SafetyNet 457, September 19, 2018
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet.
We encourage our subscribers to contact us. Last week we received a few emails, including from someone who lives near the site of last week's fatal incident in Box Hill. His email highlighted that the trauma of a workplace death goes beyond the family, friends and workmates of the worker killed: it affects the whole community. If you would like to send in a comment on any issue at all, or tell us about something in your workplace, do so 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.
REMINDER: VTHC Conference October 30, Register now!!
The year's best and biggest 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, go to the 2018 Conference website.
I'm an HSR and very keen to attend the VTHC HSR Conference on October 30. However I am rostered off on that day. If I wish to attend does my employer have to pay me overtime?
The quick answer – the employer does not necessarily have to pay you overtime, but certainly the company must reach an agreement with you regarding changing your roster so that you can take your rostered day off on another day. If this is not possible, then there should be another arrangement put in place.
Must the employer pay the HSR (and deputy) their normal salary for the days they attend training?
An employer must allow each HSR (and deputy HSR) paid time off to attend training, equivalent to what they would otherwise be entitled to receive for working during that period. HSRs should not be disadvantaged in any way as a result of accessing the training that the OHS Act entitles them to.
HSR training is part of normal work-related activity. HSRs are entitled to receive their normal/expected earnings during course attendance. Normal/expected earnings include pay entitlements relating to shift work, regular overtime, higher duties, allowances or penalty rates that would have applied had the HSR been at work.
There are circumstances in which HSRs may need to attend a course that is being conducted outside their normal working hours. For example, this might apply when an HSR:
- normally works two days a week and attends a five-day course run on consecutive days;
- has a rostered day off during the course; or
- has a shift that does not overlap or overlaps only marginally with the course's hours.
All time spent at a course by an HSR (including casual employees) must be treated by the employer as time at work. HSRs must be paid as if they had been at work for the relevant time.
It is advised that employers alter rosters or shifts to accommodate any HSR who attends training. If it is necessary for the HSR to work hours in excess of the normal weekly hours, additional hours must be compensated in the same manner as other additional hours are treated. When the HSR and the employer agree, time off work may be taken in lieu of payment.
Go to the WorkSafe Employee Representation Guide if you need to show this to your employer.
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.
Industrial manslaughter campaign
This week representations from Dr Lana Cormie, whose husband Charlie Howkins was killed in the Delacombe trench collapse in March this year with fellow worker Jack Brownlee, convinced Fiona Patten MP from the Reason Party and Jeffrey Bourman MP from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party of Vic to sign pledges supporting Industrial Manslaughter legislation. Check it out on Facebook.
Action around silica
In SafetyNet 455 we announced that the VTHC launched a campaign to reduce Australia's exposure standard to silica from 0.1mg/m3 to 0.025mg/m3 as too many workers are being exposed and developing serious lung diseases, including cancer. This week the Queensland government has issued an urgent warning to the engineered stone benchtop industry after 22 silicosis claims were lodged to WorkCover in the last three weeks, including six people who were diagnosed as terminal. One sufferer is 27 years old. The regulator says: "Employers in industries which fabricate or install stone benchtops must immediately ensure they are complying with their duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to have adequate dust controls in place. Failure to do so will result in enforcement action being taken."
Read more: Terminal silicosis: Six cases in three weeks prompts urgent government warning to workers, ABC News online. Check out our information on Silica, including the Webinar, here.
Diesel: exhaust in mines prompts fears of disaster
Chris Davis, former mining engineer, believes that he diesel machinery exhaust fumes churned out by heavy machinery in many of Australia's underground mines is one of the biggest occupational health threats since asbestos. He is a member of a West Australian-based working group set up to investigate the risks.
There are millions of nano diesel particles in the exhaust of every diesel engine, which can reach deep into the body and stay there for months. There is also increasing evidence of harm. Mr Davis said even with exhaust emission control processes that reduce most of the toxic pollutants, recent testing at a WA mine found levels of up to a million nano diesel particulates per cubic centimetre. This was about 100 times more than people would inhale if they were walking down a busy city street.
