SafetyNet 463, October 31
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet.
Several of our readers sent messages of condolence to Georgie Kimmel's family after reading of the untimely passing of this staunch unionist. If you knew Georgie, you may like to attend the service or send a message of condolence. See details below.
Also, today's journal is a shorter one than normal, due to this week's conference commitments.
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.
VTHC HSR Conference October 30
The conference was held yesterday - we haven't had time to finalise total numbers (though over 1000 attended the event in Melbourne) or do much more than set up, run the day and then pack up! But what we can say is that it was a great success, both in Melbourne and in the regional centres. More will be posted in our next journal. We will also be loading up Renata's powerpoint presentation.
I am looking for clarification on the first aid requirements for a not for profit organisation holding meetings at its own venue. These meetings have up to 75 people attending. It is run by volunteers with no actual employees. What are our first aid requirements in terms of kits and first aiders? Do we need to provide trained first aiders? Do we need more than one first aid kit available?
I assume that the organisation has some employees at least, and is therefore an employer.
The only way I can answer this is by referring to Victoria's OHS legislation, which puts a duty on employers to ensure that the health and safety of 'others' (this includes volunteers, members of the public and so on) are not affected by the undertaking of the enterprise.
The OHS Act puts a duty on employers to provide 'adequate facilities' – but this is specifically for employees. The guidance on what this means in terms of first aid is in the Compliance Code for first aid
Take a look at these pages:
Basically it's about looking at the numbers of people, the risks, etc with regard to making decisions about number of kits and first aiders.
I would advise doing a calculation based on the total, maximum number of people, and if the activities are 'low risk' going for that option under the 'prescribed approach'.
I know that many operators of public venues calculate their needs not in terms of employees, but also in terms of the total number of people who may be present. Also, the WHS legislation, which is in place in most other jurisdictions in Australia, now uses the terms:
- Person conducting a business or undertaking - which would include the 'not for profit' organisation; and
- Worker - which covers both paid employees and volunteers.
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.
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
More information on Asbestoswise - please support this worthwhile organisation and donate if you are able to.
Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS events
ASV/GARDS, a Gippsland based not for profit organisation supporting people with asbestos related conditions and their families for over 25 years will be holding the following events:
- November 14: Asbestos Awareness Morning Tea
ASV/GARDS office – 41 Monash Road Newborough – Sponsored by Slater+Gordon Lawyers
The Asbestos Awareness morning tea is being held at 10am - noon (gold coin donation). Scones, Jam and Cream. There will be experts on hand to answer questions from the community: Asbestos litigation lawyers, OHS&E environmental firm, Representative from Latrobe City environmental Health unit, Sustainability Education Officer from Latrobe City. There will be a physical display of items containing asbestos both past and present.
Please join ASV/GARDS for an informative morning where questions about the asbestos issue can be talked about with professionals in their field of knowledge.
- November 30: Asbestos Awareness Day Service
11am, Centenary Rose Garden, Commercial Road, Morwell.
Speakers this year are: Michael Borowick the Assistant Secretary of the ACTU and Shane McArdle Director at the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency who will share their knowledge and expertise with those gathered; Steve Dodd Secretary Gippsland Trades & Labour Council/ Union organiser for the AMWU; and more. There will also be music by Takin Time (Susan Parrish and Joe Omar), the Yallourn Madrigal Singers; and Scottish bag piper Dick Henry.
An Ecumenical Service for those wishing to remember loved ones and honour those suffering this very preventable disease will be conducted by Canon Jeff from St James Church Traralgon. The event will conclude with a free community BBQ with the compliments of the GTLC - all welcome to stay
November 19 - 20 ASEA Conference - there is still time to register
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?
As well as the main conference, there is a welcome reception on the evening of Sunday Novermber 18. For more information on what to expect at this year's event and to register, visit ASEA's website.
International Union News
UK: Cleaners at the sharp end of needlestick injuries
Almost two-thirds of workers who claim compensation successfully for needlestick injuries are cleaners – mainly because the needles weren't correctly disposed of, UK health service union UNISON has revealed. "These figures are a timely reminder of the risks to health and safety posed by used needlesticks, and how they can affect staff in all sectors, and not just clinical staff," said the union's assistant national safety officer Robert Baughan.
