2nd submission
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As you can see this is the supplementary submission made just after the round table conference with Comcare, Telstra Care, Local management and the OH&S Reps.

You will note that it is addressed to "Dr," Fry. I was later to discover that he was not in fact a Doctor of any kind. I was in fact mislead by Telstra management and was not informed till months later that neither he nor  Sutherland had medical qualifications. I was therefore led to

Dear Dr. Fry,

Herewith supplementary submission as promised. Attached also is a copy of the article you requested.

Mervyn

Aspergillus

It would appear that neither the researchers from Noel Arnold nor Dr Bisby could identify any of the varieties of aspergillus for which we are looking

They indicated that they could not identify the shapes nor did they volunteer that different colour was an indicator of each of the suspect varieties.

I have been given no written brief for the study nor was it indicated that there was any in fact given.

Dr. Bisby who had been called in presumably to assist the committee has only taken an adversarial stance and has not indicated a willingness to assist, cooperate or inform

I would draw attention to the proposition that the physical and biological characteristics of aerosol particles govern their performance, as they predicate the "take off, aerial ft=sport and landing of microbial particles in addition to their survival and infectivity." Any proper search can only take place therefore with the proper knowledge of these characteristics. I would then contend that it is of little surprise that the sampling done in this workplace was quite invalid. These views are supported by the work of George Monis, Maarit Kokki and Malcolm Richardon of the Haartman Institute at the University of Helsinki Methods for sampling AspergiMus spores in air. September 1999.

The Workers Occupational Health Centre (WOHC) has offered its services in the matter and I await the recommendations of Dr. Sutcliffe who found my brief acceptable and professional. I contend that it is the very sort of instruction which should have been given by Telstra management if there were to be a proper

study-

If Telstra management were genuine in their concerns for the interest of the health of the workers in the area, it is hard to see why they would refuse an offer of free testing. Indeed it is difficult to understand why they would deliberately obstruct such investigation when it was offered without cost to the organization

I would draw the attention of the Investigators to the USA Denton county position where they see the necessity to now examine all public buildings in the county for the presence of indoor moulds. It is reported that Mr. Mike Jez the city manager is sending the facilities manager on course to learn how to prevent, identify and remove fungi and moulds in buildings. It is an idea which could well be taken up by Telstra.

That we may be amongst the first in Australia to identify this as a major problem is recognized. If the procedures and tests are not fully established that makes the matter more difficult but it does not affect the validity of the questions which we are asking. Neither does it detract from the fact that there is something which is causing the problems in this workplace. It is a much better policy to follow the course of what I call the RIT Syndrome, Recognize a problem, Identify the probable causes, and Treat the cause. The inferior is that adopted at present in this matter which I have called the IDC Syndrome the process of Ignore, Defend and Cover up-

 

I would also draw attention to the Mayo Clinic report which indicates that it is likely that chromic sinusitis is largely both an immune and an allergic reaction to the presence of fungi. The researchers being, David Sherris, Eugene Kem and Jens Ponikau. They reportedly found that of 210 patients with chronic sinusitis the fungi were discovered in the mucus of 96% of the patients where the anticipated rate would have been 10%. The incidence of sinusitis might therefore be considered another indicator of the presence of such indoor fungi in the building. But only an indicator.

Representations have been made by Telstra management that there were no locations identified where the indoor moulds could be likely to be found. Such a statement has little credibility. Firstly at the meeting I drew attention to the ceiling tile stains which indicated the presence in the past of water seepage, the nature of the duct in the room,(in which the meeting took place) and I produced photos of two very suspect air ducts. In relation to the air ducts I had photograph of a duct in similar condition in a building which had been found to have been contaminated, I also drew attention to the fact that there had been a case in the past where a noisome object had to be removed from plastic pot plant base.. I would comment that even now staff have been seen to water these plastic plants and to empty coffee cups into them. These bases contain bark which can be a medium for the growth of such fungi.

