SafetyNet 447, May 16, 2018
Tragically there was another fatality yesterday in country Victoria.
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Another death in regional Victoria
A man in his sixties was killed in an incident at a farm just outside Beaufort yesterday morning. Emergency crews were called to a property just off the Ballarat-Carngham Road at 10.35am. The man is believed to have been operating a piece of farming machinery.
WorkSafe was at the site assisting police with their inquiries. This is the 11th confirmed workplace fatality this year - six of which have occurred in agriculture.
Tomorrow night: OHS Catch Up
Tomorrow night, Thursday 17 May, we are holding our next OHS Catch Up at Trades Hall. Learn all about where we are at in the Industrial Manslaughter Campaign. More importantly, come along to find out what you can do to help win industrial manslaughter laws and make Victoria safer for everyone. Take this opportunity to meet with other 'like-minded' people, and get involved in this and other OHS issues.
When: Thursday, 17 May 2018.
Venue: OHS Training Room, Level 2.
Location: Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton South.
Time: 5:30pm -7pm. Refreshments will be served as usual.
RSVP: Click here
Bullying in the Workplace Webinar
Apologies for last week's mangled item on the Bullying webinar! This is what it should have said:
If you missed last week's webinar on this topic co-hosted by Alison Ross, the OHS Bullying and Harassment Officer at the ANMF, you can access the webinar here on the We Are OHS website. Take the time to check out the discussion on 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. In addition, download our Workplace Bullying Risk Assessment Checklist, as well as a copy of our Workplace Bullying Policy and Procedures Checklist.
A member of my DWG recently attended a conference interstate. The accommodation quite terrible: photos show both dead and live cockroaches, and mould, amongst other things. This was despite a 3 star rating (which is the minimum set out in the organisational travel policy). Can you please advise as to what are the employer obligations in relation to accommodation booked as part of work-related travel? Your advice is greatly appreciated.
There's nothing specific in the OHS Act or regs which covers this… but as it was a work-related conference then the employer's general duty of care applies, and the employer should be complying with the Compliance Code for Workplace amenities and work environment. While the Code does not specifically cover accommodation for conferences, it does provide guidance on employer-provided accommodation, which includes that this should be clean and safe.
It seems to me though that in this case it is not a matter of the employer not wanting to provide acceptable accommodation, but rather that the minimum 3 star criteria is inadequate, either because it is not accurate or it is too low.
As the HSR you can raise with your employer that the current system which is seeking to ensure that staff accommodation is adequate by making the minimum rating 3 star has obviously failed – and in this case put the health of the staff member at risk (dirty, cockroaches, etc - which no doubt was also stressful)
I would request a review of the organisational travel policy to improve and update it. Here are some possibilities:
- Undertaking better research before booking any accommodation (eg looking at reviews) to verify the adequacy of accommodation
- Increasing the minimum standard to 4 star
- Setting clear standards – not just star ratings – what is to be considered acceptable accommodation
- Allowing staff the flexibility to refuse accommodation and find alternative if what has been booked is unacceptable
Discuss the issue with the DWG as I am sure that they will have other ideas.
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.
Vic Ambulance union bitterly disappointed
In last week's SafetyNet Victorian AEAV branch secretary, Mr Steve McGhie said our courts needed to adopt a 'zero-tolerance' policy in relation to abuse or assault against paramedics and emergency service workers. The union, as well as Ambulance Victoria, was left bitterly disappointed yesterday when the two women charged with assaulting two paramedics were spared jail, despite the law that assaults against emergency service workers attract mandatory sentences. Both women had pleaded guilty to having assaulted paramedics Paul Judd and Chenaye Bentley while they were trying to treat an unconscious man in March 2016. Mr Judd, a paramedic with 40 years experience, was repeatedly punched and left with a broken foot - he has had three operations and has been unable to return to work.
Amanda Warren was sentenced to eight months in jail, and Caris Underwood four months, by the Melbourne Magistrates Court. They appealed against their prison terms in the Victoria County Court. Yesterday Judge Barbara Cotterell said their 'difficult childhoods' and young families meant the mandatory minimum six-month term should not apply.
