SafetyNet 466, November 21
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet.
With the Victorian state election just days away, we have no qualms urging our Victorian readers to put the conservatives last - we want and need Industrial Manslaughter legislation. The Labor Party and the Greens have committed to introducing this legislation, while the Liberal and National parties have not.
We welcome any comments - good or bad - or if you have a news story you would like published, tell us 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.
With regards to consultation, an employer (manager) wants to slowly increase workload without consulting the DWG. Are they in breach of the health and safety act? I strongly think they are..
Yes, I agree with you - but of course I would! Workers and their elected representatives have a right to be consulted on any matter which has the possibility of affecting their health or safety.
Under s35 (the duty to consult), the employer must consult when proposing changes to "the conduct of the work performed at (the) workplace".
I think that increasing workers' workload is a clear change in the conduct of the work and the change has the potential to affect the health and safety of the workers: there's the potential increase in fatigue and stress - both of which can have physical and health effects. Your manager/employer may argue that changes in workload are not an OHS issue. If this is the case, then you will need to consider further action - for example, issuing a PIN on failure to consult.
The next battle will be convincing the WorkSafe inspectors that consultation should have/should occur – that's if you go down the path of issuing a PIN. Make sure you gather as much evidence as you can to support your case. To assist you take a look at the SafeWorkNSW 'tip sheets' on stress. There are a number of these, in particular:
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.
MUA: Safety through Solidarity - Regional safety committee formed
Union members from Hutchison ports in Indonesia, Pakistan and Australia have joined forces to form a regional safety committee. This follows at least six deaths and many other serious incidents in Hutchison terminals in the three countries over the past two years.
Under the banner 'Safety through Solidarity' unions including Serikat Pekerja – JICT (SPJICT) in Indonesia, South Asia Port Terminal (SAPT) Democratic Worker's Union in Pakistan and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), will be working closely together to protect wharfies, dockers and port workers from the abysmally low safety standards at Hutchison Ports. Warren Smith Assistant National Secretary of the MUA said "It's an incredible thing that we have to organise globally to ensure people don't die on the job. Well, that's what were going to do. We're going to fight and align our struggles as the issues are all too common. There is no space on the global waterfront for company's that do not respect safety and worker's rights. Hutchison we're coming."
Read more: MUA Media release; ITF News release.
Asbestos week events
Friday November 30: Asbestoswise Commemoration Service
Please remember to put the annual Asbestoswise Commemoration Service into your calendar: 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:
- November 14: Asbestos Awareness Morning Tea (10am-noon)
ASV/GARDS office, 41 Monash Road Newborough (Sponsored by Slater+Gordon Lawyers)
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 - while everyone enjoys scones, jam and tea. There will also be a 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: Michael Borowick, recently 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.
Energy Queensland commits to removal program
At ASEA's conference this week, major employer Energy Queensland demonstrated that the eradication of asbestos can be done once there's commitment and leadership. Energy Queensland has developed a comprehensive removal strategy to eradicate asbestos from its sites by 2030, with 60,000 square metres of asbestos-containing materials removed so far. Wayne Cullen, asbestos manager, joked that the only way to 'eat an elephant' was 'one bite at a time!', noting that asbestos had been removed from 456 sites at a cost of about $9 million, with another 636 sites to be remediated. He said that while the program would cost a lot of money, compared to the cost of 'managing asbestos in situ', the reality is that 'it's easier to remove asbestos in a planned, scheduled way than after a cyclone hits and .. asbestos is (splashed) across the environment, or when a flood or a fire hits.' Source: OHS Alert
WA: use of recycled building rubble for roads
Western Australia's McGowan Labor Government has announced it will pilot the use of recycled materials for road base on the Kwinana Freeway widening project, using recycled construction and demolition (C&D) waste as road base. In a first for a major road in Western Australia, recycled material will be trialled on a section of the freeway widening project to boost the state's poor recycling performance. It will use about 25,000 tonnes of recycled C&D product.
