Welcome to a milestone edition of SafetyNet - number 500! Hopefully things have settled down now and you'll receive your weekly edition with no more 'hitches'.
As always, your feedback helps to keep SafetyNet as useful for those interested in OHS as possible. If you have any feedback on this week's edition, please send it through to Renata at email@example.com, but don't hit reply, start a fresh email! Love it or hate it, we want to know about it. So don't hesitate to send your thoughts through.
I was working alone after hours one night when someone tried to break in at my workplace - luckily it didn't happen. When I told a friend he asked me whether I had thought of using the panic button to alert the police. I don't know what that is, and I don't think the workplace has one. Is it illegal to not have a panic button in case of further attempts or successful break ins?
It’s not a specific legal requirement to have a panic or duress alarm – at least not under OHS legislation. Personal security/safety is not specifically addressed in legislation - but is covered under the employer's general duty of care. This requires employers to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes workers' safety - and so where workers' safety might be at risk because they are working alone, the employer needs to identify that this is a risk and take action to eliminate/minimise it. For more information on what can/should be done, check out this page on the website.
If you have any ohs related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.
Violent brawl at Melbourne school
On Tuesday afternoon a teacher at Berwick Secondary College was attacked and his school placed in lockdown when a fight broke out between as many as 20 students. The teacher, who had been trying to break up the fight, was seriously injured, as was a student. Police were called to the Manuka Rd campus and arrested three boys, aged between 14 and 16, who were later released pending summons.
Meredith Peace, AEU Victorian Branch President said, “the incident has been deeply concerning and our priority is the safety of all staff and students involved. Principals, teachers and support staff, like everyone else, are entitled to work in a safe environment. Violence, whether physical or verbal, is not acceptable and should not be tolerated. The government must do more to protect the physical and mental health of their employees."
She referred to the long hours and extra pressures faced by school staff and added, “Responsibilities of all staff in schools has changed significantly over time, dealing with complex and challenging behaviours, learning difficulties and the impact of social issues such as mental health and family violence.
“It’s clear that schools need more resources and support so that school staff can react appropriately when instances like these occur, but more importantly to put in place proactive supports that may reduce events such as these."
Read more: AEU media release
Legal protections for older workers
Australia has an ageing population, and there are increasing numbers of older workers in our workplaces. Almost 20% of Australian workers are over the age of 55 and this proportion will continue to rise. A vital part of the workforce and economy. mature workers face unique challenges. Many experience age discrimination in the workplace or when looking for work. This is occurring despite a lack of evidence that older workers are less productive. These workers often juggle work and caring responsibilities, which are less well recognised than the typical caring role faced by younger workers.
A new fact sheet recently released by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) outlines the national and state legislation protecting mature workers from discrimination and upholds their right to seek flexible work arrangements. It also addresses the way workplace health and safety laws can be uniquely relevant to older Australians.
Read more: Legal protections for mature workers fact sheet
Farmers' Federation warning on quad bikes
The Victorian Farmers Federation has urged farmers to take extreme care when operating quad bikes, to install operator protection devices and even to consider using alternative, and safer farm vehicles. VFF President David Jochinke said the ACCC had found that quad bikes caused an average of six emergency department visits per day in Australia. “That is an absolutely shocking statistic,” he said. He said that while quad bike deaths make the news, what’s unknown is the number people, including children, who are seriously injured in quad bike incidents. Read more: VFF media release. Source OHS News
Impact of Mr Fluffy on homeowners
A community and expert reference group that has analysed the impact of the Mr Fluffy asbestos saga will recommend a board of inquiry and support for ongoing studies into the health impacts on homeowners. Senior Australian of the Year and paediatrician Dr Sue Packer, who chaired the group, has called the crisis "a clear example of an evolving and enduring catastrophe", which was "entirely preventable" had the Commonwealth government heeded warnings about the dangers of asbestos in the 1960s.
After looking into the issue as part of the Mr Fluffy Legacy Project, the community and expert reference group has included recommendations under six key themes in a draft discussion paper. The report has been provided to Mr Fluffy homeowners, who have until September 11 to review it before it is finalised for the ACT government.
