SafetyNet 440, March 21, 2018
It is with great regret that we report that a worker was killed and another rescued after a trench collapsed in Ballarat this morning.
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Tragedy in Ballarat
A man has been killed this morning and another seriously injured after a trench collapsed while they were laying pipes at a worksite in Victoria's west. The men were working near the Glenelg Highway at Delacombe, in Ballarat, when the trench gave way about 11:15am, according to police.
Emergency services used heavy machinery to widen the trench to free the second worker, who became trapped. The man suffered lower body injuries and was flown to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a serious condition.
A worker on a nearby site told the ABC that the men were doing deep excavation work to lay pipes. He said he heard the men were working without a trench shield, a metal structure to protect workers from cave-ins. "This sort of stuff is very dangerous. From what I've been told, there was no shield. [For a trench] four metres deep, you've got to have a shield," he said.
This incident should never have occurred - these men's lives were placed at risk by working in an unshielded trench. The VTHC expresses its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the worker killed this morning. This worker's death brings the official number of work-related fatalities in Victoria this year to 6. Source: ABC news online
We have been contacted by a private company claiming that all our office electrical equipment, including computers, extension leads and even electric kettles, must be tested a tagged every year. Is this correct?
No, this is not correct, and there are many companies touting for business and using OHS legislation to support their claims. However, remember that under s21 of the OHS Act the employer ensure that the workplace and 'plant' at the workplace are safe and without risks to health , so far as is reasonably practicable. This means identifying whether there are any hazards associated with electrical equipment, assessing the associated risks and taking measures to eliminate or control those risks.
WorkSafe Victoria has advised that electrical safety testing and tagging for all plug-in equipment falls under the general obligations of Section 21(2)(a)of the Act and, in the past, advised all employers to introduce a safety testing protocol. In some workplaces (for example all government departments) it is now more or less mandatory that all electrical equipment be checked and 'tagged' regularly. What does 'regularly' mean?
he Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS3760In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment is nationally accepted as the minimum safety protocol for the workplace, and applies to plug-in or non-fixed equipment. What it recommends for electrical equipment in offices is every 3 - 5 years. However, for equipment that is high use, high risk, or hire equipment, the recommendation is every 3 months.
Go to this page on the site for more information: Electrical Equipment - What are the laws/guidelines?
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.
April 4: Industrial Manslaughter Webinar
Queensland and the ACT have already introduced industrial manslaughter laws, and it's Labor Party policy in Tasmania and South Australia to introduce similar legislation.
In Victoria, however, some bosses are getting away with murder. Five people have been killed at work this year alone in Victoria. There is no justice for the worker who died, the family of the deceased, co-workers and the community. Our current laws aren't enough of a deterrent and ultimately send the wrong message: a workplace fatality is just the cost of doing business.
Join us on Wednesday, April 4, at 7.00 pm, as we discuss VTHC's latest campaign on industrial manslaughter, what industrial manslaughter is, what we are asking for, and how you can get involved. We will be providing practical guidance and tools on how to do this. This webinar will be co-hosted by Paul Sutton, Lead Organiser of the OHS Unit at VTHC, who is heading the industrial manslaughter campaign.
Register here right now!
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.
Bushfires: Asbestos and other hazards The fires in Victoria and NSW over the past few days have not only put people's lives at immediate risk, and destroyed dozens of homes and other properties, but will continue to pose risks into the future. One of these risks is that of asbestos.
WorkSafe has warned that asbestos, fallen powerlines and fallen or damaged trees are among the risks posing a threat to the health and safety of those working on fire and wind affected sites. They also pose risks to anyone going back into the areas. WorkSafe Head of Hazardous Industries and Industry Practice, Michael Coffey, urged employers and property owners involved in clean-up operations to take a moment to consider the safety risks involved in each task before commencing it.
"We understand this is a very difficult time for many people, but fire affected sites come with their own set of risks that they may not be expecting," Mr Coffey said. "We urge anyone who is unsure of the risks involved, or how to handle a particular hazard, to seek advice. The last thing anyone needs on a fire affected site is another incident," he said. Read more: WorkSafe media release
ASEA: Advice on ageing asbestos in buildings
In what appears to be a 'step back' from last week's position that the total removal of asbestos is the only safe way to manage the long-term risks of exposure to asbestos related disease, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has said that measures can be taken to make asbestos less dangerous 'in the short term'.
Practices to make asbestos less dangerous where it is not immediately possible to remove it have been examined by ASEA in the new report that looks at current ways of containing and stabilising asbestos, particularly in roofing. The Agency has examined current products and practices used to contain and stabilise asbestos in order to make it safer to remain in place, or to help make it safer while it's being removed. Unsurprisingly, the study found support in the industry for a government incentive towards dealing with and managing asbestos.
