It with great sadness that we report there were another two work-related fatalities in Victoria in the past week. We extend our sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and work colleagues of the deceased workers.
On a happier note: We look forward to seeing HSRs tomorrow night at the launch of the work for 2019 - see details, below.
Please send any comments, good or bad, or if you would like to share some news or have a story, 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.
On Wednesday last week a 55 year old worker died at work after being stung by a bee. He was stung in the eye at SEM Fire and Rescue just before midday, and died less than an hour later, despite the efforts of paramedics at the scene. The Ballarat community is mourning the loss of a well-liked and active community member. Read more: The Courier.
The second fatality was a 55 year old truck driver who was killed on Thursday after being struck by his own truck while collecting a hire rubbish skip bin at a workplace in Kew. The driver had left the cabin of his vehicle when the truck moved and struck him before it crashed through a side fence and into a garage on an adjoining property. Source: WorkSafe media release
WorkSafe is investigating. These two fatalities bring the total to six (this currently differs from WorkSafe Victoria's tally of four).
Can one refuse taking on the role of a safety rep? My daily duties as electrician are too much as I am the only one in the company. I don't get time to carry out the safety rep duties which are expected of me. Can I refuse?
The position of safety rep is a voluntary one. The HSR is elected by fellow workers in the DWG - but the person must agree to be nominated. While the role is unpaid, the rep is entitled to time to exercise powers and be released on paid leave to attend training and meetings. See Facilities and Time Off FAQ.
Further, an HSR has no 'duties' - rather the Act gives HSRs rights and powers to exercise those rights, but NO LEGAL DUTIES. The role of the rep is to represent the DWG.
See these pages on the site:
Most of the dozens of questions that have come in over the last fortnight have been heat-related. As we are likely to get more hot weather in the coming month, a reminder that heat can affect both indoor and outdoor workers. For more information, go to our FAQ on Heat and the longer Heat hazard page.
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.
High risk asbestos in WA schools
More than120 schools in Western Australia have an asbestos risk where the condition of the material is either severely weathered or has a high probability of disturbance. A risk rating system is in place for all WA public schools that still have asbestos materials, believed to be around 600, plus about 200 transportable buildings. Read more: Perth Now
Asbestos changed the lives of the Pilbara's Aboriginal people
An ABC radio program going to air this Saturday examines the deadly legacy of Wittenoom, particularly on the Aboriginal people who have one of the highest mortality rates from mesothelioma of any group, anywhere in the world. This is because they often did the most dangerous jobs; bagging the asbestos, loading and unloading it, and driving the trucks carrying the asbestos out to the port. Furthermore, the children played in it; rolling around in piles of asbestos in the gorge, chewing on it, hitching rides on top of the bagged asbestos on the trucks carrying it to port.
The mine closed in 1966, and almost everybody left - but not the Aboriginal people whose country it was. Tragically, their exposure to asbestos continued and people have died, including many significant elders and cultural leaders.
Read more: The ghosts of Wittenoom - how asbestos changed the lives of the Pilbara's Aboriginal people (Part One) ABC's Earshot
ASEA Matters newsletter
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has released its latest newsletter ASEA Matters [pdf]. In it there are a number of interesting items, including news of the organisation's enhanced Safety Hotline, and an 18-month jail sentence in relation to a fraud charge brought by NSW Police with the assistance of the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) over asbestos dumping. The court found the man had defrauded a construction company to the value of about $225,000 by providing false invoices regarding the disposal of waste (EPA Media Release).
International Union news
Global: BS programmes 'undermine' safety and solidarity
Global food and farming union federation IUF has issued a serious health warning about behavioural safety (BS) programmes at work. The union body notes: "Behaviour-based safety programmes, which are now the guiding method used by many companies, shift employer responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace onto workers by focusing on workers' 'behaviour' rather than the workplace hazards which are the source of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. They undermine union-based health and safety committees and workplace solidarity based on collective bargaining." IUF has a policy position opposing behaviour-based safety which also commits the global union "to develop programmes to educate workers on their dangers, among other measures." IUF says a new policy paper and summary, developed by its food processing division, "detail the destructive impact of these programmes and explain how occupational safety and health management systems which truly protect workers' health and safety are developed and implemented."
Read more: IUF news release. Policy paper [pdf] and summary [pdf], developed by the IUF Food Processing Division. Source: Risks 882. See our BBS Kit
Growing evidence nanomaterials are harmful
The growing evidence from animal studies that nanomaterials can be harmful to health should compel employers to eliminate or reduce exposure to the tiny particles through the hierarchy of controls – immediately, according to special guidance from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).
