It with great sadness that we report there has been another work-related fatality in Victoria in the past week. We extend our sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and work colleagues of the deceased worker.
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.
Another worker killed
A man in his late 60s died after he fell about six metres at a business in Mordialloc on Friday afternoon. It is believed the man was cleaning a refrigeration unit when he fell about 2pm. WorkSafe is investigating.
The fatality brings the official number of workplace deaths this year to five, compared to three at the same time last year. However, the VTHC tally now stands at seven.
Industrial manslaughter - update
An important pre-election promise from Labor was to introduce a workplace manslaughter offence with jail terms of up to 20 years and maximum fines of more than $16 million for organisations. The Andrews Labor Government has announced it is establishing a special reference group to ensure the families of people killed in workplace incidents have a say in the development of its new industrial manslaughter laws.
Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said last week the Government had started working on the new laws and would be setting up an implementation taskforce, which will include the Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incidents Reference Group for killed workers' families. "We're working with unions, business and the community to implement critical reforms as soon as possible, to save lives and keep Victorian workers safe," said the Minister. Read more: Victorian Government media release; Watch 9News video
Consultation LIVE SHOW - 7pm TONIGHT!!
Apologies for the late notice, but we invite all members of the We Are Union:OHS Network to participate in tonight's live show on 'Consultation' - always a 'hot topic' for health and safety reps. Sam and Luke have invited me (Renata) to be the 'special guest' and we will be going through questions we didn't deal with out last year's OHS Reps Conference, as well as giving participants the opportunity to have questions answered 'live'. To take part, just go to our We Are Union: OHS Network Facebook page at 7pm tonight.
NOTE: this is a 'closed group' - so if you're not yet a member, then ask to join asap. This is where all our live shows will be broadcast.
In the aged care sector do the MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) have to be in each location with the chemical or is one register for the entire building kept at reception OK? Our current practice is to have MSDSs in every location where the chemicals are e.g kitchen, pan rooms, laundry etc. Thank you
The regulations apply to all workplaces and to all employers, so if there are hazardous substances (or chemicals) in the workplace, Chapter 4.1 of the 2017 Regulations applies.
Regulation 156 requires the employer to ensure the SDS (the new term under the Regulations is simply Safety Data Sheet) for the hazardous substance is: 'readily accessible to any employee who my be exposed to the substance' – so it's appropriate and would satisfy this regulation that these be located in each location where the chemical is stored/used. This would also include treatment areas, for example.
Obviously, all the employees must also be made aware of the SDSs and their location, and even more importantly, be provided with information and training on each of them – this is the general duty under s21 (2)(e) of the OHS Act.
In addition, Regulation 162 requires that the employer prepare and maintain a register. The register must be of all the hazardous substances supplied to the workplace. It must contain the list of the hazardous substances and also a copy of the SDS. This too must be accessible to every any employee who might be exposed. As it's a central register, this could be kept in the one place, as long as everyone knows where it is and it is accessible to them.
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.
VTHC 2019 Kick Off
About 30 people attended the OHS Unit's 2019 Kick Off last Thursday night. They were given a report back on the activities and success of 2018 - in no small part due to their activism and efforts. The members of the team also reported on what's coming up in 2019 and everyone had an opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions and then socialise with other activists over a few drinks and delicious Vietnamese food. If you didn't make it, come along to our next one. Keep your eyes on the journal, our Facebook pages and your inbox for upcoming events.
Chronic stress 40 per cent higher in working mothers
Biological markers for chronic stress are 40 per cent higher in women bringing up two children while working full-time, new research has found. Working from home and flexitime have no effect on their level of chronic stress – only putting in fewer hours at work helps, according to the study published in the British Sociological Association journal Sociology. Shorter hours led to reductions in chronic stress markers for both men and women, the study found.
Researchers from the universities of Manchester and Essex analysed data on 6,025 participants in the UK Household Longitudinal Survey, which collects information on working life and readings of measures of stress response. They found that the overall level of 11 biomarkers related to chronic stress, including stress related hormones and blood pressure, was 40 per cent higher if women were working full-time while bringing up two children than it was among women working full-time with no children. Women working full-time and bringing up one child had 18 per cent higher level. They also found that women with two children who worked reduced hours through part-time work, job share and term-time flexible working arrangements had chronic stress levels 37 per cent lower than those working in jobs where flexible work was not available. Those working flexitime or working from home, with no overall reduction in working hours, had no reduction in chronic stress. The researchers found that men's chronic stress markers were also lower if they worked reduced hours, and the effect was about the same as for women.
Read more: Essex University ISER news release. The Independent. Source: Risks 883
Australian hearing loss data is alarming
A significant proportion of Australian workers are exposed to noise levels above regulated occupational limits, and nearly all of those are at risk of further hearing loss through exposure to chemicals.
