SafetyNet 423

SafetyNet 423

SafetyNet 423, October 11, 2017

Attention Victorian HSRs: If you haven't informed your employer that you wish to attend the VTHC HSR Conference on October 31, make sure you do so by Monday! Register now and get all the required paperwork.

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.


Union News
OHS Regulator News
OHS Prosecutions
International News

Union News

Ask Renata
Hello OHS Unit
I hope you can help me. My children attend a private language school every Saturday in the CBD. The building in which the school is located has a Take Away business on the ground level, that has triggered the smoke alarms twice in one week. This resulted in the students being evacuated from the building via the staircase. However, when they reached the ground floor the door to the alley was blocked with rubbish bins. What can we do about this? Who can we contact if we see this again? We are worried that the
Take Away business may not be complying with laws and standards. Who do we contact before something terrible happens?

This is indeed a very worrying situation! Our service primarily provides generally 'non-technical' information on occupational health and safety to workers and elected representatives – from a union perspective.

So I will respond with reference to Victoria's OHS legislation – there may well be other legislation that would cover this (eg you could also call the MFB) but that is not my area of expertise. There are several sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act ('the Act') which are relevant:

  • Under s26, persons who manage or control a workplace have a duty to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health;
  • Under s21, employers have a duty to employees - to provide and maintain so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health;
  • employers also have duties to 'others' under s23 of the Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer.

What this means you could do the following to seek resolution:

  • Contact the operators of the school – point out that they have duties both to their staff (s21) and to the students (s23), and tell them they need to sort out this problem by: 
    • Formally contacting the owner of the building AND the owner/operator of the take away food outlet, to demand that they ensure that the fire exits are kept free. This should be done in writing and for the owners of the building, quote s26 of the OHS Act (2004); for the take away food place, quote both s23 and s26
      o The letter should also alert the two duty holders that if something is not done immediately, the operators of the school will contact WorkSafe Victoria (the OHS regulator – or 9642 1444)
  • If you don't get anywhere, then I would suggest going straight to WorkSafe yourself.

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.

Back to top

Today: International Day of the Girl
We thought we'd take this occasion to quote the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work:

Women and men are not the same, and the jobs they do, their working conditions and circumstances and how society treats them are not the same. All these factors can affect the risks they face at work and the approach that needs to be taken to prevent these risks. More widespread recognition of the importance of taking account of gender differences in occupational health and safety (OHS) is relatively recent, although the number of initiatives seen in this area is increasing. However, especially because it is not always a very well understood area, practice needs to be exchanged and experiences shared. 

So as HSRs, think about the conditions at your workplaces and whether these affect female workers in a different way to male workers. Read more: Women and OHS

Asbestos News
Vic: Council fined for burning asbestos
The Central Goldfields Shire Council has been fined for illegally setting fire to industrial waste containing asbestos. The council burnt the asbestos in Flagstaff in June. The Environment Protection Authority Victoria last week said it had investigated after a tip of from a member of the public. Fibrous cement sheeting found on site was later confirmed to contain asbestos. The EPA fined the council almost $8000 for not disposing of it in a licensed facility. Source:

ACT: Homeowner served with Improvement notice
WorkSafe ACT has issued an improvement notice to a Chifley home owner after he incorrectly removed an asbestos fence. An Access Canberra spokeswoman said damaged asbestos fragments had been dampened to prevent dust spreading and confirmed there was a very low risk to the public. WorkSafe ACT issued a "strong reminder" that only licensed asbestos removalists could remove the dangerous material. "WorkSafe ACT attended the site and investigated and subsequently issued an improvement notice to the homeowner requiring them to seek advice from a licensed asbestos assessor on rectifying the site, undertake actions needed, and provide WorkSafe ACT with a clearance certificate from the asbestos assessor that works needed to rectify the site had been safely completed," the spokeswoman said.
Source: Canberra Times

NSW: Asbestos triggers another Opera House walk-off
Last Friday, electricians working on $200 million Sydney Opera House renovations once again stoppped work following the discovery of more asbestos. Approximately 35 workers stopped part way through installing cabling at the Opera House after asbestos was found in work areas.

