In a tragic incident in Sydney this week, an 18 year old apprentice was killed and another worker critically injured when four levels of scaffolding collapsed, trapping them beneath tons of steel and other material.
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NSW: Scaffolding collapse kills 18 year old
At about 12.30pm on Monday this week apprentice Christopher Cassaniti was killed in an incident on a Sydney, NSW construction site. Another worker, 39, was critically injured.
Darren Greenfield, NSW state secretary of the CFMEU, said the deceased worker was just 18 years old. His distraught parents arrived at the scene just before police confirmed the tragic news that he had died. The teenager's mother, who operates a coffee canteen around the corner from the site, was at the scene about five minutes after the scaffolding collapsed. "As you'd expect, they're devastated to lose their 18-year-old son," Mr Greenfield said.
The men, believed to be form workers, were on the ground when the 15 - 17 metre structure collapsed on top of them, burying and trapping them under tons of twisted steel and bricks. It is believed the scaffold structure was being dismantled. Another two workers were laying bricks at the top of the structure and jumped to safety.
Police established a crime scene, with SafeWorkNSW investigators at the site. "While the cause of the collapse is unknown at this stage, SafeWork is employing significant resources to fully understand how this tragic incident occurred," it said in a statement.
Read more: SafeWorkNSW media release; ABC news online; news.com.au
Industrial Manslaughter: Update
With the Berejiklian government being re-elected in last week's NSW election, it's not unreasonable to assume that Industrial Manslaughter legislation will be off the agenda in that satate for many years. To date there has been no announcement of who will be the minister responsible for workplace health and safety and workers compensation, with the government appearing to prioritise planning and other matters.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
International Workers' Memorial Day
Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents". They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn't that important a priority. Workers' Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers. And every week in Australia, workers are killed in workplace incidents, or die as a result of workplace exposures.
Workers' Memorial Day is held on 28 April and workers and their representatives all over the world mark the day, remember the dead and fight for the living.
This year the VTHC commemoration event will be held at 10.30am on Monday 29 April. There will be a small number of speakers, the Trade Union Choir, and those present will be invited to lay flowers at the Memorial Rock. Following the event, at 11.30am, the VTHC OHS team will be holding an Industrial Manslaughter Campaign meeting.
The Unit has posters available for workers to place in their workplace - if you'd like some, then come pick some up at the Hall (entry via Lygon St, Carlton).
Tonight: Webinar on UV Radiation
Sam and Luke from the VTHC OHS Unit are holding a webinar on UV Radiation tonight, with special guest presenter, Ms Caoimhe Geraghty from Cancer Council Victoria. The webinar begins at 7pm so go to the We Are Union OHS Network Facebook page to participate. If you can't make it at 7pm, you can access the webinar later at any time.
Reminder: Silica exposure standard and petition
Help support the push for a lower exposure standard to silica: by signing Greg Ballantyne's petition now!
Reminder: Safe Work Australia is seeking input on the recommended values for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and respirable coal dust (RCD). The draft report on silica recommends a TWA of 0.02 mg/m3 to protect for fibrosis and silicosis, and consequently minimise the risk of lung cancer, in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica at the workplace.
To provide comments on the draft evaluation reports and recommendations for respirable crystalline silica and respirable coal dust by 30 April 2019, access the SWA consultation platform Engage.
Are people allowed to smoke at the entrance of our workplace?
OHS legislation does not cover smoking specifically – this is separate legislation: the Tobacco Act. There have been gradual changes which continually reduce where people can smoke. At this stage, the Act prohibits smoking in all enclosed workplaces and certain public spaces where members of the public gather and may be exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. For example, smoking outside childcare centres, and Victorian public entrances is no longer allowed, but I don't think it's been expanded to private premises.
Nevertheless, a person who manages or controls a workplace has a duty under s26 of the OHS Act to 'ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering it and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.' Consequently, it would be reasonable to expect that those managing the building ensure that there is no smoking at the entrances.
See this page for more information and links to the Tobacco Reform legislation site.
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.
Changes to asbestos importation penalties
After consistent demands from asbestos diseases advocacy groups, unions and the Cancer Council over many years to strengthen the laws, the federal government has announced increased penalties for importers who knowingly or recklessly import goods containing asbestos. They can now also face up to five years jail.
A joint statement from the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and said the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O'Dwyer last week announced the Coalition has "strengthened and streamlined existing regulations" "From today, unlawfully bringing asbestos across Australia's border is a Tier 1 offence. This means those who import or export asbestos face the prospect of jail time following a successful prosecution," Mr Dutton said. Read more: Ministerial media release
NSW: residents want royal commission
Two Granville residents are calling for a royal commission into nearly two decades of alleged negligence by Parramatta Council and the NSw State Government agencies in their handling of the James Hardie asbestos legacy.
