Welcome to this week's edition of SafetyNet - issue number 501. As usual, the edition is chock full of OHS information from Australia and around the world.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
HSR Conference: more coming soon
This is a 'teaser' - the VTHC is awaiting sign off from WorkSafe Victoria of our application to run the 2019 HSR Conference in October - which we hope to receive next week. So expect an email with details of the conference, and how to register for what is the biggest event for HSRs in Australia (dare we say, 'the world'?)
I am in the process of getting cleared for pre-injury duties and hopefully returning to work this week. What bothers me, though, is that my injury was completely mechanical, not my fault at all, a part of plant equipment detached and wasn't supposed to fell on top of me. However WorkCover is not interested in investigating, even though every single work colleague is astounded when they hear what happened after asking how I got hurt.
The issue is that the compensation arm of WorkSafe and the prevention arm are quite separate and really don’t 'speak' to each other. The only time there is an automatic investigation is when there is a very serious incident – in these cases the employer has a duty to notify WorkSafe and this usually triggers an investigation. In cases of serious injury, death, big plant failure, etc it happens and prosecutions may follow (see: Notifiable incidents).
What any injury/incident in any workplace should trigger is an investigation by the employer to identify the hazard and risk – the employer then has the duty under the OHS Act to take actions to eliminate so far as is reasonably practicable, that hazard or risk, or if not reasonably practicable, minimise it. This is the general duty of care – see: Duties of employers.
How employer provide safe and healthy workplaces is by undertaking regular identification and then removal/minimisation of hazards and risks - and doing this in consultation with workers and their elected health and safety representatives (HSRs). Of course many employers don’t do it – until something happens. That’s why the OHS Act provides workers with the power to elect HSRs, who have powers and rights to take issues to the employer and make the employer take action. See: HSRs and Deputies - their role and powers.
Soo.. do you have an elected HSR there? If so, then this person can raise the matter with the employer and get this and any other issues addressed. If there’s no HSR, then contact the union – an ARREO can enter the workplace and take a look – but the union can use OHS to increase membership and also promote the need for and assist in the election of an HSR.
If you have any ohs related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.
Teachers 'overwhelmed' by students' mental health issues
According to a survey undertaken by the Victorian teachers' union (AEU) half of all state school teachers and staff reported that they know of students in their school who have self-harmed in the past year. They also said they were struggling to support students experiencing a host of mental health problems including anxiety, anger, depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Of great concern is that fewer than half of the 3500 government school teachers and staff who took part in the survey believed their school had access to appropriate mental health services. The AEU survey will form part of the union's submission to the Andrews government royal commission into the state's mentail health services. The results suggest poor mental wellbeing among students is impacting on the wider classroom environment, with 80 per cent of respondents reporting that mental health-related issues had negatively affected student learning at their school.
AEU branch president Meredith Peace told The Age the results showed the state’s mental health system was failing students and teachers. “It is clear that mental health issues are having a significant impact on student learning achievement, with massive difficulties accessing support services and accessing timely services, for too many students,” Ms Peace said.
They also found reported mental health problems were generally higher in low socio-economic status schools. For example, 91 per cent of teachers at poorer schools reported experiencing anger management issues among students, compared with 67 per cent of teachers at wealthier schools. “The more disadvantaged a student or school is, the less likely it is for them to be able to access appropriate and timely care," Ms Peace said. "Real steps must be taken to address this ongoing cycle of disadvantage and to support the wellbeing of students.” Read more: The Age.
Industrial Manslaughter update
WA: Labor commits to introduction of Industrial manslaughter laws
WA Premier Mark McGowan announced the government would introduce industrial manslaughter laws as part of a workplace safety package, which also included a $12.9 million cash boost to hire 21 new workplace safety inspectors, at Labor's annual state conference on Saturday August 24. These inspectors would investigate fatal and serious incidents. Negligent or reckless employers must be held accountable for the conditions in their workplaces," Mr McGowan told the conference. "The majority of employers and managements who do the right thing need not fear these laws in any way but life is too precious not to set a high bar. Jail time is a powerful deterrent and it sends a strong message."
Ms Regan Ballantine, mother of 17-year-old Wesley who was killed on January 4, 2017, welcomed the commitment. She called on detractors to "examine their own conscience" when opposing the move, and said the legislation sent a necessary message to the industry about the gravity of their responsibility to protect human life. Her son was working as a steel fabricator for Industrial Construction Services on night shift at 4.30am installing a glass ceiling when he fell through a void. He was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital but later died. Earlier this month, site contractors Valmont pleaded guilty to failing to ensure subcontractors were not exposed to hazards on site and was fined just $38,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court.
Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat said the measures would "save lives and prevent injuries" but came too late for families like the Ballantine's.
Not surprisingly, WA's peak industry and business bodies have slammed the Premier's decision, saying they won't prevent workplace deaths and will damage industry instead. WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Chris Rodwell said the laws would "distract the government" from tackling safety concerns and called on the opposition to oppose the proposal.
Read more: Labor to introduce industrial manslaughter laws in workplace safety overhaul and WA's peak industry bodies slam McGowan's industrial manslaughter laws The West Australian
NT: Unions call for Industrial manslaughter laws as worker confirmed dead
A 59 year old worker who was buried on Saturday afternoon under a collapsed wall of dirt and rock at the Bootu Creek mine in the Northern Territory has since died.
Unions in the Territory are now calling for industrial manslaughter laws to be implemented and for workplace culture to be shifted to prioritise worker safety. CFMMEU NT organiser Kane Louth said that current and former Bootu Creek mine workers have contacted the union with concerns about the mine. "They're making allegations that similar slips have occurred recently, not dissimilar to the one that occurred on Saturday that took this gentleman's life," he said. "If that's the case we want to know one, what the company's done, and what the NT WorkSafe has done to make that right." The CFMMEU would seek an urgent meeting with NT WorkSafe once its investigation at the site was complete.
In a statement released on Monday, Singapore-based OM Holdings Ltd — which owns subsidiary OM (Manganese) Ltd (OMM), which runs the Bootu Creek mine 110 kilometres north of Tennant Creek — confirmed the death. "All operations at the mine were halted, subsequently certain operations have re-started. All employees are offered access to counselling services," the statement said. In fact, OMM was directed to cease in-pit operations immediately, according to a statement issued by Primary Industry and Resources Minister Paul Kirby. Read more: ABC online
ACT: Residents/Advisory group calls for Inquiry
Mr Fluffy residents and the ACT government's advisory group are calling for a full board of inquiry - Canberra's equivalent of a royal commission - into the legacy of the loose asbestos insulation saga. The man behind Mr Fluffy, Dirk Jansen did not live to see the disaster that resulted from his business of pumping loose asbestos fibres into the ceilings of at least 1049 Canberra homes. For $82.50, the roof space of each home was pumped with 120 kilograms of asbestos fibres from a hopper through a tube from the back of a ute by workers without protective clothing. It is believed Jansen imported the asbestos from South Africa via New Zealand to get around the trade sanctions with South Africa.
Jansen died in 2001, and because he never kept detailed company records, information is sketchy. What there is has been pieced together from company records, Commonwealth records, and former employees for various government reports over many years. And although most of the homes have been demolished now, there are still about 60 left in the ACT, and an unknown number in NSW. Victoria was lucky in that the business never came here.
Read more: 'We must be eternally vigilant': Call for Fluffy inquiry, The Canberra Times
Zimbabwe: Asbestos Production
The company – Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM) – that operates Zimbabwe’s Mashaba chrysotile asbestos mine has announced plans to export raw asbestos fiber for the first time in a decade. According to media reports, the fiber had not been produced by mining but by processing of the mine’s tailings; between 1907 and 2007, asbestos mining at this site had produced 143 million tonnes of asbestos-containing waste. The first asbestos shipment which will be transported in a fortnight is destined for India. Meanwhile, work on revitalizing the asbestos mine is ongoing. The company said that within 3 years, production at the mine will be 75,000 tonnes/year.
Read more: SMM to resume asbestos exports. The Sunday Mail Source: IBAS
ASEA Conference: Perth 11 - 13 November
The program for the 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference, to be held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, is now available. 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.
Check our the conference program here. For more information and to register, click here.
International Union news
Argentina: Judge bans delivery apps on safety grounds
When a courier delivering a takeaway in Buenos Aires was hit by a car, the company’s response was not to check how he was, but to ask: “How is the order?” Courier Ernesto Floridia, 63, was run over on 27 July while delivering pizza ordered through Glovo, an on-demand courier service. When he texted the company about the accident, the co-ordinator replied: “How is the order. It is in good or bad condition to be delivered?” When he said he couldn’t move, the coordinator messaged: “Ernesto can you send me a picture of the products please?”
