Welcome to the October 14 edition of SafetyNet.
As usual there has been a lot going on in the area of OHS - but the stand out 'event' is the 50th anniversary of the West Gate Bridge collapse - while there won't be an event onsite, join us on Facebook tomorrow at 11.30 am.
A heads up: there may not be an edition next week, or if there is one, it will be a 'mini' version.
Visit our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page for news, memes and more. If you have any questions or need any advice, we can be reached via the Ask Renata facility on the website or through the closed OHS Network Facebook page. If you have comments or want to send through any ideas, email us at [email protected]
October 15: 50th Anniversary of West Gate Bridge collapse live streamed event
At 11.50am on October 15 1970, a span of the West Gate Bridge, then under construction, collapsed. 2000 tonnes of steel fell 45 metres - 35 workers were killed, 17 were injured. Some ‘rode’ the bridge down and, miraculously, survived. All were traumatised, as were many people living the working class suburbs surrounding it.
Tomorrow morning at 11.30 am join us on a live streamed event to remember those workers who were killed 50 years ago. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions currently in place in metropolitan Melbourne, there will no event at the memorial. Instead, there will be a live streamed event on the VTHC Facebook page.
Hear from guest speakers David Setka, James Webster and Tommy Watson, who was working on the bridge the day it collapsed. Tommy went on to become a union official and eventually President of the CFMEU. Dave Setka is the grandson of Bob Setka, one of the 18 workers who survived on that day, and James Webster is the grandson of a worker who was killed.
We have written a Feature article on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, which will also be published in the next Workers Solidarity Bulletin.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) - update
According to the latest official figures, there are 27,317 cases of coronavirus disease diagnosed in Australia - 136 more than last week. The total number of COVID deaths is 897. After ten (!) weeks in lockdown, yesterday there were seven new cases in Victoria - below ten for the first time in a few days. Read more on the Victorian situation here.
The international situation seems to be worsening in terms of second wave numbers: the cumulative number of infections is 38,347,804. Last Wednesday it was 36,041,783: this is over 2.3 million more infections in just one week. There have now been 1,090,193 confirmed COVID-related around the world.
Just a week after it was announced that he tested positive for Coronavirus, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is back out campaigning and appearing at mass rallies. He has also announced that he is no longer infectious and that he is immune - both claims that have been met by scepticism. And in news that the virus does not discriminate, Cristiano Ronaldo has become the latest international star to test positive for COVID-19. Read more: Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo tests positive for COVID-19. The Sydney Morning Herald. For more information on Coronavirus and COVID-19, go to this page on our site.
Hello OHS Unit
My neighbour's house is to be removed to make way for house units. I am concerned that it contains asbestos.
- a review of their and the employer's asbestos registers, which must be revised if inadequate having regard to the proposed demolition or refurbishment;
- if an employer/self-employed person (SEP) is doing the demolition/refurbishment - to obtain copies of registers
- further identification of any possible asbestos;
- identification and removal of asbestos before demolition and refurbishment;
- if there is no register - which may be the case if the building is a private home, then the demolition or refurbishment work cannot begin until the employer/SEP has determined whether asbestos is present. If it is present, then the employer/SEP must inform the person with management or control
- set requirements for removal work (only by a licenced removalist unless it is a removal permitted under 'Limited removal without a licence' - this is only if there is 10 square metres or less of asbestos in good condition, which can be removed in less than an hour)
Please remember: if you have any OHS related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.
VTHC HSR Conference October 27
If you are an HSR and have not yet registered for the 2020 VTHC OHS Conference on October 27th 2020, then do so quickly. While you will still be able to participate, but after this week we will not be sending materials out as they would not arrive in time. However, all the materials will be available to download from our website. Remember too that HSRs are entitled to a day's leave with pay if they register and inform their employer at least 14 days in advance.
To remind everyone, the theme this year is Risks to Psychological Health, and it’s being held entirely online. Read more about the conference on this page of the website.
With uncertainty regarding restrictions in Melbourne and across Victoria due to COVID-19, this year the conference is going to be held entirely online - but it's still going to be a great experience.
We’ll be mailing a parcel of materials to HSRs and deputies with everything you’ll need to make the day a success - but to make sure it arrives on time, you need to register by this Friday so there’s plenty of time for yours to arrive. Find all the details, including a copy of the s69 Approval letter from WorkSafe and register here.
