SafetyNet 461, October 17, 2018
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet.
Our Conference is less than two weeks away! Make sure you've registered and come along for a great and extremely informative day!
If you would like to 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.
Do designated first aiders need their photos displayed on notice boards at the workplace?
There's no 'rule' – and nothing in legislation nor in the Compliance Code for First Aid. All the
code says is: "The employer needs to provide safety signs to identify first aid
facilities, including the telephone number of emergency services and details of
first aid officers."The
important thing is that when needed, first aid officers can be quickly
contacted so that they can in fact provide 'first aid'. If you believe this is not happening, then you have the right to raise it with your employer/employer rep.
Read more on First Aid.
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.
Inquiry into Industrial deaths in Australia
The report from the Senate committee inquiry into industrial deaths in Australia is due today, October 17, 2018. A worker is killed every second day in Australia - leaving family, friends and work mates grieving.
The families of the two Ballarat men, Charlie Howkins and Jack Brownlee, who died when a trench collapsed at a workplace at Delacombe on March 21, this year, are in Canberra for the tabling of the Senate report, "The Prevention, Investigation and Prosecution of Industrial Deaths within Australia". The report is expected to provide recommendations on workplace safety. Every death is preventable, and that is why the VTHC and unions are running an Industrial Manslaughter campaign.
Read more: Families to unite for handing down of Senate report into industrial deaths, The Courier
Good news on Silica
Last week Dr Paul Sutton met with WorkSafe Victoria to discuss with the regulator what the VTHC wants to see happen with silica. As a result of that meeting, WorkSafe has agreed to:
- hold an inspection blitz on silica dust;
- improve its silica guidance;
- support VTHC's call to make silicosis a notifiable disease; and
- trial worker health exams in the artificial stone industry.
Premier Daniel Andrews has weighed in on the silica issue: "This is a health disaster waiting to happen. I'm hearing about stonemasons needing lung transplants in their 40s. And I'm hearing about workers cutting stone bench tops without the proper safety gear."
Mr Andrews said, "So this week, we pushed for an urgent national review of safety standards for workers exposed to silica dust. It can't come soon enough." As a result, the COAG Health Ministers discussed crystalline silica at their meeting in Adelaide last week.
The October 12 Communique states: "The Ministers noted that the Australian Standard for crystalline silica was set decades ago and that jurisdictions are seeing an increase in silicosis diagnoses resulting from the use of fabricated stone bench tops. Ministers requested that the Clinical Principal Committee examine the creation of a national register. The Commonwealth also agreed to write to Safework Australia to request further examination and the updating of the Australian Standard for crystalline silica and the trading of imported stone products." During last week's meeting, Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said the Federal government would be supporting the establishment of a national registry on silicosis.
Read more on Silica, do our quick quiz on silica, and check out our webinar here.
Two thirds of airline staff report harassment
A Transport Workers Union (TWU) survey of airline cabin crew has revealed that 65 per cent of respondents have experienced sexual harassment, with one in five crew reporting more than 10 incidents.
Four out of five said they had experienced sexual harassment from co-workers while three out of five experienced it from passengers. Reports include serious sexual assault, workers being pinned down and assaulted, passengers exposing themselves to crew, workers being touched on their groins and buttocks, highly sexualised comments and degrading comments targeted to crew because of their sexual orientation.
Almost 70 per cent said they did not report the incident with over half saying they did not think it would be handled appropriately, and others (39 per cent) even saying that they feared reporting it would make the situation worse.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said, "These results are sad and shocking. They show that airlines are not taking the problem seriously and are not supporting workers when they are faced with what are daily assaults on them. It is clear that a culture exists at airlines to at best ignore the problem and at worst protect the perpetrators." He added, "Today we are lifting the lid on this widespread problem and demanding a change to the way sexual harassment of cabin crew is dealt with."
