SafetyNet 451, June 13, 2018
Welcome to another edition of SafetyNet. Feel free to make any comments on any issues raised here by sending an email here. (Please don't 'reply' to your email!)
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Coroner's ruling on fatal wall collapse
Last Thursday, Victoria's State Coroner Sara Hinchey, ruled that construction giant Grocon was responsible for the safety of a wall that collapsed on a Melbourne CUB site, in Swanston Street, in 2013, killing three pedestrians who were walking past at the time. She found the onus to ensure the wall's structural integrity rested with Grocon, which owned the site at that time.
A subsidiary of Grocon was fined $250,000 in 2014 over the collapse, after pleading guilty to failing to provide a safe workplace. And in 2016, contractor Aussie Signs Pty Ltd was fined $250,000 in the County Court after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to ensure people were not exposed to risk.
At the time of the collapse, Grocon was engaged in a bitter dispute with the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, which has been fined millions for safety-related actions it has taken on building sites. Read more: The Age
My employer has told the staff that we are no longer allowed to take a bathroom break if we are working a shift 3-5 hours long and that we can only take bathroom breaks with our lunch and rest breaks. Is this allowed?
I cannot believe it! This is the second such inquiry I have had TODAY involving employers not allowing their workers to go to the toilet! What sort of people are these?
Of course this sort of 'direction' is not acceptable – and although it's not specifically covered under OHS legislation, it's absolutely an OHS issue.
Under s21 of the OHS Act, the employer has a general duty of care to provide and maintain for employees a working environment – and this includes ensuring that the 'systems of work are safe and without risks to health'. (see Duties of employers) Not allowing workers to take a toilet break when they need to is to place their health at risk.
there are a number of issues surrounding both scheduled and unscheduled breaks - issues such as fatigue, needing to stop to eat and drink, and sometimes, just needing to go to the toilet! See this page on Breaks.
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
Morewell Power Station: riddled with asbestos, to be demolished
Heritage Victoria has granted permission for the derelict Morwell Power Station in the Latrobe Valley to be demolished, despite it being listed on the Victorian heritage register. The demolition permit applies to the coal-fired power station, but not the associated briquette factory, which is expected to be returned to use as an industrial site in the future.
The Morwell Power Station opened in the 1950s but has fallen into disrepair since it closed in 2014.The site contains between 10,000 and 15,000 cubic metres ofasbestos, mainly in the power station. Energy Brix Australia wants to bury the old asbestos onsite, about 600 metres from homes. Latrobe City councillors were unable to reach a decision regarding the asbestos cell at last week's meeting, with some councillors citing concerns nearby residents would suffer if the process was not performed correctly.
Read more: ABC news online; Latrobe Valley Express.
Company contesting asbestos-related charges
A company is contesting charges it started to remove asbestos at Sovereign Hill without monitoring conditions as required by the regulations. Sodomaco Investments claims the Victorian Workcover Authority cannot prove friable asbestos was removed from the outdoor museum's Taylor's Cottage on March 24, 2016. A contested mention at the Ballarat Magistrates Court last week was told Sodomaco Investments workers attended Sovereign Hill with a hygienist and removed vinyl floor tiles.
However the company's defence barrister said WorkSafe could not prove the work involved asbestos because there was no sample. Sodomaco Investments faces two charges, including failing to monitor conditions and failing to ensure people were not exposed to health risks. A further contested mention will be held in July.
Source: The Ballarat Courier
Mum's mesothelioma caused by hugging father Plant demolition failure
43 year old Mornington Peninsula GP and mother of two, Kate Richmond's story is a tragic one - unfortunately one that we have heard before. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma - the cause of which is quite likely to have been the hugs she gave her father when he came home from work when she was just a child. Her mother died of lung cancer in 2017 - but her father, who worked in manufacturing for over 18 years and was exposed to asbestos, has not contracted the disease.
Read more: Mamamia
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).
CFEMU issues alert on Working Alone
The National CFMEU construction branch has issued an alert for its members in the wake of what it says is an increased tendency in the industry for workers to be working alone.
Read more: CFMEU Alert [pdf]; FAQ on Working Alone
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.
International Union News
ILO calls for the elimination of hazardous child labour
On June 12, World Day Against Child Labour 2018, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) put the spotlight on ending hazardous child labour. It is a priority in the wider ILO campaigns against child labour and for safe and healthy work for youth of legal working age – Generation Safe & Healthy.
