SafetyNet 557

Welcome to the first November edition of SafetyNet - November 11

It is with great sadness that we report that two Victorian workers were killed in the past week. Today is also Remembrance Day, so at 11am many workers in workplaces observed a minute's silence.

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 ohsinfo@vthc.org.au

Union News

Two Victorian workers killed in the past week 

The first fatality was last Wednesday October 28 when a worker died after being run over at a Yarraville transport depot. WorkSafe believes the 65-year-old was directing a co-worker to reverse a truck and trailer into a shed when he stumbled and fell into the path of the trailer. WorkSafe is investigating. 

The second fatality occurred on Saturday October 31, in Melbourne's CBD. A 36 year-old food delivery worker was killed after a crash at the intersection of King and La Trobe streets at 7pm on Saturday, in what is the third death in a month among gig economy workers in Australia. The man, who worked for delivery company DoorDash, was taken to hospital but later died after he was hit by a woman driving an allegedly stolen car. A spokeswoman for DoorDash said Chow was completing a delivery when he was killed. The woman, who has been charged with culpable driving causing death and reckless conduct, also hit a pedestrian. 

Tragically, according to Chinese-language news site Sydney Today, his family became concerned after they did not hear from him for 26 hours, and his sister received a call from the Malaysian consulate confirming that he had been killed.

The deaths bring the workplace fatality toll to 61 for 2020, five more than at the same time last year. The VTHC OHS Unit sends our sincerest condolences to the workers' families, friends and colleagues. No worker should die at work. Sources: The Guardian; WorkSafe Media release.

2020 HSR Conference - all materials now on the OHS Reps@Work website

All the materials - the pre-reading exercise, the Consultation proforma, the Psychosocial Risks survey, the slides presentations and even a shortened video of the conference sessions. Also on the page is a link to the 'Survey Tool' - use this to key in the results of the survey once you've distributed it to your DWG and collated the individual responses. Once you have loaded your results, you will get more information and a plan on what to do next. 
Go to this page on our site: VTHC HSR 2020 Conference

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update  

As Victoria continues to record 'double zero' figures (no new infections and no deaths for eleven days straight now), the figures around the world are an ongoing nightmare. 

According to the latest official figures, there are 27,678 cases of coronavirus disease diagnosed in Australia - just 126 more than our last edition two weeks ago. The total number of COVID deaths remains at 907. The restrictions in Victoria have not been totally lifted - masks must still be worn whenever leaving the house; if workers can work from home they should; and although most businesses have opened and activities recommenced, there are limits in terms of numbers. Read more on the Victorian situation here.

The international situation continues to be dire: the cumulative number of infections is 51,790,088. Two weeks ago it was 44,235,091this is an increase of over 7.55 million more infections in just two weeks. There have now been 1,278,449 confirmed COVID-related around the world. 

In the US:

In the wake of the US election, President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to unify America and form a blueprint to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in his election victory speech. He has announced plans to appoint an expert panel of leading scientists and experts as "transition advisers" to help formulate a COVID plan. The problem for the American people is that Biden will not be sworn in until January 20, 2021, and it is unlikely that President Trump, who has not yet conceded defeat, will co-operate with any of theses plans. Over the weekend the US broke the record for new infections, with almost 130,000 positive tests in one day.  Read more: ABC online. 

In the UK: too little too late from the government 

The UK is in the grip of a second wave. There have been a total of xx cases of COVID-19, with xx new infections yesterday and a total of xx deaths. The UK government’s failure to act sooner on rising infection risks and to offer proper income protection for all workers affected by the pandemic has left families facing a ‘grim winter’, the country's peak union body, the TUC has said. Responding to the prime ministers’ announcement on 31 October of a new four week lockdown for England to take effect from 5 November, the TUC called for the Treasury to provide additional support to protect jobs and income. The union body is also pressing for a publicly run and accountable test and trace system, decent sick pay and tougher safety standards at work - including a legal duty to publish risk assessments. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government should have acted decisively much sooner and now families face a grim winter. The extension of the furlough scheme is long overdue and necessary, but ministers must do more to protect jobs and prevent poverty.” The TUC leader added: “Furlough pay must never fall below the national minimum wage. We need a boost to Universal Credit and government should not abandon the self-employed. And we will not control the virus unless the government fixes the test and trace system and the scandal of workers asked to self-isolate without decent sick pay.” Read more: TUC news releasePrime minister’s statement and news release, 31 October 2020. Source: Risks 972