Australian researchers led by Curtin University School of Public Health's Kate Lewkowski surveyed nearly 5,000 workers. They found that four out of five of the 12 per cent of workers exposed to full shift noise over the 85 decibel exposure limit were also exposed to at least one ototoxic chemical (chemicals toxic to the ear) in their workplace, such as toluene, p-xylene, ethylbenzene, n-hexane, styrene and carbon monoxide.
Ototoxic chemicals exacerbate hearing loss when co-exposure with noise occurs. The researchers say their findings show immediate action needs to be taken to reduce these exposures, especially in the automotive, construction and machine operations industries where co-exposure is common.
"Despite regulations recommending engineering or administration controls to reduce workplace noise, high levels of noise exist in many Australian workplaces," the researchers say. "The high prevalence of co-exposures to noise and ototoxic chemicals represents an additional risk for workers."
According to the researchers, a previous study found a 2.1-fold higher risk of hearing loss among workers exposed to noise and organic solvents than those exposed to noise only. While some regulators recognise the auditory risks posed by some chemicals, the researchers said, this is not reflected in most current workplace limits, likely because there are few human studies that examine the dose-response relationship.
Read more: Kate Lewkowski, et al, Australia, Exposure to noise and ototoxic chemicals in the Australian workforce. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first January 2019, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-10547 Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe: comment on s76 prosecution
In a media release on the successful prosecution of Patrick Stevedores Holdings Pty Ltd (PSH) in relation to six counts of engaging in discriminatory conduct contrary to section 76 of the OHS Act, Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said threatening workers who raise health and safety concerns will not be tolerated.
As reported in the January 23 edition of SafetyNet, the port operator convicted and fined $475,000 after threatening workers who raised safety concerns. The court heard four employees were threatened by PSH's Westernport Port Manager on 11 and 12 March 2009 after they raised health and safety concerns about the proposed use of a forklift to lift heavy steel coils.
The regulator said the matter had been before the courts for a long period of time because it was heavily contested and a previous trial was abandoned when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Read more: WorkSafe Media release
Regulator 'urges more care'
WorkSafe issued a media statement yesterday urging employers to make sure they do everything they can to protect their workers in 2019 after 23 people died as a result of workplace incidents last year. (This is the official WorkSafe tally - but we believe the number is higher).
Julie Nielsen said failure to identify and manage hazards was an ongoing concern, especially on farms and where vehicles and plant were involved: "We urge every employer to consult with their workers about health and safety and to do all they can to make their workplace a safe one in 2019."
Ms Nielsen said high-risk sectors, including construction and agriculture, would continue to be the target of WorkSafe inspectors, who made more than 48,000 visits to workplaces across the state in 2018. "WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute those who fail to adhere to these life-protecting laws," she said. Source: WorkSafe Media release
SA: New farm safety videos
South Australia's regulator, SafeWorkSA, has issued a series of farm safety videos:
- Child safety: Every year around 20 children under 15 years die on Australian farms. The major cause of fatal injuries are dams, farm vehicles and machinery.
- Near misses:
- Tractor safety:
NT: Fishing fatality leads to safety program
A new program has been developed to improve safety in the NT fishing industry, following the death of 20 year old Ryan Donoghue on a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Carpentaria in November 2013.
The SeSAFE program was developed to raise safety awareness, and deliver training and education to an industry that is one of the highest risk industries in Australia. Fatalities are approximately twenty five times higher than the mining and construction industries. The most 'at risk' group are young fishers and aquaculture workers between the ages of 20 to 24 years, followed by those aged 45 – 54 years. The FRDC Marine Safety Initiative seeks a 50% reduction in fatalities and accidents in this industry by 2023.
The main component of the SeSAFE program is a learning management system (LMS) made up of multiple training modules designed to deliver work health and safety information to fishers and aquaculture workers prior to working on the water.
As part of their enforceable undertaking with NT WorkSafe, Austral Fisheries provided additional funding to make the SeSAFE modules available to organisations involved in the training and education of workers in the NT fishing industry. Additional program funding was provided by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC).
Find out more about the SeSAFE program here.
John Holland; two contractors charged
Charges have been laid against construction company John Holland and two contractors over an incident that injured a worker on the $1 billion NorthLink road project in Perth's east.
