We welcome our subscribers to the latest edition of SafetyNet - there's a lot of information in this edition, so feel free to copy anything of interest and put it up on your work noticeboard.
As always we invite 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 always a pleasure to get feedback.
And the usual reminder: 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.
I've been asked to perform the role of HSR for two DWGs. Are there any conflicts or legal issues associated with this. Can I do it?
No, this can't be a permanent arrangement, as s59 of the OHS Act states that 'powers (are) generally limited to the particular DWG'. Even though the section allow an HSR to represent another DWG if a member of that DWG asks for assistance and it's 'not feasible to refer the matter to an HSR for that DWG, this is not intended to allow one HSR to represent two DWGs.
So either the other DWG elects their own HSR, and as quickly as possible, OR there's a renegotiation of the DWGs and the two become one. However I would not recommend this second option, as it's more permanent, and would mean a new election in the newly formed DWG. You would cease being the HSR for either group…
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.
More asbestos removed at Morwell
The first of eight boilers at the former Morwell Power Station will soon be completely stripped of asbestos in a process that could take up to six weeks. Demolition firm Delta Group has subcontracted the asbestos removal process to an asbestos removal company, AWARE, which will remove between 3000-4000 cubic metres of asbestos from the facility. To strip asbestos from the seven-storey-high boilers, the company must construct an "asbestos bubble" – a sealed enclosure under negative air pressure – around a boiler to prevent airborne fibres from escaping. Approximately 650 cubic metres of asbestos has been removed from the site since the demolition process began in January. Read more: Latrobe Valley Express
ACV/GARDS May Newsletter
The Gippsland based asbestos support group ACV/GARDS has released its May Newsletter [pdf]. First item is news that it recently moved offices to the old admin building at Gippsland Heritage Park in Lloyd St, Moe. The organisation is thrilled, and says the new office space has been designed specifically for their members with new automatic sliding front door, a new disabled toilet, and more upgrades. All the renovations were done to with a grant from the Latrobe Valley Authority.
WA: Road upgrade delayed
One of WA's most important road projects has been stalled by the deadly legacy of asbestos mining in the Pilbara more than half a century ago. A critical upgrade to the Karratha-Tom Price Road has been delayed by the discovery of vast amounts of asbestos along an unsealed section that was used to transport blue asbestos from Wittenoom until mining ceased in 1966.
So far, approximately 12,000 cubic metres of asbestos has been removed from the site by a specialist contractor. The discovery has led to construction companies being reluctant to bid for the Stage Three contract - sealing a 48km section closest to Wittenoom - because they have to produce an asbestos management plan. They fear the contract makes them liable for future asbestos-related issues and costs.
Read more: The West Australian
Operator rescued after forklift flips
On Thursday last week, a forklift driver was freed in a 'complex and delicate rescue mission' in West Melbourne after the forklift flipped, leaving the driver trapped in the cabin about four metres off the ground. Fire crews were called to the scene on Dock Link Road near Footscray Road just before 4:00pm. The forklift was moving a large shipping container at the time. It then fell forward, with the back wheels about eight metres up in the air. The driver fell forward in the cabin when the forklift tipped. The MFB brought in specialist firefighters with a high-angle rescue team to secure the vehicle before the driver was rescued. Luckily he was not injured. Read more: ABC News online
NSW: One man killed another seriously injured
In Sydney on Monday two men were trapped under landfill: one workers was killed and the other suffered serious injuries. Both workers were struck by a bulldozer and buried under tonnes of waste at a tip in Eastern Creek, in Sydney's west. Rescuers had to dig through the mounds of rubbish under in an attempt to free them. One of the men was able to be retrieved but the second was still buried under tonnes of rubbish when NSW Ambulance crews arrived. The first man was flown to Westmead Hospital with shoulder and abdominal injuries, but when the second man was found he was already deceased. "SafeWork is investigating an incident at Eastern Creek yesterday where a worker was killed and another seriously injured. SafeWork inspectors are returning to the site today and investigations are ongoing. A report will be prepared for the Coroner," said a spokesperson from SafeWork NSW. Read more: ABC News online
QLD: Union statement on fatal crash
On Monday night there was a horrific crash on the Bunya Highway outside of Kumbia, Queensland. A woman and four children under 10 died when her car collided head on with a truck as she was overtaking. Both vehicles caught fire. The 47-year-old driver of the truck was taken to Kingaroy Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
Transport Workers Union Queensland branch secretary Peter Biagini said the truck driving community is devastated by the tragic crash: "The drivers that we have spoken to are devastated, and there is of course an outpouring of support not only for the family of the victims, but the truck driver who has also had such an horrific experience." Mr Biagini said the crash serves as a reminder for motorists to be aware of trucks and the road conditions to ensure safety on the road. Source: Big Rigs
International Union News
NZ: Peak union council looking for Health and Safety Policy Analyst
A position for a Health and Safety Policy Analyst has been advertised - the person would be a member of a small and supportive team led by the Policy Director that works closely with other parts of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU). The Policy Team is a key part of the CTU's advocacy efforts as an organisation to improve the lives of working people in New Zealand, covering many policy areas
This position will work in the Policy Team, specialising in workplace Health and Safety, including the implementation of the Workplace Health and Safety reforms being carried out by the government following recommendations by the Pike River Royal Commission and the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety. The implementation of the reforms represents a major and complex programme of work from the CTU and affiliated unions which has several workstreams.
