SafetyNet 521

Welcome to the February 19 edition of SafetyNet.

Please feel free to let us know what you think about the journal - your feedback helps us make SafetyNet as useful for our subscribers as possible. Please send your comments through to Renata at ohsinfo@vthc.org.au.  We welcome all and any comments.

To keep up to date and informed between editions of the journal, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page. Also, if you're an HSR or deputy, you should join the OHS Network Facebook

Union News

Update on fatality figures

The VTHC has confirmed with WorkSafe Victoria that the fatality in Bruthen (reported in SafetyNet 518) was not work-related. Although the incident involved a tractor, the property was not a working farm, but private property, and the deceased had borrowed the tractor from a neighbour. This means the current number of work-related fatalities to seven (VTHC count).

Ask Renata

Hello Renata,

Are there any recommendations that we can check for reference for when a worker should wear high visibility clothing? We have a 24hr workplace with truck movement and forklifts in operation around the clock and as of yet hi vis clothing in not mandatory.

Under section 21 of the OHS Act, the employer has a general duty of care to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. This includes the workplace and the systems of work.

So while neither the Act nor the Regulations specifically mandate high vis clothing (PPE), the wearing of this would normally form part of a range of controls that the employer needs to implement to eliminate/minimise the risks in such a hazardous work environment.  Note - 'a range of controls' - the provision of PPE needs to form part of a broader traffic management plan the employer should be developing. WorkSafe advises that employer need to: 

  1. Identify all hazards associated with using a forklift at the workplace.
  2. Assess the risks to people's health and safety and make sure the traffic management plan includes ways to control those risks that will ensure people's safety.

Note that this advice is in relation to fork lift safety,  but the presence of trucks and other vehicles increases the risks. A thorough traffic management plan or system needs to be much broader than having workers wear high vis gear (though it’s generally accepted and common practice that this be one of the controls). The aim is to control the hazards at source as much as possible, rather than relying on high vis clothing, which is essentially PPE, and a ‘lower order’ control.

Take a look at this traffic management self assessment tool from the Queensland regulator - PPE is listed at point 15 as an Administrative control, and the PCBU (term for employer in that state) must implement take higher level controls which look to prevention of possible incidents, separation of pedestrians, and so on first. Check this page on Fork lift safety and links to WorkSafe publications.

If you have any OHS related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.

Do you have a good story on preventing manual handling injuries?

HSRs will be aware that musculoskeletal injuries due to hazardous manual handling are still the most commonly compensated workplace injuries in Victoria. WorkSafe has asked its stakeholders to help it identify some 'good news' stories which illustrate positive work being done in workplaces to identify and then control (hopefully eliminating the risk) hazardous manual handling.

If you've had success in your workplace, have been able to work collaboratively with your employer to reduce the risks of hazardous manual handling by following the hierarchy of control, we'd love to hear from you. Contact the OHS Unit at the VTHC by sending an email to ohsinfo@vthc.org.au.

Asbestos news

Put children on the asbestos register: ASEA head

The head of the federal government's asbestos eradication agency, ASEA, has advised parents of Newcastle East Public School students to list their children on the government's asbestos exposure register as a precaution. Peter Tighe said while it may seem like an extreme step, it would give students greater security if they developed symptoms related to asbestos exposure later in life. Parents were advised on the first day of school this year that friable loose-fill asbestos had been found on rafters inside the school's heritage building as part of works to replace the building's 1970s-era faux slate roof during the school holidays. It is not known how long material had been exposed to the environment for. (read more: The Newcastle Herald)

The register was created seven years ago to record the details of people who believe they have been exposed to asbestos either in the workplace or the community. "It [the register] is not for public access," Mr Tighe, who has been chief executive of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency since 2013, said. "If parents are worried I think it would be wise to put their children on the register because it would provide a formal record of potential exposure."

In a document prepared in response to parents' questions last week, the Department of Education advised concerned parents to initially consult a GP but noted that registering children on the national register was also an option. The department also said it had appropriate insurance in place for current and former staff and students. Mr Tighe said the undetected presence of Super 6 sheeting was worrying. "What was the quality of the school's asbestos register? The register is supposed to be reviewed by a certified person every five years," Mr Tighe said.
Source: The Newcastle Herald

NSW: Asbestos removal at prestigious school goes very wrong

Dodgy asbestos removal work at St Catherine’s School Sydney in Waverley may have exposed workers and the neighbouring community to the deadly material, warns the NSW CFMEU.

