SafetyNet 442, April 11, 2018
It is with great sadness that we report that since the last edition of SafetyNet, on March 28, two Victorian workers have been killed - two young men, one in his thirties and the other in his twenties, were killed in separate incidents in country Victoria.
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.
If you wish to make any comments on any items in our newsletter, or have any OHS issues/queries, please send an email by clicking here. (Please don't 'reply' to your email!)
Young workers killed in country Victoria
On the afternoon of March 28, a worker in his early 30s was killed after the fertiliser spreader truck he was driving rolled on a steep hill north-east of Warragul. The man was believed to be operating the vehicle on a farm at Shady Creek when the incident took place.
And then, in the early hours of Friday last week, a 24 year old worker was struck by a tractor attachment at a property at Olam Orchards in Carwarp, near Mildura. It is believed the man was working in the vicinity of a tractor which was towing the attachment when he was struck at about 4.30am. The workers was taken to hospital but later died from his injuries.
WorkSafe is investigating both incidents. This latest fatality brings the number of confirmed workplace deaths in Victoria this year to nine.
April 27/28: International Workers Memorial Day
Remember the Dead; Fight for the Living
The two latest fatalities highlight why we must keep fighting to improve health and safety in our workplaces - and why this fight is one taken up by unions internationally though International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD) on April 28, which this year falls on a Saturday. Consequently, the VTHC will be holding its annual commemoration on the day before, Friday April 27. The event will begin at 10.30 am outside the Trades Hall at the Memorial Rock on the corner of Victoria and Lygon St.
Workers, HSRs, union organisers and the public are invited to attend, be witness to the putting out of boots and shoes to remember those killed in the past year, and participate in the flower laying ceremony.
Following the event, the VTHC invites those present to attend a forum at which our Industrial Manslaughter campaign will be discussed. It's shameful that employers whose negligent actions lead to the deaths of workers get off with just a fine. If you are not able to attend either the ceremony or the campaign meeting, arrange something in your workplace. You can download a copy of our poster here [pdf].
Read more: Facebook event page Have you seen and signed our petition calling for Industrial Manslaughter legislation yet? Do it now!
IWMD - International events and resources
As International Workers' Memorial Day approaches, lots of new resources have become available to help union safety reps promote the global event. A striking - and free - 'Unions make work safer' poster has been produced by the national Hazards Campaign. In addition, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which coordinates the world's biggest workplace safety campaign day internationally, has produced 28 April posters in English, French and Spanish versions. They note: "Worldwide, working conditions kill a worker every 11 seconds. Every death is avoidable. There is the knowledge, there is the technology, there just isn't the will. Union organisation is the antidote." Writing in the new edition of Hazards magazine, ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow notes unions will be reinvigorating its global safety campaign. "Work shouldn't be dangerous. We should be making things, not making orphans," she says. "Our strategy will use the full union rep tool box – from negotiation, to representation, to action – to organise for decent, safety and healthy work."
- Hazards Campaign Unions make work safer poster (printed A4 and A3 available in single or multiple orders, for the price of postage only - though not sure how this might work from Australia!) and other 28 April 2018 resources. To order email TUC Hazards campaign
- ITUC 28 April 2018 poster in English, Spanish and French.
ITUC/Hazards 28 April 2018 international events and campaign website
- TUC 28 April 2018 webpages.
- Sharan Burrow: World of trouble: Unions are organising for safer, healthier and decent work, Hazards magazine, Number 141, 2018.
My workplace seems a bit dark and members of my DWG have raised this with me. I would like to test the lux - that is the light levels. Can you suggest who can do this or is there a lux meter that can be borrowed?
If your workplace is too dark, then your members are right to raise this with you as an OHS issue. Your employer has a duty of care under s21(2)(c) of the OHS Act to 'maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, each workplace under the employer's management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health'. This includes ensuring there is enough light!
Your wanting to measure the lux levels is a good way to gather evidence. What your employer needs to do in order to comply with the OHS Act is detailed in the Workplace amenities and work environment Compliance Code: "Lighting from natural and/or artificial sources needs to be provided for employees to ensure working conditions that are appropriate to the nature of the work, the location of the work and the times at which the work is performed."
The Code requires that employers take into account a number of factors, including the nature of the work activity and the nature of the hazards and risks. There is a table with recommended 'illuminancies' for various types of work. For areas where visual tasks are very difficult and with very small detail or with very low contrast, the recommended illuminance level is the highest, at 800 lux.