Mr Davis also referred to a 2016 WA study which highlighted the high risk of lung cancer among miners working in confined spaces underground.
The next VTHC OHS Unit Webinar will be on diesel - and is scheduled for October 3. The webinar will feature a technical expert and members of our unit and will provide information and advice on this toxic substance, and what needs to be done in workplaces. Keep your eye on SafetyNet in the coming weeks for details.
Read more: Cancer risk from diesel fumes in underground mines prompts fears of industrial health disaster, ABC News online More information on Diesel on our website
NUW seeks information from Amazon's 'fulfillment centre' workers
In a media release last week, the National Union of Workers, which covers the warehousing industry has called for workers to contact the union following a Sydney Morning Herald exposé of the conditions facing workers at the Amazon 'fulfilment centre' in Melbourne's outer south-east.
Workers at this enormous warehouse process thousands of products for shipment every day, but they are entirely employed by labour hire firm Adecco. Every moment is monitored with a timer being triggered after each task is completed that counts down until their next picking time has expired. The union says that if this sounds familiar, to contact the union.
NUW National Secretary Tim Kennedy highlighted that workers "should have a job that provides leave when you are sick, financial security to get a home loan and the ability to collectively bargain with your workmates to improve wages and condition". The conditions experienced by these workers, like many employed in Amazon warehouses globally, are setting a new standard in Australia with 100% labour hire. No worker should be expected to perform under the kind of pressure that leads to high levels of stress and anxiety. All workers have the right to a job they can count on and the power to bargain collectively.
Exploitation of warehouse workers by Amazon is a global problem - the exploitation of its workers may be one reason why owner Jeff Bezos this year became the world's first 100 Billion Dollar Man. This week's Risks magazine has an item: Exploitation is part and parcel of Amazon's business model (Risks 866). Read more: NUW Media release
Victoria: WorkSafe to charge Corkman Hotel developers over asbestos dump
As reported in SafetyNet 454, two developers and their company, Leicester 160 Pty Ltd, were charged by the EPA with illegally dumping construction and demolition waste including asbestos, and not properly covering and securing the materials. The outcome of that case is that the company was fined $300,000, plus $35,000 in costs, and ordered to pay $30,000 to a community environmental project. Directors Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqiri were fined $120,000 each. the magistrate, Richard Pithouse was so outraged by their ''cavalier disregard for the law'' that he lamented the statutory sanctions available to him did not include putting them in jail, rather than being restricted to fines dwarfed by the multimillion-dollar profit they stand to reap from their ''blatant'' transgressions.
Now WorkSafe Victoria has charged Leicester with breaching section 26 ("Duties of persons who manage or control workplaces") of the OHS Act in: failing to identify asbestos-containing material in the Corkman Hotel prior to demolition; and failing to adopt appropriate safety measures for removing asbestos before the demolition work.
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 ASEA's website.
Action at Allianz
Yesterday a group of injured worker activists were out the front of Allianz Australia to protest against the insurance company's treatment of Mark. (check out the video here). Mark's story is that he was injured at work in 200, and as a result his leg had to be amputated to prevent disease spreading to the rest of his body. His injury means he requires ongoing medical care including pain medication, chiropractic treatment and physio.
The workers compensation system is meant to provide him with all the care he needs, but insurance company Allianz is making this almost to impossible. The company has not paid for any chiropractic treatment since May this year, despite Mark's doctors saying it is necessary. He has had to fight to drag Allianz to the table and all that they have offered him is ten chiropractic sessions and one shoe. Find out more and sign the petition urging Allanz to provide Mark the treatment he needs here.
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 on the Ethical Jobs website, including essential requirements and desirable attributes.
International Union News
Turkey: Construction workers strike
In four years, at the Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA or the 3rd Airport) construction plant every day there have been occupational incidents: more than 35 workers have been killed in preventable incidents. These are just the official figures but unions and workers claim more have been killed.
Last Friday September 14, after a shuttle incident which injured 17 workers, 15,000 workers stopped work and asked for decent working conditions, clean and healthy food/dorm/shuttle and occupational protection. They also asked that their salaries be paid on time.
