Welcome to SafetyNet! With Renata returning to work this week, SafetyNet is back at full speed. You may notice things look a little different. On the back of our new website launch, we're just figuring out a few final teething problems, which is why this issue is a few days late. There will be a second issue this week (hopefully!)
There was a fatality last week, bringing the total for the year to 21 deaths.
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To keep up to date and informed between editions of SafetyNet, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page. The Part 2 of our special 2 part series live show on stress at work went to air last week, and it was very interesting. So if you missed it, are an HSR or deputy and would like to take a look, you should join the OHS Network Facebook
Fatality in northern Victoria
It is with great sadness that we report that a subcontractor was killed on Monday when he fell from a ladder at a residential property in Rutherglen, in Victoria’s north-east. According to WorkSafe Victoria, the worker his mid-60s was installing skylights when he slipped from the ladder and fell to the floor below about 10.30am. Everyone at the VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to family, friends and work colleagues of the deceased worker.
This brings the number of workers killed in Victoria this year to 21 (although the ‘official’ number is 15 according to the WorkSafe stats)
Tragic incident kills workplace researcher
Also on Monday, a university professor and mother of two was killed by a falling tree in Melbourne's Princes Park as she was walking to work. Associate Professor Allison Milner was a social epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Melbourne's School of Population and Global Health. AP Milner was the recipient of a 2017 fellowship from the State Government to tackle the high incidence of suicide among working men. She was an accomplished researcher who published numerous academic papers on work-related stressors, disability and suicide.
Hi, I just want to inquire into what is considered “too cold to work”. I am in a factory that has no heating whatsoever. I am happy to do the work, however it’s just so cold it’s uncomfortable and seems there’s no solutions in sight.
Yes, workplaces that are at “ambient temperature” (that is, at the same as outside) will be very cold at the moment. The Workplace Amenities and Work Environment Compliance Code states that workplaces should be maintained at temperatures between 20 – 26 degrees Celsius for sedentary work. Active work may require a slightly lower temperature.
Regardless, if the temperature is noticeably cold, this could affect your health and safety, and your employer has a duty to start taking actions to ensure your warmth: installing heaters, providing proper cold weather clothing to wear, warm rest rooms, etc. You can find more information and a link to the compliance code on our website here.
If you have any ohs related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website
Quad bikes – ongoing hazard
With manufacturers and suppliers still fighting against recommendations for mandatory rollover protection, the Victorian Coroner has found that a roll-bar would have saved the life of a 69-year-old farmer. In the report, the coroner supports the ACCC’s ‘comprehensive report’ and recommendations to Government to mandate OPDs and other safety measures to improve quad bike safety.
National Farmers’ Federation General Manager of Workforce & Legal Affairs Ben Rogers said it was now clear that OPDs saved lives. “The Coroner’s finding adds to a mountain of research that affirms that OPDs can prevent loss of life in incidents of quad bike rollover,” he said. “We hope that the Coroner’s conclusion is the ‘push’ the Government needs to make mandatory OPDs a reality. The evidence is clear and can no longer be ignored.”
A coalition of leading rural and medical voices, led by the NFF, met with MPs and Senators in Canberra last week to plead with the Government to endorse the ACCC’s recommendations.
Source: Safety Culture OHS News
ACTU: Four in five working people injured or ill due to work
Almost 80 percent of working people have been injured, or become ill, or both as a result of their work, according to a survey released this week by the ACTU, Australia’s peak body for working people. The same number of people say existing penalties for employers are not enough to make them take safety seriously.
The Work Shouldn’t Hurt work health and safety survey carried out in July exposes an underbelly of unsafe work practices that has led to unacceptable numbers of working people dying as a result of their work, being exposed to trauma, experiencing violence, or sustaining psychological/physical illnesses and injuries.
More than 26,000 working people responded to questions about their experiences of work health and safety, including the sorts of working conditions they had faced in the past 12 months. Areas surveyed included exposure to traumatic events – like the death of a colleague, occupational violence, hazardous conditions, poor management, and remote or isolated work.
