SafetyNet 462, October 24
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet.
Our Conference is less than one week away! Make sure you've registered and come along for a great and extremely informative day! It's not too late to register as long as your employer OK's it...
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Vale Georgie Kimmel
In very sad news, Georgie Kimmel, a long-time union OHS activist and organiser, passed away this week after a long illness. Georgie was a strong feminist unionist, whose work furthered working women's pay, conditions, rights, and place in the movement, for more than 25 years. Georgie worked at the ASU Private Sector Branch for almost a decade in the 1990s, at the TCFUA, the AMWU, HACSU and most recently the UFU. Georgie helped many in their OHS journey: training at VTHC, and at the AMWU, building a passion for the rights of working people to come home safely from work from physical, but also psychological, injuries, and from cumulative harm. Georgie connected reps and organisers up, she set up networks across unions, she helped women reps believe they could be organisers and continue their contribution in the movement.
Georgie was feisty and passionate; she showed up and she led. When it was unpopular, or not in the interests of her career, Georgie stood up anyway. She has left a great legacy and will be sorely missed. Vale old friend and comrade. Earlier this year Georgie was nominated for and was awarded the Zelda D'Aprano Award for union activism. The award was established by the VTHC in honour of one of Victorian unionism's pioneer women.
Industrial Manslaughter at mass rally
Yesterday about 170,000 unionists took over the streets of Melbourne chanting 'Change the Rules!' Among the demands is the introductions of Industrial Manslaughter legislation - something supported by the Labor Party and the Greens, but not by the Coalition. Too many Australians, too many Victorians are killed in our workplaces - not in 'freak accidents' as too often claimed, but in incidents which with preventative actions would be almost always totally preventable.
Inquiry into Industrial deaths in Australia
As reported in last week's SafetyNet, the Senate committee inquiry into industrial deaths in Australia handed down its report and recommendations last Wednesday evening. The ACTU welcomed the findings of the Senate Inquiry which recommended amongst other things, the establishment of a national system of uniform Industrial Manslaughter laws to keep workers safe. The report: They never came home - the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia makes 34 recommendations which cover a wide number of areas, including:
- the type of data collected by jurisdictions;
- update the model WHS framework to cover precarious and non-standard working arrangements (including labour hire) to clarify the extent, scope and nature of the primary duty of care;
- developmen of best practice guidelines for the conduct and duration of investigations of serious WHS law breaches, including workplace deaths;
- introducing a nationally consistent industrial manslaughter offence into the model WHS laws, using the Queensland laws as a starting point;
- amending the model WHS laws to provide for unions, injured workers and their families to bring prosecutions;
- amending the model WHS laws to make it unlawful to insure against a fine, investigation costs or defence costs where they apply to an alleged breach of WHS legislation;
- substantially improving support for families;
- and more
ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick, who was in Canberra with bereaved families when the report was released, said "Everyone has the right to come home safe from work but every year hundreds of people don't, and in some cases that is because of the disgraceful actions of reckless employers who can't be held to full account due to the limitations of the legal and regulatory framework. We have to change the rules to ensure that workers are safe and that employers do everything they can to ensure that no more families are destroyed by deaths in the workplace."
I'm an over 60 year old female working as a casual in a 24 hour a day service station. My manager has told my that he now wants to roster me for the night shift (11pm - 7am). I am concerned as I will be working on my own, and on top of this I don't feel I have been fully trained in all aspects of the job. What are my rights?
I understand your concerns and you are right to have them. You should raise the following issues with your manager and ask that these be addressed:
- Under the OHS Act, your employer has what is known as a general duty of care to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. This includes the workplace itself, systems of work and much more. In order to do this, the employer must identify and then eliminate/minimise hazards and risks. There are a number of risks to workers who work alone - for example the risk of robbery or assault. What has your employer done? See this page on Working Alone.
- Insufficient training – under s21(2)(e) of the OHS Act, the employer must provide employees with whatever information, training, instruction and supervision as are necessary for employees to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health. If you believe you have not received sufficient training, then you need to point this out.
- Breaks and fatigue. What about breaks? How will you be able to take these if you are on your own? Read more on Rest/meal breaks.