The roof area contains places which could provide a source for the growth of the fungi and is close to air intakes. There are varieties of indoor fungi which have a preference for ducting as a breeding base. It is my understanding that fungi like penicillium are most likely to be found by using optic fibre camera inspection. I would also draw attention to the work of Dr. Forstall of Mclaren Regional Medical Centre in Michigan USA. Earlier this year he is reported as having told the American Society for Microbiology that they had found that computer central processors and the fan units were periodically distributing the fungi and spores into the air. Furnigatus and 5 other of antagonistic fungi were found in the dust of the computer central processing units. (What I did not know at the time was that there was another major possible source of contamination, That was that there was a false floor under all most all of the working area. It contained the cabling and as we found later was the reason for the apparently low ceilings. This had to be known the the Telstra management though they never revealed it. I found out by accident.)

(I did not know it at the time but there were other easier means of determining the presence of indoor toxic moulds. Contact me if you need to know.) 

As can be seen there are a number of possible suspect areas and it is notable that the building’s management indicated that there had been no cleaning of ducting systems to their knowledge. This is interesting as this is despite the admitted past problems with the air conditioning.

It is apposite here to pick up on the comment which was made at the meeting that there were a large number of air purifiers in Building 3 which we will be moving to at a later date. It was said that these air purifiers were there due to the building in the past having been used for photography. I have been a photographer for many years and have trained students in this area for many years. I have never seen such air purifiers used in dark rooms. I have made some inquiries and have not been able to find any reason for using such devices in that situation.

I would therefore recommend that testing take place in that new building so that our staff do not move from one suspect environment into one which is also suspect. I would point to the well known fact that problems with indoor mould frequently occur where there are building renovations.

EOS and staff attitudes

Ms Simpson used the EOS (Employee Opinion Survey) to suggest that there was staff confidence in the management OH&S. I would point to the fact that closer examination could reveal that the staff may have responded to questions about OH&S from the point of view of the efforts of their current OH&S representatives rather than that of the management

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Reporting, Sick leave, and unplanned absences (UPA)

Team managers who work closely with the staff should have been aware of the extent of problems

It is well documented in CEPU bulletins and documents that there was the use of Monthly and Annual Assessments (NPR & PDR) as a disciplinary means to suppress this incidence rather than to identify and remove the root Causes. The figures must therefore be considered to be tainted and unreliable 'm this matter.

Indeed the history of the area prior to the introduction of the disciplinary measures is one of having the one highest incidences of UPA (unplanned absences) in Telstra.

On the question of the numbers who are sick in the area I have the names of 16 members of staff who have either reported to me or their colleagues as having all or some of the symptoms referred to. To this I could add a number of people who have approached me but whose names I do not know. This is only from my personal contacts.

It is notable that in all of the proposed joint statements by the management they removed the suggestion that staff should report their concerns to the OH&S delegates. In my proposals I sought that the matters could be reported to either or both of management and OH&S delegates. I should comment here that the management proposals were rejected as misleading and inaccurate not only by myself but also by Tom Healy another of the OH&S reps.

w severe allergic reaction

m severe lung complaint

Rl ears, nose, sinus

R2 flu like symptoms, headaches

D headaches

s apparent allergic reactions, coughing

R3 aspergiuus sensitivity

N12 allergic reactions

L heavy coughing

Ni2 asthma, couglung itchy ears, eyes

0 headaches,ears

M3 allergic reaction in the workplace

c coughing, has had blood in mucus

M3 allergic reaction has had air purifier recommended

T apparent severe allergic reactions

Almost total night shift has coughing

Many with itchy eyes and ears

Many of those who have left were reporting illness

With sinusitis vast majority might be considered to have allergic or immune reaction to indoor moulds

The Question of Triphenyl Phosphate. (TPP)

Noel Amold representatives state that they were unaware of protocols which were capable of measuring the quantities involved in the emissions. It is however clear also that such measures do exist and have been used at the University of Stockholm.

Whilst the levels are said to be low in comparison with the generally accepted standard I would contend that these standards have been set for manufacturing situations and mainly for the handling of the powdered form of the chemical or for the liquidized form, as in the oil industry.

