SafetyNet 495

Oh yeah! It's that time of the week again, SafetyNet time!

The biggest story of the week is around the strike at Amazon, which caused strikes around the globe. I know I cancelled my Amazon Prime membership after reading about how they treat workers at their "fulfilment centres" Additionally some interesting research, prosecutions and bits and pieces from regulators this week.

If you have any feedback on this week's edition on SafetyNet, please send it straight on to Sam at sdanby@vthc.org.au so the next few can just get better and better.

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

Principal contractor fined $450,000 after worker death.

In October in 2016, NSW,  a man was killed laying plywood on the second floor of a building site, when he fell through a gap and landed on a metal bar on the next floor, three metres below.

Recently the company, Truslan, was fined $450,000 after it was found that the company failed to take personal steps to protect workers.

A notice to the company raising the issue was given to the company by the CFMMEU just 11 days before the fatal incident. With the judge finding that the notice should have raised concerns and prompted an OHS inspection of the work site by the company, who failed to act entirely on the notice.

Further, judge Strathdee found that the safe work method statement submitted for the work did not even mention the the task the worker was performing when he was killed.

Although the man who was killed was working for a separate subcontractor at the time, the court found that Truslan still help a non-delegate duty to ensure the health and safety of workers at the site as the principal contractor.

The judge stated "This to my mind shows a blatant disregard for the safety of workers, as he did precious little to eliminate or at least minimise the risks to workers." before laying down a $450,000 fine in the face of a guilty plea.

International Union News

Amazon Day prompts strikes around the globe for workers rights and OHS

"Amazon Day" has caused thousands of workings at Amazon fulfillment centres and warehouses around the globe to strike, to draw attention to the poor treatment of workers, including OHS policy and procedure, the workers endure.

The most valuable, at least in terms of raw economic value, has been noted to treat workers at their fulfillment centres like machines, with unreasonable and inhuman productivity demands wrought by one-day shipping, as reported recently by Bloomberg.

A recent anonymous blog from an Amazon employee tiled "The Relentless Misery of Working Inside an Amazon Warehouse" highlighted the disgraceful practices and expectations put on the delivery workers.

A quote from the blog reads: "The rhythm of this work is relentless. Every stage of the process has been optimized, cutting no slack, sparing zero downtime. In menial work, it is often in the interstices between tasks where little acts of rebellion can be seized."

There have also been reports of workers who peed in bottles to avoid taking bathroom breaks. A Verge report revealed that "hundreds" of workers in a facility in Baltimore were sacked for not meeting their unreasonable productivity expectations.Additionally,leaked video from Amazon

highlights their Union busting methods, instructing managers with what types of behaviour can be signs of Union organizing and highlighting how apparently the presence of Unions is to the detriment of shareholders. It's truly shocking.


Ask Renata

Every week in SafetyNet we highlight an interesting question we received through Ask Renata.

Question:

Dear Renata, what controls are in place to protect call centre staff from hearing damage. Sound shields- fine What about malicious damage ie- screaming down the phone

--

Our response: 

Hi,

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

These types of injuries can certainly result in long-term damage if sustained over time. Your employer has a duty to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to your health, and as such must control this hazard.

Probably the most effective control would be to have headsets with adjustable volume. Being able to adjust the volume of the person on the other end of the phone, i.e. being able to turn someone down if they are screaming, would go a long way to reducing the risk to one's hearing.

Something else that should be considered is the overall noise levels in the workplace. For example, if the room where call centre staff are working is very noisy, they will obviously need to increase the volume on their headsets in order to hear the person on the line. A quieter room will allow staff to keep the volume lower, thus reducing the risk of hearing damage over time. Sound barriers, sound dampening, insulation, all of these are potential options to improve the acoustics of the room and thus reduce the need for higher headset volumes.

I hope this has been helpful and you can read more about the hazards of call centres on our website here: http://www.ohsrep.org.au/hazards/call-centres/call-centres-the-problems

Let me know if you need any further assistance or clarification.

