SafetyNet 444, April 24, 2018
This week marks International Workers Memorial Day - officially April 28 - so mark the day in some way. Also, because tomorrow, April 25, is Anzac Day, SafetyNet is being posted a day early.
To keep up to date and informed between editions of SafetyNet, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page, 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!)
April 27/28: International Workers Memorial Day
Remember the Dead; Fight for the Living
Please come to our event for International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD) this coming Friday April 27. 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. We will be starting at 10.30am outside the Trades Hall at the Memorial Rock on the corner of Victoria and Lygon St.
Unions and workers stop every year to remember the dead: Worldwide, working conditions kill a worker every 11 seconds. Every death is avoidable. But we also re-commit to fighting for the living.
Following the event, the VTHC invites those present to attend a morning tea and forum at which our Industrial Manslaughter campaign will be discussed. Go to this page to find out more and RSVP. Employers whose negligent actions lead to the deaths of workers get off with just a fine - yet people are jailed for much less serious crimes. If you are not able to attend either the ceremony or the campaign meeting, arrange something in your workplace. You could:
- 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, with some new ones added:
- The AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) has published a Workers Memorial Day Toolkit [pdf]. It includes talking points, sample materials for media outreach, worker safety and health facts, state-by-state safety and health data and other information.
- 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 and Safety reps: Getting more than the minimum – A TUC guide to Roving Safety Reps and Union Improvement Notices [pdf]
There are some fabulous resources which you can download and use in your own workplaces.
April 24: Five years since the Rana Plaza tragedy
Event this afternoon - 5pm
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 and injured over 2,500. It was the deadliest garment-factory tragedy in history. The building's owners ignored warnings to avoid using the building after cracks appeared and ordered garment workers from several factories located in the building to return the following day.
Global trade unions and labour rights organizations are calling on all brands sourcing from Bangladesh to take responsibility for workers making their products by signing the renewed Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. The 2018 Transition Accord takes over the work of the current Accord when it expires in May and will ensure that work continues to improve factory safety – the remediation progress rate across all currently covered Accord factories is 84 per cent. Global labour organizations are demanding that all brands producing in Bangladesh sign the 2018 Transition Accord. So far, 144 global brands have signed the new 2018 Accord, covering more than 1,300 factories and approximately two million workers.
There is an action today, at 5.30pm at the 8 Hour Monument at the corner of Lygon and Victoria Streets, Carlton South - opposite the Trades Hall Building. Apologies for the short notice - but please come if you are able to. Read more: The Guardian; The Dhaka Tribune. Rana Plaza documentary The Deadly Cost of Fashion. Clean Clothes Campaign - Rana Plaza. IndustriALL Media Release: Five years after Rana Plaza, the need for Bangladesh Accord persists.
Recently two of the covers from the ceiling fluorescent lights in my work area have fallen off and been removed. The light intensity seems much higher and I'm finding it is bothering me. Is there a risk to my eyesight if I continue to work in these conditions?
In order to know whether the intensity is too high, the lux measurement would need to be taken but the fact that the lights are bothering you and this is because the covers/diffusers have been removed and not replaced is enough for you/your elected HSR to raise this as an issue with the employer (or the OHS management rep).
Under the general duty of care the employer has a duty to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes maintaining plant and equipment. (see this page: Duties of employers) So why haven't these light diffusers been fixed? They were clearly there for a purpose! Go to your HSR and ask him/her to follow this up.
See also this advice on lighting - it sets out what the Compliance Code states.
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
Last chance to apply to work at the VTHC
Are you passionate about health and safety? Are you interested in joining our team? There are two positions being advertised - both positions are based within VTHC's Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Unit. The OHS Unit works with unions and external stakeholders across the community to identify Victorian workplace safety and rights issues. Applications close today, April 24.
