Welcome to the September 25 edition of the VTHC's OHS Unit's weekly journal SafetyNet.
For all the Victorian HSRs out there: Remember to register for the HSR Conference and notify your employer ASAP. Deputies and others interested in OHS are welcome as well. (See below)
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Calling all Victorian HSRs and deputies: October 29 HSR Conference:
We already have over 600 people registered to attend our Conference for Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), which has approval under s69 of the Victorian OHS Act so if you haven't done so already, register now! The conference is being held on Tuesday October 29, with the theme of "Emerging Issues - Safe and Inclusive Workplaces". Note that this year we have expanded where we will be running the conference, so it will be easier for HSRs in non-metropolitan Melbourne to attend:
- Melbourne: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
- Bendigo: Trades Hall Council, Bendigo
- Gippsland: Federation University, Gippsland Campus, Churchill
- Portland: South West TAFE campus, Portland
- Wodonga: Wodonga TAFE Space, Lawrence Street Campus
The conference is free and is sponsored by WorkSafe - but registration is essential. It is the primary event for HSRs in Health and Safety Month. Elected HSRs are entitled to attend the conference on paid leave as per s69 of the Act, but they must give their employer at least 14 days' notice. Employers must grant HSRs the paid leave to attend as long as they have received the 14 days' notice - so this means you must do this by October 15th at the very latest to guarantee you will get paid leave to attend. So get on to this as soon as possible to ensure you've got the leave and you're registered.
We also welcome Deputy HSRs - and many employers are happy to grant them paid leave to do so. So ask!
Go to the Registration website page now to register - it's super easy. Once you've registered you'll be able to download a letter for your employer and proof of the s69 approval from WorkSafe Victoria.
FREE posters for the conference are available now - we have lots of these available and if you'd like some, contact OHSCampaigns@vthc.org.au. You can check out the poster here. Feel free to copy it and post it on your noticeboard if you can't get hard copies.
VTHC: 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 IWSN 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, one of which was held very successfully yesterday. If you're interested in attending, it's not too late to register for tomorrow evening's course: Thursday 26 September, 6 - 8pm. Register here
Injured Workers Support Network new website
And just another reminder: Have you checked out the new Injured Workers' Support Network (IWSN) website yet? It's a great new site, with resources and advice for any worker who has been injured in the workplace. There's an invitation to join the Network, and also to sign up to get regular updates. Check the new site here.
A visiting consultant told us our small workplace was "non compliant" for not having HSR nominations. We had understood that we were not required to have a HSR but found it strange to be non compliant because we had not called for nominations for a position we are not required to have and for a position that nobody has expressed the need for. In any case, we called for nominations and received none at all. This seemed like a waste of time. Did we need to go through this process at all?
Well, that's a little bizarre! Under the OHS Act, employees have the right to be represented - and to elect an HSR (or more than one, depending on the DWGs established). Usually the process is that workers put in a request to establish DWGs and then they, with the employer's assistance if they wish, call for nominations and elect their HSRs. However, there is no legal obligation on employees to have HSRs if they don't want them. However, irrespective of whether there are HSRs or not, the employer has a legal duty to consult with employees on a wide range of issues - and this is usually much easier if there are elected HSRs (see Duty to consult).
If you have any ohs related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.
New website and support service for Queensland HSRs
There's new help out there for HSRs in Queensland: The HSR Support Service. While everyone is more than welcome to visit and use our site, non-Victorian HSRs need to remember that our laws are slightly different to those in other jurisdictions. So if you're up in Queensland, check out this site now!
Man sues Viva over asbestos exposure
A man who worked at the Geelong oil refinery 50 years ago is suing Viva Energy over claims it failed to protect him from asbestos. Bruce Reginald Ham has launched legal action in the Supreme Court. He worked as a labourer at the Corio plant in 1969, and was in his late teens when he was contracted to work at the Shell refinery for about a month. Mr Ham is also suing Amaca Pty Ltd, formerly operating under the James Hardie name, claiming its products led to the inhalation of asbestos while he was working on a house in the ACT in 1981. According to his lawyers, Mr Ham was diagnosed in April with pleural mesothelioma, has a reduced life expectancy and is suffering anxiety and depression.
