SafetyNet 498

Welcome to Sam's final SafetyNet! With Renata returning to work next week, SafetyNet will be back in her safe hands. Apologies for a slightly shorter than usual SafetyNet this week, with Renata back next week, things should be back in full swing.

Massive prosecutions this week, particularly around a landmark asbestos case, which awarded a massive $3,000,000 to the victim.

Importantly, we're having a launch party for the new OHS and Injured Workers Support Network websites on the 14th of August. It's a big win that's really worth celebrating. RSVP here: www.weareohs.org.au/ohs_reps_launch_party

As always, your feedback helps to keep SafetyNet as useful for the OHS Network as possible. If you have any feedback on this week's edition on SafetyNet, please send it straight on to Sam at sdanby@vthc.org.au. Love it or hate it, we want to know about it. So don't hesitate to send your thoughts through.

To keep up to date and informed between editions of SafetyNet, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page. This Monday we're having part 2 of our special 2 part series live show on stress at work, so get your questions ready for that one! If you're a HSR you should join the OHS Network Facebook

OHS Regulator News

Exclusion from work function wasn't bullying says Fair Work Commission

A worker who was excluded from a work function has been told that management preventing her from joining the work Christmas lunch last December; rejecting her leave request for Australia Day this year; and falsely telling her she had to work on all public holidays does not amount to bullying.

The woman's employer, SECUREclean, stated that, they sent warning letters to the worker about her arriving late, taking long breaks, bringing her children to work and allowing them on site for whole shifts.

The woman became unable to work and lodged a mental health based WorkCover claim, which was disappointingly rejected as it as found that the actions taken by the employer were reasonable and within the companies guidelines. The Fair Work Commission stated that Whilst the argument could be raised that the employer communicated and handled the situation ineptly, it does not suggest the conduct exposed amounted to bullying with respect to the Act."

Currently, the Boland review into WHS legislation is recommending righter controls around psycho social injuries.

Safe Work Australia news
Fatality statistics

These are the most up to date numbers as of August 1st.

  • 28 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 19 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 12 in Construction
  • 6 in Public Administration & safety
  • 5 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 5 in Mining
  • 2 Professional, scientific & technical services
  • 2 in Wholesale trade
  • 3 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.

 Back to top


Asbestos News

Largest Ever Asbestos Payout

A record $3 Million payout has been awarded to a worker, working with asbestos materials who contracted asbestosis, and has been given a three year life expectancy.

Matthew Werfel was first exposed to asbestos as a teenager while working for a fencing contractor in Adelaide between 1994 and 1997.

This is a landmark case, that highlights the ongoing risk to the public of working with asbestos. Many workers, especially younger tradesmen who were not working in the space when the use of the material was at its peak, are still not aware of the high risk of working with asbestos.

A solicitor who worked on the case stated "Unlike the people who were exposed to asbestos during mining, manufacturing or construction, many home renovators have no idea they were exposed to asbestos until years later when they are diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease,"

The solicitor went on to state that clearly, not enough work has been done by the manufacturer of products containing asbestos to create awareness around the health risks their products create.

"This case confirms that James Hardie's (the employer) duty of care didn't end when it sold those products. It continues even decades later as tradespeople, homeowners and others are exposed to those building materials."

Full details on the court proceedings can be found here:

www.ohsalert.com.au/files/2019/Werfel%20v%20AMACA%20v%20The%20State%20of%20South%20Australia%20[2019]%20SAET%20159


Ask Renata

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

This week we have an unusual one, concerning privacy and surveillance at work.

Question:

Are there any legal requirements if management decide to put security cameras in your workplace. E.g. are they required to have a policy in place, are they required to inform staff and are they required to display signage that cameras are operating in the area.

--

Answer:

Hi,

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

Unfortunately this isn't an area of our expertise, since it isn't strictly an OHS issue. I did some digging though, and I found this helpful article by one of our trusted law firms, Maurice Blackburn, on the subject: 

www.mauriceblackburn.com.au/blog/2018/june/27/surveillance-in-the-workplace/

Have a read and see what you think. The conclusion is that within certain limits (i.e. as long as they aren't in bathrooms/changerooms) it isn't unlawful.

