban asbestos
History was made in Samoa's capital, Apia, last week with the endorsement of a proposal to work with Pacific islands on restricting or banning asbestos. The proposal, championed by Cook Islands and co-sponsored by Tonga and Australia, was endorsed by representatives of the 21 Pacific island and five metropolitan members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) at its Twenty-eighth Meeting of Officials.
Paula Ma'u, Chief Executive Officer of Tonga's Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications, said that the move to ban asbestos in the Pacific is particularly important given the repeated failure of the Rotterdam Convention to reach consensus on the listing of chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Convention: "Tonga is very pleased to have been able to co-sponsor the proposal from Cook Islands for a Pacific regional ban on asbestos. Planning the details of the ban will be important as it will need to allow for the importation of asbestos waste for disposal, as some Pacific islands have limited capacity to safely dispose of legacy asbestos stockpiles."
Read more: OnePNG
Reminder ASEA Summit - November 26 - 28, 2017
We urge anyone who is interested in what's going on in Australia on asbestos related matters, to attend ASEA's national summit in November.
The program for the Summit is available on the ASEA website. Some key highlights include:
- An update from The World Health Organisation
- An international keynote from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment on their asbestos roofing removal program
- Updates on the latest ARD treatments
- A plenary on the economic and social impact of asbestos-related disease
- A public health focussed keynote by the former secretary of the Department of Health on the need for a national awareness campaign
The Summit is taking place at the Old Parliament House, Canberra between 26th-28th November 2017. Go to this page to register. If you haven't yet checked out ASEA's short promotional video for the Summit - watch it here.
International union news
Global: IUF Congress puts OHS front and centre
The 27th IUF Congress, held in Geneva from August 29 to September 1, 2017, was the largest, most representative, and most participatory Congress in the organisation's history. The IUF unites food, farming and hospitality workers world wide. Of the 518 participants from around the world, 339 official delegates took part in the work of the Congress. All regions and sectors were strongly represented in a Congress marked by a high degree of enthusiasm, militancy and solidarity.
The Congress was structured around four major themes, each building on existing struggles and concluding with concrete objectives for the IUF and its members: organizing and fighting for well-paid jobs with dignity, rights and stability; organizing and fighting to make our workplaces safe and healthy; organizing and fighting for equality and diversity; and organizing and fighting for progressive, democratic politics. The resolutions included:
- Making Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) a workplace issue
- Opposing Behaviour Based Safety
- Trade union action to stop gender-based violence
- Binding regulation of hazardous substances
- Menstruation – a workplace and trade union issue
- Putting Working time on the agenda
TUC promotes union role in fire safety
The UK's peak union council, the TUC has published new fire safety advice for trade union representatives following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. The union body says there are between 15,000 and 20,000 fires in non-residential buildings every year in the UK. Last year 2,000 of these fires were in industrial premises, more than 5,000 were in shops or similar commercial sites, while almost 2,000 were in schools or hospitals. Union health reps have a key role to play in fire safety, says the TUC, and should challenge employers to treat all aspects of fire safety, including prevention, as more than just a 'tick-box exercise'. The TUC guidance sets out the law around fire safety, explains what is required from a thorough fire safety assessment, and looks at how to implement fire safety policies that will prevent and protect workers. There is also a checklist for reps on what to look out for in terms of fire safety when they carry out their workplace inspections.
The TUC believes workers in high-risk office blocks will have particular concerns about fire safety, following June's Grenfell Tower fire. If not managed properly, high-rise buildings pose additional risks in terms of their construction and escape routes. Unions in Australia, such as the public sector union, have voiced similar concerns. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We must never see a repeat of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The government needs to act now and ensure that all high-rise buildings are safe, including those used as workplaces. Millions of people across the UK work in high-rise buildings, many of which could have cladding and insulation similar to that used in Grenfell Tower. Those workers need urgent reassurances about their safety, and if there is any risk to them, there must be immediate action." She added: "Union reps have a key role to play in pressing employers to make sure that their buildings are safe. This guide will help familiarise reps with the latest law on fire safety, help them carry out better workplace inspections, and work with bosses to devise policies that will genuinely prevent and protect workers from fires."
Read more: TUC news release and guidance, Fire safety: A TUC guide for union activists [pdf], September 2017.
TUC: European re-think needed on workplace cancers
A plan to reduce occupational cancer rates in Europe misses both the point and many of the causes, the TUC has said. The trade union body estimates over 70 per cent of cancer cases are caused by exposures at work not covered by the European carcinogens directive, and adds even where there are control limits proposed these are often 'completely inadequate'.
TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson says solar radiation is the biggest single cause of occupational cancers and these are usually easily prevented, but aren't on Europe's list. Shiftwork, diesel exhaust, radon and passive smoking are other notable absentees.