New film from Hazards - COVID transmission and killer workplaces

A new Hazards Campaign film explains why the coronavirus is so dangerous indoors, where aerosols can build up in the air. It notes COVID-19 risks can be higher in workplaces, where people spend long periods in an enclosed space in close proximity to others. The 27-minute film adds this is also why ventilation is so important and a critical factor that is barely mentioned in official guidance. The film, produced for the campaign by Reel News, and “explains what you can do to keep yourself and your workmates safe – using the latest information about Covid-19, extensive case studies of superspreader events and successful collective struggles by well-organised workplaces.” The film has many international experts, including some from Australia. It is an excellent resource for union training and awareness raising sessions.  Check out the new resource here: Covid transmission and killer workplaces, a Reel News/Hazards Campaign film, November 2020.

For more information on Coronavirus and COVID-19, go to this page on our site. 

Ask Renata  

Hi Renata 

I participated in the VTHC's HSR Conference a couple of weeks ago and found it very interesting. The other HSRs and I have had some discussions with members of our DWGs and would now like to distribute the Psychosocial Risks survey for them to complete. Is there anything we need to be mindful of? Do we need permission to send surveys like this to employees? Can we use work email to distribute it? 

This came up in our session at the conference and several HSRs have sent in similar queries since the day of the conference.

I think it's a good idea to let management know you're going to distribute an anonymous and totally voluntary survey to the members of your DWG/s as one of the ways to gather information on workplace risk factors to psychological health. As HSRs part of your role is to be able to represent the views of your DWG, to identify issues (hazards and risks) to raise with the employer, and to be part of the identification, assessment and control process. Undertaking a survey of the DWG members is one way to gather information. Other ways include walking around the workplace, undertaking inspections, running meetings, and so on. Inform them about the survey, and when it is likely to be done, as a matter of courtesy. If your employer or manager seeks to prevent or delay you undertaking the survey, or wants to be able to have input into the questions, or get the results directly, do not agree. Contact your union for assistance if you have any issues.

With regards to using the workplace email - I believe this should be acceptable, as under s69(1)(e) an employer must "provide such other facilities and assistance to a health and safety representative for the designated work group as are necessary or prescribed by the regulations to enable the representative to exercise his or her powers". However, as the regulations do not actually address this, the use of the workplace email system is something you need to clarify. My recommendation is that all HSRs should raise what facilities they need as soon as they return from training. These could include access to meeting rooms, telephone, photocopier, computers and internet, intranet or other email systems, and so on. Read more: Facilities and Time Off 

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

Hospitality workers' hostility to insecure, casual work

As Melbourne’s hospitality industry reopens a new union report has revealed 77 percent of hospitality workers believe a permanent and secure job is either very or extremely important, showing that the industry’s dramatic shutdown in March has had a profound impact.

The report by Hospo Voice, the United Workers Union’s hospitality arm, is based on national surveys with 4281 workers during the pandemic and busts one of the hospitality industry’s biggest myths: that the irregularity of hospitality work is a lifestyle choice by workers. Overwhelmingly, workers report that a regular and reliable income is vitally important.

The findings come as the Federal Government’s proposed industrial relations reforms are expected to announce “part time flexibility” measures rather than address the systemic issues of insecure work and widespread wage theft.

The report, entitled #RebuildHospo: A Post-Covid Roadmap For Secure Jobs In Hospitality, reveals that during the pandemic the number of workers who believe a permanent job is very or extremely important jumped by 12 percent from 65 percent to 77 percent.

The report lifts the lid on how insecure work acts a force-multiplier for the biggest problems in the industry including wage theft and sexual harassment, as well as playing havoc with workers’ lives with 70 per cent reporting that shifts were reduced with little notice, and over 60 per cent saying their shifts varied dramatically from week to week.