In a statement of claim directed at Viva Energy, lawyers accuse the company of failing to take adequate precautions for Mr Ham’s safety during his employment at the refinery. They said their client was exposed to dust emanating from asbestos insulation products used to line furnaces. “The plaintiff was required to work in and around the asbestos-containing products, which were cut and otherwise handled in a matter that release dust,” they said. “The dust was inhaled by the plaintiff and fell on the plaintiff’s skin, in his hair and on his clothes.”
On top of damages, Mr Ham is seeking compensation for lost earnings as a farmer. He is also pursuing reparations for medical treatment. Lawyers acting for Viva Energy and Amaca have filed defence submissions that largely deny the allegations contained in Mr Ham’s statement of claim. A trial is scheduled to start at the Supreme Court in Melbourne on October 9. Source: The Geelong Advertiser
ASEA Conference: Perth 11 - 13 November
Early bird rate available to September 27! Don't forget the 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. All members of the asbestos management system have the opportunity 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 sessions focused on the work of asbestos support groups, the latest research into asbestos awareness communications and the latest from medical researchers. Check out the conference program here. For more information and to register, click here.
Mindfulness programs can reduce stress
A study of 323 American and Canadian emergency medical "911" dispatchers (EMDs) found that short, weekly mindfulness program successfully reduced their stress, suggesting such initiatives could be successfully applied to other challenging workplaces.
US researchers found those who participated in an online workplace mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) experienced a significant decrease in stress compared to those in the control group. They found the participants continued to show lower stress levels than when they started the seven-week program, three months after completing it.
These results show that tailored online MBIs for workers working in challenging environments are a "promising direction" for stress prevention and intervention, the researchers from Northern Illinois University and the Northwest Centre for Public Health Practice at the University of Washington say.
"As the first of the first responders, emergency medical dispatchers (EMDs) are repeatedly exposed to stressful duty-related events," they say. "The EMD work environment is typically marked by shift work schedules, mandatory overtime, rare and unpredictable breaks and an inability to ambulate while on duty." The effectiveness of the MBI in reducing stress among EMDs "indicates that similar populations may benefit in the future from such tailored interventions".
Read more: Michelle Lilly, et al, Destress 9-1-1–an online mindfulness-based intervention in reducing stress among emergency medical dispatchers: a randomised controlled trial.(Full article) Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 76, Issue 10, October 2019. Source: OHSAlert
WorkSafe Victoria news
Safety Soapbox September edition
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was sent out last week. In this edition, the editorial deals with the serious issue of silica dust exposure which can occur at grout mixing stations: when the cement bags are emptied into the mixers and churned to create the grout, they release dust into the working environment. It is well worth reading.
There's also news of a series of upcoming events: WorkSafe has teamed up with SunSmart and the Victorian Volume Home Builders Safety Alliance to offer a FREE BBQ breakfast at a number of Bunnings stores from 7 - 9am -
- October 8 - Hoppers Crossing
- October 15 - Mernda
- October 22 - Clyde North warehouse
This is an opportunity for the residential trades to have their subbies and staff participate in a SunSmart program at no cost.
In August the construction industry reported 186 to WorkSafe. Of these, 68% resulted in injury. 26 incidents involved young workers.
Go to this page on the WorkSafe website for the September edition of Safety Soapbox.
Blitz on use of portable ladders
Queensland has introduced an Australian-first WHS Code of Practice on preventing exposure to silica dust. It has also committed to lowering its workplace exposure standard for coal dust to the threshold set by Safe Work Australia later this year.
The new 48-page WHS Code, Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry, will begin on 31 October 2019, and apply to "all fabrication or processing, including during installation, maintenance and removal, of engineered and natural stone benchtops", State Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said. "This Code goes a long way to ensuring long-term behavioural change in an industry that, until recently, has not put worker safety first," she said.
