SafetyNet 439

SafetyNet 439

SafetyNet 439, March 14, 2018

Welcome to this week's SafetyNet - after a long weekend, this was going to be a shorter edition than usual - but it didn't work out that way!

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.


Union News
OHS Regulator News
OHS Prosecutions
International News

Union News

7pm TONIGHT - Webinar on Gendered Violence in the Workplace
Join us tonight for the Webinar on Gendered Violence (GV) - this can be an issue in many workplaces and one HSRs need to be aware of. Employers have a legal duty under the 2004 Victorian OHS Act to provide all workers with a healthy and safe working environment - and a workplace free from GV is part of that duty.

Join us tonight 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. Co-hosted by Jodi Peskett from the VTHC's We Are Union Women's Team, the webinar will give practical advice, and take participants through the 'Stop Gendered Violence at Work EBA  Clause' developed by the team in collaboration with the Victorian union movement. To read more and register, click here.

Ask Renata
Hello Renata
We have a worker who has multiple chemical sensitivity, and we are in the process of implementing a scent-free policy. However, we have an issue in that our workplace is a medical lab that has a multitude of chemicals essential for operation - chemicals such as formalin, bleach, acetone, ethanol, and many more. How can we enforce a scent free work place if there is so many chemicals that would be impossible to substitute? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

It's great that your workplace is introducing a scent-free policy - making the effort to control what is 'reasonably practicable' to control is what good employers should be doing.

Under the OHS Act, the employer a general duty of care to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. (see Duties of employers). So the employer must identify hazards and risks, and seek to eliminate or minimise these hazards and risks - again, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes eliminating/reducing exposure to fumes/chemicals which may affect workers.

The crux of the matter, is 'so far as reasonably practicable' – so while it is practicable to have a policy which seeks to minimise exposure to unnecessary fumes/scents, given the type of workplace and the chemicals which are used, it is probably NOT going to be practicable to eliminate all the chemicals in use. However, what the employer needs to do is to check airborne exposure levels (some of the chemicals you mentioned have exposure standards), and look to minimise worker exposure to fumes (by use of for example fume cupboards, local and general extraction/ventilation, use of PPE, and so on)

Further it may be that doing an audit of the chemicals used to determine which are absolutely necessary for the work and whether there are any safer substitutes, or changing the form of the chemical or how it is used will also reduce exposures.See the following pages for more information:

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.

Petition to QLD govt to prosecute Minister Michaelia Cash
Have you signed yet? The Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) last week launched a Megaphone petition demanding that QLD's Minister of Employment and Industrial Relations Grace Grace prosecute Minister Cash over a 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

Back to top

Do you kNOw your workplace cancer risk?
Do you work in a job where you are exposed to asbestos, welding fumes or diesel engine exhaust? Are you a health and safety professional talking to workers as a regular part of your job? Or are you an HSR representing workers who may be exposed to cancer-causing agents?

The Cancer Council needs your help to create entertaining and informative toolbox videos on these cancer-causing agents and what workers can do to protect themselves from exposure. The Cancer Council is asking you to click here. It will only take a few minutes and you will be helping Cancer Council in their fight to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer.

Asbestos News
ASEA: Removal only long term solution
A new report by Australia's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has found that the total removal of asbestos is the only safe way to manage the long-term risks of exposure to asbestos related disease.

"Despite what many might think, asbestos doesn't last forever and it deteriorates as it ages," the CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Peter Tighe, said. "Over time, asbestos in bonded building materials can break down, and as long as it remains it will pose a hazard to human health and the environment. The only way to reduce asbestos-related diseases in Australia is by preventing exposure to this deadly substance, and that means completely removing it from our community."

ASEA recently published case studies on its website illustrating examples of safe and effective removal of asbestos. The case studies can be accessed via the links in the ASEA media release. The case studies on significant asbestos removal report also found that organisations opting to proactively remove asbestos reduce risk to employees and contractors, remove the need for ongoing maintenance and asbestos audits, and ultimately increase the value and potential reuse options for the site.
Read more and access the reports: ASEA Media Release Complete removal of asbestos from buildings the only long-term solution

It's what we've been saying for years!!
In 2010, the National Asbestos Summit, attended by Australia's unions, asbestos diseases support groups and the Cancer Council, released a National Declaration: Towards An Australian Asbestos Free Environment. Part of the statement read:

"To eliminate deadly asbestos related disease in Australia we must decrease and eventually eliminate all exposures to asbestos.

