Welcome to this week's edition of SafetyNet. It is with great sadness that we report that there has been another farming fatality in Victoria since the last edition.
A heads up: Renata will be on leave until mid August, so the next few editions will be done by Luke and Sam, her OHS Unit colleagues.
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.
Man killed in farm incident
A farmer in his 40's was killed last Wedneday after being struck by a post hole digger at a farm in Raywood, north of Bendigo. According to a WorkSafe media release, it is believed the man was using the machinery when an attachment failed, causing the equipment to hit him.
WorkSafe is investigating the incident. The fatality brings the number of workplace deaths this year to 18, according to the VTHC tally, but 13 according to WorkSafe's official tally, two more than at the same time last year.
Industrial Manslaughter: Update
NOTE: This item was amended after the journal was posted last week, so the editor has re-posted it in this week's edition.
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 this week (of June 24) 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.
Do you want to work for a union?
The Victorian branch of the CPSU (Community and Public Sector Union) is advertising two OHS positions on Ethical Jobs. Both of these positions will be based in Melbourne. The jobs are:
Occupational Health and Safety Officer
The position will join a small OH&S Team within the Union which reports through a Team Leader structure to the Branch Secretary. This is a full time, on-going position.
The role will require the delivery of OHS training to members, as detailed in the key responsibilities, as well as provide OH&S advice and assistance to members who work in the Victorian public sector workplaces across the State.
CPSU will consider applicants that have the capacity to broaden their skill set in OH&S and Training.
Application closing date is COB Friday 5th of July 2019. Read more about the position and how to apply here.
Project Officer - Vicarious Trauma Prevention and Awareness Toolkit
The union has secured funding through the WorkSafe WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund for a period of three years to develop a Vicarious Trauma Prevention and Awareness Toolkit. This position is a fixed term position for 33 months.
Pilots will be developed in partnership with Government departments, DJCS and DHSS. The kit will include tools and resources customised specifically to each area in consultation with employees and will provide training, knowledge and skills necessary for Government departments to address the trauma needs of their staff. It will help build capacity in departments to proactively addresses trauma impact through policies, procedures, practices, and programs and prioritise organisational change and identify needs to mitigate risk and prevent trauma related mental health injury and illness and support a proactive approach to workers who are exposed to vicarious trauma.
Application closing date is COB Friday 19th of July 2019. Read more about the position and how to apply here.
I was wondering whether employers have to provide a way of warming or cooking food in the workplace. If so can they allowed to take it away?
There is no law that requires you be provided with a microwave or stove specifically. However, under the OHS Act, the employer has a duty to provide 'adequate facilities' for your welfare (see Duties of employers) What employers need to do in order to comply with their duties in practice is set out in the Workplace amenities and work environmentcompliance code. The code states that employers need to provide food warming facilities like a microwave – so far as is reasonably practicable. So the answer is YES. Furthermore, if the employer previously provided a means of heating food, and then it was removed, then it clearly was practicable, and it needs to be replaced. The employer has a duty under s35 to consult with workers and their elected HSRs when proposing changes to the workplace - See Duty to consult.
You can find more information on what the employer needs to provide in terms of dining facilities on our website here, including a link to the compliance code.
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.
National Asbestos Conference
The 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference will be held in Perth from 11 - 13 November, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. Those wishing to attend are able to register nowbefore the end of financial year. (Note: trade show exhibitor registration is not yet open.)
ASEA says the conference provides a unique opportunity for members of the asbestos management system to come together, exchange information and share ideas with over 300 domestic and international professionals from a range of sectors including work health and safety, public health, local government, international campaign work and the environment.
This year ASEA will collaborate and focus on Australia's National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management 2019-2023 and the roles and responsibilities those in the asbestos management system have in working together toward preventing exposure to asbestos fibres. Read more about the conference here.
SA: Firm fined for storing asbestos
A South Australian company has been fined more than $21,000 for storing asbestos illegally and washing quartz powder into a storm drain. Environmental Protection Agency inspectors discovered Waste-Away SA had stored four waste bins of asbestos and contaminated material during a routine inspection on January 25, 2017. As the inspectors arrived at the site, they saw an employee hosing white waste material from the carpark, onto the street and into a storm drain. Waste-Away had been employed to dispose of 175 cubic metres of asbestos from the Port Lincoln Hospital redevelopment as well as from other buildings including Ashfield Hospital and aged care facilities. The company was supposed to transport the materials to a different company which was 85km from Adelaide. But when the shipments were brought to the site late in the afternoon the company was forced to leave them there overnight. Source: The Sunday Mail
International Union News
ILO votes to stop gender-based violence at work
The International Labour Organization last week adopted both a Convention and Recommendation on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. The Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019, and Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019[pdf], were adopted by delegates on the final day of the Centenary ILO Conference, in Geneva. For the Convention, 439 votes were cast in favour, seven against, with 30 abstentions. The Recommendation was passed with 397 votes in favour, 12 votes against and 44 abstentions.This is the first international standard specifically aimed at addressing these issues in the workplace – and it's all because of the tireless organizing by unions and worker centres around the world.