A new product testing scheme will help the C&D recyclers with costs associated with the rigorous sampling and testing required to ensure all products meet appropriate specifications and are free of contaminants - including asbestos. An independent audit testing scheme will provide an additional level of assurance that recycled construction and demolition products are fit for purpose. Read more: Media Release.
UK: Agency pays 'substantial' damages in asbestos spying settlement
K2 intelligence has agreed to pay 'substantial' damages to five prominent anti-asbestos campaigners after evidence emerged it had orchestrated a secret surveillance operation intended to undermine efforts to ban the deadly fibre. The campaigners took legal action after discovering details of 'Project Spring', where K2 retained Robert Moore to infiltrate and spy on the campaigners' anti-asbestos network, including covertly recording phone conversations and meetings.
In a document entitled 'Phase One Report', Moore, who posed as a documentary journalist, outlined the initial aims of the project. "I would like to engage with IBAS [International Ban Asbestos Secretariat] and LKA [Laurie Kazan-Allen] in the most genuine and heartfelt way possible so that I can establish both an intellectual and emotional connection with LKA", he wrote.
London-based Laurie Kazan-Allen heads IBAS; the other claimants in the case were Hazards magazine editor Rory O'Neill, lawyers Krishnendu Mukherjee and Harminder Bains, and Sugio Furuya, a Japan based campaigner for an asbestos ban in Asia, a key asbestos market. Invoices produced by Moore show that over a two-year period K2 paid him a total of £336,000 (A$589,270) in fees and £130,400 (A$228,735) in expenses. Legal proceedings were initiated in October 2016 for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act. K2's clients' were revealed on the instruction of the court to be Wetherby Select Ltd, a holding company in the British Virgin Islands; Kazakh asbestos industry and employers' lobbyist Nurlan Omarov; and Daniel Kunin, a politically well-connected US national and fixer. Laurie Kazan-Allen commented: "We succeeded in our aim in this litigation. The asbestos industry will lose the battle to preserve asbestos markets. We look forward to an asbestos-free future!"
Read more: Leigh Day news release. The Guardian. Source: Risks 875
New VTHC OHS Unit Training Program
The training course program for 2019 has now been uploaded on to our website, here. Check out the courses for next year and put in your training application now. Speak to your employer early to ensure that there can be no obstruction to you attending the course of your choice. Remember you have the right to choose your course (in consultation with your employer - but your employer cannot just veto your choice, or insist that you attend a course of their choice). See HSR right to training.
International Union News
UK: Employers microchipping workers!
The use of technology that allows employers to chip their workers must be discouraged, UK's peak union council theTUC has said. Commenting on news that the UK firm BioTeq, which offers the implants to businesses and individuals, has already fitted 150 implants in UK workers, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "We know workers are already concerned that some employers are using tech to control and micromanage, whittling away their staff's right to privacy. Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers. There are obvious risks involved, and employers must not brush them aside, or pressure staff into being chipped." She added: "Employers should always discuss and agree workplace monitoring policies with their workforces. Unions can negotiate agreements that safeguard workers' privacy, while still making sure the job gets done. But the law needs to change too, so that workers are better protected against excessive and intrusive surveillance." Employers' organisation CBI has also opposed microchipping of workers. A CBI spokesperson said: "While technology is changing the way we work, this makes for distinctly uncomfortable reading. Firms should be concentrating on rather more immediate priorities and focusing on engaging their employees." A union-backed University of Wisconsin study in 1990 linked electronic surveillance of workers to higher rates of workplace stress, anxiety and exhaustion. An International Labour Organisation (ILO) digest on workers' privacy raised the same concerns. Read more: TUC news release, blog and report on surveillance at work. More on privacy and health and safety. The Observer. Source: Risks 875.
