ISO standards and safety – can you afford to be without?

Managing the risks associated with the use of machinery and equipment in manufacturing forms part of critical legislation in Australia, New Zealand and around the world. Today, eliminating and reducing risk in terms of manufacturing safety is of utmost importance, with ISO13849-1 setting the standard.

Through the millions of life cycles that SMC’s products travel, protecting people and production by delivering on quality safety solutions is on the top of SMC’s priority list. From individually constructed machines to highly complex systems, SMC looks to flexibility and productivity coupled with trouble-free user and operating safety.

James Graham, SMC Australia|New Zealand Manager of Mechatronics and Control Systems explains that safety is its own unique language which requires extra care and expertise. “In the event of an emergency, most if not all applications will require for the release of all stored energy including compressed air. This must be released in the safest way possible and safety solutions must be considered to minimize risks,” he said

“Much like in everyday life, safety helps to establish trust. More and more, the industry demands safety and industry experts need to be able to walk you through the entire process – holistic safety engineering begins as early as the design phase.”

Safety forms part of the bigger picture in sustaining not only components but machines too. With advanced R&D at the forefront, SMC offers products and technical expertise throughout from supporting customers during risk assessment to helping find the appropriate safety product in relation to current safety regulations and providing all the necessary parameters.

Safety Solutions

To meet ISO13849-1 standards, SMC introduced its range of VP544/744-X555/585, Dual Residual Pressure Release Valves with Soft Start-up Function, designed to join its existing range.

“Adhering to international machine safety standards is a must for manufacturers and designers following the introduction of this ISO standard. The standard sets out safety requirements and guidance on the principles for the design and integration of safety-related parts of control systems, including the design of software,” explained Graham.

“The design of these valves features an integrated soft-start up function that gradually builds the pressure of the pneumatic system, delivering performance consistency and excellent safety.”

Boasting a reliable construction, the valves have two stations, so if one fails to operate, residual pressure is released by the remaining valve to maintain the safety function. Further features include a selectable throttle and fixed orifice that allows the pressure to be easily adjusted. In addition, they come with IP65 enclosure protection, a safety limit switches to ensure that the main valve position is automatically checked and the ability to connect to modular type FRL units, offering superb flexibility and versatility and allowing the valves to be used across a broad range of applications.

Safety valves are also integrated with the free SISTEMA software tool which helps to reduce risk by feeding information through rapidly so that operators can react quickly.

“The beauty of these valves is that while risk is reduced, high flow rates are still achieved. It’s great for high-risk application such as in automatic machines, pick and place and progressive start-ups such as those found in most industrial operations,” said Graham.


QLD woman finds Redback spider in broccoli from Coles

A Townsville woman has discovered a female Redback spider, hiding in a head of broccoli she bought from Coles.

According to the Townsville Bulletin, Tamahra Moore purchased the vegetable from Coles North Ward.

“I was chopping all my vegies up for the week when I saw a flash of black and red, the bloody thing just crawled out,” Moore said.

“I would have probably been better off with takeaway, as I quite easily could have been bitten.”

She said she called the supermarket to report the find, but the staff member she spoke to didn’t believe the story. So she put the broccoli and spider into a container and brought it back to the supermarket.

“They got the produce manager who said he had heard about it but had never seen it. He asked to keep it so he could show the distribution centre team and I said ‘that’s fine’, I didn’t know what to do with it,” said Moore.

A Coles spokeswoman told the Townsville Bulletin there are procedures in place to avoid these sorts of incidents. The company’s national quality team is investigating the issue.

Soy foods may benefit breast cancer patients

Oestrogen-like compounds found mainly in soy foods may decrease mortality rates in women with some breast cancers, according to new research.

Researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, led by Dr Fang Fang Zhang analysed data from more than 6,000 American and Canadian women with breast cancer.

They found that post-diagnosis consumption of foods containing the compounds called isoflavones was associated with a 21 percent decrease in all-cause mortality.

