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InnovaƟve Safety Breakthrough at Unitrans This issue’s cover photo shows our member Dave from Unitrans Warehouse demonstrating an order picker that’s the first of its kind in the world. by Joe Bourke Warehousing and Order pickers are Manufacturing Organiser designed to enable operators to lift goods up to eight metres off the ground. While they are all equipped with harnesses to help protect operators, this new order picker has a truly innovative safety feature that will undoubtedly save lives. The main safety issue with order pickers is that the overloading capacity is different at different heights. The higher you go, the lower the safe lifting capacity is. It can be very difficult for operators to keep an accurate track of how much weight they are carrying and with different weights for different heights it can really come down to guesswork.

Get it wrong, and an operator can be seriously injured or die. A few years ago, I had to deal with a situation where an operator and an offsider were using a order picker during the Christmas rush. They were under a lot of pressure to put stock away. In the heat of this, they cut corners and overloaded the picker. They were operating at full reach and the picker fell over, spearing into the ground and seriously injuring and hospitalising both operator and offsider. I didn’t want to see this happen a second time. We raised our concern about this risk with site management who agreed that this was a legitimate and very important concern. When they discovered there were no off-the-shelf solutions, Unitrans and Toyota (the supplier of the machinery), the SDA and a scale manufacturer called Atlas collaborated to design this first-of-its-kind order picker that automatically measures the weight on the platform and sounds an alarm if load limits are approached.

This warning greatly increases an operator’s safety by minimising the risk of the order picker becoming overloaded and falling over. This was a great outcome for all involved – our members, the Union, the employer, even the machinery manufacturer. When unions so often receive negative press in the media, it’s worth remembering that this is what the real work of unions looks like on a day-to-day basis and that great outcomes can be achieved when unions work with reasonable employers who see that the presence of the union on site benefits everyone. Recent international research supports this, confirming that the greatest increases in performance and productivity actually occurred in workplaces where union density also increased in recent years. I’d really like to express my thanks to all the Delegates onsite at Unitrans Warehouse and all my other sites. You do your work, looking out for your workmates, on a volunteer basis. As I can’t be in all my sites every day, it’s really you who keep issues on the agenda. Thank you.

Is your workplace a carbon monoxide poisoning risk? Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that we know of because of car exhaust. CO inhalation can be a risk in enclosed spaces when fuel-powered machinery or vehicles are operating in enclosed spaces. There are also other sources of CO that by Jane Lui are not as obvious, including space heaters OHS Officer and water heaters. CO is actually odourless, so we can breathe it in without realising it (the smell of car and generator exhaust is caused by other chemicals). Signs of CO poisoning include:  Dull headache Weakness Nausea Vomiting Confusion Dizziness Chest pain Members who suffer any of these symptoms should see a doctor, no matter how minor or transient it seems, and should fill out a Workcover claim form.

In severe cases, CO poisoning can lead to loss of consciousness. Long-term consequences can include brain damage, organ damage and even death.

Safeguards in the workplace Once a hazard is identified, there are steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of CO poisoning, such as:  Installing a carbon monoxide detector;  Installing and properly maintaining effective extractors; and  Changing work practices so that people are not sitting in or in the vicinity of idling vehicles when the area is enclosed.

Who do I talk to about this? If you have concerns about a CO hazard in your workplace, report it in the first instance to your health and safety committee, health and safety representative and manager. If you need further assistance, speak to your SDA Delegate or Organiser or call the SDA Information Centre on 131 732.


SDA News 2015 Spring