The past week has been tragic, with four Victorian workers killed. Last Wednesday morning a man was killed after he was crushed between a fence and a garbage truck in Koonwarra, South Gippsland. Over the weekend, a second worker, a nightclub security guard, was killed and another critically injured in a drive-by shooting. The third fatality occurred on Monday, when a worker fell from a ladder at a factory. Yesterday a worker was killed when he fell off a roof.
There will be no edition of SafetyNet next week, and we wish anyone who is taking a break a safe and happy time with family and friends. We also urge employers to make sure they do everything practicable to ensure their workers are safe - starting right now!
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Four Victorian workers killed this week
A 56-year-old man was killed after he was crushed between a fence and a garbage truck in Koonwarra, South Gippsland. He was found at 9:30am last Wednesday morning. WorkSafe believes the driver was working alone at the time and had stepped out of the truck when it rolled forward and pinned him against the fence. WorkSafe is investigating the death.
Working alone increases the risks of harm to workers and where possible should be avoided - read more here.
One killed, one critically injured, two others shot
A 37 year old security guard was rushed to hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning after a stolen car sped past shooting into a crowd outside Love Machine nightclub in Prahran. He later died in hospital. Three other men were also shot: a second security guard, aged 28, was still fighting for life at The Alfred hospital on Sunday night. A 50-year-old man, also a security guard, and a 29-year-old patron sustained non-life threatening injuries.
A 26-year-old man also presented himself to hospital on Sunday afternoon with non-life threatening injuries, which police believe happened at the shooting; and a 20-year-old woman may have fallen at the scene and hit her head on the ground. She was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Read more: The Age.
Worker killed in four metre fall
On Monday a man in his 70s was killed after falling about four metres at a factory on McNaughton Road in Clayton. WorkSafe has said it appears he was working inside a makeshift cage attached to a forklift when the cage came off the forklift tines and fell to the ground. WorkSafe is investigating the death.
Man killed after falling from roof
In a horrific incident which occurred yesterday just before noon, a man in his 60s was killed after falling off a roof at a property at Neilborough, just north of Bendigo. It is believed the contractor was working with another person on a verandah roof when he fell and was impaled on a metal picket. WorkSafe is investigating the death.
Employers have specific duties when workers are performing work at height. The Prevention of Falls regulations apply when work is at more than 2 metres. Too often, and tragically, the risks of falling from height are not properly controlled. Read more: Working at Heights
The staff of the VTHC OHS Unit send our sincerest condolences to the workers' family, friends and work colleagues.
These four fatalities bring the total number of Victorian workers killed at work this year to 15; four of these will not form part of the official WorkSafe tally (including Sunday's fatality).
Man who killed surgeon sentenced to 10 years jail
Joseph Esmaili, the man who killed a Melbourne heart surgeon after an argument over smoking, will spend at least 10 years in jail after becoming the first person sentenced under Victoria's one-punch laws. The 24-year-old punched Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann in the head at Box Hill Hospital, in Melbourne's east, in May 2017. The blow knocked the surgeon unconscious and caused him to fall backwards and hit his head on the tiled floor. He died in hospital a month after the attack.
The pair had gotten into an argument after the surgeon asked Esmaili and his friends to stop smoking in a non-smoking area outside the hospital's entrance.
Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann's wife, Christine Baumberg, said "I call on the Victorian Government and the management of all Victorian hospitals to properly enforce hospital smoking bans and to provide a safe workplace for all hospital staff."
Read more: ABC News online
I was wondering about taking lunch breaks at our desks. I wanted to clarify if eating at your work station is an OHS/WHS breach or concern? As I understand it a meal break needs to be away from your work duties, for mental health reasons. Yet sometimes we have so much work to do, some of us feel we have no choice.
Employers must provide breaks (though exactly how much isn't specified in OHS legislation) as otherwise workers become fatigued. A worker's concentration and work performance also suffers. See this FAQ on Breaks.
They must also provide 'adequate facilities' – including facilities for eating. What employers need to provide is found in the Workplace amenities and work environment compliance code. See this FAQ on Dining facilities.
