SafetyNet 493

Welcome to this week's edition of SafetyNet.  

Welcome to SafetyNet for the first week of July. Renata is away enjoying Italy, eating pizza, slamming espressos and hopefully having a great time, OHS Online Organisers Sam Danby and Luke Bowman will be filling in and writing SafetyNet for the next few weeks. We're new to this - so be gentle.

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.

Union News

Commission rules on claustrophobic workers.

A commission has found that requiring a worker suffering from severe claustrophobia, which had been caused by a situation where the worker was working in an elevator where the power went off for an extended period of time, can fairly be expected to continue to work within elevators within his current role despite the traumatic event.

The Brisbane man worked for KONE, an elevator and escalator maintenance company, and had been told to return to his duties maintaining elevators, after working exclusively with escalators for several years after suffering from a traumatic incident in an elevator.

The commission found that while it is within the workers role to be asked to work in elevators, they warned the employer that dismissing the man for his inability to work in elevators could trigger a potential unfair dismissal case.

The commission found on the worker's submission that KONE had a duty under its enterprise agreement to provide him with a safe working environment, which as we all know is provided under the OHS act, the Commissioner said his personal circumstances made working in elevators unsafe for him, but this did not "render the working environment unsafe at large".

Full details on the verdict can be found here

Ask Renata

Here's an interesting message we got this week from Gavin, a postman who had a question about the vibrations he endures while going about his routine work.

Hi Renata, I'm a Postman and I'm concerned about various pain am experiencing since starting a new delivery run. I have regular painful night cramps in my legs. I have Tennis Elbow and can't seem to shake it off? And most nights back and shoulder aches. Could this be caused by the terrain I am delivering on being unsaved and very rough? I ride each day for approximately 4-5 hours on a motorcycle which I believe is more suited to road conditions. Any advice would be helpful thanks.

- Gavin


From the OHS Team:

Hi Gavin,

Thanks for getting in touch and apologies for the delayed response as we have had some staff on leave.

It sounds to me like you may be suffering the effects of Whole Body Vibration (WBV) as a result of the vehicle and the terrain. This is a common hazard, and affects people using all kinds of vehicles and even some types of hand-held tools. It can result in the types of symptoms you describe, as well as bone damage, varicose veins, motion sickness and impairment of vision. So obviously, with these effects to your health, it is a problem that must be addressed by the employer.

If you identify vibration as a problem, then approach your employer to negotiate changes to the workplace. The usual 'hierarchy of control' should be followed, that is: 1) Eliminate or substitute; 2) Engineering; 3) Administrative; and 4) PPE. What this might mean in regard to vibration is as follows:

  • Elimination: Changing the route/terrain you are driving on, if possible
  • Substitution: A different type of vehicle which is more suited to the terrain and provides a smoother ride;
  • Provision of vibration absorbing and ergonomically designed seats to give proper postural support and comfort; improvement of suspension of cabs and existing seats in vehicles;
    Installation of engineering controls on vibrating machinery (eg better suspension or shock absorbers);
  • Proper and regular maintenance of all vehicles, machinery and tools;
    Introduction of administrative procedures (job and/or equipment rotation and regular rest breaks);
  • Provision of gloves;
  • Provision of training on how to prevent health problems caused by vibration.
    Further, the following should be implemented:
  • Regular environmental monitoring to check effectiveness of control methods.
  • Acceptance of internationally recognised standards as maximum exposure limits:
  • HAV - amplitude of one M/S2 over a four hour period;
  • Very low frequency vibration - amplitude of 0.25 M/S2 over an eight hour period;
  • WBV - amplitude of 0.63M/S2 over an eight hour period.

If you have a question for the OHS team (while Renata is away enjoying some well earned time on vacation) head to

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Asbestos News

National Asbestos Conference Hit's Perth

With no new news on asbestos this week, we wanted to include a reminder of the National Asbestos Conference, included in last weeks edition:

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 now before 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.

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International Union News

A historical march in San Salvador de Jujuy

600 workers from Glencore's El Aguilar mine have marched a massive 270km march to fight for improved working conditions, an effective safety plan and dismissal of the general manager for mistreating workers and ignoring safety measures. They won the lot.

Union leaders met with authorities from the provincial government. Workers and their union used the opportunity to raise issues of abusive treatment from management and highlighted the dangerous work they are asked to do as well as OHS issues around ventilation and lack of maintenance.