Some studies have shown that mice developed pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis after exposure to single-wall carbon nanotubes, while some multi-walled carbon nanotubes have been linked to mesothelioma in mice, leading to the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifying them as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". Other animal studies have found that nanomaterials can move through the body, such as from the nasal cavity to the brain via the olfactory nerve tract,
ACOEM also warns that workplace exposure to engineered nanomaterials is unlikely to be confined to initial manufacturing processes, as it could also occur during "maintenance or modification activities, such as cutting, sanding, or drilling, which disrupt finished products or components fabricated with nanomaterials".
While the national code for Safety Data Sheets recommends including this information, ACOEM says in its guidance document (published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine): "At the present time, safety data sheets and other safety information that accompanies finished products may not reliably indicate the presence of engineered nanomaterials or their potential release during typical or atypical activities that may disturb or disrupt the product."
Read more: Fischmann, Michael, MD; Murashov, Vladimir, PhD; Borak, Jonathan, MD; Seward, James, MD ACOEM Task Force on Nanotechnology, Nanotechnology and Health [Abstract - The full article can be downloaded free from this page]. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Source: OHS Alert. Read more about Nanotechnology
Farm Safety Reports
A new farm safety report card compiled by Sydney University shows there were 68 farm deaths reported by the Australian media in 2017, a rise from the 63 in 2016.
The research, by the university's Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, showed tractors (13) and quad bikes (11) were the leading causes of death, making up more than 40 per cent of the total. Tragically, nine of the fatal cases (13 per cent) involved children aged under 15 years, with quad bikes involved in a third of these incidents. Download a copy of the report [pdf]. The report [pdf] for the period January - June 2018, shows a further increase - there were 49 fatalities compared to 45 in the same period the previous year.
OHS Regulator News
Victorian News Appeal against gaol term dropped
Maria Jackson, 72, of Foster in South Gippsland, sentence to gaol after an employee died when the forklift she was operating dropped a scrap metal bin on him, has dropped her appeal against her six-month sentence. She had been convicted and also fined $10,000 in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates' court in December 2018. She then appealed the decision.
In February, 2017, an employee in his 50s died when an industrial bin carried by a forklift being operated by Ms Jackson at her scrap metal business in Foster fell on him. Ms Foster pleaded guilty to two contraventions of sections 24 and 32 of the OHS Act – for failing to ensure other people in the workplace were not exposed to risks to their health, and for recklessly engaging in conduct that placed others at the workplace in danger of serious injury. WorkSafe's full statement on the case can be found here.
WorkSafe issues new safety alerts
The regulator has issued a new alert, and updated an existing one for the health and community sector.
- Occupational violence and aggression incident and prosecution in healthcare (New) - An alert about providing information, instruction and training for the prevention of occupational violence and aggression (OVA). This alert was prompted by the recent prosecution of an employer whose failure to warn staff of a patient's history of physical aggression resulted in a violent attack against a nurse (SafetyNet 471)
- Portable patient handling ceiling hoists (Update) - Information for employers about safe use of portable patient handling ceiling hoists.
SafeWork NSW new video
The NSW regulator has launched a new video on forklift safety - about six minutes long, it's a useful tool to ensure the necessary checks are made. Check it out here.
Safe Work Australia news
Virtual Seminar on Heat and Work Injury Prevention
SWA has today released its latest virtual seminar, where an experienced panel of work health and safety experts explore key issues on heat and work injury, including: the importance of developing and adhering to preventative strategies for working in heat, identifying hazards, implementing risk-management strategies, and the need for training and awareness across all levels of management.
Of the seminar, SWA says:
Heat is a hazard that can cause heat-related illness and increase the risk of work-related injury. Preventative strategies are needed for both indoor and outdoor work environments to address the risks working in heat poses for workers, as well as potential losses in productivity. Safe Work Australia and SafeWork SA have been working with researchers at the University of Adelaide, Monash University, University of Western Australia, Queensland University of Technology and SA Health, on a national project focused on preventing work-related injury in hot conditions. Researcher and educator Professor Dino Pisaniello opens the panel discussion with key insights from this research which sets the scene for industry experts to discuss the work-related injury in hot conditions. The panel agree that elimination and safe design should be a priority for decision and policy makers. Click here to check out the panel discussion.
As of the 24 January, 2019 there had been five fatalities reported by the state authorities to Safe Work Australia. The workers killed have come from the following industries:
- 1 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 2 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 2 Construction
DPP appeal increases bakery fine
Davies Bakery Pty Ltd, a Broadmeadows company producing bread, muffins and pastry has had a fine of $2000 increased to $15,000 after an appeal to the DPP.
