SafetyNet 456, September 12, 2018
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet.
Since our last edition we are saddened that two more workers have been killed in Victoria's construction industry - both last Thursday. The VTHC extends its sincerest condolences to the families, friends and work mates of those killed.
Please feel free to make any comments on any issues raised here by sending an email here. (Please don't 'reply' to your email!). 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.
Two more fatalities in Victoria.
Last Thursday, September 6, two workers were killed in two separate incidents, and a third worker suffered life-threatening injuries.
A worker in his 40s was killed when he was struck by a 'kibble' containing wet concrete which fell from a boom crane at a construction site in Box Hill. Two others were injured by the kibble, with a 20-year old suffering life-threatening injuries, and the other suffering less serious injuries. WorkSafe investigators, including crane experts, returned to the scene the day after to conduct a thorough examination of the crane and the systems of work used at the site. It is believed that the incident resulted from the failure or malfunction of the hoist rope termination assembly, also known as the wedge socket, on Clark Cranes' Raimondi hammerhead tower crane, WorkSafe Victoria has revealed. WorkSafe notified Clark Cranes of its findings on Friday. The company, which both owns and sells Raimondi cranes, has issued a cease work on all its Raimondi cranes until a safety audit has been conducted. An independent expert engaged by WorkSafe is working to verify that Clark Cranes' audit has been conducted correctly. There are presently 65 Raimondi cranes operating in Victoria.
As a result of the investigations, WorkSafe has warned crane owners and operators that they need to check this key component of all their cranes. WorkSafe has also advised OHS regulators in other states of its findings. Watch CFMMEU's OHS Manager Dr Gerry Ayers provide an update on the Box Hill tragedy.
In a separate incident, a woman died after she was run over by a prime mover loaded with an excavator at Donvale. It is believed she was hit when the truck, which was parked on an incline, started to roll. A man in his 50s received non-life threatening injuries.
The number of official fatalities in Victoria is now 18 - the same as at the same time last year.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Releases - Dark day for workplace safety in Victoria, and Crane owners, operators urged to conduct safety checks.
VTHC Conference: October 30, Register now!!
The year's best event for HSRs, the VTHC HSR Conference, will be held during Health and Safety Month on Tuesday October 30 with the theme of "Section 58: Powers of the HSR". The Conference is open to all Health and Safety Representatives, Deputy Health and Safety Representatives and Union Officials across Victoria. Sign-in will start at 8am with event kicking off at 9am.Following the success of two non-metropolitan events last year, there will be a choice of four locations this year:
- Melbourne: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
- Bendigo: Bendigo Trades Hall Council
- Wodonga: La Trobe University Albury-Wodonga Campus
- Morwell: Federation University Churchill Campus, Northways Road, Churchill
Cost and registration:
As always, there is no cost to attend the conference (it's FREE!). WorkSafe Victoria has granted approval for the Conference under s69 - and this means elected HSRs must be released on paid leave to attend the event. While deputy HSRs are welcome to attend, there is no obligation on the employer to release deputies on paid leave. Many however, agree to do so. Registrations are now open - so register now. Remember that you must give your employer at least 14 days' notice. For more information, to download the approval letters to take to your employer and to register, click here.
I work in a large public building which is undergoing major refurbishment, and so we have moved to a different site for the duration. The offices spaces are small, with two offices with 16 people in each, in a space that is 6m x6m. There are no windows or natural light. Each office has only one door which we have to keep closed because of noise. The air-conditioning is very cold and cannot be adjusted, only switched off, but there is no other ventilation. What can we do?
While there is nothing specific in legislation, remember your employer has a duty of care under s21 of the OHS Act to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health – so far as is reasonably practicable. There is also, under s22, the duty to monitor conditions and the health of employees. And under s26, the duty to ensure safe entry and exit. (see: Duties of employers and Duties of others)
It sounds like the current arrangements are far from satisfactory – and there is enough guidance around to show that you need more space than what you have, that the temperature and ventilation is a problem, as the evacuation may be.
Take a look at these FAQs on the site:
- Office space
- Offices: Temperature and humidity - what are the 'rules'?