On 25 June, in a massive win for the workers, the company agreed to dismiss the general manager and to implement a plan, approved together with the Ministry of Labour during conciliation procedures, guaranteeing health and safety conditions in the mine.

IndustriALL regional secretary Marino Vani said "We congratulate our affiliate for their work and for defending their members. With the current dialogue between IndustriALL and Glencore, we are confident that the agreements with the Argentinian authorities and AOMA will be respected."


Workplace solvent exposure has been linked to autism.

A major study conducted by US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Health Effects Laboratory has found that women exposed to solvents, were up to 1.5 times more likely to have a child higher on the autism spectrum when compared to those who do not.

In the study, solvents refers to degreasers, paint chemicals and so on.

The research joins a growing body of research suggesting that the work life of a parent closely affects the health and well-being of newborn babies.

Previous research shows metals like lead, mercury, arsenic and manganese are neurotoxic and affect developing brains, and that maternal and childhood exposure were associated with lower IQ, behavioural issues and cognitive dysfunction, the researchers say.

Currently one in 68 children are placed on the autism spectrum, but this rate has been slowly increasing.

It's worth stating that many people who experience autism, experience is a positive that enriches their lives, however the link between a new parents work life and their children's health is an interesting one that will be interesting to follow as it is explored into the future.


OHS Regulator News

Firefighter's presumptive rights compensation is now available

Firefighters, both career and volunteer, are now able to access presumptive rights compensation, providing they meet the following criteria:

Have served in active firefighting roles for a specified number of years, depending on the cancer type
Have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016 with one of 12 specified cancer types
Are diagnosed during their service or within 10 years after the conclusion of their service
Have a listed cancer because of an exceptional exposure event in a firefighting capacity.

Career and volunteer firefighters that meet certain requirements are now able to access presumptive compensation for specified cancers contracted while serving as a firefighter.

  • The compensation applies to career and volunteer firefighters who:
  • Have served in active firefighting roles for a specified number of years, depending on the cancer type
  • Have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016 with one of 12 specified cancer types
  • Are diagnosed during their service or within 10 years after the conclusion of their service
  • Have a listed cancer because of an exceptional exposure event in a firefighting capacity. 

Additionally for volunteer firefighters, presumptive compensation will be available where they have attended fires to the extent reasonably necessary to fulfil the purpose of engaging in firefighting.

Firefighters should apply directly to WorkSafe for compensation under the scheme, using the claims form on the WorkSafe website.

More details here:

WorkSafe events
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.

  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


Safe Work Australia news
Fatality statistics
CHECK 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'

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

Rubbertough Industries Pty Ltd copped a $15,000 fine + costs after a guilty plea.

The rubber supplier based in Warragul copped a $15,000 fine plus costs after a new worker had the tops of 2 fingers severed while attempting to cover a mixer with exposed blades with a tarpaulin to prevent rain from entering the mixing drum.

The company were hired to lay rubberised surfaces on a playground in Wollert. The process of mixing rubber batches involved the use of a mixer, which contains a metal blade agitator driven by a 240V electric motor.

The offender had arranged for installation of a safety switch as well as a guard for the motor, but the employee could still gain access to the metal blade from multiple places around the drum.

On 31 May 2017 a new worker commenced employment with the offender. On 6 June 2017 the offender's employees attended the workplace to perform the task which required the use of the mixer. The risk eventuated when the new worker attempted to cover the mixer with a tarpaulin to prevent rain from entering the mixing drum by tucking the tarpaulin into the danger area causing the tops of 2 fingers to be severed.

The employer told the court that he was not aware of any similar incident occurring during his time in the industry. Additionally, after the incident the employer took steps to remedy the safety issue including engaging engineers to create additional guarding.

The offender did not have prior convictions and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $15,000.00 and to pay costs of $3,142.00.

Full details of prosecutions can be found on WorkSafe's website:


If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata with details, including cost, and where to RSVP.

* 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:

  1. Preventing Workplace Bullying and Harassment (Note: a $25 fee will apply)
    Melbourne: August 8
    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
.Course information and applications can be found on the ACTU Website here.

For more information, email or phone Chris Hughes (03 9664 7389 Mon-Fri) or Anna Pupillo (03 9664 7334 Mon-Wed & Fri).

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


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