SafetyNet 464

SafetyNet 464

SafetyNet 464, November 7

Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet. 

Once again we apologise for a shorter journal - Melbourne Cup week has meant just one day at work for our editor, Renata.

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.


Union News
OHS Regulator News
OHS Prosecutions
International News

Union News

VTHC HSR Conference October 30

Now that we've had a bit more time to step back and assess, we can say with absolute certainty that last week's HSR Conference was the biggest ever! With over 1200 attendees across four venues, 12 HSRs as guest speakers and overwhelmingly positive feedback from those who attended, we're very happy with how it went. 

Great work to everyone who came along to make it such a success! Special thanks to Minister Robin Scott, WorkSafe Victoria, Slater & Gordon, ME Bank, MCEC staff, all our affiliated unions, all of our presenters and speakers (especially HSRs who shared their stories) and everyone else who helped out.

Look forward to seeing you all again in 2019! (If not before.)

Keep your eyes on our Facebook pages where we will be loading up the video of some of the sessions, as well as Renata's powerpoint presentation. We'll also do a page on the site with materials from the Conference on it.. In the meantime, you can download the Powers of HSRs presentation here and check it out.

Ask Renata
I'm a HSR and my colleagues are passing on to me they are really stressed by the workload. Unfortunately this is an on-going issue and I have raised the issue according to our procedures and also sat down with management - but nothing is being done; not even an acknowledgement of the issue. Staff feel intimidated speaking-up as they don't want to be bullied or discriminated against. Bullying has been an issue in the past. I'm trying to get information to demonstrate to management that there is an issue and I was hoping I could do a survey to get staff feedback. When I raised this with management they quickly shut it down. Do I need to get my managers permission?

I do not believe your company's management has the right to 'shut down' your attempts to survey your DWG members. Your role as the HSR is to represent your DWG members to management on their OHS issues, in order to then seek resolution of these. One way to get from your members what their issues are, how they feel, what are the contributing factors are and so on is to survey them. As workers, they have the right to give you, their elected HSR information - and this can be in any form, including a survey.

I recommend that you go ahead and survey the DWG. Inform management that you are undertaking this survey as part of your representation role. Make the survey anonymous and voluntary. Make sure the DWG members are aware you have informed management; that management sought to prevent the survey being done; that you have received advice that as the HSR you have the right to seek their views; and  that all information gathered will be kept anonymous,

Take a look at the bullying section on the site, and the page on other information -  I think there is a survey  in some of the material.

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.

Asbestos News
Docked for attending on-site asbestos meeting
.A case is currently in the Federal Courts over whether a company lawfully docked workers' pay for attending a union meeting about on-site asbestos - and the outcome could hinge on whether they faced an "imminent threat" and whether the supervisor who granted permission was authorised.

The AMWU's Victorian branch is suing CEM International Pty Ltd over its decision to reduce 10 workers' pay by four hours each for attending what it claims was a 50-minute meeting to discuss safety concerns about asbestos found at the company's Coolaroo factory.

According to the union's statement of claim,  the workers' supervisor granted permission for the after-lunch meeting, as well as attending it himself. The following pay week, the union claims that the company told the workers it would dock their wages for participating in unlawful industrial action when they attended the meeting. Under s74 of the OHS Act, of course, an HSR is entitled to order that work cease in the case of an incident or imminent threat to the health and safety of any person.
Source: Workplace Express

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.
More information on Asbestoswise - please support this worthwhile organisation and donate if you are able to.

Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS events
ASV/GARDS, the 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:

  1. 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. Experts Asbestos litigation lawyers, an OHS&E environmental firm, Representative from Latrobe City environmental Health unit, Sustainability Education Officer from Latrobe City will answer questions from the community. 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.  
  2. 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. 

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.

