SafetyNet 443, April 18, 2018
International Workers Memorial Day is next week - if you are not able to attend an event, have you planned something for your workplace? See below
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Workplace tragedy: the aftermath for two families
Less than a month ago two young men were killed in Delacombe, near Ballarat, when the trench they were working in collapsed. This week, two families, brought together by this tragedy, spoke about how they have been united by the grief, and 'in the pursuit of ensuring nobody again fails to come home from work'. Read their story in The Courier.
April 27/28: International Workers Memorial Day
Remember the Dead; Fight for the Living
International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD) falls on April 28 - and this year the VTHC will be holding its annual commemoration on the day before, Friday April 27. We invite workers, HSRs, union organisers and the public 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. We will be starting at 10.30am outside the Trades Hall at the Memorial Rock on the corner of Victoria and Lygon St.
Worldwide, working conditions kill a worker every 11 seconds. Every death is avoidable.
Following the event, the VTHC invites those present to attend a forum at which our Industrial Manslaughter campaign will be discussed. Go to this page to find out more and RSVP. 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 - some examples:
- pause work for a minute at 11am, for example, and remember those killed in Victoria or internationally in the past year
- hold a special meeting of the health and safety committee to look at the workplace statistics and talk about an event for next year
- do an extraordinary health and safety audit of the workplace
- make sure everyone on site signs our petition calling for Industrial Manslaughter legislation
IWMD - International events and resources
If you haven't yet had a chance to check out the international resources, here they are again:
- 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.
There are some fabulous resources which you can download and use in your own workplaces.
TWU: Campaign on increasing truck crashes and fatalities
18 April marks two years since the Federal Government shut down an independent watchdog investigating cost-cutting in the trucking industry that leads to safety breaches. Since then, deaths in truck crashes have shot up and drivers are copping all the blame. Truck drivers, activists and unions are out in force across Australia today, 18 April, asking the government why they are no longer holding companies to account, as a new survey shows 93% of drivers want to see changes to make transport safer and less pressured.
The survey shows almost 93 per cent of drivers also say pressure on them is continuing or increasing, with drivers listing the financial squeeze from major supermarkets and manufacturers, bad roads, unsafe truck stops and unrealistic deadlines major sources of pressure.
Over 1,000 drivers responded to the survey which was conducted following police blitzes on trucks after a spate of crashes. Safe Work Australia data for 2017 showed almost 40 per cent of all workplace deaths involved a transport worker. Since the road safety watchdog was shut down, 361 people have died in truck crashes. Road fatalities are not 'counted' in the state workplace fatality statistics - and it is important to remember this as we approach International Workers Memorial Day.
A report commissioned by the Federal Government showed Orders by the road safety watchdog had cut truck crashes by 28 per cent.
Read more: TWU media release
I work in a vet clinic and have some concerns. The clinic does not have a protocol, spill kit or offer training on administering cytotoxic drugs to patients (animals). Can I refuse to take part in administering chemo? What are my rights?
Your employer has a legal duty under the OHS Act to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health – so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes a duty to:
- ensure that (so far as reasonably practicable) the use, handling, storage & transport of plant and substances (chemicals) is safe and without risks to health; and
- provide as much information, instruction, training and supervision to the workers so that they can work safely, etc NOTE - this is NOT qualified by 'so far as is reasonably practicable'.
(see this page for a fuller description of the employer's duties)
In order to comply with the legal duties under the OHS Act, the employer must identify and then either eliminate or minimise any hazards and risks. In this case, it's not possible to eliminate these toxic substances – but your employer has an absolute duty to provide you and other workers with whatever training, supervision, and so on is needed to enable you to do your work with a little risk to your health and safety as possible.
Your employer must also take whatever other actions are necessary to minimise the risks to you - such as have protocols in place for the safe use (and clean up) of these substances which are hazardous. This must be done in consultation with staff (see: Duty to consult and also duties under the Hazardous Substances regulations). Do you have an elected health and safety representative? If so, then ask the HSR to raise the issue and seek resolution with the employer. If you don't have an HSR, then contact the union to get help in electing one.
In terms of whether you can refuse to take part in administering the cytotoxic substances - under common law, a worker has a right to refuse to do work that is going to put his or her health or safety at risk. If an employer threatened the employment of someone who did this, then that person is protected under our industrial relations system. However, I would recommend that you and the other workers raise this as an issue under the OHS Act (even without an elected HSR you can raise it under the Act's Issue Resolution procedures - and if the employer does not respond, then I recommend contacting WorkSafe Victoria)
Read more: Cytotoxic drugs
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.
Reminder: May 2 Webinar Bullying in the Workplace
If you've been bullied at work, or know that bullying is happening at your workplace, then you will know that it can make life intolerable. Unfortunately it happens too often in our workplaces.