The stoppage comes just eight weeks after asbestos was found in the building's wiring, which according to the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) exposed 25 workers working in a service duct. "This issue was first identified two months ago, with SafeWork NSW issuing improvement notices to builder Laing O'Rourke giving the company seven days to remove the asbestos or eliminate the threat to workers through appropriate safety measures," ETU secretary Dave McKinley said.

"Electricians yesterday raised the alarm that they were again being exposed to loose asbestos fibres, which has now been confirmed by scientific testing. Two months after this major safety issue was uncovered, and the builder was ordered to rectify it by the safety regulator, we have again seen workers exposed to these carcinogenic fibres." The ETU wants NSW Better Regulation Minister Matt Keen to launch an investigation into why SafeWork has not handed Laing O'Rourke a prohibition notice. The notice would prevent work from taking place until the asbestos is isolated and removed.
Read more: Asbestos triggers Opera walk-off Executive New; ABC News online

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 at the Old Parliament House, Canberra between 26th-28th November 2017. Go to this page to register.. Early bird registration has been extended for two weeks...

The program for the Summit is available on the ASEA website. Some key highlights include: 

  • An update from the World Health Organisation
  • International keynote: Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment on the country's  asbestos roofing removal program
  • 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

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

Cancer Council: WA should accept certain work exposures make employees ill
During National Safe Work Month the Cancer Council is pushing for WA to adopt a 'deemed diseases list', whereby it is accepted that certain work exposure such as diesel fumes can cause specific cancers. Some States have adopted the list, as has the Federal Government in the past week for its employees.

Terry Slevin, who is on the council's national occupational and environmental cancer risk committee, said many people were exposed to factors that were known to cause disease but it could be too difficult for them to prove it. "The list means people can legitimately claim compensation for something deemed most likely to have been caused by their work, and takes the onus off them to prove the link," he said.
Read more: The West Australian 

International union news
Hong Kong: Deadly bus crash linked to driver fatigue
Transport workers in two of Hong Kong's biggest unions have called on the government to carry out a complete overhaul of franchise bus drivers' pay structure and working hours to minimise overwork and lower traffic accident risks. This came as transport officials said they would consider reviewing guidelines for drivers' shifts after a recent deadly bus crash. Three people were killed and 31 others injured when Citybus-operated double-decker mounted a pavement and ploughed into pedestrians. The driver, 44, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving causing death and released on bail. Kung Sui-tong, deputy head of the Motor Transport Workers General Union's Citybus branch, said the driver had a record of being "reliable and hardworking" during his five years of employment. He was to start at 9pm on the night of the crash, but agreed to his supervisor's request to start at around 5pm, Kung said. The driver had recently been working 14 hours a day – the maximum number the department recommends for drivers. But Citybus claimed he had sufficient rest time of at least 10 hours as stipulated by regulation, between shifts. However, both the union and the separate Federation of Bus Industry Trade Unions called for a more progressive pay scale for drivers to reduce their reliance on overtime work. "Because of the low salary, some bus drivers have to work overtime to support themselves," said federation vice-chair Henry Hui Hon-kit, a Citybus driver. The department's guidelines on working hours and rest times – which stipulate drivers may work up to 11 hours per day – did not help either, he said. Cheung Tsz-kei, the general union's principal vice-chair, said the problem of overwork would persist if drivers did not get a rest break of at least 20 to 30 minutes between routes. His union is also calling for rest stations at all bus terminuses.
Read more: South China Morning Post. Source: Risks 820

Japan: Most nurses suffer from chronic fatigue
Seven in ten nurses in Japan always feel exhausted, a union survey has found. The Japan Federation of Medical Workers' Unions (Iroren) has conducted a survey on working conditions of nurses once in every five years since 1988. Over 33,000 nurses are included in the latest survey, which found 71.7 per cent of the respondents had symptoms of chronic fatigue, such as an inability to recover from tiredness. In addition, 62.5 per cent felt stressed and 55.3 per cent were concerned about their health. Approximately 80 per cent of the respondents had experience of making or nearly making a medical error. Nearly three quarters said that they often think about giving up their careers, mainly because "the workload is too heavy due to labour shortages." Almost a third of respondents (32.8 per cent) said they had health problems, twice the rate for women workers in all industries. Iroren is urging the government to establish rules to reduce working hours of nurses on shifts, especially those on the night shift, and sufficiently long intervals between shifts. Night shift work has been linked to higher breast cancer and road traffic accident risks in health care workers.
Read more: Japan Press. Source: Risks 820

Back to top


Italian study confirms asbestos pollution risk to workers and others
A recent study aimed to describe mesothelioma incidence in the Italian national priority contaminated sites (NPCS) on the basis of data available from the Italian National Mesothelioma Registry (ReNaM) and then profile these sites.

