Issue 187 - SafetyNet Journal 187Welcome to SafetyNet 187: readers are urged to participate in International Workers' Memorial Day; nominate for the Victorian WorkSafe Awards; read about chemicals and cancer; and more
Activities for repsInternational Workers Memorial Day – Wednesday April 28
Worker’s Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year. All over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a host of other activities to mark the day. The global theme for the day is "Unions Make Workplaces Safer." Victorian unions proposed amending this to: "Unions and Health and Safety Representatives Make Workplaces Safer" - a proposal accepted by the ACTU and labour councils around Australia.
The traditional joint IDSA/VTHC commemoration ceremony at Argyle Place in Lygon St at 9.30am, followed by a rally organised by the Building unions outside Trades Hall. If you are able to attend the event, come and join us to mourn for the dead but fight for the living. If you are not able to attend the event, do something in your workplace to both focus on health and safety and remember the workers who have died because of work.
Read more, including details of events and the 2010 flyer.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’s (EU-OSHA) next Healthy Workplaces Campaign will focus on the importance of safe maintenance in European workplaces, and draw attention to the risks when it is not carried out properly. It will be officially launched on 28 April 2010 and support a wide range of activities at both the European and country level. The Campaign Guide has a great deal of useful and interesting information for Australian workplaces.
The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) has launched its global campaign, calling on building and forestry workers to mobilize for this 28th April, showing the world that unions make work safer. “BWI affiliates’ visibility in International campaigns such as workers’ health and safety day on 28th April is imperative if we are to influence policy and improve workplace representation” said BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson. BWI H&S Director, Fiona Murie (who was the International guest at our Reps' Conference in 2009), pointed out that health and safety conditions are likely to get better and better when the unions are strong and active - they raise concerns and propose solutions. However the reverse also happens, and employers do not comply with H&S duties where the unions are weak. Read more: BWI News and background material on 28th April.
Nominate NOW for WorkSafe’s annual OHS Awards
WorkSafe has sent out a call for nominations for “companies and individuals that go the extra distance, whose innovation and leadership raises the standard of health and safety for everyone”.
Traditionally we have urged our readers to think about nominating their health and safety rep and/or health and safety committee. However, we know that many SafetyNet subscribers are or work in small businesses, so if your company has developed an innovative safety solution or demonstrated exceptional dedication to workplace safety, please encourage them to enter, nominate them yourself, or simply forward their details to WorkSafe (see below). Nominations close on May 7, so hurry up and nominate now.
WorkSafe Awards Categories for 2010
1. Best OHS Management System
2. Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue
3. Best Health and Safety Initiative in a Small Business
4. Health and Safety Representative of the Year
5. Health and Safety Committee of the Year
WorkSafe has made it easier to enter with simpler forms and information pack – for more information, including entry forms, judging criteria, and examples of previous award finalists go to the Awards webpage or contact the WorkSafe Awards Coordinator on 8663 5033 or send an email
Return To Work - Does it work for injured workers?
Sad news: The VTHC’s Return To Work Unit will close in May but before it does, it would like to share with unions, delegates, health and safety reps and members their findings about workers’ experience of returning to work after suffering a workplace injury.
Please join the Unit for their final forum Return To Work - Does it work for injured workers? in which the RTW staff will discuss their research findings.
When: Tuesday 27th April, 10am - 12 pm. Lunch provided.
Where: Trades Hall; Corner of Victoria & Lygon Sts Carlton South.
RSVP: Thursday 22nd April Ph: 03 9659 3511 or email: Ellen Klemaker Return to Work Website
Members of my DWG have raised with me a concern that they are spending all day in front of the computer. Are there any health and safety implications?
Yes, there can be quite serious implications. Firstly the commonly known one of sprains and strains, including overuse syndrome, particularly if the worker is doing long periods of data entry (see the Workstations and seating). Secondly, some workers report eye strain - although the new flat screen monitors have improved this. Finally, just spending much of your time at work sitting down can in fact be a problem. The technology now commonly used in workplaces has meant many changes to how we work. Many workers spend a large part of their working day sitting down, tethered to their desks in front of a computer screen. The average office worker spends about 80,000 hours seated in the course of his working life and 80% of those who work at the computer every day regularly suffer from health problems. Two thirds suffer from tension and pain in the shoulder and neck, more than half have back problems and around 45% suffer from eye problems and headaches. Research has proven that too much sitting for long stretches of time can be detrimental to your health, regardless of how much you exercise. Read more: Sedentary work
Ask Renata – if you have any OHS-related questions, why don’t you send me an email? Click on the Ask Renata on the homepage and send it in. Please note: If you’ve sent in a query recently but have not received a reply please email me directly with your original question.