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In a study of TPPs USAF Toxicology Department at Wright-Patterson Base after animal studies noted that "Humans also rely on serum uptake of choleresterol from lipoproteins for adrenocortical hormone biosynthesis." and proposed that these chemicals may also "inhibit uptake in humans and that in a scenario of prolonged stress exposure "could result in adrenocortical insufficiency, a potentially fatal condition."

As I indicated at the Inquiry part of my concern is with the effects on the biochemistry of our workplace members. I also pointed out that our workers for the full working day are exposed to constant stress for most of their working day  and of their working week as a result of the nature of their work. They are tethered to the workplace with their headphones for the full working day and on the average take 100 + calls per day. The calls are for the most part from customers who are frequently angry not only as a result of their frustration when a product has not worked but also from the long delays they perceive themselves to be subjected to. They frequently are therefore angry with our staff members. That is part of the constant stress under which our members work.

Hurst Oil

Hurst Oil Lists Triphenyl Phosphate, CAS Reg No. 115-86-6 as a Hazardous Chemical under OSHA

Hazard.. It offers the following:

"2. Warning * causes initation to eyes and skin

* elevated processing temperatures may cause rel-ase

of toxic vapours which are harmful if Inhaled

I have been unable to find studies which relate to continual long term exposure to small quantities and whether the effects are cumulative.

(I was later to find that there were studies in the Australian shearing industry which seem to indicate that effects of organophosphates are cumulative over a very long time)

I would draw attention to the following:

1. It is the monitor which is the matter of concern with this chemical rather than the computer itself

2. Not all brands use TPP.( according to the Stockholm study 40% of monitors they tested do not use it. It is however in such household items such as TV sets.) It is therefore difficult to understand why the workplace should be subject to a quite unnecessary risk factor.

3. The monitors are leased, not owned by Telstra, therefore their replacement with safe monitors should not be a problems for Telstra

4. If Noel Arnold do not have the equipment, or are unaware of the protocols, then I understand SKC Technologies of the USA may be able to assist

5. It is clear that Conny Ostman of Stockholm University, Department of Analytical Chemistry is capable of, and has the equipment necessary for, making the measurements and malting the tests. I would suggest that one of our monitors could be sent there or perhaps the same brand and model is available there for testing and report. 

A copy of one of the original articles on the Swedish study is appended. as requested

Procedural Matters:

As an example of some of the procedural matters which are a problem in this workplace I record the following items the first of which indicates some of the problems we have had in the area with incident

reporting :

Incident 1

hi relation to the acoustic incident 19/09/0 1.

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l wish to express concern at the procedures or lack of them which were involved. The person involved, as I understand the circumstances, was subjected to an intense acoustic incident at approximately 19-45 hrs.He reported it to his team manager who shifted him to another seat and left him to continue work on the phones. There was no incident report raised nor was he offered medical assistance. The team manager went home. No action had been taken to disable the workstation or to put up warnings. It is to be noted that during the day shift the same seat in the next pod is occupied by a member of staff who has experienced just such an incident in the past. There has therefore apparently been a gross violation of duty of care by the management to the present victim, to all other members of staff in that area and especially to the member of staff who has a prior injury to her other ear.. Had I not intervened should the victim have had an incident sufficiently serious it could have been hazardous for him to drive.

At 20.15 1 was approached by a member of staff who suggested that there was a need for me to see the young member of staff. He told me of the events and his pain. As there was no team manager in our area of the floor I went to M.B. Together we took the details of the incident and I recommended that the member be given a cab charge and sent to the local hospital casualty. M. took action.

When I questioned the member I found that the phone liniiter at his work station had no seal. In the previous week there was supposed to have been an inspection of these limiters. This unsealed one should have been reported by the team manager and replaced immediately. This is also a serious violation of the duty of care.

On the day following when I came to the workplace, I noted that the victim was seated at his workplace. I noted that there was not a single team manager in sight. I went to him and determined that he was not using the phone and told him if necessary I would take responsibility but that he should not use the phone again until he had a medical clearance.

