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OHS Prosecutions

SafeTCard News on OHS Prosecutions
Victorian Prosecutions: Home construction company fined for failure to conduct a hazard/risk assessmentDesigner Built Homes Pty Ltd, a registered building company, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrate's Court to breaching section…

SafeTCard Shown to be Effective in Protecting Women From Domestic Violence

In a trial carried out by the non-profit group Safe Futures Foundation the use of SafeTCard personal protection devices has helped to significantly reduce the number of times that perpetrators of domestic violence have breached intervention orders against them.
The trial in…

Queensland Introduces Law to Protect Health Workers

Under tough new legislation being introduced by the state Government in Queensland, Australia, anyone convicted of assault against a health worker could face up to 14 years in prison.A Safe Night Out at Work
The law is part of the government’s Safe Night Out strategy that is…

SafeTCard Part of $150 Million Program Against Domestic Violence

SafeTCard are proud to be part of a new $150 million program announced by the Government in Victoria, Australia.
As part of the five-year program, that was announced on 11th October 2014, there will be a two-year trial of GPS technology. This will involve up to 200 high-risk…

Safe Work Australia Month Launched

October 2014 is Safe Work Australia Month. The initiative encourages employers and workers to get involved in and concentrate on safety in their workplace with the aim of reduce risks of death, injury and disease.

The theme for Safe Work Australia Month 2014 "Work safe….

Thursday 21 May 2015

SafetyNet 322, May 21, 2015
Welcome to SafetyNet – we hope the information in this journal is interesting and useful. Feel free to disseminate or use items as you like. If you have any comments, please send them in to Renata – questions welcomed too. We need/want more “followers” on Twitter… so please follow us @OHSreps
Union News
OHS Regulator News
OHS Prosecutions
International News
Union News
Queensland bike fatality
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is investigating a fatal incident that occurred on Tuesday 12 May 2015 on a road south of Tambo. A cattle drover who was riding a motorcycle back to the camp site after checking on stock died when an item he was carrying became entangled in the chain area of the bike and pulled him off. Information on farm vehicles and utes is provided in the alert.
Read more: eSafe Alert
Comcare expansion threatens workers’ health and safety
Reader will remember that the AMWU is running a campaign against the changes to Comcare being proposed by the Abbott Government (SafetyNet 320) as the changes will cut workers’ rights. This week the Australian Lawyers Alliance warned that the government’s plans to expand the national workplace safety regulator’s role was a “disaster waiting to happen, given its demonstrated inability to regulate safety in the workplaces for which it is currently responsible.”
The organisation said that said the successful prosecution against construction giant John Holland, which come under Comcare, has highlighted a series of failures. National president Andrew Stone said a recent court case confirmed that John Holland had breached OHS laws several times before this case: the company was fined $110,000 after a worker suffered a head laceration when a bridge at the Brisbane Airport Link site collapsed.
“Months earlier, a person on the same worksite was crushed to death. That case is yet to be resolved,” Mr Stone said. “It must be asked: where was Comcare in preventing these breaches? If Comcare is struggling to adequately regulate worker safety across only 33 companies, why on earth would you put more workers from across the country at risk by allowing employers to leave well-funded and well-administered state-based schemes to join Comcare’s poorly functioning regulatory arrangements?”
Read more: Expansion of Comcare will threaten workers’ safety, says Australian Lawyers Alliance The Canberra Times
WA: Contractor dies at Telfer gold mine, second mining fatality in one week
A 28-year-old contractor was killed Friday at Newcrest’s remote Telfer gold mine in Western Australia’s north, the second mining fatality in WA last week. The company said he had been working in an underground mine when he was fatally injured. Newcrest temporarily stopped all operations on the site. The first fatality, on Monday, was a worker at Aditya Birla Minerals’ Nifty copper mine. According to the company, the contractor was operating a bogger at the time of the incident. WA recorded its first 2015 mining fatality in January, when a man was killed at the Woodie Woodie manganese mine. All three mine sites are in the state’s resource-rich Pilbara region.