Read more: Australia's ageing asbestos legacy – making ageing asbestos in buildings less dangerous in the short term ASEA News
International Union News
UK: What should safety reps do about mental health?
We are starting to hear the term 'mental health first aiders' (MHFA) in Australia, with HSRs wondering whether their workplaces should have them and what training they need. This week's Risks e-newsletter has a great item about them which we have included here:
If your heart started misbehaving at work, you'd be glad there was a first aider on hand. So, a mental health first aider (MHFA) could be just the job if the problem is in your head, right? Writing in Hazards magazine, TUC's Hugh Robertson says support for workers is a good thing, but mental health first aiders are not the only option and for union reps usually are not the best option. The union safety specialist says MHFA training – 200,000 have been trained in the last decade – has its value. "However, MHFA is not a substitute for preventing anxiety and depression caused by work-related stress, or is it a substitute for professional support. Any employer that thinks they can deal with mental health concerns just by introducing a few MHFAiders are very much mistaken. After all traditional first aiders are not a substitute for good prevention, occupational health provision and the NHS. I reckon that MHFAiders can be a really useful resource in the workplace but it is only a small part of what employers should be doing."
Robertson calls for a much broader approach in the workplace, "and that is best done in co-operation with the union." Good policies include addressing attitudes in the workplace to mental health issues, non-discriminatory recruitment and sickness policies, early access to occupational health services and strong workplace stress, harassment and anti-bullying procedures. "Unions clearly must be involved both in working with their employer around mental health and supporting members with mental health problems, but MHFA is unlikely to be the most suitable training for trade union representatives," writes Robertson. "That is why Mental Health Awareness training is often more appropriate as there is much more emphasis on prevention." Unions reps can get this training, which can be tailored to the workplace and have union input, through the TUC.
Read more: TUC blog. Is Mental Health First Aid the answer? Depends on the question. Hugh Robertson, Hazards magazine, number 141, 2018. Related article in the same issue: Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists. Source: Risks 841
UK: Equity acts on sexual harassment crisis
Sexual harassment in the arts is an issue the UK union is also tackling, with Equity demanding a safe working environment for its members. The actors' union says they must not have to endure or observe sexual harassment, adding that perpetrators must understand there is nowhere to hide. Its report, 'Agenda for Change', sets out what the union requires from educators and the industry, including venues, agents, boards and casting directors. The union's 'Safe Space' campaign will encourage members to challenge inappropriate behaviour and to report it, knowing that the union is there to support them. The first part of the campaign will be distributing a Safe Space poster that will promote the union's harassment helpline. Equity says it expects the poster to be a visible presence in green rooms, casting suites and rehearsal spaces throughout the UK. The union says it is also developing a step-by-step guide that will offer clarity on unacceptable behaviour and good practice, as well as advice on what members should do if they are the victim or observer of sexual harassment or assault. Maureen Beattie, the actor and Equity's vice president who led the union's working group on sexual harassment, said: "This report represents an opportunity - an opportunity which may not come our way again for many years - to harness the energy released by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and rethink the way we deal with sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. I've suffered sexual harassment in my career, both as a victim and as a bystander, and it is my fervent hope that the work that follows this report will lead to a future where no-one has to suffer harassment of any kind, ever again. If we are to create a workplace truly without fear it is imperative the industry accepts the recommendations in this report."
Read more: Equity news release. Agenda for Change: Equity's report on sexual harassment.[pdf] Source: Risks 841
OHS Regulator News
Five new compliance codes now available
Five new compliance codes (codes) that align to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 and Equipment (Public Safety) Regulations 2017 are now available and can be downloaded from the WorkSafe Victoria website.
The five new codes are:
- Hazardous manual handling (previously the Manual Handling Code of Practice, 2000)
- Facilities in construction (previously the Building and Construction Workplaces Code of Practice, 1990)
- Confined spaces (previously the Confined Spaces Compliance Code, 2008)
- Plant (previously the Plant Code of Practice, 1995)
- Noise (a new code based on Your health and safety guide to noise, 2007, and the Guide for assessing and fixing noise problems and work, 2005)
These and the other Compliance Codes can also be downloaded on this page of the OHS Reps website.
WorkSafe: enforcement activity on quad bikes
The VWA has begun enforcement activities to help reduce the risks associated with quad bike rollovers. From now on, when WorkSafe inspectors conduct an inspection in workplaces which use quad bikes, if a risk of roll over is identified, and an employer has not taken reasonably practicable measures to control the risk, an improvement notice may be issued.