However, when surveillance cameras are used as a tool to add pressure on staff to meet KPIs or increase their workload, this can negatively impact psychological health and is certainly an OHS issue. If you feel that this is taking place, I would suggest looking at the systems of work as a whole rather than just focusing on the cameras. Are the KPIs reasonable? Are the systems of work adequate to meet the targets safely and without risks to health? These are the sorts of broader questions I would be asking in relation to the use of surveillance.

You can read a bit more about workplace stress on our website here: www.ohsrep.org.au/hazards/stress

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

Thanks


Training

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*
  • August 5 - 9, Ballarat
  • August 12 - 16, Carlton
  • August 21, General, Carlton
  • August 22, Disability Services, Carlton
  • August 30, General, Geelong

* 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. 
.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).


Events

VTHC + IWSN Web Launch Party

In a few weeks, we're having a celebratory launch of the new OHS and IWSN websites.

The new OHS website is a big deal. It's been in the works for the past year, and is a drastic improvement on how we can talk about health and safety hazards, training and events online.

In addition, the importance of the launch of the Injured Workers Support Network's first website can't be overstated. This is a tremendous group

So we're getting a win under our belt, and we're celebrating it. Come celebrate with us:

When: Wednesday, 14th of August, 6:00pm. 
Where: Trades Hall, Carlton.
What: Drinks, a bite to eat, good chats and a celebration.

Why: Because something this important and this long in the making is worth celebrating.

RSVP here: www.weareohs.org.au/ohs_reps_launch_party

Perth Asbestos Conference

The 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference will be held in Perth from 11 - 13 November, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. Early bird registrations are available until 23 August so now is a good time to secure your place at Australia's only conference on Asbestos Safety.

The conference provides a unique opportunity for all 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 workers' health and safety, public health, the role of the non-government sector, and international campaign work. There will also be particular sessions focused on the work of asbestos support groups, the latest research into asbestos awareness communications and the latest from medical researchers.

This year the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency 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. The roles of employees and their representatives in supporting and advocating for workers' health and safety in relation to asbestos management is a key component to achieving this.

Read more about the conference herewww.asbestossafety.gov.au/events/asbestosconference2019/registration


OHS Prosecutions

PB Construction Services Pty Ltd (in liquidation)

PB Construction Services, which is now in liquidation, have been ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 plus court costs following an incident where an employees hand was cut open.

The incident took play in December 2017 at The Glen shopping centre in Melbourne, which was undergoing renovations at the time. During the renovations, a decision was made to use 5.5 tonne Case Excavator to undertake the task using a "ripper" attachment to remove a metal plate. However the plate shifted during the process, and fell towards a worker, who moved backwards quickly, but still suffered a laceration on his hand, which was embedded with steel along with bruising and crushing of the man's arm.

The company had not prepared a SWMS for the work, instead opting for a simple tool box meeting. The lack of a SWMS prompted the $100,000 fine for PB Construction.

It was found that:

It was reasonably practicable for the offender to have provided or maintained a system of work that was safe and without risks to health by:

  1. Securing the metal plate so that it could not move, including by using an excavator with a "grabber" attachment; and/or
  2. Using an appropriate length 'oxy wand' to increase distance from any movement of the metal plate.

The offender failed to implement either of these measures.

Simcat Enterprises Pty Ltd

On the Friday, 8 September 2017, a contractor working for Simcat enterprises fell through a skylight on a Toorak property he was working on a renovation on at approximately 7:30am, after the systems of work on the build diverged from what was on the SWMS.

There had been a dispute with neighbours of the property, concerning the amount of dust the disposal of work materials was creating, which led to the system of work changing in order to satisfy the Toorak local.

He fell about 2.5 metres to the concrete below and suffered a spinal fracture, serious head trauma and post traumatic amnesia. He did not make a statement.

The business pleaded guilty at an early opportunity, and was hit with a fine of $75,000 plus court costs of over $5,000.

Interestingly, the report from WorkSafe states that if the company had pleaded not guilty, but then been found guilty through a court process, they would have been sentenced to a fine of $120,000, minimum, with conviction.


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