Insecure work has also been linked directly by public health officials, such as Dr Brett Sutton, as an important factor driving the spread of the pandemic.

The report finds that at the height of the pandemic 85% of hospitality workers had their shifts cut or they lost their jobs. Furthermore:

  • 47 per cent of workers did not have enough savings to cover a month’s basic expenses;
  • 7 per cent of workers have had to borrow money from friends or family; 32 per cent accessed their super; 32 per cent fell behind in their bills;
  • 20 per cent went without essentials; 12 per cent had to access a foodbank or charity;
  • 7 per cent experienced a relationship breakdown;
  • 91 per cent of workers said they are worried about mental health in hospitality, while sexual harassment remains a major concern, particularly for women workers.

Professor Marylouise McLaws, an infectious diseases expert at the University of New South Wales, has consistently highlighted the link between insecure work and the added risk of a coronavirus outbreak. “This pandemic has taken the lid off the inequality of Australian life,” said Professor McLaws, a member of the WHO’s Covid-19 response team. “Those that have underemployment – or are short of employment hours and have to work across multiple jobs – often share transport to work, and they may all live together. All of that adds to their risk.” She added: “These are the people we need to protect, because by protecting them, we protect the greater community. We need to give them a better level of employment and better income.” 
Read more: Full Report. The New DailySource: UWU media release

Survey on Piece Rates and Exploitation

A survey is being conducted by the Victorian Trades Hall Council's Migrant Workers' Centre and the Migrant Workers Hub, empowered by UnionsNSW. 

Farm workers are often subject to exploitation. Many are paid less than the Award and work very long hours. In particular, those working by piece rate struggle to earn a living wage with many being forced to pay exorbitant prices for accommodation and transport provided by their employer. Such oppressive conditions are at times endured because of the need to meet visa requirements.

The survey aims to identify issues experienced by workers in the horticulture sector as a result of unfairness in the current wage structure. Results will be used to raise awareness and to assist in the fight for legal reform. If you are working in this sector, please take the quick survey now. If you know of anyone who is working in the farming sector, please encourage them to take it as well. Piece Rates and Exploitation survey

Have you downloaded OHS Help yet?

This is a reminder of the ACTU's new OHS Help - a free, all-in-one app for Health and Safety Representatives. It’s designed to help Health and Safety Representatives stay informed, organised and in-touch with their unions. HSRs can use the app to identify workplace hazards and access factsheets written in plain language. The app also allows HSRs to log issues as they find them, and to share the details with their employer, workmates and/or union delegate. Check out the website for videos and to get started.

Asbestos news  

Asbestos Awareness Week November 23 - 29

Asbestos is still present in millions of Australian buildings and can be easily disturbed when doing renovations, home improvements and maintenance. If a building (workplaces, offices, hospitals, homes, etc) was built or renovated prior to 1990, there is a good chance it has some asbestos.

The theme for 2020 is ‘Asbestos lurks in more places than you’d think’ and will be supplemented with the sub-theme ‘before you start, be aware’.

The sub-theme relates to the fact that people are using the extra time we all have at home due to COVID-19 to do home improvements and maintenance. It encourages people to be aware of the potential asbestos risks before they start any work.

The campaign messaging has three parts:

  1. KNOW the health risks of asbestos exposure
  2. BE AWARE of where asbestos might be found before you start work (“it lurks in more places than you’d think”)
  3. CALL a professional to check, remove and dispose of it safely.

A campaign pack has been developed which provides a range of template materials, social tiles and graphics for organisations and individuals to use.

More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home

International union news

UK: NUJ demands action to protect and safeguard journalists 

A survey by the journalists’ union NUJ has uncovered ‘shocking evidence’ of abuse and harassment, with journalists revealing they have been punched, threatened with knives, forcibly detained, kicked and spat at while doing their job. As well as physical assault, NUJ says it members are being threatened online and offline, including death threats, rape threats and other threats to their families and homes. Almost 9 in 10 (89 per cent) respondents said their employer had not provided any training to deal with harassment and abuse and over half (56 per cent) said they did not know if their media employer had any policies in place to deal with safety and protection issues.