Join us on Wednesday, May 2, at 7pm for the fourth in our OHS Webinar Series for 2018. We will be discussing what bullying is, what it isn't, why it's a workplace hazard and what HSRs can do to ensure employers are controlling all bullying risks in the workplace. We will provide practical guidance and tools to do this. This webinar will be co-hosted by Alison Ross, the OHS Bullying and Harassment officer at the ANMF. Alison will lend her expertise on the issue and will take part in a Q&A session at the end of the webinar. Register now using the link in the event page
ASEA: The next National Asbestos Plan
2018 is a significant year for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, as it develops Australia's next five-year National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness.
During ASEA's our 2017 Summit, over 250 delegates were asked for their input to inform the next national strategic plan, and at this year's event the Agency will be looking in depth at the new strategies and goals that have been developed as a result of this feedback. At the upcoming conference, November 18 - 20, participants will be able to find out what the future of asbestos management looks like in Australia and the proactive plans we need to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres and reduce asbestos-related diseases. More information on registration fees, sponsorship opportunities, the conference program and speakers will be announced soon.
International Union News
Five years since the Rana Plaza tragedy
On 24 April, 2013 the Savar building collapse or Rana Plaza collapse occurred in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka District, Bangladesh. The collapse killed 1,135 people. Approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building alive. It is still considered the deadliest garment-factory tragedy in history, as well as the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history. The building contained clothing factories, a bank, apartments, and several shops. The shops and the bank on the lower floors were immediately closed after cracks were discovered in the building. However the building's owners ignored warnings to avoid using the building after cracks had appeared the day before. Garment workers were ordered to return the following day, and the building collapsed during the morning rush-hour.
In July last year, 38 people were charged with murder, and three were also charged for helping complex owner Sohel Rana flee after incident. It has been five years, but there is still no standard form of compensation for worker death and injury,in case of industrial accident, according to experts and rights groups. A survey conducted by Action Aid Bangladesh shows 48% survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse are out of employment due to their physical and psychological injuries. The findings were unveiled at the program titled "Five years of Rana Plaza tragedy: Invitation to Advancing Decent Work Agenda: Departure from Rana Plaza."
Further, while many companies have signed an Accord to improve conditions, and have agreed to contribute to the compensation fund, not all international companies which sourced clothing from here have done so. There is an action planned for Melbourne - we will announce it next week.
Read more: The Guardian; The Dhaka Tribune. Rana Plaza documentary The Deadly Cost of Fashion. Clean Clothes Campaign - Rana Plaza.
Global: XPO workers demand end to toxic culture at global logistics giant
XPO workers and union activists from Belgium, France, Spain, the UK and USA have held a press conference in Paris to reveal further evidence of worker abuse at the company. The action is part of an ongoing global campaign against XPO Logistics, which is under fire for accusations of sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, a death at an XPO site, gender pay discrimination, exploitative employment arrangements and anti-union activity.
Several European and American workers will be in Paris, including Ryan Janota - a former XPO driver from Aurora, Illinois, sacked by XPO for his union activism. Elizabeth Howley, who works at the XPO warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, where a worker recently died, describes the conditions workers face: "XPO management forces workers to remove their bras at the security checkpoint, we see snakes, rats, lizards and bugs. We don't have any nurses or defibrillators, and no one is allowed to do CPR, even if certified. A co-worker died and we had to work around her body. We don't deserve to be treated like this. No one does."
XPO is growing aggressively all over Europe, often by buying up local companies like France's huge Norbert Dentressangle. The European HQ is in Lyon. Now European workers are facing issues just like their colleagues in the USA:
- In France and Belgium, XPO is delaying the payment of overtime.
- In Spain, women employees who work a shortened day due to family responsibilities – a legal right in Spain — have been refused further training or advancement. Women employees are doing the same work for less pay – not even work of equal value, but the same work.
- In the UK, XPO's gender pay gap report revealed female workers in their transport business earn on average 14 per cent less per hour.
Read more: ITF media release
Stressors linked to trips and falls
European researchers have identified three work stressors that contribute to the likelihood of slips, trips and falls (STFs):
- Interruptions (eg by patients, their families and pets),
- Unreasonable tasks (eg: having to perform tasks outside of normal roles), and
- Quality-threatening time pressure
In a survey of 125 home carers, the researchers, from Switzerland's University of Bern and Germany's Philipps University of Marburg, found these factors caused a type of "attentional cognitive failure" associated with a higher risks of STFs. According to the researchers, STFs are the most frequent type of incidents among home care nurses and most STFs occur on dry, even flooring with no clients in the vicinity, followed by on stairways with no patients nearby.