List of Mr Fluffy Homes To Be Made Public
Mr Fluffy, the name given to the businesses and practices of certain insulation companies operating in Canberra throughout the 1960s and 70s, has put thousands of ACT residents at risk of exposure to asbestos over the years. As opposed to a solid building material, which can be safe unless it is cut or drilled into, Mr Fluffy was a particularly insidious form of the substance, often being sold in bags of loose fibre directly to homeowners for DIY use.

As a result of the widespread and unchecked use of the substance, it took many years for the true size and reach of the Mr Fluffy epidemic to become apparent. However, in 2015, the ACT Government finalised a list of areas and properties that were affected. Estimates put the number of individuals potentially exposed at up to 30,000. The list was kept by the Asbestos Response Taskforce, and was not made public at the time. 

Next year, on December 6th, that register will be made public for the first time and will also distinguish which buildings listed have been demolished and which have not. As more properties are demolished, the list will continue to be updated. 

Read more on Asbestos in the home and Asbestos in the workplace

International Union News 
UK: TUC action call on 'workplace killer' diesel exhaust
According to the TUC, Britain's peak union council, diesel exhaust is one of the biggest workplace killers. However it has warned the UK is failing to take the action necessary to protect workers. The TUC cites official figures putting the toll from diesel-fume related cancers alone at 800 each year, although studies have indicated the real figure could be considerably higher (Risks 635). The TUC says that UK safety regulations fail to recognise diesel exhaust as a cause of occupational cancers – a designation which has now been recognised by the European Commission, along with a new occupational exposure limit (Risks 871). Commenting on the UK's lack of action on the dangers, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said: "At the moment, the level of awareness about the dangers of diesel fuel is appalling, and any enforcement action is rare." He added that "trade unions need to ensure that their employers take action to remove or reduce the risk from diesel exhaust to the lowest level possible, regardless of any limit. That is why the TUC has published a guide to diesel exhaust that highlights the practical and simple steps that your employer can take to protect their workers." The guide "gives a clear and simple message to all trade union health and safety representatives. If you can see or smell diesel exhaust emissions in your workplace then you have a problem and your employer needs to sort it." In addition to cancers, diesel exhaust emission exposures can cause heart, lung and other diseases.

In Australia there is no workplace exposure standard for diesel. This is an issue the VTHC has raised and the unit recently had a webinar on the topic.
Read more: TUC news release and Diesel exhaust in the workplace: A TUC guide for trade union activists [pdf], October 2018. Topic information page on Diesel, including the Webinar. Source: Risks 873

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Worker representation 'critical' to protecting miners
More employer and state commitment to worker representation on health and safety issues is 'critical' to the protection of coal miners, an international study has found. Researchers from Cardiff University set out to examine how workers are represented on health and safety issues in countries with differing economic profiles. The study, funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), examined practices in mines in Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia and South Africa.

The researchers found "a clear regulatory steer, managerial commitment and well trained and informed health and safety representatives, supported by strong workplace trade union organisation, were critical to the effectiveness of the arrangements for worker representation." The researchers added that their study "suggests that global regulatory bodies, such as the International Labour Organisation and global workers' organisations, also have an essential role. Support from these bodies is important to ensure that miners' representation and consultation on safety and health remain as central to the implementation of preventative strategies for safety and health in mining as they have been in the history of mining in advanced market economies." Richard Jones, IOSH's head of policy, said: "This research supports the principle that effective worker involvement can help bring health and safety improvement. But, importantly, this doesn't happen in isolation. It needs effective regulation and management commitment, together with access to good training and protection of contractors." The ILO estimates that although mining only accounts for one per cent of the global workforce, it is responsible for about eight per cent of fatalities at work.
Read more: IOSH news release. Representing miners in arrangements for safety and health in coal mining: a global perspective, IOSH, 2018. To view the research - including the Research summary; Volume 1: A comparative analysis of findings from five countries; and Volume 2: Case studies in five countries - click here. Source: Risks 873

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OHS Regulator News

Victorian News

Latest Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was sent out on November 2. In this issue Kate Maheras Acting Manager for WorkSafe's Construction Program writes about the need for people in the construction industry to be extra vigilant in the lead up to the most dangerous time of the year. "With only eight weeks left until Christmas and the summer holiday period, builders, contractors and workers will be under pressure to get jobs completed prior to the holiday break." Unfortunately, this means that more incidents occur and more fatalities. 

