SafetyNet 450, June 6, 2018
It is with great sadness that we report that on Wednesday afternoon last week another young Victorian worker was killed after becoming entangled in a conveyor belt at a sawmill in Benalla.
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Tragedy in Benalla
A 24 year old worker has died after he became entangled on a conveyor belt at a timber mill in Victoria's north-east, the second fatal workplace tragedy in the area within a week. The worker, who it appears was a labour hire worker, was killed at Benalla's D&R Henderson timber yard on Benalla-Yarrawonga Road at 12.30pm on Wednesday May 30.
CFMEU assistant secretary Andrew Vendramini told The Border Mail, "We're not entirely sure what happened, there were no witnesses." He said that colleagues had told him the man was a young father to a two-year-old and expecting another child with his partner. WorkSafe and the police went to the site to investigate.
This fatality brings the official number of workplace deaths in Victoria this year to 11 (note that there has been at least one fatality on a farm which is currently under review as to whether it was a workplace death).
This most recent fatality occurred just days after two workers at Norske Skog paper mill in Ettamogah died after they were exposed to toxic gas. A third worker remains in a critical condition at an Albury hospital.
Sources: WorkSafe; The Age
MBAV opposes Industrial Manslaughter laws
In a not unexpected move, the Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBAV) has released a statement opposing the Industrial Manslaughter laws announced by Premier Daniel Andrews at the ALP State Conference. The MBAV was one of the more vocal employer organisations which opposed similar legislation 20 years ago.
"Master Builders Victoria considers that workplace safety is a key priority for the organisations that we represent and any initiatives that are directed at genuinely increasing safety in workplaces in Victoria are supported. However, we do not consider that the concept of Industrial Manslaughter laws as announced by the Victorian Government this weekend will achieve those aims," Radley de Silva, MBAV CEO, said.
"The announcement on Saturday from the Andrews Labor Government that, if re-elected, they will legislate for industrial manslaughter under the Victorian OHS Act is totally ideologically driven and flies in the face of Victoria's improved safety performance over the past decade."
He repeated the tired argument that: "Advocates of industrial manslaughter rules ignore the fact that there are already laws in place to prosecute employers, senior managers and workers who are negligent in providing for the safety of people in workplaces," and that "Current criminal offences like manslaughter already provide avenues to prosecute those that cause workplace deaths."
These are the same arguments of 20 years ago, and ignores the facts that under the current laws no employer has been jailed for negligence causing the death of a worker, that in most cases totally inadequate fines have been imposed, that prosecuting employers under Common Law Manslaughter is almost impossible, and that workers continue to be killed due to negligent employers. So something is not working: the system is broken and needs to be fixed!
Read more: MBAV Media Release Industrial Manslaughter Law does nothing to to improve safety To find out why we need Industrial Manslaughter legislation, take a look at this video of Dr Gerry Ayres, CFMEU OHS Manager.
Chronic understaffing in nursing homes - bad for patients bad for workers
The ANMF has a new campaign to improve the conditions in our nursing homes. It says that chronic understaffing is leaving thousands of elderly Australians unfed or unwashed. The union says that over the past 13 years, this understaffing has seen a 400% increase in preventable deaths of elderly Australians in aged care with hundreds dying from falls, choking and suicide.
Hard-pressed nurses and carers do the best they can in impossible circumstances, but they are run off their feet and can't provide the care they want to.
And while they struggle because there is simply not enough of them, last year*, owners of aged care facilities racked up over $1 billion in profits while cutting staff. The union says the Andrews Government has legislated ratios in Victorian public sector nursing homes, and now the Federal Government needs to do the same in private and not-for-profit nursing homes. Read more and join the campaign: More staff for aged care, ANMF
REMINDER: VTHC online survey for LGBTIQA+ workers
The VTHC's We Are Union Pride Team has launched an online survey to help identify what the key challenges facing LGBTIQA+ workers are, to collect key statistical information about workplaces for LGBTIQA+ people, and for workers to tell us what the solutions are – because they are the experts and know what the solutions are.
The team is planning to put together an organising tool using the results of the survey, which they will utilise to influence policy and campaign decision making, and most importantly, to provide the union movement with a mandate to stand in solidarity with LGBTIQA+ workers and their struggles.
Have a say; make a difference: take the survey now, pass it on to your friends and colleagues. All information collected in this survey will remain confidential and de-identified. The VTHC will never pass on any details to any third party.
By law, it is mandatory for the employer to provide training (initial and refresher) to HSRs. Is the company at breach of their obligation under the Act, if the HSR refuses to attend a refresher training?