Read more: ACTU media release and The Work Shouldn’t Hurt Report [pdf]
QLD: Casualisation and ‘production first’ hurts mine safety
Declining job security in coal mining is a major mine safety risk factor, a new union survey of miners in Queensland has found. The mining division of the CFMEU found that almost nine in ten of the 1,000 plus coal miners surveyed said that casualisation of jobs at their work site has affected safety. There has been a widespread move away from permanent, direct employment by operators to casual jobs supplied by labour hire contractors over the past five to ten years in the coal mining sector. Permanent employees are now a minority at many Queensland coal mines. Approximately four in ten survey respondents said they feared reprisals if they spoke up about safety, increasing to six in ten for casual mineworkers. Many mineworkers had experienced or witnessed retaliatory action over raising safety concerns, including casual workers finding they are suddenly no longer required, said CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth. “No-one is told that the reason they’ve been sacked or disciplined is for raising a concern over safety – but workers can see what is happening,” said Smyth. “They are labelled as whingers and moved on or otherwise victimised. We need 100 per cent of mineworkers to feel confident they can report safety issues without fear. These results reflect what we hear every day from mineworkers on the ground and they are a poor reflection on the industry. You can’t have insecure, vulnerable workers and a ruthless focus on production and expect there will be no consequences for safety.” The union leader concluded: “There’s no room for complacency. It’s clear that workers at the coal face don’t believe companies are making safety their number one priority – operators must take this opportunity to show they are committed to change.”
Read more: CFMEU news release and survey results [pdf] .
NSW: CFMMEU members protest low pay for asbestos removal
Last week dozens of angry workers protested outside a cleaning company in Norwest Business Park, claiming to have been underpaid to remove dangerous asbestos.
A total of 50 members of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) protested outside the NSW Branch of commercial cleaning company, JaniKing. The company’s chief executive Ben Stoltz is a major shareholder of national hazardous waste disposal firm, GBAR Group, which is accused of underpaying employees to remove asbestos.
The union’s assistant state secretary Rob Kera said that negotiations over an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) had stalled between union members and the company, which was currently paying well below award rate for asbestos removal work. Mr Kera said “Our members approached us to support them to secure an enterprise agreement and that is what we are aiming to do.” He added “The job they do is extremely high risk and could cost you your life so members want to be remunerated appropriately.”
Mr Stoltz, however, said GBAR refused to negotiate with the union, “as it prefers to negotiate its own EBA”. He claimed that GBAR’s proposed EBA was based on pay rates that exceed the minimum Award requirements. Source: The Daily Telegraph
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 hurry up to secure your place at Australia’s only conference on Asbestos Safety at a reduced price.
The conference will provide 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 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. 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 here.
International Union news
UK: Unite launches silica exposure register
UK Construction union Unite has launched an online register to allow workers who have been exposed to dangerous silica dust to record their exposure. The union says this will assist with potential future legal cases if they experience long term health problems. Unite says industries where workers are potentially exposed to respirable crystalline silica include mining, quarrying, foundries, potteries, ceramics, glass manufacturing, stonemasonry, construction and industries using silica flour. As SafetyNet readers will know, inhaling large amounts of silica dust over a long period can cause silicosis, a frequently fatal lung-scarring disease. It can also lead to other potentially fatal illnesses including lung and other cancers, silicotuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney and autoimmune diseases. Unite national health and safety adviser Bud Hudspith said: “Unfortunately many employers remain willing to play fast and loose with the health of their workers. Unite’s primary aim is to ensure employers prevent silicosis and lung cancer through the removal or strict control of silica dust.”
Like in Australia, Unions in the UK have been highly critical of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for defending the existing UK occupational exposure standard of 0.1mg/m3, five times the level being discussed here in Victoria, and twice the current US limit. Unite has produced a short film to explain how the register operates and the dangers of inhaling silica dust.
Read more: Unite news release and silica exposure register. Unite silica dust film. Source: Risks 909
Snacks improve shift worker safety
Australian researchers observing 44 participants during a seven-day night shift simulation, have identified the ideal amount of food for shift workers to consume to maximise alertness at night, in a study highlighting the impacts of night work on gastro health.
The researchers found those who only ate a small snack (10 per cent of total daily energy intake) during night work, like an apple or muesli bar, avoided the increased sleepiness and reduced vigour experienced by those who ate a full meal. The snacks did not cause the uncomfortable feelings of fullness after a big meal, but were enough to stave off hunger. The occasional-snackers reported not wanting more food after a snack, and thought far less about food than participants who didn't eat anything during the night.
Read more: Charlotte Gupta, et al, Subjective hunger, gastric upset, and sleepiness in response to altered meal timing during simulated shiftwork. [abstract or full text] Nutrients, Volume 11, Issue 6, June 2019. Source: OHS Alert
Top cancer journal warning on continued asbestos use
A leading cancer journal has warned the continued use of asbestos in many countries will perpetuate the human suffering caused by “this highly preventable cause of premature death.” The editorial in The Lancet Oncology highlights the record high asbestos-related death rates in the UK and elsewhere. It also criticises the repeat failure of the US to ban chrysotile asbestos, noting this was now being challenged in the courts. It notes “in the USA, ten states and Washington, DC, are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce strict rules on the use of asbestos.” Worldwide, fewer than a third of nations have comprehensive bans on asbestos, it indicates, with the related death toll inevitably set to increase. “The USA is not the only country that still uses asbestos. Although it is banned in 55 countries worldwide, many continue to mine and use it, with Russia and China among the top producers. In such nations, it still poses very real health risks,” the paper notes. “We can only expect the incidence of asbestos-related mesothelioma and other diseases in these countries to continue to rise unless governments act to address this highly preventable cause of premature death.”