"Whilst having enormous sympathy for the victims who were attacked while going about their duties as emergency workers ... I have reached the conclusion that imposing the sentence at this stage would achieve little," she told the court.
Mr McGhie told The Age: "It [the quashing of the jail sentences] sends a terrible message to our members that they won't be protected by the law and it sends a message to potential offenders that they can go into court and claim special circumstances and get away with it. It's not good enough."
Read more: Ambos appalled as attackers spare jail News.com.au; 'Justice hasn't been done', says bashed ambo after women avoid jail, The Age
Check out Chanel 7 footage of Ambulance Victoria spokesperson and the two ambulance officers who were attacked speaking outside the court here.
James Hardie settles out of court
As reported in last week's SafetyNet, in a landmark case against James Hardie in the Brisbane Supreme Court, a 73-year old mesothelioma sufferer was suing the company for $5.9m after he was exposed to asbestos products as a carpenter in the 70s and 80s. Mr Syd Lacey was also seeking compensation for his lost capacity to act as a long-term carer for his sick wife.
He is now sure his wife will be cared for when he will be unable to do do so. Just one day after the trial began, Mr Lacey has reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with James Hardie, believed to be in the millions of dollars.
Spain: Landmark verdict for firefighter
The 13th Social Court of Barcelona, Spain has issued the first verdict condemning the "Generalitat" (Catalonia's government) for failing to protect a firefighter from asbestos exposure as a result of which he has contracted asbestosis. During the 1980s firemen in Barcelona City were provided with personal protective equipment made of asbestos and until the 1990s, contrary to health and safety regulations, the firemen were responsible for cleaning their work clothes and equipment.
See: Primera sentencia que condena a una Administración Pública por la exposición al amianto de un bombero [First sentence condemning a Public Administration for the exposure to asbestos of a firefighter]. Source: IBAS
India: Victimising the workers
A grassroots effort to identify workers with asbestos-related disease in an asbestos factory in Kolkata, India has resulted in the suspension of two workers who had been involved in organizing the initiative. Angered by the management's attempts to intimidate the workforce and punish full-time factory workers Arun Chakraborty and Goutam Sardar, former workmates have formed a "Struggle Committee" to increase the pressure on the management of Everest Industries Ltd. to withdraw the suspension orders and to progress efforts to improve the occupational health and safety regime at their workplace.
Read more. Source: IBAS
New Sunsmart newsletter
Even though it's no longer summer, outdoor workers need to keep taking care of their skin and sun exposure. The latest Cancer Council Victoria newsletter has dermatologist Victoria Mar's advice on checking your skin for cancer, plus a new Factsheet on UV. Check out the newsletter here.
International Union News
Pakistan: 23 miners killed in one day
In separate incidents on the same day, 23 mine workers were killed and 11 injured in horrific mine incidents in Pakistan's Balochistan province on 5 May.
According to reports, 16 workers were killed in a mine in the Marwar area when the mine collapsed at the exit point following a methane gas explosion. A private company, Pir Ismael, was operating the coal mine, and 25 to 30 workers were believed to at work at the time of the collapse.
In the second incident on the same day, seven workers in a state-owned mine run by the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) in the Sur-range area were killed by a mudslide.
Condemning the deaths and protesting against the negligence and apathy of the mine owners and the government, Pakistani trade unions, including IndustriALL affiliate PCMLF, organized protest actions in Quetta the following day.
Trade unions called for immediate action to hold those responsible to account and for appropriate compensation for the victims. The unions also called for strict implementation of mines safety laws and immediate ratification of ILO C176 on Safety and Health in Mines.
Sexism: it makes women sick
In a study recently published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers examined patterns of workplace discrimination and harassment in the U.S. and the consequences for physical and mental health. They had two goals: firstly to determine how pervasive these types of mistreatment were for women, as well as for men, and secondly to determine whether sexism, along with other forms of discrimination and harassment, contributed to health disparities between women and men.
