SafetyNet 431, December 13, 2017
It is with great sadness that we report that another Victorian worker lost his life last Wednesday afternoon.
Remember: 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.
Last week, just after the journal was posted, the VTHC learnt that a 59 year old worker had been killed, with another worker sustaining life threatening injuries, in a workplace incident at Leitchville near Echuca. It appears the men were loading heavy equipment into a shipping container at a decommissioned milk processing/cheese plant when the machinery fell on top of them. The two men were contract workers and part of a crew working on the demolition of the Murray Goulburn facility. Emergency services were called out to the site at about 11am. WorkSafe is investigating the incident. This brings the official number of workplace fatalities in Victoria this year to 24.
Read more: ABC news online
On Thursday last week three workers were trapped in an ink vat in Sydney's west - unfortunately, although two were rescued, the third worker died at the scene.
Emergency services were called to DIC Australia, an ink factory in Chisholm Road, Auburn, about 8.50am, following reports three men aged between 30 and 40 were trapped in a large ink vat. A worker at the site said that two of the men had rushed to help the third when he became trapped in the vat while conducting maintenance. Other reports were that the men had been cleaning the cylindrical vat which still had ink and slush at the bottom.
By 11.30am two of the workers had been rescued, but the third man died. The body remained trapped for some time until it could be removed. The situation was traumatic for the emergency service workers, who had used a manhole at the bottom to access the workers. Read more: Sydney Morning Herald; and ABC news
I'm an HSR, and over the past few months issued a number of PINs. My employer sends the responses via email and postal mail a day before the compliance date of the PIN. On the last occasion, the employer decided to also to display the response on the HSR Notice Board - which is accessible to everyone. The issue with this is that my home address was also on this letter. I had the letter removed from the HSR board, but I was wondering if there are any other steps I can take, as I believe that this is a breach of privacy.
I strongly recommend that you formally request in writing that your employer address any correspondence to you in your role as HSR either via your work email or your work address. You are an elected HSR for your DWG – and any issues you raise, including PINs relate to your role as HSR, not as an individual employee nor as a private person.
Secondly, I would always only give the employer the minimum required compliance date – that is, eight days – and request that the response be provided in writing at a face to face meeting with you in order to facilitate discussion. The employer has a duty to post a copy of the PIN on the noticeboard – but it is inappropriate to post a response without consulting on the matter.
Finally, though I'm not an expert in this area of law, I believe that your home address is 'personal information' taken from the employer's 'employee record' and as such is covered by the Commonwealth Privacy Act, that is, the collector of that information should not be disclosing it to 'third parties' - including other workers, and others entering the workplace are. (for more information on this see: Privacy Legislation - and if you have concerns, contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The link is on this page)
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 sitting in with workers at doctors' appointments
Following our item in last week's journal about this increasing outrageous trend, Dr Deborah Vallance, National OHS Officer with the AMWU, shared a poster the union has produced: Medical Appointments - Know your rights. It's fabulous, so check it out now.
Victoria: EPA issues dumping warning
According to Victoria's EPA, spring is the illegal dumping season and the Victorian bush is often the target for skip bin loads of rubbish, according to the EPA. Chris Webb from EPA's Illegal Waste Disposal Strikeforce says this is when hikers, campers and anyone going bush for fishing or a barbecue can help, by reporting what they find. ''The faster EPA hears about an illegally dumped load of waste, the faster we can do something about tracking down the culprit, prosecuting them and having the mess cleaned up,'' Mr Webb said. Read more: The Telegraph
NSW: Tonnes of asbestos waste dumped in street
Eight to ten tonnes of waste containing asbestos was this week illegally dumped in a suburban street in Sydney's west, creating a large response from emergency services and council. Authorities are now investigating several leads in the hunt for those responsible. Firefighters and police were called to Chester Hill on Monday following reports of the dumping that stretched 40 metres along the residential street.
Read more: The New Daily
Spain: legal precedent - Asbestos anxiety
The first lawsuit has been filed in Spain over anxiety caused by toxic exposures of five claimants who were exposed to asbestos at their Barcelona workplace. They are calling for the classification from the State of their anxiety and depression as an occupational disease and asking for compensation for hazardous conditions which would not have occurred "if the defendant company had fulfilled its obligations in relation to prevention and safety at work."
See: Primera demanda presentada en España para considerar la ansiedad enfermedad professional [First lawsuit filed in Spain to consider occupational disease anxiety (caused by asbestos)]. Source: IBAS
UK: Assessing the Asbestos Cancer Risk
A paper appearing in the January issue of the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health highlights the importance of early diagnoses of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, which enables patients to access trials of novel treatment therapies. The authors described a method of calculating past asbestos exposures in order to assess individuals' levels of risk of contracting mesothelioma. A strong correlation between measured and estimated asbestos exposure has been shown.