Commenting on 1 November, the UN day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “It is wholly unacceptable and outrageous that NUJ members are being routinely abused, harassed and intimidated in the course of doing their job. Those in frontline roles, such as reporters, photographers and presenters, are particularly impacted but any media worker should be able to go about their work without fearing for their own safety or that of their family. Such abuse and harassment goes beyond the awful personal impact - it also risks silencing journalists and censoring debates.” She added: “On a day journalists around the world collectively stand up to demand an end to the impunity that allows crimes against media workers to proliferate and stand unpunished, the NUJ is stepping up its campaign to ensure the safety and protection of journalists and journalism.” The NUJ leader concluded: “As part of the newly established National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, we are committed to ensuring the committee’s Action Plan tackles this problem, that employers do more to ensure the safety of journalists facing abuse, providing adequate training and ensuring that freelances are given better support, and that police deal with cases more robustly and consistently.” Read more: NUJ safety report 2020IFJ news releaseend immunity campaign and report,Dirty Hands; Still in Power. Source: Risks 972

USA: Unions sue over shelved infection standard

US teaching and health care unions have started legal proceedings against Donald Trump’s labour secretary Eugene Scalia and the safety regulator OSHA for unlawfully delaying rulemaking on an occupational standard to protect healthcare workers from infectious diseases transmitted by contact, droplets, or air - like influenza, COVID-19, and Ebola. The move comes in response to the Trump administration shelving a ready-to-go Infectious Diseases Standard in 2017.

The four unions, under a joint Democracy Forward banner, charge that the administration’s unreasonable delay violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The unions are suing to compel OSHA to advance rulemaking on the standard, which would require healthcare employers who run hospitals, clinics, school nurse offices, drug treatment programmes, and similar workplaces to protect their employees from exposure to harmful infectious diseases.

“In times of national crisis, the government’s job is to protect people — and in the case of protecting workers on the front line of this pandemic, the federal government has failed,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the four unions behind the legal action. “OSHA has failed to regulate employers, which in turn have failed to protect the people caring for COVID-19 patients. As a result, healthcare worker infection rates remain troublingly high. This immoral treatment of the healthcare heroes carrying us through this crisis must end, and both OSHA and employers must be held accountable to make hospitals safe for the people who work there.”

A September study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, published by the US government public health agency CDC, found health care workers who reported being short of PPE were more likely to test positive than those with sufficient supplies. 
Read more: 
AFT news release and the 29 October 2020 petition for mandamus (the court filing) and the full appendixJAMA news report.
Wesley H Self and others. 
Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Among Frontline Health Care Personnel in a Multistate Hospital Network — 13 Academic Medical Centers, April–June 2020, [pdf] Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), volume  69, number 35, pages 1221-1226, 4 September 2020. Source: Risks 972


Research

Retail workers at increased risk of contracting COVID-19

A new Harvard University study has found customer-facing workers, such as retail workers, were five times more likely to test positive to Covid-19 in the US than their co-workers in other roles.

The cross-sectional study was conducted in May 2020 in a single grocery retail store in Massachusetts, USA. The researchers assessed workers’ personal/occupational history and perception of COVID-19 by questionnaire.

Of the 104 workers tested, 21 (20 per cent) had positive viral assays. Seventy-six per cent positive cases were asymptomatic. Employees with direct customer exposure had an odds of 5.1 being tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after adjustments. With regard to their mental health, the prevalence of anxiety and depression was 24 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively. After adjusting for potential confounders, those able to practice social distancing consistently at work had odds of 0.3 and 0.2 screening positive for anxiety and depression, respectively. Workers commuting by foot, bike or private cars were less likely to screen positive for depression.

Although this was a single store sample, the researchers found a considerable asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among grocery workers. Employees with direct customer exposure were five times more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. Those able to practice social distancing consistently at work had significantly lower risk of anxiety or depression.

