SafetyNet 430, December 6, 2017
There's a lot going on in the world of OHS - read about it and keep informed. If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, we'd love to consider it, just send it in.
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Can you tell me whether employees have the right to have a support person accompany them to meetings with management? What if management denies them this right?
Under s58(1)(d), an HSR has the right to be present at an interview concerning health and safety between the member and an inspector or the employer/employer representative - so long as the member agrees. In these cases, the HSR can act as a support person, and should also be able to participate. In these cases, the employer has no right to refuse that the HSR attend. If the employer does refuse, then the HSR should let the employer know that action will be taken: either contacting WorkSafe or the union, or issuing a PIN. The employee should refuse to attend the meeting until this has been resolved.
If the matter is not related to health and safety, then in most unionised workplaces, it is usual for the union delegate or even an organiser from the union to accompany the worker. If the workers is not a union member and is concerned about fairness in the meeting, then I would recommend that he or she take someone along.
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.
Employers demand to sit in with workers at doctors' appointments
Increasingly unions are hearing about employers who insist on attending workers' compensation appointments with injured workers. They have no right to do this and workers have the right to see their own doctors and be treated by them. This week the ABC reported on this growing trend.
Assistant secretary of Unions WA, Mr Owen Whittle this week said there had been an upturn in the number of workers complaining about being sent to company doctors, and of company representatives attending medical appointments with injured workers.
"This is something that should never be occurring," he said. "There is no good reason for an employer representative to be in attendance during a medical appointment. "The kind of privacy breaches that could occur and the compromising of care in these situations is just too great."
A Unions WA survey of members, which asked about their experiences in the workers' compensation system found that of the 1,052 respondents, almost one in eight had made a claim for compensation. Of those, 11 per cent reported that their employer had sought to be or was represented at a medical assessment for a claim. A total of 16 per cent reported feeling pressured by their employer or their insurer, 12 per cent described the experience as stressful and not worth it, and 10 per cent claimed they felt bullied and stigmatised after lodging a claim.
Unions WA said the survey results strengthened its argument for greater protections to be written into legislation, including ending the practice of employer and insurance representatives attending medical appointments with injured workers.
Employers of course have a different view: Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Wilmott defended the use of company doctors, and claimed they "give employers certainty about what tasks the employee can and cannot carry out safely and what is the best pathway to support their return to work as efficiently as possible".
Read more: Employers sitting in on workers' compensation medical appointments a growing trend: unions ABC news online
Delivery drivers being being worked to death
A report this week on the ABC's 7.30 program has provided further revelations of the effects of pay cuts on Tip Top delivery drivers, whose families say they are being 'worked to death'. Many work extremely long hours without adequate breaks, have worked months without being able to take enough days off and are at breaking point. When contacted, the company said it was not aware of drivers working "without breaks and does not endorse such activity". It said as independent contractors, the onus was on them to manage fatigue and employ relief drivers. Of course this is a cop out, and the company has duties to these drivers as in effect they work solely for Tip Top.
Read more: Tip Top drivers being 'worked to death' as families call for greater responsibility and previous report Tip Top accused of pushing bread delivery drivers to breaking point, ABC
Victoria has already had over a week of scorching weather - followed by a few days of cooler temperatures. But for outdoor workers, it's important to remember that Australia has the highest levels of skin cancer in the world, and your employers have a duty to take action to ensure your health is not placed at high risk due to sun exposure. Check out the Cancer Council's latest SunSmart newsletter - it's got links to great posters and information.
Also, SunSmart has launched a new seeUV app aimed at the selfie generation. It uses augmented reality to show users what their skin could look like if they do not protect themselves from the sun. SeeUV is also a warning tool for current UV levels. While outdoor workers need UV protection all year round, it's a fun reminder for indoor workers, friends and family.
Labor backs 10 days domestic violence leave
The Federal Opposition has committed to including the right to ten days' paid domestic and family violence leave in the National Employment Standards. The pledge, announced this week by Labor leader Bill Shorten, doubles the five days leave in the 2015 Labor policy. It follows unions supporting a campaign for 10 days paid leave and the Greens promising to introduce a Bill to include that in the NES. Labor said the message from those dealing with domestic violence was more support was needed in the workplace.
"The combined stress of seeking legal advice, accessing counselling services and medical treatment should not be compounded by fear of losing your job or the financial disadvantage of going without pay," Labor said. "For businesses, including this leave as a workplace right will prevent loss of productivity, increase employee retention and reduce unpredictable absenteeism." Labor acknowledges the many employers who have already provided family violence leave, including Medicare, CUB, Telstra, NAB, Virgin Australia, IKEA and Qantas.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has, however, ruled out joining Labor and committing to paid domestic violence leave, despite calls for the Government to do so from the ACTU.
