Welcome to the first edition of SafetyNet for 2019.
Unfortunately, it has been a tragic start to the year, with four fatalities in Victoria already. No worker should lose their life at work.
The entire OHS team at the VTHC is now back from leave, and we have a number of activities coming up which we hope Victorian HSRs will participate in. See details below. While several employers were prosecuted at the end of 2018 for worker fatalities (see Prosecutions, below), no fine can make up for the death of a worker.
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.
Two Victorian Workers Killed at Work In One Day
We are incredibly sad to report that on the day of writing, two Victorian workers have been killed while at work.
Early in the morning, a crash took the life of a bus driver as he made his way, with 45 other passengers, from Adelaide to Melbourne.
The bus rolled along the Western Highway when the trailers of a B-double truck in front of it detached and blocked the highway in both directions about 2:00am.
Many of the other passengers were injured, but none have been reported to have died.
Additionally, a 59-year-old farm hand was killed while felling a tree in Buxton. The man was found unresponsive near a tree that had been pushed over by a tractor at about 11am yesterday.
He was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital with head injuries but died soon after.
Two deaths so close to each other remind us all that we still desperately need Industrial Manslaughter laws and we will always have work to do in the OHS space, to help ensure all workers make it home safely at the end of the day. One worker death is too much.
The death tally for 2019 is currently at 20.
You can get news on Industrial Manslaughter laws and updates on worker deaths as they happen through our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ohsreps/
Explosion from non-compliant storage leads to death
Details have been revealed concerning a death during August of last year, where a 51-year-old man was killed in an explosion caused by non-compliant storage of dangerous gasses in the ACT.
The explosion was caused by the man triggering his car's remote electronic central locking system igniting the gas in the back of the vehicle, which had been leaking for some time beforehand.
An examination also showed an insulated wire in the compartment, which formed part of the central locking system, had rubbed over time against the compartment's painted frame, causing the wire and the frame to become exposed to bare metal.
The chief corner said "I find that Mr Senini inadvertently neglected to fully close the valve on an acetylene cylinder when packing his trade equipment into a sealed storage compartment on his work vehicle," the Chief Coroner said.
"During the afternoon, the acetylene cylinder continued to leak acetylene gas, causing a build-up of acetylene gas in the sealed storage compartment which formed an explosive mixture with air," she said.
The gases were not stored in accordance with the relevant Australian Standards, codes of practice or safety data sheets.
Every week in SafetyNet we highlight a an interesting question we received through Ask Renata. This week we got an interesting question from Jen, who's consulting with management on sound proofing while her new ambulance station is under construction.
Jen's question on amenities:
Dear Renata, I am the HSR for a new ambulance station that is being built. I have spoken to property about moving the bedrooms to reduce the noise from the garage to reduce fatigue for the staff requiring to sleep at branch between shifts. They have sent me through the specification of sound proofing they are prepared to offer but I have nothing to compare it to. Is there somewhere I can access standard sound proof specifications from so that I can ensure that the best is being done for the staff? Regards, Jen
Thanks for getting in touch, and apologies for the delayed response as we have had some staff on leave.
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) sets out some guidelines with the objective of "safeguarding occupants in residential buildings from illness or loss of amenity resulting from excessive noise." Now, I understand that you're not dealing with a residential building in the strict sense of the term, but the goal of preventing "loss of amenity" (i.e. being able to sleep) still stands.
Have a read of this document: www.abcb.gov.au/Resources/Publications/Education-Training/Sound-Insulation and especially the Terms of Interest in section 2.5.
The relevant measurements of sound proofing ability are a product's D^nT,w and its Sound Transmission Class. A higher number for both of these measurements will mean the product is more effective at reducing sound. A product's STC is equal to the decibels it reduces noise by. For example, a product with an STC of 45 will reduce noise by 45dB.
Now, the Building Code of Australia lays out the acceptable decibel range for a bedroom as between 30 and 35. Essentially, for a person to get a decent sleep they should not be exposed to noises above that range, although ideally at the lower end at 30.
Your employer has a duty to provide the specifications of their proposed product with you, which it sounds like they already have. If this does not include the product's STC you must demand it before moving forward. From here, you should do some testing in the workplace to ascertain the noise levels, and deduct the product's STC from the decibel levels that are being produced.
Think of it like this: x – y = 30 where x is decibels of noise in your workplace and y is STC of the sound proofing product. If the STC is not high enough to reduce the noise to below 30dBs, it is not adequate.
I hope this makes sense!
Let me know if you need any further assistance or clarification.
If you have a question for the OHS team (while Renata is away enjoying some well earned time on vacation) head to www.ohsrep.org.au/ask_renata
National Asbestos Conference Hit's Perth
With no new news on asbestos this week, we wanted to include a reminder of the National Asbestos Conference, included in last weeks edition:
The 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference will be held in Perth from 11 - 13 November, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. Those wishing to attend are able to register now before the end of financial year. (Note: trade show exhibitor registration is not yet open.)
ASEA says the conference provides a unique opportunity for members of the asbestos management system to come together, exchange information and share ideas with over 300 domestic and international professionals from a range of sectors including work health and safety, public health, local government, international campaign work and the environment.
This year ASEA will collaborate and focus on Australia's National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management 2019-2023 and the roles and responsibilities those in the asbestos management system have in working together toward preventing exposure to asbestos fibres. Read more about the conference here.
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe has released new guidance to get more defibrillators in workplaces
The guidance on the use of automated defibrillators has been created and published to help promote safer workplaces.
WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director Julie Nielsen urged all employers to think about how likely it was that someone will suffer a cardiac arrest in their workplace.
"Very few people survive a cardiac arrest without swift assistance and the use of an AED might be the difference between life and death," Ms Nielsen said.