Read more: Lan F, Suharlim C, Kales SN et al.Association between SARS-CoV-2 infection, exposure risk and mental health among a cohort of essential retail workers in the USA, [Full article] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published Online First, 30 October 2020. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106774


Regulator news

Victorian news

New WorkSafe video on consultation

Our readers will be aware that employers have a duty to consult with HSRs, and also directly with employees if they wish, in a wide range of situations. This includes when considering any changes to the workplace, the systems of work, plant and so on. WorkSafe has released a new video on consultation, specifically in relation to COVID-19. It's useful for HSRs and workers to watch it and bring it to the attention of their employers. It may also be worthwhile arranging to watch it during your next OHS Committee meeting. Check the video here

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. 

Other news

Queensland: new Safety Alert

The Queensland regulator has released a safety alert following an incident in August 2020 in which a worker suffered a chest laceration when the angle grinder he was using ‘kicked back’. The worker was apparently cutting timber and fibre glass with a 125mm angle grinder fitted with a multi-cutter blade.

In a separate incident two months later, a young apprentice suffered serious injuries to his groin, right leg, and stomach when a 9-inch angle grinder he was using kicked back and hit him. Initial investigation suggests he was cleaning a steel beam at the time of the incident.

In the alert, WHSQ emphasizes the importance of ensuring the safe use of angle grinders as serious incidents can occur when cutting and grinding discs are fitted onto hand-held power and air tools. Common injuries include amputated fingers, severed tendons, and deep cuts to the face, upper body, and legs. The safety alert lists what employers must ensure when workers are using power tools or air tools fitted with a disc or blade. 
Read more: Worker injured after angle grinder 'kick back'

Comcare: new eGuide on Psychological Safety

Comcare has continued focus on mental health safety and wellbeing by promoting the health benefits of good work. It has developed a new guide for employers and managers on Psychological Safety in the Workplace. The guide provides practical introductory tools, resources and strategies on how to identify and manage psychosocial safety risks and, help assess and make appropriate adjustments to support workers in the workplace.  

Topics include:

  • Good work
  • Legislative requirements
  • Due diligence requirements
  • Managerial responsibilities - WHS
  • Promote psychological health and safety
  • WHS psychological risk management
  • Promoting health and preventing harm
  • Resources

To access the Psychological Safety in the Workplace eGuidance, employers need to create an account or login to the Comcare learning management system Comcare LMS. It is not clear whether employers who are not under the Comcare system are able to access the guide. 

NSW: Labour hire in the spotlight for work health safety breaches

SafeWork NSW is holding labour hire companies to account after a number of serious workplace incidents that could have easily been avoided.

As a result of one of these incidents where a labour hire worker was injured by a metal turning lathe, Labourforce Impex Personnel Pty Ltd have entered into an enforceable undertaking with SafeWork NSW in lieu of a prosecution. As part of the undertaking, which will cost the company$480,990, Labourforce must:

  • employ a new national safety manager
  • conduct senior management WHS training
  • develop a bespoke electronic WHS management system
  • host an employment forum targeting the risks and issues associated with labour hire workers.

Rick Bultitude, Director Investigations and Emergency Response at SafeWork NSW, said that safety in the labour hire industry is a priority area for the NSW Government

National: COVID-19 Compensation stats

Safe Work Australia has published a snapshot of COVID-19 related workers’ compensation claims data as at 31 July 2020.

Data is provided by claim type, industry, occupation, age, gender and jurisdiction. Key findings show that as at 31 July 2020:

  • 533 workers’ compensation claims related to COVID-19 were lodged in Australia
  • 34 per cent of these claims related to mental health impacts of COVID-19
  • 34 per cent of workers’ compensation claims lodged were from the health care and social assistance industry
  • 17 per cent of workers’ compensation claims lodged were from the public administration and safety industry
  • the ‘community and personal service workers’ occupation had the highest number of workers’ compensation claims.

The data has been collected from the relevant Commonwealth, state and territory workers’ compensation authorities. It is likely that the true numbers will be much higher. Download the snapshot here.