The ILO says that approximately 73 million children are in hazardous work – almost half of the 152 million children aged 5 to 17 still in child labour. These children are toiling in mines and fields, factories and homes, exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances, carrying heavy loads or working long hours. Many suffer lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Their very lives can be at risk.
Read more: ILO Statement
UK: Amazon workers hospitalised and in constant agony
The 'terrible conditions' and poor treatment of workers in Amazon warehouses have been exposed in an investigation by the UK union GMB. The union says hundreds of ambulance callouts, people in constant agony and heavily pregnant women being forced to work standing, have also been uncovered. A series of freedom of information requests submitted to ambulance services across Britain revealed ambulances have been called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses in the last three financial years. In more than half of the cases, patients were taken to hospital. During the past three calendar years at Amazon's Rugeley site, ambulances were called 115 times, including three for women for pregnancy or maternity related issues and three for major trauma. Other 'disturbing' examples in the GMB dossier on Amazon include electrocution, unconsciousness, building on fire and chest pains. The union says at a similar sized supermarket distribution warehouse a few miles away, there were just eight call outs during the same period. A separate survey of GMB members working at Amazon warehouses revealed 87 per cent are in pain some or all of the time due to their workload.
GMB national officer Mick Rix said: "Hundreds of ambulance call outs, pregnant women telling us they are forced to stand for ten hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles – even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work. I've never seen figures like this - Amazon Rugeley must be one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain. Amazon should be absolutely ashamed of themselves." He added: "GMB is here to provide a voice for our members and achieve dignity at work. Companies like Amazon should be treating staff with respect, not treating them like robots."
Read more: GMB news release. The Guardian. Source: Risks 852
Asia: Female garment workers for Gap and H&M routinely abused
Pressure to meet fast fashion deadlines is leading to women working in Asian factories supplying Gap and H&M being sexually and physically abused, according to unions and labour rights groups. More than 540 workers at factories supplying the two retailers have described incidents of threats and abuse, according to two separate reports from Global Labour Justice on gender-based violence in Gap and H&M's garment supply chains. The reports claim these allegations, recorded between January and May this year in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are a direct result of pressure for quick turnarounds and low overheads. Jennifer Rosenbaum, US director of Global Labour Justice, said: "We must understand gender-based violence as an outcome of the global supply chain structure. H&M and Gap's fast fashion supply chain model creates unreasonable production targets and underbid contracts, resulting in women working unpaid overtime and working very fast under extreme pressure." Debbie Coulter, of the Ethical Trading Initiative, of which both Gap and H&M are members, said: "These allegations are deeply concerning. Gender-based violence is unacceptable under any circumstances, and brands need to make sure that women working in their supply chain are protected. We expect H&M and Gap to investigate these allegations, and to work with supplier factories so that any women affected have swift access to remedy. ETI will be in regular contact with these members and will offer support where appropriate to ensure a swift resolution for all workers affected."
Read more: Global Labour Justice news release [pdf]; Gap and H&M reports. Fashion United. Source: Risks 852
Stressful jobs linked to deadly heart rhythm disorders
Having a stressful job is associated with a higher risk of a heart rhythm disorder, according to new Swedish research. The study found the most stressful jobs, linked to a higher risk of atrial fibrillation, are psychologically demanding but give employees little control over the work situation – for example, assembly line workers, bus drivers, secretaries, and nurses. The findings, which used data from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH), have been published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The study found that being stressed at work was associated with a 48 per cent higher risk of atrial fibrillation, after adjustment for age, sex, and education.
Lead author Dr Eleonor Fransson of Jönköping University, Sweden, said: "We need people to do these jobs but employers can help by making sure staff have the resources required to complete the assigned tasks. Bosses should schedule breaks and listen to employees' ideas on how the work itself and the work environment can be improved." Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). Symptoms include palpitations, weakness, fatigue, feeling light headed, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Atrial fibrillation causes 20–30 per cent of all strokes and increases the risk of dying prematurely. Dr Fransson said: "In the general working population in Sweden, employees with stressful jobs were almost 50 per cent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. The estimated risk remained even after we took into account other factors such as smoking, leisure time physical activity, body mass index, and hypertension." She concluded: "Work stress should be considered a modifiable risk factor for preventing atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease. People who feel stressed at work and have palpitations or other symptoms of atrial fibrillation should see their doctor and speak to their employer about improving the situation at work."