Link between 'burnout' and mental harm
People feeling burned out at work are likely to experience symptoms of paranoia according to a new study. Over 200 Swiss teachers were asked to complete surveys enquiring about symptoms of burnout, depression and paranoia. The paper, published online in the journal Occupational Medicine, found that those who scored highly on the burnout scale were likely to be experiencing symptoms of paranoia. Burnout is thought to result from unresolvable work stress and leads to people experiencing emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, where they start to see others as impersonal objects. The new research has linked depression and paranoia to the condition. Study co-author Renzo Bianchi said: "Reducing paranoid tendencies in burned out individuals may lead them to re-appraise their working environment which could contribute to alleviating burnout." Asked by UK's Hazards magazine if the study had examined the influence of capability, disciplinary or sickness absence procedures on workers' mental health, Bianchi responded: "Our study was exploratory. It was a first step. Specific workplace procedures were not assessed in this piece of research. It may be useful for future studies to explore this further now that a link between burnout and paranoid ideation has been identified." Nick Pahl, chief executive of the Society of Occupational Medicine, commented: "It is important to ensure people experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition are supported. There should be an emphasis on the promotion of positive mental health in the workplace. Every employer should ensure they have occupational health services in order to access professional advice to support any health and wellbeing strategy."
Read more: R Bianchi and L Janin. Burnout, depression and paranoid ideation: a cluster-analytic study, [Abstract] Occupational Medicine, published online 12 November 2018. Source: Risks 875
OHS Regulator News
New electronic PIN available
WorkSafe Victoria has now released a new electronic Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) form which has been amended to incorporate the recent changes to s.64 of the OHS Act - service of PINs or inspector's notice. HSRs no longer require the consent of a person if they choose to send a provisional improvement notice by electronic communication. The form went live on November 16 on the WorkSafe website - it can be downloaded from the website here.
Latest Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was sent out on November 19th but is dated the 16th. In this week's editorial, we are told that WorkSafe Victoria is focusing on the prevention of falls and scaffolding safety. We are again reminded that in the lead up to the holiday season more Victorian workers die than at any other time of the year. In construction, falls are a leading cause of death.
The edition has a number of other items, both from Victoria and interstate, of interest to those in the construction sector. Victoria recently issued a Safety Alert - Heavy construction plant on housing sites - following a number of incidents involving plant tipping over on sites.
In addition, attached to the e-journal is that list of incidents notified to WorkSafe. In the period 26 October - 8 November 2018, there were 62 incidents reported to the regulator - as 'usual' there were fractures, lacerations, burns, electric shocks, and several 'unknowns', for example, in Toorak on October 29 a skid steer loader rolled down an embankment and pinned the operator underneath it. There were no details on whether the operator was seriously injured or otherwise. 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.
Alert after worker killed in forklift incident
Following an October 2018 incident in which a worker was fatally crushed when the forklift he was operating tipped over, and pinned him underneath, Queensland's WHS regulator has issued a Safety Alert. In it the regulator states that the experienced operator was moving a load into an industrial shed, when the forklift's mast collided with an overhead steel beam, causing it to tip over. It appears the operator may not have been wearing a seat belt. Investigations are continuing. The Alert outlines the potential risks and actions PCBUs should implement to eliminate/minimise these, including ensuring seat belts are fitted and worn.
Read more: WorkSafe Queensland Safety Alert
Also in Queensland, a worker was killed last Friday after sustaining critical injuries at a quarry in the Isaac region.
Queensland Health expands surveillance of dust-related diseases
Under legislation introduced in State Parliament, doctors will be required to notify Queensland Health of dust lung diseases such as coal workers' pneumoconiosis and silicosis.
As part of the Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018, the Public Health Act 2005 will be amended to create a Notifiable Dust Lung Disease Register to record cases of coal workers' pneumoconiosis, silicosis and other lung conditions caused by occupational exposure to inorganic dust.
