Welcome to this week's edition of SafetyNet - issue number 502. 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 [email protected], 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.
September 4, 2019
It is with great sadness that we report there was another workplace fatality in Victoria last week. This brings the number of fatalities to 22.
Please send your feedback as it helps us make SafetyNet as useful for those interested in OHS as possible. Please send your comments through to Renata at [email protected], 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 in your emails.
Note: I am still getting my head around the new system, and there is a little glitch in the ordering of the posts - my apologies. The Editor
Two young female jockeys killed in just two days
A 22 year-old apprentice jockey was killed in the early hours of Friday morning after she fell from her horse at the Cranbourne Racecourse, on Melbourne's outskirts. It is believed she was doing track work. Mikaela Claridge has been remembered as a 'rising star'. Racing Victoria said the apprentice was dislodged from her horse while riding on the sand trails on the southern side of the Training Centre at approximately 4.35am. The on-course paramedic was unable to save her. (Read more: 7News)
This brings the number of Victorians killed at work to 22 (the official WorkSafe number is 16)
Just one day later, on Saturday, another female jockey, 32 year-old Melanie Tyndall died after falling from her horse at a Darwin racetrack. Ms Tyndall was also a police officer. In a statement, Darwin Turf Club said Ms Tyndall's fall happened during the third race of the day at Fannie Bay, Darwin. She was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital but died a short time afterwards. Read more: ABC news online.
VTHC upcoming events
Training on 'Independent Medical Examiners'
IMEs are part of the Workers' Compensation system, and judging from the experiences of injured workers, sometimes their 'independence' leaves a lot to be desired. The Injured Workers Support Network and the VTHC OHS Unit are combining to provide training to interested people (HSRs, union organisers, injured workers) around a campaign on IMEs. There will be two separate training sessions - in order to satisfy people's availability. The training will take place at the Trade Hall (Corner Victoria and Lygon Streets, Carlton South). If you are interested in attending, please RSVP via the appropriate link, below.
- Tuesday 24 September, 12 - 2pm
- Thursday 26 September, 6 - 8pm
October: HSR Conference
As usual, our HSR Conference will take place during OHS Week, the last week of October. We haven't yet received our formal approval from WorkSafe Victoria but we're expecting it any time now. So keep your eyes open for the email with details of the conference, and how to register for what is the biggest event for HSRs in Australia.
I'm just wondering whether mats are required behind a bar - or are they just recommended? And if yes, what particular section of law covers this.
Of course, as with many issues, this is not specifically addressed in legislation, so there is no 'requirement'. However, your employer has the 'general duty of care' to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This covers everything, including providing a safe workplace and systems of work. (See Duties of employers) The employer must, in order to comply with the general duty of care, identify and then implement measures to eliminate or minimise hazards and risks. This must be done in consultation with workers and their elected health and safety reps (See: Duty to consult). The hazard here is standing for long periods and the risks to workers are fatigue, and other health effects. So, the employer needs to take measures to either eliminate or minimise the risks to workers who work behind the bar. One of the measures could be the installation of anti-fatigue mats – see this page for more information and ideas on the issue of Working standing up.
If you have any ohs related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.
Union launches new centre for members
The Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has launched The Centre for U, located at the ETU headquarters in North Melbourne. The new centre offers over 40 services and benefits to members and their families. Vic Branch Secretary Troy Gray says, 'We're very proud to be leading the way, in providing services to support all of our members and their families throughout their entire lives - not only when they are working, but when they are between jobs or unable to work due to injury, illness, or hardship.'
The centre offers a range of training opportunities, personal and family services, workplace support and health and welfare services - most (if not all) free to members and their families. Learn more here: The Centre for U
New mesothelioma report
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released a new report, Mesothelioma in Australia 2018 which can be downloaded from this page on the AIHW website.
Each year in Australia, between 700 and 800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma. In 2018, 699 people died from this rare and aggressive cancer, based on Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) data at 1 May 2019. Australia has one of the highest measured incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world (Bray et al. 2017). According to analysis of the AMR, the ‘average’ Australian with mesothelioma:
- was male
- was diagnosed at around 75 years of age
- was exposed to asbestos in both occupational and non-occupational settings
- lived for around 11 months after diagnosis.
Like in other countries, the rate of mesothelioma has not decreased as much as predicted.
Another 'Mr Fluffly' home found
The recent discovery of bagged loose-fill asbestos hidden under normal roof insulation in Curtin, a suburb of the ACT, has highlighted the importance of both home owners and builders complying with WHS regulations which require that asbestos be identified and removed before any work starts. The house is the 1024th home to be placed on the register - and it may be that more will be discovered.