The edition has a number of other items, both from Victoria and interstate, of interest to those in the construction sector. In addition, attached to the e-journal is that list of incidents notified to WorkSafe. In the period 28 September – 11 October 2018, there were 96 incidents reported to the regulator - this number is greater than 'usual' and includes a large number of serious incidents. On October 24, for example, a worker was installing roofing trusses when he fell 6.2m from the first floor roof to the basement - he suffered serious injuries including internal bleeding, a fractured neck and other injuries
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 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.

WA: Fuel retailing checklist
Western Australia's regulator has developed a checklist to highlight safety issues in fuel retailing and provides information on how to best manage those risks to minimise workplace injuries and comply with occupational safety and health legislation. The checklist can be downloaded here

Safe Work Australia News
Fatality statistics
As of 1 November 2018, there had been 106 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. This is six more than the latest update on October 18. Three of these fatalities were in the Transport, postal & warehousing; one each in Agriculture, forestry & fishing, Arts and recreations services and in Public administration and safety.  The workers killed so far this year have been in the following industries:

  • 33 Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 30 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 19 Construction
  • 9 Manufacturing
  • 5 Mining
  • 2 Wholesale trade
  • 2 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 2 Arts and recreation services
  • 2 Public administration & safety
  • 1 Administrative and support services
  • 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.

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Victorian prosecutions
There have been no new prosecutions under the OHS Act uploaded to the WorkSafe website. To check for new prosecutions reported before the next edition of SafetyNet, go to the Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

UK: Director jailed after waste worker's crush death
A waste and recycling company director has been jailed after the death of a 39-year-old worker eight years ago. Liverpool Crown Court heard how Polish national Zbigniew Galka died while working at Gaskells Waste Services on 23 December 2010. He was crushed while clearing a blockage on a baling machine, suffering haemorrhaging, shock and severe traumatic injuries to both legs. He died on his way to hospital. At Liverpool Crown Court, Jonathan Gaskell, 47, admitted a criminal breach of health and safety law and was jailed for eight months. A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Merseyside Police found Mr Galka died trying to fix a machine which compresses waste material into small bales. The machine's safety system had been disabled two months earlier. Gaskell's (North West) Limited, which the prosecution said had a "patch it up and keep it running approach", also pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £700,000 (A$1.27m) and ordered to pay costs of almost £100,000 (A$181,000). An HSE inspector commented: "A great deal of time has passed since his tragic passing and we would like to publicly thank Zbigniew's family for their patience throughout this complex investigation. This incident was completely avoidable and it is inconceivable that Gaskells continued to operate the same dangerous machine in the way it did for as long as five years after this incident." He added: "Companies should be aware that HSE will not accept the defeating of safety systems in order to maintain production and will not hesitate to take action against those that fall below the required standards."
Read more: HSE news release. Gaskells statement. BBC News Online. Source: Risks 873

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International News

USA: Miscarriages linked to lack of protection at work
On November 5 1930, at 11.45 a.m., a huge explosion rocked the Sunday Creek No. 6 mine near Millfield, Ohio, killing 82 coal miners. Most of the miners were killed by asphyxiation from the carbon monoxide that resulted from the ignition of methane gas. A few miners survived by climbing out a ventilation shaft, and an additional 19 miners were rescued 10 hours after the blast. They survived by barricading themselves behind a ventilation partition they had erected to block the carbon monoxide. Ignition of the gas was believed to be caused by an electrical arc between a fallen trolley wire and the rail.
Read more: Confined Spaces blog; Jordan Barab

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