They say they have been stuck in a "never-ending asbestos nightmare" as numerous pleas for authorities to clean up a section of A'Becketts Creek, near their homes, go unanswered. The pair has now put in a detailed complaint to the NSW Ombudsman, claiming lives have been put at risk by council and state agencies' "gross mismanagement" of a stockpile of asbestos on the banks of A'Becketts Creek, which is part of the Parramatta River catchment.
Both Parramatta Council and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) deny any mismanagement and say asbestos has not been detected during air monitoring in the area. Read more: The Daily Telegraph
Gig workers: take the survey now!
Over 300 gig workers have completed the Gig workers Victoria, a network of on demand workers housed in Victorian Trades Hall Council, survey - have you? The survey can be taken in English or in a range of languages and aims to give gig workers a say on work-related issues. If you or someone you know has had any experience in this sector, please participate and let others know.
Don't forget too that there is a team of organisers who are working with on demand workers in Victoria to empower them with the knowledge and skills needed to end workplace exploitation and insecurity. Check out the new Gig Worker website.
One in five Australian tradies exposed to high noise levels
Almost one in five Australian working men experienced noise above the recommended occupational limit on their most recent working day, new research led by Curtin University has found.
The research, published in the Occupational and Environment Medicine Journal, surveyed almost 5000 Australian workers to understand how many of them were exposed to workplace noise and chemicals that can damage hearing including some solvents, metals and gases.
Lead author Mrs Kate Lewkowski, an audiologist from the School of Public Health at Curtin University, said hearing loss affected more than half a billion people worldwide and continued to be a leading cause of disability in Australia. "Hearing loss can significantly reduce someone's quality of life as it can lead to social isolation and poor mental health," Mrs Lewkowski said.
"The findings also show that four out of five workers who exceeded the full noise exposure limit were also likely to be exposed to at least one ototoxic chemical in the workplace. This is an important finding as it demonstrates that most of those who work in hazardous noise environments may have an additional risk of hearing loss due to exposure to these chemicals."
The research also found that younger men who had trade qualifications and worked outside a major city were at higher risk of being exposed to excessive noise levels at work.
Read more: Lewkowski, K, et al. 'Exposure to noise and ototoxic chemicals in the Australian workforce [Abstract], Occupational and Environment Medicine Journal; Source: Curtin University news release.
Every year on shifts ups heart disease risk 1 per cent
Working shifts increases a person's chances of developing heart disease, with every year spent in this working pattern causing a 1 per cent rise in the risk, according to a new study. The research published in the journal Occupational Medicine is the largest ever study focusing on the risk of ischaemic heart disease in shift workers.
Researchers analysed 21 studies that pooled together 320,002 participants with 19,782 cases of ischaemic heart disease. Shift workers were found to be 13 per cent more likely to develop ischaemic heart disease compared with day time workers. The study revealed there was a 0.9 per cent increase in the chance of developing ischaemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, with every year spent in this working pattern. The study authors have called for employers of shift workers to do more to protect their employees' health.
Study co-author Professor Weihong Chen said: "This is the largest study about shift work and ischaemic heart disease ever undertaken. This is also the first study to analyse the dose response relationship between shift work and ischaemic heart disease." She added: "The longer an employee spends working shifts, the higher their risk of developing ischaemic heart disease. Shift work is a timesaving work system, it can earn more profit but it can also cause harm to the health of employees, so employers should reduce shift work as much as possible. Employers should pay attention to staff members who are experiencing symptoms of heart problems as well as those with a family history of heart disease. Employers could provide health promotion, such as information on how to prevent and deal with ischaemic heart disease. Companies could also consider providing health checks to detect early signs of heart problems." Long-term night work has also been linked to diabetes, breast cancer and other health effects. In November 2018, a TUC analysis of official figures revealed the number of people working night shifts in the UK has increased by more than 150,000 over the past five years (Risks 873). The UK union council says the number working nights now stands at more than 3 million workers – or one in nine of the total workforce.
Read more: M Cheng and others. Shiftwork and ischaemic heart disease [Abstract], Occupational Medicine, 29 March 2019.Source: Risks 891
Working nights linked to greater risk of miscarriage
Another study has found that working two or more night shifts in a week may increase a pregnant woman's risk of miscarriage the following week by around a third. The prospective study published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine accessed payroll data on 22,744 pregnant women working in public services, mainly hospitals, in Denmark, and linked that with data from Danish national registers on births and admissions to hospital for miscarriage.
