SafetyNet 574

May 5, 2021

Welcome the latest edition of SafetyNet. There's lots to read in this week's edition, and our editor recommends listening to the ABC PM segment on the change to the WHO's advice on how COVID is spread. It's fascinating and well worth seven minutes of your time. 

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]

Union News

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update 

Australia has had a total of 29,862 cases of coronavirus diagnosed, and a total of 910 COVID-related deaths. 

Internationally, the numbers of infections and deaths continue to mount: the cumulative number of infections last week was 149,309,249. Today it is 154,975,534. This is 5.67 million new infections in the past week, a decrease of about three per cent, There have now been 3,241,047 COVID-related deaths around the world. (note these figures are updated constantly)

With 9,000 Australians stranded in India, with threats of huge fines and even jail if they breach the travel bans and try to return to Australia, the crisis in that country continues. Late last week the number of new infections daily increased to over 400,000. Yesterday it was over 380,000. The Indian government is claiming that their measures are beginning to take effect, with the numbers decreasing. However experts have cast doubt on the claim, as the number of tests has also decreased. 

The decision to implement the travel ban has caused a fierce backlash. The Prime Minister this week conceded that the likelihood of a prosecution is "pretty much zero" and indicated the ban could be reviewed before it's due to be lifted on May 15. The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, while backing the actions taken by the government, said today that no-one would be jailed. Source: ABC News 

COVID-19 Vaccinations

As of Monday this week, any Australian over the age of 50 can book in for their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. There are a number of 'hubs' in Victoria which are delivering the vaccines, and GPs will also be coming on board over the next week or so. At time of press, 230,404 vaccine doses had been administered in Victoria. 

Reminder: The Department of Health's Victorian COVID-19 vaccination guidelines (the guidelines), appendices and resources available online on this DHS webpage. The guidelines provide advice and describe the minimum requirements for delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination program in Victoria, in accordance with the requirements set out by the Commonwealth Government. The guidelines are updated weekly. Please ensure you are using the most up to date version. Updates are highlighted in yellow in the document.

For more information, go to these pages on the website: Coronavirus disease and Coronavirus the Victorian situation 

Ask Renata  

Over the past week we have received a number of queries relating to mobile workers not having access to facilities such as toilets. What does an employer need to do? Here's one example of such a query.

Hello Renata,  

I am a bus driver on the "Nightrider" service. The company has told us the run/route will be changed next week. The main break of 20 minutes on the new run will be at a stop where there are no toilet facilities for either male or female drivers. Can the company do this? 

This isn't very satisfactory, is it?

There are a couple of things to raise here with the company employer.

  1. If the company is changing the route/run and this is going to have any OHS implications, then it had a legal duty to consult when proposing this change – the consultation had to be with any elected HSRs, with or without any employees directly affected. Do you have an elected HSR? If so, then you need to take this up with him/her in the first instance as they have powers to not only raise the matter, insist on consultation, but take actions if it’s not resolved. If you don’t have an HSR, then the employer still had a legal duty to consult with affected employees. See: Duty to consult
  2. Your employer has a duty of care under s21[2][d] to provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities. See Duties of Employers. While it might not be reasonably practicable to provide toilet facilities at that stop, it’s clear that previously the run was organised in such a way as to ensure drivers had access to toilets. This is what the Compliance Code, which employers must either implement or do more than advised, to ensure they are complying with their duties under the Act:

Mobile, temporary and remote work

107. Many employees are required to work remotely from the employer’s primary workplace, either in other workplaces or moving between workplaces. Sales representatives, labour hire or agency employees, bus and truck drivers, visiting community welfare and health care employees, park rangers, forestry employees and security personnel are examples of employees who are mobile or are required to work remotely.

How to comply

108. Employers need to ensure that mobile and remote employees have reasonable access to amenities and facilities. For example, procedures need to be developed that provide mobile employees with access to dining facilities, hygienic storage of food and water, and toilets. This may include ensuring arrangements are made at customers’ or suppliers’ workplaces or the provision of information regarding publicly located facilities.

