There has been another fatality in Victoria in the past week, bringing the total this year to 16.
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Another Victorian worker killed this week
It is with great regret that we report that a man in his late 40s was killed by a forklift load that fell from its tynes at a machinery depot in Somerton, in Melbourne's north, on Saturday morning. While the tragedy is still being investigated by WorkSafe, it is clear that the load could not have been properly secured.
This brings this year's workplace death toll to 16. The flowers from Workers Memorial Day haven't even wilted yet, but we had to hang the banner again.
Our thoughts are with the colleagues, family and friends of the man. Every workplace death is a needless tragedy that should never occur.
Just wondering what toilet breaks are allowed/workers are entitled to in regards to working long hours on their own? I usually work four hours, but sometimes up to six hours on my own. Taking a toilet break is very frowned upon as it means the store has to close.
There's nothing specific in Victoria's OHS legislation on either working alone or on toilet breaks, but employers have what is called a general duty of care to all employees, and this includes providing a safe system of work.
In order to do this, the employer must undertake an identification of the hazards and risks associated with the work and working alone, and then implement controls. In terms of toilet breaks, the employer must have some sort of system in place so that if a worker needs to go to the toilet, he/she is able to do so. It's an unsafe system if workers cannot go to the toilet when they need to – it can put their health at risk. Making decisions on and implementing measures must be done in consultation with affected workers.
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.
Two power station stacks demolished
Earlier this week hundreds gathered to watch as two of the four chimney stacks at the former Morwell Power Station in eastern Victoria were demolished. The chimney stacks have been a feature of the Latrobe Valley's skyline since the coal-fired power station opened in 1956. Barry Dungey, general manager of remediation at Energy Brix, the company that ran the power station, said everuthing went as planned. He said dust suppression was "top of mind" for the team and that the chimneys were free from asbestos. Read more: ABC news online
Royal Hobart Hospital: asbestos stops work
Asbestos at the Royal Hobart Hospital has led to work at the redevelopment site to be stopped once again. Work has now resumed, but the major upset is that it was nearly two weeks before workers were given the news about its presence and their potential exposure. Michael Anderson,State Secretary of the Tasmanian branch of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, questioned whether the State Government has lost sight of 'safety first'.
Quad bike stand-off
The Australian union movement has been campaigning for years for the introduction of mandatory rollover protection on quad bikes - which kill an average of 16 Australians every year. Since 2011, there have been 121 deaths associated with the use of quad bikes, also known as all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and 13 deaths associated with side-by-side vehicles (SSVs). Deaths occur equally during workplace and recreational riding. Approximately 15 per cent of deaths involve children.
Last year, after many years of campaigning not only by unions but also safety experts, the ACCC proposed major changes to improve the safety of quad bikes, including the introduction of a safety rating system, crush protection devices and mandatory minimum performance standards. The Assistant Treasurer then sought submissions into the exposure draft mandatory standard recommended by the ACCC - by June 9 this year.
It has now emerged that Honda and Yamaha are threatening to withdraw from the Australian market if operator protection devices become mandatory. These companies should be ashamed - the Chair of FarmSafe has hit out at their threat. "This is an astonishingly infantile reaction from otherwise respected multinational companies," said Mr Charles Armstrong. Others, however, such as Mojo Motorcycles, have said they will ensure compliance with any new requirements. Read more: If ACCC rulings adopted Honda and Yamaha to quit selling quad bikes, The Queensland Register. Quad-bike roll-bar: Mojo to comply, Honda and Yamaha threaten to walk. The Weekly Times
Australian firefighters lead call for flourine-free foam
A group of firefighters and fire safety experts last week called on international negotiators to ban fluorinated chemicals in firefighting foam.
Delegates from more than 180 countries were in Geneva this week for the annual meeting of the UN's Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs). On the agenda were proposals to tighten controls on PFOA and PFOS, two fluorinated industrial chemicals used in a variety of manufacturing processes for their resistance to water and oil.
The EU has identified both substances as persistent, bioaccumulative and reprotoxic.
Speaking at a press conference hosted by the civil society network Ipen on the sidelines of the convention, firefighters from international and Australian trade unions, as well as experts from aviation and oil and gas companies that have stopped using fluorinated foam, urged delegates to ban PFOA and to "close loopholes" in the convention for the ban on PFOS.
"As a firefighter I can tell you our anxiety levels are high, because we know we've had to deal with exposure to this toxic chemical for over 50 years," Mick Tisbury, president of the United Firefighters Union of Australia and commander of the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade, said of PFOA. "Right now we feel like we've got a ticking time bomb in our bodies."
New data on exposure to fluorinated chemicals for Australian firefighters was included in an Ipen report recently published advocating for fluorine-free firefighting foam. It found "significant elevations" of fluorinated chemicals in the blood of Australian firefighters compared to the general population of the country, according to the NGO.
All major airports in Australia have phased out the use of fluorinated firefighting foam, the report said. Tisbury said that his fire brigade has found the fluorine-free foam performs just as well.
Source: Chemical watch report
International union news
Global unions target safety at work in pulp, paper, graphical and packaging
Workers in the pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors, represented globally by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI, are using this 2019 Workers Memorial Day to kick off a yearlong campaign around the three fundamental worker rights needed to make work safe:
- The Right to Know – workers must know the hazards and risks in their workplace
- The Right to Act (commonly known as the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work Without Punishment)
- The Right to Participate in the safety programs and structures that manage safety in the workplace.
