SafetyNet 427, November 15, 2017
It's been two weeks since the last edition of SafetyNet - we hope you find this week's edition useful and interesting.
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.
I am the HSR and would like some clarification. I told members of my DWG that if they had any OHS issues and were concerned about raising them with management, they should come to me as their HSR and that I would raise them. Management has told me that I have overstated my role as HSR, that this is not the proper process, and that employees must go to management. I am confused!
- if a health or safety issue arises at a workplace and an employee wishes to raise the issue for resolution, then the employee must report the issue to the health and safety representative, if there is a health and safety representative; or to the employer or employer representative, if there is no HSR; and
- if there is an HSR for a DWG, then management must meet with that HSR to seek to resolve issues.
In other words, the Act and the Regulations make it clear that the role of the HSR is to be the DWG members' representative - the person to whom DWG member MUST report issues, in order for the HSR to be able to resolve them with the employer or the employer's representative. In workplaces where there are no elected HSRs, then obviously, employees report issues directly to the employer/employer rep.
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.
7pm, November 29: Webinar on PINs
PINs Get Things Done is the latest in the VTHC OHS Unit's webinar series and touches on some of the take-home messages from the 2017 HSR Conference on issue resolution. The webinar will cover common questions HSRs ask when it comes to issuing a PIN, such as when to use it, what to do if there is a health and safety problem at work, inspectors and PINs, and what to do if your PIN is challenged by your employer or canceled by an inspector. Register now.
November 20 - 24 Asbestos Awareness Week
.Tuesday November 21 - Morning Tea
Slater and Gordon Lawyers, in conjunction with Victorian Trades Hall Council, has organised a seminar and morning tea to provide an update on Asbestos, Silica and other Dust Diseases.
Guest speakers include:
- Dr Ryan Hoy, Respiratory Physician (see item under Research, below)
- Dr Gerry Ayers, CFMEU OH&S Officer
- Renata Musolino, VTHC OHS Information Officer
- Claire Setches, Slater & Gordon Asbestos Lawyer
When: 10.30am - 12 noon, Tuesday 21 November
Where: Victorian Trades Hall Council, 54 Victoria St, Carlton South (corner of Lygon St)
RSVP: by COB Friday 17 November. Email Lindsay Jones, or text or call with any queries on 0434 396 558
Friday November 24: Asbestoswise Commemoration Service
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.
Check the event on our Facebook page, here.
Wednesday November 29: Education union asbestos forum
Each year the AEU hosts a statewide forum to provide current information on the management of asbestos in our schools and centres and the quest to eradicate asbestos from our built environment. You can attend in person at the AEU Victoria office or participate online. Both members and non-members are welcome. Register here.
When: 4.30pm - 6pm, November 29
Where: 126 Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford VIC 3067
ASEA Summit - November 26 - 28
It is not too late to register to attend ASEA's national summit at the Old Parliament House, Canberra between 26th-28th November 2017. Go to this page to register. The program for the Summit is available on the ASEA website.
New discussion paper on Victorian fatalities
Barry Naismith, of OHSIntros this week released a new discussion paper for the interest of the OHS community and others who are concerned about workplace health and safety matters in Victoria. 26. Death at work. Victoria 2016 [pdf] covers reported deaths in the state during the 2016 calendar year and compensated deaths and prosecutions for the financial year 2015-16. It also updates total death at work statistics and trends since the current OHS and workers compensation system began in Victoria in 1985. The focus of the paper is the under-reporting of deaths at work and the lack of awareness and understanding of the real impact of a death at work on the wider community. The paper is available to download free from the link below until the end of the year. The paper is the OHSIntros contribution to the recently concluded national health and safety month. Content is a unique contribution to OHS and is not available from any other source. The paper can be downloaded as a pdf until January 1, 2018.
Michael Muscat - 2017 HSR of the Year
In case you haven't checked out our interview with Michael yet, go to this page of our website. Interviews with the other finalists will be done over the next few weeks.