There were three critical elements that the labor side fought to include in the Convention and Recommendation - and all three are covered in the new standard:
- The Convention establishes protection for ALL types of workers regardless of contractual status, including workers in the informal economy.
- The "world of work" includes protection for workers on the commute to and from work.
- Both the Convention and Recommendation defend the right to collective bargaining as a crucial tool to stop gender-based violence.
This is the first new Convention agreed by the International Labour Conference since 2011, when the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) was adopted. Conventions are legally binding international instruments, while Recommendations provide advice and guidance. Read more: ILO media release Source: International Labor Rights Forum
UK: Quarter of prison staff are recent victims of violence
Over a quarter (26 per cent) of staff working in prisons have been the victim of physical violence within the last year, according to new figures from a coalition of nine trade unions and professional organisations. The survey, published by the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (JUPA), found that one in seven (14 per cent) of staff who were a victim of recent physical violence said they have been assaulted more than ten times in the past year. Of those who reported a physical assault to their employer, 57 per cent were dissatisfied with the action taken. In a further 20 per cent of cases, respondents said no action was taken at all. Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of survey respondents reported feeling unsafe at work in the last twelve months. Over half of staff (53 per cent) said they had been exposed to the psychoactive substance spice at work, and over a third (39 per cent) reported becoming ill as a result. Symptoms included light-headedness, dizziness, confusion and tiredness (97 per cent), nausea and vomiting (49.4 per cent), increased heart rate and blood pressure (34.5 per cent) and anxiety and paranoia (28 per cent).
Paul Cottrell, acting general secretary of the union UCU, which represents prison educators, said: "It is appalling that two-thirds of staff in prisons report feeling unsafe in their workplace, and that so many say their concerns aren't being dealt with properly. We urgently need much tougher action from the government and prison employers to improve the safety and working conditions of staff in our prisons." JUPA is calling for 'urgent action' from the government, prison service and other employers in the sector .
Read more: UCU news release. Morning Star. Source: Risks 902
OHS outcomes among international migrant workers
Last week a group of researchers has published a paper entitled 'Occupational health outcomes among international migrant workers: a systematic review and meta-analysis'in The Lancet Global Health.
Despite there being more than 150 million international migrant workers globally, there is very little data on occupational health outcomes of these workers. Migrant workers are workers employed outside their country of origin, and comprise the largest international migrant group. Popular migrant destinations are high-income countries like North America, northern, southern and western Europe and the Middle East which provide opportunities for work and employment.
However, work and employment in these countries can expose them to long working hours and dangerous working environments which have implications for their health and wellbeing. For example, such workers might be at increased risk of poor mental health outcomes, perinatal mortality, and increased injury compared with native workers, outcomes that are attributable to poor working and living conditions, inadequate labour protection measures, and limited entitlements to health care.
The researchers searched several databases for primary research published between Jan 1, 2008 and Jan 24, 2018 in order to do a systematic review and meta-analysis. They reported occupational health outcomes among international migrant workers, without language or geographical restrictions. They identified 1218 studies; 36 were included in the systematic review (involving 12,168 international migrants) and 18 studies were included in the meta-analysis (involving 7,260 international migrants).
The study provides a comprehensive summary of the burden of occupational morbidity and injury among migrant workers worldwide, and demonstrates the urgent need for greater progress toward universal health coverage and worker rights.
The researchers concluded that international migrant workers are at considerable risk of work-related ill health and injury, and their health needs are critically overlooked in research and policy. Governments, policy makers, and businesses must enforce and improve occupational health and safety measures, which should be accompanied by accessible, affordable, and appropriate health care and insurance coverage to meet the care needs of this important working population.
Read more: Hargreaves, S., Rustage, K., Nellums, L. B., Mcalpine, A., Pocock, N., Devakumar, D., et al (2019). Occupational health outcomes among international migrant workers : a systematic review and meta-analysis. [full text] The Lancet Global Health, (19), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(19)30204-9
OHS Regulator News
Mental health support for vulnerable workers
WorkSafe has announced an initiative which it says will benefit thousands of Victorian workers whose jobs put them at increased risk of mental injury. The WorkSafe WorkWell Learning Networks, a knowledge sharing network, will connect mental health experts with employers and workers to share the latest thinking on the best ways to boost mental health and safety at work.
