SafetyNet 468, December 5
Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet!
With Renata absent due to running a workshop, I'll be your special guest editor this week. For those that don't know me, either from our webinars or from the conference, I'm Luke - one of the OH&S Organisers here at Trades Hall. I'm also afraid the journal is a bit of a short one this week, since it's been a bit crazy around here, as you can tell.
Our headline this week is one that we hear far too often, and one that deserves to be mentioned right up top. Tragically, another worker has been killed on a Victorian job site. Reports coming in from WorkSafe state that a young labourer, only 21 years old, died in hospital a few hours after falling from a ladder on a residential construction site. The incident occurred around 12:30pm last Friday, in the Bendigo suburb of Kennington.
This fatality brings the number of confirmed workplace deaths this year to 23, compared to 24 at the same time last year.
As always, 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.
Stop Gendered Violence at Work Training
As mentioned above, Renata is occupied this week delivering a training course aimed at preventing and responding to gendered violence in the workplace. The course was developed by the OH&S and Women's teams at Trades Hall, and covers the following content:
- What is gendered violence and why is it an OHS issue
- The impacts of gendered violence – how it injures workers
- Understanding the underpinning drivers of gendered violence
- Assessing and eliminating or minimizing the risks that cause gendered violence
- Responding to incidents of gendered violence and supporting workers
- How to organise to stop gendered violence
This training course is a pilot program and we hope to use feedback from the participants to create a 1 Day HSR Refresher course that is WorkSafe approved. Initial feedback has been largely positive, and we will report on our finding in coming weeks and months.
Here's a question we received that is quite common, unfortunately:
AS OHS Rep, what are my responsibilities when there are staff at my work who are extremely stressed because of behaviours by students? We have this year had 4 teachers now go on "stress" leave because of bad (verbally and physically abusive) behaviours of students and inadequate consequences by Leadership. I want to support the staff as much as I can, but don't know how or how much I am required to do. Going to the Principal doesn't seem to make a difference, as I created a staff workplace stress survey and the results were sent to him, but no changes have been made, despite responses being very honest.
And Renata's response:
Hello [name removed]
Firstly, remember that as an elected HSR you have no 'duties' or 'responsibilities' – the duty remains on the employer.
Rather, I think you're having trouble working out what 'role' you have in getting this issues addressed, as your leadership team is not responding, and you have concerns about the health and safety of your DWG members.
Well, you've started by doing a good thing – surveying what your DWG members are experiencing/thinking/etc, and sending the results to the Leadership. As there has been no response, and no changes have been implemented, as the HSR you can, and should, take it further.
Meet with your DWG members to get from them what THEY would like to see implemented/trialled – this could include the development of procedures as to what to do when students engage in these behaviours (eg removal from the class, being sent to the principal, meetings with parents, whatever… and I suggest you contact the AEU to discuss – I have copied the AEU's OHS organiser into this email). There may be other actions (eg training for staff; time out for staff; training for students…)
Then put together a proposal that YOU take to management – use s73 'Resolution of Issues' to request a meeting. If the meeting leads nowhere – and this shouldn't happen as if you have a concrete proposal then the leadership is at a disadvantage – doing nothing means they are in breach of s21, then you can take it further by issuing a PIN (see this page for advice on the process)
Contact the AEU first to get input into your proposal.
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.
Reminder: December 10 OHS LGBTQIA+ resource Launch!
Union Pride and the Victorian Trades Hall Council are excited to formally invite HSRs, delegates and anyone who is interested to the launch of our pride resource End Divide, Through Pride - a collaboration of hundreds of workers' experiences across Victoria to create safe and supportive workplaces and reduce the specific issues faced by LGBTIQA+ workers. End Divide, Through Pride was informed by our Pride Chats, where workers had a facilitated conversation around experiences of work, the challenges faced, the causes of those challenges, and were asked what solutions they would implement.
Workers are the experts of their own experiences. Our resource seeks to address and support LGBTQIA+ workers in addressing bullying and harassment, gendered-based violence, visibility, barriers to employment and transitioning in the work place. End Divide, Through Pride will not only unpack these and other issues, but provide tools to organise, unionise and create safer systems of work.
Join us - you will have the opportunity to view the resource, give feedback, and hear from workers directly affected by this process.
When: December 10th from 2:30 - 4:00pm.
Where: the Australian Services Vic/Tas Union office; 116 Queensberry Street, Carlton South
Venue is fully accessible.
Afternoon tea and refreshments will also be provided.
The event is FREE, but please RSVP by emailing Jess
Asbestoswise Commemoration Service
It was an honour to be invited to last week's annual Asbestoswise Commemoration Service. Sam, my fellow organiser, and I were truly moved by the service and would like to extend our thanks and our gratitude to those who organised the event.
Victims of asbestos-related diseases were remembered in speeches and in photographs, in song and in silent reflection. We could not have asked for a better venue, as I'm sure anyone who has seen the inside of St. Paul's Cathedral can attest. Whether religious or not, it is hard to not feel humbled and to feel a sense of connection with those we remember in that building. The Trade Choir were another welcome addition to an already emotional experience.