This decrease was seen only in women with hormone-receptor-negative tumors, and in women who were not treated with endocrine therapy such as tamoxifen.

“At the population level, we see an association between isoflavone consumption and reduced risk of death in certain groups of women with breast cancer. Our results suggest, in specific circumstances, there may be a potential benefit to eating more soy foods as part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle,” said Zhang in a statement.

As and AAP report, there have previously been fears that, because of its oestrogen-like properties, the consumption of soy may reduce the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment.

Kathy Chapman, chair of the nutrition and physical activity committee at Cancer Council Australia said women should still be cautious about soy supplements.

“Soy foods are usually good for people to be consuming but the advice is not to take this study as meaning it’s OK to for breast cancer survivors to take the large doses you would get in a soy supplement,” she said.

Fall protection takes centre stage at 3M’s Fall Protection Open Day

Falls from heights are an ongoing safety concern in all industrial environments.

According to the Safe Work Australia report, Work-Related Injuries and Fatalities Involving A Fall From Height, in 2010–11, 7730 claims for serious injury were lodged due to a fall from a height. This means that 21 employees each day lodged a claim for a falls-related injury that required one or more weeks off work.

Given the importance of preventing falls from height, 3M, the leader in safety, and Capital Safety, the leader in fall protection, are now connected for a safer future – 3M Fall Protection.


To be held at the 3M’s Fall Protection headquarters in Sydney on Thursday, October 27th, the day will feature many informative activities that demonstrate that the importance of fall protection.

  • Visit the custom-built fall protection Training Centre where you can learn about how to prevent falls from heights and dangerous workplaces and how to create a safer work environment.
  • Watch as 3M tests its products on its purpose built product Testing Tower!
  • View the disastrous consequences of a fall from height so you and your company can avoid them in future. Fall protection goes virtual with 3M’s new virtual reality experience, which is available all day!
  • Learn about new arc flash technology and the product life-cycle concept where you are taken through the R&D process of prototyping and testing, through to the manufacturing assessment and into mass production.
  • Go on guided tour of the production floor where you will see how a harness gets constructed from raw material through to the finished
  • See live, hands-on training demonstrations such as Dropped Objects and Pick-off Rescues on 3M’s mobile Road Show Demo Truck.


Key info

Date and Time: Thursday 27 October 2016, with two sessions: a morning session (9am to 12pm) and an afternoon session (1pm to 4pm).

Address: 3M Fall Protection 95 Derby St Silverwater NSW 2128.

Inclusions: Lunch is provided for all guests in both sessions, between 12pm to 1pm.


Contact: If you have any questions, please call 1800 245 002



Safe and fearless for Safe Work Month

Every October, Safe Work Australia Month is held to raise awareness of the importance of workplace safety. In 2013-14 there were 106,565 serious workers’ compensation claims made  and tragically, 190 workers lost their lives while working in Australia in 2015 . Workplace health and safety is of vital importance for all employees and employers, yet some professions face additional risks that can be difficult to prepare for. Fearless™ is a personal safety system that helps keep workers safe wherever they are. It is of particular benefit to ‘lone workers’ such as mobile staff, nurses, construction and salespeople.

Developed by Calamity, Australia’s highest-rated security monitoring provider, Fearless offers mobile protection to staff and helps businesses quickly comply with some of the toughest WHS requirements. Fearless is accessed through an app on a piece of technology everybody already carries – their smart phones. In a dangerous situation, or when staff fail to ‘check-in’ as expected an alarm can be raised through the app. Calamity’s 24/7 monitoring centre is alerted and has access to the user’s location as well as using the phone for audio and camera evidence, allowing live operators to initiate a suitable response. The alarm can either be activated manually or automatically when a countdown timer reaches zero. The system is cloud-based so even if the phone is destroyed or stolen the user can be protected.