WorkSafe has granted initial funding from the $5 million program to seven organisations to develop plans for the networks, which will link more than 2000 workplaces to collaborate on practical steps to prevent mental injury.
WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director Julie Nielsen said the networks would help create new ways to improve the lives of thousands of working Victorians. "Learning Networks will bring workers, experts and industry groups together to build workplaces that promote positive mental health and safety for all workers but especially those who are most vulnerable," Ms Nielsen said. Read more: WorkSafe media release
WorkSafe winter safety tips
Our regulator sent out a bulletin this week with winter tips 'at home, commuting, and at work'. The topics covered are:
- Preventing the spread of flu - as reported in a previous SafetyNet, this is a bad year for the flu, with 31 Victorians have died, and another 18,600 have been diagnosed with the flu so far. For more information, see: Influenza on our site, and the Victorian Better Health Channel website.
- Winter Safety on work sites: WorkSafe says that winter and the cold, wet and windy weather brings numerous hazards which can increase workplace risks, especially on work sites.
With falls from height the leading cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry, slippery conditions are particularly concerning for those working at height. Check out WorkSafe's information on preventing falls on construction sites.
- Fog and winter driving: Dense fog and wet weather during the winter months, creates situations of low visibility, which can lead to increased hazards on the roads and on work sites - especially roadside work sites. WorkSafe says it's important for employers to include site conditions in safety evaluations. If you are working or commuting in areas that experience fog or snow, it's important to understand how to safely drive in these conditions. There are links to information on snow and winter driving and using fog and headlights on the VicRoads website.
- Safety at home: in particular safe use of electrical appliances equipment, with a link to safety information on the EnergySafe website.
Challenge to quad bike safety notices withdrawn
An application to have WorkSafe improvement notices requiring that safety measures be taken in relation to the use of quad bikes at a workplace has been withdrawn from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT). Larneuk Stud Pty Ltd had applied to VCAT to have three improvement notices overturned after they were issued at a horse stud near Euroa in 2018.
The notices required the employer to eliminate the risk of a quad bike overturning as far as reasonably practicable. If this was not reasonably practicable, the employer was required to reduce the risk of a quad bike overturning so far as reasonably practicable.
The notices indicated that the employer could achieve compliance by measures including, but not limited to:
- Retrofitting an appropriate operator protective device to the quad bikes, or
- Using alternative vehicles that were appropriately fitted with rollover protection, such as side-by-side vehicles or utility vehicles.
Larneuk Stud withdrew the application on day four of the VCAT hearing on June 14, after the Tribunal had heard evidence from three WorkSafe witnesses, including an independent expert engineer.
After the hearing, WorkSafe Director of Enforcement Paul Fowler said employers needed to do everything they could to prevent workers from being injured if there was a risk of a quad bike rolling over. "Safety regulations for quad bikes require employers to do everything reasonably practicable to control the risk of workers being injured," Mr Fowler said.
This is an important outcome, as too many people have been killed or seriously injured in quad bike incidents, and all the experts agree that the best way to minimise the risk is by fitting operator protective devices, or rollover protection to the vehicles.
Read more: WorkSafe media release
A reminder of two upcoming events which will provide an opportunity to meet the WorkSafe Agriculture Practice Team. Anyone with farm safety issues should 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
Safe Work Australia news
There was still no update 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'
No new results of prosecutions were put on the WorkSafe site this week - but to check over the next week, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK:Suspended sentence after son's fatal factory fall
In a particularly tragic case, a UK scaffolding firm owner was given a suspended sentence after his son suffered fatal injuries in a fall through a fragile roof. Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how on 19 September 2015, at the Norton Aluminium foundry site in Staffordshire, Stephen Brennan was fatally injured after falling approximately 11.5 metres through the roof. The 26-year-old was working with his brother Kieran and their father, company owner Stephen John Brennan, on the corrugated asbestos cement roof. They were in the process of moving and fitting temporary scaffold guardrails as part of a larger roof refurbishment project at the site.
An investigation by UK regulator Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the owner, trading as SB Scaffolding, failed to ensure the health and safety of his employees. The investigation also found that Sandwell Roofing Limited, the contractor in overall control of the roof refurbishment project, failed to ensure that people not in its employment were not exposed to risks arising from work on the fragile roof. Stephen John Brennan, 57, was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for two years, 180 hours of unpaid community service and ordered to pay costs of £14,000 (A$25,600). Sandwell Roofing Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £41,125 (A$75,200) and ordered to pay £33,000 (A$60,300) costs. Stephen John Brennan's lawyer said: "His family life has been ripped apart by grief."