Read more: SBS News Source: WorkplaceExpress
What sort of employer is Amazon?
Global giant Amazon launched its operations in Australia this week - worrying some of Australia's big retailers. But what does this mean for workers here? Clearly there's the risk to retails workers' jobs, but workers who will be employed by the company need to watch out if what UK workers are experiencing is anything to go by.
Amazon's UK warehouse workers are so exhausted by long hours and relentless targets they are falling asleep on their feet, according to a new investigation. Employees reportedly had timed toilet breaks, a claim denied by the company. Some were made to do compulsory overtime, meaning they were working a 55-hour week ahead of the Christmas period. Sunday Mirror reporter Alan Selby spent five weeks working at the online shop's warehouse in Essex and finished his last shift on Black Friday. A number of workers who could not cope with the relentless targets were attended to by ambulance crews after they collapsed on the job, the investigation found. The reporter was told to pack 120 items an hour, but that target is set to rise to 200 items. One colleague told him: "Everybody suffers here. I pulled my hamstring but I just had to carry on. My friend spent two days off after she damaged her knee ligaments."
Amazon said in a statement: "Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace with competitive pay and benefits from day one." It added: "We offer great jobs and a positive environment with opportunities for growth. As with most companies, we expect a certain level of performance. Targets are based on previous performance achieved by our workers. Associates are evaluated over a long period of time as we know a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour."
Read more: Sunday Mirror. The Independent. Source Risks 828
Brazil bans asbestos!
In a fantastic decision, a majority verdict of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) handed down on November 29, 2017, has prohibited the mining, processing, marketing and distribution of chrysotile (white) asbestos in Brazil – currently the world's third largest producer of chrysotile. The judgment was binding on all jurisdictions and on the national congress which is, said the STF, barred from enacting new legislation authorizing the use of asbestos. Commenting on this ruling Fernanda Giannasi, who was been at the forefront of the campaign to ban asbestos in Brazil for 30 years, said: "If an asbestos producer country like Brazil is able to make such a decision, why wouldn't consumer countries do the same?"
Read more: Brazil Bans Asbestos! Source: IBAS
Also in Brazil: Eternit surrenders
On November 27, Eternit – Brazil's Asbestos Giant – announced that due to falling demand the company would phase-out chrysotile asbestos use from December 2018. Last week, a court in Rio de Janeiro gave the company 120 days to shut down production of asbestos tiles in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Currently, Eternit factories in the cities of Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Colombo (PR),Simões Filho (BA), Goiânia and Anápolis (GO) use 60% synthetic polypropylene fiber and 40% chrysotile asbestos in the manufacture of tiles.
See: Eternit deixará de usar amianto em fabricação de telhas até 2018 [Eternit to stop using asbestos in tile production in 2018]. Source: IBAS
Moldova to ban asbestos from 2019
At a press conference on Monday, November 27, 2017, Svetlana Bolokan – head of Moldova's Department for Management of Waste and Chemicals – announced that the country intends to ban the sale and import of chrysotile asbestos-containing materials and chrysotile asbestos fiber by 2019. According to the Moldova news agency Infotag, the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and the Environment has already issued legislation stipulating the provisions and timing of the asbestos prohibitions.
See: Шифер вреден для здоровья: в чем кроется опасность? [Asbestos-cement roofing is bad for health: what is the danger?]. Source: IBAS
International Union News
Global: Unions call for strong rules on violence at work
Trade unions have reiterated their call for a strong International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention to tackle gender-based violence at work. Next year's ILO Conference in June will discuss the development of international labour standards on violence against women and men at work. According to the global union confederation ITUC, more than one third of women around the world experience violence at work, at home or in the community. It argues action in the workplace is crucial to tackling the issue across the board. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said, "Unions are leading the way in eradicating violence against women at work, and the support of a strong international legal instrument is essential." She added: "Women in every occupational sector are exposed to violence and harassment, on an epic scale, and where they are deprived of the protection of a union, the likelihood that they will experience rape, physical assault, intimidation and harassment is far greater." She said it was "scandalous that sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of violence are not only tolerated at work, but in some cases used as a means to subjugate women in the interests of the corporate bottom line." Unions have highlighted the positive impact of negotiating protective standards. "Trade unions and employers play a major role in making work safe for women, and helping to eliminate harassment and violence against women," said Luca Visentini, secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). "Collective agreements have shown to be a most effective means to combat this scourge."
Read more: ITUC news release and portal on gender-based violence. ETUC news release and Safe at Home, Safe at Work project. Source: RIsks 828
Peer-delivered workplace interventions are effective
According to a leading health promotions academic, workplace health interventions delivered by peers can be just as effective as those run by professionals and ensure long-term results.