AED devices and training on how to use them have become more and more commonplace with an estimated 19,000 AED devices installed in workplaces across Victoria. As the speed at which people having a cardiac arrest receive treatment can be the difference between life and death.
Newer AED machines are designed to be able to be used without training, instead using images and vocal instructions to convey instructions to the user.
WorkSafe published the guidance along with the following tips for installing AEDs at a worksite:
- Locate AEDs in well known, visible and accessible locations.
- Ensure AEDs are properly set up and ready to use.
- Do not keep AEDs locked away.
- Register AEDs with Ambulance Victoria to enhance ease of access.
- Demonstrate the use of AEDs to staff so they know how simple the process is.
- Undertake routine maintenance checks.
A reminder of two upcoming events which will provide an opportunity to meet the WorkSafe Agriculture Practice Team. Anyone with farm safety issues should get along to one of these. The team at the WorkSafe stand is keen to have a chat, hear about approaches to managing on-farm safety and about any new and innovative safety solutions. There will be information and guidance materials for people to take away.
- Mallee Machinery Field Days
When: Wednesday 31 July - Thursday 1 August, 8:30am to 5:00pm
Where: Speed Airport, 2574 Sunraysia Hwy, Speed VIC 3488
When: Sunday 04 Aug 2019
Where: CRT Innovations Hub, Hamilton Showgrounds, Shakespeare St, Hamilton
Safe Work Australia news
CHECK There was still no update to the notified fatalities on the Safe Work Australia site: as of June 6, there had been 64 fatalities notified to the national body. This is eight more in the time since its last update on May 16 The workers killed came from the following industries:
- 23 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 15 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 11 in Construction
- 7 in Public Administration & safety
- 4 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 2 in Mining
- 1 in manufacturing
- 1 in 'Other services'
Ser Brothers fined $8,000 for falls
Ser Brothers has been fined $8,000 plus court costs for failing to ensure that fall protection was properly installed after a 22 year old man fell 2.8 meters and sustained minor injuries on the 9th of November 2017. The young man fell from a balcony, which had three unprotected edges.
The company plead guilty to directing the contractor to carry out plastering works on the balcony ceiling despite knowing that there was no fall protection in place.
Full details can be found here: hwww.worksafe.vic.gov.au/prosecution-result-summaries-enforceable-undertakings
Foundry fined $650,000 after worker's death
A Wodonga foundry and metal casting business has been convicted and fined $650,000 after a workers death.
WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director Julie Nielsen today said the incident was a tragic reminder of the catastrophic consequences that not having appropriate machinery and systems in place can have.
"Every family should expect that when their loved ones go off to work, their employer is doing their utmost to keep them safe."
Of course, this fine isn't enough to prevent negligence causing more workplaces deaths in the future. Only industrial manslaughter laws can achieve this. We will have more updates on the movements progress as we peruse industrial manslaughter laws in next weeks SafetyNet.
Full details can be found here: hwww.worksafe.vic.gov.au/prosecution-result-summaries-enforceable-undertakings
If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata with details, including cost, and where to RSVP.
BE TRADES HALL TRAINED: VTHC OHS Training Centre
Make sure you attend training provided either by your union or the VTHC! HSRs are elected by their fellow workers to represent them. We understand what HSRs need and have been training effective HSRs for many years. Remember that under Section 67 of the OHS Act, both HSRs and deputies have the right to attend the training course of their choice (in consultation with their employer).
The VTHC OHS Unit is now running courses in a number of new locations to cater for HSRs in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. This is in addition to courses in our usual locations. If you have any questions on the registration process or the courses themselves, send an email to Lisa Mott (or call her on 03 9659 3511). Below are the dates for the next few courses run by the VTHC OHS Training Centre.
|HSR Initial OHS training course||HSR Refresher OHS Training Courses*|
* 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. These are the upcoming courses in Melbourne in 2019:
- Preventing Workplace Bullying and Harassment (Note: a $25 fee will apply)
Melbourne: August 8
- CERTIFICATE IV IN WHS
Part 1 14th – 16th October 2019
Part 2 12th – 15th November 2019
The course will be delivered at the ACTU (VIC).
Course and enrolment details here.
Tuesday July 9: Central Safety Group
Topic: The challenges of safety in the aged care & disability sectors
The aged care and disability sectors are among the fastest growing sectors in Australia. Employment in this area has exploded, growing 36% in the past five years – three times the rate of growth across all other occupations.
The particular OHS challenges for these industries will be discussed by Michael Carley, Safety and Risk, Villa Maria Catholic Homes. Michael will talk about the common hazards and risks in safety management in these sectors. He will also discuss current trends, gaps and recommended solutions.
When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Where: DXC Technology, Level 19 (Board Room 1), 360 Collins St (between Queen and Elizabeth Sts) Cost: attendance members free, non-members $10
Lunch (optional): sandwich and juice lunch $15
[Individual membership fee for 2019: $70]
RSVP by close of business Friday July 5. Book online now
New research from Japanese University claims work stress can lead to tooth loss
A study of 1,200 workers between the ages of 25 and 50 from the Japan's Asahikawa Medical University and Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry has found that workers experiencing workplace stress in the form of an effort-reward imbalance were interestingly found to be 20% more likely to have lost one of more teeth. However the association was somewhat remedied by supportive supervisors, managers and positive industrial relations.
The researchers found that chronic stress and caused a decline in the immune system of the worker, leading to tissue destruction.
According to the researchers, oral diseases like caries and periodontal disease are a major public health problem and cost about $266 billion worldwide in productivity loss each year.
The story peaked our interest as yet another piece of research detailing the direct relationship between a workers mental and physical health, at a time when Work Cover claims for stress and mental injuries are climbing year over year. It's vital for us to be able to always be drawing the health connections between the physical and the mental as a movement.