To achieve that, governments and the community generally must adopt programs to safely and systematically remove Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) from the built environment."

Read more: National Asbestos Summit, June 2010

Gig economy workers at risk
Last week the ABC and other media reported that Unions NSW and others called on the Federal Government to establish an independent regulator to oversee the emerging gig economy, amid concerns workers' safety is at risk. They have tracked the online marketplace Airtasker and found what appears to be unlicensed operators taking on risky jobs, such as asbestos removal, at low costs.

Union NSW secretary Mark Morey said it was very concerning. "This is really unregulated and unsafe work that's being done by people who potentially have bid for the job, who are not qualified to remove asbestos," Mr Morey said. "And they're creating safety issues, not just for themselves but for the people around them — the neighbours and everyone in the environment."
Read more: Airtasker: Unions raise safety concerns over 'gig economy' cowboys ABC News online

Laos: Meeting does ground work for plan to ban asbestos
Unions, government officials, health agencies and campaigners met in Laos earlier this month to coordinate a plan to ban asbestos. The workshop was organised by the country's Ministry of Health, supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA, to discuss the development of a National Action Plan to ban the use of chrysotile asbestos – the only remaining form of asbestos in commercial use - and to eliminate asbestos-related diseases in the country. Participants included representatives from nine Ministries, the Lao Federation of Trade Unions, the Cancer Centre of Mittaphap and Mahasot Hospitals and Health Science University. The meeting heard the amount of asbestos imported by Laos has been increasing, reaching over 8,000 tons in 2013 and is the highest per capital consumption among Asia-Pacific countries. A National Asbestos Profile recently developed by the Lao government with support from APHEDA, showed that there were 16 factories producing asbestos-containing roof tiles. The national consumption of asbestos fibre increased almost 240 per cent in just three years between 2010 and 2013. WHO recommended that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of chrysotile asbestos. The meeting heard there are safer substitutes for asbestos, and there was a need to adopt the safer alternatives while creating new job opportunities.
Read more: APHEDA media release.

Read more on Asbestos in the home and Asbestos in the workplace

Back to top


Fair managers care about sick employees
How a firm supports people returning to work from sick leave can have a big impact on whether a worker feels they are treated fairly by their organisation and their return is a positive and healthy experience. A new study by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Stockholm University, found there is a clear link between a person's health and their perceptions of fairness at work over time.

The research, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, could have implications for how managers help employees return to work following a period of absence, or how they support those struggling to manage long-term health issues while at work. According to the study, organisations should ensure they have well-designed routines for workers with health problems. However, organisations also need to take into consideration the wider work environment to ensure colleagues can offer social support while the individual settles back into work. The research team, led by UEA's Norwich Business School, used data from a large-scale population survey that has been carried out in Sweden every two years since 2006. It found an association between three health indicators – self-rated health, depressive symptoms and sickness absence – and social support at work over time. In turn, social support was also strongly linked to perceptions of fairness in decision-making at work over time.

Dr Constanze Eib, an expert in organisational behaviour at Norwich Business School, and lead author of the study, said: "Our results show a strong association between feelings of unfairness and the amount of support perceived by colleagues. It could be that when you come back to work you still feel unwell, or more unhappy and your co-workers might pick up on this and feel inclined to keep their distance. Added to that, they might have been picking up your work while you were away and all this might contribute to them showing you less concern. That can lead to feelings of being less included in workplace discussions, less valued, and a sense that you are not being treated fairly." Dr Eib concluded: "It comes down to managers really caring about their employees. They need to make sure they understand their workforce and can foster a supportive culture between colleagues – as well as taking steps to ensure procedures and decision-making processes are unbiased, robust and transparent."
Read more: UEA news release. Constanze Eib, et al. Organizational justice and health: Studying mental preoccupation with work and social support as mediators for lagged and reversed relationships, [Abstract] Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, online first, 5 March 2018. Source: Risks 840

Research reveals mental health concerns of FIFO workers
A recent study into the mental health and wellbeing concerns of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers and their partners in Australia found that many of these workers experience difficulty in adjusting between the responsibilities of their on-shift and off-shift lives.