I would not recommend eating at your desk OHS reasons – not just for reasons of psychological well-being/mental health but also fatigue. Add to this that apparently desks have lots and lots of germs (see this article) and my advice would be to make sure you get a proper break away from your work station!
The other issue you've raised is workload. This is also an OHS issue as workers who feel constantly under pressure with high workloads are at risk of suffering stress (see the section on Stress on the website, including workplace factors which contribute to it.)
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.
Firefighters demand crackdown on 'death traps'
The United Firefighters Union (UFU) is calling for emergency laws to jail, fine and sue operators responsible for illegally stockpiling toxic chemical waste that causes industrial fires, warning that dump sites are "death traps" for emergency services personnel.
UFU Victoria secretary, Peter Marshall said on the ABC this week, that firefighters who battled the huge industrial blazes in Campbellfield this month and West Footscray in 2018 have reported a range of conditions. He said his members have suffered lung infections, nosebleeds, rashes and memory loss after exposure to the highly toxic smoke and debris produced by the burning of solvents, paints, inks and other unknown chemicals found at the illegal waste dumping operations.
In a letter to Premier Daniel Andrews, Mr Marshall called for those responsible for creating the stockpiles to be held "fully accountable both in criminal sanctions and civil penalties". He wrote: "The threat of imprisonment should be real and prosecuting bodies should have a 'pro-charge' policy to ensure that prosecutions are initiated in all circumstances where a fire occurs involving toxic chemicals that have, in any way, been illegally produced, sold, transported, stored or disposed of."
Read more: The Age. Listen to the interview on ABC Breakfast here.
Victorian govt announces waste monitoring
As part of the Andrews Labor Government crackdown on the illegal storage of hazardous material, chemical waste will be electronically monitored from July this year. Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D'Ambrosio announced the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will invest $5.5 million to switch to a fully GPS electronic tracking system to better record the production, movement and receipt of industrial waste.
A new integrated waste tracking tool, with improved data analytics and reporting, will also be developed over the next 12 months, to deliver insights on sector activity, trends and highlight potential illegal activity. This best practice tracking system will be finalised by March 2020, so that industry will have three months to transition before the new Environment Protection Act legislation comes into effect on 1 July 2020.
The Minister said, "We're implementing these new measures to crack down on the illegal storage of hazardous waste and increase safety for the community."
Read more: Vic Government media release
Australian unions help out in Vietnam
Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA has been working in Vietnam to support the campaign to eradicate asbestos since 2010. Asian countries consume the majority of asbestos globally, but there is a renewed momentum in a range of countries towards bans within the region.
To achieve their goal, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has facilitated cooperation between Vietnamese and other regional governments and the Australian Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, the world's only standalone asbestos agency.
The project addresses the three main obstructions to a ban of all forms of asbestos: misinformation from the asbestos industry; the perceived lack of viable alternatives to asbestos as a low cost building material; and the sharing of both international evidence and credible domestic research to provide accurate and independent impact estimates to help persuade decision makers on the hazards of asbestos.
Read more: Eradicating Asbestos in Vietnam, Mirage News
Vietnam's asbestos frontline
A letter by civil society groups recently sent to leading politicians addressed false statements and misinformation propagated at a 2018 pro-asbestos workshop in Vietnam's National Assembly. The letter accused organizations including the International Chrysotile Association, the Vietnam Roofing Association and others of: spreading "false and incorrect information and data about the harmful effects of white asbestos" and "creating confusion and misunderstanding about the situation and the scientific basis for… [banning] white asbestos". Asbestos vested interests are desperate to forestall the implementation of a Prime Ministerial Order banning chrysotile asbestos roofing material by 2023 and are marshalling political and economic allies to force a government U-turn.
Read more: IBAS
Silicosis: Have you been tested?
A fit and healthy NSW stonemason has been was diagnosed with the irreversible and deadly lung disease silicosis which is striking dozens in his trade after a friend asked him 'have you been tested?'. Byron Bay tradesman Kyle Goodwin, 33, had worked as a stonemason for nearly a decade when he became aware of a nationwide spike in silicosis cases in the stone cutting industry. Mr Goodwin got checked that day - and was diagnosed with accelerated silicosis, as well as early stages of progressive massive fibrosis. Read more: 9News
Workers are being exposed to high level of silica dust in their workplaces, with Safe Work Australia looking to reduce the exposure standard - something the VTHC has been campaigning around. Help strengthen the VTHC submission supporting the reduced exposure standard by signing Greg Ballantyne's petition now!