Dr Freya MacMillan, lead researcher of a recent review of studies on police force health promotion interventions published in the new edition of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that combining a structured program with peer support, behaviour change support and education has a significant impact on health-related outcomes. The review found interventions with only structured physical activities or diet interventions work well in the short-term, but people dropped off long-term.
MacMillan said the study results emphasise the importance of having multiple strategies within health promotion interventions: a once or twice-weekly circuit exercise class can be complemented by access to healthy foods, peer support, health education and behaviour change support strategies.
Read more: Freya MacMillan, et al, A systematic review of health promotion intervention studies in the police force: study characteristics, intervention design and impacts on health. [Abstract], Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 74, Issue 12, December 2017. Source: OHS Alert
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria news
Farm fatalities at highest level in decades
As we near the end of 2017, it looks as though Victoria will have its worst year for farm deaths in more than a decade. So far this year, twelve people have died in work-related incidents on Victorian farms - three more than the nine deaths recorded in 2016, and the worst since before 2007. The alarming figures have renewed calls from authorities, families of victims and farm groups for farmers to "sit up" and "take notice" and for there to be more action on farm death prevention. According to WorkSafe Victoria, 56 people were killed working on farms between 2007 and last year.
Read more: The Weekly Times
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on December 1. This edition's editorial in on the current WorkSafe Victoria focus on traffic management safety at roadside worksites, throughout Victoria. In recent years, there have been numerous incidents or near misses involving workers, delivery drivers, vehicle drivers and members of the public, at or near construction sites. WorkSafe inspectors are visiting sites across Victoria this week to ensure that traffic related hazards and associated risks are adequately controlled. Because, it doesn't matter how big or small your site is, the risk to workers and public's safety needs to be managed. Read more
There are a number of other items in the edition including links to updated WorkSafe information and news from other jurisdictions. Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from 9 to the 23 November 2017, during which there were 112 incidents serious enough to be reported to WorkSafe, from the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries. Access the December 1 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work podcasts now available on its website
Managing shift work and workplace fatigue
The national body says that today society is increasingly focused on a 24/7 economy and the expectations on people to work at all hours of the day have increased. Research shows that shift work and irregular or long working hours, can adversely affect the health, safety and wellbeing of workers. Such research has been regularly reported in SafetyNet. Fatigue management is critical and everyone in the workplace has a responsibility to ensure fatigue doesn't create a work health and safety risk.
Four expert panellists explore the effects of shift work and fatigue and the latest research in this area. They highlight that it's a complex problem and there is not a one size fits all solution. Panellists also discuss practical ways that organisations can mitigate the risks associated with shift work and fatigue, including good work design, encouraging a culture where workers feel comfortable to speak up and technological solutions.
Managing chemical hazards using the hierarchy of controls
Under the OHS/WHS laws, workplaces handling or using hazardous chemicals must manage health and safety risks by using the hierarchy of controls - that is, seek to eliminate the hazard/risk first. This video demonstrates what to consider when applying the hierarchy and how to go about choosing the appropriate controls.
SWA says that employers and businesses should review their chemical management strategies and use controls higher in the hierarchy in combination with lower level controls for the greatest effect. Employers should also ensure that workers receive training and supervision and consider the risks associated throughout the life of the chemical, for example, during storage, handling and disposal.
How to use personal protective equipment for airborne contaminants in the workplace
This video demonstrates how to put on, wear, and remove personal protective equipment when managing airborne contaminants, and how to safely dispose of it. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is designed to protect eyes, nose, mouth, and respiratory system from airborne contaminants such as fibres, dust, gas, and vapour.
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As at December 1, 157 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body - this is four more than the last update on November 24. These were one each in Transport, postal and warehousing, Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Mining and Arts & recreation services. The workers killed this year have been in the following industries:
- 58 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 43 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 28 Construction
- 8 Arts & recreation services
- 3 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).
Safe Work has now published monthly fatality report for July 2017. During this month there were 15 reported work-related fatalities, compared to 22 in June - seven male workers, four male bystanders, one female worker, and three female bystanders. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
VicRoads and roadworks firm fined over $1.55 million over worker fatallity
Last week VicRoads and roadworks firm Downer EDI were convicted fined a total of $1.55 million over the 2011 death of a traffic controller.
VicRoads pleaded guilty to one breach of the OHS Act in that it failed to maintain a safe system of work. It was fined $250,000. Downer EDI was found guilty of three charges: failing to provide a safe system of work, failing to provide employees with information, instruction and training for them to perform their job safely and failing to ensure people other than their employees were not exposed to health and safety risks.
Earlier this year, Downer EDI had pleaded not guilty to all charges but a County Court jury had found it guilty of each. Judge Parrish fined the company $1.3 million on Friday.