If you are interested, then contact Sue Windsor immediately to discuss and request a Position Description, as applications will close 5 pm Thursday 30th May 2019.
Bangladesh: Accord achievements reached
A breakthrough agreement has been reached between the Accord and the Bangladesh garment employers' association (BGMEA) that will ensure that the progress made on factory safety in Bangladesh will continue. On 19 May, the agreement was accepted by the Bangladesh Appellate Court which has given permission for the Accord to continue during a 12 month transition period.
There will be a handover from the Accord to a new body based in Bangladesh, the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), preserving the Accord operations into the future and guaranteeing a role for trade unions.
The new body will eventually take over the entire Accord operations, functions and staff. Its governance will have the participation of the BGMEA/BKMEA, brands and global and national trade unions. Read more: IndustriALL media release
Sth Korea: Govt admits fatalities/illness and semi-conductor work link
On May 22, after reviewing ten years of epidemiological data, Korea Workers Compensation & Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) concluded that workers at Samsung have been getting sick and dying due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in their chip labs. The government's acknowledgement of the "relatedness" of many workers' blood disorders will likely expedite proceedings for their workers compensation.
The government entity tracked blood-disorder cases and analyzed risks among workers who worked in the chip industry between 2007 and 2017, KCOMEWEL said. "The two types of blood disorder, leukemia and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma victimized chip workers who have worked in the industry before 2010. We could not exactly determine hazardous materials or their exposure levels," added the agency, "However, their working conditions contributed to the incidences of [the illnesses]." Read more: Stop Samsung
State of OHS in Victoria 2018
Barry Naismith, of OHSIntros, has produced his tenth paper in the series produced to contribute to the debate about the state of OHS in Victoria. The current paper, which covers the 2018 OHS financial and calendar year, is the sixth on the annual operation of the Victorian WorkCover Authority (WorkSafe). To prepare the paper, the author has interrogated the available data, noting that there are still two major areas of concern:
- The lack of data/or access to data; and
- Under-reporting of data/absence of data
The paper provides a considered discussion on issues such as how to adequately recognise the harm, injury claims and costs, claims management, workplace fatalities (and deaths), compliance and enforcement, the emerging 'Wellbeing at work' and more. Access to the paper is free until July 31 - click here to download.
UK: Most LGBT people report being sexually harassed at work
Nearly 7 in 10 (68 per cent) lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people report being sexually harassed at work, according to new research published by the UK's Trade Union Congress (TUC). The report - which the union body says is the first major study into LGBT sexual harassment at work in Great Britain - found:
- more than 2 in 5 (42 per cent) LGBT people who responded to the survey said colleagues made unwelcome comments or asked unwelcome questions about their sex life.
- more than a quarter (27 per cent) reported receiving unwelcome verbal sexual advances.
- but two-thirds (66 per cent) said they did not tell their employer about the harassment, and quarter of those said they didn't report it because they were afraid of being 'outed' at work.
- Around 1 in 6 (16 per cent) said the sexual harassment at work affected their mental health.
- A similar proportion (16 per cent) told the TUC that they had left their job as a result of being sexually harassed
- and for 1 in 25, the experience was so unbearable they said it caused them to leave their job without another job to go to.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This research reveals a hidden epidemic. In 2019 LGBT people should be safe and supported at work. But instead they're experiencing shockingly high levels of sexual harassment and assault." She added: "Workplace culture needs to change. No one should think that a colleague being LGBT is an invitation for sexualised comments or inappropriate questions – let alone serious acts of assault. Government must change the law to put the responsibility for preventing harassment on employers, not victims. And anyone worried about sexual harassment at work should join a union." Read more: TUC news release and report. Morning Star. Source: Risks 898
OHS Regulator News
Infringement notices on the way!
According to news service OHSAlert Victoria's Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy has announced a $16.6 million package to expand the specialist capacity of WorkSafe inspectors and allow the introduction of infringement notices offences. The package was included in the 2019-20 state budget, delivered earlier this week.