1 - Full time OHS Online Organiser
The role of OHS Online Organiser is to educate workers and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) about their OHS rights at work, and support and organise them in enforcing these rights, through two mediums: educational online content production including a webinar series, and the organising of an online community of HSRs (the OHS Network Facebook Group).(Read more about this position, the duties and requirements, on this page of Ethical Jobs)
2 - Full time OHS Safe at Work Organiser
The role of the OHS Safe at Work Organiser is to work with unions and stakeholders across the community to identify workplace safety and rights issues, educate Health and Safety Representatives and workers generally about their safety and rights and support and organise them in enforcing these when they have been put at risk. The organiser also participates in campaigns on OHS and Workers Compensation issues to improve the lives of all workers, including injured workers. .(Read more about this position, the duties and requirements, on this page of Ethical Jobs)
Anna Stewart Memorial Project applications open
The bi-annual Anna Stewart Memorial Project (ASMP) is coming up from 7-18 May, and the We Are Union Women's Team at the VTHC are looking for women who are motivated to support other women in forming a critical voice and influence the culture of a workplace.
Designed to encourage more women to be present and active in unions, the Anna Stewart Memorial Project is a structured, two-week-long internship program consisting of two days each week at Trades Hall, with the remaining days in a union of choice.
If this sounds like you, simply nominate yourself, or a strong woman unionist you know, by contacting your union. Find out more about the ASMP
May 3: Asbestos Not Here Not Anywhere Melbourne Public Forum
Join Indonesian activists Bono (General Secretary SERBUK Union), Darisman (Local Initiation for OHS Network – LION Indonesia) , Kate Lee (Chief Executive Union Aid Abroad APEHDA) and Ged Kearney (Federal Member for Batman) in a co-hosted public event with Labor for Aid to hear about the Asbestos. Not Here. Not Anywhere campaign in Indonesia and across the region.
Union Aid Abroad supports an overseas aid program that addresses poverty and inequality, that is accountable and transparent and is primarily delivered by governments and not-for-profit organisations, not as a vehicle for making profits by business. We support the international standard of 0.7% a country's income being spent on international development, currently Australia is at 0.2% and we are campaigning with others to build political change for this goal.
We are working with Labor for Aid on this speaking tour to bring the story of how aid can end asbestos use in Asia, in support of this aim.
Date: May 3rd 2018
Venue: The Thornbury Theatre, 859 High St, Thornbury
Cost: Free entry. Drinks at Bar Prices. Meals available $25 per head for two-course meal but you MUST pre-order via this link
Truck filmed dumping asbestos wasteNSW authorities are trying to identify who dumped suspected asbestos at a residential address on Friday evening in north-western Sydney. Fire and Rescue services were called to an Oatlands home after a resident reported rubbish bags had been dumped by a truck onto their driveway.
CCTV footage of the incident shows a dump truck make several attempts to reverse into the driveway before dumping the entire contents of the truck's load. Firefighters suspected the bags contained asbestos material. Wearing protective suits, they inspected the bags and wet them down before decontaminating the area. Read more: ABC news online
ASEA: The next National Asbestos Plan
Just a reminder to note the dates of ASEA's 2018 conference: November 18 - 20, where the Agency will provide participants with information on the future of asbestos management 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.
May 6: Melbourne May Day Rally
May Day is the International Day of Working People and working-class struggle. It commemorates the international struggle for the 8 hour working day, first won right here in Victoria!
Today we still fight for the right of working people to enjoy time with their families, so we're celebrating with a big, family-friendly May Day fair with activities for activist kids and activist adults!
Please join us at the 2018 May Day Rally and Family Fun Day at Trades Hall.
Date: Sunday May 6th
Time: Family fun and rides outside Trades Hall from 11am.
Rally Starts: 1pm from cnr Victoria & Lygon Streets
May Day Concert: Straight after the rally back at Trades Hall
Read more and RSVP here.
OHS Regulator News
Entries now open for 2018 WorkSafe Awards
Entries are now open for the 30th annual WorkSafe Awards. The role that all Victorians can play in making workplaces safer will be highlighted in this year's Awards. The Awards have been established to recognise health and safety reps, groups and businesses who have demonstrated excellence in workplace safety and wellbeing, as well as safety ideas and innovations. WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said this year's awards theme – "Play your Part: Celebrating 30 Years of What Matters Most," serves as a reminder that workplace safety is everyone's concern.