In terms of measuring the levels: There are phone apps which give light level readings, and while these are not 100 per cent accurate, they can indicate if there is a problem. There are both free ones and others which can be purchased. If the app shows there's a problem, then take it to the employer. Don't forget that under s22(1)(a) of the OHS Act, the employer has a legal duty to monitor the conditions at the workplace, and this includes light. The employer also has a duty to engage persons with the relevant expertise to provide advice, such as a consultant with the right qualifications and tools.
Read more: Lighting - I think my workplace is too dark and click here for a list of possible consultants.
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.
Budget holiday travellers at risk
An article in the Australian Financial Review last week actually stopped me in my tracks: "Australians who may be hyper-vigilant about exposure to asbestos at home, travel though Asia oblivious of the risks," writes journalist Jill Margo. Not only is asbestos still commonly used in Asia, over 60 per cent of the world's asbestos ends up there. This means that the risk of being exposed to asbestos fibres is a very real one, particularly for travellers on a budget, who may stay in cheap, deteriorating accommodation, or near demolition sites. While the likelihood of contracting an asbestos-related disease/condition increases with the dose, it has been proven that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. "Even one fibre can kill" - scary, but unfortunately very true.
So what to do? Stay at newer places - where it is less likely that asbestos containing materials have deteriorated and are releasing fibres; stay away from demolition sites; don't visit factories where asbestos is being used and above all, take care and be aware.
Read more: Asbestos exposure, a hidden risk for budget tourists in Asia, The Australian Financial Review. Also an article by the late and great Dr Yossi Berger: When you can't breathe.
Asbestos found in UK make-up
The Herald Sun reports that make-up worn by thousands of British teenagers has been banned after tests revealed it is contaminated with asbestos. Claire's Accessories, which has 500 UK outlets, has been ordered to destroy two of its most popular eye shadow and face blusher kits.The danger is considered so serious that a Europe-wide alert has been issued.
International Union News
UK: Neglect of teachers' health is 'a national scandal'
Three in ten UK teachers (30 per cent) say they have turned to medication in the last 12 months to deal with the physical and mental toll their job is taking on them, a survey by teaching union NASUWT has found.
- More than four in ten (41 per cent) have seen a doctor or medical professional, while 15 per cent say they have undergone counselling.
- More than three quarters (78 per cent) of teachers report they have experienced an increase in workplace stress over the past 12 months,
- More than four out of five (84 per cent) saying their job has impacted negatively on their health and well-being over the last year.
- Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of teachers also feel their job has adversely affected their mental health and
- over half (54 per cent) feel it has affected their physical health.
The survey also found that in the last 12 months as a result of their job:
- 77 per cent of respondents had experienced anxiety;
- 85 per cent had suffered from loss of sleep;
- 22 per cent had increased their use of alcohol;
- nine per cent had suffered a relationship breakdown; and
- three per cent had self-harmed.
- Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) had seriously considered leaving the teaching profession.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: "These figures are an appalling catalogue of dedicated and committed teachers suffering damage to their physical and mental health. It is clear that too many employers are failing to exercise their duty of care for the health and welfare of their employees and are presiding over mental and physical burnout." She added: "It is nothing short of a national scandal that those who are dedicating themselves to giving a future to children and young people are seeing their own lives damaged by the failure of government and employers to take their health and welfare seriously. The time has come to end the culture of the 'anything goes' style of management where any adverse impact on teachers is regarded as collateral damage."
Read more: NASUWT news release. TES. Is Mental Health First Aid the answer? Depends on the question. Hugh Robertson, Hazards magazine, number 141, 2018. Source: Risks 843
Italy: City strikes after deadly port explosion
Workers in the Tuscan port city of Livorno went on strike on 29 March following the death of two workers when a fuel tank exploded the previous day. The victims, named as Lorenzo Mazzoni, 25, and Nunzio Viola, 53, died while doing maintenance in the industrial section of the port, which was evacuated after the incident. Press reports say the tank contained highly flammable gas. Local prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation. Italian President Sergio Mattarella said in a statement that he "stands with the families, the workers, and the city of Livorno", calling the deaths "an intolerable tragedy." Italian unions CGIL, CISL and UIL called the strike to protest the lack of safety on the job. Unlike other European Union countries, Italy has yet to formulate its own national workplace safety strategy, CGIL said in a statement. "A worker must be certain that when he or she leaves for work in the morning, he or she will be coming home that night," CGIL trade unionist Gianluca Persico told the press. Source: Risks 853
Action on work suicide risks would have 'large impacts'
A new paper by Australian and French researchers has found work factors including poor job insecurity and job control are strongly linked to higher suicide risks. The paper, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, says a range of work factors lead people to contemplate and attempt suicide and to kill themselves.
