The Victorian government set to support lower silica exposure standard; Industrial Manslaughter Taskforce to meet this week; Save the Date for International Workers' Memorial Day: April 28/29; and much more.
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Industrial Manslaughter: Update
The new Industrial Manslaughter Implementation Taskforce, established by the Andrews' Labor Government to consult on the proposed legislation to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence will be meeting for the first time tomorrow. The membership of the taskforce, led by former Minister for Industrial Relations Natalie Hutchins, includes unions, business and victims' families. It is going to be supported by a Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incidents Reference Group representing victims' families to ensure that those who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents can contribute to the reforms. A Legal Advisory Group comprising legal sector stakeholders will also be established to consult on the proposed model for the new offence.
Minister indicates support for lower silica standard
With increasing attention on the numbers of workers affected by silica exposure, the Victorian Government has revealed that 36 workers had lodged WorkCover claims for silica-related conditions.
Victorian Workplace Minister Jill Hennessy gave the strongest indication yet the Government was prepared to introduce sweeping changes to address the regulation of silica dust in workplaces and is supporting the adopt one of the strictest workplace standards in the world to prevent silicosis.
Safe Work Australia has been reviewing the national workplace exposure standard of silica dust (currently set at 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre over an 8-hour shift) which has been in place since 2005. Last year the United States introduced an exposure limit of 0.025mg/cubic metre — a quarter of the Australian standard.
The VTHC and unions, the Cancer Council of Australia, medical specialists and lawyers want the US standard matched in Australia.
Ms Hennessy said Victoria would lobby for the national standard to be dropped to 0.02mg/cubic metre, and if adopted, could make it the strictest in the world. "We need to look at the regulatory environment as well as supporting calls to lower the standard around exposure," Ms Hennessy said.
After recently meeting with her Queensland counterpart, she said that state was looking at adopting similar changes. "We're very impressed with the model in Queensland and … we are currently working on a model to improve the regulation and enforcement when it comes to silica," she said.
Read more: ABC News online
just wondering, a WorkSafe inspector came out to my workplace and I was not notified even though I am the HSR. The visit was the result of a complaint from one of the workers in my DWG. I thought that I would be notified and involved in the visit. Is this mandatory or how does it work? I was not happy when I read this from previous committee minutes. Is there anything I can do to make sure this does not occur if I am correct.? Thank you
Yes, you are correct. The inspector should have contacted you when he/she entered the workplace. Division 4 of Part 9 of the Act (Procedure relating to entry) is clear:
102 Announcement on entry
- (1) Immediately on entering a place under Division 3, an inspector must take all reasonable steps to notify the following persons of the entry and to produce his or her identity card for inspection by those persons -
(a) the occupier or apparent occupier for the time being of the place;
(b) if members of a designated work group are affected in any way by the entry, a health and safety representative for the designated work group.
The inspector should have notified you - asked the employer whether there was an elected HSR for the DWG, and then notified you of entry, so that you could have been present too. Also, did you get a copy of the inspector's Entry Report? If not, then request a copy now AND contact the inspector and let him/her know that you are the HSR and you are unhappy with what happened – and if necessary, request a return visit.
On a separate issue: the member of the DWG who made the complaint should have come to you as the HSR first. I recommend a meeting with the DWG to discuss your role and how important it is for them to come to you first when they have an OHS issue.
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.
Worker loses foot at West Melb construction site
The CFMEU has confirmed that a 40 year old construction worker has had his foot amputated after a workplace incident at a West Melbourne apartment development on the weekend.
Surgeons at the Royal Melbourne Hospital were unable to save the foot of Miladin (Mick) Adamovic. The construction site was shut down, and CFMEU occupational health and safety manager Dr Gerry Ayers said Mr. Adamovic's colleagues were in shock. "Our thoughts are with Miladin's family and the workers who witnessed the incident. We're going to provide counseling for all those workers," he said.