The gendarmerie (military with jurisdiction in civil law enforcement) and special forces attacked the workers with tear gas, water cannons, and so on, arresting about 2000 workers. 600 of them were detained for more than one or two nights. Many workers, among them union leaders, were still at the police station or gendarme barracks earlier this week. The unions claim they have been tortured while in custody. Hundreds of workers were dismissed. The smear campaign and blacklisting for strikers continues. The gendarmerie is on duty while the Labour Ministry stays silent. The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey has said that scabs were recruited while the plant looks like a slave working camp with the presence of soldiers who are forcing workers. Most of the employees in the plant are short-term contracted or agency worker, many of them migrants.
Many construction workers suffering the similar inhumane conditions in other mega projects. DİSK/Dev Yapı-İş (Progressive Union of Construction Workers) and other independent unions (İnşaat-İş and İyi-Sen) are jointly campaigning for those workers. Source: Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey
UK: School support staff experiencing 'shocking' violence
Half of school support staff have experienced 'shocking' violence at work, with incidents including stabbings, a study by UK union GMB has found. The union points to a 'horrifying' case identified by its survey, where a pregnant teaching assistant suffered a miscarriage after being kicked in the stomach by pupil. More than half of school staff had first-hand experience of violence at work – with more than 16 per cent suffering attacks every week, the new GMB figures show. The union said its 'disturbing' findings show assaults suffered by GMB members include stabbings, attempted strangulation and pupils trying to chop off a teaching assistant's fingers with scissors. Other members of staff have had faeces thrown at them, been spat at and had their hair cut off. Parents have threatened school support staff, while school crossing patrol staff report cars being driven at them by angry motorists. The GMB survey of almost 5,000 school support staff identified "terrible injuries from the attacks, including broken jaws, broken noses, knee replacements, suspected heart attacks and broken necks." More than 2,400 said they had experienced violence at work, with 778 saying they were attacked every week. The union is asking schools to sign up to GMB's code of conduct to ensure attacks on members, when they happen, are dealt with properly. Australian unions report increasing incidents of violence in our schools as well.
Read more: GMB news release. The Independent. Source: Risks 866
UK: School staff buckling under intolerable stresses
Intolerable cuts, restructuring and rocketing stress levels are becoming the norm in UK schools, according to a survey of school support staff by the UK union UNISON. The study highlights a funding crisis the union says is having a 'devastating' effect on workloads and morale. The 12,120 school employees who completed the survey include teaching assistants, technicians, caterers and office staff. Almost nine in ten (87 per cent) said that cutbacks in their schools have had a noticeable detrimental effect. More than 70 per cent said they were carrying out duties that should be performed by someone at a higher level, and 35 per cent that they were doing tasks without sufficient training. The study report, 'Lessons in Austerity', notes that school employees reported feeling overwhelmed and anxious by the increased demands being made of them. More than four in five (83 per cent) said they have experienced stress as a result of their workload in the past five years, with one in five (20 per cent) having to take time off sick as a result. UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: "School support staff who haven't already lost their jobs are buckling under intolerable workloads and mounting stress levels. They play a vital role in keeping children safe and schools running smoothly, they shouldn't be seen as surplus to requirements when money is tight."
Read more: UNISON news release. Lessons in Austerity: A UNISON survey of school support staff, September 2018. Source: Risks 866
Exposure to three toxic industrial settings linked to excess cancer mortality; neurological disease
In an 18-year study of 71,362 people living in an Italian industrial area, researchers from the Lazio Regional Health Service's Department of Epidemiology have found an association between exposures to particulate matter emissions from industrial plants and death from cardiac causes. They found exposure to road traffic and living near the area's harbour were associated with dying from neurological diseases, while the latter was also associated with lung cancer mortality.
The researchers said: "Residents of the area of Civitavecchia (northern coast of Rome, Lazio) have been exposed to various sources of environmental contamination, including a large industrial site (a cement factory, and three thermoelectric power plants), vehicular traffic (with diesel truck traffic) and a large harbour."