If you'll allow me a brief moment of editorial freedom, I'd like to note how fitting it seemed that the Students' March for Climate Change Action took place on the same day. As Sam and I walked from St Paul's to treasury to Parliament, shutting down the CBD with thousands of young people, I kept repeating a single phrase to myself: remember the dead, fight like hell for the living.
Reminder: ASEA Review
The Australian Government is undertaking a review of the role and functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) as required under section 47 of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency 2013. An independent reviewer, Ms Julia Collins, has been engaged to conduct the review. The review will be informed by broad consultations, both through written submissions and interviews.
Further information including the review's terms of reference, discussion paper and the consultation questions are available on the Department of Jobs and Small Business' website here. It also includes details of stakeholder consultations being held in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne next week. Written submissions can be sent to email@example.com. Submissions close 18 January 2019.
'Significant Issues' Found in MHFA at Work
A report released by the Unversity of Nottingham has found that the rollout of workplace Mental Health First Aid plans has highlighted 'significant issues' in the policy. The most common issue, and perhaps the most telling of the underlying problems, is that MHFA officers (who are volunteers like any First Aid officer or health and safety rep) were contacted after hours as a result of their position. This highlights a lack of clarity in the role and in the demarcation of responsibility.
Duncan Spencer, head of advice and practice at IOSH, said: "IOSH calls for a 'prevention first' approach incorporating MHFA as part of an organisation's overall efforts to protect their workforce from mental health problems. Appointing staff in a volunteer capacity to support colleagues with mental health problems must be part of a bigger management system including preventative controls to remove or reduce risks."
Mental Health First Aid is vitally important, but clearly more work needs to be done in order to effectively implement it as a strategy in the workplace.
You can read the IOSH statement and the full report HERE.
OHS Regulator News
Carnival Ride Operator Charged Following Child's Death
After the tragic death of a 6-year-old boy in April last year, carnival ride operator Wittingslow Carnivals Pty Ltd has been charged.
The company is charged with a breach of section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that persons other than its employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The boy fell from the ride at Rye Easter Carnival, whereupon he suffered critical head injuries. He died later after being transported to hospital.
Construction Company Fined for Serious Risk of Falls
Le Maistre Builders Pty Ltd, a residential construction company based in Ocean Grove, has been fined for breaches of the OHS Act. When a Worksafe Inspector observed three apprentices working on a two-storey house with no fall protection in place.
They were fined $52,500 for the four charges laid against them, including two for failing to ensure fall risks were controlled as far as reasonably practicable, one for failing to provide adequate supervision for employees, and one for high risk construction work on incomplete scaffolding.
The site supervisor was found to have no training in occupational health and safety or in supervising housing construction sites.
"It is very lucky that no one was injured, or worse killed at either of these sites," said WorkSafe Head of Hazardous Industries and Industry Practice Michael Coffey.
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Release New Guide for Chemical Storage
Late last week Safe Work Australia released a new guide to help small to medium businesses safely store chemicals.
"In this guide, we go into some of the common health and safety risks of storing chemicals and ways to manage those risks," said Director of Chemicals Policy, Dr. Paul Taylor. "We have included a handy storage checklist that sets out the standard precautions everyone should take and a detailed chart that will tell you which types of chemicals to separate and by how far."
Petition to Make Monsanto Pay Compensation
Earlier this year, Californian groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson won a lawsuit against Monsanto when it was ruled that they caused his cancer through the carcinogenic nature of its glyphosate weedkiller, Roundup. It was a landmark case and has garnered international attention. However, as is too often the case for workers going up against multinational companies, the fight is not over.
Monsanto, and its parent company Bayer, are now refusing to pay the compensation. With possibly only months to live, Johnson may have to spend them in a courtroom.
The $78 million owed to Mr Johnson may be only the tip of the iceberg for Monsanto, if a precedent can be set for the harmful effects of Roundup. This is why the case is so important, and why an online petition has been started to get Monsanto to pay.
You can read and sign it HERE.
Anniversary of Bhopal Disaster
This week marks the 34th anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster, a chemical leak that is often referred to as the worst industrial disaster in history. It led to the deaths of at least 3800 people, and possibly many more.
The disaster began when water leaked into a tank containing 40 tons of extremely toxic methyl isocyanate at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. The introduction of water led to an increase in pressure in the tank, and subsequently the gas escaped into the atmosphere. The release of gas continued for almost 2 hours, and was made worse by a lack of any sort of evacuation plan for the workers or the nearby town.
Bhopal was, of course, no accident. Years of lax safety at the plant, even though there had been a number of prior incidents, had led to a situation where any mechanism that should have stopped the disaster was not in use.
Years later, we remember Bhopal as a lesson in what true negligence on the part of the an employer can do.
For a more in-depth analysis of the event and the effect it has had on Indian and global society since, check out this article on Confined Space.