The VTHC urges workers to nominate their own health and safety representatives - ordinary workers who have an extraordinary role in representing their fellow workers and making their workplaces safer and healthier. This is often a thankless role, so put your heads together and start nominating now!
Nominations are open to all Victorian-based employers and workers, and entrants may nominate themselves or another person. Entries close 31 May 2018. Winners will be announced at a Gala Dinner at Crown on 18 October. Read more: WorkSafe Media Release. Enter here
Queensland: Fall alert
The latest Queensland alert is on an incident which occurred last month, when a 19 year old worker sustained fracture injuries to both kneecaps, partially severed fingers on one hand and a severe laceration to his calf when he fell approximately three metres from a roof. An edge protection system was installed around the roof perimeter. The system was erected by a scaffolder and consisted of a post and rail setup. Scaffold components were used to construct the edge protection system, specifically tube and coupler. Early investigations indicate there may have been a failure of a mid-rail which the worker was leaning against. The mid-rail has pulled away on one end at the coupler joint, resulting in the worker falling through the gap. Read more.
FWC publishes updated Anti-Bullying benchbook
The Fair Work Commission has published an updated interactive online version of its Anti-bullying benchbook. The benchbook contains plain English summaries of the key principles of workplace bullying case law and how these have been applied in Commission decisions. It is designed to provide information to parties to assist in the preparation of material for matters before the Commission.
The new version of the Anti-bullying benchbook, incorporating recent updates, is designed to be read online and can be accessed on the Commission's website. A PDF version of the benchbook is also available for download.
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 20 April 2018, there had been 40 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is seven more since the last update on 6 April: six more families without a loved one. These fatalities were: three in Agriculture, forestry & fishing; two in construction; one each in the transport, postal and warehousing sector and in mining. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 16 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 9 Construction
- 8 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 2 Mining
- 1 Administrative and support services
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Manufacturing
- 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.
Revised Strategy available
SWA has published a revised version of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 to ensure it continues making a difference in Australian workplaces.
SWA says that some minor language changes and more explicit reference to workplace bullying, harassment and occupational violence will keep the Strategy relevant for the next five years. The changes are the result of the Strategy's scheduled mid-term review which showed overall support for the Strategy to remain largely unchanged.
The review highlighted some areas for greater attention to ensure the Strategy has greatest impact going forward. As a result, Safe Work Australia Members agreed to:
- undertake detailed analysis of the causes and controls of work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses, with an initial focus on the agriculture industry and musculoskeletal disorders
- explore the feasibility of national lead indicators to support improved workplace performance measurement and reporting, and
- develop effective information sharing and improved coordination of activities implemented under the Strategy.
Builder pleads guilty and convicted/fined after worker falls
PJL Building Group Pty Ltd, a small family owned company that is involved with construction and maintenance of domestic properties, was last week convicted and fined $25,000 and costs of $4725 over an incident on 16 February 2016 where an employee fell about 2.4 metres at a construction site in Springvale. Two packs of flooring were delivered to the site and the worker climbed from a ladder onto the frame of a partially built 2 story house to ensure that the flooring was put in the right place. However, the frame was incomplete and there was no process to check the structure before the flooring was loaded onto it. The first pack of flooring was loaded onto the frame, but when the second pack was loaded onto the first pack, the frame collapsed. The worker was treated in hospital for injuries to his thumb and a cut to his right forearm. He was unable to work for about six weeks.
Labour Hire firm fined after employee injures hand
Cornerstone HR Pty Ltd, a labour hire company, was charged with breaching s21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act over an incident in wich an employee placeda to work as a truck jockey with Kingspan Environmental Pty Ltd, a company that builds, sells and delivers steel water tanks and garden beds.
In early September 2015, Kingspan directed the worker to move from the position of truck jockey to the factory floor as a production worker and operate the GLK Manual Curver ("the Curver") - used to bend corrugated steel to form water tanks. The Curver had two vertical rollers with stop pull wire switches either side of the rollers but no guarding to prevent bodily access to the danger points of the machine. Cornerstoner did not check the work their employee was to perform nor properly assess those activities for risks to his health and safety; nor did it liaise with Kingspan regarding the risks and the means to control those risks.