Source: ABC News Online
Ask Renata
Hi Renata,
I work in a hairdressing salon and was very interested to read about the hazardous chemicals in nail polish. Do you have any more information that might be useful for me and my fellow workers on the hazards we face?
Those working in a beauty salon, a hairdressing or nail salon face a myriad of hazards, including Dermatitis and other skin conditions, hazardous Manual Handling, and more. There is quite a bit of targeted information on the website on hazards in this industry, which can be found on the Service Industry – Resources page. There are links to resources from WorkSafe Victoria, WorkCover NSW and from the UK’s government regulator site.
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.
Asbestos News
Asbestoswise Annual Appeal
Asbestoswise is an asbestos diseases support and advocacy group. The organisation is overseen by an elected volunteer Committee of Management and a small contingent of paid staff. It provides a range of community awareness and support programs, including running regular support groups; providing a central access point for information about how to identify, handle, remove and dispose of asbestos; striving for improvements in treatment, care and diagnosis; working towards an asbestos free environment in Australia by 2030 and more. Asbestoswise is currently running its annual appeal – all donations over $2 are tax deductible. Go to this page to donate. Follow Asbestoswise on Facebook.
Chrystotile listing as a PIC on Rotterdam Convention blocked
Despite the high energy, high profile international union and NGO campaign to have chrystotile asbestos listed on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, this was blocked by India, the Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Cuba which voted against placing it on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list. Because of the repeated failure to list chrysotile, a new intersessional Working Group has been established to review how the treaty can function into the future.
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) national president Andrew Dettmer, who attended the meeting, said Russia – the leading producer of chrysotile asbestos – persuaded the other countries to “defy the rest of the world”. He said the result was “farcical” and the process was “flawed” in requiring unanimous consensus before a hazardous substance was added to the list. “The problem is it only takes one or a handful of countries who don’t want a substance listed to stop that and it brings into question the entire context of the Rotterdam Convention,” Dettmer said.
Read more: India Blocks Listing Of Chrysotile Asbestos In Rotterdam Convention:
Hides Behind Smokescreen Of Bogus Science
Asbestos victims robbed to fund building industry watchdog
The national office of the Electrical Trades Union last week picked up another hidden attack in the federal government’s budget. While the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has not been abolished, its funding has been slashed by a third, from $5 million to $3.2 million – and the budget of the Fair Work Building and Construction body (FWBC) was doubled. Electrical Trades Unions assistant national secretary David Mier said that future programs vital to cleaning up dangerous asbestos in the community were now in danger.

“Asbestos is a significant public health threat in this country. It’s not only electricians and tradespeople who are at risk here – anyone can be exposed to asbestos, and it kills,” he said. “For the government to be playing politics with this issue – removing funding to beef up its highly political construction industry watchdog – is simply not acceptable. We are deeply concerned that this funding cut will impede the ability of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to implement programs that will remove the asbestos threats faced by workers and members of the public.”
Read more: ETU media release
Vic minister: $100m not enough
When in Opposition, the Victorian Labor Party pledged to eradicate asbestos from state schools classrooms by 2020. However, Education Minister James Merlino told a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing last week that an ambitious $100 million Labor plan will not cover the removal cost. The Opposition said it could cost up to $800 million. “We know that $100 million alone, will not make our schools asbestos-free,” Mr Merlino said. Nevertheless, the government remains committed to its removal. Read more: The Age
SWA Report: Mesothelioma in Australia
Safe Work Australia this week released the 2015 report Mesothelioma in Australia: Incidence (1982 to 2013) and Mortality (1997 to 2012). In 2012 there were 652 new cases of mesothelioma cases notified to the Australian Mesothelioma Register (540 male, 112 female). The preliminary number of diagnoses for 2013 is 575 (465 male, 110 female).
In 2012 there were 628 deaths in which the underlying cause was mesothelioma: 538 were males and 100 were females. As expected, these deaths were markedly skewed towards older age groups, due to the long latency period. The national trend is still increasing, with the number of deaths peaking in 2012.
Download a copy of the report here [pdf]
ACT passes asbestos Bill and applauds safety improvements
The ACT Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 has passed Parliament, meaning asbestos removalists must now be, or be supervised by, a licensed builder when removing a building’s critical infrastructure.