Read more: Cherrie, J, et al, Estimating past inhalation exposure to asbestos: A tool for risk attribution and disease screening. [Full article] Source: IBAS
How to mitigate PTSD risks at work
UK researchers from the University of Central Lancashire have made a series of recommendations on how employers can mitigate the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, after finding that one in three firefighters suffer some form of distress that makes them susceptible to PTSD.
100 operational county firefighters were surveyed, and the researchers also conducted a literature review on factors that lead to PTSD development.
They found 30 per cent of respondents showed signs of distress (as measured by their experience of somatic symptoms, anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction and severe depression), and four per cent showed symptoms of PTSD. They noted that emergency organisations usually have higher PTSD rates than this. According to the researchers, most firefighters are exposed to traumatic and tragic events during their careers, and studies have suggested their mortality and morbidity is related to the stressful nature of their work.
The recommendations included:
- Providing workers with awareness education on stress and PTSD so they can identify the symptoms in themselves and their colleagues at an early stage;
- Revising workplace policies so workers affected by trauma are automatically and immediately directed to trained behavioural health experts; and
- Developing a web or mobile phone app that combines training with information on recognising PTSD symptoms, which provides direct links to professional services.
Read more: Khalid khan, et al, A Case Study of the Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Operational Fire Service Personnel within the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service. [Full text] Safety and Health at Work, online first November 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.shaw.2017.11.002. Source: OHS Alert
OHS Regulator News
SafeWorkNSW this week issued an alert on Electrical hazards when working in ceiling spaces. Following the recent death of a licenced electrician while undertaking electrical wiring work in the ceiling space of a residential duplex, this alert eminds both electrical and non-electrical workers of the risks involved in such work.
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work virtual seminar
The latest virtual seminar features Safe Work Australia Director, Kris Garred discussing the Work-related traumatic injury fatalities 2016 report, the statistics within it and the powerful role this data can have on improving safety in Australian workplaces.
The report was published on the SWA website in October and provides statistics not only on the number of people who have died from work-related injuries, but also the bystanders who were killed as a result of another person's work activity. SWA says it created this virtual seminar so that leaders, employers, workers and regulators can watch and share as part of their ongoing commitment to increase work health and safety awareness and improve safety in the workplace.
This virtual seminar is available here - or you can listen to the podcast.
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As at December 8, 165 workplace fatalities had been reported to the national body - this is eight more than the last update just one week before on December 1. Five of the eight were in Transport, postal and warehousing - the sector with the most fatalities. The workers killed this year have been in the following industries:
- 63 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 43 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 29 Construction
- 8 Arts & recreation services
- 3 Mining
- 3 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 0 Other services
- 0 Administrative & support services
- 5 Public administration & safety
- 6 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's most recent published monthly fatality report remains that for July 2017. During this month there were 15 reported work-related fatalities, compared to 22 in June. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Repeat offender fined $30,000 after worker's hand crushed
Sanikleen Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Shepparton Magistrate's Court to failing to supervise its employees so that they could perform their work in a way that was safe and without risk to health.
On 26 May 2015, a worker was cleaning an evisceration table - a line of offal trays moving continuously on a chain - when he reached down into a drainage channel underneath to retrieve some waste meat. The plant was energised and the trays were moving when the worker's hand became trapped between a tray and the channel. He worker could not reach the emergency stop and his co-workers could not see or hear him. He was able to remove his hand once the tray passed over it, but suffered a broken wrist and tendon and nerve damage and missed two months' work.
A lock out/tag out procedure to ensure the table was isolated from energy sources during cleaning was not being followed on the day.
This is the fourth time Sanikleen has been convicted and fined over workplace safety breaches.
In December 2014 the company was convicted and fined $100,000 after a worker injured his hand while trying to clean a moving conveyor belt in Wodonga. In May 2012 the company was convicted and fined $100,000 after a worker's hand became trapped while cleaning a meat processing machine in Werribee, and in September 2005 Sanikleen was convicted and fined $40,000 when a worker's arm was de-gloved when it became entangled in an unguarded conveyor belt in Seymour.
WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said Sanikleen's latest incident demonstrated that safe systems of work were of no use unless companies ensured that employees followed them. Read more: WorkSafe media release
$50,000 fine, no conviction after worker crushed by bale
Airstep Australia Pty Ltd, a manufacturer and distributor of carpet underlays with a warehouse in Dandenong South was prosecuted for failing to provide a safe system of work around forklifts. Each morning bales of scrap foam for the manufacture of carpet underlay are delivered to the workplace with trucks and trailers. On Monday 7 December 2015 a truck driver delivered a load of foam bales to the workplace using a truck with a double trailer. On arrival the truck driver opened the curtains of the trailer, undid the straps, pulled the gates out and asked an Airstep employee, a forklift driver, to unload the foam bales. There was a traffic management plan in place at the workplace; however it was inadequate in that there were no designated driver exclusion or safety zones, creating a risk of death or serious injury through being struck by the forklift or a falling bale.