On 17 October 2015, while feeding a sheet of metal into the rollers of the Curver, the worker's hand was caught in the in-running nip point of the rollers. The trip wires did not operate to shut the machine down so he was able to extract his hand by reversing the direction of the rollers. However, he sustained injuries to his thumb, first and middle fingers of this left hand which required surgery. Cornerstone was found guilty and was without conviction fined $15,000 plus costs of $15,000.
Precast concrete panel manufacturer fined after inspector picks up deadly risk
Australian Precast Pty Ltd manufactures precast concrete panels. On 19 December 2016 a WorkSafe inspector attended the workplace and observed twelve precast concrete panels each measuring 2.8 metres x 3 metres x 450 mm and weighing approximately 9 tonnes freestanding vertically on the concrete floor. The company had storage areas for concrete panels at the workplace but these were full. The concrete panels were not positively restrained. Bridge cranes were available for use within the area where the concrete panels were freestanding and forklifts were in operation at the workplace. Employees used walkways around the area where the concrete panels were freestanding. There was a risk of death or serious injury to employees from the concrete panels tipping and falling due to impact between mobile plant and the concrete panels. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $15,000 and to pay costs of $5,335.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Canada: Firm behind rail catastrophe is let off
Criminal charges have been dropped against Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA), according to Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP). The firm had been accused of causing the deaths of 47 people when 73 train cars of highly combustible crude oil derailed in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic in 2013, turning the downtown into a raging inferno. MMA locomotive engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, were tried on 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death — one count for each of the victims of the rail disaster. In January this year, a jury acquitted the three MMA employees after the defence argued successfully that the rail workers were being blamed for the consequences of poor regulatory oversight and a clear failure of the rail firm to establish and enforce safe procedures.
Much of the case was based on a 2014 Canada Transportation Safety Board report that documented MMA's "weak safety culture" and faulted Transport Canada for lax oversight of the carrier. MMA has since declared bankruptcy. DPCP said it no longer believes there is enough evidence to obtain a guilty verdict against MMA, which operated the train. Prosecutor Marie-Ève Phaneuf said: "With their verdict, the jurors sent a message that, by their assessment, the company's agents had not behaved in a manner that markedly deviated from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have adopted under the same circumstances." But a former top US safety official, Jordan Barab, disagrees. "The workers were acquitted precisely for the reason that the company's safety culture was guilty of causing the catastrophe," he wrote in his Confined Space blog. "The main successful charge against the company was a $1 million fine for polluting Rivière Chaudière and Lac Mégantic under the Canadian Fisheries Act. The money will go toward cleaning up the lake and river. The 47 human victims were not as lucky as the fish."
Read more: Confined Space blog. Montreal Gazette. Source: Risks 845
Sth Korea: Samsung prevents disclosure of labour violations info
Samsung Display and its parent company, Samsung Electronics, have filed legal action in South Korea in an attempt to prevent the disclosure of potentially damning workplace assessment reports. Samsung has claimed that publicising reports on its production facility in Asan would reveal company secrets – and therefore is not premitted.
However, Samsung's legal action seems to be motivated by the revelation of serious labour violations in the company's production facilities. A former employee at the site in Asan has sued Samsung after being diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. The employee also sent a petition to the Ministry of Employment and Labour for the release of factory information, claiming she can prove the disease was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals used in the production line.
So far, the ruling is in favor of Samsung's claims. However, Samsung is also tied to similar disputes over the disclosure of information, with a request for the release of information regarding a case of worker poisoning in 2014. This raises questions over what Samsung is trying to hide in its production facilities.
Read the full article here.
8th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion
April 21 marked the 8th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and created the largest oil spill in the history of the world. Jordon, of the US blog Confined Spaces, writes: "And in case you were under the impression that our government has learned the lessons of the catastrophe, think again. The agency that is supposed to regulate offshore drilling (and actually did for a while under the Obama administration) is now led by someone with ties to the oil industry whose main goal is not to protect workers or the environment, but to help the oil industry thrive by rolling back existing protections. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is attempting to expand drilling off the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts." Read more: Confined Spaces blog