Introduced in March, the Bill closed a “loophole” that allowed licensed asbestos removalists to remove asbestos-containing walls, ceilings and other infrastructure that could affect the structural integrity of a building without complying with builder licensing laws, Territory Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said.
Read more: Minister’s Media Release
Asbestos scandal: Call for mayor to stand down
The mayor of Hurstville, NSW, Con Hindi, is facing pressure to stand aside following revelations that the mayor failed to heed his own council’s repeated directives to remediate his asbestos-riddled development site. In April, Cr Hindi’s neighbour complained that a large hole had appeared at the back of his property after excavation work was done on a development site in Mortdale.
Council investigations revealed the site was owned by the mayor who had commenced excavating without council approval. They also found the soil on the site was found to contain asbestos. Due to repeated failures by Cr Hindi to follow directives to clean-up the site, council staff have recommended he be fined $4000 under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act. He is also facing a further $3000 in fines for unauthorised works plus a recommendation that he be prosecuted for possible breaches of public health and safety. Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
Rio Tinto appeals payout
In a court ruling on May 15, former Gove refinery worker Zorko Zabic, who is dying from an asbestos related disease, won his compensation case and was awarded $425,000 from Rio Tinto after originally being denied compensation due to a legal technicality. The company immediately launched a legal challenge attempting to stop workers making common law claims for asbestos and restrict them to the Northern Territory’s inadequate workers’ compensation system, which denies justice to asbestos victims due to the long gestation period of the illness. Rio Tinto must drop its High Court challenge in an asbestos compensation case in the Northern Territory, in which the mining giant is seeking to limit future claims from victims.
Read more: CFMEU Mining News; Please sign the petition urging Rio Tinto pay compensation to asbestos victims.
Want to know about Asbestos laws and more? Go to the Asbestos section on the site.
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People with work-related cancer not getting compensation
A Cancer Council WA report Occupational Cancer Costs: Workers’ compensation claims paid in Australia 2000-2012 [pdf] released this week found that 4,745 Australians received a compensation payout for a cancer that was, at least in part, caused by an occupational exposure. This totalled A$360.5 million over the 12 years. The two main causes were found to be the sun and asbestos. More than half of the claims related to skin cancers (eg melanoma and non-melanoma) accounting for about 15 per cent of the payouts. This contrasts to about three-quarters of this money being paid to people with the asbestos disease mesothelioma.
Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Occupational and Environmental Cancers Committee and author of the report, Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, said the $360.5 million was “the tip of the iceberg”. He said, “These sound like big numbers until we consider that the best estimates suggest about 5,000 cancer cases each year (about 4,400 of whom are men) occur as a result of some kind of occupational exposure. That means less than 10% of the cancer cases suspected to be linked to work exposures manage to attract compensation.” Up to 3.6 million Australians may be being exposed to carcinogens at work.
Read more: $360m for workplace cancer compensation ‘tip of the iceberg’ Cancer Council Media release;
Workers exposed to cancer-causing agents deserve compensation The Conversation;
People with work-related cancer miss out on compo The Sydney Morning Herald
Emergency Department evacuated
On Wednesday night, just a week after the release of the VAGO Occupational Violence Against Healthcare Workers Report, patients and staff in the emergency department at Casey Hospital had to be evacuated because of a violent patient. Fortunately no-one was injured in the incident, but the area was locked down for almost an hour until police and security staff brought the man under control.
“A number of staff were forced to lock themselves in rooms for protection,” said the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick. She said police had escorted the man, who had been sedated and restrained, to the hospital’s emergency department for assessment. This incident follows two cases in recent months in which nurses at the Monash Medical Centre were attacked and left unconscious. Ms Fitzpatrick urged the state government to adopt the ANMF’s plan to tackle violence and aggression in hospitals.
Read more: Casey Hospital emergency department evacuated because of violent patient The Age; ANMF End Violence and Aggression Plan
Union leader calls for tougher penalties
The TWU has called for greater rights for foreign workers on temporary visas, with criminal sanctions to be imposed on employers who exploit them and illegally undercut wages. TWU federal secretary Tony Sheldon told the union’s national council this week that such workers should be allowed to vote and that costs such as health insurance and public education for their children should be shifted to their employers.
