SafetyNet 491

Welcome to this week's edition of SafetyNet! There's a lot to read and catch up on in this week's edition.

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.

Union News

Industrial Manslaughter:  Update
NOTE: This item has been corrected and amended.

The Industrial Manslaughter Implementation Taskforce, established by the Andrews' Labor Government to consult on the proposed legislation to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence will be meeting for the last time next week to consider the policy and draft legislation before the brief goes to the Office of Parliamentary Council who will draft the actual bill. The Taskforce first met at the end of March, and there has been good progress in developing the policy and proposed laws. The draft bill will then go to Cabinet for consideration before being tabled in Parliament later in the year.

Ask Renata
Hello Renata, 
My 18 yr old son has just begun working at an auto shop. He has been cleaning with a variety of chemicals, doing oil changes and 'smog' checks. After two days he began complaining of very bad headaches and not feeling well. Could this be related to the work he is doing? Is there any health or hazard concerns I should share with him?

As you say that your son has been working with a variety of chemicals, it is extremely possible that his headaches are directly related to one or more of these. Further, being exposed to these may cause long term damage to his health.

Your son's employer has a number of general duties under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act which include ensuring that use of 'substances' is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably possible, and also to provide information, instruction, supervision and training to employees so that they can perform their work in a manner that does not put their health and safety at risk (see Duties of Employers)

Specifically when it comes to chemicals, the employer has a duty to determine whether these are hazardous or not, to get the specific information on safe use and so on by ensuring they have an up to date copy of all the Safety Data Sheets, and then to implement the required controls to ensure that employees are not exposed to harmful levels of the chemicals. For some chemicals there are also 'exposure standards' which means that the employer must monitor the levels in the workplace.

I am very concerned about what your son may be being exposed to as there are many hazardous chemicals in this industry, including some that are known to cause cancer. If any of the vehicles are diesel powered, then read more on Diesel fumes - as it is now a declared carcinogen.

If your son is in a union, he needs to contact the union immediately. If there's an elected health and safety representative in his workplace, he needs to speak to them as soon as possible. If the answer to both of these questions is 'no', then I recommend that he (or you) contact WorkSafe Victoria for assistance and advice.

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.

Reader feedback
Last week one of our subscribers, Stephen, took the time to respond in particular on the filing cabinet query and the item on quad bikes: "I continue to be horrified by the incidents that are listed in SafetyNet. They are not accidents - they are avoidable." We agree - readers may note that we rarely use the word 'accident'.

Stephen also wrote: "Quad bikes are dangerous. The stupid manufacturers should know that consumers will pay to keep people alive. There was limited opposition to seat belts, sunscreen, and a number of other safety matters. Why are the quad bike people so against keeping people alive?"

If you have something you'd like to comment on, please email us.

Man dies on CBD construction site
The Age has reported that a man died on Melbourne CBD construction site on Monday due to a 'medical emergency' which occurred on a ledge on the outside of the building. It appears the deceased had a pre-existing medical condition. However, because the death occurred at a worksite, WorkSafe was notified and is investigating. Source: The Age

Construction union blasts non-union site safety
Last Friday scaffolding collapsed on a building site in Arden St, North Melbourne. Neither the builder nor the contractor on the site had an EBA with the CFMEU, meaning it was a non-union site. It was extremely lucky that no one was killed or injured when the demolition job went wrong this morning. The floor and the wall that was being demolished has fallen back onto the scaffold, causing it to collapse.

WorkSafe attended the site to investigate. The collapse led to Arden St lanes being blocked, causing major traffic disruptions. Residents in some parts of the neighbouring apartment block were also evacuated.

CFMEU head of health and safety, Dr Gerry Ayers, said there were no facilities on site for workers: no toilet; no breaks room; no shelter. "How can this happen in 2019. What a disgrace!" Check out the TV news coverage

Back to top

Asbestos News
Vic: State govt to remove asbestos loos at primary school 
A report in the Gippsland Times notes that community pressure has led to the state government agreeing to fully fund the removal of an asbestos-ridden toilet block at Seaspray Primary School. Originally the government was going to pay $175,000 of the total cost of $190,000, but will now totally fund the removal and replacement. Source: The Gippsland Times

WA: Lung cancer study grants
Better diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma will be investigated with a $600,000 research grant. Western Australia has the highest recorded rate of mesothelioma in the country, with the number of new cases rising steadily over the past 30 years. The Cancer Council WA announced $3 million worth of donor-funded research grants last week, with mesothelioma the biggest beneficiary. Cancer Council WA chief executive Ashley Reid said 48 researchers had been chosen to receive funds to carry out 49 research projects, 11 of which will focus on mesothelioma. "We've seen a steady increase in the number of reported new cases in Australian from 157 in 1982 to 710 in 2017," he said. "In 2015 there were 4152 deaths due to all asbestos-related diseases."
Read more: Cancer Council WA media release

France: Court orders compensation for psychological harm
On June 3 Compiegne's labour court issued a verdict ordering Saint-Gobain to compensate 130 employees of its specialized glass manufacturing and processing factory in Thourotte in Oise.

