SafetyNet 448, May 23, 2018
After the fatality last week, a number of OHS Network activists met at the Trades Hall to plan activities in the campaign to achieve Industrial Manslaughter legislation in Victoria. Have you signed our petition yet? Sign here now.
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!)
I work in an office environment. I understand that a lighting audit was carried out some years ago. Is there a requirement for audits to be carried out periodically?.
Lighting, lighting levels and audits are not specifically addressed in legislation. This is because OHS/WHS legislation in Australia is what we call 'objective based' – that is, the duties on employers require that they provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This is called the 'general duty of care', and this covers everything, including the lighting levels. But the law is not 'prescriptive' – that is, it does not mandate HOW this should be done. See this page on Duties of employers. In addition, under s22 of the Act, the employer must also monitor conditions at the workplace - such as light.
Dull, inadequate lighting is an OHS issue.. and is somewhat covered by the Compliance Code for Workplace amenities and work environment – which while not 'law' sets out what employers need to do in order to comply with their duties under s21 of the Act, and provides advice on lighting. There's also good advice in the WorkSafe publication Officewise. So yes, the employer must take action if there are concerns – see this page on the site for more information, including what's in the Code, and what should be done:
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.
Do you want to work at the VTHC?
The VTHC is looking for a part-time (0.9 EFT) Women's Safety and Rights Trainer. The position is based within We Are Union Women (WAUW) team which is dedicated to advancing the rights of working women across Victoria.
WAUW educate and organise women workers about their rights and safety at work, support unions to advance working women's rights and campaign for social change through building the capacity of unions and activists.
If you're interested you'll have to respond straight away, as applications close TODAY - but if you are interested contact the team as they would be prepared to extend the timeframe. Read more, including job description and who to contact, here.
Reminder: ACTU advertises new OHS position
A reminder that the ACTU Organising Centre has advertised the position of Online Education Officer – OHSHELP, to work in its new project which will transform and extend its OHS education and organising capacity through the development of online and digital learning resources. The OHSHELP Phone APP is being developed to assist organisers, Health and Safety Representatives and workers in Victoria and to build the capacity of Victorian Unions through technology, by providing a one-stop-shop for OHS educational resources. The position is based in Melbourne, fixed term for 12 months, full time (or a minimum of .6 EFT). Applications close COB 1 June, 2018. Applications can also be made online.
Read the position description and key selection criteria here.
HSR of the Year: nominate NOW!
This is your last chance to nominate yourself or your HSR for the WorkSafe HSR of the Year award! Get onto the WorkSafe Awards website and get nominating. Time is quickly running out - applications close on May 31. Check out our Facebook posts here and here.
All finalists attend the annual awards dinner - a fabulous event where we get to see a great video on the achievements of the HSRs and other entrants. Read about last year's HSR of the Year, Michael Muscat - a staunch union member and a great HSR at Visy Board Coolaroo for 19 years - and also check out the WorkSafe video.
Public outrage after ambos attackers walk free
In last week's SafetyNet we reported that the two women convicted of having assaulted the ambulance paramedics were spared custodial sentences, despite laws which are supposed to make jail time mandatory. The reaction of the general public, as well as Ambulance Victoria and the union, has led the Andrews state government to act quickly, promising that attacks on emergency workers will be treated the same as murder and "excuses" will be tightened in a review of the laws.
Charges of recklessly causing injury and recklessly or intentionally causing serious injury will become category one offences, the same as rape and murder, but charges can be dealt with by all three levels of court. Alcohol or drug impairment and psychosocial immaturity will be removed as special reasons in mitigation and courts must give less weight to the life circumstances of offenders, including traumatic childhoods.
The government plans on introducing the laws in the second sitting week of June. An emergency worker harm reference group, which will include union representatives, will also be created to implement the reforms and the Director of Public Prosecutions will get greater powers to appeal sentences.
Read more: SBS News online
James Hardie hit by increasing mesothelioma claims
The media has been reporting that a forecast of 1000 additional claims for asbestos-related compensation and the cost of a move to expand in Europe has affected James Hardie's full-year profit, which fell 47 per cent to $US146.1 million ($192.6 million). Mesothelioma claims in 2017-18 were 5 per cent higher than the previous year, leading consultancy firm KPMG to decide a surge in claims in recent years will not be temporary. It has elevated James Hardie's asbestos-related disease liabilities by $195.8 million, or 12 per cent, to $1.85 billion. The remodelled estimate anticipates 4528 mesothelioma claims over the next 50 years - up from the previous forecast of 3520.