Ámbito Financiero journalist Yanina Otero tweeted a photo of the exchange in which Floridia’s phone appears to be smeared with blood. The tweet went viral, and was retweeted more than 60,000 times, with social media users outraged at Glovo’s response. On 2 August, Judge Roberto Gallardo ordered the suspension of the apps in the city over concerns delivery companies don’t meet transport and labour laws. The ruling means the use of the apps is banned until delivery firms start observing the law. His ruling applies to all companies that fail to comply, but specifically mentions major delivery apps Rappi, Glovo, and PedidosYa. Judge Gallardo commented: “The situation described entails a foreseeable and immediate risk to frustrate the rights to life, physical integrity and work.” He ordered credit card companies to block transactions made via the apps. Delivery companies will also be fined ARS10,000 (A$272) each time police checkpoints catch a courier breaching health and safety requirements. In recent months there has been an alarming number of road accidents in Buenos Aires involving couriers, with 13 to 40 incidents per month since February, according to figures quoted in the ruling. ASIMM, the delivery workers’ union, said the apps reward couriers for working faster, creating incentives to cut corners with road safety. It added that people sometimes use the platforms to send drugs, turning couriers into unwitting mules. ASIMM’s Gonzalo Ottaviano described the ban as “the last remaining alternative” in a drawn-out struggle against precarious working conditions. “If the most important thing is how quickly the pizza gets there, more guys are going to die,” he said.
Read more: The Guardian. Source: Risks 911
High PTSD in those bereaved by workplace fatalities
A new international report from leading authorities in Australia, has confirmed high rates of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive and grieving disorders in those bereaved by workplace fatalities. The study, which has been provisionally accepted by the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, is the work of leading researchers Dr Linda Matthews, and Professors Michael Quinlan and Philip Bohle, aimed to document the prevalence and key correlates of probable PTSD, major depressive disorder (MDD), and prolonged grief disorder (PGD) in family members following a workplace injury fatality - something that has had little investigation.
The researchers collected data from participants from Australia (62 per cent), Canada (17 per cent), the USA (16 per cent) and the UK (5 per cent). The majority were females (89.9 per cent), reflecting the gender distribution of traumatic workplace deaths (approximately 90 per cent of fatalities are male). Most were partners/spouses (38.5 per cent) or parents (35 per cent) and over half (64 per cent) were next-of-kin to the deceased worker. The majority of deaths occurred in the industries that regularly account for more than 70 per cent of all industrial deaths – construction; manufacturing; transport; and agriculture forestry and fishing.
They found that after 6.4 years post the death, 61 per cent of participants had probable PTSD, 44 per cent had probable MDD, and 43 per cent had probable PGD. Being next-of-kin and having a self-reported mental health history increased the risk of having MDD.
The researchers say the findings highlight the potential magnitude of the problem and the need for satisfactory information and support for bereaved families.
Source: Matthews, L; Quinlan, M: & Bohl, P. Prevalence and correlates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and prolonged grief disorder in families bereaved by a traumatic workplace death [Abstract]. Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00609
New workers face higher risks
It is s not a worker's age, but how long they have been in the job that determines the level of risk, according to a major review. The paper concludes there should be renewed efforts to raise awareness of the issue, introduce protective policies and to ensure “worker empowerment.”
A team led by Curtis Breslin of the Toronto-based Institute for Work & Health (IWH) searched the peer-reviewed literature for articles published between 1995 and January 2018 on job tenure and risk of work injury. It found 128 studies meeting review criteria, requiring: they were quantitative studies about people doing paid work; they examined the length of time working at a particular job, firm or industry; and they had a method for taking into account other factors that may have affected risk of work injury. After studies were assessed for quality, the team was left with 51 medium- and high-quality studies. The review confirmed that risks of acute injury are higher during workers’ first year at a job or a firm. However, the evidence on the risks of musculoskeletal symptoms, injuries or disorders during workers’ first year at a job or a firm was ‘inconclusive’.
Read more: At Work, issue 97, Institute for Work & Health, Summer 2019.
FC Breslin et al. Are new workers at elevated risk for work injury? A systematic review, [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 76, issue 9, pages 694-701, 2019. doi:10.1136/oemed-2018-105639 Source: Risks 911
WorkSafe Victoria news
Silica: Regulations amended to cover working with engineered stone
On May 1 of this year, the Premier and the Workplace Safety Minister announced a ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone.
On August 20, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 were amended to provide greater protection to Victorian employees working with engineered stone. They now prohibit uncontrolled cutting, grinding and abrasive polishing of engineered stone with power tools. The amendments came into effect immediately.
- has an integrated water delivery system that supplies a continuous feed of water (on-tool water suppression), or
- is fitted with on-tool extraction attached to a HEPA filtered dust class H vacuum cleaner (or similar system that captures the dust generated).
If these controls are not reasonably practicable, the use of power tools must be controlled through local exhaust ventilation (LEV).