The new on-the-spot fines are likely to apply to OHS breaches such as failing to:
- allow a health and safety rep to access certain information;
- notify WorkSafe of asbestos removal work;
- keep an SWMS for the duration of high-risk construction work;
- keep a record of the results of atmospheric monitoring; or
- have signs in the immediate vicinity of a confined space.
Infringement notice offences were recommended by a 2016 and 2017 review of OHS compliance and enforcement in Victoria, and promised by the Labor Government in the lead up to last year's State election. Source: OHSAlert
Other OHS-related budget measures
The Victorian Labor Party's budget has also made provisions for the following OHS-related initiatives:
- $8.5 million to improve the mental health of police and emergency services workers, including establishing a provisional acceptance payment scheme for workers claiming compensation for a mental injury, allowing them to obtain medical and similar expenses while their claim is being assessed;
- $120.6 million over four years to boost mobile road camera hours by 75 per cent and crack down on dangerous driving in the heavy vehicle transport industry; and
- according to the Victorian Farmers' Federation, funding to employ two additional Farm Safety Officers, to increase health checks for farmers, and to deliver a new campaign to raise greater workplace safety awareness.
LAST CHANCE to nominate for the 2019 WorkSafe Awards!
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.
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
Manager jailed after fatality
The manager of a quarry where a worker was crushed to death on-site in central Queensland has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for safety breaches. The 21 year old worker was killed after he became entangled in a running conveyor belt at the South Moranbah Quarry, north-west of Rockhampton in central Queensland, in June 2012.
MCG Quarries was charged with three counts of breaching health and safety obligations, while its managing director William McDonald and senior executive Tony Addinsall were also charged with multiple safety breaches. The conveyor belt did not have guard panels for protection and management should have known about the issue. McDonald was ordered to serve six months of his sentence behind bars before being eligible for parole in November 2019. However, he was released on bail, pending an appeal. Addinsall was fined $35,000, but no conviction was recorded. The company, which is now insolvent, was fined $400,000 for breaching health and safety obligations. The young worker's father said his son's death was something no parent should have to endure. "It is a life sentence of misery and constant torment … there is no escape from grief," he said.
The company that made the conveyor belt, Global Crushers and Spares, was convicted in 2017 of failing to discharge their health and safety obligations for not installing guard panels. Read more: ABC News online
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued a Safety Alert after a worker was killed after being trapped in a conveyor belt at a recycling facility. The Alert urges employers to apply the hierarchy of controls to plant, which it says is a major cause of workplace death and injury. "The elimination of potential hazards at the design or planning stage of a product enables a greater scope to design out hazards or incorporate risk control measures that are compatible with the original design and function requirements," the regulator says. Read more: Worker fatally trapped in conveyor
Safe Work Australia news
Attorney-general: IR, WHS and Industrial manslaughter
It's being reported that Christian Porter, is likely to become the next Minister for work health and safety matters and agencies like Comcare and Safe Work Australia, after being reappointed Attorney-General and and also given the Industrial Relations portfolio in re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison's cabinet. Porter's IR role will include "creating fairer workplaces and enforcing the rule of law in industrial relations, particularly through the Australian Building and Construction Commission", Morrison said in announcing his second ministry this week.
One of Porter's first major WHS tasks will be to meet with state and territory ministers later this year to discuss the recent recommendation, from Marie Boland's review of the national model WHS laws to introduce the WHS offence of industrial manslaughter – a policy the Coalition Government is opposed to. Source: OHSAlert
There has not been an update to the notified fatalities on the Safe Work Australia site: as of May 16, there had been 56 fatalities notified. 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
Man loses part of leg: company fined just $25k without conviction
Walkers Earthworks Pty Ltd provides earthmoving services and operates a variety of heavy plant such as bulldozers and excavators. Employees operate a 'low loader' - a trailer used to transport mobile plant or equipment, which is loaded up a pair of hydraulically powered 'loading ramps' at the rear of the trailer.
On 11 April 2018, a worker transported a bobcat on the trailer and though he was able to complete the delivery, during the job the hydraulic hose for the ramps blew and hydraulic oil spurted out of the hose. The worker took the rig back to the workshop, where replaced the hose himself, and refilled the hydraulic reservoir. Later, while collecting and loading an excavator from another location the ramps fell uncontrolled. He tried to move to the space between the ramps to be safe, but he was struck and his right foot was pinned under the left ramp.
The worker was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He had suffered a number of injuries including four broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a severe crush injury to his lower right leg which required a subsequent amputation. He spent four weeks in hospital and then was transferred to a rehabilitation service.
