SafetyNet 424

SafetyNet 424

SafetyNet 424, October 18, 2017

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Ask Renata

Hello Renata
Is it required by law to have a fire warden in each of our facilities? And if so, do they need to have professional training?

This is not not specifically addressed in legislation - not in the Act nor in Regulaitons. This is because OHS/WHS legislation in Australia is 'objective based' – that is, the duties on employers require that they provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This is called the 'general duty of care' , and this covers everything. But the law is not 'prescriptive' – that is, it does not mandate HOW this should be done. The only exceptions are to do with certain chemicals like lead or asbestos - see this page on Duties of employers.  Persons with management or control of workplaces must also ensure that the workplace is safe and without risks to health and that the means of entry and exit are safe and without risks to health. There is however some guidance on what employers need to do in terms of 'Responding to emergencies' in the Workplace amenities and work environment Compliance Code and reference to some WorkSafe guidance notes and Australian Standards.

It is expected therefore that every workplace will have in place an emergency plan – what this is, how extensive it is, whether there need to be fire wardens, how they should be trained, and whether the employer should organise emergency evacuation drills will depend on the type and size of the workplace.  the responsibility to ensure the safety of workers and others is legally that of the employer. Of course, the employer may not have the expertise to decide this, but has the legal duty under s22(2)(b) of the OHS Act to 'employ or engage persons who are suitably qualified in relation to ohs to provide advice to the employer…' and should consider seeking the assistance of a fire safety organisation. It would be my advice that if it decided that fire wardens should be appointed, then it is important that they receive adequate and proper training.

See this page for more information (including a link to the Code): Fire and Emergency Evacution.

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.

October 15: West Gate Bridge tragedy remembered
The Memorial Service for the 47th anniversary of the West Gate Bridge collapse, Australia's worst industrial incident which claimed the lives of 35 workers, was held last Sunday. As has happened every year since 1970, people gathered at the West Gate Memorial Site beneath the bridge in Douglas Parade, Spotswood at 11.30am in memory of those workers killed and the many injured when the bridge collapsed at 11.50am.

The Memorial Committee has announced it is planning to produce a documentary on the disasters and is asking anyone who was touched by the disaster, and would like to tell their story to get in touch through the Memorial website.
Read more: West Gate Bridge Disaster Online Exhibition; the West Gate Bridge Memorial website for much more information, including other stories and the outcome of the Royal Commission

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Asbestos News
Vic: Asbestos Awareness Week and Commemoration Service
Friday November 24 - SAVE THE DATE

During November's Asbestos Awareness Week, advocacy and support group Asbestoswise holds it annual Commemoration Service to remember those whose lives have been touched by asbestos-related diseases. HSRs, workers and the general community are invited to join Asbestoswise for the event, followed by a BBQ on the banks of the Yarra, generously provided by the CFMEU.
When: 10.45am, Friday November 24
Where: Deakin Edge Theatre, Federation Square, Melbourne
Followed by BBQ on the banks of the Yarra River.

Mildura: asbestos disposal warning
Mildura Rural City Council is urging people to be prepared and aware of their obligations when disposing of asbestos with many undertaking 'spring cleaning', often a busy time for home renovations and clean ups, which sometimes uncover asbestos materials. This is a potentially dangerous substance that must be handled with care and disposed of safely.

The Mildura Landfill is the only local facility licenced to accept asbestos waste and Environmental Sustainability Portfolio Councillor Anthony Cirillo said residents should contact the Landfill for information and advice about disposal if they came across asbestos materials at home. Residents in all councils should heed the warning, and make sure they know where to dispose of asbestos materials legally.
Read more: Where can I dispose of asbestos waste?; Mildura Independent

NSW: New asbestos guide
A new guide to help protect people living and working in rural and regional NSW from the dangers of naturally occurring asbestos was launched by the NSW Government this week.

