SafetyNet 438, March 7, 2018
Welcome to this week's SafetyNet - as usual there is a great deal going on in the world of OHS.
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.
Petition to QLD govt to prosecute Minister Michaelia Cash
The Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) has launched a Megaphone petition demanding that QLD's Minister of Employment and Industrial Relations Grace Grace prosecute Minister Cash over Work for the Dole fatality. The AUWU says that Minister Grace needs to hold Michaelia Cash accountable for the tragic death of 18-year old Josh Park-Fing at his Work for the Dole site at the Toowoomba Showgrounds.
The union says that after a 19-month investigation, last year the department charged the Work for the Dole site, the Work for the Dole co-ordinator, and the job agency for their role in Josh's death. What it wants to know is why the department did not charge Minister Cash - the person actually responsible for administering the Work for the Dole program. The petition states: "Minister Grace, you need to hold Michaelia Cash and the Coalition accountable for this tragedy. No one is above the law."
Read more and sign the petition here.
I have a colleague that has been ill for more than 2 years, and has been off sick for long periods of time. My colleague has a chronic, persistent, 'productive' cough and coughs every couple of minutes. I am concerned about my own health and further, find it very difficult to concentrate on my work as I find it very disturbing. I have asked to be moved from where I am sitting, but have not had any feedback from management. This is an issue of concern for my co-workers also. Can you provide me with any advice on how to handle this situation?
This is not a straightforward issue – Under s21 of the Victorian OHS Act employers have a general duty of care to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health – and this means identifying and eliminating/or controlling hazards and risks – so far as is reasonably practicable – see this page.
However, a fellow worker is not really a 'hazard' in the normal sense of the word.
If the situation is affecting almost everyone in the office, then this should be raised with the employer, who then has a duty to seek to resolve the matter. Is the employer aware, for example, of the potential cost to the organisation of what is called 'presenteeism'? Maybe that's the tack to take with him. See this page for information on 'presenteeism' and how to approach it.
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
WRAW Fest and Gala Evening
The VTHC Women's Team is once again be running WRAW Fest the week which began this Monday, March 5. It is not too late to participate in some 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 Evening on Friday March 9. Check out the WRAW Fest website here.
Next week! 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.
Draft Code tackles bullying and harassment in notorious industry
The Australian live entertainment industry's peak body has released a draft Code of Practice on preventing workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying, following the widespread allegations of sexual abuse and other serious misconduct against high-profile entertainment figures. According to Live Performance Australia (LPA), the Code aims to provide comprehensive, best practice standards to prevent workplace harassment and bullying, and will be mandatory for LPA members.
The draft Code: defines discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, workplace bullying, vilification and victimisation; explains how to develop and implement prevention policies, complaint-handling procedures and a positive workplace environment; and warns that discrimination, harassment and bullying are "unlawful" under state, territory and Commonwealth anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation, as well as the Fair Work Act.
However, a short-coming of the code is that is makes only passing references to work health and safety laws, saying live entertainment employers "may" have obligations under them. HSRs and readers of SafetyNet will of course know that employers DO have obligations under OHS/WHS laws.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) thas not finalised its position on the content of the draft, but is encouraged that a Code is being developed. LPA members and industry stakeholders are invited to comment on the draft Code by 26 March 2018
Read more, and download a copy of the Draft Code: LPA Media Release. Source: OHS Alert
Nurse murdered while on-call, but SafeWorkSA says death 'not work-related'
The family of murdered outback nurse Gayle Woodford is angry and insulted by SafeWork SA's finding that her death was not work-related. Ms Woodford had been a remote area nurse with Nganampa Health Council, based in the small APY Lands community of Fregon, for almost five years before she was killed. She was on call on the night when she was lured out of her home and raped and murdered by Dudley Davey, who is now serving life with a non-parole period of 32 years.
Her family has now revealed that SafeWorkSA, the state's workplace health and safety regulator, determined her death was not linked to the night-time on-call work she was tasked with. In a letter to husband Keith Woodford, dated November 25, 2016, SafeWork SA said it had completed its investigation and sent its findings to the Coroner's office that, "the death of your wife was not work-related". SafeWork SA is now reviewing the decision after questions raised by the ABC's Australian Story. The program's investigation reveals the issues behind her disappearance and the dangers for medical staff working on the outback frontline. Read more: ABC News online. Final Call, Australian Story
Melbourne: Hoddle St roadworks shut down
Work on a section of the Hoddle Street upgrade construction project has been shut down after the discovery of a small amount of asbestos, VicRoads has said. The asbestos was found near Studley Street, close to Collingwood College and the public housing flats, on Monday night and is likely from old sewers and underground water pipes. VicRoads said work would not resume until the location had been made safe. It appears as though the amount of asbestos was small and according to VicRoads, "there was no health or safety risk to pedestrians, local residents or people living or driving on the busy road".
Read more: ABC News online.