The verdict specified the company must pay 20,000 euro compensation to each worker for "psychological harm" resulting from their exposure to asbestos in previous years. According to media reports, the judges ruled that the current and former employees were "substantially exposed to the inhalation of asbestos fibres" under conditions "subsequent to a breach of the contractual obligation of safety provoked by their employer "and that they suffered "harm" that "should be repaired".

The workers' lawyer, Elisabeth Leroux, said, "This is a very good decision, the employees have been exposed to asbestos, they are now undergoing increased medical monitoring which provokes anxiety, they see their co-workers dying ... It's a big satisfaction to obtain compensation for this harm."

The verdict in favour of the workers sets a new precedent due to the French Supreme Court April 5 decision to extend damage coverage to all French workers in contact with asbestos, which means French workers exposed to asbestos can claim for damage caused by anxiety related to the consequences of their asbestos exposure regardless of where they worked, if they can prove they were exposed to and suffer from 'anxiety damage'. Read more: IndustriALL media release 

More information on the site: Asbestos in the home and Asbestos in the workplace

Employer admits death due to equipment fault
In a rare occurrence, an employer has taken taken the blame for faulty equipment which killed a Yallourn Power Station worker on November 12, 2018. The Energy Australia employee, Graeme Edwards, was badly burnt in an electrical short circuit while undertaking a routine task. He died from his injuries a day later at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

An internal company investigation found Mr Edwards had done his job exactly as he had been trained and that the source of high voltage power was not adequately barricaded to protect workers from being injured.

Energy Australia Manager of health, safety, security and environment, Chan Sinnadurai said the barrier between the high voltage electricity and Mr Edwards was movable and not fixed in place. "There were two key findings. The first one was that Graeme did his job and did it in a professional manner, the second finding was that the barrier in place to prevent access to the circuit breaker was inadequate and allowed for inadvertent contact with the live component." Read more: ABC News online

Back to top

International Union News
UK: Union campaign on work-related bladder cancer
UK union GMB is launching an awareness campaign on the link between work in certain industries and bladder cancer. The union's annual Congress decision commits it to target a problem it says particularly affects workers in the chemical dye and rubber industries. However, the union said the chemicals linked to bladder cancer also occur "in hair dyes, paints, fungicides, cigarette smoke, plastics, pollutant emissions from industrial installations, and metal and motor vehicle exhausts, which can affect both male and females."

GMB says there are an estimated 100,000 men and women living with bladder cancer in the UK and approximately 15,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, making it the fifth most common cancer overall. GMB London's regional secretary, Warren Kenny, said: "Occupational bladder claims thousands of lives per year, and it is likely that official statistics are underestimated as there are many causes of the cancer, meaning the link to work is often not made. Due to the long latency before symptoms manifest, it is often perceived to be an older person's condition. As such there has been little campaigning for preventative approaches and such an approach is long overdue." He said the union would work with both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Fight Bladder Cancer campaign to "provide a much needed focus on this overlooked cancer and help to provide access to decision-makers in industry and government who can help address the shortage of research funding and poor prioritisation of bladder cancer." 
Read more: GMB news release. Fight Bladder Cancer. Source: Risks 901


Fatigue-beating firies' rosters for shift work 
A new study has revealed the most effective shift roster to encourage quality sleep among firefighters and minimise their long-term fatigue.

The cross-sectional study used ActiGraph sleep and activity monitors to measure sleeping patterns of nearly 400 firefighters between October 2017 and April 2018. Participants were also given a sleep diary to record their bed time and sleep hours.

The firefighters were selected from 11 stations in South Korea, with some performing permanent day work and others undertaking shift work comprising of three, six, nine or 21-day schedules.

The researchers found that fast rotating shifts, like the six-day cycle consisting of two day shifts followed by two 12-hour night shifts and two rest days, were the most effective because participants experienced better sleep quality with lower tendency to wake during their sleeping hours. The found that the 21 day shift was the worst. However overall, they found that the sleep quality in night shift of the shift work group was poorer than the control group (of day workers)
Read more: Kyoung Sook Jeong, et al, Sleep assessment during shift work in Korean firefighters: a cross-sectional study. [Full article] Safety and Health at Work, published online May 2019, Source: OHSAlert

Wrist movement and carpel tunnel syndrome
Danish and Swedish researchers have conducted a large cohort study to investigate the association between work-related wrist movements and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

They performed electro-goniometric measurements of wrist movements for 30 jobs, such as office work, child care, laundry work and slaughterhouse work. They measured wrist angular velocity, mean power frequency (MPF) and range of motion (ROM). The cohort of Danish citizens born 1940–1979 who held one of these jobs from age 18–80 years, was established using Danish national registers with annual employment information from 1992 to 2014. They updated the cohort by calendar year with job-specific and sex-specific means of measured exposures. Dates of a first diagnosis or operation because of CTS were retrieved from the Danish National Patient Register. The risk of CTS by quintiles of preceding exposure levels was assessed by adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRRadj) using Poisson regression models.