Sheldon, who is also a national vice-president of the ALP, argued that migrant workers should get “mandatory access” to union representation upon arrival in Australia. “Only by giving migrant workers full democratic representation will their voices be heard because politicians and the business elite will have to listen to their demands,” he said. “Migrant workers pay thousands of dollars in health insurance and payment for their children’s education in public schools. Often this cost is borne by the workers themselves, effectively amounting to an additional tax on already vulnerable workers. If employers want to bring migrant workers into Australia then they must be held responsible for ensuring they can share in the Australian way of life. This is a nation built on egalitarian values where workers are equal – this right must extend to all workers.”
Read more: Give migrant worker the vote TWU Campaign site
CFMEU: Rio Tinto and casualisation
Mineworkers have confronted Rio Tinto over casualisation of coal mining jobs and its dangerous impact on mine safety. Speaking ahead of the global mining giant’s AGM in Perth, Andrew Vickers from CFMEU Mining and Energy said that insecure work arrangements were a troubling feature of Rio Tinto’s mining operations worldwide and were an increasing problem in Australia. “A growing proportion of jobs in coal mines are now filled by labour hire contractors rather than permanent positions – well over a third of jobs in many mines. This is a bad outcome for workers, who have little job security and don’t enjoy the same pay and conditions as permanent employees. But it’s also a disaster for mine safety.” He explained: “Contract workers know they could lose their job in an instant if they raise a concern about safety that might impact production and this fear is leading directly to accidents.” He said in some Australian mines lost time injuries in contract workers were running at almost twice the overall rate. He added: “Mining companies like Rio Tinto might like the control they have over a casualised workforce – but it’s a dangerous trend. We urge Rio Tinto to prioritise permanent, secure jobs in all its operations.”
Read more: CFMEU Media Release
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Wall collapses in NSW – man seriously injured
In an incident which echoed the Carlton tragedy in which three bystanders were killed, last Friday emergency crews freed a seriously injured man who was trapped by rubble after a wall collapse at Hornsby, in Sydney’s north. The collapse also brought down scaffolding and power lines, but they were not live. It is understood the construction worker had been working on the wall at a NSW Rural Fire Service Station, when it collapsed. He was taken to hospital with chest and back injuries. WorkCover NSW was informed and will investigate the incident.
Queensland Government FIFO/long distance commuting inquiry
The Queensland Government is conducting an Inquiry into Fly In, fly out and other long distance commuting work practices in regional Queensland. This is an important opportunity to make sure Brisbane hears directly from workers and community members in the mining industry and in regional Queensland about the challenges such workers face. Individuals and organisations are encouraged to make submissions. The deadline for submissions is 4pm, Friday 25 May 2015.
For more information, and assistance in putting something in, go to the Our jobs.Our kids.Our Future website
International Union News
UK: TUC says ‘Don’t despair, organise!’
The shock election of a Conservative government that signalled before the vote it intends further attacks on health and safety should spur unions to ‘support and develop’ union safety reps, Britain’s peak union council, the TUC, has said. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said “we can only anticipate with dread what lies ahead from the new Conservative majority government and a European Commission eager to please them.” But, writing in the TUC’s Stronger Unions blog, he said “health and safety protection is not something that is given to us by politicians. It is not parliament that makes workplaces safer. The biggest factor is strong trade unions working with employers at local level.” Whether it was an asbestos ban or action on needlesticks, unions were the essential ingredient in securing improvements. He said working people, facing continuing austerity measures and the erosion of rights “need us more than ever,” adding the first priority has to be to support and develop the union 100,000 plus health and safety representatives already in workplaces and to encourage new ones to come forward.
In what is equally good advice for us in Australia, he added: “At the same time we have to use health and safety as a recruiting tool in the workplace. That means being seen, and being heard, on issues that matter to those we work with: Supporting members with stress-related illnesses and getting employers to manage stress; using issues such as well-being to argue for better and fairer treatment at work; and of course campaigning for the removal of those chemicals and substances that are making people ill and even killing them.”