- Workstations and seating
How hard you 'push' depends on a number of factors you should consider:
- Are there alternatives you can propose (remember all the duties are qualified by 'so far as is reasonably practicable' – but check out what this actually means: "How WorkSafe applies the law in relation to Reasonably Practicable" the link is on the Duties of employers page
- How long this temporary accommodation will need to be used
- How strongly people feel and how much support they will give you – are you the HSR? If not, do you have an HSR? As this is clearly an OHS issue which must be formally raised for resolution with the employer.
Put together a proposal, arrange a meeting with your employer (as the HSR - or request your HSR to do so). If the employer refuses to take any action to address the issues, then consider what to do next. Options include contacting your union, contacting WorkSafe, issuing a PIN, and so on.
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.
Workplace harassment - results astonishing
According to the fourth Australian Human Rights Commission national survey of 10,000 people, one in three Australians has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace over the past five years. Workers in the information, media and telecoms industries reported the highest rates, with 81 per cent of people affected.
Releasing the results of the survey this morning, Kate Jenkins, Australia's sex discrimination commissioner, said: "These figures are unacceptable and have increased significantly since the last survey in 2012, which found one in five (21 per cent) people told us they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the previous five-year period."
The survey found almost two in five women (39 per cent) said they had experienced sexual harassment at work, up from 25 per cent in 2012. Approximately 26 per cent of men said they had been sexually harassed in work over the past five years, up from 16 per cent in 2012. The rates were highest in workers aged 18-29 with 75 per cent reporting they had experienced sexual harassment. The results also suggest that those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, asexual, aromantic, undecided, not sure, questioning or other are more likely than people who identify as straight or heterosexual to have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the past five years (52 per cent and 31 per cent respectively). The rates were also higher for Indigenous people and people with disabilities.
Of great concern is that while more are experiencing harassment, reporting rates are dropping, with less than half (17 per cent) actually report it, and of these only 20 per cent resulted in any actions being taken. The 'Everyone's Business' report was released today in Canberra. The survey results will inform the Australian Human Rights Commission's National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, which will begin public consultations later this month.
Read more: Australian Human Rights Commission Media release; and Ms Jenkins' address to the National Press Club; The Guardian; The Sydney Morning Herald; The Financial Times
ACT: Asbestos management plans for Mr Fluffy homes
Under changes to the ACT's Dangerous Substances (General) Regulation 2004 homeowners that choose to remain in an affected property (including those who have taken up the extended settlement option in the ACT Government's Buyback Program) or allow others to reside in the property, are required to have an Asbestos Contamination Report (ACR) prepared and lodged with WorkSafe ACT.
The ACR must be prepared by a licensed asbestos assessor, and include:
- a report identifying the location, type and condition of asbestos contamination in the home and any opening or crack through which asbestos contamination could enter the living areas;
- an assessment of the risk associated with the contamination or potential for contamination;
- a contamination management plan that advises how the contamination should be managed through actions such as cleaning, sealing, locking and labelling (also known as an Asbestos Management Plan or AMP).
ASEA Conference - register now
If you are interested in any aspects of work and asbestos, then register for this year's ASEA conference 'Asbestos: the next national plan - proactivity, prevention, planning'. This year's conference will focus on the future of the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness - what is the direction of the next national plan and what will it look like?
ASEA has announced that it is extending its early bird registration discount: register by October 12 and save $100. For more information on what to expect at this year's event, visit the ASEA website or follow the agency on Facebook and Twitter.
Reminder: Trades Hall is hiring
The VTHC has advertised a position for a full-time Research and Policy Officer in the newly launched Migrant Workers Centre at the Trades Hall in Carlton. The MWC is an organising and educational centre that works with migrant workers and their families to untap the collective power of communities to win dignity and respect at work and to fight for a fairer society. The officer will be responsible for producing high quality research, policy advice, reports and government submissions that draw on worker experiences to ensure the voices of migrant workers are heard by key decision-makers in Victoria. Applications close 30 September - so if you're interested, get onto it right now! Read more, including essential requirements and desirable attributes: Ethical Jobs.
International Union News
UK: Union guide on musculoskeletal risks at work
The peak union council, the TUC has produced a short online guide for union health and safety reps, signposting where they can get Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice and guidance on musculoskeletal disorders. We've found the HSE to have a wealth of very useful guidance on many workplace hazards. The guide is badged jointly with the HSE. It provides links to HSE toolkits, regulations and guides on musculoskeletal disorders. Musculoskeletal disorders - HSE material for health and safety reps, TUC/HSE, September 2018.