He will require more surgery in the coming days. Mr. Adamovic's wife Mirela said in a statement: "My husband's injury has devastated our family. He simply went to work to provide for his family, and now we're dealing with this. While we try to make sense of what has happened, we ask for privacy."
CFMEU Assistant Branch Secretary Shaun Reardon yesterday visited Mr. Adamovic and spoke with his shocked family. Investigations into the incident by the union and WorkSafe Victoria are continuing. Mr. Reardon has also demanded urgent meetings with industry stakeholders and the Melbourne City Council.
Read more: CFMEU media release, The Age
Nurse reports harassment; then targetted
A nurse suing Barwon Health for more than $850,000 says the hospital turned on her when she came forward to report allegations that her manager was sexually harassing her. She was a nurse unit manager at the Geelong hospital's inpatient rehabilitation centre when she alleges her direct supervisor subjected her to prolonged sexual harassment between February 2015 and June 2016.
A union member, she reported the harassment to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation in June 2016 and the union took the complaint to Barwon Health. "Once Barwon Health became aware of the complaint, they in fact turned the gun against (her)," Ms Bowen's lawyer Josh Bornstein, of Maurice Blackburn, said. After the complaint was lodged, Barwon Health's then workforce relations director questioned her about her work performance. Read more: The Age
Parents urged to record asbestos exposure
The media is reporting that lawyers are urging Essendon North Primary School parents to officially record their children's exposure to asbestos after it was found in four classrooms earlier this month. The exposure appears to have been the result of workers pulling up the carpet at the front of the Grade 1 rooms and grinding flooring to repair damage caused by a leaking roof. The advice comes after the education department announced last week that a classroom block where students were exposed to the asbestos will be demolished. Source: The Herald Sun, KIIS News
Earlier this week, asbestos was discovered at the Calliope State School in the Gladstone region in Queensland. The asbestos was in wall sheeting. This illustrates that it is likely that many Australian schools still contain asbestos-related materials.
Global: Asbestos industry renews deadly product defence
The global asbestos lobby is campaigning actively to resist listing of chrysotile asbestos under a UN Treaty that would requiring its cancer-causing exports to include a health warning. The next Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention will start on 29 April 2019, the day after International Workers' Memorial Day.
The asbestos industry has lobbied successfully at a succession of the biennial meetings against the convention's prior informed consent procedure, which would require a health warning accompanied its exports. Now the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) reports a February 2019 meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) – representing Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia – agreed EEU members will work together to defeat UN attempts to list chrysotile asbestos. Key lobbying targets for the industry are those Asian countries it now sees as development markets for its product. The rearguard action comes as latest figures show a dramatic decline in asbestos production worldwide.
According to IBAS, figures released in February 2019 show a reduction from global output of chrysotile asbestos in 2017 of 1,170,000 tonnes to 1,100,000 tonnes in 2018, with falls in production in China, Russia and Brazil but a big increase in Kazakhstan. The asbestos industry's dirty tricks were again exposed in November last year, when a UK corporate intelligence organisation, K2 Intelligence, settled a legal case which involved an asbestos-industry financed and long-running spying project on trade union, safety and victims' advocacy organisations and activists.
Read more: Asbestos lobby news release. Corporate deceit: Asbestos espionage at home and abroad, IBAS, March 2019. Latest USGS global asbestos production statistics [pdf].
TUC asbestos guide [pdf] and workplace cancers guide [pdf].
International union news
US: New York workers remember Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire victims
About 300 people gathered to commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire's 108th anniversary at NYU's Brown Building on Monday. Labor groups spoke out about workers' rights in honor of the tragedy, which resulted in 146 deaths largely due to poor working conditions.
A sea of paper shirtwaists hung suspended from hand-held poles over the crowd while speakers took to the small stage. At the end of each speech, the names of some of the victims were read off to the chime of a bell, which continued until all 146 victims' names had been spoken.