Read more: The Canberra Times
The 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference will be held in Perth from 11 - 13 November, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. 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
John Lennon Airport staff vote to strike over safety
Flights from Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport could face wide-scale disruption after GMB members voted to strike over safety and other concerns. About 200 workers on the Swissport EasyJet and Swissport Mainline contracts voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over health and safety issues, working practices, pay and the company’s breach of the union recognition agreement. The strikes are scheduled for 22, 24 and 29 August. Further dates are expected to follow, and workers will also observe a continuous overtime ban. Read more: GMB news release. Source: Risks 910
Injured workers at greater risk of suicide or overdose deaths
A US study has found that workers injured in the workplace are ‘significantly’ more likely to die from suicide or opioid overdose. The research findings published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine follow early studies showing that injured workers have elevated rates of opioid use and depression. The authors of the new study say that while depression is among the most well-documented health consequences of workplace injury, no studies had previously measured the increased deaths related to opioid use and depression among injured workers.
The study, supported by the US government occupational health research body NIOSH, linked New Mexico’s state workers’ compensation data for 100,806 workers injured in the period from 1994 to 2000 with Social Security Administration earnings and mortality data up to 2013 and National Death Index cause of death data. Among women, lost‐time injuries were associated with a near tripling in the risk of drug‐related deaths and a 92 per cent increase in the risk of deaths from suicide. For men, a lost‐time injury was associated with a 72 per cent increased risk of suicide and a 29 per cent increase in the risk of drug‐related death, although the increase in drug‐related deaths was not statistically significant.
The authors warn their study could under-estimate the true effect due to limitations in the available data. They conclude: “Workplace injuries severe enough to require more than a week off work may impair workers' long-term health and wellbeing. Drug-related deaths and suicides may be important contributors to the long-term excess mortality of injured workers. Improved workplace conditions, improved pain treatment, better treatment of substance use disorders, and treatment of post-injury depression may substantially reduce mortality consequent to workplace injuries.”
Read more: NIOSH Science Blog, 8 August 2019. Katie M. Applebaum and others. Suicide and drug‐related mortality following occupational injury, [Abstract] American Journal of Industrial Medicine, published ahead of print, 12 July 2019. Source: Risks 910
Climate change drives increase in site heat deaths
Construction workers account for over a third of all heat-related workplace deaths in the US - a rate six times that for the workforce as a whole, a new study has found. Between 1992 and 2016, 783 US workers died because of exposure to excessive heat, and almost 70,000 were “seriously injured,” according to federal figures. Those surviving heatstroke can still suffer life-altering health impacts, including organ failure and brain damage.
Construction workers account for about 6 per cent of the total workforce in the US but accounted for 36 per cent of heat-related deaths since 1992, according to the study published last month in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Researchers from the Washington DC based Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), the University of Illinois and Georgetown University found construction workers’ risk of dying due to heat has steadily increased over time. They noted those workers most at risk for heat-related deaths are, generally speaking, the workers with the least rights in the Trump era: Latino workers, particularly Latino workers born in Mexico. During this period, the risk of heat-related death for Latino construction workers increased by more than 20 per cent, and the risk of heat-related death for Mexican workers nearly doubled. “US construction workers are at a high risk of heat-related death, and this risk has increased with climate change over time,” wrote the researchers. “Effective workplace interventions, enhanced surveillance, and improved regulations and enforcement should accompany broader efforts to combat global warming.”
Read more: Xiuwen Sue Dong and others. Heat‐related deaths among construction workers in the United States, [Abstract] American Journal of Industrial Medicine, First published online 22 July 2019. CPWR research summary. US Construction Workers Are Dropping Dead—Here’s Why. The Observer Source: Risks 910
Long travel hours stressful; affect sleep
A Korean study of more than 28,000 workers has found that stress resulting from long daily commutes negatively affects sleep, particularly when people are working long hours. Workers travelling 50 minutes or more a day round trip to work are up to twice as likely to experience difficulties sleeping than those travelling less than 10 minutes a day. Those who worked more than 40 hours per week faced increased risk of sleep problems, especially among women, regardless of other work factors such as job security, income, company size, job satisfaction, regularity of commute and having control over working schedules.
The researchers from Yonsei and Kyung Hee Universities assessed a range of studies that supported the finding that long commute times lead to inadequate sleep and chronic fatigue, which in turn is associated with cardiovascular disease. In addition they noted that sleep deprivation diminishes workers' productivity and poses other health and safety risks in the workplace.
Read more: Soojin Kim, et al, Long commute time and sleep problems with gender difference work-life balance: a cross-sectional study of more than 25,000 workers. [Full article], Safety and Health at Work, online first August 2019. Source: OHS Alert
Updated guidance on Lead
WorkSafe Victoria has released its updated guidance on Lead:
- Lead: Safety basics (here) – this page sets out the health effects of lead, lead processes and guidance on managing lead risk in the workplace.