Occupational lung disease in Australia
Australian researchers Ryan Hoy and Fraser Brims write that according to international estimates about 15 per cent of adult-onset asthma, 15 per cent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 10-30 per cent of lung cancer may be attributable to hazardous occupational exposures. However, apart from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry, there is minimal systematic collection of data regarding occupational lung diseases
in this country, and reported workers' compensation data is of limited use (due to underestimation by at least a factor of ten for some conditions, and other problems). Most assumptions are based on extrapolation from overseas data. And so they undertook a review of material relevant to occupational lung disease in Australia. They looked specifically at work-related asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung diseases, and asbestos-related lung diseases, noting that there had recently been an increase in cases of pneumoconiosis (black lung) and exposures to respirable crystaline silica (from working with stone in kitchen and bathroom benchtops).
The authors concluded that there is a 'pressing need to gather systematic data on the causes, prevalence, incidence and impact of occupational lung diseases, such as through a national occupational disease registry.'
Read more: Ryan F Hoy and Fraser Brims, Occupational lung diseases in Australia [summary] Med J Aust 2017; 207 (10): 443-448. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00601
UK: Scientists warn of nanotube 'asbestos' cancer parallel
There is strong evidence that certain carbon nanotubes used in manufacturing could pose the same cancer risk as asbestos, a study by UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) has concluded. Commercial uses of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) including special paints, sports equipment such as bicycle frames and tennis racquet handles, boat hulls, aircraft, sports cars and computer motherboards. However, some CNTs are similar in size and shape to asbestos fibres, leading researchers to question whether they might have the same harmful effect on our lungs. In a study involving mice, the researchers from MRC's Toxicology Unit studied the changes asbestos fibres and CNTs caused in the cells lining the pleura – a key site for the development of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma - over a number of months. The mesothelioma that developed in the mice after asbestos or CNT exposure was similar to mesothelioma samples from patients exposed to asbestos. They found for both substances changes to cells occurred that are also seen in mesothelioma sufferers. "Unlike previously reported short-term studies, this is the first time the mesothelioma-causing effects of long and thin carbon nanotubes have been monitored in mice over many months," said the study's senior author, Professor Marion MacFarlane. "Because it is diagnosed in humans when it's quite advanced, we don't know much about how or why it forms. This research could help us define key indicators for early detection as well as provide information for developing targeted therapies for this devastating disease."
Read more: MRC news release. Tatyana Chernova and others. Long-Fiber Carbon Nanotubes Replicate Asbestos-Induced Mesothelioma with Disruption of the Tumor Suppressor Gene Cdkn2a (Ink4a/Arf) [Full article], Current Biology, Volume 27, Issue 21, p3302–3314.e6, 6 November 2017. Source: Risks 825.
NOTE: In Australia, carbon nanotubes have been classified as hazardous for some time due to their proven ability to cause inflammation in the pleura (read more).
WHO says ban asbestos to end asbestos disease
The 'most efficient' way to eliminate asbestos diseases is to ban all use of asbestos, a new study has concluded. The research paper, which looked at 'Barriers and facilitators to the elimination of asbestos related diseases', was co-authored by experts from the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO). The paper, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, notes: "Evidence-based strategies for the elimination of asbestos related diseases (ARDs) exist. Banning the production and use of all forms of asbestos as recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and WHO, has been proven as the most efficient evidence-based strategy to eliminate ARDs." It cites another recent WHO report on the economic impact of asbestos bans which concluded: "There are no observable mid- or long-term negative economic impacts from bans or a decline in asbestos production or consumption at the country-level, and no observable persistent negative effects at the regional level," adding: "There are substantial and increasing costs associated with the continuing production and use of asbestos, with the potential to far outweigh the short-term economic benefits…" The paper concludes that "banning the production and use of all forms of asbestos, as recommended by the International Labour Organisation and WHO, continues to be the most efficient and proven evidence-based strategy to eliminate ARDs."