Whilst in a training session I looked out and saw that the managers had returned and that the victim was surrounded in a booth by several managers including the compliance manager. I attempted to indicate that I had spoken to him earlier. However I was peremptorily spoken at by the Compliance Manager who stated I had nothing to do with it as he was not part of my workgroup as he was agency staff. Rather than argue and put the lad in even greater stress I pointed out that though I believed in fact that I did have a right I would discuss it with her through the email system. I then sent the attached email to which I have as yet had no reply. In that email I pointed out that:

a. As OH&S delegate the incident had occurred on equipment in a physical work area in which my members operate-

b. It had occurred in my work time

c. Had I not been involved the matter would not have been dealt with properly

d. Any staff member has the right to have a representative with him at such a meeting

e. I am also a CEPU delegate and in this capacity I also would have the right if so requested

f. Direct members of my workgroup at times occupy those workstations.

I believe that the young person was not advised of his right to have a representative present

On Friday I was at my workstation and I noted that the young person was taken aside and surrounded by some 6 - 7 persons at least some of whom were managers. I looked to see if he would need my presence and one of the managers D.M called out to me across the floor and asked did I have a problem. I replied that I was just observing if I would be needed. In the past this particular manager has been most difficult and abrasive to me. I continued with my work at the same time keeping an eye on the lad to see if he needed any assistance. D. then came to me stated that it was not part of my workplace. I again pointed out the position as above.

I have recently been approached by the acting compliance manager (Deb Farrelly) in a more reasonable manner with explanations. I have however some serious reservations as the explanations given do not stand up to further

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inquiries that I have made. This causes me concern as again we have the operation of the IDC Syndrome the result of which is that it will not result in rectification in future cases and it will indeed be likely to prevent proper procedures as to make corrections may be seen to be an admission of the fault.

It is clear that there are a number of violations involved here which need addressing.

There is the question also of need for procedures for Occupational Health and Safety in mixed groups and especially in a late shift scenario.. This should be part of the agenda of the meeting I have suggested, in my submission to Comcare.

There have been clear violations of the Duty of Care

Incident 2

(This is a copy of an Email sent)

 

Vogt, Mervyn

From: Vogt, Mervyn

Sent: Friday, 14 September 2001 4:45 p.m.

To:

Cc:

 

Just for the record as OH&S delegate I have been approached by 0 in regard to a long standing complaint about glare on her workstation which has caused her discomfort and pain.

I have asked for information as to whether there will be a change in her workstation without satisfactory reply. The reply being that you would speak to 0 on Monday.

I would draw your attention to the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and in particular to 28(b) and to 16(2) and 5(a)

Mervyn

This incident again displays a lack of understanding of the provisions of the Act and the responsibilities of management when dealing with OH&S matters and supports my suggestion that there needs to be a high level consultation on procedures. There is also a need to ensure that the knowledge and procedures are known and understood by line managers.

 

CONCLUSION

I have concern about the philosophy which has been adopted in this situation with the PIN. Telstra Care brought in unheralded to the First Round table meeting its medical advisor. The medical advisor Dr. Bisby who is seen to be there to "protect" Telstra interests. This results in an adversarial situation and I believe that this is not the situation envisaged in the OH&S Act. It seems to me that the better philosophy inherent in the Act is that the medical advisor should be there in a problem solving mode and to provide all possible information so that informed decisions can be made. For the individual OH&S delegate to face such meetings conducted with the current Telstra Care philosophy the task is daunting. I am surprised that the biggest corporation in the

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country could not, or would not, provide the information that I have through my own effort and resources over this time period. Though I admit it has taken a heavy load of my personal time and resources at home to gather the information this should not have been necessary. I entered the matter almost a complete tabla rosa.

I firmly believe there can be more accomplished with less cost and effort through the adoption of the RIT syndrome. The IDC syndrome is based on a false assumption that it is saving costs to the corporation.

As the Denton county administrator correctly states it is cheaper in the long run to take the action now rather than to wait for the eventual law suits. Ignoring a problem and covering up will only mean that the lack of corrective action will ensure that there are further incidents and they will probably increase in number and frequency. It is better to grasp the nettle and act.

Mervyn K. Vogt

At this time though I had doubts about the impartiality of Comcare I still had some hope in there being a fair and just system. Therefore when I was to find that Comcare had a massive conflict of interest I was sad but not surprised.

 
 
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