So, it is absolutely not reasonable for your employer to just change the run and remove your access to toilets during your break – the code says that procedures need to be developed - and in consultation with HSRs/employees – to ensure that you have access to toilets, water and so on. You need to request formally that the change to the run not be implemented until such time as there has been consultation and something worked out to ensure that drivers have access to toilet facilities. 

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

ACTU, mental health advocates and academics call on Cash to back reforms  

The ACTU has joined with mental health advocates and academics, releasing a joint statement calling on Minister Michaelia Cash and all Work Health and Safety Ministers to vote to support key reforms recommended in both the Boland Review of Model WHS Laws and the [email protected] report on sexual harassment in the workplace at an upcoming meeting of state, territory and federal WHS ministers.

Both reports, commissioned by the Work Health and Safety Ministers and the Federal Government respectively, recommended the inclusion of a psychological hazard regulations in the Model Work and Health Safety Act. Such a regulation would require employers to treat hazards to mental health – such as stress, occupational violence and aggression as well as bullying and sexual harassment – in the same way as physical hazards in the workplace by identifying specific risks and addressing them.

Reforms to our WHS laws require two-thirds (6 out of 9) of WHS Ministers to agree to changes. It is likely that Minister Cash will be the deciding vote at the meeting which is scheduled to take place on the 20th of May and has the power to dramatically improve workplace health and safety laws in all Australian workplaces with regard to mental health.

ACTU Assistant Secretary, Liam O'Brien said, “These reforms are essential to making Australian workplaces safer and reducing the instances of mental health issues and psychological injuries which affect working people every day. Australia is one of the only developed nations in the world to not have equal protections for physical and psychological health and safety." Source: ACTU media release

Have you downloaded the OHShelp App yet?

OHShelp is a free, all-in-one app for Health and Safety Representatives. It has been designed to help HSRs stay informed, organised and in touch with their unions.

HSRs are now able to use the app to identify workplace hazards and access fact sheets written in plain language. The app also allows users to log issues as they find them, and to share the details with their employer, workmates and union. Check out more information on what's on the app, and how to sign up on the OHShelp website. For the moment the app is only available for union members, but a free trial is being organised for non-union members.
Register now - once registered, the ACTU will check with your union to verify your membership. 

Asbestos news

Asia: Asbestos in shipbreaking 

The South Asia Quarterly Update issued on April 28, 2021 on the health emergency at  shipbreaking beaching facilities dealt with, among other hazards, that posed by asbestos contamination on ships being scrapped in Bangladesh and India. The publication by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform noted the ubiquity of asbestos-containing material on board ships, the hazards posed by asbestos exposures to workers and local communities, the lack of capacity to safely handle this material at the shipbreaking yards, the incidence of asbestos-related diseases amongst shipbreaking workers and how weak national systems allow scrappers to exploit regulatory loopholes. See: South Asia Quarterly Update Number 25.  Source: IBAS 

USA: Multi-million dollar settlement 

On April 15 and 16, 2021, a Los Angeles jury returned verdicts totalling US$4.8 million in favour of Mr Willie McNeal Jr. in a case against Old Spice Talc manufacturer Whittaker Clark & Daniels. Mr. McNeal, a 78-year-old Vietnam veteran and retired school bus driver, was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Mr. McNeal's cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma, is the "signature" cancer caused by asbestos.

Through his legal counsel, Mr. McNeal filed a lawsuit against several companies responsible for the products involved in his asbestos exposures. After three years of litigation, including lengthy delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic the case was resolved against all defendants except for one, longtime talc supplier, Whittaker, Clark & Daniels ("WCD").

Mr. McNeal used Old Spice powder as part of his daily personal care routine for 22 years. Like other consumers of talc-based personal care products, such as baby powder, cologne or perfume-scented powder, powdered makeup, and medicated powder, Mr. McNeal had no idea that the cooling, comforting product was exposing him to toxic asbestos. Read more: Yahoo! Finance

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

VTHC's Women Onsite news:

1 - Try a Trade Day, May 23

Women Onsite have partnered with Maker Community Inc. to deliver a ‘Try a Trade’ afternoon to provide aspiring tradeswomen with practical experience across three types of trades. Workshops for the day include:

🗜️Plumbing – Joining, bending and brazing copper tubes that are used in plumbing systems
🔨 Carpentry – We’ll be sighting pieces of timber and using a nailgun to get an understanding of what being a carpenter on big jobs is like
👩‍🏭 Welding – a chance to weld steel plate with an experienced female welder.