Many of the victims of the fire were young, female immigrants from Russia, Austria or Italy. The factory workers had been locked inside by management to ensure they continued working, and when fire escapes collapsed, workers were left with no way to escape the building. Many of the victims ended up jumping from the ninth floor of what is now the Brown building. The fire called attention to workers' rights issues and brought a slew of safety regulations in its wake. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition (RTFC) began planning for a permanent memorial to the Triangle fire on the Brown Building after the centennial in 2011. This week the RTFC asked not only for remembrance but also a continued focus on advocating for workers' rights both in the United States and abroad. Read more: The Washington Square News
Five musculoskeletal strategies identified
Researchers in Denmark have identified strategies for surgeons who are at high risk of work-related musculoskeletal pain but lack knowledge on how to adapt less physically demanding work postures in the operating theatre.
Based on a systematic literature review and interviews with Danish surgeons, the researchers found interventions to prevent and rehabilitate musculoskeletal pain need to promote individual behavioural changes, along with organisational, attitudinal and management changes.
Successful interventions depend on six factors: knowledge, skills, attitude, social influence, self-efficacy and expected outcomes. They propose five intervention strategies addressing these, which involve a combination of mandatory workshops with training sessions for surgeons and hospital management.
The strategies cover the benefits of physical exercise training on physical health, targeting vulnerable and painful body regions; using available physical ergonomics; incorporating micro-breaks into surgery time; work impacts on health: and prioritising surgeons' work-related musculoskeletal pain for management.
Read more: Tina Dalagar, et al. Using an intervention mapping approach to develop prevention and rehabilitation strategies for musculoskeletal pain among surgeons. [Full article] BMC Public Health, online March 2019, doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6625-4. Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
Joint inspection blitz
A joint inspection blitz by WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW will focus on keeping young workers safe and reducing potentially deadly falls at work sites in the Albury Wodonga region. Inspectors are this week visiting construction sites as part of the Cross Border Construction Program to help keep them injury free.
WorkSafe says that construction is one of the most dangerous industries for young workers in Victoria. Two workers aged 15-24 were killed on Victorian building sites last year, meanwhile 3766 construction workers across all age groups were injured. Falls remain a leading cause of serious injury and death for construction workers of all ages, with five workers dying as a result of falls on construction sites in the past two years. Read more: WorkSafe media release
Tasmania: Australian-first PTSD legislation introduced
The Tasmanian Government has introduced a Bill providing presumptive compensation to all public sector workers with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), and says it will consider extending the presumption to more occupational groups, and the laws will reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions.
If passed, the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Presumption as to Cause of Disease) Bill 2019 [pdf] will introduce a rebuttable presumption that PTSD suffered by a relevant worker is work-related for workers' comp purposes.
Relevant workers include those employed by the Crown or appointed under a Tasmanian Act, and workers employed by a Government business enterprise or State-owned company within the meaning of the Government Business Enterprises Act 1995. This definition covers volunteers engaged in firefighting, ambulance, police or emergency management operations, State Building and Construction Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament. Source: OHS Alert
QLD: first independent WHS prosecutor appointed
The Queensland Government has appointed the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions' former assistant director, Aaron Guilfoyle, as the State's first independent Work Health and Safety Prosecutor – a role recommended to improve public confidence in the WHS prosecution system. He will head the new statutory Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor, which will focus on WHS and electrical safety prosecutions, and provide related legal advice to government, State Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said in announcing the appointment. She said establishing the independent role was a key recommendation of Tim Lyons' 2017 best practice review of Queensland's WHS regime, which was prompted by the multiple fatalities at the Dreamworld amusement park and Eagle Farm Racecourse construction site in October 2016. Read more: Minister Grace's media release Source: OHS Alert
Safe Work Australia news
As of 21 March, 30 fatalities had been notified to Safe Work Australia. This is nine more than the last update on 28 February. Five of those killed worked in Transport, postal and warehousing. The workers killed have come from the following industries:
- 10 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 10 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 4 Construction
- 2 Public Administration & safety
- 2 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 2 Mining
Worker crushed; $60k fine
Econopave, a company providing asphalt and associated services to the commercial, private and government sectors, was last week fined $60,000 over an incident in June 2017 in which a worker was seriously injured when he was crushed by a roller.