Not surprisingly, they found that high levels of wrist movement were associated with an increased risk of CTS. The researchers concluded that preventive strategies should be aimed at jobs with high levels of wrist movements such as cleaning, laundry work and slaughterhouse work.
Read more: Christina Bach Lund, et al, Movements of the wrist and the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome: a nationwide cohort study using objective exposure measurements [Open access article], Occupational & Environmental Medicine, BMJ

OHS Regulator News

Victorian news
WorkSafe keen to hear about manager/supervisor training 
One of the issues some HSRs face when they return to work is that they know more about OHS and the law than their managers/supervisors do.. in some cases, even more than the 'management health and safety rep'. This can make resolving issues difficult. It can also cause problems if the manager/supervisor does not understand the role and rights and powers of HSRs. WorkSafe is keen to get 'thoughts' from a wide range of workplace parties on the issue of training for managers and supervisors. They are asking people to complete a five minute survey. The VTHC encourages as many HSRs to complete the survey as possible. Take the short survey by clicking here.

Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
The latest edition was posted today, June 19. This edition's editorial is on a perennial problem in the construction industry: asbestos. As announced in last week's SafetyNet, WorkSafe has launched another awareness campaign, warning that asbestos 'lurks' in many unexpected places.  

This month the construction industry reported 205 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 68 per cent resulted in injury. There were two serious 'near misses'. 36 incidents involved young workers. There were two incidents involving nail gun - one in which a nail penetrated a worker's skull. (Read the WorkSafe health and safety solution: Preventing injuries from nail guns)

In another incident, an electrical worker sustained critical injuries when the switchboard he was working on exploded. Coincidentally, WorkSafe inspectors are currently visiting construction sites to ensure duty holders are controlling risks associated with electrocution and electric shock (see:WorkSafe media release). Tragically, in the past 10 years nine workers have died after coming into contact with live electricity on construction sites, including seven aged under 30. The week's 'absolute shocker' is also electrical.  
Access the June 19 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.

New Safety Alert: Loading precast panels
Earlier this week WorkSafe issued a warning following a recent incident at a precast concrete facility, which could have resulted in fatalities. A 7-tonne precast concrete wall panel fell from a truck-mounted A-frame after being loaded onto the truck by a bridge crane. The panel had been connected to the crane with a 2-legged chain and only one chain had been disconnected from the panel. As the crane travelled away from the A-frame the panel was dragged off, causing it to fall. One side of the panel was then suspended from the chain that was still attached to the crane. Workers were in the vicinity of the panel when it fell and could have been crushed and seriously injured or killed. Access the Safety Alert here.

WorkSafe events
Remember the 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.

  1. Mallee Machinery Field Days
     Wednesday 31 July - Thursday 1 August, 8:30am to 5:00pm
    Speed Airport, 2574 Sunraysia Hwy, Speed VIC 3488 
  2. Sheepvention 
    When: Sunday 04 Aug 2019
    Where: CRT Innovations Hub, Hamilton Showgrounds, Shakespeare St, Hamilton


WA: Stone fabrication blitz
WorkSafe WA inspectors have visited 26 workplaces and issued a total of 216 improvements as part of an ongoing proactive inspection program in the stone benchtop fabrication sector.

Most of the notices involved "dust management and health surveillance on silica dust in the workplace", WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said.  He said the program was prompted by serious silicosis concerns in the engineered stone benchtop sector raised in Queensland last year, and Western Australia had confirmed two cases of silicosis in workers in the relatively new sector so far.  Source: OHSAlert

WA: Safety alert following fatality
WorkSafeWA is investigating the circumstances surrounding a fatality involving a bogged vehicle. It is alleged that:

  • it occurred while workers were recovering a vehicle that had become bogged
  • a tractor was being used to recover another tractor
  • a worker was in between the bogged vehicle and the recovery vehicle and was fatally crushed when one of the vehicles moved.

A similar fatality occurred in 2017, where it is alleged that a semi-trailer had become bogged at an orchard, and a telehandler was being used to recover it. When one of the vehicles was moved it fatally crushed a worker, who was between the two vehicles at the time. Read more: Second fatal incident involving a bogged vehicle.

