SafetyNet 470

Welcome to the latest edition of SafetyNet! This is the last 'standard' edition of the journal, but make sure you check out our special Christmas edition next week. it will pick up five of the most memorable/important issues of 2018.. 

The OHS team at the VTHC wish all our subscribers and families and safe and happy holiday season. We will be back, fighting to make workplaces healthier and safer in 2019. The VTHC will be closed until January 14, and Renata will not be back until January 21, so the next SafetyNet will be coming out after that.

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).

Remember: 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

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
Our management has banned us from putting up Christmas decorations and when we asked why, they said 'OHS reasons'. What is this?

This is a load of bunkum! Or 'bah humbug' to quote a famous figure in literature. Most organisations including the VTHC, WorkSafe and local councils manage to put up their decorations, celebrating the spirit of Christmas without a fuss. They just sensibly provide their staff with suitable step ladders to put up decorations rather than expecting staff to balance on wheelie chairs.

And another festivity related question:

We have been told that indoor Christmas lights need to be tested and tagged every year. Is this true?

Lots of companies waste money in the false belief they need to test their Christmas lights annually, or even don't put them up at all! By following a few sensible precautions, such as checks by the user for obvious signs of damage, every workplace can switch on safely and sparkle!

This applies to other office equipment too - often companies come around touting for business saying that equipment needs to be tested and tagged every year. This is not true. Check out this page for more information.

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

Company knew about asbestos in talc
Johnson & Johnson shares fell 10 percent on Friday and were on track to post their biggest percentage drop in more than 16 years, after a Reuters report that the pharma major knew for decades that their widely used Baby Powder was contaminated with asbestos.

Reuters examined company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents, and found J&J knew about the presence of small amounts of asbestos in its products from as early as 1971. The company has denied the allegations, and on Friday called the Reuters report "one-sided, false and inflammatory" and that "any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false." 

In 1976 J&J had assured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that no asbestos was "detected in any sample" of talc produced between December 1972 and October 1973 when it appears that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc.

The company has been battling more than 10,000 cases claiming its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products cause ovarian cancer. In July, a verdict by a Missouri jury awarded 22 women US $4.6 billion in a lawsuit against the company, supporting their claim that talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer. The case is under appeal. The products have also been linked with mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that affects the delicate tissue that lines body cavities. The news opens the door for local lawsuits against the multinational pharmaceutical giant by any Australian victims who may have been exposed to asbestos in their products. 
Read more: J&J shares nosedive, SMH; J&J deny knowing about asbestos,, ToxicDocs: The largest database on industrial poisons, Medical Life Sciences News

Discovery of new mesothelioma mechanism
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is divided into three subtypes, one of which is particularly aggressive. Researchers from the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital have now discovered a mechanism that contributes to this aggressive behavior: the tumor cells of this subtype are able to assume special characteristics that promote migration and therefore spread of the cancer. This is possible because the cells receive the signals needed for this spread from certain messenger substances, namely the two growth factors FGF2 and EGF. By blockading these signals, it might be possible to develop new approaches for treating this subtype of malignant pleural mesothelioma. 
Read more: Researchers discover new mechanism behind spread of malignant pleural mesothelioma, News Medical Sciences; Medical University of Vienna Media release.

Research grant for mesothelioma
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced eight La Trobe University researchers will share in more than $5.2million in research grants - among these is research into mesothelioma. Dr Doug Fairlie of the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute-La Trobe School of Cancer Medicine, has been granted $463,058. This study will conduct further testing of a potentially new treatment option for patients with malignant mesothelioma. Preliminary studies have shown that a previously untested class of drugs that directly target the cell death pathways can directly kill mesothelioma tumour cells, especially when used in combination with each other or with other anti-cancer drugs. 
Source: La Trobe University Media release

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 theAsbestos 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 protected] Submissions close 18 January 2019.

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

Health and Safety advice for the holiday period: 
After a year of hard work, our Editor thought a note of lightness might be appropriate (please don't take offence!):


Please be advised that all persons planning to require workers to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are required to undergo a Risk Assessment addressing the safety of open sleighs. This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

Benches, stools and orthopedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night.

While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all facility users are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that prior to shining his/her glory all around s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.
Following last year's well-publicised case, everyone is advised that Equal Opportunity legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.

Finally, in the recent case of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.

Compliance of these guidelines is advised in order for you to fully participate with the festive spirit.


EU Conference: Women, work and cancer
The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) two-day conference to discuss the link between working environment and female cancer took place in Brussels on 4th and 5th of December. It included a contribution by EU-OSHA on its findings and activities. The conference was part of the activities under the Roadmap on carcinogens. The proceedings are now available.