Participants will also have the opportunity to chat to the team about the Women Onsite program, next steps and opportunities.

WHEN: Sunday 23rd May 2021, 11am -2:30pm 
WHERE: Maker Community Inc. 215 Albion St, Brunswick 
COST: FREE. Spots are limited! Register now for this FREE program.

2 - Women and Super webinar

The first of 'Jobs Club' webinars, the Women Onsite team ran a very informative session yesterday on Women and Superannuation. If you missed it, you can check it out here, on the Women's Onsite Facebook page. It's well worth spending an hour to get great information on a range of super-related issues, from Lauren, from Australian Super. 

HSR Refresher training

All HSRs are entitled, and should, attend 'Refresher Training' each year subsequent to completing the five day initial training. 

Section 67 of the OHS Act 2004 entitles all OHS and Deputy Reps who have completed a 5 day initial training course to attend a one day refresher training course each year to keep their knowledge of OHS law and practice up-to-date.  It's important to take this right up, as the Refresher training provides an opportunity to catch up with new legislation and material, meet with other HSRs, and further hone skills. 

The refresher course covers:

  • Session 1 - covers legislative update on the Victorian OHS 2004 Act, OHS Regulations 2007, WorkSafe compliance codes and guides.
  • Session 2 - covers consultation, communication, problem solving.
  • Sessions 3 & 4 - covers hazard identification and control with either manual handling, work related stress, incident investigation or hazard mapping.

Details:

Course hours: 9am - 5pm
Course length: 1 day
Course fee: Metro: $330.00 incl. GST Regional: $350.00 incl. GST 

Upcoming 2021 dates and locations:

  • 21 May  – HSR Refresher Training (Carlton)
  • 28 May – HSR Refresher Training (Morewell)
  • 3 June – HSR Refresher Training: Work-related gendered violence including sexual harassment (Carlton)
  • 25 June – HSR Refresher Training (Frankston)
  • 15 July – HSR Refresher Training: Work-related gendered violence including sexual harassment (Carlton)
  • 29 July – HSR Refresher Training (Carlton)
  • 30 July – HSR Refresher Training (Ballarat)
  • 18 August – HSR Refresher Training: Education AEU (Abbotsford)
  • 19 August – HSR Refresher Training (Carlton)
  • 21 September  – HSR Refresher Training (Geelong)

Go to this link to enrol in a course. Remember to then notify your employer at least 14 days' of the course.

NSW: ETU issues cease-work advice for Sydney smoke and particles

On Monday the Electrical Trades Union advised its Sydney-based members to cease work if they became affected by smoke from hazard reduction burns, with large parts of the city covered in particles from the fires.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment air-quality status and forecast webpage advised that "sensitive groups" in the Sydney metropolitan area should avoid outdoor physical activity that day if they developed symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath, while everyone else should reduce outdoor physical activity if they developed  symptoms.

"We have informed our members that they should protect their health and stop work if they are concerned about exposure to hazard reduction smoke in their workplace," ETU NSW secretary Allen Hicks said. "Under state and Federal laws all workers have a right to stop work if their employer can't provide a safe workplace," he said. "Smoke from hazard reduction burns can badly irritate the eyes and throat. Bushfire smoke also contains particles which can affect lung health, particularly for people who already suffer from conditions such as asthma or emphysema. These particles can place extra stress on the heart, leading to increased risk of heart attack." Source: OHS Alert