- Lead at work: Legal duties (here) – this page sets out information on employer duties associated with lead processes and employee duties when working with lead.
- Are you performing lead-risk work? (here) – this page defines lead-risk work, sets out information about the amended regulations and transition period, and sets out health monitoring requirements.
The Lead Handbook is currently being finalised.
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was posted on Wednesday August 21. In this edition, the editorial is on perimeter guardrail systems. The installation and maintenance of these is crucial to eliminate/reduce the risk of falls. Falls are responsible for approximately one third of all fatalities in construction. The editorial provides tips on what to do ‘always’ and what ‘never’ to do.
This edition has news of WorkSafe’s activities in the sector and links to new and updated guidance. The roundup of information from other jurisdictions includes WorSafe QLD’s investigation of a fatal electrocution and a link to WA manual handling guidance for electricians.
The list of incidents reported to WorkSafe during the month of July can be downloaded from this edition. During July there 214 incidents, 66 per cent of which resulted in an injury. Access the August edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
WorkWell Wednesday email
A regular Wednesday email arrives in my inbox from the WorkWell people at WorkSafe. Coincidentally (given the violent incident at one of Melbourne's schools this week), this one was on preventing violence and aggression, making the point: No one should ever feel that violence and aggression is 'part of the job'.
If you're interested in subscribing to any of WorkSafe's regular communications, you can subscribe here.
The regulator holds regular events to provide information to the community. Here are those coming up in the next few months:
1 - Elmore Field Days
Anyone with any farm safety issues to discuss, the WorkSafe Victoria Agriculture Team will be attending the Elmore Field Days. WorkSafe will have a stand and the team is keen to chat and hear about approaches to managing on-farm safety and any new and innovative safety solutions. There will be information and guidance materials to take away.
When: October 1 – 3, 8.30am – 5pm.
Where: Agribusiness Pavilion, Elmore Events Centre, 48 Rosaia Rd Elmore, Victoria, 3558
2 - Session for the Afghan Community
Presented by Victorian Afghan Association Network and WorkSafe Victoria, this is a tailored information session for the Afghan community that raises awareness of workplace safety laws and the role of WorkSafe in a setting which encourages questions and interaction to build relationships between the community and WorkSafe.
Where: Saturday October 5, 5 - 7pm
When: Lynbrook Community Hall, 2 Harris Street, Lynbrook
For more information please contact Hamed on firstname.lastname@example.org
WA: New checklist for safety in schools
SafeWork WA has published an extensive industry checklist for Education. The checklist has been developed to highlight safety issues for workers in schools and provides information on how to best manage those risks to minimise workplace injuries and comply with occupational safety and health legislation. Topics covered include manual handling, falls (including falls from height), traffic management, infectious diseases, and much more. The checklist can be downloaded here.
Safe Work Australia
There hasn't been an update since August 1, when there had been 83 fatalities notified to SWA. 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
- 3 in Manfacturing
- 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
- 2 in Wholesale trade
- 1 in 'Other services'
Meat processor fined $90 after amputation
JBS Australia Pty Ltd, a meat processing company, has been convicted and fined $90,000 after a worker’s hand was severed at its Brooklyn plant. The company pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court to a single charge of failing, so far as is reasonably practicable, to provide a safe working environment that was without risk to health.
The worker had been working on a production line to remove hides from sheep carcasses that had been missed by the ‘primary hide puller’. A chain he had wrapped around his wrist became entangled with the back-up hide puller: he was dragged in resulting in the amputation of his left wrist and hand.
Just before the incident the primary hide puller had missed a number of carcasses and there were hectic scenes as workers quickly attached chains or straps to the backup hide puller, while leaving the machine running. According to the injured worker this was common practice when it was busy.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for allowing workers to take unnecessary risks by using unsafe machinery or not powering down machinery when necessary. "This worker suffered an horrific, life changing injury while operating hazardous machinery because a safe system of work was not in place," Ms Nielsen said.
Read more: WorkSafe media release
Amusement company fined $10,000 after child injured
Action Events Group Pty Ltd, an events and amusement ride hire company, provided three amusement rides to the Philip Island Superbikes event, 23 – 25 February 2018, one of which was known as the Chair-O-Plane. The ride is similar to a merry go round, and carries up to 20 riders between the ages of 3 and 10. Each child sits in an individual chair facing outwards that rotates around a central point. As the chairs rotate, they swing outwards. Each chair is attached by wire cables to a T-bar that is then attached to a spreader bar by way of a castellated nut and split pin.