Reminder: Anna Stewart Memorial Project for women unionists on now
Designed to encourage more women to be active in unions, the Anna Stewart Memorial Project (ASMP), which began on Monday and will end on October 23, is a structured, two week long skills development and leadership program designed and run by the VTHC's wonderful We Are Union Women team. The interactive workshops will be online via Zoom. The 15 workshops cover a range of topics including:
- Sexual Harassment and Gendered Violence at Work
- Union Women’s History Insecure Work, Covid19 and the Impact on Women Workers
- The industrial relations system
- Women in Bargaining
- and much more
If you see a workshop that you would like to participate in but just can’t fit it in, many of the ASMP workshops will be recorded and available on the We Are Union Women Facebook page.
The ASMP is free and open to any woman who is a member of her union and would like to participate. Women can register and attend as many workshops as they like which means being able to tailor the program to fit specific skills, interests, and schedule. If a participant would like to receive a certificate of completion for the Anna Stewart Memorial Project then she will need to attend at least five workshops over the course of the two week program. A participant can choose any five workshops - none is compulsory. Women who have access to union training leave in their workplace agreement can apply for this leave to attend the ASMP. For more information on how to apply for union training leave contact the union. Check out the ASPM program and register for workshops here. For more information email Jodie at: [email protected]
New Website resource for women in trades
The VTHC Jobs Team has just launched a new website for women in trades: WomenOnsite. The mission of the Women Onsite project is a straightforward one: to support Victorian women toward apprenticeships or traineeships in male dominated industries.
Since the 1980s, women have represented less than two per cent (2%) of the Aussie trades workforce! There is work to be done. Women Onsite are breaking ground and will be working with women and employers through 2020/2021. The team’s goal is to better support both, now and on the road ahead. The focus will be on what works. The project is taking an evidence-based approach to the task – in consultation with tradies, employers, academics and government. In turn, the learnings from this project will contribute to future initiatives in this area. Check out the website here- - it's got Herstory, career stories, news and much more.
WA: Young worker killed, two injured in Curtin University roof collapse
A 23-year-old apprentice worker was killed and two others have been injured after a glass roof collapsed at a construction site at Curtin University in Western Australia yesterday.
Emergency services were called at 12:34pm after the roof gave way at the worksite, operated by contractor Lendlease near the medical school at Curtin's Perth campus. Police said two construction workers had been standing on the building's canopy carrying out work when it suddenly gave way, with both men falling 20 metres to the ground.
The site is run by Lendlease, which said both the worker who died and the two men who were injured were subcontractors. Electrical Trades Union WA organiser Damian Clancey witnessed the collapse, which happened during a lunch break. "If it had happened five minutes earlier, there would have been probably 15 to 20 people working in that area, so we're very lucky," he said.
CFMEU state secretary Mick Buchan said he'd been made aware after the incident of issues with "deflection in the structural steel. Those issues were addressed by structural engineers ... (but) I understand that there were some concerns," he said. "It's 2020. These events should not occur in the building and construction industry."
A WorkSafe investigation is underway into why the building roof collapsed. Sources: ABC news online; Perth Now
Reminder to Gig workers: complete our survey now!
Two weeks ago the VTHC Young Workers Team launched a new survey to get the views of gig workers. The Daniel Andrews State government wants to take action to better regulate gig platforms, following the findings of a major report into the gig economy. It's a chance to fix the wage violations, dodgy employment arrangements, and unsafe working conditions plaguing the gig economy in Victoria.
The State Government will soon decide what recommendations it plans to pursue, and it is crucial to ensure that those changes are in line with what affected workers want. So the VTHC’s Young Workers Centre Gig Economy Survey for any worker who currently or has previously used online apps and platforms to find work; from transport and delivery platforms like Uber and Deliveroo, to health and caring work on platforms like Mable and Care.com, to ‘odd jobs’ platforms like Airtasker.
If that’s you - fill in the survey to tell the government how you want your working life to be improved, and together the VTHC will fight to make sure it happens. For those with friends or family members who work in the sector: tell them about the survey too.
$5m in federal funding for research into mesothelioma and lung cancer
Research to improve the treatment of mesothelioma and lung cancer and a program designed to improve the health and wellbeing of older Aboriginal Australians are among two Centres for Research Excellence from The University of Western Australia to have received a combined $5 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council Centres of Research Excellence (NHMRC).