Pakistan: Anniversary of deadly fires
While September 11 is a date with deep meaning in the USA and before that in Chile, on this date in 2012, two garment factories in the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Lahore burst into flames, killing 289 people and seriously injuring more than 600. The fires occurred in a textile factory in the western part of Karachi and in a shoemaking factory in Lahore and are considered to be the most deadly and worst industrial factory fires in Pakistan's history.
Ali Enterprises in Karachi exported garments to Europe and the United States. The exit doors in the factory were locked and many of the windows were covered with iron bars, which made it difficult for workers to escape at the time of the fire and consequently many of the deaths were caused by suffocation.
The Baldia shoe factor in Lahore caught fire when sparks from a faulty electricity generator ignited chemicals stored in the facility. The generator was located in the garage of the factory, which was also the exit point. Source: Confined Spaces blog
UK: Emails while commuting should count as work hours
Commuters in the UK (and probably here too) are so regularly using travel time for work emails that their journeys should be counted as part of the working day, researchers have said. Wider access to wi-fi on trains and the spread of mobile phones has extended the working day, the study from the University of the West of England found. The study involved interviews with 5,000 rail passengers on commuter routes into London as wi-fi became more available. The study, presented this week at the Royal Geographical Society, found that 54 per cent of commuters using train wi-fi were sending work emails. Those on the way to work were catching up with emails sent ahead of the coming day - while those on the return journey were finishing off work not completed during regular working hours. The study examined the impact of an upgrade to free wi-fi on the London to Birmingham and London to Aylesbury routes. It showed that as internet access improved it had the consequence of extending working hours, using laptops and mobile phones. Researcher Dr Juliet Jain said smartphones and mobile internet access had caused a "blurring of boundaries" between work and home life - and this now applied to the journey to work. Instead of technology giving people more flexibility over working, the study showed that people were working extra hours on top of their time in the office. "There's a real challenge in deciding what constitutes work," said Dr Jain, from the university's Centre for Transport and Society.
Read more: UWE news release. BBC News Online. The Independent. Source: Risks 865
Canadian study looking for participants
Canadian Anne Hudon, a postdoctoral fellow is undertaking research at the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo to explore current workers' compensation policies governing first-line healthcare providers and their impact on quality care and return to work for workers with musculoskeletal injuries, in four distinct jurisdictions, in three countries (Ontario and Quebec provinces in Canada, Washington State in the United States of America and the state of Victoria in Australia).
She is currently seeking participants in this study. Participation involves a single phone or Skype interview lasting about one hour. The interview will be recorded using an audio recorder. During the interview, the researcher will ask participants to discuss their perception and the strengths and weaknesses of current workers' compensation policies regarding the choice and roles of first-line healthcare providers for workers with musculoskeletal injuries in Victoria, Australia.
The study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee. For those interested in participating, please contact Dr Anne Hudon via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
OHS Regulator News
Inner west blitz continues
The joint EPA/WorkSafe blitz announced after the Footscray fire last week is continuing, with 78 sites visited and 68 contraventions identified in relation to the handling and storage of dangerous goods as of last Thursday. Many of the notices were for issues such as inadequate placarding or labelling, incompatible storage, poorly maintained dangerous goods manifests or a lack of fire protection reports. The inspections are continuing into this week at least.
WorkSafe Regional Operations Manager Ian Matthews said while many sites were compliant, it was disappointing that so many notices had been issued. "So far, most of the sites we have visited have tended to have smaller amounts of chemicals on site, and the issues have been around the storage and handling of those, rather than the quantities they are storing," Mr Matthews said. "While many sites were compliant, sites with poor dangerous good storage practices have attracted multiple notices requiring them to correct various issues. "The results are disappointing. Any dangerous goods stored or handled incorrectly pose a serious risk to workers and the general public."
Read more: WorkSafe Media release
Reminder October: Health and Safety Month
WorkSafe Victoria is asking people to 'pick their event'. during October's Health and Safety Month. The keynote speaker for the opening event is Julia Gillard, ex-Prime Minister and now chair of beyondblue. Read more about the month, find an event and register here.