"Our review included 22 independent studies, which examined suicide ideation, suicide attempt and death by suicide. The studies included a wide range of sample types (eg. occupation specific vs working population based) and were set in a diverse range of countries," it notes. "Across this broad range of studies, results of this review suggest that exposure to various psychosocial job stressors was associated with elevated risk of suicide ideation, attempts and death. Job insecurity was associated with higher odds of suicide ideation, while job control appeared to be more of a risk for suicide attempt and death." The paper concludes "it is clear that job stressors are associated with increased risk of suicide. Thus, job stress prevention and control should be a key component of workplace as well as some other suicide prevention strategies. Furthermore, as poor psychosocial working conditions are highly prevalent, addressing these could have large population impacts in terms of reductions in suicidality."
Read more: A Milner, K Witt, AD LaMontagne, Isabelle Niedhammer. Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: a meta-analysis and systematic review [Full article], Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 75, pages 245-253, 2018. Related commentary: Marianna Virtanen. Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: can stress at work lead to suicide? [abstract], Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 75, pages 243-244, 2018.
More on work and suicides. Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists, January 2018. Work and suicide prevention checklist, Hazards, number 141, 2018. Source: Risks 843
Noisy workplaces: link to hypertension, high cholesterol
US researchers have found that not only do workers exposed to noisy workplaces experience hearing loss, they are also significantly more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease like high cholesterol and hypertension.
Using data on 22,906 workers from a 2014 survey, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found 24 per cent of workers with a history of working in a noisy workplace suffer from hypertension, while 28 per cent have elevated cholesterol. 14 per cent of these hypertension sufferers and nine per cent of those with high cholesterol can attribute their condition to occupational noise exposure.
The researchers also found that 12 per cent of workers previously exposed to noisy workplaces have "hearing difficulty", with 58 per cent of these cases being attributable to occupational noise exposure.
While the researchers did not find a statistically significant association between occupational noise and coronary heart disease or stroke, those conditions were significantly elevated among workers who had hearing difficulty and a history of occupational noise exposure.
Read more: Ellen Kerns, et al. Cardiovascular conditions, hearing difficulty, and occupational noise exposure within US industries and occupations.[Full article] American Journal of Industrial Medicine, online first March 2018, doi: 10.1002/ajim.22833. Source: OHSAlert. Read more on Noise and Stress
OHS Regulator News
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on April 6. In this issue, Dermot Moody - Manager of WorkSafe's Construction Program, writes about ground collapse in excavations.This follows the recent double fatality after a trench collapsed at Delacombe in Ballarat.
are a number of other
items in the edition including links to WorkSafe's media release on these fatalities, a Safety Alert, and items on the prosecution of an engineer (as reported in the last edition of SafetyNet) and a crane collapse in Mildura. Also
attached to the electronic email
is the list of reported incidents for the period from 16 - 28 March 2018
with 94 incidents serious enough to be reported to WorkSafe. As well as the double trench fatality, a member of the public was killed when a truck collided with vehicles at a roadworks site, and electrocutions, an amputation, and many 'near miss' incidents.
Access the April 6 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
New Safety Alert
WorkSafe Victoria has issued a new Safety Alert: Warning devices on powered mobile plant which provides guidance for employers, self-employed persons and people who have management and control of a workplace (legal duty holders) about the unsafe work practice of deactivating warning devices on powered mobile plant. This follows an incident earlier this year an employee was hit and injured by a reversing excavator. The excavator had a motion alarm but it had been switched off via a switch located in the cab.
NSW Safety Alert
SafeWorkNSW has released a Safety Alert: Falls through skylights and plastic roof sheeting which highlights the risks as well as the actions required to ensure those risks are eliminated or minimised. The regulator released the Alert following an incident in March 2018, one worker died and two others received serious injuries, including fractures and spinal injuries, after falling through a skylight or plastic roof sheeting. These incidents demonstrate that it is not just exposed edges that create the risk of a fall when working on roofs.
Safe Work Australia News
New guide for working in heat
Safe Work Australia says that while it may be cooling down outside, but workers subject to hot conditions are still at risk in an indoor environment. Hospitality workers in kitchens, factory workers who use hot machinery, and construction workers who go into roof cavities with no air flow are just some examples of workers at risk.
