Union News

Commission rules on claustrophobic workers.

A commission has found that requiring a worker suffering from severe claustrophobia, which had been caused by a situation where the worker was working in an elevator where the power went off for an extended period of time, can fairly be expected to continue to work within elevators within his current role despite the traumatic event.

The Brisbane man worked for KONE, an elevator and escalator maintenance company, and had been told to return to his duties maintaining elevators, after working exclusively with escalators for several years after suffering from a traumatic incident in an elevator.

The commission found that while it is within the workers role to be asked to work in elevators, they warned the employer that dismissing the man for his inability to work in elevators could trigger a potential unfair dismissal case.

The commission found on the worker's submission that KONE had a duty under its enterprise agreement to provide him with a safe working environment, which as we all know is provided under the OHS act, the Commissioner said his personal circumstances made working in elevators unsafe for him, but this did not "render the working environment unsafe at large".

Full details on the verdict can be found here

Ask Renata

Here's an interesting message we got this week from Gavin, a postman who had a question about the vibrations he endures while going about his routine work.

Hi Renata, I'm a Postman and I'm concerned about various pain am experiencing since starting a new delivery run. I have regular painful night cramps in my legs. I have Tennis Elbow and can't seem to shake it off? And most nights back and shoulder aches. Could this be caused by the terrain I am delivering on being unsaved and very rough? I ride each day for approximately 4-5 hours on a motorcycle which I believe is more suited to road conditions. Any advice would be helpful thanks.

- Gavin


From the OHS Team:

Hi Gavin,

Thanks for getting in touch and apologies for the delayed response as we have had some staff on leave.

It sounds to me like you may be suffering the effects of Whole Body Vibration (WBV) as a result of the vehicle and the terrain. This is a common hazard, and affects people using all kinds of vehicles and even some types of hand-held tools. It can result in the types of symptoms you describe, as well as bone damage, varicose veins, motion sickness and impairment of vision. So obviously, with these effects to your health, it is a problem that must be addressed by the employer.

If you identify vibration as a problem, then approach your employer to negotiate changes to the workplace. The usual 'hierarchy of control' should be followed, that is: 1) Eliminate or substitute; 2) Engineering; 3) Administrative; and 4) PPE. What this might mean in regard to vibration is as follows:

  • Elimination: Changing the route/terrain you are driving on, if possible
  • Substitution: A different type of vehicle which is more suited to the terrain and provides a smoother ride;
  • Provision of vibration absorbing and ergonomically designed seats to give proper postural support and comfort; improvement of suspension of cabs and existing seats in vehicles;
    Installation of engineering controls on vibrating machinery (eg better suspension or shock absorbers);
  • Proper and regular maintenance of all vehicles, machinery and tools;
    Introduction of administrative procedures (job and/or equipment rotation and regular rest breaks);
  • Provision of gloves;
  • Provision of training on how to prevent health problems caused by vibration.
    Further, the following should be implemented:
  • Regular environmental monitoring to check effectiveness of control methods.
  • Acceptance of internationally recognised standards as maximum exposure limits:
  • HAV - amplitude of one M/S2 over a four hour period;
  • Very low frequency vibration - amplitude of 0.25 M/S2 over an eight hour period;
  • WBV - amplitude of 0.63M/S2 over an eight hour period.

If you have a question for the OHS team (while Renata is away enjoying some well earned time on vacation) head to www.ohsrep.org.au/ask-renata-form

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Asbestos News

National Asbestos Conference Hit's Perth

With no new news on asbestos this week, we wanted to include a reminder of the National Asbestos Conference, included in last weeks edition:

The 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference will be held in Perth from 11 - 13 November, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. Those wishing to attend are able to register now before the end of financial year. (Note: trade show exhibitor registration is not yet open.)

ASEA says the conference provides a unique opportunity for members of the asbestos management system to come together, exchange information and share ideas with over 300 domestic and international professionals from a range of sectors including work health and safety, public health, local government, international campaign work and the environment. 

This year ASEA will collaborate and focus on Australia's National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Awareness and Management 2019-2023 and the roles and responsibilities those in the asbestos management system have in working together toward preventing exposure to asbestos fibres. Read more about the conference here.

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International Union News

A historical march in San Salvador de Jujuy

600 workers from Glencore's El Aguilar mine have marched a massive 270km march to fight for improved working conditions, an effective safety plan and dismissal of the general manager for mistreating workers and ignoring safety measures. They won the lot.

Union leaders met with authorities from the provincial government. Workers and their union used the opportunity to raise issues of abusive treatment from management and highlighted the dangerous work they are asked to do as well as OHS issues around ventilation and lack of maintenance.

On 25 June, in a massive win for the workers, the company agreed to dismiss the general manager and to implement a plan, approved together with the Ministry of Labour during conciliation procedures, guaranteeing health and safety conditions in the mine.

IndustriALL regional secretary Marino Vani said "We congratulate our affiliate for their work and for defending their members. With the current dialogue between IndustriALL and Glencore, we are confident that the agreements with the Argentinian authorities and AOMA will be respected."

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