Asbestos Alert: gaskets from NZ and Thailand
Notice to all maintenance/automotive workers: WorkSafe WA has released an asbestos alert [pdf] after gaskets imported from New Zealand and Thailand were found to contain the prohibited substance.
Conference: Stop the Violence
A quick reminder of this ANF conference (20 May, ANF Conference Centre, 540 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne). The conference will look into the differences and commonalities found within healthcare settings dealing with violence and aggression, and the actions being implemented to address the problem of violence. The conference is not limited to ANF members, and is of interest to nurses, midwives, care workers, OHS Managers, HSRs and Human Resource Managers. Click here to register for this Expo or email or call Carole de Greenlaw on (03) 9275 9333.
Results of international union film competition
Nearly 3,000 people voted – if you haven’t checked out these union films, take a look. They are brilliant: funny but make really valid points. And it’s great the Australian entry won. My favourites are numbers 1 and 4
And the winners for 2010 are ...
- What have the unions ever done for us? [Australia] - 737 votes
- A call to action - Trade Unions and Climate Change [Global] - 622 votes
- VALE INCO'S CEO Roger Fuhrer Loses His Fight... [Canada/Germany] - 553 votes
- Just another cog in the machine [UK] - 419 votes
- The Janitor [Canada] - 417 votes
- CUPE 3903 Strike Ads [Canada] - 220 votes
Call for papers - "Moving On"- Exploring New Directions in People Handling
The Australian Association for the Manual Handling of People 4th Bi-Annual Conference, October 12-15, 2010 - Sydney NSW. Organisers are seeking expressions of interest from people working in Aged and Community Services, Acute Care Health Services, Childcare, Disability Services, Emergency Services, Rehabilitation Services such as Physiotherapists, Occupation Therapists, Nurses, Occupational Health and Safety Practitioners Ergonomists, etc for projects and presentations that respond to the conference themes of Equipment, Space and Design, Research and Exploring New Directions, People Handling Challenges, Worker Health, Safety and Wellness.
For further information log onto the Conference website
Fatality at BHP Nickel mine in WARescuers recovered the body of the 45 year old Koondoola man who plunged 18 metres to his death at BHP's Perseverance Nickel mine in Leinster WA in the early hours of Monday morning. The location of the accident made it very difficult for rescuers to get to the trapped man. BHP Billiton has suspended operations at the site.
This is third serious incident at the mine in less than 10 months. In June last year, the State Government expressed concerns about BHP's safety record after workers became trapped underground in two rock fall incidents in three weeks. The incidents led to a prohibition notice at the mine, preventing BHP from operating there until the site was declared safe by an independent investigator.
Steve McCartney of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said BHP Billiton continued to have safety problems at its WA mines, mainly because it failed to listen to workers' concerns. "Workers should be able to go to work without fear of not coming home today," he told ABC Radio. Mr McCartney called for a full and open inquiry into the accident. The WA Labour Opposition is also calling for a Royal Commission into mine safety in the state.
Australian Workers Union WA secretary Stephen Price said if nothing was done the state faced further mine disasters. "The chase for profits in the coming mining boom should not be at the expense of mine workers' lives," he said. "We've always known that a union mine is a safe mine, unfortunately BHP just refuses to learn that lesson." AWU Media Release
In an ironic and tragic twist, just two weeks ago BHP Billiton Nickel West was awarded with a Chamber of Minerals and Energy Safety and Health Innovation Award in Perth. The award recognised its construction of a working platform that supposedly eliminated the dangers associated with working from heights and minimised a variety of other hazards. Yesterday the WA Mines Minister, Norman Moore, said a new safety regime for the industry will be funded by a series of new levies, fees and charges to be paid by the industry.
Sources: ABC; WAtoday.com.au, OHSAlert
MUA mourns member’s deathOn Wednesday, April 7, dock workers in every port across Australia stopped work for one hour to mourn the tragic death of Nick Fanos, crushed to death while loading containers at Port Botany on March 28 ( SafetyNet 186). At the same time as the funeral service, branches of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) across the country held meetings to move a resolution for the Government to lead a National Stevedoring Safety Taskforce, to seek the earliest introduction of a regulated National Stevedoring Safety Code of Practice. On behalf of the grieving family, Nick Fanos’ nephew Spiro Tzouganatos, wrote to the Prime Minister calling for the Government to prevent a further waste of lives on the waterfront. The union has written to all employers and has called on Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese to jointly back a high level meeting with the major stevedoring companies and the union to establish the Task Force, and to work on urgently needed changes in stevedoring safety management.
