SafetyNet 434, February 7, 2018
STOP PRESS 3.50pm: We have just received the tragic news that another Victorian worker lost his life last evening (Tuesday) after the tip truck he was driving made contact with overhead powerlines on a dairy farm at Kergunyah, south of Albury Wodonga.
Welcome to this week's SafetyNet. We hope you find something interesting! Don't forget tonight's Webinar, and please send us your views on any OHS issue/topic by clicking here.
To keep up to date and informed between editions of SafetyNet, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Team Facebook page (note name change!), and for those who are HSRs and/or passionate about health and safety, join the OHS Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out and ask to join.
The only area my employer provides for staff to take a break is outside. Not all staff members smoke (but some do), and sometimes the weather (too hot, too cold, wet) makes it very unpleasant to be there. The only other alternative is a lounge for 'clients'. Is this right?
Under s 21 of the OHS Act the employer has a general duty of care to provide for employees 'adequate facilities' so far as is reasonably practicable. (See: Duties of employers). What this means in terms of what an employer needs to do in order to ensure compliance is in the Workplace amenities and work environment Compliance Code.
While there is nothing on 'staff areas' specifically, there is guidance on dining areas... Take a look at this page: Dining Facilities.
Using a clients' lounge is not really acceptable - staff need to have their own space in which to take their breaks, eat their lunch, relax and so on - being in a clients' lounge means they are always 'on duty'.
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.
TONIGHT!! Ask Renata Webinar
The first of our webinars this year will take place tonight! This is your chance to 'Ask Renata' live...
Register now through this link - it's not too late. Once you have registered, you will get a confirmation email, with a link and instructions on how to 'join' the webinar1
Our webinar wiz Roxanne Chaitowitz will be running ten webinars this year on a myriad of weird and interesting (to OHS people!) topics - so keep your eyes on SafetyNet and on our Facebook pages.
Victoria: new asbestos campaign
WorkSafe Victoria will be warning 'tradies' to always check for asbestos before starting jobs, in an awareness campaign to hit the airwaves next week.
The latest statistics from the Australian Mesothelioma Register reveal that an estimated 60 per cent of mesothelioma cases are due to asbestos exposure in the workplace. There were at least 95 mesothelioma deaths in Victoria in 2016 and 145 new cases of the disease.
WorkSafe Acting Director of Health and Safety, Paul Fowler, said although many tradies knew asbestos posed a significant health risk, many did not know how to identify it. This is borne out by research conducted by ASEA in the past.
Read more: WorkSafe Media release
James Hardie - up to its dirty tricks again
On Monday night, long-time respected reporter on asbestos-related matters, Matt Peacock, filed his final story for the ABC before retiring. After more than four decades, his last story continues to shine light on the asbestos issue.
Ten years ago, James Hardie moved off-shore, leaving behind a victims' compensation fund which was billions of dollars short and heading for bankruptcy. Public outcry and concerted action from the community, unions and their lawyers resulted in the company offering a billion dollar fund which is still in place. Now, however, there are accusations that the fund is seeking to cut back compensation payments. Tanya Segelov, asbestos claims lawyer and former member of the ASEA board, told 7.30 'They [James Hardie] are using every means possible to not pay the judgements of a court, judgements that have been made against them, for people who are dying because they used a product James Hardie knew would kill them and never warned them.'
Watch the story here: James Hardie accused of trying to cut back on compensation payments. 7.30, ABC
ASEA - new website is live
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has launched its new look website.ASEA says that as with all online resources, the new website will continue to be improved to make sure the Agency meets the needs of users and the general public in providing a 'one stop shop' of information regarding asbestos awareness and management. ASEA is always looking for feedback on the new site so if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to click on the Provide feedback button on the homepage. Check the new website by clicking here.
NSW: Huge clean up at ex-Camden High School
Remediation work has finally commenced at the site of a contaminated former Sydney high school with a huge white decontamination bubble the size of eight house blocks erected to protect the community from asbestos dust. More than 10 years since the Department of Education sold the site of the former Camden High School to a developer, work has begun to remove contaminants left from an old gasworks within the grounds, ahead of the construction of Camden Central seniors village. Several years ago hundreds of the school's former students and teachers added their names to a potential class action over the contaminants, believing cases of cancer, tumours and birth defects may have been caused by exposure to these. chemicals. Read more: NTNews; ABC news online.
Vale Andrew Casey
The union movement is mourning the sudden death in Sydney last Thursday of veteran communicator and activist, Andrew Casey.