The guide, developed by the NSW Government body responsible for asbestos safety in NSW, the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA), will assist property owners to prevent and minimise exposure to naturally occurring asbestos on their properties and farms.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW and HACA Chair, Peter Dunphy said it was Australia's first comprehensive guide to managing naturally occurring asbestos. "Naturally occurring asbestos can be found in rocks, sediments and soils in parts of regional NSW," Mr Dunphy said. "In its natural state, asbestos presents the same health risks as asbestos contained in building products. This guide helps people living and working in rural and regional NSW to safely manage the risk of exposure to naturally occurring asbestos on properties where it may be present."
Read more: NSW Media Release; download a copy of the Naturally Occurring Asbestos – Asbestos Management Plan Guide from the Asbestos Awareness website.

ASEA Summit - November 26 - 28 - Early bird discount closes Friday
To be held at the Old Parliament House, Canberra between 26th-28th November 2017, ASEA's national summit is a must for anyone who is interested or involved in asbestos-related work and advocacy. Go to this page to register. The program for the Summit is available on the ASEA website.

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

Cancer Council targets Silica Dust
Cancer Council Australia is calling for tradies to be more aware of cancer risks on the job in the light of new estimates that over 230 lung cancer cases in Australia each year are caused by exposure to silica dust in the workplace. It is estimated that around 600,000 Australian workers each year are exposed to silica dust at work, including miners, construction workers, farmers, engineers, bricklayers and road construction workers, as well as those working in demolition.

Terry Slevin, Chair, Occupational and Environmental Cancer Risk Committee Cancer Council Australia, said "Silica is surprisingly common – it's found in stone, rock, sand, gravel and clay, as well as bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic materials. When these materials are worked on or cut, silica is released as a fine dust that's 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. It's so small you can't see it – but if you breathe it in, in some cases it can lead to lung cancer."

Mr Slevin said that it was the responsibility of both employers and employees to act now to reduce the number of silica related lung cancer cases. "Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe place to work. Likewise, those working with silica need to take responsibility for their future health, get informed and protect themselves."
Read more: Media Release, Silica dust - the cancer risk tradies can't see, and new webpage with downloadable pdf document; Information on Silica on the website.

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Research


Canada: Study highlights high work cancer toll
Canadian research has identified the high toll each year from work-related cancers. The study, 'Burden of Occupational Cancer in Ontario', which concluded there are 'many opportunities' to reduce the number of occupational cancers, was produced jointly by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) and Cancer Care Ontario's Population Health and Prevention team. It found solar radiation, asbestos, diesel engine exhaust and crystalline silica had the largest estimated impact on cancer burden and also the highest number of exposed workers in Ontario, Canada's most populous province.

Approximately 450,000 Ontario workers are exposed, causing an estimated 1,400 non-melanoma skin cancer cases per year, according to the study. Fewer than 55,000 workers are exposed to asbestos, but the potent carcinogen is estimated to cause 630 lung cancers, 140 mesotheliomas, 15 laryngeal cancers and fewer than five ovarian cancers annually. About 301,000 workers are exposed to diesel exhaust fumes every year, the study found, causing 170 lung and 45 bladder cancer cases. An estimated 142,000 Ontario workers are exposed to crystalline silica, which annually causes almost 200 lung cancer cases. The paper adds that shiftwork "may be responsible" for 180 to 460 new cases of breast cancer in the province a year. "I can't count the number of times that I have talked about how important it is to prevent exposure to carcinogens, but raising awareness doesn't always lead to action," said OCRC director Paul Demers, who is leading the study. "I think the numbers are important to make this real and push action towards preventing exposure to these causes of cancer." This is the first publication in the project; a Canada-wide picture is expected within about a year.
Read More: Burden of occupational cancer in Ontario: Major workplace carcinogens and prevention of exposure [pdf], Occupational Cancer Research Centre and Cancer Care Ontario, October 2017. Globe and Mail. Source: Risks 821

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OHS Regulator News

WorkSafe Victoria News 
Health and Safety Month
Remember that 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 - but don't be pressured into attending one of the WorkSafe events instead of the VTHC HSR Conference!  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.