These are interim regulations, made in response to the clear evidence of the health risks resulting from the inhalation of crystalline silica dust by workers, and the heightened risk to those working with engineered stone. They will be in place until August 2020. Work has already commenced to develop 'permanent' regulations and a compliance code. Both will be developed in consultation with stakeholders and released for public comment, together with a regulatory impact statement (RIS).
The VTHC applauds the quick action of the Victorian government and the Workplace Safety Minister, Jill Hennessy, in introducing regulatory protections for workers in this industry - there is no doubt that this action will save lives.
Read more: Changes to protect Victorians working with engineered stone
VWA Awards finalists announced
The outstanding contributions of 27 businesses, health and safety representatives and individuals will be recognised at this year’s WorkSafe Awards.
The finalists from around the state have been shortlisted across nine categories for their outstanding efforts in improving workplace health and safety and supporting injured workers to return to work. There were 219 nominations this year, the highest number since 2013.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said every finalist deserved to be recognised for their dedication. She said, "The WorkSafe Awards highlight the amazing things people do every day to make the lives of workers better, whether it’s through improving health and safety, or helping injured workers return to work."
The VTHC congratulates the three HSR of the Year finalists:
- Stephen Jones (Viva Energy Refining Pty Ltd, Geelong)
- Sally Collier-Clark and Sara Jorgensen (Bendigo Hospital)
- Jason Atkinson (DP World West Melbourne)
New media campaign goes live
The VWA has launched its new media campaign "More inspectors. More inspections." focussing on construction, manufacturing and agriculture with four television advertisements: one general and three industry-specific. These will run on TV, in railway stations and on-line. Check out one of the TV ads here. In addition to TV, there are billboards in metropolitan and regional Victoria, press advertisements, radio ads, and digital and social media 'assets' such as videos, Twitter posts, and more. Where appropriate, the message will be translated into the language of the target audience.
Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, said “Worksafe inspectors are out in force, cracking down on employers who do the wrong thing – because one death in a workplace is one too many. This campaign is about reminding employers of their responsibilities, and that those who do the wrong thing will be caught and prosecuted.”
Read more: WorkSafe Victoria media release
QLD: New silica research project
WorkCover Queensland has engaged two leading universities to undertake important research on how to best support workers who have been diagnosed with silicosis, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace announced last week.
Ms Grace said Professor Malcolm Sim from Monash University and Professor Bob Cohen from the University of Illinois would lead expert teams to address important issues including:
- the treatment, rehabilitation and retraining options that are available to improve workers’ capacity to work;
- the mental health impact and issues preventing return to work; and
- ensuring the return to work environment is safe to protect workers’ long-term health.
“Both teams bring extensive experience in the management of dust diseases and best practice return to work,” Ms Grace said. “They are involved in research and other initiatives in schemes across Australia and internationally to improve how workers with dust diseases are supported in their recovery.”
Read more: New research to support workers diagnosed with silicosis Media statement
Safe Work Australia
There still has been no update on the Safe Work Australia - the last being 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 Manufacturing
- 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
- 2 in Wholesale trade
- 1 in 'Other services'
Construction company fined $35 for falling object
Caelli Constructions (Vic) Pty Ltd owned a perimeter protection screen installed at a construction site comprising a 61 story apartment development in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, and was responsible for raising the perimeter protection screens as new levels were erected.
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*
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
29 August: 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
29 - 31 August: Latin American Documentary Festival
Lasnet (Latin American Solidarity Network) will be showing a number of documentaries at the Victorian Trades Hall Council during its 2019 Latin American Documentary Festival, which is being held over three nights, Thursday 29 August to Saturday 31 August. Films are from a range of countries, such as Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and cover many topics, including mining, the struggle of the Mapuche people, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Go to their Facebook event page for more information.
31 August: Community Protest Rally Coolaroo
Organised by the Anti-Toxic Waste Alliance - an alliance of 35 environment protection groups in the North and West of Melbourne - this community rally is seeking to give locals a voice in what has been described as another 'ticking time bomb'. The Glass Recovery Services glass sorting plant in Maffra Street, Coolaroo, was described in the Broadmeadows Magistrates Court last week as being a “catastrophic fire risk”. The organisers invite everyone to wear all black.
Where: Glass Recovery Services, 82-89 Maffra St, Coolaroo
When: 10.30am, Saturday 31 August. Read more: Facebook event page
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.
October 26: Australian Truck Drivers' Remembrance Day
The 26 Annual Remembrance Day for Truck Drivers will be held at the Memorial at 1pm on Saturday October 26. The Memorial is on Sydney St, Tarcutta, NSW. Fiona Riley, a member of the committee says, "Specific Invitations go out to family members, but everyone is welcome to attend the service, you don’t need an invite to come along and join us on the day." For more information, check out the invitation on Facebook, here.