Under s67 of the Act the employer has a duty to pay the fees and reasonable associated costs for elected HSRs (and deputies) to attend a regulator approved training course of their choice – both the initial five day and the subsequent annual refresher training. (see: Right to Training)
Under the Act it is not mandatory for HSRs to attend training – but is highly encouraged and as unions we recommend that they do so. There are at times changes in the law – certainly in the past couple years we've had updated regulations, and new Compliance Codes are now being written and declared, and the 'old' ones updated.
However if an HSR does not wish to attend training in Victoria, he or she has the right to exercise any and all of their powers.
However, this is not the case for HSRs under the WHS Act – HSRs cannot issue a PIN or a 'Cease Work notice' until such time as they have completed the initial training.
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
Plant demolition failure
Last week we reported that the defunct Alcoa power station on Victoria's Surf Coast was to be demolished with explosives on that Wednesday morning. Many Angelsea residents were concerned that they had not been properly informed especially in view of potential asbestos contamination. Well, we discovered that afternoon that the demolition failed. They are now calling for an independent judicial inquiry into the failure.
NSW: serial dumper sentenced to jail
A serial waste dumper has become the first person in New South Wales, and perhaps in Australia, to be jailed for illegal dumping. Dib Hanna was sentenced to three years after pleading guilty to five acts of illegal dumping in Sydney's West between November 2015 and Jan 2016. He will be eligible for parole in July 2020. He was also fined a record $225,000 after being caught on camera unloading 80 tonnes of asbestos-riddled material at Picnic Point.
Note that Mr Hanna was charged by the NSW Environment Protection Authority with eight offences against section 144AB ("Repeat waste offenders") of the State Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.
ASEA Conference Registrations now open
Registrations are now open for this year's ASEA conference 'Asbestos: the next national plan - proactivity, prevention, planning'. ASEA is urging those interested to take advantage of their exclusive super early bird rates and save up to $300 on registrations when they register by Friday 29 June (5pm AEDT).
Guard of honour for Norske Skog worker
Workers from the paper mill and members of Cathie's Celtic Dance formed a guard of honour outside St Matthew's Anglican Church in Albury on Monday for a worker who was killed in a workplace incident near Albury, on the NSW-Victoria border. Benjamin William Pascall, 28, was one of two workers killed at Norske Skog paper mill after a suspected hydrogen sulphide gas leak.
Mr Pascall was found unconscious at the Norske Skog site at Ettamogah on May 24 after workers were overcome by the gas during routine maintenance. He later died at Albury Base Hospital, along with 36-year-old co-worker Lyndon Quinlivan. The funeral for Mr Quinlivan, who was a father of two, was scheduled to be held at St Matthew's today.
A worker who was in a critical condition, Thomas Johnson, 22, has been taken off life-support as he is now in a stable condition and expected to recover.
Source: ABC news online
International Union News
UK: Union 'victory' as Uber concedes new rights for drivers
The union GMB has scored a hard-fought victory after cab hailing company Uber agreed to give drivers a range of employment benefits in the UK. The company said it will now give its drivers access to medical cover, compensation for work-related injuries, sick pay, parental leave and bereavement payments. This is a big shift from October 2016, when the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled in GMB's favour and determined that Uber drivers are not self-employed, but workers entitled to basic workers' rights including holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks. The Employment Appeal Tribunal then upheld the ruling in November 2017. Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: "This is a well-deserved victory for GMB's hard fought campaign. GMB has fought Uber tooth and nail in the courts, the workplace and on the international stage to bring about this change. At long last it seems Uber are starting to listen to GMB members complaints regards the company's treatment of drivers and denying them their rights." He added the announcement "is an acknowledgment that if you work in the gig economy, for companies like Uber, GMB is the union that will fight for your rights." Announcing the changes on 23 May, Uber admitted it had "focused too much on growth and not enough on the people who made that growth possible. We called drivers 'partners,' but didn't always act like it." Read more: GMB news release. Uber news release. Source: Risks 851
Work ability factors affect RTW
Women are more susceptible than men to musculoskeletal pain – a leading cause of sick leave – according to findings from a European study, which also found employers can improve their return-to-work outcomes by focusing on three "work ability" factors.
The researchers from the University of Gävle's Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies surveyed 208 Swedish blue and white-collar female workers on sick leave, and found the three factors impacted on the work ability of those with long-term neck or back pain. They also found that those reporting high levels of "self-efficacy and sense of coherence", that is an ability to "perceive life as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful", had the greatest wellbeing scores, while rising depression levels drastically decreased wellbeing scores.