International Union News
DRC: Glencore 'gravely mistreating' workers at cobalt mines
A global union fact-finding mission to Glencore's copper and cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has uncovered alarming mistreatment of workers, directly contradicting the company's claims. At a meeting with about 80 workers from the mines, IndustriALL heard of "systemic human and workers' rights abuses ranging from constant threats of dismissal, poor health and safety practices, occupational diseases, racism and discrimination, unfair and unjust job classifications, low remuneration, and inferior salaries for local workers compared to foreign workers." Glencore, which has just posted record profits, is facing increasing demand for cobalt from companies like Renault, Volkswagen and Volvo, who use the metal in electric batteries. Cobalt from Glencore's DRC mines is also used in the batteries powering Apple and Samsung phones. Members of IndustriALL affiliate TUMEC described their conditions of employment as "no less than slavery." Workers reported that their families are exposed to occupational diseases because they bring their work clothing home, as there are no laundry or washing facilities provided at work. They are limited to a ration of 750 ml of drinking water per shift. IndustriALL mining director Glen Mpufane, who led the mission, said: "Glencore's rampant violations of the basic human rights of DRC workers present a serious supply chain risk in the global cobalt market." Read more: IndustriALL news release. Source: Risks 839
Women in the workplace
In a report released yesterday, University of Sydney researchers say they have found 'significant gaps between working women's career goals and reality'. The inter-disciplinary team released the findings of the first ever survey of attitudes to work by Australian women aged 16 to 40. One of its more shocking results is that less than a third of young Australian working women believe they are treated equally to men. The national survey asked over 2100 women and 500 men about what is most important to them at work.
Four in five women said "having a job in which I am treated with respect", compared to just 67 per cent of men. For men, the top priority was to "have a secure job". Dr Elizabeth Hill, the chair of political economy at the university and one of five co-authors, said it was surprising to see women rank simple "respect" as the number one thing they valued in the workplace, ahead of having an interesting or well paying job.
Read more: Sydney University Media Release. the Women and the Future of Work [pdf], 'Shocking' levels of sexual harassment at work, study reveals, Sydney Morning Herald
OHS Regulator News
NSW: Safety Alert on Hot Work
In February 2018, a serious fire developed on a building demolition site when plastic mesh screening ignited whilst hot work was being undertaken. The demolition work involved the cutting of a metal beam using an oxy acetylene torch. The fire engulfed the site and approximately 20 people were treated on site for smoke inhalation.This new NSW safety alert reminds people of the precautions required when carrying out hot work in the workplace, for example grinding, welding, oxy cutting or other processes which produce a flame or other ignition source.
Read more: Safety Alert
QLD: latest publications
.February edition of eSafe
The Queensland regulator has posted out the February edition of its online newsletter, eSafe. There are a number of very interesting items which readers can access either through the website, or through the online e-version, here.
Incident Alert: Workers injured by glass sheets
Last month three workers received severe lacerations when one of several large glass sheets in a racking system fell to the ground and shattered. Investigations are continuing, but this Incident Alert provides advice on how to avoid similar incidents.
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's 49-page discussion paper has 37 questions for discussion - and it is looking for 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 2 March 2018, there had been 19 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. This is one more than the latest update on 23 February. The single reported fatality was in the Transport, postal & warehousing industry sector. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 10 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 remains that 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.
Keys left in vehicle - person killed
Phelpsys Constructions Pty Ltd was engaged to perform earthmoving and landscaping works with a skid steer at a residential property. The company has pleased guilty to breaching section 26 (Duties of persons who manage or control workplaces) of the OHS Act, and was fined $350,000 over the fatal incident in the County Court.
The company was performing the works in June 2015, when, at the end of a shift, the supervisor left the vehicle, with its keys in the ignition, in the property owner's garage with plans to retrieve it in two days. The property owner's 37-year-old son decided to use the vehicle to level the front nature strip – a task Phelpsys declined to do because it did not have the necessary council permit. The property owner subsequently found his son slumped in the operator's seat and bleeding from the head, with the skid steer bogged in the nature strip, its wheels spinning and its bucket and safety bar raised. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
The skid steer was seized by WorkSafe Victoria and examined by a materials handling expert, who found it wasn't in a safe enough condition to be used, even by an experienced operator. The County Court found that Phelpsys Constructions failed to periodically test or maintain the skid steer, creating serious health and safety risks.
Source: OHS Alert
UK: Ejection seat firm fined £1.1m over Red Arrows death
An ejection seat manufacturer prosecuted over the death of a Red Arrows pilot thrown from his jet has been fined £1.1m (A$1.95m), in a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution. Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, was ejected while conducting pre-flight safety checks at RAF Scampton in 2011. The parachute on the seat did not then deploy and the airman was fatally injured. Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd previously admitted criminal breaches of safety laws. Sentencing the company, Mrs Justice Carr said it was "an entirely preventable tragedy. A significant number of pilots, and also potential passengers, were exposed to the risk of harm over a lengthy period." She added: "Here the risk of harm was of the highest level - death." In addition to the fine, Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd had already agreed to pay £550,000 (A$975,953) in prosecution costs. The firm admitted the criminal health and safety breach on the basis it had failed to provide a written warning to the RAF about over-tightening a bolt on the aircraft. HSE operations manager Harvey Wild said: "We understand that a great deal of time has passed since this tragic event. However, this was an extremely complex investigation and no prosecution could be initiated until after the Inquest and other inquiries had concluded. We would like to publicly thank Sean's family for their patience and support throughout."
Read more: BBC News Online. Source: Risks 839