National Fatality Statistics 

Safe Work updated its fatality statistics on November 5, at which time there had been 140 worker fatalities notified to the national body - this is nine more than the previous update on October 22. Of these, three were in Transport, postal & warehousing; two in 'Other services', one each in Public administration & safety, Manufacturing, Accommodation & food services, and in Education and training.      five were in Construction, threetwo in Agriculture, forestry & fishing,  The deaths this year have been in the following sectors:

  • 44 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 27 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 27 in Construction
  • 14 in Public administration & safety
  • 11 in Manufacturing 
  • 5 in Mining 
  • 4 in Accommodation & food services
  • 3 in 'other services' 
  • 1 in Arts & recreation services
  • 1 in Retail trade
  • 1 in Administrative & support services
  • 1 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Education and training 

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.


Prosecutions

There have not been any recent prosecution summaries added to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

QLD: Company fined $150,000 after worker crushed to death

The Cairns Magistrates Court has fined a North Queensland diesel mechanical repair and sugar cane harvesting business $150,000 following an incident in 2017 when a worker was crushed to death trying to fix a cane haul-out vehicle. No conviction was recorded. 

On 7 October 2017, three workers, including a company director, were harvesting cane at a Mowbray farm. One of the cane haul-out vehicles developed an hydraulic line leak and the director, believing it was simply a hose that needed tightening, instructed the driver to fix the fitting in the assembly area around 500m away. The man did the repair alone. About 20 minutes later, a colleague discovered the worker had been crushed between the ‘haul-out’ vehicle and a stationary bulk fuel trailer.

The company did have a system for field repairs such as this one: normally, one of its mechanics would be called in to do the job. However, this time the process was not followed as the director believed the easy fix could have been done by the driver. The company should have had in place a prohibition on workers doing field repairs single-handedly (in compliance with the operator manual for the vehicle and also the Rural Plant COP), as well as developing and instructing workers on the appropriate system for field maintenance. 

It appears the driver had attempted to fix the problem without turning off the machine and was crushed to death. The magistrate acknowledged that the company directors, one of whom had diesel mechanic qualifications, had previously told him not to work on a machine when it was operating, though noted this instruction had not been given on the day of the incident.
Source: WorkSafe Queensland news release

Major employer fined twice in one week, by two regulators, over fatality and vat burns 

Meat processing giant JBS Australia Pty Ltd has been handed significant WHS penalties in two jurisdictions, including for failing to properly respond to two previous workplace fires, which led to a contractor sustaining fatal injuries in a third fire.

On Friday last week, JBS was fined $300,000 in the NSW District Court in relation to the fatality, and last Tuesday, it was fined $150,000 in the Launceston Magistrates Court in Tasmania in relation to serious burn injuries sustained by a teenage worker in a vat of hot tripe.

In the NSW case, JBS pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19 ("Primary duty of care") and 32 ("Failure to comply with health and safety duty–Category 2") of the State WHS Act in exposing four workers at its cattle feedlot in Caroona to a risk of death or serious injury. In February 2017, the feedlot manager was using a tractor and mower conditioner to harvest kikuya grass in very hot conditions when the process triggered a grass fire. He tried to use the tractor's water-based fire extinguisher but ran out of water and radioed for colleagues to help.

The fire quickly grew , and an independent contractor who worked as a farm hand at the site used a front-end loader to create a firebreak, before the vehicle was observed entering and disappearing in the thick smoke. Shortly after, the farm hand walked out of the smoke with his clothing burnt off and with severe thermal injuries to 90 per cent of his body. He was taken by ambulance to hospital while the Rural Fire Service put out the fire. The worker died two days later.