Read more: TWU Media release
Early notice: Training course on preventing gendered violence
The VTHC will be holding a two day training course for HSRs and delegates on December 4 & 5. The course will be exploring how to prevent and respond to sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. If you are interested, contact your union organiser or email the We Are Union Women team.
October 15: Anniversary of West Gate disaster
On Monday this week a large crowd gathered at the West Gate Bridge Memorial Park to remember the 35 workers who were killed part of it collapsed at 11.50am on October 15, 1970. 18 workers were injured. Another worker was killed when work to finish the bridge recommenced. This remains Australia's worst industrial disaster.
Early signs the engineering was flawed were not addressed, and when workers found out that a span on a similar bridge in Wales had collapsed during construction killing four, they were very worried. But Jack Hindshaw, the British resident engineer for the bridge designers, Freeman Fox and Partners, had assured them the West Gate Bridge was safe. Four weeks later the bridge collapsed, and Hindshaw was one of the 35 killed. ACTU Secretary Sally McManus spoke about what happened that day - how just moments before the collapse, Hindshaw had asked a colleague: "Should I get the bods off?"
The Royal Commission which investigated the causes of the tragedy found a litany of errors, and was scathing of the those responsible for its design and construction. The findings of the commission, together with union efforts, paved the way for the strengthening of occupational health and safety laws in Australian workplaces.
Ms McManus said, "Every worker should make it home. After every shift. Every time
"There are some people who paint workplace safety as a burden or as a union obsession that adds costs and delays to projects. Well safety should be everyone's obsession because there isn't a project in this country, or any country, that is worth the life of a worker. If it can't be done without killing a worker, without destroying a family, without scarring a community, then it can't be done." The CFMEU Vic/Tas branch posted a video of Sally McManus speaking. Watch a short video on the bridge collapse here.
Company avoids prosecution for importing asbestos
An Adelaide company, Australian Portable Camps (APC) that imported 8000 cement sheets containing asbestos from China has escaped prosecution after a lengthy investigation by the Australian Border Force. The sheets were imported in 2011 - 2012, but not discovered until 2015. The discovery sparked concerns around the nation and led to an investigation by the ABF and SafeWorkSA.
An ABF spokesman said its investigation into APC included warrant activity on a commercial premises and the examination of more than 13 million electronic files, but no prosecution would be pursued. "The ABF makes decisions on whether or not to prosecute based on the prosecution policy of the commonwealth, whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the offence, and whether there are reasonable prospects of a successful conviction," he said. "A prosecution has not been pursued in this instance."
A SafeWork SA spokeswoman said no evidence gathered throughout the investigation indicated that APC knowingly imported or distributed the material that contained asbestos. "However, SafeWork SA issued one non-disturbance notice, two prohibition notices and 10 improvement notices to Australian Portable Camps, which were all complied with," she said.
In another case, Perth-based iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group has also avoided prosecution for illegally importing about 3500 Chinese-made rail carriages containing asbestos. There have been only three successful prosecutions for importing
asbestos into Australia since 2006, with total fines issued of
Source: The Australian
ACT: Ongoing effects of 'Mr Fluffy'
The Mr Fluffy asbestos crisis in the ACT has had ongoing and lasting effects on the over 1000 families who have had their homes, which had been insulated using loose asbestos, demolished. Some of these families have rebuilt, many moved suburbs even cities and a small number have decided to stay for now. According to the ABC, they have all "endured a period of great instability, anxiety and much bitterness as the dust settles on a dark chapter of Canberra's history."
The Fluffy crisis has taken a huge emotional toll on the families. More than 200 have accessed psychological support and relationship counselling paid for by the Government, with funding extended to at least June next year.
The physical effects of the crisis are harder to quantify. Researchers from the Australian National University studied the health impacts and confirmed a clear link between living in a Mr Fluffy house and contracting mesothelioma. They painstakingly matched national Medicare data, death registrations and the Australian Cancer Database to track down seven cases of mesothelioma among current or former residents.