Read more: The Riot Act
UK: Mesothelioma payouts
A scheme set up by the UK government in 2014, and paid for by a levy on the insurance industry, to provide compensation for people who contracted diffuse mesothelioma from occupational exposures and whose former employers could not be traced has, to date, paid out £172.6m (A$310.17m). Official statistics published on August 29, 2019 reported that: in the financial year 01 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, 370 applications were received; excluding pending applications, 79 per cent of applications received were successful; 92 per cent of applicants were male – 68 per cent of successful applicants (68 per cent) were aged between 65 and 79. Read more: Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme Official Statistics. Source: IBAS
Italy: Asbestos remediation initiative
From September 2 to December 2, 2019, residents of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano in Northern Italy could be entitled to reimbursements of up to 70 per cent of the cost of asbestos removal and disposal work incurred during remediation work on residential properties up to a maximum of €10,000 (A$16,316). Alternatively, eligible residents could claim 50 per cent of the costs incurred as a tax deduction. Information about this scheme can be obtained online or via a telephone hotline.
Read more: Incentivi Provincia per bonifica da amianto: dal 2 settembre nuove richieste di contributo [Province incentives for asbestos removal: from 2 September new requests for contributions]. Source: IBAS
ASEA Conference: Perth 11 - 13 November
A reminder of the 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. The conference is 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
UK: One in three flexible working requests turned down
People in working-class jobs most likely to miss out on flexible working arrangements. According to a poll published by the UK's peak union council, the TUC, one in three (30 per cent) requests for flexible working are being turned down. The polling – published as children around the UK go back to school after the summer break – reveals that flexible working is not available to many workers, and that people in working-class jobs are most likely to miss out on it.
The survey shows:
Flexi-time is unavailable to over half (58%) of the UK workforce. This number rises to nearly two-thirds (64%) for people in working-class occupations.
3 in 10 workers (28%) say their desire for more flexible hours is one of the main reasons they might look for a new job.
The TUC has joined the Flex for All alliance – along with Pregnant then Screwed, Fawcett Society, Mother Pukka, the Young Women’s Trust and the Fatherhood Institute. The Flex for All campaign has launched a petition to change the law so that flexible working is open to all workers from day one in the job, with employers required to advertise all jobs on that basis. Read more: TUC media release.
Australia: women; work and menopause
Menopause affects women differently and for some it can create issues in the workplace. Yet despite the fact that more than one million women in Australia are currently experiencing the menopausal transition in workplaces, it has been a topic largely enveloped in silence. A team of six mainly Australian researchers has spent six years tackling the issue. The result is the Menopause Information Pack for Organizations (MIPO) - a recently released suite of free resources for workplaces to help support women through this life stage.
The researchers began working towards a solution that focused on what workplace support menopausal women needed, and how managers and workplaces could best provide it. Their research included talking to over 2000 women through surveys, interviews and focus groups.
Read more: A workplace for change (pp20-21, Jean Hailes Magazine, Vol 2, 2019 [pdf]); the Menopause Information Pack for Organizations website; Prof Kathleen Raich, How to make work menopause-friendly: don’t think of it as a problem to be managed, The Conversation
China: Rhinestone workers dying of silica dust disease
Workers making the rhinestones often found in jewellery, fashion and decorative items are developing the deadly lung disease silicosis, according to a new study. Researchers diagnosed 98 cases of silicosis between the years 2006-2012 in a single crystal rhinestone factory in Guangdong province, China. Crystal rhinestones are imitation gemstones with quartz sand the main raw material. Workers in the rhinestone manufacturing industry are exposed to crystalline silica dust when cutting, grinding, polishing and buffing the artificial crystals. Inhaling crystalline silica dust can lead to the deadly lung-scarring disease silicosis, lung cancer and autoimmune conditions.
The authors, publishing their findings in the journal Occupational Medicine, note that the rhinestone workers developing silicosis were on average first exposed to silica dust at age 22 and were diagnosed at 33 years old. Most of the workers who developed the disease were drilling holes into rhinestones. Lead author Dr Cuiju Wen called for health screening for the workers, adding: “The rhinestones manufacturing industry is labour intensive, most of the activities within the factory involved in this study involve manual work. The first step in protecting these workers is to change the manufacturing processes to automatic methods, this will decrease the time that workers are exposed to silica dust. Appropriate ventilation should be installed, workers would benefit from using wet methods and they should be provided with personal respiratory protective equipment.”