Professions that require employees to travel offsite regularly, or who work irregular hours can face added occupational risks that can be difficult for management to prepare for. A survey of health professionals, teachers and police working in rural and remote Australia found that 57% had experienced verbal abuse from community members in the past 12 months and 21% had experienced physical violence . In situations that can compromise a person’s feeling of safety, such as finishing a nursing shift late at night or needing to visit a stranger’s house for an appointment, Fearless can offer much needed peace of mind.

While travelling, Journey mode can be activated on the app, providing live updates to emergency contacts or employers if necessary. Meeting mode can be set for a potentially risky meeting or while alone. An alert is raised if a countdown timer reaches zero without being reset by the user. In situations where injury or personal immobilisation is a possibility, such as off-site construction, Man-Down is a function which offers additional protection by flagging any sudden deceleration, non-movement or impact.

Fearless has been purposefully built to assist in emergency situations and to dispatch help as quickly and efficiently as possible if needed. Businesses owners and managers feel at ease knowing that their staff are prepared for the worst case scenario or simple day to day risk. “Fearless has far-reaching applications in so many workplace scenarios,” says Daniel Lewkovitz, CEO of Calamity and designer of Fearless. “It has been carefully constructed to ensure employers can comply with Work Health and Safety requirements and offers peace of mind to anyone who may feel unsafe in their personal or professional life. Fearless takes a proactive approach to safety, as users can switch it on before any potentially dangerous situation, such as travelling to a meeting, and it will let others know you arrived safely without anyone needing to remember to ‘text their boss’. The technology is the best on the market and this tool saves lives.”

Technology is the most effective way to ensure staff feel safe and is essential for collecting evidence of sound, image and location if needed. As jobs have become increasingly flexible and more people work irregular hours and at different locations, Fearless is the most efficient tool to protect staff.


Thomas Foods International faces prosecution after worker injury

Thomas Foods International is being prosecuted after a backpacking meat worker sustained severe burns when he fell into a bath of harmful cleaning chemicals.

The incident happened in October last year when the Taiwanese worker, in Australia on a 457 temporary work visa, had been cleaning hooks by himself at the company’s hook room at its Murray Bridge abattoir when he fell into a 65°C floor level caustic soda bath, sustaining burns to nearly a third of his body, the Advertiser reports.

SafeWork SA is prosecuting the company over the incident which they claim was not reported to authorities for more than 12 hours.

SafeWork alleges the company breached its health and safety duty by allowing the employee to work with sodium hydroxide. They also claim the company did not provide necessary training and supervision to ensure the worker was protected from safety risks.

Thomas Foods denies the two counts of work health and safety law breaches.

In April, Big Mars, a labour hire company that imported Chinese and Taiwanese workers for the state’s abattoirs received a fine $240,000 over the incident when they admitted to breaching “extremely serious” workplace laws.

The industrial court found the company had failed to provide adequate instructions to non-English speaking workers in their native language.

The case is set for April 2017.

Solution to workplace safety in Sydney

The largest workplace health and safety event in Australia will gather at Sydney Showground Olympic Park on 6-8 September 2016.

More than 4,000 Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) professionals across manufacturing, government, construction, healthcare, transport, distribution and engineering will attend Safety in Action, a three day event featuring over 20 free seminars on insights and priorities for employee safety.

“Already this month, 109 Australian workers have been killed at work, highlighting the urgent need for national improvements to prevent the number escalating,” says Keith Barks, General Manager at Informa Australia.

Running parallel to Safety in Action will be the Safety Institute of Australia’s National Convention, a two day conference featuring global and Australian safety leaders who will address the theme of “Disruptive Safety”. The convention program will include presentations from Bernard Salt and challenge leaders to change their thinking about safety.

A free Safety in Action seminar series will feature keynote speakers, discussing this year’s theme “Keep your workplace safe”. Speakers include: beyondblue, Coca-Cola, SafeWork NSW, Myosh, OzHelp Foundation, AccessEAP and Aframes Safety.

