Our work in the unit is now 'back to normal' and so we bring you this week's edition of SafetyNet. Unfortunately, there has been another work fatality in Victoria.
We welcome comments on any of the issues covered - just send an email here. (Please don't 'reply' to your email). If you have a story or an issue you would like covered, contact us as well. it's great to get your views. Remember too: 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.
Industrial Manslaughter: Update
We want to make sure that all our subscribers are kept informed of the progress on the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter legislation in Victoria, which was a major promise of the Andrews Labor government at the last election.
The Taskforce is meeting on Thursday this week, when it will be given the first draft of the legislation to consider and comment on. The government's plan is to then take the draft (as amended/approved by the Taskforce) to Cabinet sometime in July, and a proposed Bill to parliament around October this year. The Taskforce will try to ensure that the legislation Victoria introduces will be effective in prosecuting employers whose negligence leads to incidents where workers are killed.
Truck driver killed near Horsham
In sad news, we report that a truck driver was killed on Sunday afternoon in Nurcoung, near Horsham. Victoria Police have said that the exact circumstances surrounding the incident had not yet been established and the investigation is ongoing. However, it appears the man, who was not a local, lost control of his vehicle, which was carrying hay, at about 4.10pm near Nhill-Harrow Road. It then rolled over and caught fire.
Irrespective of circumstances, this fatality will not be counted as a workplace fatality statistic by WorkSafe, as it occurred on the road. According to the VTHC workplace fatality tally, however, this is the 17th worker to be killed at work this year. We send our sincerest condolences to the worker's family, friends, and colleagues.
I work at a timber yard and was wondering if it was compulsory to wear high vis uniform in the yard? There are forklifts and trucks going through the yard during the day.
Of course this is not a specific requirement under the OHS Act or any of the regulations. This is because Australian legislation is 'objective based' – that is, employers have a 'general duty of care' to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
This covers everything, including requiring the employer to ensure that operation of plant and all systems of work are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. To do this they must identify and eliminate – or at least minimise – the hazards and risks to workers and others.
What would be expected of the employer at such a site would be the development and implementation of a thorough traffic management plan. Also, what is widely accepted industry practice, ensuring that workers who are walking/working on site are provided with and wear the appropriate high vis gear. They may also need other PPE – such as steel toed boots, etc
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.
Government tried to roll ACCC on quad bikes
Without going into detail on the many OHS-related concerns we have with the re-election of the Coalition Government last weekend, SafetyNet reports on a specific concern regarding quad bikes. Subscribers will be aware that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended the mandatory fitting of operator protection devices to quad bikes. According to key industry sources, an approach was made through the office of either the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, or Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert. The ACCC resisted the move, and Mr Rob eventually releasing the report on April 6. However he ducked adopting the consumer watchdog's recommendations, announcing yet another round of public consultation that would not be completed until at least June 10.
Read more: Quad-bike roll-bar: Federal Coalition tried to roll ACCC on OPDs, The Weekly Times
Australia heading for 'killer' flu season
In very concerning news, health experts are warning that Australia is on track for a killer flu season, with numbers showing three times as many people have been diagnosed with the virus so far this year, compared to the same period in previous years. In March, more than 10,000 people were diagnosed with the flu. In March 2018, that number was 3,173. There have already been 40,000 clinically confirmed cases around the country. In Victoria, the flu has already claimed three young children as well as 23 elderly people in nursing homes.this year. This year it is expected that the flu will kill about 4,000 people!
While not providing 100 per cent protection, health experts recommend that everyone should get a flu vaccination. For workers who come into regular contact with the general public, this is especially important. The HSR should approach their employer to organise flu shots for all staff in order to minimise infections.
Further, employers should encourage staff who are ill not to come to work and to seek appropriate medical care if necessary.
Read more: ABC news online, The Age, and on the site: Presenteeism, and a new page Influenza 2019.