Read more: Joanne Vincenten, Frank George, Marco Martuzzi, Peter Schröder-Bäck and Elizabet Paunovic. Barriers and Facilitators to the Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases—Stakeholders' Perspectives, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [pdf], volume 14, number 10, 2017. Lucy P Allen, Jorge Baez, Mary Elizabeth C Stern and Frank George. Asbestos-Economic Assessment of Bans and Declining Production and Consumption [pdf], World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, 2017. Source: Risks 825
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria news
Falls Festival investigation
Following a comprehensive investigation, WorkSafe has determined there is insufficient evidence to prosecute event organiser Ash Sounds Pty Ltd in relation to an incident at the company's Falls Music and Arts Festival in Lorne last year.
Nineteen people were hospitalised and seventy-six required first aid treatment after they were trampled and crushed in a crowd surge at the festival just before 10pm on December 30, 2016. The investigation revealed that all the conditions imposed by various bodies in relation to the event, such as crowd control, crowd size, and positioning and size of exits, had been met. As a result, WorkSafe found there was insufficient evidence to establish any offence under the 2004 OHS Act and no further action will be taken.
Asbestos Compliance Codes out for public comment
WorkSafe is 'inviting' comment on the following two proposed compliance codes (codes) that align to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations):
- Managing Asbestos in Workplaces Compliance Code
- Removing Asbestos in Workplaces Compliance Code
The codes include proposed changes to streamline content and bring them into line with the new OHS Regulations. A summary of changes to the two codes can be found here. Access the full draft codes on WorkSafe Victoria's website. The public comment period ends on close of business Wednesday, 6 December.
Safe Work Australia News
New Report: Australia's Workers' Compensation Statistics 2015-2016
The report provides detailed statistics about workers' compensation claims in Australia. The statistics provide an indication of Australia's work health and safety performance over the 15 year period between 2000-01 and 2015-16 and includes data broken down by sex, age, occupation, industry, nature of injury or disease, mechanism of injury or disease, and bodily location of the injury or disease.
According to the report, there were 104,770 serious workers compensations claims in 2015-16. The three occupations with the highest rate of serious claims were labourers, machinery operators and drivers, and community and personal service workers. The three industries with the highest rate of serious claims were agriculture, forestry, and fishing, manufacturing, and construction. Male employees accounted for 64 percent of serious claims, while female employees accounted for 36 percent of serious claims.
The report can be downloaded in word or pdf format on this page of the Safe Work Australia website.
SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at November 2, there had been 145 workplace fatalities reported to the national body - this is sixteen more than the last update on October 16. Ten of these were in the Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry and the other six were in the Transport, postal and warehousing sector. The workers killed were in the following industries:
- 55 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 38 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.
Tree business convicted and fined $150,000 after 22 year old killed
Redback Tree Services Pty Ltd, a tree maintenance and removal business, in the southern suburbs of Melbourne has been convicted and fined $150,000 over an incident in which a worker was killed. On 2 April 2014, the company's manager went to a residential property in Highett to quote for the removal of two trees from the front yard. He noted there were power lines two to three metres from the relevant trees, and asked the resident to get approval for the work from Kingston City Council, which then issued a Local Law Permit.
On 1 May 2014, a crew of four went to cut down the trees. A Safe Work Method Statement was partially completed by the crew before starting, which identified working close to power lines as a 'risk', but did not document any control measures to put in place to eliminate or reduce that risk. The power lines were neither suppressed nor shut down during the job. An employee working as a climber was fatally injured when a branch he was cutting hit the power lines, electrocuting him. The man, then aged 22, had worked in the tree industry for four years, and had been employed by the Redback for six to seven months at the time. The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe working environment and safe system of work, and was convicted and fined $150,000.