The researchers found 2683 incident cases of mesothelioma (1998 men, 685 women) were recorded in the study period. An excess of mesothelioma incidence was confirmed in sites with a known past history of direct use of asbestos (among men) such as Balangero, Casale Monferrato, and Broni, in sites with shipyards and harbors (eg, Trieste, La Spezia, Venice, and Livorno), and also in settings without documented direct use of asbestos. The analysis ranked the sites of Broni and Casale Monferrato (both genders) and Biancavilla (only for women) the highest.

The authors concluded that the study confirms that asbestos pollution is a risk for people living in polluted areas, due to not only occupational exposure in industrial settings with direct use of asbestos but also the presence of asbestos in the environment. 
Read more: Binazzi, A, et al, Mesothelioma incidence and asbestos exposure in Italian national priority contaminated sites Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article [full article, pdf]  doi:10.5271/sjweh.3676

Dementia and work isolation
Danish researchers investigated whether 'social relations' at work were associated with incident dementia in old age by following 1,572 occupationally active men from the Copenhagen Male Study Cohort from 1986 to 2014. These participants underwent a clinical examination at baseline and answered questionnaires on whether they were able to have regular contact with coworkers,  got along with them, were satisfied with their supervisors.

They found that 245 men (15.6 per cent) were diagnosed with dementia during an average of 15.8 years of follow-up. They found that those who had limited contact with their colleagues were at an increased risk of developing dementia, but contrary to their expectations, they found this increased risk was not shared by workers who worked alone. "It seems that working alone may not be as detrimental as having co-workers but not being able to be in contact with these co-workers," the researchers said.
Read more: Kazi Ishtiak-Ahmed, et al, Social Relations at Work and Incident Dementia: 29-Years' Follow-Up of the Copenhagen Male Study.  [Abstract; Full article, pdf only] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first September 2017, Doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001158.   Source: OHSAlert

Back to top

OHS Regulator News

WorkSafe Victoria News 
Health and Safety Month
Apart from the VTHC HSR Conference on October 31, WorkSafe Victoria has a range of activities in Melbourne and around the state happening for Health and Safety Month. Among the notable guest speakers are:

  • Cameron Ling - of Geelong FC fame, Health and Safety Ambassador, and MC at Health and Safety Month in Geelong;
  • Catherine McClements - award-winning stage and screen star and Health and Safety Ambassador; and
  • Lindsay Tanner - member of the Australian Parliament for 18 years and Minister for Finance and has been active in a number of areas since leaving politics in 2010, including Adjunct Professor at Victoria University and president of the Essendon Football Club.

To find out about the events, including those at which the above will be speaking, go to the WorkSafe Victoria Health and Safety Month webpage. Find an event, and register your attendance online.

Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of VWA's Safety Soapbox was sent out on October 6. In this edition Barry Dunn from the Construction Program writes about major inspections of cranes, hoists and winches. He writes: "Major inspections of cranes, hoists and winches are part of the preventative maintenance program. They should be conducted in addition to other inspections including pre-operational, routine periodic and third party periodic inspections."

The newsletter also has a variety of other items, including news from other jurisdictions, and its regular 'Absolute Shocker', which this week is on pre-formed concrete panels and the lack of public protection measures.

There were a large number of incidents (69) notified to the VWA since the last edition (for the period September 15 - 28), including several multiple fractures, numerous lacerations, and many potentially serious near misses. Access the October 6 Safety Soapbox edition online, including link to the list of reported incidents.

October is also Community Safety Month
Also happening in October in Victoria is Community Safety Month: councils around Victoria are running activities and events which encourage residents to participate and learn about safety. Check with your local council for events.

Back to top

QLD: LNP urged to support industrial manslaughter
Queensland's Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace last Friday urged the Liberal National Party (LNP) to support proposed new industrial manslaughter laws in State Parliament this week, saying the safety of workers and the public has to come first.