Demand for rhinestones is high and may be fuelled in part by the renewed popularity of ballroom dancing. The company responsible for making the costumes for the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing programme estimates that 3.5 million rhinestones are used per series.
Read more: C Wen et al. Silicosis in rhinestone-manufacturing workers in South China, [Full article] Occupational Medicine, kqz107, published first online 22 August 2019. Source: Risks 912
OECD report: Older employees face employer discrimination
According to a new OECD (Intergovernmental Economic Organisation) report, the negative attitude of Australian businesses towards older workers is a major obstacle in achieving longer working lives. The Working Better with Age report notes that more than 10 per cent of Australian managers admit taking age into account when offering employees training opportunities, and that there are a range of "procedural barriers" preventing workers bringing anti-discrimination actions before courts.
In a chapter on encouraging employers to hire older workers, the OECD notes that "27 per cent of Australian employees aged 49 and above reported having actually experienced age discrimination in the workplace". It also found that "11 per cent of managers reported taking age into account when deciding whether to offer employees access to training opportunities".
The OECD recommends governments adopt three key measures to cultivate longer working lives: ensuring that the pension system rewards work at an older age; encouraging employers to retain and hire older workers; and finally promoting the employability of workers at all stages throughout their working lives. It also suggests that a good way to promote age-management action in companies "is to include it as a collective bargaining issue".
Despite the fact that many of us are living longer and are healthier for longer, the report notes that the effective age at which older people exit the labour market is lower today than it was 30 years ago. "This is explained by a combination of poor incentives to continue working at an older age, employer reluctance to hire and retain older workers, and underinvestment in employability throughout working lives," the report says.
Read more: Working Better with Age, Ageing and Employment Policies [pdf], OECD (2019), OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/c4d4f66a-en Source: Workplace Express
Article on High PTSD in those bereaved by workplace fatalities now available
In last week's SafetyNet there was an item on new Australian research which confirmed high rates of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive and grieving disorders in those bereaved by workplace fatalities. The article is now available, in full, for anyone interested in reading it.
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 [Full article]. Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00609
Editorial: The two WorkSafe prosecutions detailed below provide a stark contrast to how the law punishes workers and employers who do the wrong thing. While it is unacceptable that workers defraud the workers compensation scheme, it is outrageous that a worker can be jailed for nine months for doing so, while an employer who is found guilty of lengthy and systemic bullying of his employees is fined under $20,000.
Director, company fined $116k for abusing staff
A Melbourne director and his security company have been convicted and fined a total of $116,250 for repeatedly bullying employees in the workplace. John Bernard Moncrieff and Monjon (Australia) Pty Ltd were sentenced in the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on Friday August 30 after pleading guilty to one charge each of failing to provide a working environment that was, as far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Moncrieff was fined $19,250 and Monjon a further $97,000.
The court heard that WorkSafe was called to the company’s Cheltenham office following an incident on October 23, 2015, in which Moncrieff pushed an employee along a corridor in front of other workers. In a second incident Moncrieff refused to allow an employee to leave the office until she assured him she would not resign following the first incident. Moncrieff, a former police officer and head of invite-only men’s club The Brotherhood, told the court he regretted his actions.
WorkSafe’s investigation found that between April 2015 and August 2016, Moncrieff led a culture of entrenched bullying at the company. The behaviour included speaking to workers in an aggressive and intimidating manner by raising his voice, swearing, and using sexist and racist language. He also made sexually suggestive comments towards workers, threatened to withhold pay and take away their security licenses, made inappropriate contact with them. He also encouraged aggressive behaviour from managers.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for inappropriate sexist, racist or demeaning behaviour in any workplace. "Under no circumstances is it acceptable for managers or directors to abuse their position of power by acting aggressively or inappropriately towards employees," Ms Nielsen said.
Read more: WorkSafe media release; The Age.
Nine months jail for compensation fraud
A man has been jailed for nine months for defrauding Victoria’s compensation scheme for injured workers of more than $112,000. The 36-year-old pleaded guilty in the Sunshine Magistrates Court to three counts of fraudulently obtaining compensation payments after injuring his eye while working as a carpenter in May 2015. The court also ordered him to pay back the $112,975 in compensation payments he received between 15 May 2015 and 11 August 2017 and $1000 costs.
The man secretly began working as a painter just 10 days after claiming he was unable to work and later used three fake medical certificates to continue to receive benefits after his GP banned him when he became aggressive and kicked in the doctor’s front gate.