People in control of the workplace, such as managers and supervisors, and workers all have duties under work health and safety laws to manage risks to worker health and safety, such as those associated with working in heat.
SWA has general Information and has developed a Guide for managing the risks of working in heat, which provides advice on reviewing the workplace to make sure workers are safe. Read more on Heat, including VTHC policy and advice for HSRs.
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 6 April 2018, there had been 33 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is six more since the last update on 23 March: six more families without a loved one. These fatalities were: two each in the transport, postal and warehousing sector and in Agriculture, forestry & fishing, and one each in construction and mining. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 15 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 7 Construction
- 5 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 1 Administrative and support services
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Manufacturing
- 1 Mining
- 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.
Draft code of practice for mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO workers
A draft code of practice targeting FIFO mental health is now open for public comment until 19 April.
The draft code to help promote and maintain mentally healthy workplaces for fly-in fly-out workers has been released by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS).
The draft code provides guidance on the risk management approach to identifying and addressing workplace risks that can affect the mental health of workers.
To access the draft code and provide comment, go to the DMIRS website.
Metro Trains charged
Metro Trains could be fined up to $1.3 million over an explosion that injured an apprentice electrician. Melbourne's train operator appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday (Tuesday April 10) over an April 2016 incident in Box Hill that left the electrician with burns to his face and hands. The electrician was working on a 22,000-volt overhead line when someone at Metro's electrical control centre re-energised the line, causing the explosion. It appears there was confusion in the control centre over which line was to be re-energised. Metro was last month charged with one count of failing to provide a work environment that was safe and without risks to health, following an investigation by WorkSafe Victoria. Metro has not yet entered a plea but could be convicted and fined if found guilty. The case is due to return to court again on May 7. Source: The Age
Bakers Delight operator charged for non-compliance
Shalik Pty Ltd, the operator of a Bakers Delight franchise in Belmont, was yesterday convicted and fined for failing to comply with Improvement Notices related to hazardous manual handling and issued by inspectors following a 'service request' in the required timeframe.
The workplace had three shelves over a metal work bench for the storage of stock weighing 10 - 12 kgs. The top shelf was 1.7m above the surface of the bench. Placing stock on and/or removing stock from this shelving at the workplace was a hazardous manual handling task, creating a risk of musculoskeletal injuries from: lifting above shoulder height; and/or slipping on a ladder or on the bench; and/or falling from a ladder or from the bench. WorkSafe inspectors attended the workplace on 9 May 2016 after a service request (usually made by an HSR or worker).
The inspectors issued two Improvement Notices: 1 - using the storage bins required employees to repetitively adopt an awkward posture, creating a risk of musculoskeletal injury; and 2 - standing on the bench-top to access shelving involved a risk of falling because of the slippery surface of the bench top and the risk of the ladder tipping as employees stepped off onto the bench-top. Both notices had a compliance date of 28 April 2017. The first notice was complied with on 18 January 2018, approximately 9 months after the compliance date. The second notice was complied with on 2 March 2018, 11 months after the compliance date. The company pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $3,000 plus $4,115 in costs.
Meat processor fined after worker falls
Australian Lamb (Colac) Pty Ltd is a meat processing plant. On 4 November 2016 an employee was trimming meat from lamb carcasses on a work platform approximately one metre high. The work platform had two rails (about 300mm mid rail and 600 mm to top rail). The top rail had been removed on the two days before due to concerns relating to an upcoming audit as the carcasses had been making contact with the rail as they passed. Plans had been made to install a new extended platform that would allow the carcasses to travel over and enable the process workers to have a stable footing and wide work platform. The employee had not been told the rail had been removed. This created a risk of serious injury to anyone working on the work platform without adequate rail protection. In fact, the employee fell forward from the work platform and hit his head and upper body on the concrete floor. The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $27,500 plus $2,000 in costs.
Worker almost killed by tree trunk: employer gets $7500 fine
Melbourne Tree Stump Removal Pty Ltd is a tree and stump removal, lopping services and tree maintenance business. On 24 May 2016 the owner and two employees were at a site to remove a large cedar pine, root ball attached, which had fallen across a fence. The owner left the two workers to remove the tree. One of the workers was cutting the log a few metres from the fence, not expecting the log would move. Suddenly, though, the log was on top of his chest. After the log was removed, the worker was air lifted to hospital. He suffered serious and life threatening injuries. The weight of the remaining trunk and root ball was subsequently estimated at about 10 tonnes.