Any employer who fails to comply with an improvement notice risks prosecution for breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
With enforcement activities commencing, Finance Minister Robin Scott has called on farmers to take advantage of the $6 million quad bike rebate scheme, which is managed by the Victorian Farmers Federation in partnership with WorkSafe. "WorkSafe enforcement activities are now under way. I urge farmers to take advantage of the quad bike rebate scheme to help keep themselves, their employees and their families safe," Minister Scott said. "Quad bikes are used in many workplaces and employers must make sure that reasonably practicable safety measures are in place. Nothing is more important than workplace safety."
Read more: Campaign to prevent quad bike rollover deaths enters new terrain. WorkSafe Media release
Cross border safety program targets young workers
The safety of young workers and apprentices will be the focus of a joint visit by WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW to Albury/Wodonga in coming weeks. The safety regulators will be taking part in the Cross Border Construction Program, in which inspectors from both regulators come together to attend local building sites on both sides of the border to reduce the risk of young workers being injured. The inspections are taking place this week. They will also discuss the similarities, and differences, between the Victorian and NSW work health and safety regulations and how employers and workers can meet their obligations. Read more: WorkSafe media release
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 16 March 2018, there had been 22 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is three more since the last update on 2 March. Two of the three fatalities occurred in the transport, postal and warehousing sector. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 12 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 3 Construction
- 3 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).
The latest monthly fatality report remains that 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.
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.
Metro Trains charged over high voltage incident
On Friday, WorkSafe charged Metro Trains for a breach of the OHS Act following an incident in which an employee was injured while working on high voltage powerlines. Metro Trains Melbourne Pty Ltd was charged with failing to maintain systems of work that were safe and without risks to health.
The charge follows an investigation into an incident in April 2016 in which an apprentice received flash burns to his face and hands while working on overhead powerlines between Box Hill and Blackburn train stations. The apprentice was working on a 22,000 volt line from an elevated work platform when it was prematurely energised from a central control room, resulting in an explosion. He remained on the platform as the line was energised again, resulting in a second explosion before he could be brought to safety. The charges were filed in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
$350,000 fine and conviction after death of client's son
Carrum Downs concreting contractor Phelpsys Constructions P/L was last week convicted and fined $350,000 after the son of a client died while using the company's earthmoving equipment. Phelpsys Constructions pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching the OHS Act, in that it failed to ensure a workplace under its management and control was safe and without risks to health.
The Melbourne County Court heard that in June 2015, the company was engaged to perform earthmoving and landscaping works with a skid steer at a Carrum Downs residence. After finishing work for the day, the site supervisor left the skid steer in the client's garage, with the keys in the machine, intending to collect it two days later. However, on 11 June, the client's 37yr old son drove the skid steer out of the garage, telling his father he would use it to level the nature strip.
He was later found with head injuries in the operator's seat. The safety bar was not in position, the machine was bogged in the nature strip with the wheels spinning and the bucket raised. He was pronounced dead at the scene. WorkSafe's investigations revealed the condition of the skid steer was such that it was not safe to be used even by an experienced operator. There had not been a mechanical inspection when it was purchased in 2014 and had never been serviced.
Read more: WorkSafe Media release
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
NSW: Sydney company & director fined over $80k
Modern Touch Marble and Granite Pty Ltd, and its director Johnne Khouri, pleaded guilty in the Sydney District Court last week to failing to ensure the company complied with its health and safety duties, and undertaking high risk work without a licence.
Khouri was operating a fork-lift, without the required high-risk licence, in October 2015 to move quartz sheets from a shipping container. His then 20-year-old employee was preparing a sheet to be moved by the fork-lift, when 6440kg of unsecured quartz sheets fell on him.
In sentencing Khouri and Modern Touch, Judge Andrew Scotting said Modern Touch and Khouri failed to consider the risk of a crush injury, despite it being foreseeable. Modern Touch was fined $75,000 and Khouri $12,500.
"This poor worker suffered serious crush injuries to his chest as well as broken ribs, when he was trapped between the quartz sheets and the shipping container," Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said. "Khouri absolutely had a duty of care to his worker but he failed to conduct any risk assessment or identify hazards that could have prevented such a terrible injury from happening. Every worker, particularly those who are young and possibly entering the workforce for the first time, has the right to expect they'll be protected from this sort of incident." Source: Fairfield City Champion
NT: PCBU fined $142k after toddler tragically killed
Northern Territory company, Gibbo's Tyres Pty Ltd, trading as Stuart Hwy Tyres, has been convicted of WHS offences after a two-year-old boy was killed by one of eight 90kg truck tyres leaning against a wall in November 2015. The company was fined $135,000 for failing to comply with a health and safety duty, and $7,000 for failing to report the incident to NT WorkSafe.