Professor Anna Nowak, Director of UWA’s National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, and her team are part of a world-leading centre studying the deadly cancers mesothelioma and lung cancer. The team received $2.5 million in NHMRC funding which will help them develop new treatments, new ways of imaging cancer and ways to improve care of people living with these cancers. Read more: Mirage news
International union news
Europe: Major coalition aims to stop cancer at work
A Stop Cancer at Work Campaign has been launched by coalition of professional organisations, trades unions and patient groups. The groups say their objective is to ensure that the current fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) includes groups of carcinogenic and mutagenic hazardous drugs, which cause cancer, and that have not been included by the European Commission in proposals published on 22 September 2020. They say cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the EU, with over 120,000 work-related cancer cases recorded each year. A statement from the coalition notes: “In its proposal, the European Commission introduced binding occupational exposure limit values for three carcinogens, which we welcome, but the Commission also left out reprotoxins as well as carcinogenic and mutagenic hazardous drugs. There is a wide range of reproductive health problems caused by workplace exposure to reprotoxins including: reduced fertility or infertility, erectile dysfunction, menstrual cycle and ovulatory disorders, miscarriage, stillbirth, babies born too soon or too small, birth defects, child developmental disorders.” The campaign will run for most of 2020 and 2021 and is urging those supporting its objectives to sign an online petition calling for the EU institutions “to take action and accept the necessary legislative changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive.”
Read more: Stop Cancer at Work campaign news release, website and petition. Source: Risks 969
USA: Trump administration accused of Covid ‘forced labour’
Trade unions in the US have filed a complaint with the United Nations' International Labour Organisation (ILO), making the case that under the Trump administration, the US has violated a catalogue of labour laws during the coronavirus pandemic. National union federation AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the complaint with ILO, detailing how the White House has undermined the quality and enforcement of labour laws and occupational health and safety measures. The union complaint accused the US of labour rights violations “in the realm of potential wrongdoing typically occupied by less-developed and less-democratic countries.” It said these forced workers to risk infection or lose their jobs and potentially unemployment benefits, this amounting to a system of “forced labour.”
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumpka told the Washington Post: “Covid has laid bare what we already knew. It has demonstrated that not only is the US violating workers' rights, but those violations are resulting in people dying. It became so outrageous that we wanted to file a complaint.” The paper reported that the complaint characterised Trump's executive action as giving “a green light for employers to force workers to report for work and risk their lives or lose their jobs” which “is tantamount to forced labour.” The US has ratified an ILO convention prohibiting forced labour. The report also argues that when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in March suspended union elections and notified employers that they “could avoid bargaining about proposed layoffs because of the pandemic” this was to the serious detriment of workers’ rights. Read more: Common Dreams. Mass Device. Source: Risks 969
Australia: Experts accuse federal government of ignoring science on airborne COVID spread
This week, news in the Australian media revealed that according to our own doctors the federal government’s refusal to seriously acknowledge that COVID-19 can spread through the air could put healthcare workers' lives at risk. They say it is out of step with scientific evidence.
Official public advice from the federal Health Department is that the coronavirus is spread by close contact between people, droplets from a cough or sneeze, or contamination on surfaces. It does not warn of airborne spread, and the department says there is little evidence this is a major route of transmission.
Readers of our journal will know that the scientific evidence of aerosol spread has been growing. In June, research based on models of transmission showed aerosol spray high risk, particularly indoors (SafetyNet 535). In July 239 scientists from 32 countries wrote an open letter urging WHO to change their advice regarding droplet size, saying “We ignore COVID-19 airborne spread indoors at our peril.” (SafetyNet 540). And in September, a US expert warned that transmission of COVID-19 through an airborne aerosol is “stronger than that for any other pathway”, greatly increasing the preventive efforts required. (SafetyNet 548).
Both the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and now the British government (SafetyNet 553) warn that airborne spread is more likely than surface contamination, and is most likely when an infected person has spent more than 30 minutes in an enclosed space.
Many Australian experts on viral transmission say there is now strong evidence the virus can spread by air. “There is overwhelming evidence of airborne spread,” said Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity research program at the Kirby Institute. Read more: The Age
Airborne virus a ‘major’ transmission risk
There is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that inhalation of the coronavirus represents a major transmission route for Covid-19, scientists have warned. The warning from experts from six US universities contradicts a position promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has played down airborne risks and said transmission by larger droplets is the predominant mode of transmission. However, the letter published in Science magazine, notes “aerosols containing infectious virus can also travel more than 2m and accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor air, leading to superspreading events.” The letters adds: “Individuals with Covid-19, many of whom have no symptoms, release thousands of virus-laden aerosols and far fewer droplets when breathing and talking. Thus, one is far more likely to inhale aerosols than be sprayed by a droplet, and so the balance of attention must be shifted to protecting against airborne transmission. In addition to existing mandates of mask-wearing, social distancing, and hygiene efforts, we urge public health officials to add clear guidance about the importance of moving activities outdoors, improving indoor air using ventilation and filtration, and improving protection for high risk workers.”