James Hardie profits soar
Shares in James Hardie are up after the construction materials supplier lifted its full-year profit 57 per cent to $US228.8 million ($A331 million). The company reported this week that its net operating profit increased for the quarter and full year, driven by fewer-than-expected asbestos-related adjustments and higher gross profit, partially offset by higher income tax expense and general expenses.
James Hardie received 568 asbestos-related illness claims for the year, a slight uptick on a year ago but 8.0 per cent below estimates. The average asbestos claim settlement was 24 per cent below estimates at $253,000 - a seemingly low figure considering the devastatingly tragic consequences of its asbestos products. Source: The Canberra Times
Brasil: Push to recommence asbestos mining
Asbestos mining in Brazil ceased on February 1, 2019. This article looks at the current attempts by right-wing Senators to force a U-turn of the national prohibitions. In April 2019, a "caravan" of Senators, including Senate President David Samuel Alcolumbre, accompanied the Governor Ronaldo Caiado of Goiás State, to the mining city of Minaçu to support demands for the renewal of asbestos mining. Data from Brazilian medical experts and interviews with asbestos victims explain the deadly consequences of such an action. Read more: De mineral mágico a poeira assassina: volta do amianto pode causar epidemia de cancer [From magic mineral to killer dust: asbestos revival could cause cancer epidemic]. Source: IBAS
Indonesia: National asbestos seminar
Key stakeholders from civil society and the Indonesian government made valuable contributions to the proceedings of a national asbestos seminar held in Jakarta on May 9, 2019. The event, which was organized jointly by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Labour Organization, Jakarta, provided the opportunity for reports by civil servants, occupational health and safety specialists, emergency responders, personnel from regional and international agencies and ban asbestos campaigners working on the asbestos frontline in a country which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world; in 2018, Indonesia experienced 2,372 disasters affecting 3.5 million people.
Read more. Source: IBAS
International union news
UK: Huge increase in 'Homeworkers'
According to a new Trade Union Council analysis published last week to mark Work Wise UK's National Work from Home Day, there are 374,000 more employees working from home than 10 years ago. The analysis shows a 27.7 per cent increase in the number of homeworkers in the last decade.
However, the UK's peak union council says that not enough bosses are giving their workers the option of homeworking, which could help people to see more of their family and improve work-life balance. The TUC estimates that about 4 million more UK workers would like to work from home for at least some of their working week but aren't given the chance. Read more: TUC media release
France: Telecom Execs on trial over suicides
In highly anticipated news, prosecutors have charged executives at Orange, the biggest telecom company in France, with "moral harassment." Labor advocates say the work environment was so hostile, it was the reason for a spate of worker suicides between 2007 and 2010. The charges relate to a time when the firm - then called France Telecom - was undergoing job cuts and modernising. The defendants include the former president of France Telecom, former human resources director and former deputy executive director. They are accused of having "degraded work conditions of personnel that risked hurting their rights and dignity, altering the physical or mental health (of personnel), or compromising their professional future." Four other officials are charged with complicity in moral harassment. In France, moral harassment can be punished by a year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros (A$24,200). Orange itself is also on trial, and the court could order the company to grant additional damages to each civil party in the case. The problem arose as the firm sought to dramatically reduce staff numbers (by 22,000), but faced a workforce still benefiting from protective public sector contracts inherited at the time before the firm was privatised.
Read more: French Telecom Executives On Trial Over 'Moral Harassment' NPR; BBC news online, The Independent
A good work environment is good for you
According to a new study, a good work environment with job control and job security doesn't only help prevent mental illness, it also promotes positive wellbeing. Researchers from the Toronto-based Institute for Work & Health looked at the impact of psychosocial exposures in the work environment on the mental health of a population-based sample of workers.
Writing in the occupational hygiene journal Annals of Work Exposures and Health, they concluded: "Psychosocial work conditions were associated with both negative and positive measures of mental health. However, mental illness and mental wellbeing may represent complementary, yet distinct, aspects in relation to psychosocial work conditions."