Read more: Risks 702 ; Time to return to basics TUC Stronger Unions blog.
Global: Workers’ guide to health and safety
Workplace disasters, from Piper Alpha to Pike River to Rana Plaza, remind us periodically that health and safety tragedies have common causes wherever you live and work. But a new book recognises that they also have common remedies, based around the informed and empowered role of workers. For further details and sample chapters, see: Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety, Hesperian May 2015. Source: Risks 702.
Turkey: No justice on first anniversary of Soma mine disaster
Last week was the first anniversary of the Soma mine disaster in western Turkey where 301 workers were killed when there was a major underground explosion and fire (see images). The disaster was a result of continual cost cutting by the company that resulted in unsafe working conditions. While some compensation was paid, the trial of those responsible for the disaster has just begun. The union federation DISK held a major demonstration to remember the dead and fight for the living. In an incident that sums up the stance of the government, a miner who was assaulted and injured by an aide to Prime Minister Erdoğan was this week fined for damaging a car of the Prime Minister’s convoy.
Read more: Turkey marks first anniversary of Soma mining disaster, Daily News. Source: AAWL Mini News
Global: ILO says most workers in insecure employment
A global shift to more insecure jobs since the financial crisis is fuelling growing inequality and higher rates of poverty, according to a new report that estimates only a quarter of the world’s workers are on permanent contracts. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) the remaining three quarters are employed on temporary or short-term contracts, working informally often without any contract, are self-employed or are in unpaid family jobs.
A worldwide trend away from secure jobs risked “perpetuating a vicious circle of weak global demand and slow job creation” that has dogged many countries since the crisis, the UN agency said. In its World Employment and Social Outlook 2015 (WESO), the agency highlighted a rise in part-time employment, especially among young women. Though some workers welcome the flexibility of part-time jobs and self-employment, often such roles are down to lack of choice, it said.
Read more: Changing nature of jobs ILO; Most of the world’s workers have insecure jobs, ILO report reveals The Guardian
Philippines: final tally in footwear factory fire is 72
The fire reported in last week’s SafetyNet was worse than first reported, with the final death toll reaching 72. Once again, this was no ‘accident’. A feminist forum, Women in and Beyond the Global, said: “Every report [on the fire] covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now. The fire “started” when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn’t sure the building had any fire escapes.”
Some officials are calling for stricter standards, however. Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has called the factory’s owners “immoral” and accused them of a raft of illegal labour practices, and is calling for criminal penalties for factory owners who violate safety standards.
Read more: The Philippines factory fire was a planned massacre of women workers Women in and Beyond the Global; Philippines Pushes Job Safety Laws After Deadly Factory Fire NDTV
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Cost of arthritis and musculoskeletal injury $7.4 billion per year
Arthritis and musculoskeletal issues are negatively impacting workforce productivity by up to $7.4 billion a year, according to La Trobe University research report. The report, which was conducted in collaboration with Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria (AOV), found that the breakdown of the economic cost from lost productivity from arthritis and musculoskeletal issues comprised:
• Reduced employment rate: $6,049,090,000
• Lost superannuation: $544,420,000
• Presenteeism: $397,270,000
• Absenteeism: $301,080,000
• Premature death: $100,530,000
Lead author of the report and coordinator for La Trobe University’s Centre for Ergonomics and Human Biosciences, Jodi Oakman, said appropriate workplace modifications can ensure people with musculoskeletal issues can be maximally productive. “Most employers don’t realise that nearly 60 per cent of people with the condition are in their prime working years – aged 25-64. Many of them are scared of revealing their condition to a future boss precisely because of this,” she said. “Workplaces need to get better at helping bosses link in with organisations like AOV for advice and education – flexibility with hours is also crucial to help workers be maximally productive.”
The report, Working with pain: What can workplaces do to support employees with persistent musculoskeletal pain to maintain productive employment [pdf], revealed there is widespread employer ignorance about the conditions and ways to best manage affected staff.