NZ: Unsafe asbestos removal charges laid
New Zealand man has been sentenced on health and safety charges related to the unsafe removal of asbestos. The New Plymouth District Court imposed a fine of $35,000 in addition to ordering reparation of $2580.59 for site remediation and costs of $1297.50. According to the WorkSafe New Zealand report, in February 2017, the man began work on a New Plymouth property to remove asbestos-containing material from a shed. His conduct departed significantly from current asbestos regulations and included the use of hand tools to break up asbestos-containing material, no use of masks or proper protective clothing, and no management of airborne asbestos particles.
Source: Safety Solutions
International Union News
UK: Union takes pee protest to Amazon summit
Members of the union GMB protested outside a government-backed Amazon sales summit in Manchester to expose the abusive way the retail giant treats its warehouse workers. GMB organised its demonstration in after revelations about oppressive management techniques, with some workers resorting to urinating in plastic bottles rather than face disciplinary action for leaving their workstation. GMB accused the company was 'treating workers like robots'. GMB national officer Mick Rix said the union had about 1,000 members in Amazon. "We have decided to rock up and make a little bit of noise," he said, ahead of the 15 May protest. "We want to bring attention to a number of things that Amazon are doing in terms of their treatment of workers, and its all-aggressive way of operating. Trade unions make the workplace safer," Rix told Business Insider. Some of the measures Rix would like to see include more breaks introduced for warehouse workers. He would also like to see workers be able to 'slow down' during the day. A letter from the US National Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), published this week in the New York Times, criticised multibillionaire Amazon owner Jeff Bezos' statement that "the only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel." NYCOSH said it named Amazon as a 'Dirty Dozen' employer in the US this year, because of its abusive employment practices and record of seven warehouse deaths in five years. "Mr Bezos needs to pay much more attention to what is happening here on Earth," the safety group said.
Read more: Business Insider. New York Times letter and opinion. Source: Risks 849
Exercise is good for you - but hard labour isn't
Men who work as labourers or in other physically demanding roles have a greater risk of dying early than those with more sedentary jobs, a new study has found. The research, from an international team of researchers, reveals an apparent "physical activity paradox" where exercise can be harmful at work but beneficial to health when performed in leisure time.
Lead author Pieter Coenen, a public health researcher at VU University medical centre in Amsterdam, said he believes the disparity may reflect the different types of exercise people get at work compared with those in their free time. "While we know leisure-time physical activity is good for you, we found that occupational physical activity has an 18 per cent increased risk of early mortality for men," Coenen said. "These men are dying earlier than those who are not physically active in their occupation." He said the difference was not explained by 'lifestyle' factors.
His team combined the results from 17 published studies, giving them data on nearly 200,000 people. Most of the studies they included took lifestyle factors, such as smoking and alcohol intake, into account. "If you go out for a run for half an hour in your leisure time," Coenen said, "that increases your heart rate and you feel well afterwards, but when you are physically active at work, it's a very different type of activity. You are working for eight hours a day and have limited rest periods. You are lifting, doing repetitive movements, and manual handling." He added: "Our hypothesis is that these kinds of activities actually strain your cardiovascular system rather than help you to improve the fitness of your cardiovascular system."
Read more: Pieter Coenen, et al. Do highly physically active workers die early? A systematic review with meta analysis of data from 193 696 participants, [Abstract] British Journal of Sports Medicine, published Online First, 14 May 2018. Time magazine. The Guardian. The Independent. Source: Risks 849
OHS Regulator News
Victorian news Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on May 18. In this edition Steve Darnley from WorkSafe's Construction Program writes about the need to inspect and test portable electrical equipment on construction sites. This is useful advice for any workplace which uses portable electrical equipment.
Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from 25 April - 10 May 2018. Since the last edition of Safety Soapbox, there were 112 incidents serious enough to be reported reported to WorkSafe. many of the 'near misses' could have been fatalities - and one worker was lucky to be alive after being crushed between a trailer and a parked car. He suffered a broken leg, possible broken pelvis and crush injuries. There were also lacerations, fractures, falls, punctures, electric shocks and a carbon monoxide poisoning. Access the Mary 18 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
ACT News: spot fines to target falls from height
On-the-spot fines of up to $3,600 can now be issued by WorkSafe ACT to employers who put workers' safety at risk when working at height.
In a joint statement from Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, Rachel Stephen-Smith and Minister for Regulatory Services Gordon Ramsay, said "We know that working at height carries significant risks where any fall, even from a relatively low height, can have catastrophic consequences to a worker. Falls can be fatal, or leave a worker with life-changing injuries.
"So far in the 2017-18 year there have been 72 workers compensation claims in the ACT for falls from height. There have also been many more instances of near misses where appropriate safety protections have not been in place. This is simply unacceptable."
Read more: ACT Media Release
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
The national body has not updated its website since our last edition, when, as of 11 May 2018, there had been 46 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. 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.
Victoria: Second company convicted after apprentice seriously burnt
A plumbing company has become the second business to be convicted and fined over an incident in which an apprentice was seriously burned when he made contact with powerlines.
H&A Majestic Plumbing Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one charge (with two contraventions) under section 21(1) of the OHS Act in that it failed to provide a workplace that was safe and without risks to health. It was fined $40,000 in the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court and ordered to pay $9713 in costs.
The 23-year-old apprentice was working alone, installing fascia and guttering from the top level of scaffolding at a residential housing site at Coburg, when the incident occurred in October 2015. He received substantial burns to his left shoulder, arm and leg when guttering he was carrying made contact with 22kv powerlines. He received hospital treatment for three months and is still recovering from his injuries.
The court heard the scaffolding had been erected just 1.84 metres from overhead powerlines, which was within the minimum safe clearance distance or 'no go zone'. H&A Majestic Plumbing failed to prepare the Safe Work Method Statement required for high risk construction work and failed to obtain a permit for working in a 'no go zone' on scaffolding close to the high voltage powerlines.
In January this year Dhillon Scaffolding Pty Ltd, who erected the scaffolding, was convicted, fined $100,000 and ordered to pay $3503.45 in costs following the same incident. Dhillon was charged with breaching Section 26 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, in that it failed as a duty holder with management or control of a workplace to ensure that workplace was without risks to health and safety.
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
WA: Contractor fined over death of two workers
A contractor in Perth has been fined $160,000 for the deaths of two labourers who were killed by falling concrete tilt-up panels at a construction site.
On 25 November 2015, four workers from the site work entered an area for smoking breaks. The area had not been set up as an exclusion zone to prevent entry, even though it was adjacent to the trailer and the panel lifting had already begun. Six panels on the trailer had not been individually restrained. Each panel weighed in excess of three tonnes. As the third panel was lifted by a crane, the remaining unsecured panels on the trailer slipped and crashed onto the area where the workers were sitting. Two of the workers were killed - the other two were unharmed.
Axedale Holdings Pty Ltd, trading as Shaw's Cartage Contractors, among three parties charged, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of workers, and that failure causing their death. The two other parties have pleaded not guilty and the cases will be heard separately.
Read more: WorkSafe WA Media Release
WA: Company and director fined for safety lapses at Esperance worksite
Western Australian company FGS Contracting Pty Ltd and its director Ryan Wayne Franceschi, have been fined a total of $327,500 in relation to serious injuries caused to a young worker two years ago. The company was fined $225,000 in the Perth Magistrate Court on Friday for failure to meet their duty to provide a safe workplace and for failing to ensure the correct high-risk work license. The director was fined a total of $102,500.
On 18 May 2016, FGS was working to install a large steel shed on an Esperance farming property. The 17 year old construction labourer had climbed a ladder without being provided a helmet. Franceschi was driving a telehandler and alighted while it was in operation. The vehicle moved causing a substantial sized steel truss to fall and strike the young worker producing a fall and severe injury to his skull, jaw, shoulder and chest.
The employee, who was only a child at the time, did not have a construction induction training certificate – white card. The court found he received no proper training to perform the role which was performed without safety as a consideration.
Read more: WorkSafe WA Media Release