The authors wrote: "Our results suggest that gender discrimination is responsible for around 9 to 10 percent of the gender gap in self-reported health. In other words, if we were to reduce the frequency of gender discrimination, we'd likely see a significant reduction in gender-based health inequality.
"Overall, our results suggest that sexism takes a toll on women's health and well-being. The high frequency with which women experience sexism – at work and elsewhere – underscores the importance of viewing it not only as a social justice issue, but also a public health issue."
Read more: Sexism isn't just unfair; it makes women sick, study suggests, The Conversation.
Catherine E. Harnois, João L. Bastos, Discrimination, Harassment, and Gendered Health Inequalities: Do Perceptions of Workplace Mistreatment Contribute to the Gender Gap in Self-reported Health? [Abstract] Journal of Health and Social Behaviour Article first published online: April 2, 2018.
Linfox/TWU study: Transport is a dangerous industry
Transport workers are up to five times more likely to be injured at work than any other Australian worker, according to new Monash research, with rail drivers in particular 30 times more likely to develop a mental health condition than any other worker.
These are just two of many significant findings in the first report of the National Transport Industry Health and Wellbeing Study, released last Friday by the Insurance Work and Health Group at Monash University.
The research, supported by Linfox Logistics and the Transport Workers Union, comes from the first stage of a detailed national study evaluating the health and safety of workers in the transport industry. Professor Alex Collie, director of the Insurance Work and Health Group, said transport workers were subject to a unique set of health risks in their working environment. These include sedentary jobs, long working hours and shift work, isolation, fatigue and sleep deprivation, etc.
"This study presents a national picture of the health of people working in the transport and logistics industry. Prior studies have focused on safety and specific groups of workers. We used a large and detailed national database of work injury claims to examine a range of different injuries and diseases that affect workers across the whole industry," said Professor Collie. "Our ultimate aim is to develop programs and services that can prevent illness and injury in the transport sector, and help people recover and return to work when they become sick."
Transport Workers Union national assistant secretary, Michael Kane, said the report's findings show that "pressures on transport workers, including long hours away from family, chronic fatigue and the stresses of meeting deadlines, are clearly taking their toll.
"It should serve as yet another example of the need for a check on the transport supply chain, to ensure that the major clients at the top are being held to account for the pressure they exert on the industry and its workforce," he said.
Sources: Linfox, TWU study: transport is dangerous. Transport and Logistics News, Health risks to transport workers revealed in new study SafetyCulture OHSNews Check out The Project's story on truck drivers and safety, here
Psychological distress in FIFO workers
Workers are drawn to fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) work by the large salaries on offer, with entry-level pay often more than $80,000. But there is increasing evidence that men, as they nearly all are, working in FIFO jobs have disproportionately high rates of mental health problems such as depression and stress.
In a paper published in The Medical Journal of Australia this week, a team of counsellors and researchers found that almost 30 per cent of the FIFO workers surveyed had high or very high levels of psychological distress. Researchers surveyed 1124 workers and found that more than 20 per cent rated their own mental health as poor or fair - this compares with approximately 15 per cent in the general population. The researchers found that male workers aged 25 to 34 on a two-weeks-on, one-week-off roster were most at risk of poor mental health.
The study also found that almost 40 per cent of men were stressed by their relationship with their partner, and almost 30 per cent by their relationship with their children. Financial stress was also a major factor, despite the high wages on offer.
The researchers concluded that the factors that contribute to the higher proportion of mental ill health in these workers need to be addressed, and the stigma associated with mental health problems reduced.
Read more: It pays well, but many FIFO workers wear 'golden handcuffs' The Age; Bowers, J, et al: Psychological distress in remote mining and construction workers in Australia [Full article] Med J Aust, doi: 10.5694/mja17.00950. Published online: 14 May 2018
How your workplace is killing you
The modern workplace can inflict potentially fatal levels of stress on employees, a succession of studies have shown. Stanford University Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Dying for a Paycheck, argues that these practices don't help companies – and warns governments are ignoring an emerging public health crisis.