Read more: Mr Fluffy asbestos leaves lasting scars on Canberra as families move on ABC News Online
Asbestos in Sea King helicopters
Unite union in the UK has raised concerns for its members who serviced the Sea King helicopters since 1969 which have been found to contain asbestos. The union is concerned that many of these workers would not have known they were exposed, and would not have filled in the appropriate forms. Australia purchased 12 Sea King helicopters in 1974. Early operations were troubled by a series of incidents, but they were heavily used during 2003 Iraq war, and in disaster relief efforts in Indonesia's Aceh province following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. They were withdrawn from service in December 2011. However, it is very likely that Australian personnel may have also been exposed to asbestos.
Read more: Asbestos checks 'Catch 22' for former helicopter repair staff Risks 87
UK: Businessman sentenced to gaol for failing to control asbestos exposure
A Manchester-based businessman has been prosecuted after failing to check whether asbestos was present in a building he owned before starting major refurbishment works.Following a routine visit by an HSE inspector, a survey was carried out and large amounts of asbestos, some of which was in very poor condition, were discovered, indicating that asbestos could have previously been removed without any controls in place from areas of the building already renovated. The man pleaded guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. He was given a six months prison sentence, suspended for two years, sentenced to 250 community service hours and ordered to pay costs of £5,742 (A$10,355). Read more: HSE Media release
International Union News
EU urged to update rules on reprotoxic substances at the workplace
The chemical industry and trade unions this week agreed on the future framework to further protect EU workers from the risks associated with exposure to substances toxic to reproduction at the workplace.
In a joint declaration signed yesterday, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), industriAll European Trade Union, the European Chemical Employers Group (ECEG) and the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) called on the European Commission to strengthen the current system of protection of workers' reproductive health. The joint declaration provides the group's input into the ongoing debate on revising legal requirements for exposure to reprotoxic substances under the EU Chemical Agents Directive (CAD) and the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD). If not managed properly, reprotoxic substances may be responsible for fertility and/or reproductive problems in exposed workers.
Read more: ETUC press release; The joint declaration [pdf]
Union study confirms the vital safety role of train guards
New research from UK's rail union RMT has revealed the vital role train guards play in delivering a safe, secure and accessible railway. The union says the crucial safety critical role of guards is demonstrated by the fact that 80 per cent of guards have prevented an emergency situation and used their safety critical training in an actual emergency situation. Over half of the guards (51 per cent) responding to the survey have prevented at least one sexual assault. Almost all (98 per cent) said they have dealt with anti-social behaviour, and 63 per cent have dealt with incidents at least 20 times. The guards also provided over 500 examples of their role protecting the safety of passengers during heightened concerns around terrorism.
The RMT's spot survey
received over 800 responses in just a few hours. RMT general secretary
Mick Cash said: "In contrast to the cost cutting plans and misleading
propaganda dreamt up in Whitehall and the rail boardrooms this survey
shows the reality of the vital role train guards play at the sharp end
to ensure a safe, secure and accessible railway. In their own words,
these dedicated rail workers are warning of the horrific consequences of
there no longer being a guard to provide assistance and to help deal
with emergencies, violent behaviour, sexual assaults and the terrorist
threat." He added: "Unsurprisingly 97 per cent of guards in our survey
felt the main reason companies are introducing driver only trains is to
increase profits with the same number saying the government is on the
side of the train companies and not passengers. It's time the government
and rail bosses stopped thinking about the bottom line and listened to
voices of rail workers delivering on the front line."
Read more: RMT news release. Source: Risks 870
Back pain consequences for work underestimated
European researchers using data from a study spanning 30 years have warned that the link between back pain and work disability has been underestimated. They have urges using interventions to identify recurrent back pain and help sufferers remain in employment.
The researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and elsewhere found the 18 per cent of participants who suffered recurrent back pain were significantly more likely than others to leave employment for health reasons. However those reporting a single incident of back pain did not experience an increased likelihood of an early health-related work exit.