The authors said their results suggest that, while how these objectives may be achieved will differ, providing workers with greater job control, establishing supportive work environments and creating secure employment will prevent mental illness and improve mental wellbeing. A new TUC pointer to resources for union reps seeking to address mental health issues at work notes: "Trade unions should work with employers to take a preventative approach to mental health by reducing stress. This could include looking at workloads, bullying, harassment and working hours."
- Jonathan K Fan, Cameron Mustard and Peter M Smith. Psychosocial work conditions and mental health: examining differences across mental illness and well-being outcomes, [Full article] Annals of Work Exposures and Health, published online 13 May 2019.
- Five ways to improve mental health and wellbeing in your workplace, and the TUC resources that will help you, TUC blog, 13 May 2019.
Conversely, bullying creates cycle of misbehaviour
Researchers in Italy and the UK have found that workplace bullying not only harms the health of victims, but encourages them to engage in "deviant" behaviour in order to cope at work.
They surveyed 1,019 workers finding that severely bullied workers had the highest level of negative emotions and 'moral disengagement' – rationalising negative actions (like intenetionally working incorrectly, damaging/stealing work property, abusing co-workers and clients) and not taking responsibility for the consequences. They also had trouble managing their problems and emotions and engaged in compensatory coping behaviours, such as drinking more alcohol and taking more risks.
According to the researchers, their study is the first to highlight the "pivotal roles" that negative emotions, emotional dysregulation and compensatory coping behaviour play in determining how workers will function when exposed to high levels of workplace bullying. These findings are in line with previous studies that show bullying leads to deviant behaviour by victims, directing their aggression towards innocent targets or an organisation as a whole for not protecting them from bullying.
Read more: Marinella Pacielloa and Roberta Fida, et al, Italy. Phenomenological configurations of workplace bullying: A cluster approach [Abstract]. Personality and Individual Differences, May 2019 Source: OHS Alert. Read more on Bullying and what HSRs can do.
Paper calls for urgent action on workplace cancer
Leading experts, including Australian Tim Driscoll, have warned that occupational cancer is the largest single cause of work-related deaths and the numbers affected are increasing. A position paper authored by an international group of work cancer specialists, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, notes "it is clear that occupational cancer now represents the primary cause for work-related deaths globally and in many regions of the world, and the numbers continue to grow. In spite of efforts for prevention and control by several international organisations, institutions and authorities, the level of occupational cancer mortality and morbidity has remained high."
- S Iavicoli, TR Driscoll, M Hogan and others. Position statement: New avenues for prevention of occupational cancer: a global policy perspective, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, volume 76, pages 360-362, 2019.
- The ITUC workcancerhazards blog. Source: Risks 897.
OHS Regulator News
2019 WorkSafe Awards - Hurry up, nominate now!
Urgent: nominate your HSR now - entries for the 2019 WorkSafe Awards are open but close at the end of the month. There are also other categories you/your workplace might be interested in putting in nominations for...
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.
WorkSafe looking for inspectors
WorkSafe Victoria is establishing an infrastructure project inspection team and needs to recruit more construction inspectors. Applications close today, 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.
Work-related mental injuries
WorkSafe has this week sent out a bulk email on Work-related mental injuries, noting that these are Australia's second most common cause of workers compensation claims. They now account for more than 10 per cent of claims in Victoria - approximately 1,300 claims per year. The communication includes some tips for employers on how to address work-related stress, a short video, and a link to the WorkSafe stress page. Read more on Stress.
WorkSafe Advisory: extension of hours
In news I missed due to being on leave, WorkSafe has announced that it has extended the hours of operation for its Advisory Service. From the end of April, the service has been taking calls Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 6.30pm.