Read more MUA Media Release
Worker dragged into conveyor belt
A worker at a Broadmeadows tyre factory was seriously injured yesterday morning when he fell onto a conveyor belt and was dragged in up to his neck. The man tripped and put his arm out to save himself when he became tangled in the machine at just after 4.30am. The injured man managed to free himself and alert colleagues. He was taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital in a stable condition. WorkSafe is investigating the accident. Plant regulations require the employer to eliminate the risks or minimise them if that's not practicable, and that IF the employer uses guarding as a control measure, then the employer must make sure it prevents access to the danger point or area of the plant. In other words, if the guarding is inadequate, it is the employer's responsibility to rectify it. Plant regulations
Source: The Age
Worker hospitalised after factory chemical leak
A factory worker was fortunate to have been rescued after being overcome by toxic chemicals at a factory at Laverton North earlier this week. The worker was neutralising waste, when he was exposed to chlorine gas, an extremely poisonous gas which if breathed in causes serious damage to the respiratory system. The man was rescued by a truck driver who was delivering chemicals to the plant. There were no other workers in the area at the time. Both men only just made it to a safety zone when they collapsed. The truck driver was discharged from hospital overnight; the factory worker is now in a stable condition. It took fire crews three hours to clear the gas from the plant.
Queensland Coroner: all construction workers should get basic first-aid training
A Queensland Coroner has recommended that all construction workers receive basic first-aid training, after he found the lack of medical intervention contributed to a worker’s death from heatstroke.
In January 2007, a bricklayer was working at a new housing construction site in Cannonvale, Qu. Although the weather was very hot, the only shelter provided for the men on site was some scaffolding with a plank across it. Late one afternoon, two colleagues discovered the worker lying in a garden bed with blood coming from his mouth and groaning. He was pronounced dead 40 minutes after ambulance officers arrived at the scene. Although not alone on the site, the worker received no first aid.
Although the worker had a number of ‘risk factors for exertional heat stress’ at the time of his death, Coroner Ronald Muirhead said that his chances of survival would have been greatly increased had he received appropriate first aid. Muirhead urged Workplace Health and Safety Queensland to address the issues of lack of first-aid training and education on heatstroke on work sites. He specifically recommended WHSQ implement and monitor a requirement that all building sites have at least one person who has obtained a prescribed level of first-aid training. As well, the coroner said all employees should receive basic first-aid training as part of their induction process to be assessed and monitored by the WHSQ.
Source: Workplace OHS. Findings of the Inquest [pdf]
Union News - InternationalUK: Teaching stresses leave staff ‘suicidal’
Research by UK union NASUWT has found the pressures piled on teachers are so severe some staff have considered suicide. Its survey found a lack of support from schools and their management teams was leading to stress, burnout and depression. The survey report, based on interviews with teachers and school managers, reveals that teachers are suffering from a range of stress related symptoms including heart palpitations, lack of sleep, eating problems and depression. Causes of stress included bullying school management, a 'tick-box culture', targets and difficult pupils.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: 'This hard-hitting report is designed to put the spotlight on the issue of mental health which is often swept under the carpet. Teaching is widely recognised as one of the most stressful occupations but a healthy workforce is central to delivering healthy outcomes for pupils.' She added: 'The research confirms the need to tackle the root causes of stress in schools, such as the impact of the high-stakes accountability regime on the wellbeing of school leaders, teachers and other staff.' The 2009 conference of teaching union NUT heard teachers in England and Wales have a 40 per cent greater risk of suicide than the general population ( Risks 410).
Union media release Politics.co.uk Hazards occupational suicide webpages. Source: Risks 451
In Victoria: According to the Australian Teachers Union (AEU), the experience of Victorian teachers overwhelmingly supports the findings of this report: that stress is on the increase and is indeed a serious risk to health, and that a major cause of stress in teaching is the 'tsunami of new initiatives, accountabilities and requirements that take away from the joy of teaching and leave teachers feeling completely overwhelmed, under-resourced and often blamed for shortcomings in the system.' WorkCover claims data shows an increase in stress injuries in our schools, and the education sector remains a target area for WorkSafe intervention. Equally worrying for the union is that most stress injuries remain unreported, unclaimed and unresolved. 'We do not have a culture of disclosing, let alone reporting stress injuries and often try to ignore the symptoms hoping they will just go away. The hidden costs to individuals, their families and the community cannot be underestimated.'
