SafetyNet 437, February 28, 2018
Welcome to this week's SafetyNet.
It is with great regret that we report that yet another Victorian worker lost her life this week.
If you wish to make any comments or have any OHS issues/queries, please send an email by clicking here. (Please don't 'reply' to your email!)
To keep up to date and informed between editions of SafetyNet, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps 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.
Postie dies as a result of workplace incident
It is with great sadness that we report that a postie has died as a result of a workplace incident. The incident occurred while she was delivering mail out of the Research Delivery Centre. While information at this stage is sketchy, it appears that she hit a pothole and came off her motorbike - she was then hit by a passing car or four wheel drive. She had been in an induced coma for several weeks, and died yesterday. Because Australia Post is covered by Comcare, this fatality will not be investigated by WorkSafe and does not figure in Victoria's statistics.
The VTHC OHS Unit wishes to express our sincerest condolences to this worker's family, friends and work colleagues.
Our gardener has been asked to clean out the gutters of the buildings. I was wondering what the OHS regulations are around this?
Your employer has the general duty of care to the employee under s21 of the OHS Act - in particular to provide so far as is reasonably practicable, safe systems of work, and ensure there is an absence of risks to health and safety from the use of plant - for example in the use of ladders. These duties apply to the gardener even if he/she is a contractor and not a direct employee. See this page on Duties of employers. The employer must also ensure that ladders, for example or any other equipment used is safe and in good repair) - see: Ladders and Stepladders.
In addition to this, if the work being done is above 2 meters, then the employer must also comply with the Prevention of Falls regulations: these require that a hierarchy of risk controls be implemented. See this page for a summary of this chapter of the regulations.
Falling even a relatively short distance can have tragic consequences, so the employer needs to ensure that the risks involved are extremely well-controlled.
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.
International Women's Day Events
International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8 has a long history and is a reflection of women's efforts towards attaining gender equality. IWD originated in the USA in 1908, when women garment workers held demonstrations protesting against their appalling and dangerous working conditions. Women's struggles is union business. The sphere of unpaid and paid work is also part of this movement, and labour activists around the world are still fighting for gender equality at the workplace.
March 8: IWD March and Rally 5.30pm, State Library
The Melbourne IWD Collective invited everyone to attend the annual March and Rally, which kicks off at 5.30pm from the State Library on Swanston St, Melbourne CBD. Hear from a number of fantastic women activists (including an international guest), chant along with thousands of others and be inspired. More information: Facebook Rally Event page. Read more: IWD 2014 Political demands
The VTHC Women's Team will once again be running WRAW Fest the week commencing March 5. There will be a number of events, some run by specific unions for their members, but others open to all. Events include seminars, a film night, a trivia night, breakfasts, Feminism in the Pub and the now famous WRAW Fest Gala night. Check out the WRAW Fest website here.
March 5 AAWL & APHEDA Event: Women Organising Globally
Australia Asia Worker LInks, and APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad, will be co-hosting a public meeting – Women Organising Globally. Featuring a panel of local and international organisers, the discussion will focus on women currently organising in unions and communities across our region for workplace rights and gender equality.
When: Monday March 5, 6pm-8pm
Where: MUA Auditorium, 46-54 Ireland Street, West Melbourne
For Facebook event, click here.
3CR Radio will host 24 hours of women voices and issues. Find out more.
Vale Zelda D'Aprano - In memory and solidarity.
Last Wednesday, the union movement in Australia lost one of its historical leaders in Zelda D'Aprano. Zelda was iconised in 1969 in a photograph showing her chained to the Commonwealth Building in protest against women receiving less pay than men. Zelda left school early so that she could work and support her family. However, she soon learnt of the exploitation that workers, and especially women workers, faced. Zelda was a staunch labour activist all her life and continued to support labour campaigns even after she had retired (watch this Youtube video on the Equal Pay campaign). She was an honoured guest at WRAW Fest events and the VTHC's Labour Day Dinner.
Read more: Zelda D'Aprano fought for equality all her life. The fire in our bellies is her legacy
Coming up: Webinar on Gendered Violence in the Workplace
Gendered Violence (GV) can be an issue in many workplaces. Under the 2004 Victorian OHS Act, employers have a legal duty to provide all workers with a healthy and safe working environment - and a workplace free from GV is part of that duty.