Companies exhibiting include: beyondblue, Myosh, ATOM, Mix Telematics, Royal Life Saving, Chemical Safety International, Sydney Safety Training and SAI Global. A full list of exhibitors can be found here.

Exclusive to Safety in Action will be Australia’s largest cleaning and hygiene show CleanScene. Presented by the National Cleaning Suppliers Association (NCSA), the co-located event will feature a number of exhibitors catering for cleaners, commercial, industrial and facility managers and government agencies.

Where: Sydney Showground Olympic Park, 1 Showground Road, Sydney

  • Tuesday           6 September 2016 10am – 4pm
  • Wednesday     7 September 2016 10am – 4pm
  • Thursday         8 September 2016 10am – 4pm

Workplace mental and physical health under the spotlight

It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year, comprising of $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $145 million in compensation claims. Business owners and organisational leaders play a critical role in driving practices that promote mental health in the workplace.

The workplace has been identified as a relevant and appropriate setting to promote and support health and mental health of Australians. While creating a mentally healthy workplace is everyone’s responsibility, mental health is a leadership issue, and change must start at the top.

AccessEAP and beyondblue will be speaking at a series of free seminars at Safety in Action (6-8 September, Sydney Showground), expanding on how to create mentally and physically healthy workplaces and why workplace wellness is good for a business’s bottom line. They will be joined by safety experts who will share new research, discuss regulatory compliance issues and expand on technological innovations.

“Mentally healthy workplaces are as important to Australian employees as physically safe workplaces, however workplaces are not meeting their expectations. Three quarters (75 per cent) of Australian employees expect mental health support in the workplace environment, but many may not be aware of, or are unable to access appropriate resources,” said Nick Arvanitis at beyondblue.

Safety in Action is Australia’s most trusted safety exhibition and will feature over 18 seminars, 100+ exhibitors and attract 4,000+ attendees. Australia’s largest cleaning and hygiene show CleanScene will be co-located at the event. Presented by the National Cleaning Suppliers Association (NCSA), it will feature exhibitors catering for cleaners, commercial, industrial and facility managers, government agencies and purchasing officers.

Also co-located at Safety in Action will be the Safety Institute of Australia’s National Convention, a two day conference featuring global and Australian safety leaders who will address the theme of “Disruptive Safety”. The convention program will include presentations from Bernard Salt and challenge leaders to change their thinking about safety.

Attendance at Safety in Action Sydney and CleanScene is free and open to any business with a safety and hygiene interest. People can register their interest in attending the events online here: Safety in Action and CleanScene.

Australia’s professional body for health and safety professionals Safety Institute of Australia and major Corporate Sponsor myosh Safety Management Software will be joined by exhibitors including major sponsor Myosh, show bag sponsor ATOM, technology partner PAN Software, Mix Telematics, Chemical Safety International, Royal Life Saving, Safety Institute of Australia, and SAI Global.

New workplace health and training centre opened in New Zealand

A new workplace health and training centre has opened in Hamilton New Zealand, the first dedicated location in the region.

Vertical Horizonz provided training in the Waikato area since its beginning in 1998, with its services also provided throughout New Zealand, the Middle East, and Australia.

The centre features a large training area, two classrooms, and confined space units to train a wide range of skills including pole and rope rescue, first aid, gas testing, and construction health and safety.

Training Quality general manager Phil Hokianga said the company sought to develop a purpose built training facility in 2018 to further demonstrate what they can do, in a report by Stuff.

“This is just a temporary measure for us. We want to provide training as realistic as we can have it to the environment people will be working in,” he said.

Hokianga went on to say that business had increased following changes to New Zealand’s Health and Safety Work Act. The legislation, enforced in April 2015, which heightened responsibility of all levels – from contractors to directors – to enhance the health and safety of their workplace.

More than 17,000 people were trained last year in categories ranging from industrial safety, transport and crane, first aid, professional development, and rural operations.

No big deal: there is little to fear from nanoparticles in food

Nanomaterials, and especially nanoparticles, have been on some people’s worry list for at least a decade.