--

If you have a question for the OHS team (while Renata is away enjoying some well earned time on vacation) head to www.ohsrep.org.au/ask-renata-form


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Asbestos News

Workers have been exposed to Asbestos at a power station in the Latrobe Valley.

Two workers were exposed to the dangerous material after removing a piece of plant in a duct around a gas turbine, after the area had been previously identified as "possibly containing asbestos" 

The CFMEU's construction and general organiser for Gippsland, Toby Thornton, said potentially more people could have been exposed.

"There seems to be an oversight in compliance to those regulations and procedures when you suspect that any piece of plant would contain asbestos," Mr Thornton said.

Mr Thornton went on to say that adequate procedures were not followed, and the workers didn't have appropriate decontamination after being showered with asbestos. Additionally, due to the amount of asbestos released and the wind conditions of the day, other works may have been exposed.

Of course, the company that owns the plant, Energy Australia, have released a statement saying they had responded appropriately and "We are complying with WorkSafe Victoria's investigation of the incident and with the notices it has issued."

Read more in the ABC's coverage.
Asbestos Safety Conference 2019

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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Research

Study highlights link between lead in blood levels and several cancers

A study containing research from US, Finnish, French and UK institutions led an analysis of nearly 30,000 workers with documented levels of lead in their blood, confirmed there is a significant positive relationship between exposure to lead and brain and lung cancers, and revealed "unexpected" links to rectum and oesophageal cancers and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Here in Australia there are many workplaces and products which would expose workers to lead. Such as solders, batteries, radiation shields and ammunition. Additionally, Work Safe Australia states on it's lead information page "It was used extensively in lead paints and lead fuels before these products were banned, and [such products] may still be present in some workplaces."

In early 2017, Australia's WHS ministers reduced the acceptable levels of workers' blood after an SWA regulation impact statement warned that the prescribed thresholds were higher than in other countries, and inadequate. Reminds me of our current battle to get the Silica exposure standard reduced to match what's going on overseas.

The full report can be found here:

Cancer incidence among workers with blood lead measurements in two countries.

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Prosecutions

Construction company in Colac fined $7,500 plus costs

Spence Building and Joinery was fined a total of $11,092 for failing to adequately identify and control risks leading to a head laceration of an employee.

The employee fell from a high greater than two metres from a plank while he was conducting internal roofing works. The plank was not secured, so of course the worst happened.

The court stated that if it wasn't for the offender pleading guilty right from the start and their clean record of 43 years, the fine would have been much larger.

The man that was injured was able to return to work the following week.

Further details of the prosecution as well as other WorkSafe prosecutions can be found here: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/prosecution-result-summaries-enforceable-undertakings


OHS Regulator News

WorkSafe taskforce created to deal with cleaning dangerous goods on site

WorkSafe's dangerous goods taskforce will clear another site in Campbellfield after it was assessed that it contains industrial waste including a significant amount of dangerous goods.

The taskforce crackdown comes after a chemical blaze in Campbellfield made national news earlier in the year after it was discovered that the business was storing 400,000 litres of hazardous materials on site, well above what the regulations stipulate.

In January, a WorkSafe-led taskforce including EPA, fire services, Victoria Police and local councils stepped in to oversee the removal of waste chemical stockpiles discovered in eight warehouses in Epping and Campbellfield.

While the exact quantity of waste chemicals at the latest site is unknown, preliminary calculations indicate that there is potential to store up to 1.6 million litres at the site, many times that which were found to be found at the site of the chemical blaze earlier in the year.

You can read more about WorkSafes task force here: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/news/2019-07/taskforce-clean-additional-dangerous-goods-site

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
    When:
     Wednesday 31 July - Thursday 1 August, 8:30am to 5:00pm
    Where: 
    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

Safe Work Australia has updated their toll numbers. These are the most up to date numbers as of July 8th.

  • 25 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 17 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 11 in Construction
  • 7 in Public Administration & safety
  • 6 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 5 in Mining
  • 2 Professional, scientific & technical services
  • 2 in Wholesale trade
  • 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.


Events

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


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