Join us on Wednesday 14 March, at 7pm for the second of our OHS Webinar Series of 2018 as we discuss GV at the workplace: what it looks like, why it's an OHS risk, and how, like all OHS hazards, HSRs can identify the GV risk and work with employers to control or eliminate it at the workplace.
This webinar will be co-hosted by Jodi Peskett from the
VTHC's We Are Union Women's Team. Jodi will provide practical advice,
and take participants through the ground-breaking 'Stop Gendered
Violence at Work EBA Clause' the team has developed in collaboration
with the Victorian union movement
To read more and register, go to click here.
Morwell: consultation on future of power station
A reminder that you have until March 6 to send your views to the EPA regarding whether an asbestos landfill facility at the site of the Morwell power station and briquette factory should be built. The Heritage Council of Victoria has decided the site should be added to the Victorian Heritage Register, but the question on what to do with the asbestos remains. Public submissions can be received up to March 6 and can be made by going to this page of the EPA website. The application, application plans, specifications and other information can be viewed here [pdf]. Read more: Latrobe Valley Express
International Union News
USA: School unions call for prevention after gun tragedy
School unions in the US have called for action to prevent further gun deaths, after 17 people were killed and another 16 injured in a 13 February attack by an excluded former pupil. Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Randi Weingarten, president of the teaching union AFT, said that with 18 school shootings this year in the US, one had to wonder "when is enough enough?" She added: "We will do everything we can to support our educators, children, parents and local in the days, weeks and even years to come. [And we] will continue to fight to prevent gun violence from becoming the new normal in our schools."
Lily Eskelsen García, president of the education union NEA, called on the US government to act against violence in schools. "We all have a responsibility to create safe schools and communities. As a state and a country, we can and must do more to ensure that everyone who walks through our school doors - educator, student, parent or community member - is safe and free from violence," she said.
Fred van Leeuwen, general secretary of the global union Education International, said: "This is one further incident in a horrifying sequence of shootings in US schools which have cut short far too many young lives in tragic circumstances. Education International calls for better control of access to guns in the USA and for improved security on school premises." The victims from Parkland, Florida join about 650 other people who die each week in the US from gun violence.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would examine the "intersection of mental health and criminality and identify how we can stop people capable of such heinous crimes." However, this approach has been questioned by public health specialists, who say President Trump's top legal adviser is ignoring the positive impact of stricter gun laws. Public health blog The Pump Handle notes "psychiatrists, psychologists, and criminologists have examined mental illness and violence. There's broad consensus that the vast majority of violent acts are committed by individuals who have no history of mental illness… Misappropriating gun violence to individuals with mental illness is a topic that's been addressed by numerous researchers. Persons with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it."
Read more: EI news release. AFT news release. NEA news release. The Pump Handle. Statement by President Donald Trump. Statement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Source: Risks 838
Blood test for farmers using pesticides
While not totally conclusive, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the detrimental health impacts related to use of pesticides - including the development of Parkinson's Disease. The results of a recent study conducted by the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) to track pesticide exposure in farmers.Every month for a year participants underwent a finger-prick blood test to detect exposure to a common group of insecticides called organophosphates.
The NCFH showed that making this test part of a regular health check-up could prevent future exposure to pesticides, simply by raising farmer's awareness. Organophosphates work by attacking an insect's nervous system - the chemicals attack humans in the same way but on a lesser scale. Lead researcher Dr Jacquie Cotton said while humans may not display any symptoms, they could still be experiencing low-level exposure. An article on ABC online shows that the study has led to some farmers at least being much more aware and taking steps to reduce their exposure.
Read more: Blood test for farmers using pesticides, chemical the key to preventing long-term health problems. ABC News online
US: Hearing loss in agriculture, fishing and hunting industries
A recent US study has highlighted the prevalence of hearing loss among workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector. The study, conducted by researchers from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and published in the January edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine demonstrates that the prevalence of hearing loss in the sector is 15 per cent. The researchers also examined the industries within the sector and found as many as 36 per cent of noise-exposed workers have hearing loss.
Industries within the sector with the highest number of noise-exposed workers who have hearing loss and elevated risk of hearing loss include forest nurseries and gathering of forest products (36 per cent), timber tract operations (22 per cent); and fishing. They also found that workers in the aquaculture (fish farms or hatcheries) and logging industries are at higher risk for hearing loss.