The power plants emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide into the air. The harbour, which services ferries, merchant ships and tankers, emits about 500,000 tonnes of dust into the environment as well as pollution from sulphur oxide and particulate producing fuels, they say.
confirm previous research showing associations between occupational
exposures in construction, agricultural and dock work and excessive
mortality from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease and other respiratory diseases, neoplasms, and
circulatory diseases. "Our study also highlighted higher risk
for lymphatic and haematopoietic tissue and neurological mortality
among male transportation workers," they say.
Read more: Long-term exposure to air pollutants from multiple sources and mortality in an industrial area: a cohort study. [full article] Lisa Bauleo, et al, Italy, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first September 2018, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105059. Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
Crane checks continue as work resumes
WorkSafe has said it is verifying safety checks on more than 60 Raimondi cranes, as investigations into the tragic incident at Box Hill continue. Clark Cranes, which owns and sells Raimondi cranes, had by Friday last week inspected the hoist rope termination assembly, also known as the wedge socket, on all but one of the Raimondi cranes in service in Victoria. All checked cranes were given the go-ahead to return to service.
Specialist technicians engaged by WorkSafe were continuing to visit Raimondi crane sites to verify the company's safety checks. A team of engineers from Raimondi's head office in Italy arrived in Melbourne last week to assist WorkSafe with its investigation. Read more: WorkSafe Media release.
New guidance on hazardous manual handling
WorkSafe Victoria has released new guidance which focusses on improving risk controls after injuries due to hazardous manual handling have occurred. The guidance will help employers improve the effectiveness of their systems for incident/accident reviews to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). It highlights how consulting up, out and across is more effective than simply focusing down on the injured worker.
The guidance is aimed at large employers who already have a review system in place and includes a self-assessment questionnaire to indicate whether the current review processes are optimal for learning from reports of MSDs. It was developed by WorkSafe's Human Factors and Ergonomics team in consultation with the Hazardous Manual Handling stakeholder working group. Download the guidance: Improving manual handling risk controls after musculoskeletal disorders [pdf]
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. While the HSR Conference is THE event for HSRs, employers might like to go along with their OHS Committee and/or reps to other events. Read more about the month, find an event and register on the WorkSafe Health and Safety Month website.
Safe Work Australia News
SWA has again updated its fatality statistics since our last edition. As of 13 September 2018, there had been 95 fatalities reported to the national body - this is three more than the last update on 6 September. Two of the fatalities occurred in the Transport, postal and warehousing sector. The workers killed so far this year have been in the following industries:
- 29 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 27 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 19 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.
Three companies fined a total $825k for pedestrian fatality
Three companies have been convicted and fined a total of $825,000 following the death in 2013 of a pedestrian who was struck by a commercial recycling bin at a Mill Park fast food outlet.
Hungry Jacks Pty Ltd, Visy Paper Pty Ltd and Veolia Environmental Service (Aust) Pty Ltd were each found guilty breaching section 23 of the OHS Act, for failing to ensure people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety. Each company was fined $275,000 following a trial in the Melbourne County Court last week.
The court heard that in March 2013, a husband and wife aged in their 80s were walking through a Hungry Jacks car park when they walked in front of a Visy truck which was lowering a large recycling bin. They were knocked to the ground by the bin, and suffered a range of injuries. They were both taken to hospital where the husband later died.
Investigations showed that although the truck driver had performed all the necessary checks before lowering the bin, no traffic management system has been implemented by Hungry Jacks, Visy Paper or Veolia Environmental Service. This was despite the truck having to reverse up to 80m to access the bin located between the Hungry Jacks entrance and drive-through, while negotiating cars and pedestrians in the car park. Read more: WorkSafe Media release
Recycling centre charged over missing machine guards
A Coolaroo recycling centre has been charged for allegedly removing guarding from a conveyor belt, leaving workers exposed to the risk of being crushed or entangled. Glass Recovery Services Pty Ltd is facing two charges for contraventions of section 21 of the OHS Act, for failing to maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health.