Your employer also has a duty to consult with you when planning any changes (such as this rostering change) which could affect your health and safety.
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,.
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.
More news on Silica
As what might be seen as action following our campaign on silica, its dangers and reducing Australia's too high exposure standard, Safe Work Australia has released a new video on key issues regarding silica dust control in tunnelling and civil construction projects. The page also has links to other useful, related material on the Safe Work website.
Friday November 30: Asbestoswise Commemoration Service
Advance notice of the annual Asbestoswise Commemoration Service which this year will be held at St Paul's Cathedral (corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets) on Friday November 30. It is an important event during Asbestos Awareness Week, and provides a focus to not only remember those who have perished due to asbestos exposure, but also to remind ourselves and others that asbestos kills, and that it is still a hazard in many of our workplaces and buildings.
The service will be followed by a barbecue on the banks of the Yarra, kindly offered by the CFMMEU, many of whose members still face this hazard today. More information to follow in coming weeks, but please put this in your diaries: all are welcome.
Corkman hotel thugs appeal $600k fine
After pleading guiltyin the Sunshine Magistrates Court in September to unlawfully dumping asbestos, and other offences, the developers who knocked down Carlton's historic Corkman Irish Pub will now argue in court that the $600,000 fine they received was too severe. Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski were charged by the Environment Protection Authority mishandling asbestos and other waste on their Carlton land and at another site they owned in Cairnlea, in Melbourne's west.
When sentencing he pair, Magistrate Richard Pithouse admonished them severely, telling them they were lucky to avoid jail: "If jail were available, I would impose imprisonment for such a blatant breach. You put the residents of [both] areas at substantial risk." He said both men had "acted with complete disregard to the law for their own financial betterment, and that they have a cavalier disregard [for] the law".
Read more: The Age
Canadian unions applaud asbestos bans
Canada's unions applaud the federal government for introducing regulations to ban the import, export, manufacture, sale and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The regulations, announced in December 2016 will come into force on December 30, 2018.
"This is a critical step on the long road to banning asbestos, and will, without a doubt, save lives for generations to come," said Canadian Labour Congress President, Hassan Yussuff.
The new regulations, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA), prohibit the import, sale and use of asbestos, the manufacture, import, sale and use of products containing asbestos, as well as the export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products, with a limited number of exceptions. Combined, this is a historic step to protect the health of Canadian workers and the public, and to address Canada's history as an exporter of this deadly substance. With these regulations, Canada now joins 55 countries that have banned the use of asbestos.
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law said, "We commend the government of Canada for taking this critically important step to radically reduce future exposure of Canadians, especially workers, to the harms of asbestos. This ban marks a necessary shift in Canada's history with asbestos use, manufacture, import and export."
While there has been widespread relief, however loopholes that allow some asbestos exports and the exploitation of asbestos tailings have caused alarm. Federal environment minister Catherine McKenna faced criticism in parliament on export loopholes and the decision to exempt the processing of asbestos wastes from the ban, in order to recover magnesium. She responded that the ban was "comprehensive" and added: "There is no impact on human health." Of course, critics point out this is not true, and that exposure of even extremely low levels of asbestos have been linked to cancer.
Read more: CLC Media release, Relief at at Canada's asbestos ban, dismay at exemptions, Cancer Hazards. Canadian Environmental Law Association Media release.
International Union News
Europe: New 'compromise' standard for diesel fumes
The Europe-wide trade union body ETUC has welcomed a new diesel exhaust fumes exposure standard. It says 3.6 million workers in the EU are at risk of exposures, adding the new European occupational exposure limit will prevent at least 6,000 deaths per year from lung cancer. Esther Lynch, ETUC's confederal secretary, said the new standard was in response to a major awareness and lobbying effort by workers and their trade unions. "Exposure to diesel exhaust is a significant workplace killer. Unfortunately many employers see diesel exposure as being something they can do nothing about. This is not the case and unions will work with employers to ensure that these legally binding limits are complied with," she said. The compromise agreed on diesel engines exhaust emission (DEEE) means exposures will be subject to the more stringent requirements of the carcinogens and mutagens directive. A binding occupational exposure limit (BOEL) will be set at 0.05 mg/m³, with a transition period of two years for most jobs and an additional five years for underground mining and tunnel construction. ETUC's Esther Lynch said "the compromise is a victory for the European trade union movement. It is a step forward in our long-standing and on-going battle for eliminating work-related cancers but existing EU legislation still needs many improvements. One of the important challenges is to include reprotoxic substances. We urge the Commission to propose a legislative initiative in 2019". In 2017, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) recommended a much more stringent diesel exhaust standard of 0.02mg/m3.