“Asbestos removal conducted at the site over the weekend appears to have been done with scant regard for the usual control measures that are essential to its safe handling and disposal,” said Darren Greenfield, NSW CFMEU Secretary. “The work site is now littered with asbestos dust and fragments and there is material on the footpath and street close to the school. It is shocking to see such blatant disregard for the safety of the community.”

He said, "The union has called for a hygienist to assess the site, but it is clear from even the cursory examination that something has gone very wrong here. We have grave fears for how the work has been done and have serious questions about who has done the work. Professional and licenced asbestos removalists do not usually botch a job as badly as this.” Read more: CFMEU media release

More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home. And check out the Victorian government's Asbestos site: asbestos.vic.gov.au

International union news

UK: Time to change law on sexual harassment

Almost 7 in 10 (68 per cent) people think the #MeToo movement has allowed people to be more open about sexual harassment, according to a new Trade Union Congress (TUC) poll. This number is highest amongst women (72 per cent) and young people (78 per cent). But UK's peak body says that despite higher levels of awareness, cases of sexual harassment remain alarmingly high.

It is calling on the government to introduce a legal duty on employers to actively prevent sexual harassment at work. TUC research found that more than half (52 per cent) of women – and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of young women aged 18-24 years old – have experienced sexual harassment at work.  There is no legal requirement for employers to prevent sexual harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, it is up to the victim to report it after it has happened.

The TUC wants the law changed so employers have a legal duty to make sure that their workplaces are harassment-free – by taking simple preventive steps like carrying out mandatory training for all staff and managers and having clear policies. It says this would shift the burden of dealing with sexual harassment from individuals to employers. This would change workplace cultures and stop the problem once and for all, says the TUC. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The #MeToo movement has helped people speak more openly about sexual harassment. That’s a good a thing. But talking about the problem isn’t going to fix it. The government must stop dragging its feet and change the law.” She said ministers should take immediate action, adding: “Employers, not victims, should be responsible for tackling harassment at work.” New guidance from the arbitration service Acas says non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) should not be used to prevent someone from reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.
Read more: TUC news release. Acas news release. Source: Risks 934


 


Research

Reducing the harm of sedentary work

We now know that sitting for long periods of time is a health risk, and something employers of office and other workers need to take into account (see: Sedentary Work). New research from New Zealand has found that buddying up or forming groups can encourage sedentary workers to take regular activity breaks, improving their health and overcoming the perception that such breaks aren't acceptable. 

Exercise science researchers from the University of Otago interviewed sedentary university staff and found they feel pressured to constantly work and fear their co-workers will think they are "skiving off work" if they take frequent short activity breaks to reduce sitting time. The researchers said that accumulating sedentary time in bouts of longer than 60 minutes is associated with a higher risk of health problems than bouts of fewer than 30 minutes. And the positive benefits of frequent interruptions to sedentary time are greatly increased if the breaks include repeated light to moderate intensity muscle contractions for more than one minute. 
Read more: Elaine Hargreaves, et al. Interrupting Sedentary Time in the Workplace Using Regular Short Activity Breaks. [Abstract] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first February 2020, doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001832. Source: OHSAlert

Global agency publishes World Cancer Report 2020

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has published its new World Cancer Report: Cancer Research for Cancer Prevention.

The 600+ page report looks at the global cancer burden, the causes of cancer (covering causes from tobacco and alcohol, to infectious agents, to occupations and lifestyle), the biological processes in cancer development and much more.

With regard to occupation, it states:

"To date, 38 occupational agents and 12 occupational exposure circumstances have been classified as carcinogenic to humans, and 41 occupational agents and 6 occupational exposure circumstances have been classified as probably carcinogenic to humans."

With regard to prevention: "Prevention of occupational cancer is feasible, and during recent decades there have been many successful regulations and programmes to eliminate or reduce exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, particularly in high-income countries."

The publication is free (or with a donation) - anyone interested needs to register here. IARC will then send a link.