After week eight of pregnancy, women who had worked two or more night shifts the previous week had a 32 per cent higher risk of miscarriage compared with women who had not worked any night shifts that week. Further, the risk of miscarriage increased with the number of night shifts worked per week and also by numbers of consecutive night shifts. The authors note that about 14 per cent of women in Europe report working at night at least once a month. They conclude: "The study corroborates earlier findings that night work during pregnancy may confer an increased risk of miscarriage and it indicates a lowest observed threshold level of two night shifts per week. The new knowledge has relevance for working pregnant women as well as their employers, physicians and midwifes. Moreover, the results could have implications for national occupational health regulations."
Read more: Luise Moelenberg Begtrup and others. Night work and miscarriage: a Danish nationwide register-based cohort study [Full text], Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First 25 March 2019. DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105592 Science Daily. Source: Risks 891
OHS Regulator News
New Safety Alert
Following last week's incident in which a construction worker lost his foot, WorkSafe Victoria this week issued a Safety Alert about the significant hazards and risks associated with working on dual car single mast personnel and materials hoists, after an employee lost his foot.
It's never OK
WorkSafe has again been airing a media campaign addressing violence and aggression in the healthcare sector. The regulator has sent an email to all its mailing list and has been running advertisements in the media, including on television. Up to 95% of healthcare workers have experienced verbal or physical assault.
WorkSafe says: "Healthcare workers support us, and the ones we love, often when we are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, these vital members of our community are regularly confronted with violence and aggression – from patients, residents, visiting family, friends and even bystanders. This unacceptable behaviour can have significant ongoing effects on the physical and mental wellbeing of our healthcare workers.
The people who are behaving this way are not just those under the influence of alcohol and drugs, or those who do not have capacity of mind. They're often everyday people who find themselves in a stressful situation, and lash out without thinking." Check out the campaign here.
NSW: Safety Alert
SafeWorkNSW has also recently released a Safety Alert: Harvesting at heights, after a farm worker picking avocados on a farm in rural NSW was killed as a result of injuries when the mobile elevated work platform he was working on overturned. The alert is in the form of a video.
WA: New FIFO Code of Practice released
Australia's first Code of Practice for the mental health of fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workers, which includes valuable information for multiple industries, has been finalised and released in Western Australia.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston launched the code yesterday to help promote and maintain mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO workers in the resources and construction sectors. Developed following extensive public consultation, the 'Mentally healthy workplaces for fly-in fly-out workers in the resources and construction sectors' code [pdf] aims to address hazards and risk factors in FIFO workplaces.
Parts of the 28- page code encourage organisations to adopt a risk management process to identify potential psychosocial hazards, establish a positive and supportive workplace culture, provide suitable accommodation and rosters with sufficient time for rest and recreation.
The code was created following recommendations from a Legislative Assembly Committee report on the impact of FIFO practices on workers' mental health.
Government-funded research, released by the Minister for Mental Health last year, found FIFO workers experience higher levels of psychological distress than non-FIFO workers.
Source: WA government media release. Download the code from this WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety webpage.
Safe Work Australia news
The latest update remains as of 21 March, at which time 30 fatalities had been notified to Safe Work Australia. 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
1 - Nursery fined after cage crushes worker
Murray Valley Nurseries Pty Ltd, a large citrus fruit grower located at Wood Wood, Victoria, was last week fined $13,000 (plus costs of $3,450) over an incident in which a worker was crushed.
In July 2017 the employee was using an elevated work platform (EWP) to weld struts onto the side of a structure at height. Whilst hanging over the cage of the EWP, the boom and cage moved upwards crushing him between cage and the structure. He tried to move the cage downwards using his foot on the controls, but it only moved down marginally. He was helped to the ground by a co-worker. The employee suffered four broken ribs, a fractured vertebrae and a punctured lung.
A WorkSafe Inspector who observed the rear wheel of the EWP had been dislodged issued a Prohibition Notice. The EWP was later decommissioned and sold as scrap.
While the precise cause of the incident could not be established, but the inspector noted that there was o evidence of any pre-operation inspections or maintenance works being carried out. Further, no Safe Work Method Statement had been prepared in relation to high risk construction work involving the movement of powered mobile plant. Despite pleading guilty, the company was fined without conviction.
2 - Glazing firm fined $20k after worker crushed by glass
Glassworks (Aust) Pty Ltd operates from a large factory in Dandenong South where it makes glazing and glazing products for the building industry.
In March 2017, the company loaded and delivered glass panels to a construction site located in Glen Iris. The driver was directed to a public roadway next to the construction site in a designated unloading zone. The driver began undoing the load restraints on the passenger side of the truck: there were two restraint clamps securing the load of 1004 kg of sheet glass. Each restraint was rated at being able to sustain a load of 500Kg each - so the load was slightly overloaded. As he started to remove the second restraint the sheet glass fell from the A frame of the truck striking him on the head and pinning him between fencing and the glass. The remaining load restraint gave way due to the weight and pressure. He was taken to hospital, received treatment, and returned to work about 3 weeks later.