Researchers from Kings College London and CQUniversity Australia conducted the qualitative study of 34 FIFO workers (25 men) and 26 partners of FIFO workers (26 women). The analysis of responses generated three main themes: managing multiple roles, impact on mental health and well-being, and social support needs. The results revealed difficulties in adjusting between the responsibilities of on-shift and off-shift lives, and managing potential psychological distance that develops while workers are on site. The workers revealed that absence from their family created relationship strains beyond feelings of loneliness, including frustration at missing out on significant family events and being unable to respond to domestic emergencies. Participants emphasised the importance of maintaining quality communication and support from family members. Workers and partners attempted to maintain mental health and well-being by regularly engaging with support networks, although many felt organisational support was tokenistic, stigmatised or lacking.
Read more: Gardner, G et al Mental health and well-being concerns of fly-in fly-out workers and their partners in Australia: a qualitative study [Full text] BMJ Open Medical Journal. Volume 8, Issue 3

Quad bikes: Small bumps cause rollovers
Researchers from the University of NSW's Transport and Road Safety unit have found that quad bikes are vulnerable to fatal rollover events even when going over "relatively small bumps on typical grassy slopes at moderate speeds", suggesting they should no longer be considered as fit for farming tasks.

The researchers sought to identify the combination of speed, slope and bump size that caused the previously identified risk of quad bikes suddenly 'yawing' and rolling over after travelling over relatively small rocks or grass tufts. They found that when quad bike speed and slope steepness increase to typical values – 20km/h and 12.5 degrees – the bump size needed to cause a rollover reduces to just 100mm.
Read more:
David Hicks, et al, Investigation of when quad bikes rollover in the farming environment. [Abstract] Safety Science, Volume 106, July 2018. Source: OHS Alert

Back to top

OHS Regulator News

Combustible cladding banned in Victoria
The Victorian Government has banned the use of the "most dangerous" types of combustible cladding on all multi-storey buildings, under a guideline gazetted yesterday - this will take effect on 22 March 2018. The ban applies to cladding with a polyethylene core or lamina bonded to one or more sheets of metal panels, including aluminium composite panels; and expanded polystyrene products used in external insulation and finish systems.

State Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the use of combustible cladding on buildings "has been allowed to go on for too long and we're ending it. The rules are clear: if builders use these dangerous flammable products, they'll face disciplinary action from the Victorian Building Authority."

Similar laws were recently introduced in NSW and Queensland following the UK's Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 71 people in June last year, and the Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne in 2014. Read more: Victorian Government media release. Source: OHSAlert

Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on March 9. In this edition Tony Cockerell, WorkSafe's Senior Construction Advisor, writes about the most common cause of injuries to construction workers and some of the simple measures that can be used to reduce the risk of injury. The focus is on musculoskeletal injuries and trips, slips and falls.

In fact, WorkSafe inspectors are currently visiting construction sites to ensure the hazards and risks that often cause MSDs are being identified and adequately controlled. The newsletter says that MSDs are the most common injury sustained by Victorian construction workers and can have significant and long term impacts on a worker's health and can end careers.

Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from 16 February - 1 March 2018. Since the last edition of Safety Soapbox, there were 102 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 lacerations, falls, and so on. However in this period there was also a fatality and a degloving incident. Access the March 9 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.

Powerlines are dangerous
WorkSafe has issued a warning to employers and contractors who operate heavy vehicles and machinery are being urged to always check for powerlines following a spate of serious incidents.There have been two incidents in the past month. Late in February a driver escaped without injury after the tray of his tip truck came into contact with overhead powerlines while delivering fertiliser on a farm at Moglonemby near Euroa. The truck was badly damaged by the fire. Earlier in February, a 55-year-old truck driver was electrocuted in a similar incident at Kergunyah, near Albury.