A UNISON analysis of nearly 100 successful compensation claims for needlestick injuries lodged by union members over a five year period showed that 62 per cent came from cleaning staff across all sectors, including health, social care, education and local government. Threequarters of the injuries came from incorrectly sorted needlesticks, or ones that weren't disposed of correctly. The rest came from discarded needles. None of the needlesticks concerned were safety devices. Injuries from used needlesticks and other 'sharps' like scalpels can lead to infection by blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Post-exposure treatments have improved over the years, which has reduced the risk of exposure to these viruses becoming life-threatening - but they have not eliminated it. And the treatments, normally lasting 28 days, are stressful and often have unpleasant side effects such as tiredness, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. UNISON's Robert Baughan said the figures also "show the importance of employers adopting safe working practices, particularly the use and disposal of safety needlestick devices."
Read more: UNISON news release. More on needlestick safety here and here. Source: Risks 872
Effects of 'off-job' activities
Australian researchers have urged employers to create work climates where checking work emails and text messages after hours is not considered "business as usual", to prevent job strain and burnout. A University of South Australia study of 230 healthcare workers found performing work-related activities outside of work prevents people cognitively and emotionally detaching from their jobs - meaning they are constantly thinking of work.
Led by Adjunct Professor Jan de Jonge of the University's Asia Pacific Centre for WHS, the researchers say this causes workers to "continuously draw on identical resources as those needed during working hours", which, when depleted, increases strain. This leads to negative short- and long-term health effects associated with recovery from work being impeded - and management plays an important role in preventing this.
Read more: Jan de Jonge, et al, Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Off-Job Activities on Recovery and Sleep: A Two-Wave Panel Study among Health Care Employees. [Full article] International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, published online September 2018. Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe warns construction companies on heavy machinery
Victoria's regulator has warned construction companies operating in built-up areas not to put workers or members of the public at risk following two serious incidents where heavy machinery has struck suburban houses.
WorkSafe is investigating after the mast of a piling rig struck a neighbouring house at a construction site in Strathmore early last week. It is believed the rig was being loaded on to a float when it overturned and fell towards the house. And the week before a mobile crane lowering a spa bath into a backyard in Altona overbalanced, causing the boom to drop on to the roof of a neighbouring house.
WorkSafe Head of Hazardous Industries and Industry Practice Michael Coffey said the two incidents should serve as warnings to construction companies working in built-up areas about the need to carefully plan work that involved heavy machinery, and to ensure it was executed safely. Read more: Media release
Calls for gas bottle safety valves
Victorian coroner Paresa Spanos has recommended that domestic gas cylinders be fitted with safety valves and a public awareness campaign launched to prevent more deaths.
Anthony Carnevale, 24, sustained fatal head injuries transporting three bottles in the back of a rental truck on December 29, 2015. Mr Carnevale had been moving the bottles from a storage unit at Maribyrnong when about one kilogram of gas leaked, from one or more of the cylinders, igniting with a spark from an uncapped 12-volt battery. Read more: The Age
November 30: Major Hazards Forum
Twenty years on from the event that initiated the formation of the Major Hazards Program, WorkSafe is 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. Note that this is not an accredited training course under s69 of the Act - but as it is being organised by WorkSafe, employers are encouraged to attend with their elected HSRs.
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, go to this page.
OHS amendments exempt mines from MHF rules
Victoria has made the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Mines) Regulations 2018 to exempt prescribed mines from provisions for major hazard facilities (MHFs) in the State Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.
The statutory instrument also makes related amendments to ensure that mines continue to comply with some of the duties that applied to them under the MHF clauses. These include the requirement to notify the relevant authority if Schedule 14 hazardous materials are or are likely to be present in a quantity exceeding 10 per cent of their "threshold quantity". Source: OHS Alert
Safe Work Australia News
There has not been an update to the fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia since our last journal, when the number as of 18 October was 100. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage)
Still no updated monthly fatality report, despite Renata having sent an email enquiring! To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Human Rights Commission Tool kit
The National Workplace Sexual Harassment Inquiry launched a 'conversation toolkit' to assist businesses and organisations conduct facilitated conversations about workplace sexual harassment. The conversation toolkit has been developed to help employers, individuals and groups open respectful and productive discussions in their places of work, and to feed that input into their submissions to the National Inquiry.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently calling for submissions to the National Inquiry. Submissions are vital in providing the evidence base the National Inquiry will use to inform its final recommendations. Read more and download the toolkit from this page of the AHRC website.