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Dr Anthony Lynham said once the register was established, occupational and respiratory specialists would be required to notify Queensland Health when they diagnose patients with specific dust lung diseases. "This new register has been proposed to capture incidences of lung diseases from all working environments in which employees are exposed to inorganic dust," he said. "This will enable health authorities to monitor emerging occupational lung diseases such as CWP and silicosis,'' Dr Lynham said.
Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace, noting the Queensland Government issued an urgent health warning about the serious risk of exposure to silica dust in the engineered stone benchtop fabrication industry, said key stakeholders, including clinical groups and unions, had been consulted on the legislative changes.. Read more: Ministerial Media statement
NSW: Over 100 notices issued on silica
SafeWork NSW has issued 114 silicosis-related prohibition and improvement notices since launching its blitz against the debilitating lung disease in October 2017, according to the State Government. Ninety-one of the notices were issued to manufactured stone businesses, requiring them to improve their processes, PPE and health monitoring, Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean said. Read more: Media release
Safe Work Australia News
As of 15 November 2018, there had been 109 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. This is three more than the latest update on November 1. Two of these fatalities were in the Transport, postal & warehousing; and the third was in Electricity, gas, water & waste services. The workers killed so far this year have been in the following industries:
- 35 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 30 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 19 Construction
- 9 Manufacturing
- 5 Mining
- 3 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 2 Wholesale trade
- 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). Note - Safe Work is no longer publishing monthly fatality reports.
Labour hire company convicted and fined after worker loses finger
Ezyrol Trading, P/L is a labour hire company which provided labour to a co-accused, Victorian Petfood Processors Pty Ltd a petfood processor in Camperdown.
On 3 May 2017, an Ezyrol employee was operating a mixer, placing 200 kg of meat into a hopper at the top, with the finished product extruded from the front into a 200 litre bin. The mixer was normally fitted with a mesh safety guard with a magnetic interlock sensor attached to another interlock sensor on the main part of the machine. Ordinarily, the two sensors had to be in contact for the machine to operate. On that day the guard had been removed due to a faulty sensor - allowing the mixer to operate without the guard. The worker noticed the machine had stopped and seemed to be blocked. He pressed the stop button not realising he had not pressed it hard enough and the machine was still operating. He put his hand into the outfeed of the mixer to remove the obstruction, but the mixer continued to operate, the blade severing his middle finger and crushing two other fingers on his right hand. He was taken to Warrnambool Hospital where he underwent surgery to have his finger re-attached. Ezyrol pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined of $12,500 plus $3,505 costs
Construction company fined $52.5K for multiple breaches
Le Maistre Builders Pty Ltd is a home development company in the Ocean Grove area which was issued with multiple Prohibition notices at two separate construction sites.
On 2 February 2017, a WorkSafe Inspector issued a Prohibition Notice after observing persons working on the second level of the double storey house without appropriate fall protection in place. (Charge 1). There were also three apprentices at the site, doing carpentry works - and the inspector was advised that the site supervisor had limited work experience, no formal OHS training and no experience supervising housing construction sites. This created a risk to health and safety from the failure to provide adequate supervision for apprentice employees on site. (Charge 2)
On 3 May 2017, an Inspector attended another Le Meistre construction site (workplace 2) again observing workers on the second level of a double storey house without appropriate fall protection in place. An Prohibition Notice was issued to the company. (Charge 3).
The Inspector observed the company's employees working from incomplete and unsafe scaffolding at the south and west side of the workplace. Two more Prohibition Notices to the offender to address the immediate risk of falling over two metres from the incomplete scaffold on site. (Charge 4)
Le Maistre Builders pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined a total of $52,500 (An aggregate fine of $15,000 in relation to Charge 1 and 2 and an aggregate fine of $37,500 in relation to Charge 3 and 4) and plus $4,239.30 in costs.