There were at least seven serious incidents involving overhead powerlines on construction sites across Victoria since mid-November. These incidents have involved excavators, concrete pumps, cranes and a tip truck all making contact with live overhead powerlines.

WorkSafe Health and Safety Director Marnie Williams said anyone in control of a workplace must ensure that workers, including contractors, were not put at risk from powerlines when carrying out tasks as directed.
Read more: WorkSafe news Powerline incidents prompt call for care

QLD Incident Alerts 
Worker killed in skylight fall

In February 2018, a worker was killed after falling five metres onto a concrete floor. Early investigations by Queensland's WHS regulator indicate the worker was attending to a radio tower on the roof of a storage shed when a skylight has collapsed and he fell through to the floor below. Investigations are continuing. The Incident Alert is well worth reading, as it provides advice on measures to take to prevent such incidents occurring and also gives information on statistics and past prosecutions - one of which involved a worker falling through a sky light. Read more.

Student hit by golf buggy
Also last month, a six year old primary school student was seriously injured by a golf buggy being driven on the school grounds. The buggy was used to transport grounds staff around the school yard, and is considered mobile plant. Early investigations indicate the student came out of the toilet block and ran into the path of the golf buggy. The child sustained leg and skull fractures and bleeding on the brain. Investigations are continuing. Read more.

NT: PCBU charged over British national's road death
A Northern Territory cattle station owner could be fined up to $1.5 million, after being charged with WHS breaches relating to the death of a worker in a four-wheel-drive vehicle crash on a return trip from collecting fresh produce for the station in August 2016. NT WorkSafe has alleged that Australian Green Properties Pty Ltd failed to comply with its health and safety duties to the 26-year-old British national in: providing him with a vehicle that wasn't mechanically sound or registered for public roads; and failing to train him to drive safely in outback conditions. The matter was listed for mention in the Darwin Local Court on 10 April. Source: OHSAlert

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
There has not been an update of the fatality statistics since our last edition, when, as of 2 March 2018, there had been 19 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia.  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).

SWA has now published the monthly fatality report for September 2017. During this month there were 12 reported work-related fatalities, eight workers and four bystanders - all male.  To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.

NICNAS: Major industrial chemical reforms postponed
The Federal Government has deferred the commencement of the new risk-based scheme for regulating the introduction (through importation or manufacture) of industrial chemicals in Australia until 1 July 2019.

The Government introduced the Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017 and five other Bills to: establish the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS); slash the number of chemicals requiring pre-introduction regulatory scrutiny; and ban most cosmetic testing on animals, by July 2018. However, the legislative package will now not be debated in the Senate until later this year, according to the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). 

In multiple submissions to the Government, including to a Senate Inquiry, the ACTU, the VTHC and the AMWU argued the proposed changes would allow potentially very toxic chemicals to enter Australia, and reduce the levels of protection for workers and the general community. Read more: NICNAS

Back to top


Victorian prosecutions
Ambulance Victoria fined after death of paramedic

Ambulance Victoria (AV) was last week convicted and fined a total of $400,000 for failing to adequately record and store stocks of morphine and fentanyl, following an investigation into the death of a paramedic at Heywood near Portland, in 2015.  AV pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the OHS Act: one charge of failing to provide a safe working environment and one charge of failing to ensure that volunteer officers were not exposed to risks. It was fined $200,000 on each charge in the Warrnambool Magistrates' Court.

The paramedic was the team manager with 30 years' experience, and the only employee working at the station, when he was found dead by his wife and son in January 2015.

Warrnambool magistrate Cynthia Toose said there was a check system in place at the time of the paramedic's death but it was inadequate and had many failures: the system of disposing of morphine and fentanyl required unused drugs to be squirted on the ground, which was then to be entered in a register. This was to be witnessed but if there was an absence of another available officer, the system allowed the record to show no second officer available.

As a result of the fatality, AV had made a number of changes to the management of its drug stocks, including the implementation of a regular check of records to identify unusual ordering or administration patterns for morphine and fentanyl.
Read more: WorkSafe media release. The Standard.