Regulator News

Victorians to freecover massive clean up bill

The media has reported that, unfortunately, it will be Victorian taxpayers who will have to pay for the massive clean up of a 2018 West Footscray warehouse toxic fire. The Supreme Court last week ruled the property was not insured at the time of the blaze. The August 2018 fire was the biggest industrial blaze in Melbourne since the Coode Island disaster of 1991 and blanketed the western suburbs with toxic smoke.

WorkSafe Victoria had estimated that remediation of the toxic site will cost at least $15 million, but the full extent of the contamination is yet to be determined. To this point, the property's owner, Danbol Pty Ltd, has been resisting WorkSafe's attempts to take control of the Somerville Road property, insisting it had the financial means to cover all remediation costs. But the Supreme Court found that the company was not covered by any insurance policy when the warehouse caught fire, despite being offered a two-week extension just six days before the fire. Justice Peter Riordan said that representatives of Danbol Pty Limited had not accepted the offer or paid a premium of $3506, which meant the company could not receive an insurance payout of about $9 million. Read more: Taxpayers to cover costs of toxic factory fire clean-up (in the Sydney Morning Herald)

Crystalline silica Engineered stone compliance code now online

Last week the Minister for WorkCover declared the new code on silica. It is now available to download on the WorkSafe website:

27 February: Silicosis Summit

WorkSafe is organising a full day summit on Silicosis: A preventative approach. The summit will be held at the Flemington Racecourse, from 9am - 4pm. The regulator is inviting representatives from the stonemasonry, construction, earth resources and related industries to learn about the prevention of crystalline silica dust exposure in the workplace. The event is free - but registration is required. The VTHC encourages HSRs to approach their employers and seek to attend this event with them. Register here.

Latest edition of Safety Soapbox

The February edition of Safety Soapbox was posted this week.  In this edition, the editorial is on the Victorian bushfires, and the new resources WorkSafe has developed. 

The edition has news of WorkSafe’s activities in the sector and links to new and updated guidance. There's also a reminder of the imminent arrival of the Industrial Manslaughter laws/ The roundup of information from other jurisdictions includes links to Safety Alerts alerts from around the country. 

This edition has the list of incidents reported to WorkSafe during both December 2019, and January 2020, which can be downloaded. In December 90 incidents were reported to WorkSafe. Of these, 71 per cent resulted in injury. During January the construction industry reported 161 to WorkSafe. Of these, 69 per cent resulted in injury. Access the February 2020 edition of Safety Soapbox here  - the summaries of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.

New Safety Alert

WorkSafe has issued a new Safety Alert: Semi tippers overturning while unloading - a reminder about the risks associated with unloading trucks, after two recent incidents involving semi tippers rolling over at mines.

The first incident involved a semi tipper rolling onto its side while unloading roadbase on a downward sloping roadway. Material that stuck within the trailer while it was being raised contributed to instability. The operator was restrained by a seat belt and was uninjured.

The second incident involved a B Double truck’s front trailer rolling on its side while unloading gypsum on flat ground. The material had consolidated as a result of being in the trailer for an extended period, causing it to stick in the trailer during unloading. The operator remained in the cab and was uninjured.

The alert identifies the safety issues and provides recommended ways to control the associated risks.

Mandatory training for solar workers

From 1 July this year, all solar industry workers performing installations under Victoria's Solar Homes Program must have completed or be enrolled in a special work safety course, the State Government announced last week.

Provided by several training institutions, the free two-day course covers common safety issues associated with working on roofs, like the risk of falls and identifying and reporting asbestos, State Solar Homes Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said. For many solar workers like trade assistants, it could be the first time they have received any formal training in safety requirements, she said. Read more: Victorian Government media release

Reminder: WorkSafe is recruiting

We remind our subscribers that WorkSafe Victoria is recruiting for the next intake of Health and Safety Inspectors. Applications close 11pm February 24th. 

The regulator says it is 'looking for passionate individuals who share their vision of Victorian workers returning home safely every day.  If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out more information, please go to this page on the WorkSafe website.

The regulator also has other jobs advertised, including ergonomists and legal counsels - go to this page.

WA: Mirror WHS Act introduced

The Western Australian Government has called for the State Opposition to support its mirror Work Health and Safety Bill 2019, which was debated in the Legislative Assembly yesterday. The Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said the Bill "completely accords with community expectations" by introducing industrial manslaughter offences that will strongly deter unsafe practices.