The definition of a nanomaterial is rather loose, just specifying that it must have at least one dimension of 100 nanometres or less. This means that the material could be a sheet, fibre, wire or a particle.

For nanoparticles in particular, all three dimensions are likely to be tiny. This means they will often be about 100 times smaller than the particles in air pollution, which range in size from 10 micrometres (PM10) down to 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5).

The substances that make up the nanoparticles – most often the oxides of zinc, silicon and titanium – and are generally not regarded as toxic. But the particles are so small that their behaviour can be quite different from what we see on a large scale.

We know that nanoparticles in sunscreens and cosmetics can penetrate the skin, and this raises questions about what they can do in the body. Nanosilver is also used as a disinfectant, such as when it is included in clothing items like socks.

In terms of food, nanoparticles can be present at levels of a few percent, often mixed with larger particles. Some foods have silicon dioxide (silica) as an anti-clumping agent to keep mixtures free-flowing, while others have titanium dioxide to confer extra whiteness.

You may recall the news item from March last year about the use of titanium dioxide in the frosting of donuts. The application was withdrawn in the face of consumer resistance.

The use of nanosilver in food is restricted but there may be residues on fruit and vegetables that have been disinfected by washing with suspensions of nanosilver.

While there is no sign that nanomaterials are used in food packaging in Australia or New Zealand, they are being used overseas. Some applications are adding nanoparticles of clay to make packaging more robust, or adding nanosilver as a disinfectant.

Some future developments could involve nanoparticles that act as indicators, by changing colour for instance, if the contents deteriorate in quality over time.

Small risks

Keeping an eye on our food is the bi-national government agency Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), which has just released two long-awaited reports on the safety of nanoparticles in food, one on additives and one on packaging.

The reports were commissioned in 2015 and were written by one of Australia’s leading toxicologists, Dr Roger Drew, and his colleague Tarah Hagen.

Both reports were based on comprehensive surveys of the scientific literature and relevant patents.

The upshot of both reports is that the most common nanoscale materials likely to be present in food or food packaging – silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide and metallic silver – do not pose significant health risks.

In terms of food, many common foods already contain natural nanoparticles, but FSNAZ was specifically interested in “engineered” or manufactured nanoparticles and their effects.

In terms of packaging, studies where nanomaterials are used in packaging have shown that nanomaterials can migrate from the packaging into the food therein.

Ingested nanoparticles can, and do, get into the body in places where bulk materials cannot, but there is no evidence that mere size is responsible for the effects observed in laboratory studies.

Any impact is caused by soluble materials or colloids, such as gels, that are formed by interaction of the nanomaterials with aggressive components, such as food acids or body fluids.

Soluble materials bring the elements – silicon, titanium and silver – into contact with vital systems. The case of silver is especially interesting since silver is not bioactive until the metal is converted to silver ions, which is when it becomes harmful.

However, the authors noted that there have been few studies of the effects of nanoparticles on large populations of people. That said, nanomaterials have been used for many years, and there has been no evidence of harm.

Also, in order to make an accurate risk assessment, you need to look at both hazard (in this case, toxicity) and exposure. So a substance that is highly toxic might still be low risk if exposure is typically very low.

There have been few regulatory studies on nanoparticles in which hazard and exposure have been considered together, so it’s difficult to provide a comprehensive risk assessment.

What it means for us

It’s understandable that many people are wary of a new technology that has unknown effects on health.

However, these reports should reassure us that the scientific and empirical evidence to date suggests nanoparticles in food or food packaging pose low risk.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to be done to learn more about nanoparticles and their biological effects. However, given the expense of mounting large-scale studies, and the likelihood that they will also find no significant health effects, the cost may not be justified.

Nonetheless, we should expect FSANZ to follow developments in the science and, most importantly, to learn more about just which nanomaterials are used in food and packaging applications in Australia. It would be good if this were also to lead to improved food labelling standards.