Andrew joined his first union when as a boilermaker's assistant at the then Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney Harbour during the Vietnam War, a time when union activists were under close official scrutiny for their links to the peace movement. He later worked as an industrial reporter, political editor and foreign correspondent for Fairfax Media, and was a committed member of the former Australian Journalists' Association and its successor, the MEAA.
He worked for almost a decade as a media officer at the ACTU under secretary Bill Kelty - and it was during this time that our editor Renata first met and worked with him. He later had various communication roles at the CFMEU, the LHMU (now United Voice), the AWU and the ANMF. Andrew was one of the original correspondents and editors of the global union news portal LabourStart, and closely followed union activity around the world.
When asked about his "Irish" surname, Andrew would explain that his father had chosen 'Casey' from the phone book, believing it to be a common Aussie name! In fact, he came to Australia as a refugee from Hungary as a small child in the 1950s – later he would say that he had people smugglers to thank for his life in a new country. Read more: ACTU Media Release; LabourStart tribute
Work Trades Hall: Young Workers Safety & Rights Awareness Organiser
The VTHC is seeking to employ a full time Young Workers Safety & Rights Awareness Organiser in the Young Workers Centre, based in VTHC. The Young Workers Centre aims to educate young workers about workplace safety and their rights and to support and organise them in enforcing these when they have been put at risk. It also makes representations to government on issues affecting young workers.Applications close February 9. More information, including a position description and salary package
HSR writes on mental health
One of our long time Safety Net subscribers, Glen Davis, who has also had 30+ years as an OHS rep has some thoughts about the impact of work on Mental Health. Interested?
Read more: G.Davis, Work and Mental Health, Online Opinion
Truck breaches reveal lack of regulation
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has criticised a gaping lack of regulation and policy after police issued over 2,000 truck defect notices yesterday in the largest ever inspection operation.
Police inspected 5,000 trucks in an operation that also involved Victorian, Queensland, SA and ACT police forces checking trucks entering and leaving NSW. Police also revealed that 26 drivers tested positive for drugs while RMS inspectors found one driver working in excess of the 12-hour limit who was "almost asleep at the wheel".
"Truck drivers yesterday were made to carry the burden for an industry in crisis. They've yet again copped the fines and carried the charges. But wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top are the ones who should be in the dock: their low cost contracts are putting financial pressure on transport companies and drivers which causes maintenance on trucks to get delayed. Drivers are pushed to work longer hours, speed and skip breaks," said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon. "The Federal Government must take responsibility for driving down standards in the transport industry and increasing the death toll. It shut down a road safety watchdog two years ago and now we are seeing defective trucks on our roads and deaths sky-rocket. The Government did this despite repeated warnings and its own report showing the watchdog was cutting truck crashes by 28%*," he said.
Read more: Shocking number of trucking breaches reveals absence of policy and regulation. TWU Media Release
International Union News
UK: Safety laws don't meet international obligations
The UK's health and safety laws are 'not in conformity' with its international legal obligations, a major review has concluded. The findings are particularly critical of the impact of a UK government move in 2015 that exempted many self-employed workers from the Health and Safety at Work Act. "At the time the TUC ran a strong campaign to try to stop it. We pointed out that it would be confusing, and down-right dangerous," says TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson. The TUC was not alone; safety and employers' organisations were highly critical. "Well this week, two and a half years later, the UK decision has been looked at by the European Committee of Social Rights, the monitoring body of the 47-nation Council of Europe and it is pretty damning," notes Robertson. The report concludes "the situation in the United Kingdom is not in conformity" with the European Social Charter "on the ground that all self-employed and domestic workers are not covered by the occupational health and safety regulations." The charter states: "All workers have the right to safe and healthy working conditions," and spells out how there must be regulations and enforcement to ensure that. According to Robertson, despite "a clear ruling that the government is not in compliance with a legally binding charter that they have signed up to," in the absence of any charter enforcement mechanism it is unlikely anything will change for the better.
Read more: TUC blog. European Committee of Social Rights news release and decision. The Independent. Source: Risks 834
Metalworking fluid and bladder cancer
Researchers from the French National Research and Safety Institute have identified the type of metalworking fluid (MWF) that is most likely to cause bladder cancer, and have stressed the ongoing need to prevent oil mist exposure, regardless of the continual changes to MWF composition and use.
They examined cases of bladder cancer diagnosed from 2006 to 2012 among workers from six steel-producing factories, and found exposure to "straight" MWFs, composed of mineral oils and no water, was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer between five and 25 years after exposure. They say their results "cannot exclude a relationship with exposure to soluble MWFs and does not detect any relationship with synthetic MWFs".