"All workers deserve to return home safely to their loved ones at the end of a day's work," Ms Grace said. "A year ago today, two workers at Eagle Farm lost their lives on the job and weeks later a terrible tragedy at Dreamworld cost four visitors their lives. We owe it to the victims and their loved ones to ensure Queensland has strong industrial manslaughter laws to protect people on the job."

The Minister said the proposed laws would send a clear message to corporations that negligence on their part will attract serious consequences. She said, "Some larger businesses are using complex corporate structures to evade their responsibilities, and our proposed laws will plug this gap. Small, medium and big businesses should all be on the same footing when it comes to providing a safe work environment.

"It's about time the LNP stopped playing politics on this issue, when people's lives are at stake," she said. "Every time they oppose sensible reform – whether it be on trading hours, labour hire licensing, or industrial manslaughter – they blame it on the unions."
Read more: Media Statement

Cladding focus of Building Ministers Forum
The third Building Ministers' Forum (BMF) for the year met in Brisbane on 6 October. According to its communique, it continued to drive decisive action on potentially hazardous aluminium cladding and other efforts to improve the compliance and safety of Australian buildings.'

BMF Ministers recognised the public safety concern and risk arising from the use of cladding that is not compliant with the National Construction Code (NCC). At the forum the Ministers agreed that they would use their available laws and powers to prevent the use of aluminium composite cladding with a polyethylene (PE) core for class 2, 3, or 9 buildings of two or more storeys, and class 5, 6, 7 or 8 of three or more storeys, until such time as they are satisfied that manufacturers, importers, and installers, working in collaboration with building practitioners, will reliably comply with:

  • the newly established standard setting test against which fire retardant cladding products are deemed to be reasonable for use in high rise settings; and
  • an established and implemented system of permanent labelling on cladding products to prevent substitution.

The Ministers also agreed the powers set out in Queensland's Building Construction (Non-conforming Building Products – Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2017 set a model for jurisdictions to consider.
Read more: BMF October communique [pdf]

Safe Work Australia News 
Virtual webinar on bullying
SafeWork Australia's first virtual seminar for Safety Month Building a bully-free workplace was broadcast yesterday, October 10. Workplace bullying remains a serious problem in many Australian workplaces, costing individuals and organisations in poor productivity, absenteeism and mental stress. The message is: "Instead of managing personalities or interpersonal conflicts, proactively change organisational culture." The seminar can be accessed from the SWA website here. More information on Bullying

October is National Safe Work Month
Everyone is now aware that this month is National Safety Month and the national body, as well as the state and territory OHS/WHS regulators are running activities, seminars and more. 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.


SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
There has been no update to the SWA page on notified fatalities since the last edition of SafetyNet: there had been 120 workplace fatalities reported to the national body as at September 27. 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 June 2017, during this month there were 22 work-related fatalities. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.

Back to top


Victoria: Recycler fined $175K after worker crushed under skid steer loader
Geelong recycling company Retmar Pty Ltd was last week convicted and fined $175,000 (plus $3,580 costs) following the death of a worker who was struck and run over by a skid steer loader at its Grovedale transfer station in May last year.

The company pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to provide a safe working environment under the 2004 OHS Act by failing to eliminate the risk of powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians.

On 6 May 2016 a 29-year-old yard hand working at the transfer station was walking back from a pile of waste carrying a sheet of material when he was struck by the skid steer loader as it was reversing. He then fell under the machine and was run over. He died at the scene. 

While Retmar had some safety measures in place at the time of the incident, including instructions for workers to keep certain distances from mobile machinery, these controls were not being monitored or adhered to. Further, the company had an inadequate traffic management plan in place to separate workers from the machine while it was operating, and it allowed workers to work in and around the machine.
Read more: WorkSafe Media release The UK's HSE has guidance on its Waste Management and Recycling webpages

Residential construction company convicted, fined
C.M.D. Homeworks Pty Ltd is a housing construction company. The company was constructing framework at a Hawthorn site in May 2016. On May 2, under management of a Homeworks employee, a crane was transferring delivered prefabricated trusses from a truck onto the site. An electrical spotter and dogman were also onsite to assist the transfer. On the company's direction, the 2.6 tonne trusses were landed on the top plate of the first floor, resting on the north and south exterior walls and an internal wall. They were then moved 0.5 metres back from where they were landed and four timber props were put in place for support. The trusses were then unchained. As the chains were being lifted away, one became caught on some strapping which dislodged the trusses. The load moved and the trusses fell to the floor of the first floor pinning and trapping the employee underneath causing serious injury. The employee was freed by emergency services. Another person working on site was also hit by the falling trusses.