The code sets minimum, enforceable standards, focusing on: dust control methods like water suppression to eliminate respirable crystalline silica dust during mechanical processing; the use of appropriate respirable protective equipment; air and health monitoring for checking whether dust controls are effective; methods for safely installing engineered stone products in homes and other sites; and worker consultation, training and supervision.
Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham used Miners' Memorial Day to promise to lower the State's exposure limit for coal mine dust from an average of 2.5mg per cubic metre, over eight hours, to whatever limit SWA sets later this year. He said the statutory agency is expected to lower the dust threshold in the national workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants from a time-weighted average of 3mg per cubic metre over eight hours to 1.5mg.
NSW: Drought conditions increase risk of Q fever in NSW
NSW Health and SafeWork NSW are urging people to get vaccinated and to take other steps to prevent Q fever, as drought and high winds may increase the risk of the disease spreading.
New guide for working with silica
SWA has published national guidance material for working with silica and silica-containing products, including engineered stone, which has an extremely high silica content. The guide will help persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to understand and make decisions about protecting their workers from exposure to silica dust.
The national guide for Working with silica and silica containing products provides information about controlling the risks of exposure to silica dust when working with silica and products containing silica, like composite stone products.
New Guide on the safe use of prefabricated concrete elements in the construction industry
Prefabricated concrete (also known as precast concrete) is a concrete element that is manufactured somewhere other than its final place of installation. This method of construction is becoming more common and involves discrete elements like walls or columns being prefabricated offsite and then erected and incorporated by crane into final position in a building structure.
Due to its size and mass, prefabricated concrete elements are vulnerable to collapse which poses a significant safety risk and can cause workers and others to be seriously injured or even killed. Safe design and adequate planning are the best ways to manage the health and safety risks that may arise when working with prefabricated concrete. The guide provides national guidance material for duty holders in the building industry. It provides information on managing risks and work health and safety (WHS) duties associated with working with prefabricated concrete.
Read more: SWA news; Download the Guide to managing risk in construction: prefabricated concrete
Safe Work Australia has not updated its fatality statistics since the last edition of SafetyNet: as of September 12, there had been 111 fatalities notified to the national body. The workers killed came from the following industries:
- 37 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 25 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 16 in Construction
- 7 in Mining
- 6 in Public Administration & safety
- 6 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 4 in Manufacturing
- 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
- 2 in Wholesale trade
- 2 in 'Other services'
- 2 in Administration & support services
- 2 in Arts & recreation services
National Construction Code to be amended for increased fire safety requirements
The Australian Building Codes Board has announced it is undertaking an out-of-cycle amendment for the 2019 edition of the National Construction Code. It will be known as NCC 2019 Amendment 1.
The amendment will include:
- Enhanced fire safety measures for early childhood centres in high-rise buildings.
- A defined term for ‘building complexity’ to be used to identify buildings for which increased supervision of design and construction is appropriate through subsequent initiatives being developed in response to recommendations of the Building Confidence report.
- Provisions that set out the process to be followed, including the creation of a Performance Based Design Brief, to improve the quality and clarity of Performance Solutions for both approval and auditing purposes. This is also in response to recommendations of the Building Confidence report.
- Clarification of existing concessions for low-rise Class 2 and 3 buildings.
- Reference to a new Technical Specification for the permanent labelling of Aluminium Composite Panels.
- Minor corrections.
The public comment draft for NCC 2019 Amendment 1 has been released for public consultation. It includes proposed amendments for Volumes One and Two, the NCC Governing Requirements and common Schedules. All relevant documents can be downloaded from the ABCB’s Consultation Hub.
UK's HSE revised tool on Hand Arm Vibration
The UK's regulator, the HSE, revised its HAV exposure calculator which helps estimate and record workers’ exposures to HAV and compare them with the actions values in the regulations as part of a HAV risk assessment. While we don't have such regulations in Australia, this is a valuable tool for workers and employers where vibration is an issue. It includes drop down vibration magnitudes for common tools from HSE’s HAV database that can be used to make cautious estimates of exposure before representative in-use data for specific tools is available. The revised calculator can be accessed from the HSE website.
