SafetyNet 428, November 22, 2017
It is with great sadness that we inform our subscribers that there have been another two fatalities in Victoria in the past week. A young man was killed after he was stung by bees at beehives on his employer's property near Dunkeld and a farmer was killed at a farm in Bonnie Doon. Another two Victorian workers are very lucky to be alive after incidents that would normally have been fatal.
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.
Young worker killed by bee stings
Steven Tillgate, 27, had only been working on Dunkeld's Royal Mail Hotel farm for just a few weeks when he was stung by multiple bees last Wednesday morning. Despite the efforts of other staff to resuscitate him, he could not be revived and died at the scene. The farm is a "market garden" run by the hotel, about one kilometre away from the award-winning restaurant. Read more: The Age
Farmer killed when vehicle overturned
WorkSafe is investigating after after a farmer was killed when the rough terrain utility vehicle he was driving tipped over at a sheep property at Bonnie Doon in Victoria's north-east. The man, who was in his 70s, was fatally injured when his vehicle tipped over on Sunday afternoon. It appears he had been driving up a steep incline when the vehicle slipped and tipped onto its side. In September this year WorkSafe launched a graphic quad bike safety campaign, which featured a farmer's 'death'.
These two fatalities bring the total number of workers killed on the job this year in Victoria to 23.
Two very close calls
There could have been two more fatalities last week - had it not been for the heroism of two workers in one case and sheer luck in the other.
Wharfie seriously injured but alive
DP World wharfie Darren Blackman fell approximately 17 metres, striking first the railing and then mooring lines on his descent and landing in the water unconscious while working on the Liberian-flagged FOC container ship Folegandros at about 3.20pm last Wednesday.
National union of Seafarers India (NUSI) member Paul Vijay, the bosun on board the Folegandros, immediately came to the rescue, sprinting down the gangway and jumping fully-clothed into the water in between the ship and the wharf. Fellow DPWA worker Ross Hubbarb, who saw what was happening, also jumped into the water to help. Together they managed to keep Darren's head above water. Others assisted in the rescue - a heavy forklift driven by another MUA member, used slings and a plastic stretcher to hoist him out of the water. An ambulance then arrived.
Darren sustained injuries to his jaw, pelvis and leg, and underwent an operation at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
ITF Australian co-ordinator Dean Summers said three shifts at DPW joined in to congratulate Paul on his selfless act. "This is international solidarity at its best," he said. "It shows the fundamental instinct from one worker to help another regardless of circumstances. Paul is a hero and worked alongside MUA members to undoubtedly save our wharfie's life." Read more: MUA Media Release
Young worker freed from collapsed trench
A 21-year-old freed from a trench that collapsed during roadworks in Melbourne last week is lucky to be alive. He was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital after being rescued from the 6m deep hole at about 4pm on Thursday after emergency services rushed to Lincoln Street, Essendon to assist with the rescue. He had been buried up to his neck, in either mud or other material and initially things did not look good.
The plumber, who was doing the final connection to the sewer branch when 'it all came crashing down' said he had feared for his life during the 45min he was trapped. He praised a heroic MFB firefighter who risked his life to provide support as he sat in the unstable trench. Read more: The Herald Sun
Regarding s69 (2): Does notifying the HSR of the name of a person involved in an incident, as well as the nature of the incident violate section 69 (2) of the Act? What if the nature of any injury could reasonably be ascertained from the type of incident? Management will tell us what the incident was and where, but refuses to give the name of the employee concerned. Is this correct?
No, I do not believe that notifying an HSR of an incident and who was involved in that incident contravenes s69(2) of the Act – which is to protect 'medical information', ie personal medical information, what may be in their medical practitioner's patient files. The HSR has a right under s58(1)(ii) to immediately inspect the scene of an incident, and under s69(1)(ii) the employer must 'allow access' to information about the health and safety of members of the DWG.
What might be ascertained from details of the incident are things like there may be a breakage or the person has been exposed to a substance or whatever… this is not 'medical information'. The Privacy Commission, For more information, go to this FAQ on Privacy Legislation.
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.
Don't forget: 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
This Friday November 24: Asbestoswise Commemoration Service
Remember this Friday Asbestoswise has its 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.
The Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities' Imported Materials with Asbestos Working Group has issued a safety alert [pdf] after discovering that Chinese acetylene cylinders supplied to an Australian company contained asbestos insulation, despite the China-based supplier declaring the cylinders asbestos-free.
Silicosis - the new frontier?
The seminar on silica held at the Trades Hall yesterday organised Slater & Gordon Lawyers, in conjunction with the Victorian Trades Hall Council, created a great deal of consternation amongst those who attended. While most of those present felt they had a good understanding of the risks to workers of being exposed to silica dust in construction and other areas, Dr Ryan Hoy, Respiratory Physician, provided information which surprised and shocked us. The increasingly popular use of 'manufactured stone' in kitchen and bathroom benches is putting young tradies at extremely high risk of developing acute silicosis after just a short time in the industry. Acute silicosis can be fatal, and one young man has already had a lung transpaant. The levels of exposure have been found to be extremely high - hundreds of times over the exposure standard - as this material, manufactured overseas, contains about 85 per cent silica.
Dr Gerry Ayers, OHS Manager, CFMEU Vic Branch talked about the everyday exposure of workers in the construction sector: controls were rarely used, there was little if any health monitoring, and the regulator was absent. Clearly more needs to be done to get information out and ensure controls are implemented to minimise this terrible risk to workers.
Finally, Ms Claire Setches, Principal Lawyer at Slater & Gordon, stressed the importance of workers seeking legal assistance if they had been exposed and were suffering health effects. The company is establishing a register of exposure and hopes to be able to roll this out nationally. Anyone who has been exposed should complete the Silica Exposure Registration Form, which can be downloaded here. Read more on Silica, its effects and what the law is.
Wage theft rife in Australia
A report based on a comprehensive survey of 4,322 people on temporary migrant visas released yesterday reveals that a third of backpackers and a quarter of international students in Australia are being routinely ripped off by employers who are paying them $12 an hour or less, about half the minimum wage.
The study, undertaken by three Sydney universities, found systemic exploitation of visitors to Australia, with some cases of clearly criminal behaviour by employers such as confiscating passports or demanding part of wages back in return for keeping a job.
The ACTU said in a media release the report shows 'the Turnbull Government is unwilling to stop employers breaking the law to protect working people. The Prime Minister and his Minister Michaelia Cash are more concerned with attacking working people than they are with ensuring that all Australians have their basic rights protected. As a result, wage growth is the lowest on record, big businesses profits are booming, and a third of big businesses don't pay any tax.'
Read more: ACTU Media Release; UNSW Newsroom and Wage Theft in Australia Report; The Guardian
International Union News
November 25: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Women are constantly exposed to violence in the workplace, from sexual harassment to physical assault. Real and threatened violence underpins the systematic gender discrimination which pervades our workplaces and our societies. The United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women - November 25 - is an opportunity for unions around the world to mobilize for action against all forms of gender-based violence, but particularly at the workplace, where unions can make a difference.
Read more: IUF Editorial Trade Unions must act to stop violence against women
In Victoria there are going to be a number of events this coming Friday, November 24, 2017:
- Gendered Violence at Work Day of Action, 9:30am, at the AMWU National Offices in Carlton - find out more and register here.
- Walk Against Family Violence, Federation Square, 1pm - 3pm. Find out more here and register here.
UK: Uber fails in appeal against ruling on workers' rights
In a landmark victory for UK union GMB, taxi firm Uber has lost an appeal against a ruling that its drivers should be treated as workers rather than self-employed. In October 2016, a tribunal ruled drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam were Uber staff and entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the minimum wage. Uber appealed, arguing its drivers were self-employed and were under no obligation to use its booking app. This week's Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling, upholding the original tribunal's findings, is the latest blow for Uber after Transport for London refused to renew its licence to operate in in the capital. Maria Ludkin, GMB legal director, said: "This landmark decision is yet more vindication of GMB's campaign to ensure drivers are given the rights they are entitled to - and that the public, drivers and passengers are kept safe..... Uber must now face up to its responsibilities and give its workers the rights to which they are entitled." GMB urges the company not to waste time and money appealing the decision in the Supreme Court. The GMB said it is now supporting 68 claimants.