International Union news

UK: ‘Stark’ COVID death rates skewed towards insecure jobs 

The TUC is calling for an immediate public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The call came on International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April, in memory of those who have died, been injured, suffered work-related ill-health or been infected at work. The union body asked members of the public to observe a minute’s silence at midday. Official figures show more than 11,000 working age people have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. The TUC says that alongside scrutinising the quality of decision-making across the pandemic response in government, the public inquiry must specifically look at infection control and workplace safety, including the failure to provide adequate financial support to self-isolate, PPE availability for health and care staff and other frontline workers throughout the crisis, the effectiveness of test and trace, and the failure to enforce the law on workplace safety. It adds it should examine the unequal impact of Covid-19 on different groups of workers, specifically Black and Minority Ethnic workers and insecure occupations among whom Covid mortality rates are disproportionately higher.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Any public inquiry must look at why workers were put at risk – be it through inadequate PPE or being unable to afford to self-isolate. This isn’t about settling scores. It’s about getting answers and learning the lessons to save lives in future. On International Workers’ Memorial Day, we remember those who have died, and pledge ourselves to fight for safe workplaces for everyone.” Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said: “An independent, judge-led statutory public inquiry is vital to making sure we learn lessons and save lives during the pandemic and for any future waves.” Read more: TUC report calling on the government to introduce tough new measures to ensure that before lockdown restrictions are eased, all employers assess the risks of their staff team returning to work outside the home. Source: Risks 994

Global: Big Mac makes little move on gender-based violence

Following significant international pressure by workers and unions to deal with systemic sexual harassment and gender-based violence in its restaurants, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski has announced new “Global Brand Standards” related to working conditions for the brand’s two million workers worldwide.

Although the move has been welcomed by unions, the global food and farming union IUF noted: “The announcement fails to mention cooperation with trade unions, an ‘essential element’ in ILO Convention 155 on occupational safety and health; prior efforts to end the systemic sexual harassment have proven ineffective due to lack of enforcement and involvement by trade unions.” It added the response from the fast food giant comes after years of international pressure by McDonald’s workers and their unions to get McDonald’s to adopt and implement genuine measures against sexual harassment and gender-based violence, including the filing of an OECD complaint last year.

Beginning in January 2022, McDonald’s says: “The new Brand Standards prioritise actions in four areas: harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention; workplace violence prevention; restaurant employee feedback; and health and safety. These standards were informed by a cross-functional global team, reviews of global market practices and perspectives from across the McDonald’s System.” The standards will apply to all McDonald’s restaurants, corporate-owned or franchised.

However, the IUF and unions “battling for the right to represent McDonald’s workers in the face of widespread resistance from the company believe the Standards will be completely ineffective without trade union representation in the workplaces,” IUF said.  
Read more: IUF news release. McDonald’s news release.

 


Research

WHO finally acknowledges COVID-19 spreads via aerosols

In major news, the World Health Organisation has now accepted the aerosol spread of coronavirus - that we can breathe it to each other.

Fourteen months into the pandemic, the global health authority is now clearly stating that COVID is airborne, that it is not just spread via droplets. Experts say governments and health authorities must now urgently adopt strategies to reduce the risks of airborne transmission and more effectively fight the COVID pandemic.

This week the WHO released a new guidance note which finally admits that coronavirus can spread in small particles from one person to another when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe. Up to now, many in the WHO and elsewhere have resisted the scientific evidence around aerosol transmission, either dismissing it entirely or downplaying airborne spread as a key method of transmission. Last year, a WHO 'fact check tweet' categorically stated that COVID was not airborne! The guidance, updated on April 30, now states the following:

"The virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe. These particles range from larger respiratory droplets to smaller aerosols.

  • Current evidence suggests that the virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, typically within 1 metre (short-range). A person can be infected when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range)."

In July last year, 239 scientists wrote to WHO pleading for action. The scientists, from 32 different countries and many different areas of science (including virology, aerosol physics and epidemiology),sent an open letter urging the WHO to change their advice. “We ignore COVID-19 airborne spread indoors at our peril,” the scientists said. (Gehanno JF, Bonneterre V, Andujar P, et al. How should data on airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 change occupational health guidelines? [Full letterOccup Environ Med July, online first; and The New Daily The big COVID debate dividing scientists and the WHO).  