Source: Safety Institute of Australia. Read more on Presenteeism, Manual Handling: Sprains and Strains
Job stress linked to obesity in men
Poor psychosocial work environments pose a risk of obesity to men, a study has found. Researchers in Finland analysed data on 2083 men and 1770 women (all 31 years old) to examine associations between occupational psychosocial factors (job demands, job control and social support at work) and obesity (a body mass index of 30.0 kg/m2 or more). They also studied whether BMI at 14 years of age, physical strenuousness of work, basic education level, and adverse health behaviours (stress-related eating, low leisure-time physical activity, smoking, and increased alcohol consumption) modify the associations between occupational psychosocial factors and obesity.
What they found was that among men, high job demands and low worksite social support were independently associated with obesity. On the other hand, among women, stress-related eating/drinking and physical inactivity seemed to promote obesity. Body mass index at age 14 was an important predictor of obesity for both sexes. The researchers concluded that it may be beneficial to improve the psychosocial work environment and promote healthy behaviours simultaneously in workplace obesity prevention programs.
Jääskeläinen, Anne, et al. Psychosocial Factors at Work and Obesity Among Young Finnish Adults – A Cohort Study, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, May 2015. [abstract]; Read more on Stress
Recommendation that lead exposure levels for children be halved
Australia’s peak health body has halved the blood lead levels that it considers concerning, warning there is no safe level of lead exposure. In a statement released this week the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) says that any person with more than 5 micrograms per decilitre of blood should have the source of their lead exposure “investigated and reduced, particularly if the person is a child or pregnant woman.”
It has been estimated that up to 100,000 Australian children could have blood lead levels that breach the new standard, although no-one knows exactly how many are affected as widespread testing is not done. But soil-testing in inner-city areas in NSW such as Marrickville, Leichhardt and Willoughby have found shockingly high levels of lead and other contaminants, linked to past activities such as lead paint use, heavy traffic or industrial usage.
Read more: NHMRC Statement and Information Paper: Evidence on the Effects of Lead on Human Health; and Call for child lead exposure levels to be halved amid concerns about behaviour, IQ Sydney Morning Herald; Read more on Lead
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OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe urges safe construction on NSW/Vic border
Our regulator is urging builders across the Albury and Wodonga region to review safety on construction sites ahead of planned inspections in June. Inspectors from WorkSafe Victoria and WorkCover NSW will again join forces as part of the Cross Border project, aimed at educating local builders, contractors and workers about construction safety requirements on each side of the border.
WorkCover NSW Assistant Director Response and Regional Operations, Rick Bultitude, said it was critical that construction workers were on the same page regarding risks and controls, regardless of which side of the border they are working on. “Each state has the same or similar requirements for high-risk work licenses and plant operator competencies, and accepts the other state’s safe work method statement and management plans,” Mr Bultitude said. “This project is about preventing harm in the workplace so that workers return home safely at the end of their working day.”
More than 100 construction workers based in the Wodonga region have been injured seriously enough since July 2009 to make a workers compensation claim. Wounds and amputations account for around 30 per of these injuries, while soft-tissue injuries make up around 25 per cent of all claims.
WorkSafe’s Regional Operations Manager, Brooke Grey, said the campaign had so far highlighted it was basic safety hazards that were most commonly overlooked on sites. “Inspectors are routinely finding high risk construction work being undertaken without appropriate safety controls in place to protect workers and the public, such as tradies working on roofs without fall protection. Inspectors have also come across work being done on or near roads without traffic management in place,” Ms Grey said.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe Victoria Awards
Remember to nominate your HSR or your committee in the 2015 WorkSafe Victoria Awards if you think they have made a difference to how safe and healthy your workplace is. The awards, now in their 27th year, provide one of the few opportunities to show appreciation for those who are passionate about health and safety – even if the nominated person doesn’t make the finals, it’s good for them to know they are appreciated.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia
Australia-wide fatalities
There has not been an update on the number of fatalities reported since last week’s SafetyNet – when, as at 12 May, 56 fatalities had been reported to Safe Work. More information on which industries the fatalities occurred in is accessible on the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities page.