The work ability factors identified by the researchers are:
- Pain intensity, (increased musculoskeletal pain has been linked to lower work ability);
- High job strain, where high demands are combined with low decision latitude; and
- Believing you will return to work in the same role, with the current and earlier studies "demonstrating that internal health-related control beliefs are an important individual resource that might moderate the effect of work-related stressors on work ability".
Read more: Mamunur Rashid, et al, Factors related to work ability and well-being among women on sick leave due to long-term pain in the neck/shoulders and/or back: a cross-sectional study. [Open Access] BMC Public Health, published online May 2018, doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5580-9. Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe Victoria launches campaign on workplace safety
Victoria's regulator launched a major advertising campaign last weekend which shares the views of working Victorians to highlight the changing nature of what it means to be safe and healthy at work. The campaign features people from a range of different industries talking about workplace health and safety.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said the campaign, based on extensive research which showed that community ideas about workplace health and safety were broadening as Victoria's workforce evolved, would reinforce the importance of physical and mental health, safety and wellbeing for everyone in every workplace.
The campaign, which carries the tagline "everyone, every workplace", will run in two phases. Phase one will focus on "what safety is not" in television commercials, outdoor, radio and digital advertising. Phase two of the campaign will build on the messages contained in phase one, and will commence in the second half of 2018. Read more: WorkSafe media release
New from the regulators
- WA has issued a safety alert after a maintenance worker was fatally struck in the head. Preliminary evidence indicates the employee may have been struck in the head by a 48 inch pipe wrench spanner. The spanner was attached to the rotating drill rod at the drill table section of a rock drilling truck.
- Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued:
- SafeWorkNSW has released a video safety alert warning against cutting old drums, which can contain flammable substances and explode even after they've been cleaned.
Safe Work Australia News
As of 1 June 2018, there had been 58 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is three more than the update on 25 May - three in one week. These fatalities were: one each in Transport, postal and warehousing; manufacturing; and mining. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 22 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 13 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 10 Construction
- 4 Mining
- 4 Manufacturing
- 2 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 Administrative and support services
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 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 published by SWA is for December 2017. During this month there were 21 work-related notifiable fatalities: 14 male workers, three male bystanders, two female workers, and two female bystanders.
Of the 21 fatalities, six fatalities were as a result of a vehicle accident - air crash, five were as a result of a vehicle accident - public road crash, three each were as a result of being hit by falling object, and vehicle accident - other. The four remaining fatalities were due to other types of incidences.
Ten fatalities occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing workplaces, four in Agriculture, forestry & fishing workplaces, two each in Construction and Manufacturing workplaces, and one each occurred in Retail trade, Public administration & safety and Other services workplaces.
Monthly reports for October and November were not published in full, but the number of fatalities for these months were 21 and 25 respectively. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Excavation company fined $80k for wall collapse
Mask Rentals Pty Ltd, a company involved in excavation works in the construction industry, has been convicted and fined over an incident in which a wall collapsed. In September 2015 it was undertaking excavation and stockpiling works at a vacant block of land in Brunswick East for Mia Mia Apartments, in close proximity to a building on the northern boundary. Mask Rentals failed to identify hazards and risks associated with the work, and failed to implement effective risk control measures implemented. While doing this work on 29 September 2015, the wall started to collapse and the occupants of the building managed to escape before part of the wall and the roof of the building collapsed inwards. Mask Rentals pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $80,000 plus $10,000 in costs.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Contractor and architect fined over site shambles
A main contractor and a building's architect have been fined for "a total disregard for health and safety and site management" on a care home extension in Devon. Exeter Magistrates' Court heard that, in early 2016, a concern was raised about the lack of health and safety controls at a large timber frame extension being built onto Manor Lodge Residential Home in Exmouth. On 1 March 2016, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors visited the site and found numerous health and safety breaches. During the site inspection, uncontrolled high-risk activities were witnessed that put workers at risk of death, serious injuries or ill health. The risks included falls from height, fire, slips and trips and poorly controlled wood dust. The inspection found there was a total disregard for health and safety and site management - in particular, the risk of fire spread associated with the construction of a timber frame extension adjoining an existing building. Around 80 physically or mentally impaired residents of the home were put at risk of injury or death due to the possibility of fire spreading into the home. Principal contractor Coast & Country Construction Limited, formerly known as Make a Loft a Home had a duty to control how the work was carried out and to ensure that the work would be completed safely. The timber frame extension work was designed by Paul Humphries Architects Ltd who failed to perform their duties as the principal designer and failed to consider the risk of fire spread to the vulnerable residents. Coast & Country Construction Limited did not attend court but was convicted of safety breaches in its absence and was fined £150,000 (A$261,588) and ordered to pay costs of £6,039 (A$10,532). Companies House records show Coast & Country went into voluntary liquidation in April. Paul Humphries Architects Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of safety regulations and was fined £20,000 (A$34,876) and ordered to pay costs of £6,039 (A$10,532).