Queensland: teenager killed on farm
A teenager is dead, another seriously injured, after they were electrocuted last Friday while moving farm equipment in far north Queensland. It has been reported that the boys came into contact with powerlines while they were moving irrigation pipes on a farm at Tolga.
The 15-year-old died at the scene, while the second teenager, also 15, was rushed to Atherton hospital with burns. He was later flown to Townsville Hospital, where he remained in a stable condition Saturday afternoon. Source: Safety Culture OHSNews
Safe Work Australia News
SWA has updated its fatality statistics since our last edition. As of 6 September 2018, there had been 92 fatalities reported to the national body - this is six more than the last update on 30 August. The workers killed so far this year have been in the following industries:
- 27 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 27 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 18 Construction
- 7 Manufacturing
- 5 Mining
- 2 Wholesale trade
- 2 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 Administrative and support services
- 1 Arts and recreation services
- 1 Public administration & safety
- 1 Rental, hiring and real estate
To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage).
There still has not been an updated monthly fatality report - the latest was that for December 2017, during which there 21 work-related notifiable fatalities. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Company convicted, fined after contractor crushed
Renderworks Australia Pty Ltd was a company involved in the external rendering of buildings, and in 2017 was engaged to render parts of an aged care facility that was being constructed in Torquay. A scissor lift was being used for the task around steel beams on a veranda.
On 8 February 2017 a contractor was crushed between the cage of the scissor lift and a steel beam of a veranda while undertaking rendering work the workplace sustaining injuries. Renderworks had failed to identify any risk associated with use of the scissor lift, nor develop or implement any measures to control risks associated with use of the platform near the structure.
The company was found guilty of breaching s26 of the OHS Act in an ex-parte hearing (ie the offender was not in court) and was with conviction fined $200,000 (plus $7,165 in costs).
Bakery fined 2k despite potentially fatal incident
On 16 July 2017, an employee of Broadmeadows bread, muffin and pastry baker Davies Bakery was working alone in the 'prover' area. The belt on the machine's loading arm broke - a break which occurred 3 - 4 times monthly, a 'regular problem'. This, as usual, caused the bread tins to jam. The worker reached into the machine to try to clear the jam - and does not recall whether he turned the switch to 'stop' before taking this action. Whilst he was doing this, the loading arm of the machine moved and trapped his head against the stable bar, and he was unable to free himself. A co-worker pressed the stop button and helped the worker free of the machine. The worker sustained facial fractures and eyesight damage.
Despite it being clear that there was an ongoing issue with the machine, the fact that the worker could have been much more seriously injured, and the company pleading guilty to breaching the regulations, it was fined just $2,000 (plus $4,1150 in costs), without conviction.
Quarry operator charged over tip wall collapse death
MQG Sand & Soil Pty Ltd, a quarry operator, has been charged with breaching sections 21 ("Duties of employers to employees") and 26 ("Duties of persons who manage or control workplaces") of the OHS Act, after a quarry tip wall collapsed in March 2016 and engulfed a dump truck, killing the 30 year old operator.
WorkSafe Victoria alleges that the fatality at the Nyora site in South Gippsland was due to the employer's failure to implement appropriate safety control measures before constructing the tip for overburden, or obtain geotechnical engineering advice. The matter has been listed for the Korumburra Magistrates Court on 20 September. Read more: WorkSafe Media release
To check the others, and any new ones reported before the next edition of SafetyNet, go to the Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: Machining firm fined after workers exposed to asbestos
A Birmingham machining company has been fined after workers were exposed to asbestos fibres when demolishing an internal wall. Birmingham Magistrates' Court heard how the workers were asked to remove the internal wall by their manager. However, there was no asbestos survey or an up to date asbestos management plan for the premises. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that asbestos insulation sheets were removed unsafely without proper precautions and by unlicensed individuals from the company, without any safeguards in place to prevent the spread of the asbestos fibres. Birmingham Specialities Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £20,000 (A$36,666) and ordered to pay costs of £2,454.(A$4,500). HSE inspector Tariq Khan said: "Asbestos in buildings needs to be managed or removed by competent contractors. Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working." He added: "The company needed to follow the proper procedures by carrying out an asbestos survey and formulating an asbestos management plan as well as training those responsible for managing asbestos". Read more: HSE news release Source: Risks 865
Global: UN expert urges firms to take action on chemical risks
The UN's expert on toxics and human rights has urged firms to take action to protect workers from chemical risks throughout their supply chains. Baskut Tuncak, the UN's 'special rapporteur' on the implications for human rights of hazardous substances and wastes, makes the call in a paper to be considered by the UN's Human Rights Council at its meeting this week. "Workers' rights are human rights. No one should be denied their basic human rights, including the rights to life and health because of the work they perform," stressed Mr Tuncak. "Businesses have responsibilities throughout the lifecycle of their products, from the extraction of raw materials, through to manufacture, use and final disposal, as well as up and down their supply chains. They have a responsibility to ensure that they and their suppliers, both at home and abroad, adopt good practices to prevent exposure to toxic substances through their products' lifecycles, their operations and their services." Samsung has now agreed to compensate sick workers - but will it be enough? There has been concerted action for years, including a Global Day of Action on May 1 this year, online petitions, and more. The company has a shocking record - just last week a gas leak killed one worker and injured three others.
