Union News

Principal contractor fined $450,000 after worker death.

In October in 2016, NSW,  a man was killed laying plywood on the second floor of a building site, when he fell through a gap and landed on a metal bar on the next floor, three metres below.

Recently the company, Truslan, was fined $450,000 after it was found that the company failed to take personal steps to protect workers.

A notice to the company raising the issue was given to the company by the CFMMEU just 11 days before the fatal incident. With the judge finding that the notice should have raised concerns and prompted an OHS inspection of the work site by the company, who failed to act entirely on the notice.

Further, judge Strathdee found that the safe work method statement submitted for the work did not even mention the the task the worker was performing when he was killed.

Although the man who was killed was working for a separate subcontractor at the time, the court found that Truslan still help a non-delegate duty to ensure the health and safety of workers at the site as the principal contractor.

The judge stated "This to my mind shows a blatant disregard for the safety of workers, as he did precious little to eliminate or at least minimise the risks to workers." before laying down a $450,000 fine in the face of a guilty plea.

International Union News

Amazon Day prompts strikes around the globe for workers rights and OHS

"Amazon Day" has caused thousands of workings at Amazon fulfillment centres and warehouses around the globe to strike, to draw attention to the poor treatment of workers, including OHS policy and procedure, the workers endure.

The most valuable, at least in terms of raw economic value, has been noted to treat workers at their fulfillment centres like machines, with unreasonable and inhuman productivity demands wrought by one-day shipping, as reported recently by Bloomberg.

A recent anonymous blog from an Amazon employee tiled "The Relentless Misery of Working Inside an Amazon Warehouse" highlighted the disgraceful practices and expectations put on the delivery workers.

A quote from the blog reads: "The rhythm of this work is relentless. Every stage of the process has been optimized, cutting no slack, sparing zero downtime. In menial work, it is often in the interstices between tasks where little acts of rebellion can be seized."

There have also been reports of workers who peed in bottles to avoid taking bathroom breaks. A Verge report revealed that "hundreds" of workers in a facility in Baltimore were sacked for not meeting their unreasonable productivity expectations.Additionally,leaked video from Amazon

highlights their Union busting methods, instructing managers with what types of behaviour can be signs of Union organizing and highlighting how apparently the presence of Unions is to the detriment of shareholders. It's truly shocking.


Ask Renata

Every week in SafetyNet we highlight an interesting question we received through Ask Renata.

Question:

Dear Renata, what controls are in place to protect call centre staff from hearing damage. Sound shields- fine What about malicious damage ie- screaming down the phone

--

Our response: 

Hi,

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

These types of injuries can certainly result in long-term damage if sustained over time. Your employer has a duty to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to your health, and as such must control this hazard.

Probably the most effective control would be to have headsets with adjustable volume. Being able to adjust the volume of the person on the other end of the phone, i.e. being able to turn someone down if they are screaming, would go a long way to reducing the risk to one's hearing.

Something else that should be considered is the overall noise levels in the workplace. For example, if the room where call centre staff are working is very noisy, they will obviously need to increase the volume on their headsets in order to hear the person on the line. A quieter room will allow staff to keep the volume lower, thus reducing the risk of hearing damage over time. Sound barriers, sound dampening, insulation, all of these are potential options to improve the acoustics of the room and thus reduce the need for higher headset volumes.

I hope this has been helpful and you can read more about the hazards of call centres on our website here: http://www.ohsrep.org.au/hazards/call-centres/call-centres-the-problems

Let me know if you need any further assistance or clarification.

--

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

Workers have been exposed to Asbestos at a power station in the Latrobe Valley.

Two workers were exposed to the dangerous material after removing a piece of plant in a duct around a gas turbine, after the area had been previously identified as "possibly containing asbestos" 

The CFMEU's construction and general organiser for Gippsland, Toby Thornton, said potentially more people could have been exposed.

"There seems to be an oversight in compliance to those regulations and procedures when you suspect that any piece of plant would contain asbestos," Mr Thornton said.

Mr Thornton went on to say that adequate procedures were not followed, and the workers didn't have appropriate decontamination after being showered with asbestos. Additionally, due to the amount of asbestos released and the wind conditions of the day, other works may have been exposed.

Of course, the company that owns the plant, Energy Australia, have released a statement saying they had responded appropriately and "We are complying with WorkSafe Victoria's investigation of the incident and with the notices it has issued."

Read more in the ABC's coverage.
Asbestos Safety Conference 2019

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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