Read more: Asbestos exposure: the dust cloud lingers: Editorial, The Lancet Oncology, volume 20, issue 8, page 1035, 1 August 2019. Source: Risks 909
WorkSafe Victoria news
August: Mobile crane safety blitz
WorkSafe Victoria has been undertaking a targeted blitz on hydraulic mobile cranes operating on construction sites following three serious incidents where heavy machinery at construction sites had overturned, landing on occupied residential houses. The regulator says that with the increased use of heavy plant in the housing construction sub-sector, incidents often occur when builders and contractors using this plant are unfamiliar with identifying hazards and implementing suitable risk control measures. WorkSafe urges companies to check and follow the advice in their Safety Alert: Heavy construction plant on housing sites
During the inspections on hydraulic mobile cranes operating on construction sites WorkSafe inspectors have been checking:
- Licences to perform high risk work
- Service records
- Crane set up - fully extended and pinned outriggers, bog mats or timbers in place, geo tech report / engineers sign off (if required)
- Exclusion zones (around the crane and under the load path to destination)
- If the crane is operating near overhead / underground assets; has it been controlled?
- For any obvious defects
- Operational warning devices
- Where the crane is set up adjacent to a road / rail; is traffic management in place
- Load charts and manual
- Appropriate lifting gear being used and within load capacity
- Lifting gear inspections
Safety Alert: Falling trees
WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a Safety Alert after a farm worker was killed by a falling tree, but in different circumstances to those in Monday’s incident in which a pedestrian was killed. The worker was struck and while he was helping a farmer cut down trees and create a burn pile. The farmer had not seen the incident and discovered the deceased within the work zone. Download the Alert here
Queensland Safety Alerts
Queensland’s regulator has issued three Safety Alerts:
- Fatal forklift incidents – following two separate fatalities in May and July this year involving forklifts. Access here:
- Farmer fatally injured by falling hale bay - following the death of a farm worker in July after bale of hay weighing approximately 720kg fell onto him
- Worker seriously burned in vehicle gas tank fire – in April a worker was seriously burned while attempting to decommission a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank from a motor vehicle at a workplace.
Safe Work Australia news
New Fact Sheet
Safe Work Australia has produced a new fact sheet, Supporting workers with endometriosis in the workplace as part of the 2018 National Action Plan for Endometriosis. It is aimed primarily at employers to increase awareness of the prevalence and impact this chronic disease has on workers and its potential impact on workplace safety.
New guide on Labour hire duties
Safe Work Australia has issued a new guide on the WHS duties of host and labour-hire PCBUs. The guide confirms that labour-hire PCBUs and the PCBUs that host their workers all have a primary duty of care to those workers and must keep up to speed with changing circumstances, like changes to work processes or environments and new techniques for eliminating risks. The advice is useful for employers and labour hire employers in Victoria also. The guide, Labour hire: duties of persons conducting a business or undertaking, can be downloaded here.
There has not been an update to the notified fatalities on the Safe Work Australia site since the last edition of SafetyNet. As of August 1, there had been 83 fatalities notified to the national body. Coincidentally, this is the same number as at the same time last year. The workers killed came from the following industries:
- 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'
Prison operator fined $75k after inmates injured
The Geo Group Australia Pty Ltd manages correctional services at the Fulham Correctional Centre, in Sale, Victoria.
The company employs inmates to undertake a variety of jobs, including metal work tasks. On 15 December 2017 three inmates were using a gantry crane to move a metal workbench weighing approximately 620kg. During the lift the gantry crane flipped over, seriously injuring two of the inmates.
WorkSafe's investigation concluded that this task was "dogging work" as defined by the OHS Regulations 2017, thus requiring a high risk work licence. None of the inmates held such a licence, nor was there a safe system of work in place for lifting and slinging of loads.
Following the incident Geo Group took remedial action including implementing a new lifting and suspended loads policy and having two of its industrial officers complete their Basic Dogging course.
The company pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $75,000 plus $3,891 costs.
Man fined for assaulting inspector
A man has been convicted and fined $3500 plus costs for assaulting a WorkSafe inspector at a construction site in Elwood. The inspector had been driving past the site in October 2018 when he saw workers were working close to an unprotected edge more than two metres above the ground. He directed them to return to the ground for their own safety before asking for details. One of them refused to identify himself to the inspector: swearing and pacing around him, then twice spitting on him. He also hit the inspector’s notebook from his hand and attempted to take his identification. He later returned with his ‘red card’ to identify himself. The 51-year-old man pleaded guilty to breaching s125 of the Act (hindering an inspector in the performance of his/her powers and assault).