An Econopave employee was tasked with loading a Hamm Roller onto the top deck of a float attached to a truck. This required ramps to be placed onto the float to enable him to drive the roller into position. He reversed the roller up the ramp until the back wheels reached the top deck. While manoeuvring the roller back and forward one of the ramps fell from under the roller, causing it to tip and fall off the truck. The employee was dislodged from the roller, landing on his back on the ground with his lower right leg caught under the roller's roof.
The man suffered 7 broken ribs, a fracture to his T9 vertebrae, severe crush injuries above his right ankle and required five blood transfusions. Despite two operations to save his right foot, it had to be amputated. In total he spent 6 months in hospital.
A WorkSafe inspection discovered that the ramps to the top deck of the float could not be adequately secured to prevent dislodging. The ramps previously had locating pins which had been broken off or were missing. An Improvement Notice was issued in relation to the float and the ramps used to gain access to the top deck.
The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $60,000 plus $3,652 costs.
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: Defunct firm convicted after bricklayer dies in wall collapse
A company that is in administration has been convicted of two criminal safety offences after an employee was killed when a wall collapsed on a construction site. The Court heard how, on 2 June 2015, Thomas Telfer was working as a bricklayer employed by Capstone Building Ltd, when he was struck by falling masonry after a retaining wall failed as it was being back-filled with concrete. The 31-year-old suffered fatal head injuries. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to appropriately manage the work that was being carried out at the site and failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees on site. Capstone Building Limited was found guilty after a trial of two criminal health and safety offences and was fined £900,000 (A$1.666m) and ordered to pay costs of £60,337 (A$111,188). The firm's sole director Stephen Ayles, 58, was found not guilty. An HSE inspector said: "This tragic incident could so easily have been avoided if the appropriate measures were in place to provide a safe working practice. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."
Read more: HSE news release. Source: Risks 890
Spain: Documentary reveals plight of Moroccan migrants
Moroccan migrant workers harvesting strawberries in Spain are having to endure exploitative conditions and are forced to live in squalid accommodation, new evidence has confirmed. Each year, Spanish strawberry and berry farms recruit tens of thousands of female Moroccan workers through Morocco's national employment agency, ANAPEC. Spain announced in January this year that over 19,000 Moroccan women would travel to pick strawberries in Spain's Huelva province for the 2019 season. The first group of workers for the year sailed out from the Moroccan port of Tangier on 1 February and will return to Morocco in June.
The workers are all married women with children, a government stipulation intended to prevent visa overstays. And though demand has grown in Morocco for the seasonal labour jobs, workers have long complained of abuse and exploitative conditions on Spanish berry farms. Now footage of the conditions faced by Moroccan female workers harvesting strawberries in Spain, broadcast last week in an episode of the acclaimed Spanish news series 'Salvados', features testimony from the women themselves, describing foul, overcrowded living conditions, sexual abuse at the hands of their supervisors and long, irregular hours. Aintzane Marquez, a lawyer for the women's rights organisation WomenLink, said the conditions do not match the information companies gave workers before they accepted the seasonal jobs. She is currently representing four Moroccan women who have filed legal complaints against the farms.
Read more: Morocco World News. Source: Risks 890
China: Massive chemical plant explosion
At least 78 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds are injured or missing in one of the worst industrial accidents in China in recent years. A massive explosion on 21 March flattened the Tianjiayi Chemical Co. pesticide plant near Yancheng in Jiangsu and caused extensive damage to neighbouring factories and the surrounding residential area.
It was revealed by local media soon after the explosion that the chemical plant had been cited for 13 safety violations in a report issued by then State Administration of Work Safety just over a year ago on 7 February 2018. These violations included: a lack of qualified personnel, insufficient safety training, lack of clear safety protocols, poor quality control, poor signage, chemical tank leakages, neglect of fire hazards, and more.
Read more: At least 78 dead, hundreds injured in massive chemical plant explosionChinese Labour Bulletin