On 30 November 2011, worker Harry Zagaretos was struck and killed by a street sweeper during late-night roadworks in Bayswater. Mr Zagaretos was employed by Statewide Traffic Control, which was subcontracted by Downer EDI. He died shortly after the street sweeper reversed over him as he was aligning bollards to separate traffic from resurfacing works on Canterbury Rd. The fatality was even more tragic: Mr Zagaretos had raised safety concerns with his supervisor in relation to the driving of the street sweeper - and these concerns had not been responded to.
This is one of the largest fines in the recent past - but no matter how large the fine, Mr Zagaretos' family will be spending its seventh holiday season without him. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Conviction and $85,000 fine for near miss
Garrhon Pty Ltd, a concrete manufacturing and cartage company, was engaged by Boral Resources Pty Ltd to transport concrete to a workplace in Numurkah as part of capital works. On 21 October 2015 a Garrhon truck transported 11 tonnes of concrete to the workplace. The concrete barrel mounted on the truck was owned by Boral. Maintenance of the truck had revealed significant corrosion and rust, which had been communicated to Garrhon. After arriving at the workplace the truck driver reversed the direction of the concrete barrel to discharge the concrete, and in doing so it broke free of the mount and very nearly dislodged from the truck. Although there were a number of workers nearby, no-one was injured. Had it falled on anyone, the outcome could have been serious injury or death. It was reasonably practicable for the Garrhon to treat the corrosion or withdraw the truck from service. The company was found guilty (ex parte) in the Shepparton Magistrates Court, and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $85,000 and costs of $4,027.
Worker injured on first day - employer fined
Digga Excavations and Demolition Pty Ltd provides demolition, excavation and asbestos removal services. On 17 October 2016, the company was demolishing a house located in Doncaster, when an employee on his first day of work, was struck by a piece of falling debris and sustained head injuries. No-one at the workplace was wearing hard hats at the time. Digga Excavations pleaded guilty to two charges under section 21 of the Act for not stopping work when there was non-compliance with the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and for failing to provide site specific training, including in SWMS. The Geelong Magistrates' Court sentenced the company without conviction, and fined it a total of $27,000, plus costs of $3,880.
Worker's hand entangled in machine: $30k fine, no conviction
A company manufacturing and supplying powdered supplement drinks, the Australian Blending Company Pty Ltd has been fined $30,000 after a worker's hand was sucked into a machine. On 11 August 2016, the worker was packing product into boxes, a job that required the use of a hopper loader and auger filler. He was asked to help with cleaning the plant - specifically to clean inside the auger filler and connecting tube. In order to do this, an interlocked hatch at the bottom of the auger needs to be removed, and manipulation allowed the machine to operate, creating a risk of serious injury through entanglement. The company had failed to inform its employees of the dangers associated with bypassing the interlock and failed to instruct them to not bypass the interlock. On that day, while the worker was cleaning the connecting tube, the plant was turned on by another worker. His right hand was sucked into the connecting tube and became entangled - he was transferred to hospital where he underwent surgery. The company pleaded guilty and in the Ringwood Magistrates' Court was without conviction fined $30,000 plus $4,624 in costs.
Fire in drum burns contractor
Alyfab Pty Ltd, a company predominantly in the skip bin hire, delivery and removal business was last week fined $20,000 in Sunshine Magistrates' Court over an incident involving a 44 gallon drum in which a fire was lit to keep contractors warm in the yard during winter months. On 26 July 2016 a contractor sustained serious burns when the paint thinners he was using to re-ignite the fire exploded. It was reasonable for the offender to eliminate the risk to health and safety by not having an open fire at the workplace. The company offender pleaded guilty and was with conviction fined, plus ordered to pay costs of $4,027.00.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Europe: Weedkiller glyphosate gets a 5-year reprieve
Unfortunately EU countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller at the centre of a major workplace health and environmental controversy. The proposal at the European Commission's Appeal Committee got 18 votes from countries in favour and nine against, with one abstention, ending months of deadlock. The UK backed the reauthorisation. The Commission says the new five-year licence will be ready before the current one expires on 15 December. Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. Its use worldwide has risen almost 15-fold since 1996, when so-called 'Roundup Ready' crops, genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, were introduced. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which reviewed evidence of the cancer risks to exposed workers, concluded the chemical is "probably carcinogenic". A counter offensive by industry group Croplife America and Monsanto, who said the IARC assessment was based on flawed science, is believed to have swayed some regulators. However, unions and environmental campaigners have accused the industry lobby of bankrolling 'doubt science' to defend their product. There have also been accusations that European and other regulatory agencies have been 'captured' by industry, with officials having undeclared links and many key committees being dominated by scientists working for the industry. The global food and farming union IUF, several plantation unions in Africa and environmental groups had called for a ban. Following the meeting, France announced it plans to ban the use of glyphosate within three years.
Read more: BBC News Online. Independent Science News.TUC glyphosate briefing. Source: Risks 828