Read more: ETUC news release. Socialists and Democrats news release. SCOEL recommendation. Source: Risks 871 Read more on Diesel
Follow up World Trade Centre study reveals high levels of sinusitis
The latest study on the effects on health of the US September 11 terrorist attacks, researchers have identified occupational risk factors associated with chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), a common condition with "high socioeconomic burden". The World Trade Centre towers collapse in 2001 produced dust and smoke that led to paranasal sinus inflammation, CRS and other respiratory conditions in those exposed.
The 16-year follow up study of 11,926 Fire Department workers who carried out rescue and recovery work found firefighters were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with CRS than their emergency medical services (EMS) colleagues. The researchers, from the Department's Bureau of Health Services and Office of Medical Affairs and other medical bodies, say this disparity was due to firefighters experiencing "chronic irritant exposure" from carrying out significantly more digging work than EMS personnel.
Read more: Barbara Putman, et al, Risk factors for post-9/11 chronic rhinosinusitis in Fire Department of the City of New York workers. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first October 2018, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105297. Source: OHSAlert
Danish firefighter study shows increased risk of asthma
A Danish study of 11,968 male firefighters, has found that full-time firefighters are at a significantly increased risk of asthma, but not chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Those affected suffered an onset of asthma symptoms after both long or heavy short-term exposure to hazardous fire emissions of irritative and possibly allergenic particulates. Short-term exposure to smoke, heat and excessive physical exhaustion, exacerbated existing asthma.
According to the Danish Cancer Society and Bispebjerg University Hospital researchers, modern firefighting breathing apparatuses protect firefighters from hazardous chemicals, but physical demands and heat can still provoke bronchoconstriction in those with respiratory susceptibilities. "
Read more: Julie Elbæk Pedersen, et al, Risk of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in a large historical cohort of Danish firefighters. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first October 2018, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105234. Source: OHS Alert
OHS Regulator News
AMIEU HSR wins Award
Last Thursday evening, at the Gala WorkSafe Awards Dinner, Daniel Gili, member of the meatworkers union, was named HSR of the Year.Daniel is 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.
The other HSRs who were finalists were: Robert Kovacs, HSR with Victoria Police in Morwell, and member of the Victorian Police Association, and David Tull, an HSR with Ambulance Victoria, Seaford, and member of Ambulance Employees Australia, Vic branch. Both were deserving finalists.
Other winners include:
- Worker return to work achievement award: Chris Williams, Greater Shepparton City Council arborist, who went through a long rehabilitation program at the Epworth Hospital to overcome the physical and mental barriers required to go back to work.
- Health and safety invention of the year: Ecogroup Pty Ltd (Dandenong South) - for designing a much safer canopy for use in commercial kitchens
- Best solution to a specific workplace health and safety issue: McConnell Dowell Constructors (Australia) Pty Ltd (Port Melbourne) for designing an alternative to working from scaffolding and barges when restoring docks
- and more
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe issues revamped compliance and enforcement policy
The Independent review of occupational health and safety compliance and enforcement in Victoria, in recommendations one, two and three, required WorkSafe to:
- develop a guide to the OHS compliance and enforcement framework;
- establish a process for reviewing WorkSafe's compliance and enforcement framework documents; and
- review and update WorkSafe's OHS compliance and enforcement policy.
The review was undertaken by a tripartite group, and the new policy and guidance has now been released.
- WorkSafe occupational health and safety compliance and enforcement policy
This document sets out WorkSafe's occupational health and safety (OHS) legislative framework and its approach to compliance and enforcement.