The researchers, who examined the results of 17,299 hearing tests from workers employed at 458 companies in the industry, said that though the overall of hearing loss in the AFFH sector to be less than all industries combined, which is 19 percent, the study revealed there are many industries within the sector that have a large number of workers who have or are at high risk for hearing loss.
Read more: Masterson, E, et al Prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector, 2003-2012 [Full article] American Journal of Industrial Medecine DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22792
It is possible that workers in similar industries in Australia also have high prevalence of hearing loss. Unions' experience is that although Australia has had Noise regulations with an exposure standard of 85dB(A) for decades, unless regulators ensured compliance, the prevalence of hearing loss increases. A 2010 Safe Wok Australia Report, the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance – Noise exposure and the provision of noise control measures in Australian workplaces found that between 28 per cent and 32 per cent of the Australian workforce are likely to work in an environment where they are exposed to loud noise generated during the course of their work. In looking at controls, it found that training on how to prevent hearing damage was underprovided in workplaces with only 41 per cent of exposed workers reporting they had received training. The researchers also found there was a reliance on the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) - rather than higher level controls as per the regulations - for reducing exposure to loud noise.
NZ Research shows training in OHS pays off
The New Zealand government's latest workplace health and safety attitudes and behaviours survey has confirmed strong links between recent health and safety training and the way people act and feel at work. Commissioned by the government's health and safety regulator, WorkSafe, the survey canvassed thousands of NZ workers and employers in high-risk industries, asking them about their experiences of workplace health and safety.
The survey found that workers who had received health and safety training in the last 12 months were more likely to feel confident in knowing how to report injuries, accidents and near misses, and to say action was taken if a new hazard was noticed.
Read more: Industrial Safety News
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe releases media release on $500k conviction
Last week we reported on the prosecution, conviction and $500,000 fine of Specialised Concrete Pumping Victoria over an incident in which a 28 year old worker was crushed to death at a worksite in Keysborough. WorkSafe Victoria has now issued a Media Release on the conviction.
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on February 23. In this edition Steve Darnley writes about Victoria's incident notification requirements, noting that this is a timely reminder because at the end of September 2017 the Victorian Government significantly increased penalties for duty-holders who fail to notify WorkSafe of an incident, or don't preserve a site after a serious incident.
There are a number of other interesting news items related to the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries. Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from 25 January - 15 February 2018. Since the last edition of Safety Soapbox, there have been 137 incidents in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries serious enough to have been reported to WorkSafe. There were many of the incidents we are now accustomed to reading about, including a worker who sustained multiple serious injuries when he fell approximately five metres from a work deck/scaffold onto formwork below, and eleven puncture injuries. Access the February 23 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
QLD: Incident alerts
1 - Vehicle stabilisers and outriggers
In Queensland sometime this month, a truck fitted with a vehicle loading crane was driven along a road with its stabiliser extended. The stabiliser struck a parked vehicle and a worker standing behind this vehicle was crushed and killed. While it is not yet known why the stabiliser was unsecured, this Alert provides detailed information on how to prevent similar incidents occurring. The regulator has commenced investigations into the fatality, and these are continuing.
Read more: Vehicle stabilisers and outriggers
2- Generator fuel explosion
Also in February, two workers received severe burns to their legs, upper body and face when fuel ignited in the back of a truck. A generator in the back of the truck had tipped over while being transported, spilling fuel. On arrival the workers opened the back of the truck and noticed a strong smell of fuel. They were in the truck and had uprighted the generator ready to unload it when the fuel vapours ignited.
Initial inquiries indicate that the generator was not secured in the back of the truck and may have overturned while the truck was traversing rough terrain at the worksite. Investigations are continuing.
Read more: Generator fuel explosion in back of truck
Safe Work Australia News
Reminder: review into Model laws launched
Remember Safe Work Australia's 2018 review into the Model WHS laws and call for public submissions.
SWA has released a 49-page discussion paper which poses 37 questions for discussion. The questions include whether the penalties in the model WHS Act, as well as processes relating to legal proceedings for offences, effectively deter poor work health and safety practices.
SWA wants contributions from as many and varied interested parties as possible - either through a written submission or by participating in forum discussions. For more information and to access the discussion paper, go to this page of SWA's Engage website (It is necessary to register in order to be able to contribute comments online.). Submissions are due by 13 April.