Read more: HSE news release. Express and Star. Source: Risks 902
NZ: Port operating company fined over $500K over worker's death
A port operating company in New Zealand was sentenced and fined $506,048 at the Wellington District Court last week following an incident in January 2017 in which a worker was killed when he fell at the company's container assessment and repair facility. The worker was using a ladder to access the roof and undertake repairs on a 2.9-metre-high container, when he fell and hit his head on the concrete below.
At a disputed facts hearing in February this year, the judge found the worker had died as a result of CentrePort Limited's "failure to develop and implement a safe system of work for repairs of containers."
WorkSafe's Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said that the incident was foreseeable and avoidable. "There were numerous health and safety failings made by CentrePort that led to the worker's death," he said. "The Port had developed safe working procedures but failed to ensure that these procedures were implemented where the victim was working. WorkSafe also found that ladders were not being tied off and those that were in use were in poor repair, and there was no auditing to ensure that they were safe and appropriate for use. Further, there was no edge or fall protection in place to protect workers."
In addition to the fine, reparation of $150,952 was ordered, in addition to sums of $124,554 already paid. Costs of $36,425 were ordered.
Read more: WorkSafe NZ media release
Global: UN experts urge ILO to back 'fundamental' safety
United Nations human rights experts have urged the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to immediately recognise and adopt safe and healthy working conditions as one of its fundamental principles and rights at work.
"Millions of workers around the world suffer from diseases and disabilities due to unsafe and unhealthy conditions of work. It is estimated that approximately two million workers die prematurely each year because of an unsafe or unhealthy workplace," the UN special rapporteurs on human rights said on 13 June, as the ILO held its centenary conference in Geneva. "Safe and healthy working conditions have been explicitly recognised under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights since 1966 as a fundamental aspect of the right to just and favourable conditions of work. However, despite ILO Convention 155 [the ILO occupational health and safety convention], the right to safe and healthy working conditions is not among the 'Fundamental principles and rights at work' recognised by the ILO."
The UN experts added: "It is long overdue that the ILO recognises the right to safe and healthy working conditions as one of its fundamental principles and rights at work. The ILO's recognition is essential to help end the exploitation of workers who are forced to choose between a pay cheque and their health. It would be a fitting tribute to the millions who have lost their lives as a result of this abhorrent choice."
Read more: OHCHR news release. IUF news release. ILO fundamental principles and rights at work. Source: Risks 902
Bangladesh: Chinese and local workers fight after fatality
Police in Bangladesh have broken up a fight between hundreds of Chinese and Bangladeshi workers at the site of a partly-built China-funded power plant. One Chinese worker was killed in the fighting in the southern district of Patuakhali. The violence erupted after a Bangladeshi worker fell to his death, and local workers reportedly accused the Chinese of trying to cover up the incident. Police said more than 1,000 officers were needed to restore calm. Read more: BBC news
Cambodia: Building collapses killing 28
In an incident involving another Chinese funded construction project, at least 28 workers were killed and another 26 injured on Saturday when a building under construction collapsed. Incredibly, rescuers searching the rubble in the Cambodian beach town of Sihanoukville, this week found two survivors two days after the collapse.
The seven-story building collapsed on top of dozens of construction workers as they slept on the second floor in the unfinished condominium that was doubling as their housing. It was being built in the thriving seaside resort town where there has been a rush of Chinese investment in recent years, especially in the casino, property and tourism sectors. Questions have been raised about construction standards. Yesterday a Cambodian court charged seven people, including five Chinese nationals, with involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy. Further, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen fired a top disaster management official on Monday for failing to take responsibility for the disaster and accepted the resignation of Yun Min, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province. Read more: The Canberra Times; Reuters
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. 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
- CERTIFICATE IV IN WHS
Part 1 14th – 16th October 2019
Part 2 12th – 15th November 2019
The course will be delivered at the ACTU (VIC).
Course and enrolment details here.
Tuesday July 9: Central Safety Group
Topic: The challenges of safety in the aged care & disability sectors
The aged care and disability sectors are among the fastest growing sectors in Australia. Employment in this area has exploded, growing 36% in the past five years – three times the rate of growth across all other occupations.
The particular OHS challenges for these industries will be discussed by Michael Carley, Safety and Risk, Villa Maria Catholic Homes. Michael will talk about the common hazards and risks in safety management in these sectors. He will also discuss current trends, gaps and recommended solutions.
When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Where: DXC Technology, Level 19 (Board Room 1), 360 Collins St (between Queen and Elizabeth Sts) 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 July 5. Book online now