- Guide to the occupational health and safety compliance and enforcement framework
This guide explains the suite of documents that governs WorkSafe's occupational health and safety (OHS) compliance and enforcement activities.
Art installation for OHS Month
WorkSafe Victoria this week opened an art installation constructed wholly of mirrors to challenge Victorians to view their workplace as a reflection of themselves. Everyone. Every Workplace installation opened this Monday 22 October at Southern Cross Station to spark conversations in workplaces and the community about health and safety at work. Powerful audio stories of Victorians who have been injured at work will air as people walk around the installation and observe their own reaction. The stories first aired as part of an advertising campaign earlier this year. Read more: WorkSafe media release
Latest Safety Soapbox
The latest edition was sent out on October 19. This edition's editorial focussed on suicide: "According to the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, a construction worker kills themselves every two days in Australia. Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than through a workplace accident." The editorial promotes efforts by industry stakeholders (both unions and employers) to tackle this issue through Incolink's Blue Hats program which was launched at the 80 Collins St Project on the 11 October. Read more: Blue Hats media release [pdf]
There were 78 incidents notified to WorkSafe in the period 28 September – 11 October 2018, including the usual burns, lacerations, electric shocks, falls and more - but thankfully no fatalities. Download the latest edition of Safety Soapbox, including the attached Reported Incidents, here.
November 30: Major Hazards Forum
Twenty years on from the event that initiated the formation of the Major Hazards Program, WorkSafe iis holding an industry forum. Managers, engineers, safety professionals, health and safety representatives (HSRs) and employees working in Major Hazard Facilities (MHFs) are invited to hear from a number of influential speakers from the industry and contribute to WorkSafe's strategy for overseeing and engaging with the Major Hazards industry.
When: 8.30am - 4pm, Friday November 30
Where: The Windsor Hotel, Melbourne. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be provided.
Cost: Tickets are FREE - but spaces are limited, so for more information and to register, click here.
Western Australia: Safety Alerts
- Managing work-related violence in home and community care services
Home and community care service workers are at risk of exposure to work-related violence when working alone in a client's home. Risks may arise from actions of the client, their carer or others at the home. If the potential for work-related violence is not identified and managed properly, workers are at increased risk of physical injury or psychological harm.
- Advertisers standing near roadways, roundabouts and in parking areas
Employees standing near traffic along roadways, roundabouts and in parking areas while holding or 'flapping' advertising billboards can be exposed to a hazard from moving vehicles.
Safe Work Australia News
As of 18 October 2018, there had been 100 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. This is three more than the latest update on October 4. The three notified fatalities were in the Transport, postal & warehousing; Agriculture, forestry & fishing, and Manufacturing sectors. The workers killed so far this year have been in the following industries:
- 30 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 29 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 19 Construction
- 9 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 director basically gets off for exposing workers and others to asbestos
In October 2016 Lexon Group Pty Ltd was refurbishing a supermarket. Lexon was provided with an asbestos register showing the vinyl floor tiles contained asbestos. Lexon engaged another company to do polishing work who in turn engaged a registered Class B asbestos removalist. During the works, a WorkSafe Inspector attended the workplace and observed the tiles being removed generating dust. On asking Lexon's site manager whether an asbestos audit had been done, he was told it had, and showed no asbestos was present - and that it would be provided. An hour later the report was emailed to Inspector by Jonathon Frawley, a director of Lexon, stating no asbestos was present in the tiles.
However when the inspector made inquiries with the author of the report, he discovered it had been split into two reports at the request of the Frawley. The complete report disclosed asbestos was present in some of the tiles.
Lexon Group Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to a different charge under the OHS Act – failure to abide by prohibition notice – in May 2018 and was fined $8,000.00 without conviction. Mr Frawley ultimately pleaded guilty to one charge laid under s.153(2) of the OHS Act – producing a document which was known to be false or misleading in a material particular without indicating in respect in which it was false or misleading and without providing the correct information. He was, without conviction, placed on a good behaviour bond for 12 months with two special conditions: Paying $2,500 to the Court Fund, and that any breach of the bond causes the matter to return before the court. He also had to pay $1000 in costs.
To check for new prosecutions reported before the next edition of SafetyNet, go to the Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.