Read more: Kimberly A. Prather, et al. Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, Science, 5 October 2020. DOI: 10.1126/science.abf0521. COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features, PHE guidance, updated 30 September 2020. Source: Risks 969
Most with positive tests in England have no symptoms
Over three quarters of people in England testing positive for the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) had no symptoms on the day of the test, with another 10 per cent having none of the core symptoms, a study has found.
The researchers said the findings were important because asymptomatic individuals can be “silent” transmitters. Irene Petersen and Andrew Phillips from University College London (UCL) used data from the Office for National Statistics Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot study. “In total, there were 36,061 individuals with a SARS-CoV-2 test between 26 April and 27 June 2020. Of these, 625 (1.7 per cent) reported symptoms on the day of the test. There were 115 (0.32 per cent) with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Of the 115, there were 27 (23.5 per cent) who were symptomatic and 88 (76.5 per cent) who were asymptomatic on the day of the test.” The paper added “99 (86.1 per cent) did not report specific symptoms on the day of the test.”
The authors conclude “COVID-19 symptoms are poor markers of SARS-CoV-2. Thus, 76.5 per cent of this random sample who tested positive reported no symptoms, and 86.1 per cent reported none of those specific to COVID-19.” They concluded: “A more widespread testing programme is necessary to capture ‘silent’ transmission and potentially prevent and reduce future outbreaks.”
This research highlights why testing in areas where the virus has been detected is important, and also why it spreads so easily.
Read more: Petersen I, Phillips A. Three quarters of people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are Asymptomatic: Analysis of English Household Survey Data, [Full text] Clinical Epidemiology, volume 12, pages 1039-1043, 2020. Covid: more than 80% of positive UK cases in study had no core symptoms The Guardian. Source: Risks 969
WorkSafe: Health and Safety Month helping to navigate COVID-19
The focus of WorkSafe's first fully virtual Health and Safety Month will be helping employers and workers navigate through coronavirus (COVID-19).
Some of the sessions include;
- Surviving COVID-19 - a WorkSafe perspective
- Leading the way: Industries innovating workplace mental health prevention
- COVID-19 and Healthcare
- Managing the risk of COVID-19; what does an inspector look for?
- How the Building and Construction industry is dealing with COVID-19
- How does COVID-19 impact your workcover premium
One of the sessions being promoted is with Ambulance Victoria’s CEO Assoc. Professor Tony Walker ASM. On October 26 he will be running an interactive session on the importance of leadership in workplace mental health during COVID‐19 and beyond. He will share his experience on how to address work related factors that can impact workers’ wellbeing and how to create a mentally healthy workplace. Health & Safety month events are free, but registration is essential. Go to this page on the Worksafe website to check out what webinars are being run and to register.
Reminder: Independent review of Dangerous Goods Act and Regs - submissions sought
A comprehensive review of Victoria’s dangerous goods laws is currently underway. The Review is part of the Victorian Government’s response to high profile incidents associated with illegal chemical stockpiling at several sites across Melbourne, and is considering issues and challenges in the management of dangerous goods. The Consultation Paper raises a number of issues which address the Review’s Terms of Reference and suggests ways in which those issues might be addressed. It also discusses Victoria’s dangerous goods landscape, the current regulatory framework and presents a list of questions to assist in making submissions.
All interested individuals and organisations are invited to share their views by making a submission. The Terms of Reference, the Consultation Paper and the list of questions can be downloaded from this page of the Engage Victoria website. The closing date for submissions is 5pm, 30 November, 2020.
Comcare: Working from home claims trends and advice
Comcare claims data indicates a change in the number of working from home claims, during the period – March to June 2020, when workplaces rapidly transitioned to home-based work, in response to COVID-19. The key causative factors include workstation set up, falls and slip/trip incidents, soft tissue conditions caused by overuse and repetitive motions. It would not be surprising if there were similar trends in Victoria. Read more: Working from home.
New national requirements for quad bikes
As of Sunday, October 11, 2020, all new and imported second-hand quad bikes sold in Australia must be tested for lateral static stability, display the angle at which the quad bike tips onto two wheels on a hang tag at the point of sale, and carry a rollover warning label on the quad bike. The owner’s manual must also include rollover safety information. Also, the quad bikes must be fitted with a spark arrester that conforms to the Australian or United States standard, and meet certain requirements of the United States or European quad bike safety standards. These relate to equipment such as brakes, clutch, throttle, tyres, drive train, handlebars and foot wells, maximum speed capabilities, and the provision of safety information through warning labels and hang tags.