The AEU says the causes of stress at a systems level must be tackled. There must also be greater awareness that a stress injury can affect any-one, can be debilitating and can be long term. The AEU urges teachers to acknowledge if their health is affected by stress, to seek assistance before the effect on health is irreversible and to work collectively to identify and combat stress hazards in the same way as any other OHS hazard.
USA: Explosion kills 29 miners
The huge explosion at a West Virginia coal mine on 5 April has killed 29 miners and injured two others in the worst mining disaster in the United States in forty years. The Upper Big Branch mine, owned by Massey Energy, has a poor safety record, and unions have criticised the company policy that put production ahead of safety. According to federal records, the official mine safety watchdog MSHA cited this mine for more than 1,300 safety violations from 2005, with 50 safety citations in the last month alone. Upper Big Branch is one of Massey's biggest underground mines, with more than 200 employees, and not unlike other big coal mines, had hundreds of violations each year, including 16 ‘withdrawal orders’ for serious and substantial mine safety violations. Massey is contesting all of them, and uses such appeals to avoid tougher enforcement. Richard Trumka, president of national union body AFL-CIO and a former miner, said the tragedy 'isn't just a matter of happenstance, but rather the inevitable result of a profit-driven system and reckless corporate conduct.' He added: 'Massey paid over $1 million in fines in the past year alone - and has failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more in fines that it is contesting.' The accident was the worst in the United States since 1970, when 38 miners were killed at Finley Coal Company's No. 15 and 16 mines in Hyden, Kentucky.
This disaster happened hours after most of the 153 miners who had remained trapped in Wang Jialing mine in China’s Shanxi province were rescued. The death toll this week reached 25 with 13 still trapped. When the water flooded the mine on March 28, 261 workers had been underground and were trapped.
Sources: Risks 451; Sunday Gazette Mail
Farm pesticides may ‘double risk of skin cancer’Four common farm pesticides, including a chemical used in Australia in flea powders for cats and dogs, have been linked to increased risk of skin cancer by a major health study in the United States. The US Health Department study, which involved scientists from the National Cancer Institute and University of Iowa, looked at skin cancer rates among more than 56,000 farmers exposed to a range of 50 farm chemicals.
It found the risk of developing skin cancer doubled for those exposed to four chemicals – maneb, mancozeb, methyl parathion and carbaryl. These sprays and powders are used on a variety of crops in the US, including nuts, vegetables and fruits. Rates of skin cancer have tripled in the US over the past 30 years, with sun exposure identified as the chief cause, but the study suggests exposure to farm chemicals “may be another important source of melanoma risk”.
Source: Canberra Times
Work chemicals linked to breast cancer
A new study suggests that occupational exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants before a woman reaches her mid-30s could treble her risk of developing cancer after the menopause. Women exposed to synthetic fibres and petroleum products during the course of their work seem to be most at risk, according to the paper, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Findings are based on more than 1,100 women, 556 of whom were diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996/7 in Montreal, Canada, when aged between 50 and 75 and who had gone through the menopause. The other 613 women, matched for age and date of diagnosis, had a range of other cancers, and were intended to act as a comparison group.
A team of chemists and industrial hygienists investigated the women's levels of exposure to about 300 different substances throughout their employment history. After taking account of the usual factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, a link was found between occupational exposure to several substances. Compared with the comparison group, this risk peaked for exposures before the age of 36, and increased each additional decade of exposure before this age. Women occupationally exposed to acrylic fibres had a seven-fold risk of breast cancer, while those exposed to nylon fibres almost doubled their risk. Exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (found in petroleum products) before the age of 36, tripled the risk for women whose tumours were responsive to both oestrogen and progesterone. The authors concede their findings could be due to chance, but say they are consistent with the theory that breast tissue is more sensitive to harmful chemicals if the exposure occurs when breast cells are still active (ie, before a woman reaches her 40s). They also point to the rising incidence of breast cancer in developed countries, a trend in which environmental and workplace factors are thought to have a role.
This study is the latest linking work factors to the development of breast cancer in women. A 2006 Scottish study revealed the kinds of jobs a woman has throughout her life, and the substances to which she is exposed during those jobs such as pesticides and hormones, impact her risk of developing breast cancer. While another study, found night time exposure to artificial light may explain the higher incidence of breast cancer in female night-shift workers.