Employer fined $10,000 after apprentice falls 4.3m
Stephen Reidy, a sole trader operates a business undertaking domestic electrical work and air-conditioning installation.
On 8 June 2018, four employees were installing air-conditioning units at a church hall in Queenscliff which required them to access the roof of the building, a height of approximately 4.3 metres, with merlons that extended a further 900mm above roofline, spaced at 300mm. This created a risk of serious injuries as a result of falling from a height of greater than two metres, which eventuated when an apprentice fell from the church roof onto the concrete ground below. He had used an extension ladder, wedged between two merlons to access the roof. As he attempted to descend, he leaned against a merlon which then collapsed, causing him to fall to the ground. The apprentice suffered injuries including a broken arm and a broken foot.
The location of the merlons precluded the installation of guardrailing and the merlons instead acted as fall protection. It was therefore reasonably practicable for the offender to provide or maintain a safe system of work that required the merlons be inspected to determine their structural stability prior to the commencement of the work.
The Court took into account Reidy's plea of guilty to one charge under sections 21(1) and (2)(a) of the OHS Act, good character and significant contributions to the local community. He was fined $10,000 (plus costs of $4,217) without conviction.
Two companies fined after employees lose parts of fingers
1 - Manufacturer fined $17,500
Caps and Closures Pty Ltd is a manufacturer of standard and custom designed caps and closures, operating from a factory in Dandenong South.
The workplace has a number of automatic wadding machines, used to insert different sizes of plastic caps in induction sealing wads. These work by feeding caps into the wad press down area, which consists of a central plunger that forces the wadding into the top of the caps.
The plant was fitted with safety doors which were not interlocked; meaning they could be opened allowing employees to gain bodily access to the danger area of the plant while it was online, creating a risk of serious injury by stamping, crushing or cutting. The company had trained its employees in a system of work that required activation of the emergency stop button if for any reason they required access to this area.
On 13 April 2018, an employee accessed the area to remove built up and jammed wadding. At the time the machine appeared to be stationary, so the employee opened the safety doors, forgetting that the machine was online. As she was clearing the wadding, the central plunger regained motion and crushed the tip of her right index finger.
The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $17,500 plus costs of $4,000.
2 - Egg processor fined $15,000
Farm Pride Foods Ltd operates a factory in Keysborough processing egg based products such as hard boiled eggs, fried eggs and egg powder. In the 'Hardboiled Egg Area' of the workplace eggs are boiled, peeled and packaged for distribution to catering clients.
The Multivac R245 ('plant'), one of the machines used in the area, had a primary purpose to mould a tray out of plastic film and seal the trays. The plant used a fixed cutting blade and a moving bottom plate to cut through the plastic between the trays, separating them into rows of trays. It had interlocked guarding, however, bodily access to the danger area of the plant was possible through gaps on either side of the guarding, which allowed access to the cutting blades - posing a risk of employees receiving serious injuries.
On 7 March 2018, the risk eventuated when an employee suffered a serious injury to his hand when he tried to remove a piece of jammed plastic by putting his and through the guard to clear the jam. The bottom plate pressed his finger against the fixed blade under the cross cutter bar and he sustained a partial amputation to the tip of his right middle finger.
Farm Pride Foods pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $15,000 plus costs of $5467.
Individual charged under s26
Robert Edward Phillips had management and control of a trailer mounted amusement slide, operated under the business name of Totally Fun Amusements.
On 8 January 2016 WorkSafe Inspectors at the Bass Coast Summer Agricultural Show at the Wonthaggi Recreational Reserve observed the slide set up ready for the show the next day. Phillips was not present at the time.
They identified several safety issues including:
- Loose and inadequate handrails, creating a risk of fall from height;
- Entrapment hazards at the top, side, and along the slide; and
- Lack of securing nuts or pins on support pins on the vertical support beam which could result in those fasteners coming free and creating a risk of collapse or structural failure of the slide.
Believing that there was an immediate risk of serious injury or death to patrons using the slide, the Inspector called Phillips and informed him that he was about to issue a Prohibition Notice on the slide. The notice was issued and given to the Secretary of the Wonthaggi A&P Society - however it was not received by Phillips.