Read more: European Society of Cardiology news release. Eleonor I Fransson, et al. Job strain and atrial fibrillation – Results from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health and meta-analysis of three studies [Full article], European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 30 May 2018. DOI: 10.1177/2047487318777387 Source: Risks 852
Styrene ranking upgraded to 'probably carcinogenic'
Styrene, a key component for many plastics and synthetic rubber, is 'probably carcinogenic to humans', according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). An assessment this year by an IARC expert working group said there was now sufficient evidence to change its cancer rating from group 2B – 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' – to 2A, a probable cause of cancer in humans. Globally, manufacturers produce about 20m tonnes of styrene per year, according to the International Styrene Industry Forum (ISIF). This is used primarily as a monomer in the production of plastics, particularly polystyrene, which accounts for about half of global production. The evidence from human studies – which focused on workers making reinforced plastics – was 'limited', said IARC's monograph working group, in a summary paper published in The Lancet Oncology. The studies did provide "credible evidence that exposure to styrene causes lymphohaematopoietic malignancies", but there was no way to rule out "confounding, bias or chance." Animal studies provided "sufficient" evidence of a cancer association. Professor Henrik Kolstad of Aarhus University in Denmark, a member of the IARC working group, said: "The most recent styrene study shows the risk of acute myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of leukaemia, is doubled. Out of the more than 70,000 people included in the research project, we found 25 cases of acute myeloid leukaemia, where you would statistically expect to find 10. Research also found a five-fold increase in the risk of sinonasal adenocarcinoma – nasal cancer – among those who are exposed to styrene in the plastic industry."
Read more: Manolis Kogevinas and others. Carcinogenicity of quinoline, styrene, and styrene-7,8-oxide [Full article available free on registration], The Lancet Oncology, volume 19, issue 6, pages 728-729, 2018. The Daily Mail. Source: Risks 852
OHS Regulator News
1 - Treasury and Finance Legislation Amendment Bill
A Bill was tabled in Victoria's Lower House later last week setting out a number of changes to the Transport Accident Act, the OHS Act, the Dangerous Goods Act, The Equipment (Public Safety) Act, the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, the Accident Compensation Act and the Emergency Services Superannuation Act. The Bill must now be passed by the Upper House before it takes effect. The changes to the OHS Act are, in brief:
- combining sections 35 & 36 (Employer's duty to consult). This change means that a breach of what was s36 now attracts a penalty, making it clear that a PIN can be issued on the basis of failing to comply
- changes to how a PIN or an inspector's notice are served - to take into account serving by electronic means
- changes to the time frames in s131
2 - OHS Amendment Regulations, 2018
Amendments to the regulations have been made. These changes are:
- Lead (to take effect two years after the commencement of these amendments - in 2020):
- the exposure standard will be 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre (currently the exposure standard is 0.15 m/m3) and
- changes to the definition of 'lead-risk work'
- changes to the requirements to undertake biological monitoring
- changes to when removal from lead-risk work must take place, the medical examination which must be carried out subsequent to removal, and the return to work
- Changes to Schedule 3 (High Risk Work Licence Classes) - licences will now be required for vehicle loading cranes only if they have a capacity of 10 metre tonnes or more.
WorkSafe Victoria new guidance
The Construction Program in partnership with EnergySafe Victoria and stakeholders has recently finalised a new NO-GO-ZONE guidance document Guidebook - Using powered mobile plant near overhead assets [pdf].
This document replaces the old 2004 guidance "Framework for undertaking work near overhead and underground assets". While the new guidance is consistent with the old framework guidance, the content has been simplified to make it easier for both the public and inspectors to understand the requirements.
The last edition of Safety Soapbox was posted on June 1 (sorry - missed it last week!) In this edition Brian Chamberlin - Construction Industry Education Officer, writes about battery powered circular saw injuries to apprentices.
Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from 11 - 24 May 2018. Since the last edition of Safety Soapbox, there were 89 incidents serious enough to be reported reported to WorkSafe. Among the incidents were fractures, amputations, fall, punctures and even a snake bite! Access the June 1 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
Major WHS amendments strengthen unions' role in ACT
The ACT Government has introduced a WHS Amendment Bill [pdf] requiring the principal contractors of major construction projects – with a contract price of more than $5 million – to consult with eligible unions on the establishment of work groups and election of health and safety representatives before project work begins. These principal contractors will also be required to establish a health and safety committee (HSC) and provide appropriate training to both HSC members and elected HSRs, with non-compliance attracting fines of up to $50,000 for bodies corporate and $10,000 for individuals.
Source: OHS Alert
Eleven sites shut down after teenager's death
BuzzFeed News has revealed that eleven outdoor Work for the Dole sites run by employment contractor NEATO in Queensland – where young people were given jobs upgrading toilet blocks, weeding and watering – have been shut down. The government-sponsored sites were suspended in the months following the death of 18-year-old Josh Park-Fing more than two years ago at the Toowoomba Showgrounds.