According to an expert interviewed by the ABC, WHO's scientific thinking behind its insistence that COVID was spread through droplets dates back to a historical error made over 100 years ago, in 1910. However, the evidence that COVID is spread by aerosols has been growing, and the change of just a few words has already lead to public health authorities around the world to change advice regarding appropriate PPE, workplace practices and more.

Tragically, had WHO taken note of the aerosol scientists' letter last year and changed its advice, many infections would have been prevented, and millions of lives would have been saved. At the time they wrote to WHO there had been 200,000 deaths worldwide. Today there have been over 3,240,000 deaths. 

Listen to the full segment on ABC's PM here 


Regulator News

Victorian news

2021 WorkSafe Awards: Entries close Friday!

Nominations close for this year's WorkSafe Awards this Friday, so if you haven't already done so, nominate your HSR now! 

Awards are in the following categories:

  • Health and Safety Representative of the Year (the main event for HSRs!)
  • Commitment to Workplace Health and Safety on a Farm
  • Workplace Health and Safety Solution of the Year
  • Leading Return to Work Practice
  • and more..

Sally Collier-Clarke and Sara Jorgensen, ANMF members and HSRs at Bendigo Health were the joint winners of HSR of the year in 2019. They were also key note speakers at the VTHC OHS Reps Conference in 2020.  Find out more about the awards here and nominate your HSR. Entries close this Friday, 7 May 2021, so don't delay!

New Safety Alerts

  1. Explosion during the filling of Scuba Cylinders
    WorkSafe last week issued a safety alert about the hazards and risks associated with filling self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (Scuba) air cylinders. Recently a worker was seriously injured when a scuba compressed air cylinder exploded while he was attempting to fill it. It is believed that the air cylinder had not been maintained and was not capable of holding the original fill pressure capacity, causing it to explode. The air cylinder shattered into a number of pieces, injuring the worker and placing others, in the area at risk of serious injuries. There was also significant damage to the workplace.  
    The Safety Alert goes through what the safety issues were, relevant legal duties and Australian Standards, and possible measures to control the risks. 

  2. Mechanic dies while working underneath a car

    WorkSafe has issued a safety alert about the hazards associated with working underneath raised vehicles in the auto repair industry following the death of a mobile mechanic in Ferntree Gully on April 22. The Alert notes that many workers in the auto repair industry are required to work on vehicles outside of a workshop, such as at another workplace or private residence. Servicing and repairing vehicles frequently requires the vehicle to be raised on a hoist or trolley jacks to enable work to be undertaken on the underside of the vehicle. The alert goes through the circumstances in which serious crush injuries can occur, and provides a number of measures which should be taken to control the risks.

Coroner 

In findings released this week, Victorian Coroner Jacqui Hawkins said that greater awareness is needed by bar operators and staff on the dangers of physically restraining patrons following the October 2018 death of Spiros Boursinos at the Antique Bar in Elsternwick.  Mr Boursinos died while being restrained during a drug-induced psychotic episode, having consumed cocaine and whilst also suffering from coronary artery disease. 

Coroner Hawkins said the death highlighted the risks posed when bar staff do not have sufficient training in how to manage or physically restrain a person having a mental health episode or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
While security guards and crowd controllers are required to undertake training in conflict resolution, safe restraining holds and risks of physical restraint, bartenders are not. 
Her Honour stated that the staff who restrained Mr Boursinos were left vulnerable as they did not have skills to safely stop Mr Boursinos from hurting himself or others. Read more: Coroners Court of Victoria media release

National News 

National Fatality Statistics 

Safe Work Australia updated its statistics on fatalities on April 29, at which time they had been notified that 32 Australian workers had been killed at work in 2021 - this is three  more than at the previous update on April 15. The three deaths were: one each in Transport, postal & warehousing; Construction and Accommodation & food services. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 12 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 5 in Construction
  • 3 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 3 in Arts & recreation services
  • 2 in Manufacturing 
  • 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 2 in Other Services 
  • 1 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Public administration & safety
  • 1 in Accommodation & food services

These figures are based mainly on initial media reports and provide a preliminary estimate of the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia updates details of the incident. Updated information is used to publish Safe Work Australia’s annual Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report which includes finalised work-related fatalities from 2003 onwards. 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

Vic: Manufactured stone bench company fined after not complying with Improvement Notices for months

TTN Stonework Pty Ltd is a company located in Keysborough which specialises in custom cut stonework and manufactures reconstituted stone benchtops such as Caesar Stone. These contain high levels of crystalline silica.