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 23 February 2018, there had been 18 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. This is two more than the latest update on 16 February. The two fatalities were in Transport, postal & warehousing, and Construction. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 9 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 3 Construction
- 2 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 1 Administrative and support services
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 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.
Individual and company both prosecuted for failure to provide supervision
In a rare prosecution of both a company and an individual worker for failing to comply with the duty to provide adequate supervision, Martyn Nicholls Electrics Pty Ltd (MNE), and an electrician have been fined.
MNE conducts electrical contracting work including installations, repairs, testing and fault checking of electrical appliance. The company employed a first year electrical apprentice who was to be supervised by a qualified electrician employed by the company. On four separate occasions between October 2015 and May 2016 MNE required the apprentice, who was not supervised, to do work which involving the isolation, disconnection and reconnection of electricity. This created a risk of death or serious injury to the first year apprentice as a result of working unsupervised. MNE failed to ensure that the apprentice was supervised by a supervising electrician when undertaking electrical work involving isolation, disconnection and reconnection of electricity including power point installation, installing hardwired smoke detectors, replacing a Tastic light and repairing a hot water service.The electrician who was responsible for instructing and supervising the young worker failed to do so on the four occasions.
The company prosecuted for breaching s21(1) and 21(2)(e), and the registered electrician was prosecuted for breaching s25(1)(b) of the Act respectively. Both pleaded guilty and were without conviction fined. MNI paid a total of $12,000 (plus $1,000 in costs) and the electrician was fined a total of $16000 (also with $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.
NSW: First conviction under WHS laws for reckless conduct
A company's failure to follow its own safety management plans, and its cost saving on tradespeople and engineers, led to a the bathroom fatality of a non-employee and the first conviction for reckless conduct under Australia's harmonised WHS regime. Cudal Lime Products Pty Ltd (CLP) has been fined $900,000 from a maximum $3 million for breaching sections 19(2) and 31 ("Reckless conduct–Category 1") of NSW's mirror Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
The prosecution related to the August 2014 electrocution of a woman in a shower in a cottage, the electricity of which was supplied by a substation in CLP's neighbouring limestone quarry in Cudal, NSW. Both the cottage and the open cut quarry were owned by the same company – WK Shannon Pty Ltd. An employee lived in the cottage with his partner.
In December 2013, an arc fault in the quarry's main switchroom significantly damaged the switchboard, and CLP installed a new switchboard without a mandatory earth-to-neutral link, which was critical to the correct operation of the low-voltage system, reliable fault detection and earth leakage protection. At the direction of CLP, Simon Kenneth Shannon – a member of the family that owned CLP – performed electrical work on the new switchboard during installation, despite not being a qualified electrician or electrical engineer. At the time, CLP had a number of mine safety plans that identified the potential consequences of an electrical incident as "catastrophic", and required all electrical work to be undertaken by or under the direct supervision of an electrician or engineer and in accordance with the relevant Australian Standard.
On 27 August 2014, the employee went to the quarry and turned on a large crusher machine to pulverise rocks, this caused a phase-to-earth fault, which triggered a voltage rise that was transferred to the cottage and all its earthed equipment, including metal pipework, taps and power points. His partner, who was having a shower at the time, was electrocuted.
The Court found that without reasonable excuse, CPL engaged in conduct that exposed both the woman and her de facto partner to a risk of death or serious injury, and was reckless as to the risk. District Court Judge Andrew Scotting found the appropriate penalty was $1.2 million, but reduced this by 25 per cent for CLP's guilty plea. He also fined Shannon $48,000 (after the same discount for his guilty plea) for breaching sections 28 and 32 of the Act in failing to comply with his duties as a worker. Initially Shannon was charged with reckless conduct over the incident, and faced jail time, but eventually pleaded guilty to the downgraded charge. The Judge ordered CLP and Shannon to pay the prosecutor's costs.
Source: OHS Alert
India: Five workers killed in shipyard
Last week, five workers were killed and another 11 hospitalised when an explosion ripped through the inside of a ship in the area that they were working, in the southern Indian city of Cochin. The incident is still under investigation but it is believed that a build-up of acetylene gas and an exposed welding flame caused the explosion. Health and safety conditions in many Indian workplaces are substandard with lax enforcement of the rules. In this instance, it seems that the owners of the shipyard had obtained a OHS 'self-certification' which allows companies to self-regulate, and therefore cut costs.
Read more: The Hindu. Source AAWL Mini news