Jobs at WorkSafe - Inspector positions
WorkSafe is now advertising for inspector positions. Applications opened this Monday and close midnight Sunday 29th October 2017. The WorkSafe website provides information on How to Apply: To apply, check the inspector advertisement from the current job vacancies and select apply online. Complete all required fields in the application form and attach your resume.

The resume is the first piece of information they will see about you, and the recommendation is that it be concise and align skills and experience with the job description. Remember to include your:

  • personal details - full name, preferred name, location and contact details
  • education - qualifications, institutions, dates of study, majors and academic average
  • work experience - industry or non-industry related
  • skills - include any technical skills you have gained
  • achievements
  • extracurricular activities

(and more information - check the website).

QLD: Government passes Industrial Manslaughter legislation
Queensland's controversial legislation passed Parliament last Thursday, with amendments explicitly excluding lack of intent as a defence against the new industrial manslaughter offence.  The Labor Government Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 adds industrial manslaughter provisions – with maximum $10 million fines and 20-year jail terms – to the State Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Electrical Safety Act 2002 and Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011.

It passed with the support of Katter's Australian Party MPs Robert Katter and Shane Knuth, and Independent MPs Billy Gordon and Rob Pyne.

The Government has shelved plans to extend the Bill to the mining sector.

The amendments moved by Employment and IR Minister Grace Grace include a new subsection stating that s23 ("Intention–motive") of the Criminal Code 1899 "does not apply to an offence under" the industrial manslaughter provisions. This reflects the fact that a failure to discharge significant WHS duties should not be "negated by reliance on the defence of accident", according to the Minister's explanatory notes.

The Bill was controversial as the parliamentary inquiry committee failed to reach consensus on it, with non-Government MPs claiming the manslaughter provisions are faulty at law, and stakeholders raising concerns about the apparent move away from national WHS harmonisation.
Read more: Minister Grace's Media Statement. Source: OHS Alert 

ACT: Construction industry to face scrutiny on scaffolding
The ACT Government this week put the construction industry on notice for scaffolding safety following a number of recent incidents as well as the extremely concerning results of WorkSafe ACT's recent proactive audit into scaffolding safety.

Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Rachel Stephen-Smith and Minister for Regulatory Services Gordon Ramsay said considering working at heights was one of the highest risk work activities, there would be zero tolerance for companies who cut corners by installing unsafe scaffolding. Also targeted would be workers unsafely modifying scaffolds on site.

"What we saw through WorkSafe ACT's recent proactive audit into local commercial and residential scaffolding was that only one in five scaffolds checked was fully compliant," Minister Stephen-Smith said. "Frankly this is not good enough and there is no excuse for this kind of disregard for worker safety. WorkSafe ACT will be responding strongly to any scaffolding safety issues detected in the ACT."

Minister Ramsay said that with dangerous scaffolding found at construction sites involved in safety incidents this week – at Kambah and Coombs – the message was clearly not getting through to industry. "Safe scaffolding is not an optional extra - it is a critical component of a safe worksite and properly installed scaffolding can be the difference between safety and catastrophic injury or death," he said.
Read more: ACT Government Media Release

WA: Inspection program looks at cleaning at schools
WorkSafe has begun a proactive inspection program looking at safety issues with cleaners in WA schools. Inspectors will visit government and non-government primary and secondary schools in Perth and regional areas of the State through to the end of the 2017/18 financial year.

WorkSafe Acting Director Sally North said today the inspection program had been prompted by the high number of manual task injuries suffered each year by school cleaners. "Statistics show that manual tasks are the most common cause of injuries to cleaners in schools in WA," Ms North said. "Cleaners often work in awkward positions and many of their tasks involve heavy manual work, often within a tight time frame, so they are exposed to many hazards."
Read more: WA WorkSafe Announcement

Safe Work Australia News 
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 and Subscribe on the website to keep up to date on all things National Safe Work Month.

SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at October 16, there had been 129 workplace fatalities reported to the national body - this is nine more than the last update on September 27. The workers killed were in the following industries:

  • 49 Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 28 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 27 Construction
  • 7 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 June 2017, during this month there were 22 work-related fatalities. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.

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Prosecutions

Victorian prosecutions
Roofing company convicted and fined for unsafe work and lack of SWMS

Mitec Group Pty Ltd, trustee and trading name for the Goodge Family Trust, was engaged to supply and fit roofing on a domestic dwelling in Bacchus Marsh. When on 27 September 2016, a WorkSafe Inspector attended the workplace, he saw two people on the roof, around the perimeter of which there was no fall protection. He took photographs before directing them to safely get down from the roof where they had been working at a height of at least 3.4 metres. He issued a 'Prohibition Notice' to prevent further work at the workplace. He asked to see a Safe Work Method Statement ('SWMS') for the works - but there was none. He issued an 'Improvement Notice' in relation to the failure to have a SWMS. Mitec Group was charged with breaching s 21(1) of the OHS Act and r 3.3.4 of the OHS Regulations for failure to provide a work positioning system for work being undertaken; and with breahcing s 21(1) and r 5.1.9 for failure to provide a Safe Work Method Statement for high risk construction work. The company pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $20,000 plus $2,836 in costs.

Self-employed builder puts public at risk - convicted and fined $10k
Adrian Padoin is a self-employed builder trading as Padcon Constructions. On 27 October 2015 WorkSafe Inspectors attended a construction site at Geelong West, where 11 double storey town-houses were being built. On 1 June and 21 June 2016 inspectors attended a construction site in Reservoir where 3 double storey units were being constructed.Padoin was charged with five offences under s 24(1) of the OHS Act for failing to ensure that persons were not exposed to risks to health and safety arising from his undertaking. The first three offences involved risks of fall from heights, unsecured site and untested and tagged electrical equipment at the Geelong West site. These offences occurred between October and December 2015. The other two charges related to the Reservoir site and involved risks of unsafe electrical equipment and fall from heights. These offences occurred in June 2016. The offender pleaded guilty and was, with conviction, fined $10,000 plus $2,500 costs.

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

International News

Japan: TV journalist's death was caused by overwork 
Overwork caused the death of a 31-year-old female reporter with Japanese state broadcaster NHK in 2013, according to the labour standards inspectors, the public broadcaster admitted last week. The admission provided further evidence of the extreme working conditions many Japanese employees endure. Miwa Sado, who was based at the broadcaster's centre in Tokyo, died of congestive heart failure in July 2013. She had worked 159 hours of overtime with only two days off in the one-month period prior to her death, a local labour standards office concluded in May 2014. The broadcaster only revealed the cause of death this month, however.

Sado's family said they wanted to ensure such an incident never happens again. "Even today, four years after, we cannot accept our daughter's death as a reality," Sado's parents said in a comment released by NHK. "We hope that the sorrow of the bereaved family will never be wasted." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration has been seeking to improve working conditions in the country following the suicide of a new recruit at advertising giant Dentsu Inc in 2015 due to excessive working hours. Overwork-related deaths by heart attack or stroke (karoshi) or suicide (karojisatsu) are government recognised and compensated occupational diseases in Japan. The suicide of 24-year-old Dentsu employee Matsuri Takahashi in April 2015 caught national attention, and the conclusion by labour standards inspectors in September 2016 that it was caused by overwork sparked debate about the harsh working conditions in the country. On 6 October 2017, Dentsu was fined for making employees work excessive overtime. A Tokyo court ordered the company to pay the token sum of 500,000 yen (A$5,677).
Read more: Japan Times. Tokyo Reporter. The Guardian and follow-up article. BBC News Online. Source: Risks 821

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