They concluded that work-redesign plans to prevent STFs need to address physical features (eg buckled carpets, dirty or wet surfaces, changes in elevation, insufficient light), and use of appropriate lifting aids. Importantly though, interventions must also reduce task-related stressors such as time pressure, interruptions and unreasonable tasks, because they pose demands on home carers that might exceed their physical and cognitive capabilities, making slips, trips and falls more likely
Read more: Elfering, a, et al, Interruptions, Unreasonable Tasks, and Quality-Threatening Time Pressure in Home Care: Linked to Attention Deficits and Slips, Trips, and Falls [Full article] Science Direct (Open Access funded by Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute). Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
New PIN form now available
Recently there was a change in the OHS Act which allows HSRs to email a PIN through to their employer or employer representative. This change was implemented to reflect how common email communication is now in our modern lives - who uses faxes any more?
This should make issuing PINs easier, shouldn't it? Well, there's a catch: due to another piece of legislation, the Victorian Electronic Transactions Act (2000) covering electronic communications, before serving the PIN using email, the HSR must first obtain the permission of the person to whom it is being sent (!).
Download a pdf version of the new PIN from the WorkSafe website here. Hard copies will also be available.
Queensland: Fatality incident alert
Last week a Queensland worker was killed by an explosion while welding. The incident occurred while the worker was making a tractor counterweight by welding empty fuel drums to a steel frame. When he placed the welder to the top of a drum, there was an explosion, engulfing him. At the time of the alert, the fuel or ignition source had not yet been confirmed.
The man sustained full thickness burns to more than 95 per cent of his body. He was transported to Cairns Hospital where he passed away from his injuries. Investigations into the incident are continuing.
Read the incident alert here.
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
The SWA page has not been updated since we last reported the number of fatalities reported. On April 6 this was 33 fatalities. 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.
Construction company convicted, fined for scaffolding offences
Whineray Consulting Pty Ltd, a construction company, was this week convicted and fined in the Moorabbin Magistrates Court for breaching Sections 21(1)&(2)(e) (duty to provide information, training, etc); 23(1) (duties to other persons); 26(1) (duties to provide safe entry and exit) of the Victorian OHS Act. in August 2016 the company was engaged to erect/install scaffolding at the Oslo Apartment site located in Bentleigh East. On 6 October 2016, scaffolding at the building site came away from the building as a result of high winds. Whineray Consulting had erected the scaffolding without any engineering designs or computations to allow for wind resistance - this created a clear and serious risk of serious injury or death if the scaffolding had collapsed in strong winds. At an ex-parte hearing, the company was found guilty and was, with conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $45,000 and to pay costs of $4,699.
Fine increased and company convicted after DPP appeal
In August 2017, Industrial Lining Pty Ltd, a company involved in the installation of protective linings, working with plastics, ceramic and rubber, pleaded guilty and was fined, without conviction $30,000 (plus costs of $4,096) over a June 2016 incident.
While replacing rubber linings inside a hopper - a confined space, three workers were exposed to a harmful level of contaminate. About 30 to 40 minutes after applying an adhesive hazardous substance to the inner wall of the hopper, the company's director and an employee entered the hopper. After a short time the fumes rendered the director unconscious. In attempting to rescue him, the worker too was rendered unconscious. A second employee partially entered the hopper to try to rescue them but felt woozy and exited. Paramedics, the CFA and SES attended and assisted the two employees down from the hopper. The two employees were taken to hospital and were later discharged without injury.
There was a risk of death to employees as a result of exposure to a harmful level of contaminant in a confined space. The company failed to identify that the hopper was a confined space and failed to identify the risk in a job safety analysis. The employee rendered unconscious had only received on the job training whilst the second employee had not received any information, instruction or training relating to the work that was being undertaken.
The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed to the County Court against the sentence. As a result, on 13 April 2018 His Honour Judge Gucciardo sentenced Industrial Lining Pty Ltd to a fine in the amount of $55,000, with conviction. His Honour also ordered the same costs as imposed by the Magistrate ($4,096) together with additional costs of $7,150.
Steel company fined aggregate of $35,000 after worker crushed
Vicrig Pty Ltd, a company involved in the erection of structural steel, was engaged to work in the construction of 26 small warehouses. On 30 August 2016 an employee was bolting steel beams and purlins from a height of between 4-5 meters on a knuckle boom-type mobile elevating work platform (the MEWP). The work was high risk construction work. There was a risk of serious injury and death - that is, the worker could have been crushed between the steel beams and purlins and the MEWP.
In maneuvering the MEWP the worker became trapped and was crushed between the MEWP and a steel beam. Unable to free himself he signaled for help by beeping the horn of the MEWP. Nearby office workers from responded, and brought the incident to the attention of the site supervisor who lowered the MEWP and freed him. The worker suffered broken ribs, a collapsed left lung, damaged liver, spleen and kidneys. He could very easily have been killed.
The company was charged with:
- failing to have in place an emergency procedure where there was a risk of fall from height (in accordance with regulation 3.3.9)
- failing to provide such information, instruction and supervision in relation to the risk of crushing, including the failure to have in place a Safe Work Method Statement contrary to regulation 5.1.9.
The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $5,000 in relation to the first charge and $30,000 in relation to the second charge. Costs were to be agreed between the parties.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.