Pesticide company fined $75k after worker run over
Eureka! MFG is a company manufacturing pesticides and herbicides at two locations in Victoria. On 14 June 2017 a truck was delivering six pallets of bulk materials. As one employee was unloading the pallets in a forklift a second employee was walking into the factory after checking the truck driver's invoices. The forklift reversed backwards while turning, and collided with him. A second forklift was needed to lift the first forklift off the injured worker.
The worker suffered serious injuries including a shattered right ankle, broken shin bone, and his leg was de-gloved from the knee to the ankle which required numerous surgeries, skin grafts, rods, plates and screws. He spent 11 weeks in hospital.
The company did not have a pedestrian exclusion zone during loading/unloading, a driver safety zone, a designated pedestrian walkway or a Traffic Management Plan at the time of the incident - these measures were, however, implemented after the incident.
Eureka! MFG pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $75,000 plus costs of $4,725.
WorkSafe comment on employer's prosecution following death of apprentice
In SafetyNet 461 we reported on the outcome of a prosecution following the death of an apprentice who was killed while working in a rood cavity in August 2016. WorkSafe has issued a media release following the prosecution.
WorkSafe's Head of Hazardous Industries and Industry Practice, Michael Coffey, said it was unacceptable for apprentice electricians to undertake electrical work without being effectively supervised by qualified electricians. "Mature-aged apprentices are becoming more common so employers need to remember that age does not necessarily relate to experience or competency."
"It is vital all inexperienced workers are effectively supervised, trained to perform their tasks safely, and encouraged to speak up or ask questions if they are unsure about something," Mr Coffey said. "This is a tragic reminder of what can happen when electrical circuits are not isolated as they should be."
To check for new prosecutions reported before the next edition of SafetyNet, go to the Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
QLD: Employer fined $90k for work on the dole fatality
A regional employment services provider was last week fined $90,000 following a 2016 incident in which a young work for the dole (WfD) worker was killed at the Toowoomba Showgrounds after falling from the back of a flat-bed trailer towed by a tractor. NEATO Employment Services Pty Ltd is one of the three entities charged over the fatality.
A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the work for the dole workers were expected to work without appropriate inductions and training, and with little supervision.
The court was told of several reasonably practicable control measures the defendant could have implemented to avoid the incident, including ensuring supervisors complied with the organisation's policies, in particular its Workplace Health and Safety Manual, and ensuring that site supervisors provided WfD workers with proper site induction and training, following a proper risk assessment.
The prosecution alleged that while the company had policies and procedures, it failed to ensure they were being observed by staff tasked with supervising the programs.
The company has taken positive steps to prevent the incident from happening again, stopped participating in the work for the dole program, contributed to local sporting community groups, and provided assistance to workers affected by the incident. Taking all of these into account plus the defendant's early guilty plea, Magistrate Keegan ruled the fine should be $150,000, but discounted to $90,000. This is appalling as the fine is just 20 per cent of the maximum - and it was not convicted.
Read more: Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Media release.
USA: Miscarriages linked to lack of protection at work
Pregnancy discrimination is widespread in corporate America. Some employers deny expecting mothers promotions or pay raises; others fire them before they can take maternity leave. But for women who work in physically demanding jobs, pregnancy discrimination often can come with even higher stakes. The New York Times reviewed thousands of pages of court and other public records involving workers who said they had suffered miscarriages, gone into premature labour or, in one case, had a stillborn baby after their employers rejected their pleas for assistance — a break from flipping heavy mattresses, lugging large boxes or pushing loaded carts. They worked at a hospital, a post office, an airport, a grocery store, a prison, a fire department, a restaurant, a pharmaceutical company and several hotels. But refusing to accommodate pregnant women is often completely legal in the USA, the paper notes. Under federal law, companies don't necessarily have to adjust pregnant women's jobs, even when lighter work is available and their doctors send letters urging a reprieve. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the only federal law aimed at protecting expecting mothers at work. It is four paragraphs long and 40-years-old. It says that a company has to accommodate pregnant workers' requests only if it is already doing so for other employees who are "similar in their ability or inability to work." That means that companies that do not give anyone a break have no obligation to do so for pregnant women. In a deregulatory political environment, recent attempts to introduce legislation to protect pregnant women at work, using the same language used in the Americans With Disabilities Act, have gone nowhere. Read more: New York Times. Source: Risks 872.