SafetyNet 422

SafetyNet 422

SafetyNet 422, October 4, 2017

Union News
Research
OHS Regulator News
OHS Prosecutions
International News

Union News

Ask Renata
How many car spots does an office which employs ten people or fewer be required to have as available to its employees?

There's nothing at all in OHS legislation on car spots or car parking.. other than the general duty an employer has of ensuring that as part of the workplace the car parking area is safe and without risks to health.

There may be something in the Australian Building Code on how much car parking a building must have, but this would not necessarily mean that any required spots are for the use of worker.

The only duty the employer has is that he must provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health (see this page: Duties of employers)

Also, under s26 of the Act, the person with management and control of a workplace must ensure that to the extent they have management or control, the means of entering it or leaving it are safe and without risks to health (so far as reasonably practicable). So at a stretch, if workers have to go long distances to get to their cars, and this puts them at risk, then the employer should consider this.

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.

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Asbestos News
Victoria: More schools to be rid of asbestos
Acting Minister for Education Jenny Mikakos this week announced the next 119 schools to undergo the removal of asbestos that may pose a risk in the future. Under the Victorian School Asbestos Removal Program, $1.6 million will be invested to remove asbestos from 119 schools in the regional centres of Wodonga, Wangaratta and Shepparton, as well as parts of Melbourne's east. The schools are listed in the release.

The program of works will start during the current school holidays and be completed by early next year. Works to be carried out include removing asbestos from cabinets and safes along with the removal and reinstatement of some cement sheet ceilings, walls and eaves.
Read more: Victorian Government media release: Ridding Victorian Schools of Asbestos

NT: Firm faces asbestos charges
Northern Transportables, a manufacturing and building company in Darwin, has been charged by NT WorkSafe with five breaches of the work health and safety legislation over illegal asbestos removal. The regulator alleges that in October and November 2015 the company allowed unlicensed workers to remove asbestos from two properties without training or appropriate safety equipment. The matter will appear in the Darwin Local Court on October 25. Source: Northern Territory News

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.

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

International union news
UK: Union warning over toxic diesel exhaust exposures
Legal claims over exposure to diesel exhaust fumes at work are rising as UK unions raise concerns about toxic air in the workplace. Royal Mail and at least one local authority are among major employers who are being sued over their alleged failure to protect staff from the damaging health effects of diesel pollution from vehicles, reports the Guardian. More cases are lined up, according to lawyers and unions involved in supporting workers. 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." He added: "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." Exposures can cause respiratory and heart diseases, and cancer. The union Unite said exposure to diesel exhaust fumes is a 'ticking time bomb'. It has set up a diesel emissions register so employees can record their exposure to diesel exhaust fumes. A study by the union revealed that affected workers are reporting short-term health effects that included wheezing, respiratory problems, eye irritation, nausea and headache. Long-term problems recorded included reduced lung capacity, breathlessness and asthma.
Read more: The Guardian. Information on Diesel. Source: Risks 819

UK: Union 'victory' as Uber told to get out of London
A legal employment rights victory by the GMB (a general UK union) paved the way for the app based taxi firm losing its licence to operate in London, the union has said. GMB said its court action forced the company to defend its record on drivers' employment rights and public safety and brought its exploitative practices into the public gaze. Speaking last week after Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew Uber's London license, Maria Ludkin, GMB legal director, said: "This historic decision is a victory for GMB's campaign to ensure drivers are given the rights they are entitled to - and that the public, drivers and passengers are kept safe. As a result of sustained pressure from drivers and the public, Uber has suffered yet another defeat - losing its license to operate in London. It's about time the company faced up to the huge consequences of GMB's landmark employment tribunal victory - and changed its ways." She added: "No company can behave like it's above the law, and that includes Uber. No doubt other major cities will be looking at this decision and considering Uber's future on their own streets. GMB will always challenge bogus self-employment and tackling exploitation. This decision vindicates our campaign and should be a wake-up call to a company that has for far too long been in denial."
Read more: GMB news release and follow up. TfL statement. ITF news release. The Guardian. Source: Risks 819