WorkSafe's Enforcement Group Director Paul Fowler said the compensation scheme was set up to support and treat injured workers to help them get better and return to work when it was safe to do so. "Compensation is there to assist, and the vast majority of injured workers do the right thing," he said.
Read more: WorkSafe media release.
To check for updates go to the WorkSafe Victoria Prosecutions Result Summaries page.
WorkWell Wednesday Bullying video
WorkSafe has a (relatively) new e-bulletin: WorkWell Wednesdays. The theme in this week's bulletin is "Prevent bullying in your workplace". Bullying is, unfortunately, too common in our workplaces, with Safe Work stats indicating that 1 in 10 Australian workers reporting they have been bullied. There's a link to an informative and entertaining video with Dave O'Neill and Dr Peter Cotton, as well as a link to the WorkWell toolkit.
Health and Safety Month
WorkSafe is organising many events for Health and Safety Month, in October. These events are open to anyone, including employers, HSRs and workers - but note that none of these have s69 approval so HSRs cannot attend on paid leave. For the Melbourne events, scheduled for October 30 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, click here. The keynote speaker for this event is Catherine McGregor, a freelance broadcaster, cricket commentator and author. She is also Australia's most prominent transgender woman. Sessions on the day cover a range of issues including Sexual harassment and workplace equality; Fatigue; and Psychological hazards and the safe system of work.
This webpage has links to all the events around Victoria.
Dangerous Goods Amendment (Reform) Bill
The Dangerous Goods Amendment (Reform) Bill 2019 was second read last week and is now public. It is a welcome Bill - it increases the penalties for non-compliance and introduces a new offence where people recklessly contravene the Act.
SafeWork NSW updates 23 WHS codes
The NSW government has varied 23 of the State's WHS Codes of Practice, including by adopting model provisions on asthma inhalers and EpiPens.
In May last year, Safe Work Australia amended the national model WHS Code for first aid to state that while workplace first-aid kits shouldn't contain analgesics like paracetamol and aspirin, employers "may consider including an asthma-relieving inhaler and a spacer to treat asthma attacks and epinephrine auto-injector for the treatment of anaphylaxis or severe allergies". The code recommends, however, ensuring that they are stored according to the manufacturer's instructions and providing first aiders with the appropriate training. Read more: NSW media release; Source: OHSAlert
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'
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.
Tonight: Wednesday September 4 - Chemical Hazard Communication Issues & Networking
The CHCN is meeting this evening at the Sandridge Centre - Trugo Club Rooms. There will be a number of agenda items discussed including: Classification issues, Australia's uptake of GHS 7 (we are currently using GHS 3), Labelling and SDS issues, Regulatory matters, and much much more.
When: 6 to about 8pm
Where: Sandridge Centre - Trugo Club Rooms
1 Tucker Avenue, Port Melbourne (Garden City part)
(Enter along Clark St which turns into Tucker Av, from Graham St. Melways reference is Map 56 K2 (or 2J A4).
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
Chile - September 11 events (9-17 September)
September 11 will mark 46 years since the overthrow of the popular and democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende in Chile. The military and right-wing coup backed by the United States administration on September 11, 1973: “Our September 11” for many “The other September 11”.
President Allende lost his life alongside men and women in their thousands, who were killed, tortured, disappeared or sent to exile. The dictatorship imposed a repressive government and violent regime, consequences that still haunt and are felt across the country.
After nearly 46 years the Chilean people have continued the struggle and are still fighting for real democracy and better conditions of living, which have not improved even under successive, so-called, “democratic” governments and today under the "right-wing Piñera government". The tyranny of neoliberal individualism.
LASNET has organised a number of events at the Victorian Trades Hall:
- 9 - 17 September: Photo Exhibition
- 12 September (Thursday), 6.30pm: Tribute and Memory
- 14 September (Saturday), 6.30pm: Cultural and Film Night
All welcome. Enquiries: please email [email protected]
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.
20 September: Global Climate Strike
The Global Climate Strike will be on Friday September 20. The organisers say: "Join us on September 20 – three days out from the UN’s Emergency Climate Summit -- by taking the day off school, uni or work to show our politicians that we’re serious about climate action. The world isn’t waiting so neither are we."
If you are in Melbourne, meet at the Treasury Gardens at 2pm - check here for more information. There will be strikes all over the country in capital cities and many regional centres - so to find out more, click here.
26 October: 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.