Josh's family is still waiting for answers over the cause of his death. The department has continually refused freedom of information requests to release a copy of the Work for the Dole risk assessment for the Toowoomba work site where he died, because it contains information that could "harm" NEATO. Josh's father says text messages exchanged with his son hours before his death show the teenager was injured yet made to continue working. Read more: BuzzFeed News
An incident alert: after a worker received severe head injuries while removing a hose from a 100 tonne pressure vessel. The regulator's initial inquiries indicate the worker was bleeding the vessel when he was struck on the head by the hose, rendering him unconscious. He died of his injuries in hospital. Read more.
Five point safety package for bus drivers
The Queensland Government has announced it will roll out a five-point safety package for bus drivers across the state. The package includes grants for driver safety barriers and will tackle violence against bus drivers. The package is released as part of its final response to the Bus Driver Safety Review.
The plan will provide:
- Physical safety measures – $3.93m for protective driver safety barriers to be installed in buses, $1.54m for anti-shatter window film installation on all Queensland buses, and reinforce contractual requirements for operators to provide onboard CCTV, duress and radio systems;
- Targeting high-risk areas and building a safety culture – consistent and simplified incident reporting in order to ensure resources aimed at improving driver safety are deployed where they are most needed;
- Policy and procedure changes – Introduce a Code of Conduct for Passengers, improve incident reporting procedures and provide customer service cards to drivers to assist with de-escalation of potential incidents;
- Education and increased safety awareness – develop a public awareness campaign promoting safe travel behaviours and expand the Step Up school safety education program; and
- Sharing best industry practice – De-escalation training, recruitment and training processes, and fare evasion awareness.
Read more: Queensland Government media release
Safe Work Australia News
There has not been an update on the number of fatalities notified to Safe Work Australia since 1 June at which date there had been 58 fatalities. 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 remains for December 2017, during which there 21 work-related notifiable fatalities: 14 male workers, three male bystanders, two female workers, and two female bystanders. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Manufacturing company fined $30k
A company manufacturing a range of timber products including drums, cable drum kits, barrels, boxes, crates, planter boxes, tables and seating has been convicted and fined $30,000 after a worker was struck by a reversing forklift. Creel Manufacturing Company Proprietary Limited uses forklifts in the manufacturing area to maneuver these items within the workplace - despite not having clearly marked paths for pedestrians, designated areas for the operation of mobile plant nor barriers or bollards to separate pedestrians from mobile plant. As a result of the collision on 30 March 2017, the employee suffered a fractured left tibia and crush injuries to his calf muscle along with grazes to his elbow and shin. Creel Manufacturing pleaded guilty in addition to the conviction and fine, paid $ 2,412 in costs.
Unlicensed Asbestos removalist put on 'good behaviour'
Campbell Niblett, a Director of a company granted a licence as a Class B Asbestos Removalist has been ordered to pay $3,300 into the Court Fund after being charged for carrying out asbestos removal work at six properties while the company was not licenced to do so. The company's licence was renewed in 2007 for three years, and again in 2010 for five years, with an expiry date of 21 January 2015. However, when in 2015 WorkSafe received an application for renewal of the licence, the regulator advised the company that its application for renewal had been refused, providing its reasons for this decision. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction, sentenced to an adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour for 12 months. In addition to the payment to the Court Fund, it also paid $2,200 in costs.
Charges dropped against Action Master Builders
In December 2016, WorkSafe charged Action Master Builders and its Director Dimitrios Nicolaou in relation to the collapse of an excavation at a development site at Highbury Rd, Mt Waverley in July 2015. The Director of Public Prosecutions has discontinued the charges against both Action Master Builders and its Director. (see: WorkSafe's media release)
The structural engineer and his company, AM Construction & Design, one of the two other companies charged over the incident were convicted and fined a total of $480,000 in the County Court in March of this year (see SafetyNet 441)
EU: The E-retail sector and OHS
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has published a paper on 'E-retailing', a sector which continues to grow, and is a challenging one, for example in terms of high consumer expectations and demands. It says that the difficult working conditions associated with the sector as a result of the high value employers place on efficiency — such as long working hours and fast picking rates — have become well known. The article explores the safety and health implications that workers in the e-retail sector face, and considers what is being done to manage their safety and health.
Read more: The future of the (e-)retail sector from an occupational safety and health point of view.