They say this finding suggests that research only measuring back pain at one point in time underestimates the association between the condition and work exit. "Low back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders are among the leading causes of work disability, sickness absence and early exit from paid employment," they say.
Strategies identifying and preventing cases of recurrent back pain, or making workplace adjustments for affected workers, could reduce the burden of musculoskeletal disorders on work disability, according to the researchers.
Read more: Tea Lallukka, et al, Recurrent back pain during working life and exit from paid employment: a 28-year follow-up of the Whitehall II Study. Finland, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, [Full article] Online first October 2018, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105202. Source: OHS Alert
OHS Regulator News
Finalists announced for prestigious awards
Emergency services personnel, a hospital and a tree company are among the 27 finalists for the 2018 WorkSafe Awards. The awards recognise the outstanding contributions individuals and organisations have made to improve workplace health and safety and help injured workers return to work.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said each finalist deserved recognition for their hard work and dedication to improving health and safety outcomes for workers and, in the case of injured workers themselves, their courage and perseverance to overcome obstacles and return to work.
Of greatest interest to us is the award for HSR of the Year. The three finalists, all union members, are:
- Daniel Gili: a highly respected HSR who has been repeatedly re-elected to represent the 60 workers at abattoir and meat processing company Diamond Valley Pork in Laverton North. He has been dedicated to addressing inconsistent incident reporting processes and ensuring procedures are simple and transparent. Daniel takes employee safety very seriously and proactively raises and escalates employees' concerns.
- Robert Kovacs: an HSR with Victoria Police in Morwell, Robert's peers consider him a remarkable representative for his dedication and perseverance to create awareness, procedural and cultural change in the area of workplace health and safety. Robert has introduced programs to encourage shared responsibility for mental health, and ensured supervisors have the skills required to support employees experiencing difficulties in the workplace.
- David Tull: an HSR with Ambulance Victoria, Seaford, David is held in high regard for his knowledge, passion and persistence. He has been HSR for the past four years and a member of the Metropolitan East Regional OHS Committee. David's achievements include identifying and addressing inconsistent incident reporting processes, ensuring the procedures are simple, transparent and include notification to relevant health and safety representatives.
The Awards Dinner will be held tomorrow night, with winners in this and other categories announced then. Read more about the other finalists: WorkSafe Media release.
Latest Safety Soapbox
The latest edition was sent out on October 5 - our apologies as we missed this in last edition of SafetyNet. In this issue, the editorial is on the West Gate Bridge collapse. It notes that those killed were not only those working on or in the span at the time. Workers on their lunch break also perished inside the amenities huts beneath the structure that were crushed by the falling span.
This edition has a link to a new WorkSafe Safety Alert, and also items from other jurisdictions - including an incident information release from SafeWorkNSW after a 19-year-old first-year apprentice electrician fell through plastic roof sheet and died. The fall occurred while he was assisting with solar panel installation.
There were 80 incidents notified to WorkSafe in the period 14 September – 27 September 2018, including a fatality, amputations, fractures, falls, electric shocks and more. Download the latest edition of Safety Soapbox, including the attached Reported Incidents, here.
Two new falls Compliance Codes released
WorkSafe has released two new compliance codes to replace old codes. These are:
New Dangerous Goods (Transport by Road or Rail) Regulations
Victoria's Dangerous Goods (Transport by Road or Rail) Regulations 2018 (DG TRR Regulations) commence on 25 October 2018.
The new DG TRR Regulations are mainly the same but reflect changes that have been made nationally for the transport of dangerous goods. According to WorkSafe, the changes maintain Victoria's already high safety standards and continue to align with national and international standards for the transport of dangerous goods.
They also deliver significant savings to Victorian businesses by reducing regulatory burden for the transport of lower risk dangerous goods by removing duplicate compliance requirements for explosive component transport.