A load of steel posts were being moved with a telescopic handler on February 1, 2017 when a worker who was attempting to stabilise the load was struck in the leg by the machine, suffering severe fractures. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed a total of four charges in the Magistrates Court of WA against John Holland, Omega Constructions and Universal Reo. Source: The West Australian
Safe Work Australia news
Guidance on Work-related psychological health and safety updated
SafeWork Australia has updated its national guidance on work-related psychological health and safety. The national body says: "Work-related psychological injury is expensive - it's estimated that poor psychological health and safety costs Australian organisations $6 billion per annum in lost productivity. This guidance material provides a step-by-step process for managing psychological injury, intervening early and for taking preventative action to prevent your workers becoming ill or sustaining a psychological injury." Download the document from the SWA website: Work-related psychological health and safety: A systematic approach to meeting your duties
The SWA website has not been updated since the 24 January, at which time there had been five fatalities reported by the state authorities. The workers killed have come from the following industries:
- 1 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 2 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 2 Construction
Guarding failure leads to severed thumb
K & S Pallets Pty Ltd is a Shepparton East manufacturer of timber pallet. The manufacturing process includes cutting timber lengths to size using an up-stroking cross cut saw with infeed and outfeed guards attached. On 29 August 2017 worker had his left thumb severed when he was using the saw. He had reached into the saw's outfeed to clear a blockage and made contact with the blade. The incident was not notified immediately to WorkSafe, but was notified the following day. A WorkSafe inspector observed the site had been disturbed. The outfeed guard was attached however at its maximum length the guard provided 700 millimetres of distance between the operator and the saw's cutting implement. The relevant Australian Standard requires that the minimum reach distance to the hazardous area should be at least 850 millimetres. The saw was de-commissioned post-incident.
K & S Pallets pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that guarding designed for that purpose prevented access to the danger area of the plant, and was, without conviction, fined $10,000 plus $4,115 in costs.
Worker seriously injured: $35k fine, no conviction
Spurtop Pty Ltd (trading as Gravity Demolition) a residential demolition company, was engaged to demolish and clear a building in Blackburn (the workplace) in June 2017.
The site was being cleared by an excavator after demolition, while a labourer was assisting to remove rock and other material. At one point the excavator was being reversed when it reversed onto the labourer's left leg resulting in serious injury.
The offender pleaded guilty to a rolled up charge containing three breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017:
- failing to eliminate or reduce the risk of powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians;
- failing to ensure a warning beacon and operational reversing beeper were fitted to the excavator; and
- failing to ensure a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) was prepared prior to the work commencing.
The company had a daily checklist for the excavator operator to complete and a maintenance regime in place for the excavator which had been serviced two days before the incident. It had also developed a SWMS setting out an exclusion zone for pedestrians around mobile plant - but at the time of the incident it was not being followed and it was not available at the workplace.
Spurtop was without conviction fined of $35,000 plus $3,500 in costs.
Hand caught in juicing machine
Dat Ly, a bubble tea/cafe business in the Springvale area has been fined $12,000 (plus $3,390 costs) without conviction over an incident in October 2017. A worker' sustained serious injuries to her left hand when it was crushed in the rollers of an insufficiently guarded sugarcane juicing machine.
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: Serial offender Veolia convicted over worker death
Garbage collection company Veolia (which also operates in Australia) has been convicted of a criminal safety offence and fined £1m (A$1.81m) after a worker was run over and killed. On 18 October 2013, the Veolia ES (UK) Limited employee suffered fatal injuries when he was run over by a reversing refuse collection vehicle (RCV) as he was walking across the Ross Depot Waste Transfer Station yard. The 60-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene. An investigation by the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that multiple vehicles, including RCVs and articulated lorries, were manoeuvring around the yard with no specific controls. The company failed to adequately assess the risks involved in the yard and did not implement industry recognised control measures to protect employees. Veolia ES (UK) Limited was found guilty after a trial of a criminal safety offence, fined and ordered to pay costs.
HSE inspector Kevin Golding said: "This should be a reminder to all industries, but in particular, the waste industry, to appropriately assess the risks and implement widely recognised control measures to adequately control manoeuvring vehicles, in particular reversing vehicles and restrict pedestrian movements around vehicles." In October 2010, Veolia ES was fined £225,000 (A$407,100) after a worker was killed in a vehicle collision while collecting litter from a busy road. In February 2010, Veolia was fined £130,000 (A$235,210) for another workplace death. Read more: HSE news release. Source: Risks 883
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 such as Epping. This is in addition to courses in our usual locations. Most of the HSR 5 day courses to the end of the year are now full, but send an email to Lisa Mott (or call her on 03 9659 3511) to register for courses next year. Below are the dates for the next few courses run by the VTHC OHS Training Centre. The 2019 timetable is now available.
|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:
- CERTIFICATE IV WHS COURSE - Melbourne: PART I 12 – 14 March; PART 2 15 -18 April
- PREVENTING WORKPLACE BULLYING AND HARRASSMENT- free of charge.
Melbourne 8 March or 8th August
Course information and applications can be found on the ACTU Website here.