The company was charged and fined the small amount without conviction following a July 2017 incident in which an employee trying to clear a jammed up 'proving' machine had his head trapped. He had been unable to free himself until a co-worker pressed the stop button and assisted him. He suffered facial fractures and eyesight damage.
The court found Davies Bakery had failed to ensure guarding prevented access to the danger areas of the machine. At the time, Davies pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $2000 plus $4,115 in costs. On Appeal by the DPP, the County Court set aside the original Magistrates' Court decision and sentenced the offender, without conviction, to pay a fine of $15,000 - costs remained unchanged.
Hoarding company fined $60,000; loses appeal
DWI Pty Ltd is a company which manufactures, installs and removes hoardings in major shopping centres.
In March 2015 it was contracted to erect hoarding to cover the entire shopfront of the former Coles site at the Cranbourne Shopping Centre - installation, done over three nights, commenced 23 March, and was attached to a bulkhead, which in turn was attached to the ceiling. On or about 1 April 2015, DWI moved the hoarding about 0.5 metre out into the shopping mall, to allow more room for the works in the site, meaning it could no longer be attached to the bulkhead as it was to be demolished, so a wooden brace was made to affix the hoarding to the ceiling.
At some stage between 1 April and 5 May 2015 the roller door in the loading dock area at the rear of the former Coles site was removed, creating a large open area at the rear through which wind could funnel into the site.
At about 12.45pm on 5 May 2015, a 32 metre section of the hoarding collapsed into the mall area of the Centre. The collapse of the hoarding was captured on CCTV. The hoarding fell onto two display cars and a speciality shop, and caused injuries to several members of the public.
WorkSafe inspectors attended the site and an engineer also attended the site at WorkSafe's request and subsequently prepared an expert report which concluded the wind was "a significant contributing factor in the collapse of the hoarding. This could have been addressed by the use of an engineered solution supported by appropriate documentation to address the span and spacing of the hoarding panel framing, the method and number of connections at the top of the hoarding and an engineer's assessment of the appropriate wind loading for the circumstances of the installation".
DWI pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $60,000 plus $18,217.97 costs. The company appealed the sentence - which was dismissed in the County Court. The the orders made by the Magistrates' Court were re-imposed..
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Brazil: Dam collapse kills dozens, hundreds still missing
In what is Brazil's greatest environmental and OHS disaster, on 25 January a tailings dam at an iron ore mine in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, suffered a catastrophic failure. The dam is owned by Vale, the same company which was involved in the 2015 Bento Rodrigues dam disaster. The dam released a mudflow that advanced over houses in a rural area near the city. There have been 65 confirmed deaths so far, according to firefighters' count on Monday night, with another 279 people lost and likely dead.
Brazilian authorities have arrested five people: three employees of Vale SA and two other engineers working on behalf of the company. State investigators issued the five arrest warrants and seven search warrants, on suspicion of murder, falsification of documents and environmental crimes.
Environmental experts say such disasters could have been avoided: Stricter licensing laws and state oversight and the adoption of more modern technology could transform the Brazilian mining sector, making such incidents less likely.
Read more: Dozens dead and hundreds missing after dam ruptures at Brumadinho mine in Brazil. Brazil mining dam collapse sees five people arrested as Vale SA offers compensation. ABC news online. Brazil's deadly dam disaster may have been preventable National Geographic
Global: Future work report recognises 'fundamental' safety
A 'universal labour guarantee' including a recognition of workplace health and safety as a 'fundamental' human right is a central recommendation of a new report by the International Labour Organisation's Global Commission on the Future of Work. The report is the culmination of a 15-month examination by the 27-member commission, which is made up of leading figures from business and labour, think tanks, academia, government and non-governmental organisations. Co-chaired by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven, the commission last week outlined a 'human-centred' agenda for decent and sustainable work. This includes the universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers' rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces.
The report notes: "The international community has long recognised health as a human right. But in a world where almost 3 million workers continue to die every year as a result of occupational accidents and work-related diseases, it is time for safety and health at work to be recognised as a fundamental principle and right at work." Luc Cortebeeck, one of the three workers' representatives on the Commission, commented: "Regulation and protection of workers' rights is a must for the new forms of work. The employment relationship remains the centrepiece of labour protection and the Commission recommends the establishment of a Universal Labour Guarantee, with freedom of association, collective bargaining, freedom from forced labour, child labour and discrimination, and very importantly: adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces."
Read more: ILO news release. WHO news release.Work for a brighter future, Global Commission on the Future of Work, January 2019. Executive summary and full report [pdf]. Source: Risks 882