More information on Silica.
International union news
Global: ITUC aims to show killer chemicals the door
In a high profile new campaign, the global trade union confederation ITUC is calling for killer chemicals to be shown the door. Sharan Burrow, the union body's general secretary (ex-ACTU), says the chemical industry is set to grow four-fold by 2060 and warns hazardous exposures at work already claiming a million lives each year. Writing in Hazards magazine, she warns the global industry "can get away with this because it resorts to illegal or unethical practices to bury the evidence of health risks linked to its products."
The workplace chemical exposures crisis is behind ITUC's decision to renew its campaign to protect workers. On International Workers' Memorial Day on 28 April 2019 the union body has adopted the theme of 'Taking control - removing dangerous substances from the workplace', including an emphasis on a 'Zero Cancer' approach. ITUC is urging reps to seek to eliminate or minimise exposure to carcinogens in the workplace and says a first of its kind ITUC at-a-glance guide to work cancers and their causes will ensure unions can identify and challenge preventable and potentially deadly exposures.
According to Burrow: "In human terms, the cost of hazardous workplace exposures is one worker death every 30 seconds." She said prevention isn't happening "because corporate chemistry has captured regulators, bribed obliging scientists and attacked its detractors. It is a fatal endeavour that must be stopped."
- All out! Global union confederation ITUC wants to show killer chemicals the door, Hazards magazine, number 145, April 2019.
- ITUC/Hazards 28 April dedicated events and resources website.
- ITUC 28 April webpage
- Cancers and their work causes: An ITUC/Hazards at-a-glance guide to cancer hazards.
- Hazards Campaign 28 April resources pageBack to top
Female factory workers producing clothing and shoes in Vietnam – many probably for major international brands – face systemic sexual harassment and violence at work. Approaching half (43.1 per cent) of 763 women interviewed in factories in three Vietnamese provinces said they had suffered at least one form of violence and/or harassment in the previous year, according to a study by the Fair Wear Foundation and Care International.
The abuse – which ranged from groping and slapping to rape and threats of contract termination – sheds a light on working conditions endured by women in some Vietnamese factories with as many as 20,000 employees, said Dr Jane Pillinger, a gender-based violence expert and author of the study. The research is the first to correlate violence and sexual harassment in garment factories with workplace factors endemic to the "fast fashion" industry. These include excessive overtime, low pay, long working hours and unrealistic production targets, imposed by often well-known brands, said Annabel Meurs, Vietnam country manager for the Fair Wear Foundation, a non-profit organisation financed by its 130 garment company members.
"We were shocked by the detrimental effect it had," said Meurs. "Violence and harassment affect productivity, competitiveness and company reputation, as well as women's integrity, health and wellbeing. It sounds simple, but most garment brands are not aware that they have so much influence on factory floor conditions." Although the names of the factories and the brands they supply were kept secret to encourage participation in the study, there is a "strong likelihood" that they include European and US brands, said Pillinger. Read more: The Observer. Source: Risks 893
World first heavy vehicle driver fatigue research
The National Transport Commission (NTC) and the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC) this week released the results of a world-first study into heavy vehicle driver fatigue.
The two-year study evaluated alertness monitoring technology and the impacts of work shifts on driver alertness, analysing shift start time, the number of consecutive shifts, shift length, shift rotation, rest breaks and their likely impact on driver drowsiness and fatigue.
Spokesperson and Theme Leader for the Alertness CRC Associate Professor Mark Howard said the research involved a study of more than 300 heavy vehicle driver shifts both in-vehicle and in a laboratory, as well as 150,000 samples of retrospective data. 'We found that slow eye and eyelid movements, longer blink duration and prolonged eye closure are reliable predictors of drowsiness and fatigue', Associate Professor Howard said.
The study also confirmed the scientific link between alertness and drowsiness patterns associated with specific work shifts for heavy vehicle driving.