On 1 March 2019, as part of WorkSafe's project on crystalline silica exposure in the stonemason industry, a WorkSafe inspector attended the workplace to identify potential sources of exposure to crystalline silica and to assess the control measures in place to minimise the risk of exposure.

As a result, the inspector issued four improvement notices on the following issues:

  1. The sourcing and trimming if edges with a dry grinding process on engineered stone: the dust was not adequately captured by the extraction system as the inspector saw it on the walls and floor of the unit. The employees were wearing disposable P2 masks where one had the filter removed. The inspector formed the belief that the exposure to crystalline silica was likely to exceed the eight hour occupational exposure standard of 0.1 mg/m3, and that persons grinding the stone were at risk of severe adverse health effects as a consequence;
  2. Health monitoring for respirable crystalline silica: the employer was not providing this to employees at the workplace, as required by Regulation 169 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017;
  3. Observed visible layers of dust on floors and vertical and horizontal surfaces throughout the workplace: the inspector believed that the cleaning methods used could result in the generation of airborne silica dust, and therefore, did not eliminate or reduce the risk of exposure to crystalline silica dust so far as was reasonably practicable as required by regulation 163 of the regulations; and
  4. A CNC Bridge Saw with guarding that did not, so far as is reasonably practicable, prevent access to the saw and its moving parts whilst in operation.

All four improvement notices were issued with a compliance date of 5 May 2019.

When the inspector re-attended the workplace on 17 May 2019, he observed that only IN1 and IN3 had been complied with, not IN2 and IN4. The inspector re-attended the workplace on 7 June 2019, 10 July 2019: neither of the two outstanding Improvement Notices had been complied with. The inspector re-attended the workplace on 13 September 2019 and observed that TTN had complied with IN2 in that it had ensured employees had undertaken health monitoring, and had complied with IN4 in that an interlock guard had been fitted to the CNC Saw. 

WorkSafe subsequently charged TTN with failing to comply with IN2 and IN4 by the compliance date. The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $10,000, plus ordered to pay WorkSafe’s costs of $1,655.83.

This is yet another example where an employer continued to put workers at risk of disease and injury despite repeated visits by WorkSafe - and another example of the regulator giving employers not just one chance, but several before taking enforcement action and prosecuting. If Victoria's regulator does not want to continue to be seen by workers as a 'toothless tiger', it needs to prosecute employers who clearly breach their duties under the law and put workers' lives at risk. 

To check for any Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage. 

NSW: Company fined after subcontractor trapped, crushed and killed in tank

A NSW company, DIC Australia Pty Ltd, has been handed a pre-discount WHS fine of $600,000, plus $45,000 in costs, after its flawed electrical isolation system caused the death of a subcontractor in a tank, and serious injuries to two workers who attempted to save him.

In December 2017, a plant cleaning subcontractor was working inside the ink holding tank at DIC's Auburn premises when its agitator blade activated, crushing his legs and trapping him against the tank's wall. A fitter from Buddco Pty Ltd, the contractor responsible for installing and maintaining the site's plant and equipment, entered the tank to help the trapped worker, but the blade turned again and trapped the fitter's left leg.

A DIC production operator then tried to enter the tank but the moving blade crushed his right leg and foot and nearly dragged him into the tank, before he pulled himself to safety. Other workers realised the tank's power was still on and called a site electrician to isolate the plant.

Specialist paramedics, fire and rescue personnel and police attended the site to free the trapped workers but cleaning subcontractor suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the scene, about two hours after entering the tank.

NSW District Court Judge David Russell found the company could have prevented the incident by installing engineering controls allowing workers required to enter the tank to isolate it themselves, instead of having to arrange this with an electrician.

DIC pleaded guilty to breaching two sections of the WHS Act, in exposing the three workers to the risk of death or serious injury. Judge Russell found DIC's culpability was "in the high range" and an appropriate fine was $600,000, before reducing this by 25 per cent to $450,000 for DIC's guilty plea.