Each of these Rights will be highlighted with action by workers across the global pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors. Read more: Industriall media release
Review on Active workstations
A major Canadian review has revealed the benefits of different types of active workstations. The literature review on the benefits of standing, treadmill and cycling workstations, by Canadian kinesiology researchers from the University of Montreal and elsewhere, found the treadmills and cycling workstations led to short-term physiological changes in users that could lead to better health(!).
Published in this month's issue of BMJ's Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the review found all three interventions led to productivity improvements, even though treadmill workstations reduced workers' performance in computer-related work.
However, an Australian researcher says a better understanding is needed of how these interventions affect workers' cognitive function. Curtin University physiotherapy professor Leon Straker says a "major strength" of the review is that it considers the both physical and mental effects of the active workstations, with mental benefits likely to be a crucial factor for their sustained use.
Read more: Francois Dupont, et al. Health and productivity at work: which active workstation for which benefits: a systematic review [Abstract] and Commentary. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2019; 76 281-294 Published Online First: 28 Jan 2019. Source: OHSAlert
Support for bereaved employees is insufficient
A literature review on what goes on in workplaces when workers suffer a loss has found that confusion over leave entitlements is compounded by 'insensitive' managers and lack of flexible working options.
According to a new report which paints a bleak picture of the support and provision available to employees, employers must do more to understand how newly bereaved workers experience the process of returning to work following the death of a loved one. The level of support for bereaved workers is "insufficient" and studies suggest that in many cases individuals receive almost no acknowledgment of their loss, said the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
Read more: Leanne Flux, et al: How do employers respond to employees who return to the workplace after experiencing the death of a loved one? A review of the literature [Abstract] and Article in People Management
OHS Regulator News
Construction company charged over roller death
WorkSafe has charged a Brooklyn civil construction company, Multiworks Australia, over the death of a worker crushed by a road roller in Mildura. The 58-year-old man was crushed while helping load the roller onto a tray truck in a depot on 24 October 2017.
2019 WorkSafe Awards
Urgent: nominate your HSR now - entries for the 2019 WorkSafe Awards are now open.
Now in their 31st year, the awards celebrate the achievements of businesses and individuals that improve health and safety in the workplace and support workers who have been injured on the job. They're also a great way for workplaces to share their success and show how they are leading the way.
Of greatest interest to us is the Health and Safety Representative of the Year Award - if you've got a great HSR, then nominate them now to show how much you appreciate what they do! Entries close May 31st - so there's not a lot of time to think about it. Enter here.
The last edition of Safety Soapbox was posted on May 8 and is full of information for workers in the construction, utilities, mining and quarrying industries. The editorial, by Michael Nathan, Senior Engineer (Major Construction Projects), WorkSafe, is on plant, which is an ongoing concern in the construction industry with an increase in workplace incidents. This includes mobile cranes, elevated work platforms, earth moving machinery (eg loaders and excavators), drilling and piling rigs, and forklifts.
Also attached to the electronic email is a document providing a summary of reported incidents for the month of April. During this period the there were 202 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 68% resulted in a physical injury. Of the injuries, 5 per cent were serious, 49 per cent 'significant' and 46 per cent minor. 43 incidents involved a young worker.
Access the May 8 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the document on reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
WorkSafe looking for inspectors
WorkSafe Victoria is establishing an infrastructure project inspection team and needs to recruit more construction inspectors. Applications close May 22. As well as construction inspectors, the regulator has also advertised a number of multi-disciplinary inspectors in locations including Melbourne; the South West Coast and Shepparton/Gouldburn Valley. Check out the job ads here. and here.
Safe Work Australia news
As of April 28, there had been 51 fatalities notified to Safe Work Australia - as reported in our last edition. The workers killed have come from the following industries:
- 19 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 13 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 7 in Construction
- 7 in Public Administration & safety
- 3 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 2 in Mining
Packaging supplier fined $35k after employee injures hand
Brickwood (Vic) Pty Ltd, a milk and juice packaging manufacturer and supplier in the Cheltenham area, used a Uniloy branded 'Blow Moulder' machine to mould plastic bottles. The machine had interlocked guarding, however, bodily access to the danger area of the plant was possible through the installed blow pin and the fitted interlocked guarding. This created a risk of employees receiving serious crush injuries.
This occurred on 20 November 2017, when an employee suffered serious injuries to his right hand after attempting remove excess plastic that had become stuck in the machine. As the he pushed the plastic down from the blow pin, the blow mould closed, crushing and partially amputating two of the man's fingers on his right hand.
The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $35,000 and to pay costs of $4,000.
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
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. If you have any questions on the registration process or the courses themselves, 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.
|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:
- Preventing Workplace Bullying and Harassment (Note: a $25 fee will apply)
Melbourne: August 8
Course information and applications can be found on the ACTU Website here.
May 14: Central Safety Group lunchtime talk
Prevention of mental injury at work – where can employers' best direct their efforts?
Work-related mental injury is the second most common cause of workers' compensation claims in Australia, and accounts for around 13% of workers' compensation claims in Victoria. What can employers do to prevent mental injury in their workplace? Where can they best direct their efforts?
Claire Nivarovich, Director Mental Health Programs, WorkSafe Victoria, will outline common causes of mental injury at work, as well as employers' obligations under Victorian legislation to manage and control the risk.
When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Where: Xchanging, Level 10, 390 La Trobe Street, Melbourne (near Queen Street)
Cost: attendance members free, non-members $10
Lunch (optional): sandwich and juice lunch $15
[Individual membership fee for 2019: $70]
RSVP by COB Friday 10 May. Book online now