The court heard that in November 2016, there had been two separate crop fires at the feedlot in almost identical circumstances to the February 2017 fire, but JBS failed to respond to the earlier incidents by making necessary changes to its processes or practices. JBS failed to:

  • keep records of the previous fires,
  • update its emergency plan,
  • conduct a risk assessment
  • hold any meetings with workers,
  • ensure the emergency plan addressed grass fires. It did not provide instructions for workers responding to bush or grass fires, or set out related evacuation procedures.
  • provide firefighting personal protective equipment to workers,
  • adequate training on undertaking harvesting operations during periods of high temperatures,

"Notwithstanding that [the feedlot manager] was the chief fire warden for the workplace... [JBS] provided him with no training, instruction or information about minimising the potential for fires to ignite during mowing or harvesting. Similarly... other workers [with fire warden roles] had not been provided with any training, instruction or information about how to respond to or fight a grass fire, and no one at the fire scene had any formal firefighting experience or training," she said.

The Judge found an appropriate fine for JBS was $400,000, before reducing the penalty by 25 per cent to $300,000 to reflect JBS's guilty plea. She ordered the employer to pay $40,000 in prosecution costs.

In November 2016, a 19 year-old worker at JBS's Longford abattoir climbed the side of a tripe wash tub to remove some stuck tripe, before slipping into the 80-degree water and sustaining serious burns to his legs and feet. This work method was commonly used by other workers and created an obvious risk of death or serious injury. The Magistrate found JBS had provided alternative but ineffective methods for removing stuck tripe from tubs.

In this case, JBS pleaded guilty to category-2 breaches of the Tasmanian WHS Act, and also pleaded guilty to breaching its duty to consult with workers who carried out work for it and were or were likely to be directly affected by health and safety matters. The company was fined $130,000 for the first breach and $20,000 for the consultation contravention. It was initially charged with the more serious offence of reckless conduct, but found not guilty of that last year. 
Source: OHSAlert


International News

Denmark: Lockdowns as mutant mink COVID crosses back

Danish authorities have introduced a lockdown affecting large areas after the discovery a coronavirus mutation found in mink has spread back to humans. Bars, restaurants, public transport and all public indoor sports have closed in seven North Jutland municipalities. The restrictions came into effect from 6 November and initially last until 3 December. Denmark is also culling all its mink - as many as 17 million. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week that mink appear to be “good reservoirs” of coronavirus, after originally contracting the disease from infected humans. Coronavirus cases have been detected in other farmed mink in the Netherlands and Spain since the pandemic began in Europe. Cases are spreading fast in Denmark - 207 mink farms in Jutland are affected. Authorities said 12 people had been infected with the mutated strain. Meanwhile, Danish health minister Magnus Heunicke said about half of the 783 human cases reported in north Denmark related to a strain of the virus that originated in the mink farms. Originally transmitted from infected humans to the mink, genetic detective work has now shown that in a small number of cases, in the Netherlands and now Denmark, the virus seems to have passed the other way, from mink to humans. WHO has called on all countries to step up surveillance and tighten biosecurity measures around mink farms.
Read more: WHO statement. BBC News Online and related story. Science blog. Source: Risks 973.


Events

Tuesday 17 November: Central Safety Group
Topic: Web safety – are you taking risks?

Cyber crime is at an all-time high with so many people working from home and shopping online. Most of us could do a lot to improve our cyber security.

The Central Safety Group says that participants can receive top advice on this and have all their questions answered by Michel Connory of CyberCertified, one of Australia’s leading voices in cyber security, in a midday zoom presentation on Tuesday 17 November. 
Michael’s session will be interactive and participants will receive plenty of tips they can utilise.

This is part of a series of zoom presentations by Central Safety Group while in-person meetings are suspended.
.

When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, 17 November, 2020
How: Online via Zoom. Financial members will automatically be emailed the Zoom meeting link. (N.B. A video recording of the session will be available on the website exclusively for financial members.) 
Cost: Financial members* free. Others $10 [Individual membership fee for 2020: $75] *If unsure of your membership status, contact membership@centralsafetygroup.com

Book online now


RELATED

SafetyNet 559
Welcome to the November 25 edition of SafetyNet - it has now been 26 days since Victoria recorded a new COVID-19 infection.  This is Asbestos Awareness Week so if you are 'at work' take...
Read More
SafetyNet 558
Welcome to the November 18 edition of SafetyNet .  It is with great sadness that we report that two young Victorian workers were killed in the past week.  Visit our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook...
Read More