On the morning of 25 February an eight year old child was injured when the T-bar detached from the spreader bar and the child’s chair was thrown from the ride.
Action Events failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to reduce or eliminate the risk of someone being hurt by not undertaking a daily inspection to check the correct installation of the castellated nut and split pin; and not providing operators of ride with information, training and instruction such as was necessary to enable them to identify the correct installation of the castellated nut and split pin.
The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000 plus $4,842 in costs.
Construction company fined $20k after fall
In July 2017 Construction firm C&M Commercial Holdings Pty Ltd was engaged to undertake roofing works at a number of factories in Carrum Downs.
On 13 July an employee roof plumber was installing a suspended drain from a mezzanine level which he accessed via an unfixed ladder. He started chalking up the fall line for the gutter but then went to get the ladder to bring it up onto the mezzanine, as he could not reach where he needed to work. The last thing he recalls was pulling the ladder up towards him. He fell 2.8 metres off the edge of the mezzanine level to the concrete ground below. The mezzanine edges were unprotected and there was no other fall protection in place.
The worker sustained serious injuries including a broken wrist, cheekbone and fractured skull. He suffered bleeding on the brain, damage to his inner ear and memory loss.
The company failed to provide a safe system of work and failed to install fall protection (eg a mobile scaffold and hand railing).
The Frankston Magistrates Court imposed a fine of $20,000 (plus $4,842 in costs) without conviction.
Company fined $30k after workers crushed
Industrial Laser Services is a company providing and servicing industrial laser equipment including the unloading of equipment from shipping containers and installing it at its customer's workplaces.
On February 26 2018, laser equipment packed in large crates was being unloaded from a shipping container with a forklift at a customer’s workplace. The crate, approximately 2 metres high, 8 metres wide and 3 metres deep, weighed about 250 kilograms. The crate toppled onto an employee, who suffered a broken vertebrae in his spine, and small cuts. He was in hospital for one month before commencing rehabilitation.
The company failed to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health in that there were safety measures that would have reduced the risk of a crate toppling whilst being unloaded. It pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $30,000 plus costs of $4,217.
Rare asbestos prosecution
An Australian manufacturer and supplier of cryogenic vessels, storage and transport tanks, CEM International Pty Ltd engaged a subsidiary company based in China, to supply it with several large vessels for the use in the manufacture of road tankers. Each vessel had several outlets with manway covers bolted on and sealed with a gasket.
On 3 April 2018 a worker was directed to remove the gaskets. When a scraper proved ineffective, he used a wire grinder wheel attached to an angle grinder to grind them off. This worked well and reduced the gasket to dust. Although he wore a dust mask, he became concerned and asked the Deputy Health and Safety Representative ('DHSR'), who was walking past, what the material was. The DHSR could not identify the material and work was immediately stopped. Testing revealed that the gaskets contained chrysotile (White Asbestos). It was later confirmed that the gaskets were 'Asbestos Rubber Gaskets' certified as containing 70% asbestos.
CEM International then engaged a suitably qualified asbestos removal company to conduct further testing and remove all remaining asbestos at the workplace. Later testing, conducted two days after the incident, did not detect any airborne asbestos.
It has been illegal to import and use asbestos since 2003 yet the company did not ensure there was an asbestos free requirement in any supply contract or agreement with the vessels. Nor were analysis reports were obtained confirming asbestos was not present.
CEM International pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of just $10,000 and to pay costs of $3,592.
To check for updates go to the WorkSafe Victoria Prosecutions Result Summaries page.
If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata at email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
10 September: Central Safety Group
Topic: When workplace changes outpace OHS Standards
More and more jobs today require working on mobile devices including laptops, Surface Pros and tablets. Some workplaces ‘dock’ these with monitors and keyboards and others are being used as the primary input device. When it comes to assessing ergonomic risks linked to this, compliance is measured by long-established OHS Codes and Australian Standards.
But how relevant and effective are the current Standards for white collar workplaces where agile work is changing the way we work? Professor David Caple will discuss this issue in a lunchtime presentation to Central Safety Group on 10 September.
When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, Septermber 10
Where: DXC Technology, Level 19 (Board Room 2), 360 Collins Street, Melbourne (between Queen & Elizabeth Streets)
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 September 6. Book online now https://centralsafetygroup.com/csg-meeting#rsvp-form