It will be alleged that guarding was removed from two areas of a conveyor belt, leaving nip points exposed and putting workers at risk of serious injury or death while performing work in the vicinity of the conveyor. A filing hearing has been listed in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on October 8. Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Solar panel installation goes wrong - worker falls
On 14 and 15 November 2016, employees of Solar 360 Australia Pty Ltd were installing solar panels on a roof of a shed at a workplace in Eaglehawk. There was a risk of serious injury or death to employees of falling from a height of greater than 5 metres through the skylight as well as an unprotected edge of the roof whilst undertaking the task.
The company had not installed any perimeter guard railing, nor covered the skylights in the roof. It had, however, prepared a SWMS identifying the risks of working at height and nominating the control measure as a 'harness'. However, workers were not wearing harnesses on 15 November. The company did not stop work immediately when there was non-compliance with the SWMS, nor ensure that work did not resume until the statement was complied with.
The risk eventuated on 15 November 2016 when an employee stepped onto a fibreglass skylight - the fibreglass sheeting gave way and he fell through the roof approximately 5.6 metres to the concrete floor below, resulting in a broken hip. Solar 360 pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $30,000 ($15,000 for each of two charges) plus $4,725 in costs. The court accepted that the offender had a limited capacity to pay a substantial fine.
Two workers covered in acid: employer fined, not convicted
Nu Edge Solutions Australia (Mildura) Pty Ltd (the offender) operates a large liquid fertiliser plant in Koorlong, Victoria.
On 21 July 2017, an employee and a subcontractor were injured when attempting to fix a faulty pump pumping 81 per cent phosphoric acid from an intermediate bulk container (IBC) into a storage tank. The workers were injured when the hose from the pump detached and covered them in phosphoric acid.
A WorkSafe investigation identified a number of contraventions involving the handling and storage of dangerous goods:
- the system of work for decanting phosphoric acid from an IBC was not, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health: it involved placing the IBC on a pallet - the system to move and replace IBCs put the workers at risk of it crushing them if the racking collapsed;
- Nu Edge did not supply a spill-kit as required by the Dangerous Goods regulations; and
- there were no placards at the entrance of buildings where dangerous goods were stored, also in breach of the regulations.
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.
NSW: Deniliquin company fined $300k over worker death
A Deniliquin-based tyre and wheel fitting company has been fined $300,000 after a 49 year old worker was killed when changing a wheel on an industrial vehicle.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said Haconby Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Sydney District Court for failing to ensure correct safety procedures were followed, and failing to properly train its staff to carry out the work. Employees from another local business were on site, and tried to help a Haconby worker remove the wheels from a commercial reach stacker. A wheel blew off in the process and killed one of the workers from the other business.
"Workplace fatalities have a devastating impact on everyone involved," Mr Kean said. "This poor man was just trying to help, but tragically lost his life in the process. Employers can forget that safety procedures may be very different for similar machines. Just because your staff have been trained to handle one machine, doesn't mean those safety procedures are the same for another."
Read more: Ministerial Media release
Japan: First officially recognised Fukushima work cancer death
Authorities in Japan have accepted for the first time that a worker at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant died from a radiation-related cancer. The man, who was in his 50s, died from lung cancer. Japan's government had previously agreed that radiation caused illness in four workers, who were compensated, but this is the first acknowledged death. The worker had spent his career working at nuclear plants around Japan and worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power at least twice after the March 2011 meltdowns at the station. He was in charge of measuring radiation at the Fukushima No.1 plant shortly after its meltdown and had worn a face mask and protective suit, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said. He worked at the plant until December 2011 and was diagnosed with cancer in February 2016. The man was not publicly identified and his family have asked that the exact date of his death remains private. After hearing opinions from a panel of radiologists and other experts, the ministry ruled that the man's family should be paid compensation. The Fukushima meltdown was the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reports that 17 plant workers have filed for compensation. It says along with the four who had their claims accepted, five claims have been rejected. Another five are pending, and two have been withdrawn.
Read more: Asahi Shimbun. New York Times. BBC News Online. Sky News. The Guardian. Source: Risks 866