Timber factory fined after worker loses part of finger
B.E. Timber Pty Ltd, a company manufacturing timber frameworks and trusses in its Melton factory, has been fined $10,000 without conviction after an employee suffered a partial finger amputation in February 2017. He had been an unguarded spida saw. The next day a WorkSafe Inspector issued a prohibition notice for two saws which did not have an adjustable see-thru barrier safety guard. B.E Timber complied with the notice by attaching the appropriate guarding to both saws.

Company convicted and fined after worker's hand trapped
JBS Australia Pty Ltd operates a meat processing plant in Brooklyn. In March 2016 an employee was operating the Loin Machine to remove meat from the bone. She was wearing a steel mesh glove on her left hand and also had a mesh apron on. The loin machine operators were required to hold the meat in place with their hand while operating the hooks to clamp the meat, creating a risk of serious injury including entrapment or crushing. When the worker placed the loin in the machine and pressed the button to operate the hooks to clamp it, her mesh glove caught on the clamp and her left arm was dragged into the machine. She suffered a laceration to her left arm and was admitted to hospital for surgery. JBS Australia pleaded guilty and was with conviction fined $20,000 plus costs of $6,566.

Another guarding prosecution
Ramabo Pty Ltd, operates a factory in Hoppers Crossing and specialises in the production of cardboard cartons. The company has, according to WorkSafe, an 'extensive WorkSafe profile'. Since 2004, the regulator has attended the workplace 17 times and issued a total of 21 notices in respect to the lack of guarding on machinery.

On 17 February 2017, WorkSafe Inspectors at the workplace again observed lack of guarding on four machines. Ramabo had failed to maintain guarding of hazardous moving parts on both a folding carton construction machine and the Slitter Scorer, a machine used to cut sheets of cardboard. The existing mesh fence of the folder gluer allowed access to the rotating rollers. An interlocked gate to prevent employees accessing this area had at some point been removed.The company also failed to maintain guarding of hazardous moving parts of the Slitter Scorer. These and other guarding failures on other machines exposed workers to the risk of crush and entanglement injuries. Ramabo pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, fined $42,000 plus $5,867 costs.

To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

QLD: Preventable electrocution; Boss sentenced to 7 years' jail
In February 2012, a young man not yet 21 years old died in a preventable and tragic incident in Central Queensland. He was electrocuted after carrying a switchboard that had come into contact with live wires during heavy rain at a townhouse construction site. The electrical contractor responsible for the young man's death, Nathan Brian Day, was last week sentenced to seven years' jail for manslaughter and perjury - but he will be eligible for parole after serving two years. Day had not installed safety switches to prevent electrocution and he had no experience of a project that size. He returned to the construction immediately after the death to render the site safe. Day pleaded guilty to perjury, for lying about the safety switches at a 2015 inquest in Mackay into the death.
Read more: Jason Garrels: Boss sentenced to seven years' jail for preventable electrocution ABC news online

Back to top

International News

USA: Fears Congress will halt new silica rule
US Safety regulators OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration), MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) , and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) would all have their funding cut under legislation recently passed in the House of Representatives. According to the AIHA (American Industrial Hygienists Association), during the House's debate on the funding legislation, hundreds of amendments were considered – including one that would halt implementation of OSHA's respirable crystalline silica rule. While this amendment was in line to be voted on, time ran out, and it was never actually considered. The AIHA says that of the more than 1,000 amendments submitted by Members of Congress, this was one of the relatively few that were actually made eligible for a vote. This means that opposition to the silica dust rule is a high enough priority for House Republicans (as the majority, they largely set the rules for debate on bills in the House, including how many and which amendments are considered). As a result, it is expected that there will be further attempts to halt implementation of this rule.
Read more: AIHA media statement; and briefing to Congress in support of the rule.




Please send in your occupational health and safety questions to Renata. We will respond within a few days.

Ask a question


Please complete the form below to subscribe to the SafetyNET Journal email newsletter.

Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Your details


Have you had your initial training yet? Want to do a refresher course? Register online!

OHS Training