Safe Work has now released the monthly fatality report for February 2015. During February a total of 19 work-related fatalities were reported, two more than in the month before: 14 male workers, three female bystanders and two male bystanders. Of the 19 fatalities, six involved a Vehicle incident–public road crash, two each were due to a Vehicle incident–not on a public road and Burns. The remaining nine fatalities were all different types of incidents including Drowning, Trapped in machinery, Pedestrian hit by vehicle–not on a public road, Fall from a height, Crushing, Hit by moving object other than vehicle–not on a public road, Explosion, being Hit by falling object and Fall on the same level. The February report can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia Monthly Fatalities Reports page.
Safe Work drops National Health and Safety Awards
In what is somewhat disappointing news, it appears that Safe Work Australia has ‘quietly dropped’ its National OHS Awards. In the past, the winners of all the State OHS Awards were entered into the National ones, which certainly had a level of prestige and were eagerly anticipated. SafetyNet’s editor read the news on Kevin Jones’ SafetyAtWorkBlog yesterday. The article states that a spokesperson for Safe Work Australia has advised that: “Last year Safe Work Australia Members agreed that from 2015 Safe Work Australia would no longer run a national awards program. While the awards were prestigious and well-respected, Safe Work Australia will raise community awareness of work health and safety and promote best practice in more efficient and effective ways.” As Jones says, “The loss of the national OHS awards is disappointing for SWA but much more so for those entrants and winners of the State-based safety awards. It is one thing to win a local award but there was significant value in winning a national award.”
Read more: Safe Work Australia drops the national OHS awards SafetyAtWorkBlog
Heavy vehicle fatalities increase sharply
220 people were killed in heavy vehicle crashes in Australia in 2014 – a sharp increase on the 186 killed in 2013, according to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s Road trauma involving heavy vehicles 2014 statistical summary. Of those killed last year, 114 people (51 per cent) were killed in crashes involving articulated trucks, 88 (39 per cent) were killed in crashes involving heavy rigid trucks, and 20 (9 per cent) were killed in crashes involving buses.
In the six years to the end of 2013, approximately two-thirds of multi-vehicle fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles involved a truck and a passenger car. Nearly 60 per cent of those killed in all incidents involving heavy vehicles in 2013 were drivers of and passengers in light vehicles. Read more: Road Trauma Involving Heavy Vehicles – Annual Summaries Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
Meanwhile – the TWU campaigns for safety
Truck drivers and family members left devastated by truck crashes stormed the headquarters of Coles in Melbourne today to demand that the wealthy retailer sign up to a safety charter to stop the carnage on our roads. Protesters also blocked a busy Melbourne Road during the demonstration.
The group delivered shopping trollies of evidence to Coles chief executive John Durkan to demonstrate how the company’s practices put pressure on truck drivers to drive faster, for longer with over-loaded vehicles in a stressed and tired state. The TWU said this leads to on average 330 deaths a year in truck related crashes and thousands of injuries, and is the reason why trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession with truck drivers 15 times more likely to die than any other profession.
Read more: TWU Safe Rates Campaign Media Release
Useful materials
From WorkCoverBC (Canada):
• For anyone working with pesticides: A complete guide to standard practices for pesticide applicators [pdf]
• For those working agriculture: A complete handbook for managing confined spaces in the agriculture industry [pdf] More resources for Confined Spaces in Agriculture
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OHS Prosecutions
Victoria: Contractor and sub-contractor liable for roof fall
Victoria’s Supreme Court has found that both the contractor that had control over the work being carried out and the subcontractor whose employee was injured are equally liable for a breach of duty of care.
A trades assistant employed by a roofing subcontractor, Rowville Way Pty Ltd, fell about 2.8 metres from the roof of a house under construction on 30 July 2009. He fractured his left tibia and right ankle. He settled his claim against his employer and the roofing company, Stoddart (Vic) Pty Ltd, at a mediation. However, a claim by the Victorian Workcover Authority against Stoddart remained unresolved.
The court had to determine whether Stoddart owed a duty of care to the worker, whether the duty had been breached and what percentage of responsibility the company should bear. The court established that Stoddart had contracted Rowville and provided safe work method statements on high risk tasks. The statement had required perimeter railing to be installed where a fall of more than 3m could take place. Where a fall of less than 3m could occur, Rowville had to ensure there was a clear extending 2m from the gutter line. The guardrails had not covered the entire perimeter, including where the worker fell. Both the proprietor of Rowville and a manager of Stoddart believed that perimeter railing was only required where the roof was more than 3m from the ground: non-compliant with the Falls regulations, according to WorkSafe Victoria. The court found that, by failing to erect a guardrail around the whole perimeter, both Stoddart and Rowville were equally in breach of their statutory duty.