Read more: OHCHR news release. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, OHCHR, 2018. [pdf]. Stop Samsung! Source: Risks 865
If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata with details, including where to RSVP.
BE TRADES HALL TRAINED: VTHC OHS Training Centre
Make sure you attend training provided either by your union or the VTHC! HSRs are elected by their fellow workers to represent them. We understand what HSRs need and have been training effective HSRs for many years. Remember that under Section 67 of the OHS Act, both HSRs and deputies have the right to attend the training course of their choice (in consultation with their employer).
The VTHC OHS Unit is now running courses in a number of new locations to cater for HSRs in the outer suburbs of Melbourne such as Epping. This is in addition to courses in our usual locations. Below are the dates for the next few courses at the VTHC OHS Training Centre - if you haven't yet booked in your course for this year, do it now. The full set of dates until June 2018, including Comcare courses, is on the Training program page where you can download a registration form or register online. Contact Lisa Mott on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries.
NOTE: some of the dates below vary from those in the last edition of the journal
|HSR Initial OHS training course||HSR Refresher OHS Training Courses*|
* HSRs are entitled to attend this course
OHS Training at the ACTU
The ACTU (Australian Council of Trade unions) runs training courses in occupational/workplace health and safety. These are the upcoming courses in 2018:
Preventing Workplace Bullying and Harassment - This course is free of charge
Sydney: 16 October
Perth: Please contact Unity Training for dates on (08) 9227 7809 M: 0417 060 360
Course information and applications can be found on the ACTU Website. For more information, email or phone Chris Hughes (03 9664 7389 Mon-Fri) or Anna Pupillo (03 9664 7334 Mon-Wed & Fri). Click here for the full calendar of ACTU training courses.
TONIGHT: Chemical Hazards Communication Network
The next meeting of the Chemical Hazards Communication Network is on tonight, September 12. The Agenda covers a range of issues:
- Labelling and SDS issues
- Chemical Hazard Communication Regulatory Matters
- Australian, EU & USA Hazardous Chemical Management developments
- HAZMAT Conference, 20-21 Sept 2018, Sydney
When: 6-8.15pm, September 12 (with a meal afterwards for those who are interested)
Where: at the newly refurbished Sandridge Centre - Trugo Club Rooms
1 Tucker Avenue, Port Melbourne (Garden City part)
Enter along Clark St which turns into Tucker Av, from Graham St. Melways reference is Map 56 K2 (or 2J A4).
September 20 - 21: HAZMAT Conference, Sydney
Presenting Organisations - AIDGC & FPAA
Park Royal, Darling Harbour, Sydney
The conference will feature industry experts addressing a range of hot topics affecting the hazardous chemicals, dangerous goods and chemical management industries. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to learn, share and connect with industry leaders and key stakeholders and earn valuable CPD points to further their professional development.
be part of important conversations that will shape the future of the
hazardous chemicals, dangerous goods and chemical management industries
in Australia and further your professional development, you need to book
your conference ticket ASAP as the conference is just two weeks away.
Register Now. View the Conference Program For more information, visit the conference website | phone: 03 8892 3184 | or email: email@example.com.