WorkSafe's advisory service staff answered more than 230,000 calls over the past 12 months and responded to more than 46,000 emails seeking information and advice. Calls included 15,700 reports of incidents, 52,000 occupational health and safety inquiries, almost 77,000 inquiries relating to compensation and fraud and almost 67,000 licensing and information requests. The Advisory Director Kelly Harris said the extended hours were designed to make the service more responsive to the needs of Victorian employers and workers. Read more: WorkSafe media release
There are two events coming up which will provide an opportunity to meet the WorkSafe Agriculture Practice Team. If anyone has any farm safety issues they would like to discuss, try to get along to one of these. The team at the WorkSafe stand is keen to have a chat, hear about approaches to managing on-farm safety and about any new and innovative safety solutions. There will be information and guidance materials for people to take away.
- Mallee Machinery Field Days
When: Wednesday 31 July - Thursday 1 August, 8:30am to 5:00pm
Where: Speed Airport, 2574 Sunraysia Hwy, Speed VIC 3488
When: Sunday 04 Aug 2019
Where: CRT Innovations Hub, Hamilton Showgrounds, Shakespeare St, Hamilton
The WorkSafe Reflections Installation is designed to encourage workers to change the way they see safety in their workplace and help create safer working environments. It's an important initiative that everyone in Mildura can experience.
When: 18 - 26 May
Where: Langtree Mall, Mildura
The latest edition of the NSW regulator's newsletter has a feature on scaffolding. The regulator says that across NSW construction sites, falls from heights is the biggest cause of death and serious injury. Scaffolds are involved in many of these falls, with non-compliant scaffolds rating among the highest risks of harm. Consequently SafeWorkNSW now has a proactive safety initiative, "Operation Scaff Safe 2019", to get industry to set the bar higher when it comes to erecting, altering and dismantling scaffolds. The newsletter has lots of other interesting items - check it out here.
Safe Work Australia news
As of May 16, there had been 56 fatalities notified to Safe Work Australia - that is five more since the previous update on April 28. The workers killed have come from the following industries:
- 20 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 15 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 9 in Construction
- 7 in Public Administration & safety
- 3 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 2 in Mining
Carpet manufacturer fined after worker's arm trapped
Hoppers Crossing company T.S.T Carpet Manufacturers (Australia) Pty Ltd, which makes carpet products for cars, was last week fined $25,000 after a worker's arm was caught and crushed in one of their 'tufting' machines in 2018.
Workers feed yarn into one of eight 'tufters' via a series of rollers to produce carpet. One machine was fitted with two top rollers and two bottom rollers which were not guarded.
On 16 March 2018, there was an issue with the machine and a worker was attempting to resolve it by sandpapering the end of the rubber roller as the machine was running. As he held the sandpaper against the roller it got caught and his right arm was drawn into the machine, and trapped for 5-10 minutes. An ambulance was called and another employee removed one of the rollers to free him. He was transferred to hospital and he underwent operations for crush injuries.
The company pleaded guilty to two charges and was without conviction fined of $25,000 plus $4,187 costs.
Apartment developer fined $80,000
Residential apartment developer Erfanian Developments Pty Ltd has been fined $80,000 after WorkSafe inspectors detected multiple safety breaches at two construction sites in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.
The developer was convicted of eight offences under the OHS Act. The firm, which went into liquidation in June 2018, was also ordered to pay $4115 in costs.
Between 15 August 2017 and 8 January 2018 WorkSafe attended multiple times at construction sites in Kilsyth and Bulleen that were under the company's control. Inspectors at Kilsyth observed people working at a height of three metres on scaffolding that was unsafe and incomplete, creating a risk of serious injury or death from scaffold collapse or falling. People entering or leaving the units were also at risk of tripping on steps, colliding with harmful objects, or suffering injuries.
At Bulleen, five people were observed working within half a metre of an unguarded first floor balcony and roof edge. People were also observed accessing the roof area via an unsecured scaffold ladder placed on material and debris,
At both sites, inspectors saw people working close to unguarded stair voids, with access to the first floors via unsecured ladders in the unguarded voids. People were working close to edges with no fall prevention measures in place at both sites. Both worksites were also strewn with excess materials, off-cuts, debris, piles of broken plaster, loose scaffold materials stacked in main access ways, and general rubbish placing workers at risk of injury from slipping, tripping, falling or coming into contact with harmful objects.