Tas: Body of miner retrieved

The ABC reports that the body of Cameron Goss has been retrieved three weeks after a section of the Henty Gold Mine, in Tasmania's west, collapsed. Mr Goss, 44, died after the ground underneath his loader caved in, plunging his machine down a 15-metre-deep crevasse on January 23.

Police said that heavy-lift winching gear was successful in lifting the loader, which he was operating at the time, from its position in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Mr Goss' body was recovered by the mine's Emergency Response Team with the help of other mining experts. Rescue crews had earlier made a number of attempts to find his body but were unsuccessful.

Limited mine operations have now resumed at the Henty Gold Mine. This fatality is the fifth mining death in the area in six years. Source: ABC news online.

Safe Work Australia news

New guides released

The national body has released a series of guidance materials clarifying: PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) duties to monitor the health of workers exposed to hazardous substances; the substances that trigger this obligation; and how to act on medical reports. This information would be useful for Victorian employers also as the duties are basically the same.

The dozens of hazardous chemicals that either require health monitoring under the model WHS Regulations, or "may" require monitoring, include arsenic, asbestos, benzene, crystalline silica, fluorides, lead, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, styrene and uranium.

The four new guides are:

SWA has also published explanatory notes on its traumatic injury fatalities database, and explanatory notes on the national data set for compensation-based statistics. (Source: OHSAlert)

National Fatality Statistics

Safe Work Australia has updated its statistics since the last edition of SafetyNet. As at 13 February, there had been 21 worker fatalities notified to the national body, six more since the last update on 30 January. These are preliminary figures, and are based mainly on media reports.

In 2019, 162 Australian workers were fatally injured while working, compared with 144 workers in 2018.

The fatalities this year have come from the following industries:

  • 6 in Construction
  • 5 in Public administration & safety
  • 5 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 3 in Mining
  • 1 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • 1 in Manufacturing

To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage and in particular, here.


Prosecutions

Last week we reported on two cases of employers being prosecuted after workers received hand injuries. Since the last edition,there have been two more prosecutions involving workers injuring their hands.

Hand injury leads to $40,000 fine

A Dandenong South health supplements manufacturer has been convicted and fined $40,000 (plus $1875 in costs) after a worker’s hand was crushed between two rollers. 

Cosmax NBT Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide a working environment that was safe and without risks to health for not ensuring adequate guarding around moving machine parts.

In September 2018, a labour hire worker was feeding gel sheets through a machine to press pill capsules, when his left hand was caught and dragged into a series of rollers. He was taken to hospital with serious laceration and crush injuries to his left hand.

The court heard guarding around the roller would have been reasonably practicable to prevent entanglement injuries. Cosmax NBT Australia had a total of six encapsulation machines that had no guarding around running rollers.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said workers were too often exposed to the well-known dangers of moving machinery. "Injuries to workers entangled or crushed in machines can be devastating and this horrific incident would have been prevented had the company put guarding in place to deal with an obvious hazard." Read more: WorkSafe media release

Entanglement costs employer $12,000 + costs

Arrow Wood Products, a Tullamarine based benchtop cabinet maker, was last week fined $12,000 (plus $4,873 in costs), without conviction, after an 18 year old employee had his hand dragged into the rollers of a laminating machine. The court found Arrow Wood failed to reduce the risk of entanglement with the danger area by installing proper guarding or an an interlocked physical barrier allowing access to the danger area. The company also failed to notify WorkSafe Victoria of the incident. 

Bus manufacturer convicted, fined $30,000 after worker crushed by bus wall

In a lucky escape, a worker suffered just an injury to her thigh after a 100kg bus wall fell on top of her. On 5 October 2018 an employee was using a gantry crane to lift a bus side wall at Volgren Australia. A spotter was helping guide the wall. Meanwhile, the injured employee was doing welding work on a chassis. She was crouched down facing the front tyre, wearing a welding mask and earplugs.

As the side wall was maneuvered over the chassis, the gantry crane lcame into close proximity to another gantry crane, triggering a proximity sensor which immediately stopped the side wall from moving. This caused it to swing, bend and collapse in two pieces. The front collapsed and fell over the chassis and onto the welder. The rear fell towards and struck the crane operator's foot. He was uninjured as he was wearing safety boots.