In an online opinion piece for BBC Capital, the professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, links poor management practices to suicides, heart attacks and rampant work-related ill-health. "A paper I co-authored in a leading peer-reviewed journal estimated that there were 120,000 extra deaths annually in the US from harmful management practices, and that extra health-care costs were $190bn each year. That would make the workplace the fifth leading cause of death, worse than kidney disease or Alzheimer's," Pfeffer notes. "The workplace is making people sick and even killing them – and people should care. With rising health-care costs all over the world, the workplace has become an important public health problem."
The business professor concludes: "Few leaders seem to understand that when people come to work for them, those individuals have placed their physical and psychological well-being in the leaders' hands… People need to choose their employer not just for salary and promotion opportunities but on the basis of whether the job will be good for their psychological and physical health. Business leaders should measure the health of their workforce, not just profits. And governments concerned about the health-care cost crisis need to focus on the workplace, because workplace stress is clearly making people sick. None of this necessary – no one should be dying for a pay cheque."
BBC Capital. Dying for a Paycheck: How modern management harms employee health and company performance—and What We Can Do About It, HarperBusiness, March 2018.
Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stefanos Zenios. The relationship between workplace stressors and mortality and health costs in the United States, [Abstract] Management Science, volume 62, issue 2, pages 608-628, 13 March 2016. Source: Risks 848
Low diesel exhaust concentrations cause lung cancer
Canadian researchers from the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (Cancer Care Ontario) and other institutions, have reiterated urgent calls for employers to get rid of old diesel-powered machinery. They found that most lung cancers caused by occupational diesel engine exhaust (DEE) are the result of exposures to low concentrations of the substance - and warned that focusing interventions solely on reducing moderate or high DEE exposure will eliminate fewer than half of attributable lung cancer cases.
The researchers used Canadian census and labour force data and cancer registry statistics, and found 2.4 per cent of all lung cancers in Canada were caused by work-related DEE exposure, resulting in 456 deaths in 2011. They found that among the 1.61 million workers exposed to DEE at work from 1961 to 2001, half of the attributable lung cancer cases occurred in the 87 per cent who were exposed to low levels of DEE – about five micrograms per cubic metre (5ug/m3) – like motor vehicle drivers, railroad workers, firefighters and construction labourers.
Read more: Joanne Kim, et al, Burden of lung cancer attributable to occupational diesel engine exhaust exposure in Canada. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first April 2018, doi: oemed-2017-104950. More on Diesel. Source: OHS Alert
OHS Regulator News
Jobs at WorkSafe Victoria
The regulator is currently advertising ten positions on its 'Careers' website. There may be something for you - so check what's available, here.
The NSW regulator has recently released a number of alerts:
- a video: Working with Horses
- Unpacking glass sheets - In December 2016, a glazier suffered fatal crush injuries while using an overhead crane to move packaged sheets of glass. Whilst suspended slightly above an A-frame rack by the timber packaging, the vertical steel straps were cut to remove the bottom plywood sheet in preparation for lowering the pack onto the A-frame and unpacking the glass. Failure of the packaging resulted in the glass falling and toppling, fatally injuring the glazier. The alert people who handle packs of glass sheets not to rely on the packaging to support the contents when the package is being lifted or opened.
- another video: Working with hot oil. The video is a reminder that associated risks are not only burns but also slips, trips and falls.
Safe Work Australia News
Overhaul of Hazardous Chemicals Information System
SWA has added 755 chemicals to its Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS), and amended 672 already-listed chemicals, based on information published in tranches eight to 20 of NICNAS's Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and Prioritisation program.
To view the new entries and amendments, SWA advises stakeholders to go to the HCIS search page, click on "advanced search" and select a date range (such as 7 May 2018 to 11 May 2018). Each listed chemical includes a history outlining the date of its introduction to the HCIS and any subsequent changes made to its description.
This is excellent news as it means updated hazard information on chemicals that have been in use for many decades and the result of much work from unions and community organisations.