Read more: Régis Colin, et al, Bladder cancer and occupational exposure to metalworking fluid mist: a counter-matched case–control study in French steel-producing factories. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first January 2018, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2017-104666. Source: OHSAlert
Reminder: research into wellbeing and mental health of FIFO workers
Are you a current, or ex, FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) worker?
Are there things you'd like to see changed in the industry or work practices to improve the wellbeing and mental health of FIFO workers like you?
The University of Western Australia is calling for participants in their study looking at mental health, wellbeing and work factors experienced by FIFOs.
You can complete the 30-minute survey and receive a personalised feedback report by clicking here.
OHS Regulator News
QLD Alert following fatalities
Following the tragic incident in January, when two brothers were found dead in the bottom of a fibreglass tank on a trailer, Queensland's WHS regulator Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued a warning and advice on how to prevent similar incidents. It is continuing its investigation into the tragedy.
Read more: Two workers die inside agriculture tanker
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 2 February 2018, there were 12 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. The two fatalities notified since the last edition of SafetyNet were in Agriculture, forestry and fishing, and in Construction. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 7 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 2 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 1 Construction
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Wholesale trade
The numbers and industries may vary from one report to the next, as Safe Work receives more detailed information (to check for updates and more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage).
Safe Work's most recent published monthly fatality report is for August 2017. During this month there were 9 reported work-related fatalities, compared to 15 in June and 8 in July. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
In last week's SafetyNet we reported on the fining of a car repairer after a man was crushed when a vehicle fell off a hoist. WorkSafe has today issued a Media Release on the prosecution.
Company fined $25,000 for unsafe scaffolding
Ballarat construction company Myrti Pty Ltd has been convicted of two offences and fined $25,000 (plus costs of $2897) for ignoring WorkSafe directions to fix unsafe scaffolding at a Mount Clear worksite.
WorkSafe had issued Myrti with a prohibition notice in May 2016 after an inspector observed incomplete scaffolding, with missing planks and gaps in the handrails, at a site in the Ballarat suburb. It required that the scaffolding not be used until the safety issues were addressed.
However, when a WorkSafe inspector returned to check that the notice has been complied with, he observed a person working from the same incomplete scaffolding. The court heard that two subcontractors said they were directed by a Myrti representative to work on the roof of the construction, and were not aware there was a prohibition notice in respect to the scaffolding.
WorkSafe Head of Operations and Emergency Management Adam Watson said the idea that a construction company would ignore a directive to fix a safety issue as critical as scaffolding was abhorrent. "Falls are one of the most common causes of death and serious injury among construction workers. You don't have to fall from a great height to be killed or suffer permanent injuries at a worksite," Mr Watson said. "Given the risks it's quite disturbing to think that anyone would ignore a specific WorkSafe directive to make scaffolding safer." Read more: WorkSafe Media release
Company fined after worker falls 7 metres
Defor Pty Ltd, trading as Evans Quarries, operates a quarry located at Ventnor, Victoria. On 25 January 2017 an Evans Quarries employee was raised in a cage attached to a telehandler to a height above 7 metres in order to fix a gearbox. He was not wearing any fall protection, thus was at risk of serious injury due to inadequate adequate fall protection. Further, the company allowed the worker to operate the telehandler without the appropriate competency training. As the worker was trying to open the gearbox and while swinging a hammer, he fell over the side of the cage to the ground below. He was airlifted to hospital with shoulder injuries. The offender pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $25,000 plus $3,505 in costs.
Child care centre charged after worker suffers burns
Employers must remember their general duty of care to employees sometimes extends off-site, as in this example where a worker was seriously burnt while at a staff retreat. Park Street Childcare & Kindergarten Co-Operative Limited located in Brunswick, organises an annual weekend away (a retreat) with its employees. At one such retreat the workers had use of an outdoor fire pit at the rented property.
On 1 May 2015 one of the workers was injured when another worker poured an amount of ethanol into a cylinder at the centre of the fire pit. The worker's clothing caught fire when a ball of flame exploded from the pit and engulfed her. She suffered third degree burns to 17 per cent of her body and was in hospital for six (6) weeks. There were no instructions in relation to the safe use of the fire pit or the risks associated with its use.The offender pleaded guilty and was placed on an adjourned undertaking for 12 months, without conviction, with a condition that it make a donation of $15,000 to the Alfred Hospital Burns Unit. It was also ordered to pay $1,000 costs.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.