Fined for unlicensed asbestos removal
Mouhamad Ayach, trading under the name Mouhamed Ayach Demolition, was engaged by a property onwer in Preston to demolish a single storey weatherboard house. On 22 August 2017 a WorkSafe Inspector observed two people working at the workplace, and saw asbestos containing material (ACM) placed in the back of a utility without any lining or wrapping. Broken sheets of ACM lay under the veranda. The two workers telephoned Mr Ayach who attended the workplace - the Inspector then ordered a cease work direction and issued a Prohibition Notice. A clearance certificate was issued that day for the removal of ACM in the utility.
The asbestos removal was then completed on 31 August 2017 by a licensed asbestos removalist. Further asbestos was located and subsequently removed. A clearance certificate was provided.
Investigations revealed that Mouhamad Ayach had successfully completed a course in 'Remove non-friable asbestos'; however, he did not have an asbestos removal licence. He pleaded guilty to one charge pursuant to section 40(4) of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004 as a person carrying out asbestos removal work without being licensed or registered, and was sentenced, without conviction, to a 12 month adjourned undertaking and ordered to pay costs of $3406.60.
Timber supplier convicted, fined
Fox Hay Timber and Hardware Pty Ltd supplies timber and building materials to tradespeople. It operates as a self-serve system: customers select their own timber with or without the assistance of staff. The storage rack to access the timber was located in front of a sliding gate section of the mezzanine level perimeter.
On 16 June 2017, a customer fell from the mezzanine level to the concrete floor below - this occurred while he was getting timber. He believes he leant on the sliding gate - and both he and the gate fell 2.55 metres to the concrete floor below. As a result of the fall, the customer suffered head and back injuries.
The company could have eliminated or reduced the risk by securing the gate and monitoring its condition; installing and operating a lock system on the gate; and having signage indicating the procedure for securing the sliding gate and warning of the risk of fall if not secured.
Fox Hay Timber and Hardware pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined of $22,500 plus $4,115 in costs.
To check for new prosecutions reported before the next edition of SafetyNet, go to the Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
QLD: Company fined $250k after fatality
Queensland's WHS regulator says a 'hefty fine' issued to a housing construction company after one of its contractors fell and died at a worksite 'is another stark reminder safety must not be compromised'. After pleading guilty to a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Bennett Developments (FNQ) Pty Ltd was fined $250,000 at a sentence hearing in the Cairns Magistrates Court on 15 November 2018.
In March 2016, the company was constructing a two storey house in Kanimbla. It engaged a painting contractor, who in turn employed a worker to assist with the painting work. There was a void of 3.2m between the ground and first level of the house. On 29 March 2016, the Bennett Developments' site supervisor and the painting contractor discussed fall protection for the void area before painting started. They placed a timber pallet barrier across the vertical face of the void and held it upright by one or more buckets filled with rubble or water.
The site supervisor then handed the interior of the house over to the painting contractor for it to be taped up and sprayed. After the site supervisor left the house, the pallet barrier was removed and placed against a door frame to the right of the void area. On 1 April 2016, the worker fell through the void and sustained fatal injuries. There were no eyewitnesses and the exact sequence of events leading up to the incident are unknown.
The court noted that: 'The hazard was obvious and the risk which materialised was catastrophic.' Yest despite this, and the high fine, the company was not convicted - a worker was killed in an incident that foreseeable and preventable. Read more: WorkCover Queensland media release
USA: Anniversary of mine disaster
50 years ago, on November 20, 1968, 78 miners died in an explosion at the Consol No. 9 coal mine in Farmington, West Virginia.
At 5.30am that day, a huge explosion tore through Consolidation Coal's Number Nine mine. The force of the blast could be felt for miles. There would be dozens of other explosions in the following days and intense fires. Ninety-nine miners were underground at the time; 21 managed to make it to the surface, but 78 were trapped. All who were unable to escape perished; the bodies of 19 of the dead were never recovered. The cause of the explosion was never determined, but the incident served as the catalyst for several new laws that were passed to protect miners.
Read more: Wikipedia, a NIOSH oral history, and a 2006 National Pubic Radio feature.