The manner of transferring and placing the trusses created a risk of serious injury to employees and others from building collapse due to deficient and inadequate lateral bracing in the location where the trusses were placed. Homeworks pleaded guilty to breaching s21(1) and (2)(a) and 23(1), and was with conviction fined $10,000 plus costs of $3,283.

Labour hire worker's hand trapped in unguarded plant
Bakers & Co. Australia Pty Ltd (Bakers) operates a pizza and biscuit production bakery. On 6 April 2016 a labour hire worker, who had begun working with Bakers just five days before, was required to clean a 'crumb auger' - which was an unguarded item of plant, posing a risk to a worker of shearing, entanglement, entrapment and crushing. Bakers failed to guard the plant and failed to provide such information, instruction and training to any worker cleaning it, with respect to the dangers posed by it. During cleaning, the auger started turning, trapping the worker's hand, causing deep lacerations. Bakers pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the OHS Act, and was with conviction fined $30,000, plus $3,430 in 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 convicted, fined after amputation 
South Australian company Rota-Forma Pty Ltd (trading as Olympic Industries) that failed to identify fixing minor machine jams as a maintenance task requiring specific controls, has been convicted and fined after a worker's dominant right hand was crushed by a guillotine machine's support arm in May 2015.  The company was fined $99,000 (after the maximum 40 per cent discount for its early plea and contrition), including a $10,000 payment to the worker in recognition of his losses not covered by the workers' compensation system. The worker was helping a colleague fix a jammed conveyor belt on the machine when the support arms unexpectedly lowered and one of them crushed his hand, amputating the tips of his index and little fingers, and fully amputating his middle and ring fingers. An operation to reattach the middle and ring fingers failed. The South Australian Employment Tribunal heard that despite being Rota-Forma's most experienced operator of the guillotine, the worker had only received minimal training and had never seen written instructions or a manual for the machine.
Read more: Soulio v Rota-Forma Pty Ltd t/as Olympic Industries [2017] SAET 123 (6 October 2017)  Source: OHSAlert 

NSW: Employee convicted under WHS Act
A NSW worker has become the second entity to be convicted over an incident where a man's face was burnt by fumes and molten material ejected from a machine being cleaned with the wrong agent.

The man pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court to breaching s28 ("Duties of workers") and s32 ("Failure to comply with a health and safety duty") of the State WHS Act, in exposing three Grass Manufacturers Pty Ltd workers to the risk of death or serious injury when he used PVC purge material to clean a Grass polypropylene and polyethylene extruder.

Judge Andrew Scotting ordered the worker to pay $30,000 in costs, but did not impose a fine, saying the lack of training the worker received from his employer, Extrusion Machine Co (Australia) Pty Ltd, was the "most significant causal factor in the incident". Despite having 30 years' industry experience, the worker had never previously worked with this type of extruder, and this was the first time he had obtained purge material for a client. Extrusion was convicted and fined $45,000 over the incident in July 2017.
Source: OHSAlert

Back to top

International News

WHO advice on prevention of 'environmental' diseases
A newly released publication from the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights the 'special relevance of environmental risks' for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). WHO presents the burden of NCDs caused by environmental risks – a category that includes occupational risk factors - as well as the many areas where action is needed to reduce the burden. It estimates almost a quarter (23 per cent) of global deaths are linked to environmental factors. The report notes that measures necessary to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals include steps to: "Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular, women migrants, and those in precarious employment."
WHO publication alert and report, Preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by reducing environmental risk factors [pdf] Source: Risks 820

Back to top




Please send in your occupational health and safety questions to Renata. We will respond within a few days.

Ask a question


Please complete the form below to subscribe to the SafetyNET Journal email newsletter.

Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Your details


Have you had your initial training yet? Want to do a refresher course? Register online!

OHS Training