EU-OSHA gave an overview of its research on gender and OSH and on cancer and carcinogens at work, in the framework of the Healthy Workplaces campaign 2018-19, including the recent publications on return to work after cancer
Find more information about this event. Visit the EU-OSHA web sections about work-related cancer and rehabilitation and return to work after cancer

Reminder: Death at work. Victoria 2017 Barry Naismith, of OHSIntros, is making his ninth discussion paper. "27. Deaths at Work. Victorian 2017"  free for downloading for a brief period (until March 1, 2019), as a contribution to the ongoing debate on how to improve workplace safety in the state and, specifically, eradicate death at work in the state. The paper records and discusses reported death, compensated death and prosecutions over deaths at work in the 2017 calendar and financial years, as well as putting the death toll into historical perspective. The paper can be downloaded from here - but you may need to register on that site to access and download the paper. 

OHS Regulator News

Victorian News 
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox

The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was posted on December 14. In this edition, WorkSafe's acting Director of the Construction Program, Kate Maheras, shares an end of year message with Safety Soapbox readers - ..

The roundup of information from other jurisdictions includes news of The NT Coroner has released their findings following an inquest into the death of a worker who fell 66 metres from a communications tower in February 2016.

Also in the edition is the list of incidents reported to WorkSafe which covers the period from 23 November - 8 December 2018. During this time there were 121 incidents, including the December 3 fatality when a young worker fell from a ladder in Lockwood South, as reported in last week's SafetyNet. Incidents include many lacerations, fractures and very serious injuries, such as those suffered by a worker who fell when the ladder he was on collapsed - a punctured lung and fractured ribs. Many of these incidents could have resulted in serious consequences. Access the December 14 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.

Seymour Alternative Farming Expo
The WorkSafe Victoria Agriculture Team will be attending the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo in February 2019. The regulator invites anyone who has any farm safety issues they would like to discuss to go to their stand and have a chat. The team is always keen to hear farmers' approaches to managing on-farm safety and about new and innovative safety solutions. There will be information and guidance materials for you to take away. This event is a multi day event running from 15 to 17 February 2019. More information.

WA: Guidance note on stone fabrication
Western Australia's OHS regulator has issued a Guidance note - Safe stone product fabrication and installation [pdf]

The regulator points to research in Australia and overseas which has found that workers fabricating benchtops from stone can be exposed to levels of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) which are hazardous to their health. The effective control of occupational exposure can be achieved by the application of a range of known isolation, dust suppression, dust extraction, respiratory protection and housekeeping control options.

This guide outlines how to control exposure to airborne RCS dust during fabrication of stone benchtops or similar stone products and the health effects of breathing RCS dust.

This guidance note applies to all workplaces in Western Australia covered by the OSH Act. It provides guidance for employers and workers on silica hazards and some of the legislative requirements in the OSH Act and OSH regulations. This guidance note does not address other hazards that may be present in workplaces that fabricate stone products including benchtops.

Safe Work Australia News 

Fatality statistics
The Safe Work fatality statistics webpage has not been updated since 29 November 2018. At that point  there had been 115 fatalities reported. The workers killed have come from the following industries:

  • 37 Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 32 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 20 Construction
  • 9 Manufacturing
  • 5 Mining
  • 3 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 3 Public administration & safety
  • 2 Wholesale trade
  • 2 Arts and recreation services 
  • 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).

International News

EU: guide for small businesses
Workers in Europe are more likely to experience negative consequences of psychosocial risks, stress or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) than any other work-related health problem. These issues can have serious consequences for individuals and businesses, often leading to long periods of sick leave.
EU-OSHA says that micro and small businesses in particular can find it tough to tackle these problems, which is why they have created Psychosocial risks, stress and musculoskeletal disorders - a practical guide. It sets out a five-step process for improving the work environment, with lots of useful tips, easy-to-use techniques and straightforward advice to help small businesses prevent and manage psychosocial risks, stress and MSDs. 
Download the guide here. See also EU-OSHA's thematic sections on stress and psychosocial risks and on musculoskeletal disorders

EU: Working in the digital future — safety and health in 2025 
The final results of EU-OSHA's foresight project on the increasing digitalisation of work and the associated challenges for occupational safety and health (OSH) are now available in a new report. Artificial intelligence, collaborative robots, virtual and augmented reality, online platforms and other innovations are set to change the ways that people work.

People are less likely to work in traditional hazardous environments thanks to robotics and automation, while work-related stress and ergonomic risks are likely to be on the increase as a result of trends such as new forms of human-machine interfaces, increased online and mobile work, workers' monitoring and management by algorithms, blurred boundaries between work and private life or more frequent job changes. EU-OSHA press release. Download the foresight report and summary on new and emerging OSH risks associated with digitalisation by 2025.


If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata with details, including cost, and where to RSVP.

* HSRs are entitled to attend this course every year subsequent to attending the Initial OHS training course.

OHS Training at the ACTU
The ACTU (Australian Council of Trade unions) runs training courses in occupational/workplace health and safety.

Course information and applications can be found on the ACTU Website. For more information, email or phone Chris Hughes (03 9664 7389 Mon-Fri) or Anna Pupillo (03 9664 7334 Mon-Wed & Fri). Click here for the full calendar of ACTU training courses.


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