On the day of the incident, the child's family was waiting for a tyre to be replaced on its vehicle at the business when the toddler and his three-year-old cousin went to play next to the unsecured truck tyres. The family then found the child trapped under one of the tyres, and he died of head injuries later that night.
WorkSafeNT executive director Stephen Gelding said that businesses should have clearly defined customer waiting areas and prohibit customers from entering work and storage areas because they might not be aware of the hazards in those areas.
Source: OHS Alert
NZ: New asbestos regulations
From 4 April 2018, laws governing asbestos removal in New Zealand will be similar to those in Australia in that asbestos removal work involving any quantity of friable asbestos, or more than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos, must be performed by a licensed removalist.
WorkSafe New Zealand has said that businesses need to provide workers with asbestos awareness training, and must develop an asbestos management plan where asbestos-containing materials have been identified or are likely to be. Tradespeople who enter sites where asbestos is known or suspected to be should ask to see the asbestos management plan, it added.
USA: Officials ruled crack no problem hours before bridge collapse
Engineers, state and university officials met hours before a new pedestrian bridge collapsed in southern Florida, killing six people, but concluded a crack in the structure was not a safety concern, Florida International University said on Saturday.
An engineer concluded there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge. About three hours after the meeting which involved FIGG - the private contractor for the overall bridge design, the school, Florida Department of Transportation officials and Munilla Construction Management, ended, the 950-ton bridge collapsed, crushing vehicles stopped at a traffic light on the eight-lane roadway below. Read more: ABC news online
USA: Trump targets safety rules 'written in blood'
President Trump's administration has been pursuing a rollback of Obama-era drilling regulations in the Gulf. Those rules include safety measures put in place after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010, a disaster that killed 11 people and resulted in the largest marine oil spill in drilling history. Smaller oil and gas companies say they need the relief to survive financially and Scott Angelle, the top safety official at the Interior Department appointed by Mr Trump, appears to be an enthusiastic ally. But an analysis of federal inspection data by The New York Times found that several of these companies, including Energy XXI, had been cited for workplace safety violations in recent years at a rate much higher than the industry average. Their offshore platforms suffer in some cases from years of poor maintenance, equipment failures or metal fatigue on aging devices. In addition, there were a number of serious environmental and safety episodes in the past six months involving independent operators, including the death in February of a worker who was removing firefighting equipment from a platform about 30 miles offshore, and an oil spill in October, according to Interior Department records the largest since the Deepwater Horizon event. "These regulations were written with human blood," said Lillian Espinoza-Gala, a former offshore worker who now serves as an industry safety consultant and opposes easing protections. But Mr Angelle has close personal and recent ties to the oil and gas industry, particularly the smaller companies seeking his intervention.
Read more: New York Times. Confined Space blog. Source: Risks 841
China proposes abolition of work safety body
As part of a wide-ranging reform of China's government and administrative structure unveiled today at the National People's Congress in Beijing, the government has proposed getting rid of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) and merging its functions into a new national Emergency Management Department.
The new department, under the State Council, will also absorb the disaster management responsibilities currently under the Ministries of Civil Affairs, Agriculture, Water Resources, Land and Resources, as well the departments responsible for earthquake, drought and flood relief. The rationale for the new department is to provide an efficient and coordinated response to a broad range of disasters from forest fires to coal mine explosions but it appears to eliminate the role of SAWS in ensuring a safe working environment.
The move seems to confirm the suspicion that, on the issue of work safety, the Chinese government is more concerned with disaster management and control rather than in preventing workplace accidents in the first place. Read more: China Labour Bulletin
Europe: Agency goes online to prevent work diseases
The European Union's think tank on workplace health and safety is targeting prevention of work-related diseases. EU-OSHA says recent estimates indicated work-related diseases account for about 200,000 deaths each year in Europe. It adds that work-related ill-health and injury is costing the European Union €476 billion (A$762.4bn) every year which could be saved with the right occupational safety and health strategies (OSH), policies and practices. It says raising awareness of these diseases, including work-related cancers, is a priority for EU-OSHA, adding its research "aims to provide an evidence base for policy and help share good practices on prevention and rehabilitation. Recent EU-OSHA research has focused on alert and sentinel systems in OSH, work-related diseases from biological agents, and the rehabilitation and return to work of workers after a cancer treatment."
Read more: EU-OSHA news release and new webpages on prevention of work-related diseases. Source Risks 841