On 24 March 2017 a WorkSafe Inspector identified the slide in use at the St Joseph's Primary School Fete in Boronia. It was established the slide had been used on a further 10 occasions after 8 January 2016. On 10 August 2017 the slide was seized by WorkSafe. An expert report identified that persons using, operating, or in close proximity to the slide, were at risk of serious injury or death in the event that either the welding and/or the corroded floor under the A-frame failed.
The offender pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined of $5,000 plus costs of $4,292. This fine seems totally inadequate given that the slide was used for over a year and a half after it was established it created an 'immediate risk' to the safety and life of workers and patrons.
To keep up to date with prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
UK: BP fined after massive 'extremely flammable' crude release
Energy giant BP has been fined £400,000 (A$735, 067) for criminal safety failings after the release of more than three tonnes of ‘extremely flammable’ and ‘unstablised’ crude oil at the Sullom Voe terminal in Shetland. The company admitted the safety offences at Court. The incident, during maintenance work in 2012, led to the crude oil being released from a pipe into the ground at high pressure. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated the incident and prosecuted the company, said the leak “was not noticed for about 30-40 minutes. During this time approximately 3.8 tonnes of extremely flammable, unstablised crude oil spilled on to the ground.” BP Exploration Operating Company Limited pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 and the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974. HSE principal inspector Greg Haywood, commenting after the case, said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.” The day before it was sentenced, BP announced it was using ‘Mars technology’ developed by NASA to monitor its offshore North Sea emissions, including those off Shetland.
Read more: HSE news release. BP news release. BBC News Online. The Shetland Times. Source: Risks 915
If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata at firstname.lastname@example.org with details, including location, cost (if any), 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
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 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
September 30: Southern Safety Group
The next meeting of the SSG will be held on Monday September 30. Guest speaker will be Caoimhe Geraghty speaking on UV Safety.
Skin cancer takes the lives of approximately 2,000 Australians per year. 200 melanomas and 34,000 non melanoma skin cancers are due to UV exposure at work and yet it is one of the most preventable cancers. Hear from Cancer Council Victoria’s Caoimhe Geraghty from the SunSmart team on UV as a workplace hazard, how it affects our health, how to protect workers from too much UV and checking for skin cancer. Hard copy resources will be provided
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@example.com
Next meeting: Monday October 28, Guest speaker: Laura Paulsen presenting "Building a healthy workplace".
October 10: Central Safety Group
Safety clutter – and what to do about it
Does OHS in your workplace feel weighed down by paperwork, rules and procedures? Dr David Provan says this can be due to ‘safety clutter’, described in a study he co-authored as "the accumulation of safety procedures, documents, roles and activities that are performed in the name of safety, but do not contribute to the safety of operational work." Worse, this can create negative beliefs and attitudes to safety, according to the research. David will talk about how to identify ‘safety clutter’, what to do about it and how to remove it in a lunchtime presentation to Central Safety Group on Thursday, 10 October.
Cutter can take the form of too many rules and procedures, duplication and ‘tick the box’ safety activities. This can include meetings, audits, observations and investigation processes that are not actually reducing the risk of safety incidents. David will explain how to ‘de-clutter’ without affecting legal compliance and certification. He says, “You then decide whether to remove, improve or re-engineer things in the ‘clutter’ category. Much of it involves cutting down on paperwork and time-consuming routines that are not adding value.”
When: 12:00-1:00pm, Thursday, 10 October, 2019
Where: DXC Technology, Level 19 (Board Room 1), 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]
Book online. RSVP by close of business Friday 4 October, 2019
Nov 19 - 21 International Symposium on the system of radiological protestion
Mines - Medicine - Mars
ICRP 2019 is a combined event that offers the opportunity for more than 400 professionals, experts and researchers worldwide to discuss their respective concerns and the current challenges faced in all areas of radiological protection, as well as the ways forward through new research, updating doctrines, or better interactions with stakeholders. The program looks at a range of issues associated with radiological protection in mining including the latest science on radon risk, waste management practices, and best practice in the protection of the environment.