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
The national body has now updated its website. As of 11 May 2018, there had been 46 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is six more since the last update on 20 April: six more families who have lost someone through a work-related tragedy. These fatalities were: two in Agriculture, forestry & fishing; one each in the transport, postal and warehousing sector; construction; rental, hiring and real estate; and in mining. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 17 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 10 Construction
- 11 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 3 Mining
- 1 Administrative and support services
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Manufacturing
- 1 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 Wholesale trade
- 1 Rental, hiring and real estate
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.
Builder, scaffold business fined more than $60,000
Two Melbourne companies have been convicted and ordered to pay a total of $62,000 in fines in relation to scaffolding at a Bentleigh East development site.
Whineray Consulting Pty Ltd, trading as Topscaff Scaffolding, was found guilty of three charges, including two of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, and one of failing to ensure people other than employees were not exposed to risks posed by scaffolding at the Oslo Apartments Project.
Scaffolding at the site was leaning towards overhead powerlines during wind gusts that peaked at 57km/h on October 6, 2016. Plywood had also been attached to the outside of the scaffolding, increasing the chances of it collapsing in strong winds.
WorkSafe found Topscaff had failed to calculate wind and impact loads on the scaffolding and had not obtained engineering advice to address the risk. The court fined it $45,000 plus $4,699 in costs.
At a separate hearing, B Central Construction Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace by not providing adequate protection for pedestrians passing below the building as it was under construction.
A site inspection conducted by WorkSafe in August 2016 found there was no overhead protection, exclusion zone or alternative path provided. At the time, structural work on the third level was overhanging the footpath, exposing pedestrians to falling objects. The company was fined $17,000 plus $4089 in costs.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Worker trapped for two hours, employer fined $40,000
Rowville glass processor Jeld-Wen Glass Australia Pty Ltd has been fined $40,000 (plus costs of $4,725) without conviction, after emergency services took over two hours to free a worker became trapped under a two tonne glass block.
On 9 August 2016 large glass blocks were being moved by crane to a storage rack - a task which required the manual fitting and removal of two 'arms' and 'feet' to the blocks. The crane operator placed the block on the storage rack and the second worker removed the 'arms', but the 'feet' became blocked under the rack. The second worker, an experienced crane driver, took over the crane controls to try to move the grab, but as it moved, the glass block swung out and pinned him against another block by his right foot and left leg.
The investigation found the crane did not have a safety lifting system to warn workers when it was in operation nor an interlock device to stop it from operating when the feet and arms of the grab were disengaged.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Contractor fined £200,000 after dumper death
Civil engineering contractor Tonic Construction Ltd has been fined £200,000 (A$360,364) following the death of a worker who was hit by a toppling dumper. the court heard how the 29-year-old employee was driving a forward tipping dumper on 31 May 2016 onto the top of a spoil heap. The dumper became stuck on the edge of the spoil heap, and when the worker jumped off the vehicle, it flipped over striking him. He suffered serious head injuries, dying at the scene. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that it was the usual practice on this and other sites for dumpers to access spoil heaps with no barriers to prevent over-running. The danger was compounded in this case as an excavator had removed some of the spoil heap creating a sheer face. Tonic Construction Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of safety regulations and in addition to the fine, was ordered to pay costs of £5,565.80 (A$10,029). HSE inspector Sue Adsett said: "Risks associated with the creation of spoil heaps had not been suitably and sufficiently assessed. Either the company should have decided on a safer method which avoided the need for the dumper to access spoil heaps (as they have done after the accident), or they should have introduced stricter management arrangements which would have included bunds at a safe distance from the edge."
Source: Risks 848. Read more: HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.
Manufacturing firm fined £660,000 after trapped worker killed
A Somerset pre-cast concrete products manufacturing company has been fined after a 43-year-old man was fatally injured when trapped by machinery. The maintenance fitter employed by CPM Group Limited, was carrying out maintenance work while the machine was not isolated. A conveyor started moving and the man suffered fatal injuries when he got trapped.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, which occurred on the 3 October 2016, found the company had not implemented procedures to ensure machinery was isolated before starting maintenance work. The company pleaded guilty and was fined £660,000 (A$1,189,980) and ordered to pay costs of £14,563 (A$26,257). Read more: HSE news release.