Read more: CancerHazards and download the TUC Occupational cancer guide [pdf]
TUC: Occupational cancer webinar
Hugh Robertson last week hosted a live 'webinar' – an online seminar - to discuss the causes of occupational cancer, the problems with the law and what unions are doing about it. The leading cause of deaths in the UK remains asbestos. The whole event can now be seen online and the presentation downloaded. Watch the TUC occupational cancer webinar on YouTube. Download the presentation by TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson.
Occupational Health and the Arts
According to researchers in the U.S, work in the visual arts, performing arts, and writing involves exposures to occupational hazards, including hazardous materials, equipment, and conditions. However, few art workplaces have strong occupational health resources. Consequently they searched medical databases for art-related health articles, and also reviewed other sources including unindexed art-health publications, and popular press articles in order to support the concerns of OHS professionals.
They concluded that the health hazards in the arts are significant. Occupational health professionals are familiar with most of these concerns and understand their treatment and prevention. The occupational health approach can reduce the health hazards encountered by at-risk art workers. Additional research would benefit these efforts. Resources for further information are available
Read more: Hinkamp, David L. MD, et al: Occupational Health and the Arts [full text], Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: September 2017 - Volume 59 - Issue 9 - p 835–842. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001027
Suicide-causing factors prevalent in Australian workplaces
Australian researchers have identified an association between forming the idea of suicide, suicide attempts and death, and the psychosocial job stressors that more than one in five Australian workers are exposed to.
The researchers from three Victorian universities, and France's University of Angers, undertook a world-first comprehensive and systematic review of literature on the topic. The review identified 4644 relevant records, before focusing on 22 studies from four continents and identifying increased risks of suicide associated with lower supervisor and collegial support. The team found that adverse psychosocial conditions, such as low supervisor support and job insecurity, are associated with higher odds of suicidal thoughts and mortality. In addition to the review, the researchers studied Australian cohorts and found similar associations, particularly among male blue-collar workers.
People who attempt suicide may have many things going on in their lives, but employers can play a role. Lead researcher Dr Allison Milner from the University of Melbourne's Centre for Health Equity said that employers can address adverse psychosocial work conditions. They can begin by asking workers if there is anything wrong in the workplace, and what can be improved.
Read more: Milner, A, et al: Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: a meta-analysis and systematic review. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online first September 2017 doi: oemed-2017-104531 Source: OHS Alert
No elevated lung cancer risk for hard metal workers
According to recent U.S research, hard metal industry workers do not face an increased risk of lung cancer. The research conducted by the University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health involved more than 32,000 workers from three companies and 17 manufacturing sites in the United Kingdom, Austria, Germany and Sweden as well as the U.S. Previous studies have suggested that ingredients in hard metal increase the risk of lung cancer.
"Our findings will affect regulatory agencies and how they set exposure standards," said principal investigator Gary M. Marsh, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics at Pitt Public Health and director and founder of the school's Center for Occupational Biostatistics & Epidemiology. "It is very good news that the workers in this industry are not at increased risk of death due to the materials used in their occupation, both for the employees and for the hard metal industry."
Hard metal is typically made by heating tungsten and carbon to form tungsten carbide powder, then adding powdered binders such as cobalt or nickel. Cobalt has been shown to cause cancer in animals and can also be a serious lung irritant; consequently workers wear closed hoods with full respirators when handling the powdered metals without technical controls.
On average, the study found no increased risk of death for hard metal workers, including those who had worked in the industry for decades and those who worked in the industry before modern respirators.
The results of the study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine as a series of eight articles.
Source: SafetyCulture OHS News
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria News
Awards Finalists announced
Twenty-three Victorian businesses, health and safety representatives and individuals are finalists in the 2017 WorkSafe Awards, which recognise outstanding contributions to workplace health and safety and to helping injured workers return to work. The finalists come from a wide range of industries including hospitality, retail, health care, local government, manufacturing, emergency services and education.
The three finalists in the category of Health and Safety Rep of the year are:
- Michael Muscat - Visy Board (Campbellfield) - and HSR for the past 19 years.
- Manny Mason - City of Ballarat (Ballarat) - an HSR for six years
- Susan Lanyon - Melbourne Endoscopy Group (Melbourne) - an HSR for the past five years
They are all union members, they have worked successfully with their employer to making great improvements at their workplaces.
Read more: WorkSafe media release
Workplace injury claims hit new record low
The number of workplace injuries in Victoria has fallen to a new record low, according to data released this week by WorkSafe Victoria in its 2016/17 annual report.
The rate of workplace injuries per million hours has fallen to 6.43 claims – a drop of 7.5 per cent on the previous record of 6.95 claims per million hours worked in the 2015/16 financial year. The record low rate of injuries and sound scheme management delivered a performance from insurance operations of $233 million (PFIO). The result would have been stronger if not for an actuarial increase of $169 million.
Overall, the scheme posted a net result after tax of $694 million, while its funding ratio was 119 per cent. Its breakeven premium remained at 1.262 per cent.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said she was pleased that the scheme continued to be in a sound financial position and that the continuing decline in injury claims was a credit to the vigilance of Victorian employers and employees, and to the work of WorkSafe inspectors, who conducted more than 45,000 workplace visits in 2016/17.