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Research

Study warns of crumb rubber health risks
Sports players, both amateur and professional, ground staff and others could be at risk as a result of a "remarkable" lack of occupational health checks on the effects of rubber crumb pitches, a study has found. The health of some people who work with surfaces made from recycled tyres – such as production workers, suppliers, installers and maintainers – may also be at risk due to inadequate monitoring, the research suggests. Professor Andrew Watterson,author of the study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, said it appears that risks are being "downplayed" despite well-documented links between rubber production and illness, bans on landfill disposal of used tyres and concerns about the health of sportspeople and others who use such surfaces. Indoor and outdoor pitches made from artificial grass may be filled with crumb rubber, which can contain hazardous chemicals. Due to data gaps and limitations of earlier studies, the risks posed by low level exposures to these chemicals are constantly being re-assessed and lower control limits applied.

Professor Watterson, head of Stirling's Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, said the lack of health monitoring of sportspeople and crumb rubber production and maintenance workers was "remarkable", given well-publicised concerns. "The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authority inspectors clearly have an important role to play here. We hope that our research results in more frequent, independent scrutiny of the industry by HSE and of private leisure facilities by local authorities and encourages the industry and regulators to increase and improve the information available to users along with more extensive health surveillance and monitoring." The professor is calling for "proper" cumulative health impact assessments to be carried out, looking at the risk of hazardous chemicals, including rubber crumb. He said: "There have already been calls for tougher controls on some of the chemicals that may be present in crumb rubber and a cautious approach is wise."

An additional concern for Australia is that there is a potential gap in regulation when it comes to imported pitches or artificial grass - because despite possibly containing hazardous chemicals, they are 'objects' and thus not regulated under our chemicals regime.
Read more: Andrew Watterson. Artificial turf: Contested terrains for precautionary public health with particular reference to Europe? [Full article], International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, volume 14, number 9, 2017. Source: Risks 819

Sexual harassment at work causes depression
Unsurprisingly, sexual harassment at work is bad for mental health, according to a new study. Danish researchers found 1 per cent of more than 7,600 employees working for over 1,000 different organisations were sexually harassed by a supervisor, colleague or a subordinate, while 2.4 per cent suffered the same treatment from someone else they dealt with at work. Women were much more likely to face this treatment than men, with 169 out of 4,116 – compared to just 11 out of 3,487 men – reporting sexual harassment by customers. Of those who said work colleagues had harassed them, 48 were women and 31 were men. The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, measured the effect on mental health using the Major Depression Inventory (MDI), a questionnaire used to work out a score in which 20 indicates mild depression and 30 or more major depression. Harassment by clients or customers increased the score by an average of 2.05 points, while this treatment at the hands of colleagues raised the score by 4.5 points. Co-author Dr Ida Madsen, of the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Denmark, said: "In this study we found that sexual harassment from clients or customers, which is more prevalent than harassment from other employees, is associated with an increased level of depressive symptoms." She added: "This is important as some workplaces, for example in person-related work such as care work or social work, may have an attitude that dealing with sexual harassment by clients or customers is 'part of the job'."
Read more: Maria K Friborg and others. Workplace sexual harassment and depressive symptoms: a cross-sectional multilevel analysis comparing harassment from clients or customers to harassment from other employees amongst 7603 Danish employees from 1041 organizations [Full article] BMC Public Health, published online 25 September 2017. TUC guide to your rights on sexual harassment, union reps' guide to addressing sexual harassment [pdf] and report, Still just a bit of banter? [pdf] Everyday Sexism Project and 'shouting back' platform. Source: Risks 819

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OHS Regulator News

NSW: New fines to protect NSW workers from falls
SafeWork NSW has announced it will soon have the power to issue penalty notices of up to $3600 to NSW workplaces if they fail to protect employees against falls from heights. So far this year, the regulator says it has attended 234 incidents involving falls from heights, including eight fatalities. Over half these incidents occurred in the construction industry. If the risk of injury to workers is imminent or serious, or if the workplace is considered to be a repeat offender, the fines can be issued on-the-spot.

NSW workers compensation data shows there were 12,136 claims relating to falls from heights between 2013/14 and 2015/16, representing a total cost of $327 million and total lost work time of 126,945 weeks. This significantly impacts workers, their families and the NSW economy. Read more: NSW Media Release

QLD: Alert after worker struck in head by portable hydraulic jack
Last month a Queensland worker sustained serious head injuries while operating a portable hydraulically powered jack. He was using the jack to expand a semi-circular shaped metal bracket when it dislodged and struck him in the face. He was found unconscious sometime after the incident occurred. Following this incident, WorkCover Queensland issued a Safety Alert.