During unloading the driver reached in to brush scrap foam off the rear trailer deck; the forklift driver was stacking a bale onto the pile about 30 metres from the driver. The driver heard someone yell 'look out' and when he tried to move out of the way a bale fell on him knocking him to the ground and causing injuries to his ribs, legs and spine. The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $50,000 plus $7,012 costs.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: Cost-cutting firm fined £3m after 'Russian Roulette' death
A Spanish construction company has been fined £3 million (A$5.28 million) over the death of a worker at a plant near the Welsh border in what was described as a "Russian Roulette" tragedy. Judge Huw Rees at Caernarfon Crown Court said: "This was a cost-cutting exercise at the expense of the safety of employees and other people." The tragedy happened on 14 July 2015 at Fenns Bank near Whitchurch, during demolition work at an aluminium recycling plant. Jose Canal, 32, was killed when a hopper collapsed. The company, Porvi Construcciones y Contratas of Valladolid in northern Spain, was convicted of criminal safety breaches by a jury after failing to participate in the proceedings.
"Given one of their own employees perished in this accident, it's difficult to understand the attitude taken by the company," Judge Rees remarked. The company had denied charges of failing to ensure that employees and non-employees were exposed to risk. Jose Canal had been involved in demolishing the hopper in a crushing shed and was on a platform cutting through a steel beam when the unsupported hopper collapsed. Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, said: "They just about broke every rule in the book when they came to dismantle this hopper. They failed to apply any of the guidelines. In many ways it's an astonishing case, little more than a game of Russian Roulette. Someone was going to be hurt or killed – the only question was who and when. Virtually everything that should be done was not done. Workers were allowed to work at height on the hopper while people stood on the part that was to be cut." In addition to the £3m fine, the firm must pay £75,000 costs. Befesa Salt Slags, which awarded the demolition contract to Porvi, was fined £225,000 with £65,000 costs after admitting criminal safety offences involving the fatality and other health and safety concerns.
Read more: Shropshire Star. Source: Risks 829
Gabon: Sick uranium miners fight for compensation
Hundreds of former Gabonese workers for La Comuf, an affiliate of the French group Areva, have been unsuccessfully demanding compensation for illnesses they believe are related to working in a uranium mine. The miners worked for an Areva subsidiary - the Compagnie des mines d'uranium de Franceville, better known by its abbreviation of COMUF. Over 38 years, the mine extracted some 26,000 tonnes of uranium near Mounana, southeastern Gabon, before closing in 1999 after the global price of uranium fell and the seam of ore began to thin.
the end of 2016, 367 former workers had died from "pulmonary respiratory
infections" linked to working in the mine, according to MATRAC, a
campaign group representing 1,618 former employees. The surviving
miners, many of them old and sick, have unsuccessfully demanded
compensation for 12 years. Areva, a multi-billion-dollar business
majority-owned by the French state, has repeatedly denied that it has
any case to answer. "No occupational disease related to exposure to
ionising radiation" has ever been detected, it says. However, an
internal communication from Areva's health director, Pierre Laroche,
noted that "many serious diseases have been detected among former
employees, for example contagious tuberculosis." TB is commonly
associated with dusty mining jobs. However, the firm has refused to give
payouts to the vast majority of its employees, apart from compensation
payments in 2011 to the families in France of two French former mine
workers who died of lung cancer. A decade ago, French NGOs Sherpa and
Medecins du Monde carried out field surveys in Mounana and in Niger,
another Areva uranium mining site. They published a report denouncing
what they described as high rates of cancer among former employees.
Read more: Daily Mail. Source: Risks 829
BE TRADES HALL TRAINED: VTHC OHS Training Centre
Make sure you attend training provided either by your union or the VTHC! HSRs are elected by their fellow workers to represent them. We understand what HSRs need and have been training effective HSRs for many years. Remember that under Section 67 of the OHS Act, both HSRs and deputies have the right to attend the training course of their choice (in consultation with their employer).
The VTHC OHS Unit is now running courses in a number of new locations to cater for HSRs in the outer suburbs of Melbourne such as Epping. This is in addition to courses in our usual locations. Below are the dates for the next few courses at the VTHC OHS Training Centre - if you haven't yet booked in your course for this year, do it now. With the end of the year approaching, check out the courses next year, and get organised now. The full set of dates until June 2018, including Comcare courses, is on the Training program page where you can download a registration form or register online. Contact Lisa Mott on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries.
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* HSRs are entitled to attend this course