The court heard that:
- the company had not assessed the risks involved and had failed to identify the risk that if the tree was not cut in a controlled manner then the barrel would either 'spring up' and/or the root ball could fall in an unexpected manner.
- no control measures had been implemented
- the company failed to supervise the employees while they were doing the work to ensure that a safe system of work was implemented.
The company pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $7,500 plus costs of $3,000.
Company fined for failing to protect from falling objects
B Central Constructions Pty Ltd has been fined $17,000 without conviction, plus $4,089 in costs, for failing to control the risk of construction materials, tools or equipment falling from formwork overhanging a public footpath. The breaches were observed by a WorkSafe Victoria inspector in August 2016.
Moorabbin Magistrate Timothy Gattuso heard the employer failed to take steps to protect members of the public from the possibility of objects falling from three storeys of formwork at a Bentleigh East construction site. He found it would have been reasonably practicable for the employer to install appropriate overhead protection, such as a gantry or extended scaffolding, and provide members of the public with alternative safe pathways around the site.
The employer pleaded guilty to breaching section 23 ("Duties of employers to other persons") of the Victorian OHS Act.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
NSW: Bankstown builder fined $405,000 over apprentice fatality
A Bankstown building contractor has been fined $405,000 after a 19-year-old apprentice tragically died after being injured at work. Co-Wyn Building Contractors Pty Ltd recently pleaded guilty in the Sydney District Court to failing to protect the health and safety of its workers.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the court action comes after a Punchbowl carpentry apprentice died after suffering a fall while building a walkway platform on a Strathfield construction site.
"This was the first time the second-year apprentice had undertaken this type of work, during which he had a fall when he was left without proper supervision," Mr Kean said. "This poor young worker was later found lying on a concrete floor with serious head injuries."
Despite undergoing surgery, he tragically died when he was taken off life support less than a week later. In sentencing, Judge Andrew Scotting said the apprentice was vulnerable due to his lack of experience in the workplace, and his death had a profound impact on his family.
Read more: Ministerial Media Release
UK: Millionaire jailed for work manslaughter
A corner-cutting millionaire has been jailed for the manslaughter of a handyman after ignoring his safety pleas. Keith Crawford, 73, tried to cut costs while having a leak in his outdoor swimming pool repaired at his home in Exeter, UK, a court heard. Crawford, a property tycoon with a fortune of £7m (A$12.83m), ignored safety warnings and refused to pay for measures which would have prevented the tragedy. Builder Peter Clements died days after the trench he was excavating collapsed on top of him. Crawford had refused to pay £480 (A$880) for health and safety precautions, telling Peter, "just carry on with what you are doing". The 48-year-old was covered in tonnes of earth in front of his own son. Despite being pulled out by co-workers, he later died after suffering a cardiac arrest in hospital. The court heard in the days leading up to the incident Mr Clements, who was working with his son Ryan and digger driver Ross Phillips, had raised concerns about the safety of the trench. The prosecution said Crawford said the cost of a trench box represented 'stupid money'. "The reason Crawford gave to Mr Phillips why a trench box was not appropriate was that it was too expensive," said prosecutor Stephen Mooney. During the trial, Crawford told the jury he felt "no responsibility whatsoever" for the death. He admitted paying workers cash-in-hand to do jobs, adding he disliked "red tape." After the death, Crawford visited Mr Clements' widow Amanda and handed her £1,000 (A$1,830). He was jailed for two years six months after he was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. Crawford was also given a concurrent sentence of 12 months for breaching criminal health and safety regulations. Source: Risks 843
So in the UK a boss goes to jail for industrial manslaughter but Victorian bosses walk free after killing workers. Have you signed our petition calling for Industrial Manslaughter legislation yet? Do it now!
Zimbabwe: Tobacco work harming children
Children and adults who work on Zimbabwe's tobacco farms are facing serious risks to their health as well as labor abuses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released last week. Child labor and other human rights abuses on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe tarnish the tobacco industry's contributions to the country's economic growth and improved livelihoods.
The 105-page report, A Bitter Harvest: Child Labor and Human Rights Abuses on Tobacco Farms in Zimbabwe, documents how children work in hazardous conditions, performing tasks that threaten their health and safety or interfere with their education. Child workers are exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides, and many suffer symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning from handling tobacco leaves. Adults working on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe also face serious health risks and labor abuses.
Read more: Tobacco work harming children and Bitter Harvest article