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. Workers and employers should visit the National Safe Work Month website, access the campaign kit, and run a safety initiative in their workplace.  SWA is asking everyone to:

  • 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.

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SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at September 27, 120 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body - this is four more than the last update just a week ago. The workers killed were in the following industries:

  • 47 Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 27 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 23 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 is for June 2017. During this month there were 22 work-related fatalities: 15 were workers (14 males), and seven were bystanders, five of whom were females.

Although the May report was not posted on the SWA site, the statistics for the month are on the June report: there were also 22 work-related fatalities of which 19 were workers, and three were bystanders.

To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.

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Prosecutions

Victoria: Papermill convicted and fined $40k
Paper Australia Pty Ltd, operator of a paper mill in Traralgon, was last week convicted and fined for breaches of the OHS Act. Within the workplace is the effluent treatment plant area, which includes two large water clarifier pits and associated structures, walkways and pits. The area had a grid mesh walkway between two waste water clarifiers. The metal walkway was enclosed with handrail and its platform consisted of several metal grates sitting on metal support braces. The welds of the metal support braces, and the braces themselves on which the metal grates rested, were heavily corroded. There were several handrails in multiple areas of the workplace being utilised as fall protection, including on this walkway, around the clarifiers and around various associated pits. Some of those handrails were corroded or missing, and some of the nuts attaching the handrails to concrete were corroded or missing. A number of the handrails did not meet minimum height requirements and so were inadequate as fall protection. Finally, a ladder descending into an instrument pit sumpt was insufficient as it did not have a safety cage fitted to it.

On 7 August 2015 two electrical subcontractors were working in this area. As the men walked across the walkway, two of the support braces snapped at welded joins and the metal grate they were standing on tilted 45 degrees. The worker at the front of the grate counterbalanced the grate with his own weight so his colleague at the back of the grate could jump to safety; he then also stepped off the grate. The part of the walkway that gave way crossed over a large pit containing pumps and other equipment. Following the incident, WorkSafe Inspectors measured the depth of the pit at 7.76 metres. Paper Australia pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $40,000 plus $4,027 costs.

To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

SA: Employer fined after workers struck
Balhahn Pty Ltd, trading as Balhannah Mitre 10, which had an 'informal safety system' for moving stock with forklifts has been convicted and fined $85,000 for WHS breaches, after two workers were struck by 80kg steel tubes. In December 2015, a Balhahn worker used a forklift to carry a pack of eight-metre-long steel tubes into the main store to sell to a customer. He then cut its strappings while standing in front of the load, which was raised on the forklift's tines. Two of the tubes fell free from the pack and hit his foot, breaking the metatarsals and causing soft tissue damage. They also struck another worker walking past, who fell and suffered neck and shoulder injuries.

SafeWork SA alleged the premises were missing a number of safety measures, including: hazard identification and risk assessment for using forklifts to move and handle stock; a prohibition on driving forklifts with a raised load; a requirement for loads contained by straps to be placed on the ground before cutting the straps; and a requirement for workers to stand on the forklift side of the safety frame when cutting load straps. The company acknowledged it only had informal instructions in place for workers not to undo bundled stock on forklift tines unless the tines were at ground level.
Source: OHS Alert

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International News

India: sixth contract worker killed inhaling poisonous fumes
In last week's SafetyNet we reported that five casual workers were killed and two were in a critical condition after inhaling toxic fumes when they were asked to clean an effluent treatment plant for Advance Dyestuff Industries, in Ahmedabad, India. One of the two critically ill workers has since died.

More garment workers killed in Bangladesh
In yet another tragic incident, at least six workers were killed, with many others injured, when a fire engulfed their textile factory in Munshiganj, near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. The Ideal Textile Mill factory was located in a mixed residential and industrial area in a multi storey building. The fire is thought to have originated on the first floor where chemicals were being stored while renovations were being undertaken.  This fire is the latest of several other deadly factory incidents in the country's textile industry this year and is a direct consequence of the ongoing repression against independent unions.
Read more: Dhaka Tribune. Source: AAWL mininews

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