Safe Work Australia news
Fatality statistics
There was no update this week to the notified fatalities on the Safe Work Australia site: as of June 6, there had been 64 fatalities notified to the national body. This is eight more in the time since its last update on May 16 The workers killed came from the following industries:

  • 23 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 15 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 11 in Construction
  • 7 in Public Administration & safety
  • 4 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 2 in Mining
  • 1 in manufacturing
  • 1 in 'Other services'

To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage and in particular, here.


Victorian Prosecutions
Operations manager enters 'diversion plan' 
Between April 2015 and August 2016 the Operations Manager of a security firm engaged in a range of bullying behavior, including speaking to employees loudly, aggressively or in an abrasive manner; using language when speaking to employees that was belittling, degrading or offensive; threatening employees with having to speak to the security firm's director directly about a workplace issue; threatening employees that he would make a complaint about them to the security firm's director; and making inappropriate physical contact with an employee.

On 11 June 2019, instead of a prosecution, the man both entered into a Diversion Plan and was able to show that he had complied with its conditions, namely: he had completed a course called 'Discrimination, bullying and harassment for managers and supervisors'; he had donated $1,000 to Beyond Blue and he had written a letter of gratitude to the informant for the opportunity to participate in the Criminal Justice Diversion Program. Editor's comment: this hardly seems adequate for what amounted to over a year of extremely bullying and offensive behaviour which could have seriously damaged the other employees at the firm.

CSIRO charged with four category 2 WHS breaches after explosion
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) could be fined up to $6 million after being charged with failing to provide a safe work environment or safe systems of work, ensure the safe use of plant or provide adequate safety information and training.

In June 2017, a researcher at the CSIRO's Clayton, Victoria facility was using hydrogen gas to heat sawdust at pressure in an autoclave when gas leaked from the chamber and exploded.  The researcher sustained cuts, bruises and facial burns, and the building was extensively damaged, with the explosion throwing debris 20 metres.

After a Comcare investigation into the incident, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions filed four charges under section 32 ("Failure to comply with health and safety duty–Category 2") of the Commonwealth WHS Act against the CSIRO.  Each charge carried a maximum fine of $1.5 million, and the matter was listed for first mention in the Moorabbin Magistrates Court in Victoria on 3 July. Source: OHSAlert

International News

EU: Big data and AI - OHS implications
The use of big data, combined with machine learning technology, is becoming more common in Europe's workplaces. Two new EU-OSHA Foresight discussion papers review the benefits and potential risks of using such digital developments on health and safety at the workplace. The first article, on the use of Big Data for inspection efficiency, deals with the targeting of occupational safety and health (OSH) inspections.

The second article outlines where and how artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied, e.g. workplace decision-making in human resources (people analytics, recruitment procedures), AI augmented robotics, chatbots in support centres, or wearable technologies in the production assembly line. Both authors conclude that combining both human and AI offers the best way forward.

The authors recommend ways to manage the most important risks. It is worth stressing that it is not technology in isolation that creates OSH benefits or risks, it is instead the implementation of technology that creates negative or positive conditions.
Read the articles on the future role of big data for Inspection Efficiency and on the benefits and risks of AI in Europe's workplaces. Check out EU-OSHA's more information on digitalisation and occupational safety and health

India: seven workers killed cleaning hotel tank
Seven workers have suffocated to death while cleaning a hotel septic tank in western India without safety gear. The hotel owner has been charged with causing death due to negligence following the incident on Friday night in Gujarat state's Vadodara district.

Four of those killed had been called to clean the tank; the other three were hotel employees who were assisting. "One person first entered the tank, but when he did not come out and did not respond to calls, three other cleaners went inside to help him," said Vadodara fire officer Nikunj Azad, who was leading the rescue operation. When all four did not emerge after some time, the three hotel employees entered the tank, with all seven of them losing their lives in the process

Hundreds of thousands of mostly low-caste Indians are employed as "manual scavengers" who clear underground pipes and septic tanks without any protective gear or masks. Tragically such deaths are not uncommon in India, and laws passed in 2013 to stamp out the age-old practice have had little effect. Read more: ABC news online


SafetyNet 634
Welcome to the 3 August, 2022 edition of SafetyNet. Happily there have been no workplace deaths reported since last edition. We hope you find this week's edition useful and interesting. Feel free...
Read More
SafetyNet 633
Welcome to the 27 July, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.  Happily, no workplace deaths have been reported since last SafetyNet.   We hope you find this week's edition useful and interesting. Feel free to share...
Read More
SafetyNet 632
Welcome to the 20 July 2022 edition of SafetyNet.  We are pleased to note that there have been no new workplace deaths reported since the last SafetyNet.  This week the Ombudsman announced...
Read More