Safework Australia data shows 152 people have died from incidents involving quad bikes since 2011, including 23 children. It is estimated that hundreds of people also present to hospital emergency departments each year as a result of quad bike related injuries. There have already been 16 fatalities this year, double last year’s toll.
Additional requirements for new and second hand imported general use quad bikes will become mandatory in one year’s time, which include the fitting or integration of operator protection devices and minimum stability requirements. Read more: ACCC media release
Safe Work Australia news
National Health and Safety Month
Remember that for the national health and safety month Safe Work Australia has a range of sessions. You can find resources available to download including a WHS best practice checklist for employers on SWA's a dedicated National Safe Work Month website. Each week in October focuses on a WHS topic that acknowledges the impacts of COVID-19 and encourages best practice WHS. Check these out here.
National Fatality Statistics
Safe Work updated its fatality statistics on October 8, at which time there had been 121 worker fatalities notified to the national body. This is an increase of eight fatalities since the previous update on September 24. The eights deaths were: three in Agriculture, forestry & fishing; two in Construction and in Accommodation & food services; and one in Manufacturing The deaths this year have been in the following sectors:
- 38 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 25 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 22 in Construction
- 12 in Public administration & safety
- 10 in Manufacturing
- 5 in Mining
- 3 in Accommodation & food services
- 2 in 'other services'
- 1 in Arts & recreation services
- 1 in Retail trade
- 1 in Administrative & support services
- 1 in Wholesale trade
Note that the figures are based on preliminary reports, and so at times will change. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage.
Maximum penalty after fatal truck crash
A road maintenance company and its director have been convicted and fined more than $466,000 after the death of a young truck driver in West Gippsland in 2017.
Valley Sweep Pty Ltd and Anton Zakic had both pleaded guilty in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates' Court to a single charge each under the OHS of failing to provide and maintain safe plant. charged with indictable offences, which have higher penalties. However, both the company and the director successfully argued to have the matters tried summarily. Therefore Zakic and Valley Sweep faced maximum fines of 500 penalty units and 2,500 units respectively, which equated to $77,730 and $388,650, with the Victorian penalty unit valued at $155.46 at the time of the breaches. This is what they were fined on October 2. They could have
The Valley Sweep had entered into a hire agreement to provide another company with a water cart truck and a driver in April 2017. Less than a month later, the 21-year-old driver was killed when the truck rolled while travelling down a long, steep, curved section of road near the town of Noojee. A forensic engineer engaged by WorkSafe found the primary cause of the crash was the poor condition of the truck's brakes, which partly resulted from them being adjusted improperly. The truck had last undergone a major inspection and servicing by an external mechanic in December 2015. After that Zakic and another Valley Sweep employee had done maintenance and repair work for the truck and other company vehicles, despite neither being qualified mechanics. In addition, the driver had not received any formal training in the operation of water cart trucks, which have unique handling characteristics, or any supervised training in driving a water cart truck in difficult conditions such as a steep or curved descent.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for the employer's behaviour. "This company's director made a reckless decision to perform service and maintenance work on the water truck himself, even though he knew he wasn't qualified to do so," Ms Nielsen said. "This failure to take reasonable care left a dangerous vehicle on the road and ultimately cost a young worker his life." Read more: WorkSafe media release
There still has not been an update to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage since our last edition. However, go to it to check for further prosecutions before next week's SafetyNet.
Wednesday October 21: Dangerous Goods Advisory Group
The DGAG bimonthly meeting is a general networking / discussion update meeting, open to all, to discuss issues that are going on for Dangerous Goods and Chemical Regulation at the moment. Jeff Simpson, the convener of the DGAG, has informed us that the fifth DGAG Meeting for 2020, will be held on Wednesday 21 October, at 5.30pm - 7.30pm AEST.
Like many meetings we are now participating in, the DGAG will be a Webinar Chat meeting. To join the Zoom Meeting click here. Meeting ID: 827 4546 6341 Password: 158089
The topics to be discussed will be:
Hazardous Chemicals / Dangerous Goods Incidents
The ADG Transport Code & Changes in the UN Model Regs, IMDG Code, IATA Regs, NZ Regs etc
Dangerous Goods (Storage & Handling), GHS Haz. Chemicals, & Environmental Risk Management of Industrial Chemicals
Update on Classification and Training for Dangerous Goods
Other meetings and events
For more information, contact Jeff Simpson (DGAG convenor and Webinar host), Haztech Environmental, Ph: 03-9885-1269 Mob: 0403-072-092, Email: [email protected]
Jeff can assist in setting up the Zoom meeting or adjusting computer settings. Contact Jeff for instructions on how to join.
The following DGAG meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday 25 November 2020, most likely again on Zoom.