Walkers Earthworks pleaded guilty to three charges under s21(2) of the OHS Act, and was fined $25,000 without conviction.
Charges dropped after Mildura Council commits to Enforceable Undertaking
Mildura Rural City Council ('MRCC') operates 29 sites known as 'stack sites' - including one in Underbool. These are vacant areas of land used to store bulk materials.
On 5 October 2017 40 cubic metres of landscape bark was scheduled for delivery to the Underbool site. MRCC directed the driver to tip the load next to another pile and not in the driveway. The driver arrived and checked for level ground and prepare to tip the load next to the other pile. However, there was a risk of serious injury or death due to electrocution, as a result of operating a truck and trailer in close proximity to overhead high voltage power lines at the Underbool stack site.
The driver got back into the truck, started tipping the load - he then heard a couple of pops, jumped out of the cabin, heard two loud bangs and fell to the ground. The truck had come into close proximity with the high voltage overhead powerlines. The truck was damaged and the driver was treated in hospital for concussion and ringing in his ears before being discharged the next day uninjured.
Charges of breaching s23(1) and s26(1) of the OHS Act were dropped and the MRCC entered into an Enforceable Undertaking which includes the following:
- a commitment to, over the next 12 months, permanently close and relocate the four 'stack sites' which have overhead powerllines;
- within 2 months, to submit to the VWA an action plan as to the operational timeline of the closures; and report to the VWA quarterly on progress.;
- to run two Mental First Aid Training Courses;
- to increase community awareness of the dangers of working under overhead powerlines by running 3 public seminars; and
- to sponsor a 12 month traineeship.
Construction company convicted, fined $40k after worker injured
Mav Group Pty Ltd, specialising in the construction of multi-level apartment buildings, has been convicted and fined $40,000 over an incident in which a worker was struck on the head, shoulder, leg and ankle by a light pole, causing a compound fracture to his right leg requiring surgery to fit plates, six small fractures to his right ankle and a partially severed finger on his right hand.
The incident occurred on 18 April 2017 when, during the construction of a multi-level apartment complex, three street lights were required to be removed. Each light was seven meters long with in length with three light fittings attached to curved steel brackets. The Site Supervisor and a laborer with a 'dogman' high risk work licence, both employees, were removing the poles using an excavator, supplied and operated by a sub-contractor. No slings were available and so chains were provided by the sub-contractor. The chains were not tagged or rated.
As the third light pole was being lowered it started to slip. The laborer walked underneath to try to check the chains and take control of it to prevent it from breaking. As he moved underneath it fell, causing the injuries.
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
NSW: PCBU and worker charged with exclusion zone breaches
Moolarben Coal Operations Pty Ltd and one of its former contract workers could be fined up to $1.5 million and $300,000 respectively, after being charged with exposing six workers to the risk of death or serious injury from mine blasting activities, in breach of s32 ("Failure to comply with health and safety duty–Category 2") of the NSW WHS Act. The matter was set down for first mention in the District Court on 24 June.
The NSW Resources Regulator alleged that in May 2017, the six workers were standing within the 500-metre personnel exclusion zone prescribed by the Moolarben mine's blasting rules when flyrock from a blast landed near them. Several months after the incident, an investigation found the flyrock unexpectedly ejected from a single shot hole as a result of "under-stemming", forcing some of the workers to dive for cover and damaging a light vehicle.
Source: OHS Alert
UK: Gas blast leads to A$2.12m fine
Marathon Oil UK LLC (Marathon) has been fined £1,160,000 (A$2.124m) following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into a high-pressure gas release on its Brae Alpha offshore platform on Boxing Day 2015.
Aberdeen Sherriff Court heard that on 26 December 2015, an eight-inch diameter high pressure pipework suffered a catastrophic rupture as a result of 'Corrosion Under Insulation' (CUI), allowing over two tonnes of high-pressure methane gas to be released almost instantaneously. The force of the high pressure blast caused significant and widespread damage within the module. The incident occurred whilst most of the 100 personnel on the platform were gathered in the accommodation block, in readiness for their Boxing Day meal, and away from the source of the blast. Read more: HSE new release
USA: Escalating workplace violence rocks hospitals
Across the USA, many doctors, nurses and other health care workers have remained silent about an 'epidemic of violence' against them. The violent outbursts come from patients and patients' families - and for years, it has been considered part of the job.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), incidents of serious workplace violence are four times more common in health care than in private industry. And a poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians in August last year found nearly half of emergency physician respondents reported having been physically assaulted. More than 60% of them said the assault occurred within the previous year.
Groups representing doctors and nurses say that, while the voluntary safety improvements that some hospitals have enacted are a good first step, more needs to be done.
Read more: The Morning Call