Buddco, which arranged for and supervised all maintenance work at the premises and engaged the deceased worker, pleaded not guilty to WHS charges, and will face trial later this year. The judge said that while the Court had not heard any evidence from Buddco to date, he accepted the submission that evidence relating to the contractor showed its actions "appear to be a significant factor in [the] creation of the risk". Source: OHS Alert

UK: Transport operator fined £1.5m after worker electrocuted

Tyne & Wear Metro operator Nexus has been fined £1.5m (AUD$2.7m) after a maintenance worker was electrocuted. Nexus pleaded guilty at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Crown Court following the death of maintenance worker John Bell at the company’s South Gosforth depot on 6 July 2014. The court heard the 43-year-old died while working at height carrying out maintenance work on high voltage overhead cables. He was electrocuted after contacting a wire he believed to be isolated from the power supply but, due to the incorrect installation of equipment, was still live.

In its investigation, industry regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found safety critical procedures were ignored and some of the breaches continued for a substantial period after the man’s death. These included: allowing work to be carried out without the appropriate instructions for staff to prevent injury; work being undertaken without the required safety critical permits; and serious inadequacies in policy documents covering ‘live line working’, which failed to include a requirement for staff to test all electrical wires before carrying out work. ORR found lessons were not learned over a number of years and problems persisted despite the worker's death, putting other workers at risk for a ‘substantial period’.

ORR chief inspector Ian Prosser said: “Nexus’ working practices were poor and continued so for a long time. This meant Nexus did not have the right measures in place to assess whether the Metro was being maintained safely.” He added: “This sadly contributed to the events which caused the death of Mr Bell. Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr Bell and I hope this result brings them some peace.” Mr Bell had previously been injured in an incident when working on overhead line equipment in February 2002. Nexus was subsequently prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for a criminal safety offence and fined £16,000 (AUD$27,800). In that incident, Mr Bell suffered serious head and chest injuries and was off work for more than a year. 
Read more: ORR news release. Construction Enquirer. Source: Risks 994


Events

Friday 7th May: MUA Fundraiser Painters & Dockers Timor Leste Solidarity Gig

Organised by APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad, this awesome gig featuring legendary punk rock band the Painters & Dockers plus support acts is being run in Solidarity with the people of Timor Leste. To make a booking go to this page

When: Friday 7th May, 7pm-11pm
Where: MUA Auditorium, 46-54 Ireland Street, West Melbourne
Tickets:  $80 or $800 for a table of 10 Includes: Food and entertainment

Tuesday May 11: Central Safety Group - Using technology to make work safer  
Speaker: Gavin Kenny, Manager SHEQ - Service Delivery, Melbourne Water

Melbourne Water is a statutory body which supplies high-quality water, provides reliable sewerage services, integrates drainage systems to prevent flooding and enhances waterways and land for Melbourne and its surrounds. Gavin will talk about the changes involved, how they were introduced and the resulting efficiency gains.

These new systems are integrated with and supported by the organisation’s existing IT systems. He will describe the transition from using cumbersome, paper-based processes to easy-to-use digital systems. Among other things, this has made safety data at Melbourne Water more transparent and easy to access, making it easier to analyse trends.

When: 12 - 1pm, Tuesday, 11 May, 2021
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. Non-members $10 
[Individual membership fee for 2020: $75] *If unsure of your membership status, contact [email protected] 
RSVP by COB May 10 
Book online now


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SafetyNet 601
Welcome to the November 17 edition of SafetyNet.  The big news this week is the commencement of the Crystalline Silica regulations - see more below.  Visit our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page for news,...
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SafetyNet 600
Welcome to the November 10 edition of SafetyNet.  It is with great sadness that we report that another Victorian worker was killed this week.  The VTHC's annual HSR Conference was a great success,...
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SafetyNet 599
Welcome to the October 27 edition of SafetyNet.  We regret to inform subscribers that another Victorian worker has been killed at work this week: an electrician was electrocuted on Tuesday October 26.  Our...
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