Read more: WorkSafe media release
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
ILO statement on LBGTI workers
Last week, on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said that a human-centred future of work that leaves no-one behind must include LGBTI workers.
Part of his statement: "Fifty years ago riots broke out on the streets of New York in protest at the discrimination and violence faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans community at the time. Known as the Stonewall riots, these events are now remembered as one of the most important historical moments in the fight for LGBTI rights.
"We've seen significant progress since then, with some 80 countries passing laws prohibiting discrimination based on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics. However, the rate of progress is too slow and is, in some cases, regressing. The reality is that 50 years on from the Stonewall riots, many LGBTI people continue to face high levels of discrimination, violence, harassment, persecution and stigma, including in the workplace."
Read more: Ensure justice and protection for LGBTI workers, International Labour Organisation
More bad news for Monsanto
After being ordered to pay a massive payout (SafetyNet 486), the company has now been accused of compiling a potentially illegal dossier on its opponents. French newspaper Le Monde last week revealed government officials are investigating a potentially illegal file compiled by Monsanto on critics of its chemicals and genetically modified crops. The document was prepared for the company by PR agency Fleishman Hillard, which in 2018 also "helped Monsanto Company (now part of Bayer) develop their 2017 Sustainability Report: Growing Better Together." Bayer says it has now dropped the global public relations firm.
Read more BBC News Online on Monsanto's dossier of opponents. Le Monde (in French). Source: Risks 897
EU: Napo promotes the golden rules of workplace safety and health
Napo, the EU-OSHA's lovable character, steps in to help promote the International Social Security Association's (ISSA's) '7 golden rules - for zero accidents and healthy work'. The rules are part of the Vision Zero global campaign which EU-OSHA supports.
Napo and colleagues feature in a short video promoting each of the seven rules in a light-hearted way. The rules start right at the top with leadership commitment and work down to improving workers' qualifications and investing in people.
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). 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
May 22 & 23: Workplace Health & Safety Show
The Workplace Health & Safety Show 2019 will be held at the International Convention Centre, Sydney on Wednesday May 22 and Thursday May 23. Attendance is free and apart from the 100 plus exhibitors, there will be a free educational program on a range of important and interesting topics. To access the program and to register free, click here.
May 27: Southern Safety Group
The next meeting, the third for 2019, of the SSG will be held on Monday 27th May 2018.
On a very topical subject, the guest speaker for this meeting will be John Lambert who will be speaking on the challenges of quad bike safety. "Quad bike safety – the challenges in endeavouring to have quad bike safety improved when the manufacturers and their research is used to stop improvements!"
John is often asked to comment on road safety Issues you may have seen him once or twice on the evening News. Come along to this meeting to learn more.
When: 3.00 pm (Check in at 2.30pm) to 5pm
Where: Surdex Steel: 46 Brooks Drive, Dandenong South
Members are free; Non-members $5.00. Annual Membership: $25.00; Corporate $50.00
RSVP via email to Gary Thexton
June 11: Central Safety Group
The next meeting of the Central Safety Group will be held on Tuesday June 11th, on the topic "Safety lapses and real life consequences".
Presenter Rohan Sykes was a healthy, active young family man when he suffered an horrific workplace injury that caused severe burns to 35 per cent of his body. He was seriously injured by exposure to radiant heat from molten glass, despite wearing full PPE and following procedures.
When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, DATE 2019
Where: To be announced
Cost: attendance members free, non-members $10
Lunch (optional): sandwich and juice lunch $15
[Individual membership fee for 2019: $70]
RSVP by close of business Friday June 7. Book online now Alternatively, contact Jane Loudon, Secretary, Central Safety Group phone (03)9387 9768, mobile 0417 040 252