NTC Chief Executive Officer Dr Gillian Miles said these findings will inform future fatigue policy as part of the NTC-led review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
Key research findings:
Greatest alertness levels can be achieved under current standard driving hours for shifts starting between 6am – 8am, including all rest breaks. Greatest risk of an increase in drowsiness occurs:
- After 15 hours of day driving when a driver starts a shift before 9am).
- After 6 - 8 hours of night driving (when a driver starts a shift in the afternoon or evening).
- After five consecutive shifts when driving again for over 13 hours.
- When driving an early shift that starts after midnight and before 6am.
- During the first 1-2 night shifts a driver undertakes and during long night shift sequences.
- When a driver undertakes a backward shift rotation (from an evening, back to afternoon, or an afternoon back to a morning start).
- After long shift sequences of more than seven shifts.
- During nose-to-tail shifts where a seven-hour break only enables five hours of sleep – a duration previously associated with a three-fold increased risk for motor vehicle accidents.
Welders at higher risk of cancer
A major literature review has found welders are at a 43 per cent increased risk of lung cancer. Researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and other research bodies say that worldwide, 110 million workers are exposed to welding fumes, which were re-evaluated from possibly carcinogenic to definitely carcinogenic to humans by the IARC in 2017.
They reviewed 45 studies, representing 16,485,328 workers, and found welders showed an average 43 per cent increased risk of lung cancer compared to workers who were never welders or exposed to welding fumes.
"Welders are exposed to a complex mixture of chemical compounds that might vary by the type of welding method used (eg. gas, arc), the type of metal being welded (mild or stainless steel) and the occupational setting where welding is performed," the researchers say. However they found exposure to welding fumes increased lung cancer risk regardless of the type of steel being welded or the welding method, and independently of asbestos exposure or tobacco smoking. But the risk increased with the length of employment as a welder.
Read more: Manoj Kumar Honaryar, et al, Welding fumes and lung cancer: a meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, April 2019, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105447. Source: OHS Alert
OHS Regulator News
Media release on prosecution
WorkSafe has today released a statement on the conviction fine of hops grower Neville Handcock - as reported in last week's SafetyNet. The death occurred in March 2017 when a worker he fell from a trailer towed by an out of control tractor.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said tractors were an important piece of equipment but were involved in more deaths and serious injuries than any other piece of machinery. "Tragically, in this case a failure to provide proper information and training and to have a safe system of work has cost a worker his life," Ms Nielsen said. "When using a tractor with attachments, such as trailers, it is essential to plan each task, assess the risks and select the right equipment for the terrain to reduce the potential of injury or death."
Read more: WorkSafe media release
The last edition of Safety Soapbox was posted on April 10, just after our journal was posted. The editorial in this edition is on incidents involving mobile elevated working platforms (MEWPs), which are happening with alarming frequency, with seven significant incidents already this year. WorkSafe is working closely with the industry to develop a standard for safely using MEWPs. In the meantime, Safety Soapbox has advice for employers to follow while the standard is being developed.
Also attached to the electronic email is a document providing a summary of reported incidents for the month of March. During which this period the construction industry reported 202 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, five were potentially serious 'near misses' and 64 per cent resulted in injury. Of the injuries, 4 per cent were serious, 52 per cent 'significant' and 44 per cent minor. 23 incidents involved a young worker.
Access the April 10 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the document on reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
ACCC urges mandatory protection on quad bikes
In a week when two boys were killed in quad bike incidents in rural WA and Tasmania, Australia's consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has called for rollover protection devices to be fitted to all quad bikes. This follows almost 18 months of deliberations, industry consultation and 119 submissions. However, Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert will not be adopting the ACCC's recommendations, and has announced another round of public consultation that would not be completed until at least June 10, well after the May 18 Federal Election.
Safe Work Australia figures show in the eight years from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2018, 126 people died in quad bike incidents in Australia. Almost 11 per cent (14 fatalities) were children aged 11 years of age or under and more than one third (43 fatalities) were adults aged 60 years and over. The figures show over half (76 fatalities) of all fatalities were the result of a rollover and 77 fatalities occurred on a farm or property. The ACTU and unions have been calling for mandatory protection on quad bikes for years. So many avoidable deaths could have been prevented.