Source: OHNews
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International news
Brazil: prosecutors seek millions from pesticide makers
Brazilian prosecutors are seeking at least 50 million reais (A$21 million) from multinational pesticide manufacturers for alleged safety violations at a collection facility for used pesticide containers. The violations, in the west-central farming state of Mato Grosso, exposed workers at the facility to “risk of contamination” by toxic farm chemicals, prosecutors said.
Brazil is one of the world’s biggest agricultural producers. Manufacturers by law are required to provide so-called “reverse logistics,” or channels for safe disposal of containers for the chemicals they sell. Prosecutors are seeking the damages from Inpev, an industry group established by manufacturers to meet the disposal rules, and the makers of specific pesticides whose containers were found at the facility during a February inspection.
Read more: Brazil prosecutors seek $16 million from pesticide makers Reuters
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At Trades Hall
(Corner Victoria and Lygon St, Carlton South)
VTHC OHS Training Centre
Elected health and safety representatives and deputies should make sure they attend training – the initial 5 day course and a ‘refresher course’ each year after that. Check out the courses and remember you have the right to attend the training course of their choice. Below are the dates for the next few courses. For more details, and to download an application form, go to the Training program page or contact Judith Rodda on (03) 9663 5460 for any training related queries.
HSR Initial OHS Training Courses
June 15 – 19 Initial Carlton
June 22 – 26 DEECD AEU
July 6 – 10 Initial Frankston
July 6 – 10 Initial Werribee
July 13 – 17 Initial Carlton
Regional 5 day courses
June 1 – 5 Initial Bendigo
June 15 – 19 Initial Geelong
August 3 – 7 Initial Ballarat
September 7 – 11 Initial Morwell
HSR Refresher OHS Courses
June 10 General Carlton
June 11 General Bendigo
August 4 General Carlton
August 13 DEECD AEU
August 26 General Morwell
The unit also runs Comcare courses and courses for managers/supervisors – check the site for dates.
Injured Workers Group
The Injured Workers Group Inc of Victoria is a non-profit organisation run and organized by injured workers, It was formed to provide clear and concise information on injured workers’ rights under the Victorian Workers Compensation Act, to form networks between union and non-union injured workers, and to help injured workers establish links within their local community health system and other organisations that can offer support. All injured workers are welcome to attend its meetings, which are run at the Trades Hall at 11.30am every 3rd Thursday of each month. For more information, contact Peter on 03 9460 7592, send an email to or visit their website.
ACTU Health and Safety Training
The ACTU provides a number of courses in OHS and related areas. These courses include:
• Certificate IV in OHS Course, six days face to face (offered in two parts of 3 consecutive days each).
• Certificate IV in WHS (BSB41412) Upgrade (a one day face to face course). Attendance at this course will ensure graduates of the current Certificate IV in OHS will be compliant with the recent updated Certificate. This is also a prerequisite to the Diploma Course in WHS (BSB51312).
• Organising for Safer Workplaces (two days) and
• Workplace Bullying and Harassment (one day).
For information on these and other courses, go to the ACTU website or contact Anna Pupillo or Chris Hughes for more details (ph ACTU: 9664 7334).
HazMat Conference – Tue 16 & Wed 17 June 2015
Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh, NSW
Focusing on creating a safer world through ensuring required information is accurate, appropriate and available, HazMat will address the need for information sources such as chemical registers, emergency procedure guides, labels and safety data sheets (SDS). As well as the general conference, there will be a Preconference workshop: Chemical Safety International – which is a workshop on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) on Monday 15 June 2015 (9:30am to 4:00pm, $440) In addition an industry exhibition will be open for anyone to attend and a networking dinner function will be held on the first evening in Darling Harbour.
For more information about HazMat 2015 visit the conference webpage
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