F Labreche and others. Postmenopausal breast cancer and occupational exposures, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 67, pages 263-269, 2010 [abstract]. Business Week. HESA news report.
Long working hours more harmful than chronic ill healthNew Australian research has found that employees working excessive hours are more likely to take sick leave than those suffering from anxiety, arthritis, back pain and up to seven other chronic health problems. In addition, the researchers from Griffith University found that those who work long hours are probably more inefficient than their less-than-healthy colleagues.
'Being expected to work more than 40 hours a week was associated with a risk of absenteeism similar to having five to seven health conditions,' they said. 'Those expected to work more than 60 hours a week [have] an increased risk of absenteeism higher than someone with eight to 10 comorbid health conditions.'
More than 78,000 Australian workers from 58 large organisations responded to a health and productivity questionnaire, which looked into self-reported absenteeism rates, productivity patterns, and screens for psychological distress. The researchers found that health problems - including diabetes, asthma and chronic headache - were associated with an increased risk of absenteeism, but also discovered that modern workplace demands - such as increasing time pressures, irregular or longer hours, and greater job complexity or cognitive demands - were adversely affecting productivity.
Work Performance Decrements are Associated with Australian Working Conditions, Particularly the Demand to Work Longer Hours. [abstract] Libby Holden, et al, Australia, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 52, Number 3, 2010.
Bullying seminarsThe WorkSafe Victoria Bullying seminar series is continuing: the remaining seminars are:
Bendigo (20 April), Preston (28 April), Ballarat (4 May), Traralgon (11 May), Shepparton (13 May), Mulgrave (18 May), and Mildura (26 May). Further information, including registration, is available online.
WorkSafe Media Release Read more on bullying
workSafe has released a new publication: What to do if bullying happens to you This information sheet includes ways you can raise the issue of bullying at work, how WorkSafe can help you and details of other agencies that can offer assistance and support. It coincides with WorkSafe’s bullying campaign following the Brodie Panlock case.
WorkSafe Safer Work Zones in Williamstown and Bayswater
WorkSafe inspectors will be visiting small businesses in Williamstown as part of a safety campaign from 19 - 23 April and Bayswater from 3 – 7 May. The ‘Safer Work Zones’ campaign aims to help small businesses identify basic safety issues. Businesses will be provided with information and guidance to help make their workplaces safer. The campaign will also focus on what systems small businesses have in place for helping injured workers return to work. Over the past five financial years: the Hobson’s Bay area has recorded 4859 claims, costing a total of $82.52m in treatment and rehabilitation costs, while the Knox area has had 5430 compensation claims for work-related injury or illness, costing a total of $84.71 million.
WorkSafe Media Releases Williamstown and Bayswater
Productivity Commission report released
Following its draft release in January, the PC’s has released the final version of Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health and Safety. The final version reflects public submissions on the draft, and includes expanded definitions of, and differences between, workplace psychosocial hazards; more details on the dangers of asbestos; and an examination of the effectiveness of union right of entry for safety issues.
One of the important findings of the Commission is that costly workplace psychosocial hazards such as bullying were largely neglected by regulators and in legislation.
Inadequate forklift policies: $60k fineAn employer who failed to keep a record of workers who held a forklift licence has been fined $60,000 after an unlicensed apprentice was injured in a rollover incident. In December 2008 the Eliott Engineering Pty Ltd apprentice boilermaker was driving a forklift on an uneven gravel surface, when it tipped over and crushed his feet. A WorkSafe investigation found the employer required the unlicensed apprentice to drive forklifts regularly, and that the employer failed to:
- implement adequate procedures for recording and verifying which employees held licences;
- ensure that all employees who operated forklifts were licensed;
- ensure drivers wore seat belts;
- install seat-belt interlock systems; and
- provide drivers with adequate training.
Source: WorkSafe Read more on forklift safety
From the UK’s HSE
- Podcast: Noise and vibration at work - A representative from the HSE talks about tackling the risks of noise and vibration. Podcast
Potential effects of noise induced hearing loss: An HSE video demonstration which allows you to 'see' noise damage
Italy: sharp increase in stress at work
Stress at work is on the way to becoming one of the major factors impacting workers’ health: 43% of staff are suffering from psychosocial problems related to work. Such are the findings reported by the Higher Institute for Prevention and Safety at Work (Ispesl) at its 11th national "Promotion of health in the workplace" day, held in Rome on 16 February.
Read more: HESA News