The changes affect those that:
- hold or require a dangerous goods vehicle or driver's licence
- transport empty dangerous goods packaging
- transport dangerous goods in limited quantities
- transport constituents of a bulk ammonium nitrate-based explosives to manufacturing sites
- transport cylinders
- are involved in packaging design (both bulk tanker and non-bulk tanker)
- want to seek an exemption or administrative determination or approval
Safe Work Australia News
SWA has not updated its fatality statistics since our last edition. The latest update is from 4 October 2018, when there had been 97 fatalities reported to the national body. The workers killed so far this year have been in the following industries:
- 29 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 28 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 19 Construction
- 8 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 $300,000, for apprentice death
3 Point Electrics Ltd was last week convicted and fined $300,000 over the electrocution death of an apprentice in August 2016.
On 31 August 2016, the third year apprentice was undertaking electrical work including the laying of electrical cables for the installation of a smoke alarm at a residential property. The electrical power remained on and the employee was working live. The employer failed to supervise the apprentice, and had not prepared a Safe Work Method Statement for the work.
The young man was found dead in the roof, with his right hand touching bared electrical wire. 3 Point Electrics pleaded guilty to breaching S 21(1) & (2)(a), 21(1) & (2)(e) of the OHS Act, and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $300,000 and $6,067 in costs.
$300,000 may sound like a sizeable fine, but a young man was killed in circumstances which should never, ever have occurred.
To check for new prosecutions reported before the next edition of SafetyNet, go to the Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
EU: new information and tools
The European Agency for Safety and Health at work (EU-OSHA) has released new materials:
- Manufactured nanomaterials in the workplace an eight page leaflet which provides information and advice on managing the risks posed by this fast-developing technology. Nanomaterials are used in many fields and may have a range of toxic effects. This new infosheet presents the key facts.
- Practical tools and guidance on dangerous substances in workplaces looks at the importance of such resources in limiting workers' exposure to harmful substances. It describes and links to many existing tools from the database that can be used for effective safety and health management.
China: workers dying of silicosis
Migrant workers in China are being exposed to high levels of silica while constructing many of the new high rise buildings. Pneumatic drill operators drill holes deep into the hard granite beneath one city, Shenzhen, to prepare sites for building foundations. The Sangzhi workers said that when they were hired, such work earned a daily rate of 200 to 300 yuan (A$40.70 to A$61.70), three times higher than other types of construction work at that time. But now they find that because they were not given the proper contracts as required by law, they are denied compensation, while slow responses from local government mean more could die before medical and financial help arrives
Migrant workers, who number about 287 million across China, worked most of the drilling jobs. Since the 1990s, labourers from Hunan – from Leiyang, Miluo, Zhangjiajie and Sangzhi – have flocked to cities including Shenzhen to pick up drilling work for quick cash, but in the 2000s many began falling ill and dying. Read more and watch a video: Dying for China's economic miracle: migrant workers ravaged by lung disease, fighting to pay for their funerals, South China Morning Post
UK: Construction firms targeted in health inspections blitz
Construction firms across Great Britain will be targeted throughout October to check their health standards. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it would be the first time its inspections had included a specific focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease, looking at the measures businesses have in place to protect their workers' lungs from exposures including asbestos, silica and wood dust. Peter Baker, HSE's chief inspector of construction, said: "Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are killed in construction accidents. Annually, work-related cancers, mainly linked to asbestos and silica, are estimated to kill 3,500 people from the industry. Thousands of others suffer life-changing illnesses from their work. Not all lung diseases take years to develop. Some, like acute silicosis or occupational asthma, can occur more quickly." He added: "We want construction workers to be aware of the risks associated with the activities they carry out on a daily basis; be conscious of the fact their work may create hazardous dust; and consider how this could affect their health, in some cases irreversibly. We want businesses and their workers to think of the job from start to finish and avoid creating dust or disturbing asbestos by working in different ways. We want to see construction firms encouraging their workers to firstly keep the dust down and wear the right mask and clothing. Ultimately, we want construction workers' lungs to be protected from ill health, so they can go home healthy to their families and enjoy long careers in this important industry."
Read more: HSE news release. Source: Risks 870