Read more: HSE news release. Source: Risks 851
Company gets £500k fine over overhead power line strike
A UK construction company has been fined after a tipper vehicle driven by one of its employees came into contact with overhead power lines during the construction of a waste transfer station. The Court heard that in March 2016 a driver employed by Mick George Ltd was emptying a load of soil from his tipper vehicle at a site in Northampton. The firm had already identified the need for 'permanent protection structures' – known as 'goalposts' - but after an initial delay only one was installed. In order to empty the last of the load from his vehicle, the driver pulled forward with the vehicle's body raised and the vehicle touched, or came close to touching, the 33kV overhead power lines (OPLs). The vehicle suffered minor damage but the driver was unhurt. An investigation by the HSE showed that the company should have assessed the risks from OPLs more rigorously and realised its system of work was inadequate to reduce the risk of tipper vehicles striking an OPL. Mick George Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) and was fined £566,670 (A$987649) and ordered to pay costs of £9,000 (A$15,686). HSE inspector Stuart Parry commented: "Every year in the UK, two people are killed and many more injured when mechanical plant and machinery comes into contact or close proximity to OPLs. This was a very serious incident and it is fortunate nobody was injured as a result."
Read more: HSE news release Source: Risks 851
Pakistan: Call for dangerous owners to lose their mines
Mineowners in Pakistan should be stripped of their mine leases if they ignore safety standards, the chair of a human rights commission has said. The call came after the All Pakistan Labour Foundation told a Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights meeting on 23 May that nearly 50 miners have died in Pakistan's mines in two months. Foundation president Sultan Mohammad Khan was giving evidence to a committee briefing considering two recent mining accidents in Balochistan in which there were multiple fatalities. The Senate meeting was told more workers are dying today in the country's mines than 100 years ago: there are no safety measures being practised inside mines, in complete disregard of workers' lives. The foundation president said mineowners subcontracted operation of their mines, with some subcontractors then selling on the contract again. "Neither party invests in safety measures such as strengthening the basic structure inside the mines, emergency exits, escape ducts for gases and other health precautions," Khan said.
He added that rescue workers lack the skills and training to perform emergency operations after mining incidents. The National Commission on Human Rights chair, retired Justice Ali Chohan, recommended cancelling leases to mineowners who fail to ensure health and safety standards are maintained. Balochistan Home Secretary Ghulam Ali Baloch echoed the suggestion: "Ownership should be cancelled if there are deaths due to negligence of mineowners," he said, adding this was "the only way to ensure the precious lives of workers are not lost."
Read more: Daily Dawn. Labour Watch Pakistan. Source Risks 851
USA: Trump to dump safety rules five years after catastrophe
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to roll back chemical plant safety reforms that the Obama administration proposed after 15 volunteer firefighters died in a fertiliser plant explosion that destroyed large parts of the city of West, Texas, five years ago. The proposed rollback means the disaster, which exposed wide safety gaps in the industry and its oversight, will result in no significant federal regulatory changes. Industry groups have applauded the retreat from the Obama-era reforms, with Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge calling the scaled-back rules "another victory for common sense over environmental radicalism" - a comment the EPA included in a press release. Texas was among the states that asked the EPA to stop the reforms, arguing that a proposal to make chemical information more readily available to the public could help terrorists. Among the problems and investigation by the US Chemical Safety Board identified in the West explosion was that locals weren't sufficiently aware of the fertiliser ammonium nitrate's ability to explode. The volunteer firefighters who rushed in may have taken a different approach if they had been fully aware of the risks, and city officials could have curbed residential development near the plant. West mayor Tommy Muska said the rollback of regulations was unwarranted and dangerous. "With all due respect to [EPA director] Scott Pruitt, he's never lost 15 firefighter friends," Muska told the American-Statesman. "I'm as pro-business as anyone, but some things are way, way, way more important than too much regulation, and that includes the safety of these chemical plants." Read more: EPA news release. Austin-American Statesman. Confined Space blog.
Source: Risks 851