Volgren pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $30,000 (plus $4,250 costs).

To find our more details, and to keep up to date with new prosecutions, check WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.


International News

USA: Industry wide silica clampdown begins

As the US government’s respirable crystalline silica (RCS) standard takes full effect, its safety regulator OSHA has beefed up its National Emphasis Program (NEP) to ensure compliance with the new, more stringent exposure standard. The new standard, originally introduced in general industry, has also now taken full effect in the maritime and construction industries. The 0.05mg/m3 exposure standard is twice as stringent the current UK standard of 0.1mg/m3 and six times more protective for the lung-destroying dust disease silicosis. Silica exposure is also linked to lung cancer and lung, kidney and autoimmune diseases and other chronic health conditions. OSHA’s area offices are now tasked with curating a randomised list of employers for targeted inspections. Before initiating programmed inspections in accordance with the NEP, OSHA says it will offer 90 days of compliance assistance for stakeholders affected by the new measures.
Read more: OSHA news release and National Emphasis Program. Source: Risks 934

Global: Growing hazard posed by illegal pesticide trade

Over the past two decades, the trafficking of highly toxic pesticides has grown into one of the world’s most lucrative and least understood criminal enterprises, a report in the Washington Post has revealed. Adulterated in labs and garages, hustled like narcotics, co-opted by gangs and mafias, counterfeit and contraband pesticides are flooding both developed and developing countries, with environmental and social consequences that are, according to  the UN Environment Program, “far from trivial.”

“It’s very unknown, and it’s very common. This is big,” said Javier Fernández, a senior official with the agrochemical industry lobby group CropLife. He said climate change and increasing demand for food was accelerating the need for pesticides, so the illegal trade is “getting bigger and more violent.” Mikhail Malkov, who studies the problem at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said: “There are plenty of ways where the criminal businesses can make the ‘ideal’ mixture of the illicit pesticides. There are plenty of technologies, starting with sophisticated adulterations and blending, and God knows what they’re putting inside those drums of pesticides.”

Roughly 10 per cent of the agrochemical trade — a quickly growing market valued at US$220 billion — is believed to be illegal, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The estimate has doubled since 2007. Some consider even that a vast underestimate. “More likely [it is] quite a bit higher,” said Leon Van der Wal, FAO’s expert on illegal pesticides. In Europe, he said, it’s 14 per cent, despite what he called “well-established procedures against and intelligence into the modus operandi of illegal traders.” The Washington Post. Source: Risks 934


Events

Please remember: If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata at ohsinfo@vthc.org.au with details, including location, cost (if any), and where to RSVP.

March 27: Conference on Working hours, shifts and fatigue conference

Want to know about the impacts of shift work and what you can do to reduce the effects of fatigue?
Want information on rostering for nurses and midwives to minimise fatigue and maximise health and safety for staff and patients?
Back by popular demand the Working Hours, Shift & Fatigue Conference is a full-day presented by the ANMF (Vic Branch) on Friday 27 March 2020. Find out how working hours, shifts and fatigue affect the health and safety of nurses, midwives, carers and patients in this integral one-day conference. The conference is open to all, and if you register before Friday, then early bird rates apply.

When: 9am to 4pm, 27 March, 2020
Where: ANMF, Carson Conference Centre, 535 Elisabeth St, Melbourne, 3000
Find out more, including the program and how to register, here.

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 runs 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).

It's the start of a new year, and so all HSRs should be thinking about registering for their annual one-day refresher course.
You can now register and pay directly from the site here.

The upcoming Initial 5 day courses for HSRs are:

February 24 - 28

Carlton

February 24 - 28

AEU Abbotsford
Education Sector ONLY

March 2 - 6

Bendigo*

March 23 - 27

Carlton

March 30 - April 3

Werribee*

April 27 - May 1

Carlton

May 11 - 15

Morewell*

May 25 - 29

Carlton

Course hours: 9am - 5pm
Course fee: Metropolitan: $870.00 incl. GST     Regional: $895.00 incl. GST
Course Length: All initial OHS training courses are 5 days.

And the one day refresher courses:

March 11

Carlton

March 12

Carlton

March 13

AEU Abbotsford

March 19

Bendigo

March 27

Ballarat

March 30

Carlton

 


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