Plumbing company charged after director falls
A. Alderton Plumbing Services Pty Ltd, a generalist plumbing company, has been sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000 (and costs of $4,725), without conviction after an incident in which the sole director fell 5 metres, sustaining a fractured vertebrae and lacerations to his head and knee.
In October 2017, the company was replacing about 400 square metres of roof and box guttering on a factory in Moorabbin, the roof of which sloped approximately 22 degrees from front to back. On the 26th three workers, including the sole director, were on the roof and were about halfway through replacing the roofing shields when the director fell through a gap between the existing roof and the safety mesh.
WorkSafe Inspectors attended and observed there were no side perimeter guard railing and no safety-harness system in place. A prohibition notice (later rescinded) was issued which prevented access to the roof. An Improvement notice was also issued requiring the company to control the risk of a fall from height.
To check for updates go to the WorkSafe Victoria Prosecutions Result Summaries page.
NT: Woolworths escapes fatality prosecution
Mega company Woolworths Ltd has escaped prosecution relating to the death of a 47 year-old man who was run over while sleeping in one of its loading docks, after promising to spend almost $1.8 million on improving back docks, installing defibrillators and other safety initiatives.
The $1,793,500 enforceable undertaking (EU) with NT WorkSafe included a $1.6 million for capital upgrades to the infrastructure of back docks at all its Northern Territory stores, and for enhancing its traffic management controls to above what was required by WHS laws, WorkSafe acting executive director Melissa Garde said. This was in addition to the $500,000 that Woolworths had already spent on securing the loading dock at the Hibiscus Shopping Centre in Leanyer where the fatality occurred, and other Woolworths loading docks in the Territory assessed as high-risk.
Read more: NTWorkSafe. Source: OHS Alert
NZ: company fined after worker killed
A New Zealand fruit juice company whose employee was killed after being dragged into machinery has been fined $NZ367,500 ($349,624) and ordered to pay $NZ141,000 ($134,141) to the employee's widower.
The young woman, 23, was cleaning machinery at the end of a night shift at The Homegrown Juice Company in Hastings on June 15, 2017, when a piece of her clothing was caught on a travelling hook of a bottle-filling machine. She was drawn into the machine and died of asphyxiation.
The company was sentenced in Hastings District Court on Wednesday, having pleaded guilty last year to charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Source: The Age
If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata at [email protected] 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. You can now register and pay directly from the site here.
HSR Initial OHS training course
September 9 – 13: Carlton AND Ballarat
October 7 – 11: Frankston
October 14 – 18: Carlton
November 11 – 15: Carlton AND Bendigo
November 18 – 22: Werribee
November 25 – 29 (Education Sector ONLY): AEU Abbotsford
December 9 – 13: Carlton
HSR Refresher OHS Training Courses*
August 21, Carlton
September 18, Geelong
September 24 Carlton
October 23, Carlton
December 12 (Education Sector ONLY): AEU Abbotsford
December 16, Carlton
* 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 Melbourn
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).
For more information, phone Chris Hughes (03 9664 7389 Mon-Fri) or Anna Pupillo (03 9664 7334 Mon-Wed & Fri). ACTU health and safety training
August 26: Southern Safety Group
The next meeting of the SSG will be held on Monday August 26. Guest speaker will be Mr Grant Sullivan, from WorkSafe Victoria, who will be presenting Event(s) Coordination.
When: 3.00 pm (Check in at 2.30pm) to 5pm
Where: Surdex Steel: 46 Brooks Drive, Dandenong South
Members are free; Non-members $5.00. Annual Membership: $25.00; Corporate $50.00. RSVP to Gary Thexton via email [email protected]
Next meeting: Monday September 30, Guest speaker: Caoimhe Geraghty (Cancer Council) on UV Safety
August 29: Feminist organising across borders
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA will be hosting special guest speaker Naw K’nyaw Paw, General Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organisation, who will be in Australia to speak about the struggle for justice for the Karen people, the fight for women’s rights in the refugee camps, the stories of Karen refugees along the Thai-Myanmar border, and the pursuit of peace and security in Myanmar. The Karen Women’s Organisation is a movement dedicated to empowering Karen women to become leaders, advocates, and peace-builders - it now boasts a membership of more than 65,000 women.
When: Thursday August 29, 6 – 8pm
Where: Kindred Studios Creative Spaces, 3 Harris Street, Yarraville, VIC 3013
Cost: $10 - Snack food provided; drinks available at Bar prices
Book your ticket now on TryBooking