Union News

TONIGHT: Live webinar on stress & mental health
You've asked for it a long time, and the OHS Unit is psyched to deliver! 
Tonight (Wednesday June 12) at 7:00pm we have Part 1 in a special two part series of OHS Live Shows on stress and mental health issues at work. This topic is in such demand from HSRs that we thought it needed two episodes to do it justice. Tonight Luke and Sam will be joined by Dr Lorraine Harrison, who completed her PhD on the causes of workplace stress. The following show will be a discussion of the potential controls and solutions.

Get your questions ready - and see you tonight - go to our We Are Union: OHS RepsFacebook page at 7pm sharp. Don't miss it!

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
I am an OHS rep and recently we had an incident where a staff member pulled a top drawer of a filing cabinet open and the whole cabinet tipped over and almost fell on her. Is there any requirement to have cupboards, cabinets and drawers anchored to the floor or wall? What is the employer's duty of care around this situation? I contacted our employer's OHS consultant and they said there was no requirement to anchor the drawers.

I'm sorry - but what a ridiculous response from the OHS 'consultant'!!

Of course he/she is correct in responding that 'there is no requirement'… but this does not mean the employer does nothing (until someone is injured/killed when a heavy cupboard/whatever falls on top of  them)!

Under the general duty of care (s21) the employer must provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health – this includes a safe and healthy workplace, and safe use of plant. To do this, the employer must eliminate (or minimise) risks to health and safety (s20).  Then, in consultation with the HSR, identify/assess and then control hazards or risks (s35 Duty to consult)

So .. it is clear that there is a hazard and a risk with these drawers (and probably others). There's also a perfectly practicable way to eliminate this risk. And consequently, the employer's duty is absolutely clear - to do something about it, even though there is no specific 'requirement'!

I strongly recommend that you go BACK to the consultant, point the above out, and formally request that controls are implemented in ALL cases where this risk occurs (this will require an identification/assessment process, that you need to be involved in/consulted about).

Give a time frame and then if they don't respond in a satisfactory manner, then consider issuing a PIN. (see Resolution of issues) Note: the consultant may not actually be the employer representative for OHS - if so, you will need to go to that person to resolve the issue. I recommend that you also call the union for assistance.

Please send any OHS related queries in to Ask Renata - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can – usually within a couple of days.

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Asbestos News
ASEA Fact sheet on chrysotile asbestos
We missed this - but in April the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency released a six-page fact sheet on chrysotile asbestos. Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos and is the major commercial form of asbestos used globally. The Agency makes it clear that chrysotile can cause mesothelioma. 
Download the fact sheet from this page on the ASEA website.

Italy: Supreme Court Asbestos Verdict
Last week it was announced that the Labor Section of Italy's Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) had confirmed a 2014 Court of Appeal sentence condemning Rete Ferroviaria Italian SPA (RFI) – a state-owned holding company of the Italian railway – for exposures which caused the mesothelioma death of a mechanic who had repaired asbestos-insulated railway carriages. It has been estimated that 3,000 people have died from asbestos-related diseases due to exposures working for the State Railways or living near to RFI premises. See: Amianto, la Cassazione conferma la condanna a Rete Ferroviaria Italiana [Asbestos, the Supreme Court confirms the sentencing of Italian Railway Network]. Source: IBAS

Eternit's Global Asbestos Crimes 
The global asbestos operations of companies belonging to the Swiss and Belgian Eternit asbestos groups have ruined lives and contaminated communities throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Academic papers released in May 2019 documented the toxic repercussions of asbestos processing in Colombia and Lebanon; another paper published contemporaneously examined the difficulties experienced in holding individual executives to account for the consequences of profit-driven decisions made by asbestos corporations which, ultimately, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens. [Read the full article on the IBAS website]

UK: Site firm and director fined for unsafe removal of asbestos
A construction company and its director have been fined after failing to ensure the safe removal of asbestos during demolition work. Sherwood Homes Limited was the client responsible for the demolition of Crowton Mill in Northwich. Peter Kiely was a director of the company when the results of an asbestos survey conducted in January 2017 were received. These identified the presence of asbestos containing materials on the site. The extra work required to remove the asbestos increased the estimated costs and timescale for the completion of the demolition. An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Sherwood Homes Limited failed to ensure suitable contractors were used to carry out the asbestos removal work and demolition of the mill in February 2017. No record of a notification to HSE to remove asbestos had been received for the site. No details of how the asbestos containing materials were removed or how they were disposed were provided to HSE. Sherwood Homes Limited was convicted of a criminal safety offence and fined £170,000 (A$311,000) plus costs of £10,406 (A$19,000) . Company director Peter Kiely pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £6,500 (A$11,900) plus costs of £7,000 (A$12,800). HSE inspector David Norton commented: "Asbestos should only be removed by specialist contractors. Sherwood Homes Ltd and Peter Kiely put workers at risk by not following the correct safety procedures. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."
Read more: HSE news release. Source Risks 900

More information on the site: Asbestos in the home and Asbestos in the workplace

Quad bike fight heats up
Our subscribers will be familiar with the dangers of quad bikes, with regular reports of not only workers, but unfortunately also children, being killed when these roll over. After a recent inquiry, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended mandatory rollover protection. And yet the ongoing opposition to this recommendation by quad bike manufacturers has led the ACCC's deputy chair Mick Keogh to say they are "playing with lives."

Rollover protection devices, or crash protection devices or operator protection devices (OPD), are normally mounted on the back of the quad bike and are designed to stop the vehicle from rolling on to the rider. However, parts of the quad bike industry have been fighting the recommendation, with Honda and Yamaha both threatening to withdraw their quad bikes and ATVs from the Australian market all together if they become law.

"There is an average of 16 deaths a year from quad bikes, half of those are from rollovers where the person is crushed underneath," Mr Keogh said. And according to Farmsafe Australia, since the early 2000s more than 250 people have been killed in Australia in quad bike related incidents - none of them had an OPD fitted, .

Last week, a 10-year-old boy died after an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) he was driving rolled on a property on the NSW south coast. The four-wheeler flipped at Meroo Meadow, about 15 kilometres north of Nowra, trapping the boy underneath. The boy died at the scene.
Read more: ABC news online  

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International Union News
Bangladesh: Safety crisis in shipbreaking yards continues
At least eight workers have been killed and 35 injured this year in incidents in Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards, IndustriALL has said. The global unions said the number of fatalities since 2017 is 'around 47', adding: "The series of recent accidents point to a massive safety crisis in the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry." In incidents last month, five workers were injured in a fire in the Golden Iron Shipbreaking yard on 28 May, two suffering severe burns. One worker was electrocuted on 20 May at the Bhatiari Steel shipbreaking yard. On 15 May, a gas cylinder exploded, and a fire broke out at Mahinur Shipbreaking Yard in Sitakund, killing two workers and hospitalising four others. IndustriALL says employers' negligence, coupled with poor inspections, a lack of implementation of safety measures by authorities, inadequate training on safe shipbreaking methods and workers unable to get appropriate protective equipment are major causes behind the accidents. Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL shipbreaking director, said: "The negligence of employers and government officials leads to frequent accidents and the Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act of 2018 needs to be strictly implemented. We reiterate our demand that the Bangladeshi government needs to move faster to ratify and implement the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships." Apoorva Kaiwar, the global union's South Asia regional secretary, added: "It is unacceptable that the lives of shipbreaking workers are put at risk. IndustriALL calls upon the employers and the government to ensure that proper safety measures are in place." Read more: IndustriALL news release. Source: Risks 900

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