The company failed to take a number of simple measures to prevent such an incident occurring, and was found to be in breach of s21 of the OHS Act. Glassworks pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000.00 and to pay costs of $5,582.
3 - Engineering firm fined after worker crushed by poly pipe rolls
Healesville based directional drilling and civil works company BTB Australia Pty Ltd had been subcontracted to complete drilling under a road in Williamstown as part of the Level Crossing Removal Project.
On 21 September 2017 an BTB employee was tasked with transporting and unloading 340kg rolls of poly pipe for installation at the workplace. The coils had been loaded onto the trailer by an excavator before being transported by the man to the workplace. Once there, he and two other employees were directed to unload the coils manually. One of the worker's colleagues stood on the trailer whilst he and the other colleague stood next to each other on the ground to guide the coil down the ramp of the trailer and onto the ground. The first coil was unloaded and landed in the correct position. The second coil reached the bottom of the ramp, tilted and began to fall towards the two men, crushing one. He was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery for a fractured pelvis and hips.
BTB Australia pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $50,000 and to pay costs of $3,578.50 for being in breach of s21 of the OHS Act.
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
NSW: KFC fined after young worker suffers serious burns
A KFC franchise in Coffs Harbour was recently fined following serious injuries to a young worker. QSR Pty Ltd (QSR), a franchisee of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), was sentenced and fined $60,000 on 22 March under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after a 20-year-old worker slipped in the kitchen while cleaning and suffered serious burns to his leg.
In November 2016 the KFC worker used a ladder to access and clean the canopies of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system above open cook pots that were heating up oil. The worker followed the "usual method". However on this occasion, an electrical black out occurred, and as he tried to come down, his left leg slipped in the hot oil. The worker suffered third degree burns to his left leg and was treated in hospital. He has since undergone a skin graft to his left leg and has had mobility issues.
Executive Director for SafeWork Operations, Tony Williams said the incident was an example of the vulnerability of young and inexperienced people in the workplace and how vital it is that employers equip young workers with the right training and resources, supported by adequate levels of supervision and monitoring. Read more: SafeworkNSW media release
It is of huge concern that apart from inadequate training and supervision, it would seem that the unsafe systems of work were not specifically targetted. This is not the first time that a young worker has been seriously burnt in similar circumstances at a KFC store. In May 2017, KFC was convicted and fined $105,000 in the South Australian Magistrates Court, after a 16-year old worker fell into a tank of hot oil left unattended by other inexperienced workers (see SafetyNet 402). And in August 2015, a 16-year old worker suffered extensive third degree burns at the Geelong KFC fast food outlet (see SafetyNet 334). The magistrate initially fined KFC $175,000, from a maximum $1.5 million, but reduced the amount by 40 per cent for its "prompt" guilty plea.
NT: Transport company fined $154k over loading bay death
A Victorian based transport and warehouse company has been fined $154,000 today in the Darwin Local Court over the death of a 47 year old Maningrida man in 2016.
Glen Cameron Nominees Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one breach of Section 32 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act for failing to comply with a health and safety duty.
The man, who cannot be named for cultural reasons, fell asleep in the loading dock area at the shopping centre in Leanyer on 7 October 2016. He was run over and killed when a driver of a prime mover leaving the loading dock failed to see him. The driver was a subcontractor to Glen Cameron Nominees Pty Ltd.
NT WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Chris Wicks said despite working for Glen Cameron since 2012, the sub-contractor involved in the incident was never provided induction training, or a site induction of the site. Read more: NTWorkSafe media release
EU: Half of chemicals unsafe in current use
Officials are failing to prevent dozens of dangerous chemicals being used in consumer and other products, according to a review of action by European governments.
Around 22,000 chemicals are registered for use in Europe. National authorities began in-depth safety checks of hundreds of substances thought to have dangerous properties in March 2012. By December 2018, high quality checks were completed on 94 substances, of which nearly half (49 per cent or 46) were declared to be unsafe in their current commercial use. The 46 danger substances have been listed for the first time in a review of official records by the European Environmental Bureau.
Agents judged the 46 substances a danger due to their harmful properties and exposure threat to people or the environment. They concluded that protective action is needed in all cases, but no action has yet been taken to control 74% (34) of the 46. Lack of resources is a major cause of inaction, NGOs have been told. Industry is legally permitted to use millions of tonnes of the 46 substances annually. The resulting exposure is likely causing cancer, fertility problems or other health impacts, or creating serious environmental pollution, officials found.
Read more: European Environmental Bureau media release