"Injury prevention will
always be our prime focus," Ms Amies said. "Fewer injuries mean cost
savings flow through the entire scheme. More importantly, it means more
Victorians are going home safely to their families at the end of every
Read more: WorkSafe media release and Annual Report [pdf]
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on September 22. In this edition's editorial Barry Dunn writes about precast ferrules and the importance of correct installation to prevent structural collapse. Recently, WorkSafe has been notified about the failures of a number of ferrules cast into precast panels. Inspector enquiries into these failures have highlighted a number of safety issues associated with the installation of bolts into ferrules.
There are a number of other items in the edition including links to updated WorkSafe information and news from other jurisdictions. Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from 1 - 14 September 2017 with 71 incidents reported to WorkSafe. As always, many of the 'near miss' incidents could have had tragic consequences. Access the September 22 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
Health and Safety Month
In addition to the week's primary event for HSRs, the VTHC HSR Conference (October 31), there are a number of other events organised by WorkSafe Victoria for employers and others interested in OHS. HSRs could also attend any number of these (with permission from their employer) in addition to the VTHC Conference - which they have a right to attend on paid leave. To check out the events which are being held in Melbourne and in a number of non-metropolitan locations, go to this page.
Safe Work Australia News
Reminder: October is National Safe Work Month
October is National Safety Month and the national body, as well as the state and territory OHS/WHS regulators will run activities, seminars and more. SWA is urging people to "commit to improving health and safety in your workplace and share your knowledge and experience" this October.
- Share their safety initiative on social using the hashtag #safeworkmonth,
- Enter the Workplace Reward for a chance to win $5000 (woo hoo!)
- Subscribe on the website to keep up to date on all things National Safe Work Month.
SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at September 21*, 116 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body - which is just one more since the last update on August 28. The workers killed were in the following industries:
- 45 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 26 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 22 Construction
- 5 Arts & recreation services
- 2 Mining
- 3 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 Other services
- 0 Administrative & support services
- 3 Public administration & safety
- 4 Manufacturing
- 0 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Retail trade
- 0 Wholesale trade
- 1 Health care & social assistance
- 0 Professional, scientific & technical services
- 2 Accommodation & food services
- 0 Education & training
- 0 Financial & insurance services
- 1 Rental, hiring & real estate services
The numbers and industries 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 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.
* Note: the SWA page has not been updated since August 28, our editor received this update after sending an inquiry.
Construction company convicted and fined $30k after worker falls
Aveo Homes Pty Ltd, a residential construction company, was contracted to construct a development of three townhouses in St Albans, a suburb in Melbourne's west. Dascom Electrical Pty Ltd was engaged to complete electrical works at the site. On 8 October 2016, an electrician and director of Dascom was 'roughing in' wiring on the second level of unit two, a double story townhouse, when he fell between approximately 2.5 to 3 meters through an open stairwell void onto a concrete floor. He suffered a hairline crack to his skull and brain swelling requiring removal of part of his skull and replacement with a titanium plate. Aveo Homes was found to have failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to ensure that void protection, such as a void platform, was in place to cover the open stair void. The company pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $30,000 plus $4,624 costs.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: Frozen food giant Iceland convicted and fined $4.25m over fall death
Iceland Foods has been fined £2.5m (A$4.25m) over the death of a contractor who fell through a ceiling. The man was working at one of the firm's stores when he fell about 3m from a platform that was missing a handrail. Iceland was convicted in July of two criminal breaches of safety law after a trial at Sheffield Crown Court. Iceland said the 58-year-old's death was "a terrible tragedy for which we can only express the utmost regret." The man was working for a contractor at the firm's Rotherham store on 28 October 2013. He was to replace air conditioning filters located on a platform above a suspended ceiling in the warehouse. He fell through the ceiling and sustained serious injuries from which he later died in hospital. An investigation by Rotherham Council found no barriers in place to prevent falls from the platform, restricted space on the platform near the ladder and several tripping hazards. Iceland Foods Limited had not carried out a risk assessment, said the council. The company was fined £1.25m (A$2.125m) for each of two criminal safety offences and ordered to pay costs of £65,000 (A$110,370) to Rotherham Council.
Source: Risks 818
India: Five contract workers killed inhaling poisonous fumes
Five casual workers were killed and two remain in critical condition after inhaling toxic fumes when they were asked to clean an effluent treatment plant for Advance Dyestuff Industries, in Ahmedabad, India. The work had been subcontracted by the contractor engaged by the company to clean the tank. The workers were not provided with any safety gear and no precautions were taken to remove the fumes from the tank before the workers entered it. The police have filed actions against the company owner, supervisor and contractors for culpable homicide. When asked when the last inspection of the factory was conducted, D C Chaudhary, director of industrial safety and health, Ahmedabad, said "I cannot say when it was conducted last time." He said though that necessary action would be taken on the basis of the investigation.
Read more: The Times of India Source: The Wire's The Life of Labour