State government pleads guilty to OHS charges after prison riot
The Department of Justice has pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe workplace in a prosecution relating to Victoria's worst prison riot at the Metropolitan Remand Centre at Ravenhall in June 2015. A committal hearing scheduled for Melbourne Magistrates' Court for today was abandoned after the plea was entered to charges laid by WorkSafe Victoria.
The riot erupted at the jail after smoking bans were introduced. Eleven officers hurt and remain on WorkCover. A total of 26 WorkCover claims were made. A Department of Justice and Regulation spokesperson told the Herald Sun that its top priority was the safety of everyone working and living in the prison system. "Corrections Victoria has co-operated fully with WorkSafe's investigation following the 2015 riot at the Metropolitan Remand Centre," she said. "We will be in a position to discuss the matter further once the case has been finalised." A plea hearing will be held at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on December 15.
Source: The Herald Sun
Residential construction company fined $18,000
Brad Perryman Builders Pty Ltd, a residential construction company, engaged an independent contractor to deliver concrete panels to a site in Maiden Gully. On 24 March 2016, the building company began unloading and installing the delivered panels.Two employees were in a constricted area between a rock wall and the concrete panel which was to be installed. The panel swung and trapped the independent contractor against the rock wall. He was taken to hospital and released the next day. The construction company pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe working environment and safe system of work, and was without conviction fined $18,000 plus $3430 costs.
Spray painting firm convicted, fined after explosion
Wodonga spray painting company, Recoat Smash Repairs Pty Ltd, has been convicted and fined $25,000 (plus $3430 costs) after a vacuum cleaner being used to clean up flammable liquid triggered an explosion in a confined space and burned a worker. The company pleaded guilty this week in the Wodonga Magistrate's Court to one charge of failing to provide a safe system of work by failing to identify the risk of fire or explosion associated with the introduction of a potential ignition source into a confined space.
On 8 July last year, a worker who was employed as a manager entered a large, open-topped electrical transformer tank to prepare it for painting. After applying a flammable solvent to wipe down the interior of the transformer,he used a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to remove excess liquid from the base. About an hour into the task he restarted the vacuum and triggered an explosion. The man received superficial burns to his face and neck, and deep tissue burns to both hands and was airlifted to Melbourne for treatment.
Read more: WorkSafe media release
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
International: WHO mental health in the workplace guide
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued an information sheet on mental health in the workplace. In a list of 'good interventions', it highlights the importance of workforce participation, noting the necessity for "involving employees in decision-making, conveying a feeling of control and participation; organisational practices that support a healthy work-life balance." The WHO guide also cites the World Economic Forum's three-pronged approach to interventions, including: "Protect mental health by reducing work–related risk factors." A recent WHO-led study estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion (£0.76 trillion) each year in lost productivity.
Mental health in the workplace: Information sheet, WHO, 2017.
India: Inquiry into major power plant tragedy
India's Power Ministry has established a committee to investigate a deadly 1 November explosion at NTPC's thermal power plant in Unchahar in Uttar Pradesh state. Estimates of the death toll from the blast have risen steadily, reaching 43 on 11 November - but with some eyewitnesses claiming at least 70 were killed. Dozens more workers at the plant were injured when flue gases and steam were released from a 500MW coal-fired unit at the plant. The investigative panel was created on 6 November by the Power Ministry, which wants a report from the committee within a month, and would like a report on the cause of the blast within days. It also asked the committee "to suggest remedial measures to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future." NTPC, India's largest utility company, has its own group investigating the incident, led by its executive director of operations. The explosion occurred in a unit commissioned in March and that had been operating on a trial basis since September. On 3 November, an investigative group from the Uttar Pradesh labour department said "gross negligence" on the part of NTPC led to the blast, although that charge has since been challenged by government officials. India's NDTV reported the same day that NTPC officials have admitted that engineers were aware of an ash problem and were trying to clean the unit without shutting it down.
Read more: Fair Observer. The Daily Brief. Power Magazine. Source: Risks 825