Read more: GMB news release. ITF news release. The Guardian. Source: Risks 826
Call for political courage, stronger governance to eliminate child labour and slavery
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has welcomed the outcomes of a major international conference on eradicating child labour, held in Buenos Aires, calling on governments to show the political courage to tackle child labour and slavery in line with the Buenos Aires Declaration which was adopted at the conference.
Statistics show that more than 150 million children are in child labour, and tens of millions of adults are subjected to forced labour. More than 3,000 representatives of governments, employers and trade unions, as well as civil society groups and regional and international organisations participated.
Union delegates called for more policy coherence, tax and trade justice, universal quality public education, universal access to social protection and global minimum living wages, stressing the importance of freedom of association and collective bargaining. Where workers, including in the informal economy and in agriculture have the collective bargaining power to negotiate a living wage or income, families do not have to depend on income generated by their children.
The ITUC also undertook to "take on the challenge of eradicating child and forced labour from global supply chains by working with global union federations to further develop transnational collective bargaining and campaigning for binding treaties in the UN and the ILO, for universal ratification of core labour standards by 2019 and 50 ratifications of the Forced Labour Protocol by the end of 2018 in particular".
Unions welcomed the commitment expressed by Canada and Australia to ratify the ILO Forced Labour Protocol and calls on other countries to follow their example.
Read more: ITUC Press Release
Europe: 'Immense' cost of work cancers calculated
The annual financial cost arising from occupational cancers across the European Union is 'immense', a new study has indicated. The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), which released the findings at a Work and Cancer conference in Brussels this week, said the total cost ran to between €270 billion (A$420.49bn) and €610 billion (A$950bn) each year, which represents between 1.8 per cent and 4.1 per cent of the gross domestic product of the European Union. ETUI says the calculation takes all the related costs into account. These include: Direct costs for Member States' health systems, related to medical treatment; indirect costs for workers and employers, associated with monetary losses due to the cessation of work; and human costs for the victims, namely the impact on the quality of life of workers and their families. "With more than 100 000 deaths per year, occupational cancers are the leading cause of death in the EU. This study shows that the societal cost of work-related cancers is tremendous," said Tony Musu, an expert in chemical risks at the ETUI. "It is the workers and their families who shoulder the largest share of the costs. This unjust situation is socially and economically unacceptable, and the EU must take action to put an end to these preventable cancers." The difference between the high and low estimates is because the costs have been calculated based on various projections on the percentage of all cases of cancer attributable to work.
Read more: ETUI news release and The Cost of Occupational Cancer in the EU-28. Final Report, November 2017 [pdf]. Source: Risks 826
Workplace bullying and violence linked to diabetes
According to new research published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), workplace bullying and violence may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, for both men and women. The study, carried out by Tianwei Xu of the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen and collaborators, used official Swedish, Finnish and Danish data sources. Nine per cent of the participants reported exposure to workplace bullying. The study found being bullied at work was associated with a 46 per cent higher risk of type 2 diabetes (61 per cent for men and 36 per cent for women). Adjustment for alcohol consumption and mental health difficulties did not affect this association. Adjustment for BMI removed one-third of the risk increase. Some 12 per cent of participants had experienced violence or threats of violence in the preceding 12 months. After adjusting for confounders, workplace violence was associated with a 26 per cent higher risk of diabetes, for both men and women. Again, adjustment for alcohol consumption and mental health problems did not affect this result.
The authors say: "There is a moderate and robust association between workplace bullying, violence and the development of type 2 diabetes. As both bullying and violence or threats of violence are common in the workplace we suggest that prevention policies should be investigated as a possible means to reduce this risk." They add: "Further study of possible causal pathways, for example weight gain, negative emotions and the psychological stress response, would help to provide an understanding of the causal mechanisms and to develop cost effective interventions."
Read more: Tianwei Xu and others. Workplace bullying and violence as risk factors for type 2 diabetes: a multicohort study and meta-analysis, [Open access] Diabetologia, pages 1–9, published online 13 November 2017. Source: Risks 826
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria news
A plea to workplaces
WorkSafe is pleading with employers and workers to take a step back and focus on safety as Victoria enters a traditionally dangerous time of year. According to WorkSafe statistics, more Victorian workers die in the weeks leading up to Christmas than at any other time of year. Over the past decade, almost 25 per cent of all workplace fatalities occurred in November and December.
WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said there was only one fatality in the November-December period last year – on 30 November – but in previous years the death toll had been horrendous. "While there was only one fatality in this period last year, in 2015 there were nine workplace deaths, and the year before that there were seven," Ms Williams said. "One death is still one too many. It is horrifying to think that over the past decade 50 workers have died in the lead-up to Christmas."
Ms Williams said there were a number of reasons why this period was a dangerous time of year for workers, including employers rushing to meet deadlines; harvesting being in full swing; the construction sector getting ready for the Christmas shutdown; workers looking forward to their holidays, and more.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on November 17. This edition's editorial reminds the industry that the Compliance Codes on Asbestos have been released for public comment, which is due COB December 6.
There are a number of other items in the edition including a reminder that with what looks to be a very hot summer on the way, employers need to think about providing UV protection for workers. Our UV levels are such that on a summer's day, a Victorian can be sunburnt in just 11 minutes. While the sunburn fades, the permanent damage to DNA doesn't. It adds up with each exposure, increasing the risk of developing skin cancer. The skin cancer risk is even higher for people who work outdoors; receiving up to 10 times more UV damage over their lifetime than an indoor worker.
Despite these alarming numbers, a recent Australian Workplace Exposure Study found just 7% of workers in the construction industry have adequate protection from UV damage.
Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from October 27 - November 10, with 71 incidents reported to WorkSafe. There was a large number of fractures, lacerations and several falls where the workers were lucky to have survived. Access the November 17 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
Alerts from SafeWork SA
- a safety alert outlining how to safely use forklift work platforms to elevate workers [pdf]
- notification to stakeholders of a recall of a model of gas filters for respiratory safety masks, which don't meet the relevant Australian Standard for breakthrough times
Safe Work Australia News
SafeWork Australia Fatality statistics
As at November 17, 151 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body - this is six more than the last update on November 2. Three of these were in the Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, two were in the Transport, postal and warehousing sector and the last was in Construction. The workers killed were in the following industries:
- 57 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 41 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 28 Construction
- 7 Arts & recreation services
- 2 Mining
- 3 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 0 Other services
- 0 Administrative & support services
- 3 Public administration & safety
- 5 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.
There has been no update to the WorkSafe prosecutions webpage since the last edition of SafetyNet.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
NSW: Construction company fined over worker's spinal injuries
A Sydney construction company was last week fined $300,000 for failing to properly manage a faulty gate which fell on a worker, fracturing her lower spine and pelvis, NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said. It is the third time SafeWork NSW has prosecuted Ceerose Pty Ltd for failures in workplace safety, including one incident which resulted in a worker's death in 2013.
In the most recent case, the woman was working at a Ceerose Pty Ltd site in Camperdown as a traffic controller when she was injured in May 2015. Sydney District Court was told the site was secured by a heavy steel gate, which operated electronically on a sliding track. As power to the site had been disconnected, workers were opening and closing the gate manually. On the day of the incident, it was the worker's job to lock the gate when the last trucks left the site. As she pushed the gate closed, it came off the track and landed on her.
Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release
NSW: Lidcombe business fined $300,000 over worker's death
A Lidcombe business has been fined $300,000 – and its director fined a further $60,000 – after a worker was killed in an excavator incident. Sydney District Court was told the 45-year-old worker died after he was crushed by an excavator at the Harris Holdings NSW Pty Ltd waste management facility in Arthur Street, Lidcombe, on November 26, 2015.
SafeWorkNSW took Harris Holdings and its director Harry Zizikas, 47, to court for breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) by exposing the worker to a risk of death or serious injury. Both the company and director pleaded guilty. The court heard the incident occurred when an excavator used to sort waste moved backwards and caught the worker's foot. It knocked him down, and he died at the scene.
The Minister, Mr Kean said the penalty was a warning to businesses and bosses. "This awful death is a stark reminder of the responsibilities employers have to make sure they provide a safe workplace. At this business, the risk of workers coming into contact with the excavator while sorting waste was significant, and the business should have had safe work systems to prevent it, he said. "The investigation found there was no traffic management plan or exclusion zone to separate workers from the excavator and no means for sorters to communicate with the excavator operator. Workers had received no training on the need for an exclusion zone around the excavator and no supervisor had been appointed to enforce an exclusion zone."
Read more: SafeWorkNSW Media Release