On Saturday afternoon a seven-year-old boy was killed while riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in the tiny town of Dingup, in WA's South-West, while a nine-year-old Tasmanian boy died in an ATV incident at a family member's rural property at Sandford on Hobart's eastern shore. Both boys died after the quad bikes they were riding rolled over.
Read more: ACCC media release; Consumer watchdog calls for protection on quad bikes, The Weekly Times; Boys aged 7 and 9 die in quad bike accidents in rural WA and Tasmania, ABC News online; ACTU media releases, 2012 and 2013
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 - Printing firm convicted and fined $40k for entrapment of arm
Ausprinters Pty Ltd, a Hallam company making printed media products for the packaging of goods, employs approximately 10 workers.
On 25 July 2017 an employee was setting up a printer to do a printing job when his arm was caught in the rollers and was pulled in. His arm was trapped in way that to remove it part of the printer had to be dismantled. The employee suffered injuries which required hospitalisation and multiple surgeries.
WorkSafe Inspectors who attended the workplace observed that safety systems had been bypassed, were missing or were no longer effective in controlling the risks. Specifically, panel doors providing guarding to internal danger areas were missing, interlocks were bypassed to allow the machine to run with panel doors open or missing, a lack of guarding for multiple in-running nip points were accessible by hand and emergency-stop safety lanyards were missing from the third level of the printer. They also determined that the worker had not received any information or instruction on the danger areas of the printer or how to operate the printer in a way that did not require him to place parts of his body inside.
Ausprinters pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $40,000, plus $6,032 costs.
2 - Window manufacturer fined just $12k after potentially fatal incident
Imperial Aluminium Windows & Doors P/L ('IAWD') is a manufactures and supplies aluminium doors and windows which has approximately 9 full-time employees.
In early May 2018, IAWD received delivery of 30 sheets of 6.38mm thick laminated safety glass, each measuring 1.8m x 2.44m. The sheets of glass were packed together and strapped to the side wall to the rear of the container, and were inaccessible by way of forklift or pallet jack, so it was decided to remove the glass one sheet at a time.
On 5 May 2018, two directors and an employee began to unload the sheets, removing the end and top caps. The process involved a director holding the sheets of glass in place whilst the other two used suction clamps to lift the sheets of glass one at a time, walking them out of the container and onto a trolley. After 15 sheets had been removed they took a short break. Then after 4 or 5 more were moved, the remaining load shifted and fell onto the three men, causing injuries.
IAWD pleaded guilty to two charges and was without conviction fined $12,000.00 and $3,592 costs.
- Fresh Delight Trading P/L (a fruit and vegetable store): fined $1000 after a WorkSafe Inspector visited the workplace and found an employee operating a forklift while another person (not an employee) stood on the raised tines of the forklift in the loading bay
- The employee of Fresh Delight was also fined $800 - who did not have a valid forklift licence and not only operated the forklift with a person on the tines, but was found operating a forklift on two subsequent occasions. The man pleaded guilty to one reckless endangerment charge and two charges in respect of operating the forklift without a valid licence.
- An Inspector visiting a site where Effective Electrical P/L was installing solar panel on a roof at a height of approx 6m, observed a male, later determined to be the Site Manager, step off the roof, climb over the rails of a scissor lift to enter its platform and descend to the ground. While he was wearing a harness, it was not attached to anything. The employer failed to implement a passive fall prevention device, such as the tower scaffold prescribed in its SWMS, pleaded guilty to breaching s21 of the Act, and was fined $3,000 (and costs of $4,725
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
EU: chemical lobby to block cancer warning
A suspected carcinogen found in spray paints, sun creams and varnishes many not now be required to carry a cautionary health label in the European Union, after lobbying led by the industry and the UK and US governments.
In what campaigners say is an unprecedented and potentially illegal step, the European Commission has dropped a recommendation from its chemicals advisers for mandatory health warnings on all inhalable liquid forms of titanium dioxide (TiO2). The regulation was drafted under what EU officials describe as "very heavy" pressure from industry, supported by the UK and the Trump White House.a wireless technology injured advocacy group, supported by the UK and the Trump White House.
Read more: Work Cancer Hazards