The Conversation

Ian Rae, Honorary Professorial Fellow, School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Image: Ecosavy

Potato farm fined over worker death

Oakville Produce’s potato farm has received a $187,500 fine after a truck driver was killed by a forklift in December 2013.

The company was charged with a breach of duty under the Work Health and Safety Act for failing to have a traffic management plan and equipping a forklift with inadequate visibility.

The 57 year old truck driver, along with a forklift driver and harvest supervisor, had been working at the potato farm at the time.

The truck driver and harvest supervisor were discussing work arrangements for the rest of the day when the forklift driver collected two empty bins from the trailer on the truck driver’s truck.

As the truck driver and harvest supervisor walked toward another truck for harvesting, the forklift driver reversed his forklift, which had a blind spot, and struck the two; killing the truck driver. The supervisor managed to escape unharmed.

Peter Dunphy, executive director of SafeWork NSW said the incident could have been prevented if adequate traffic management plans had been enforced.

“Forklifts are a major cause of death and injury in NSW workplaces,” he said.

He added that the best way to prevent accidents was to separate pedestrians and forklifts with barriers, and have a traffic management plan with rules about how and where vehicles should be operated.

“In this particular incident, Oakville Produce did not have a traffic management plan for the loading and unloading of forklifts in bin bay areas,” Dunphy said.

“They also failed to provide a forklift without blind spots or sufficient mirrors that addressed blind spots.

“This incident serves as a reminder to the agriculture industry of the importance of effective traffic management systems and I urge all agriculture businesses to develop one before there is a pedestrian injury or death at their workplace.”

Dunphy also said between July 2012 and July 2014, around 1,360 workers were injured in forklift incidents, including five fatalities, with a total cost of $15.8 million to the NSW workers compensation scheme.





Taking the lead in food safety

With food safety and the presence of food-borne hazards such an important issue in today’s food and beverage industry, manufacturers around the world are taking note of Atlas Copco’s recent accreditation to ISO 22000, the first air compressor company to do so.

While not defining air quality as such, ISO 22000 is an important food safety management system that has been developed to ensure food safety throughout the supply chain.

Peter Furolo, Atlas Copco’s Product Manager – Oil-Free and Medical Focus, said Atlas Copco is the first compressor manufacturer to receive ISO 22000 certification for its production facility in Antwerp, Belgium, which manufactures energy-efficient oil-free air compressors, blowers, gas generators, dryers, filters and vacuum plants.

“This accreditation gives customers the peace of mind that they are working with an organisation that completely understands the importance of food safety. Atlas Copco has invested its considerable resources to ensure it is a reliable and trustworthy supplier to the food and beverage industry.”

He revealed that Atlas Copco pioneered the development of oil-free air technology nearly fifty years ago. “And remain a company of innovators and leaders in the air compressor industry.”

Furolo pointed out that Atlas Copco was also the first air compressor company to meet ISO 8573 Class 0 certification for all its oil-free compressors (screw, centrifugal, piston, scroll, combined screw-piston, water injected screw and tooth).

“Of course many of our competitors have followed us with Class 0,” he said.

“Now we are the first air compressor company with ISO 22000 accreditation. It is something that is needed in the industry, and no doubt our competitors will eventually follow us again.”

He said Atlas Copco sets the benchmark for good practice in the compressed air industry, providing its food and beverage customers with assurances regarding quality, safety and reliability of its products.

“This certification provides the food and beverage industry with confidence that they are working with a supplier that conforms to the latest international standards regarding food safety.”

Furolo said ISO 2200 has become more widely known in Australia over the past few years and he expects that it will become common place across the food and beverage industries very soon.

“The big multi-national food companies that operate in Australia are the drivers for ISO 22000 awareness. They lead the local industry by example and I believe that the rest of food and beverage companies will quickly follow suit.

“In today’s modern world where the important, regulations on food standards are essential.”

He explained that ISO 22000 specifies the requirements for a food safety management system where an organisation in the food chain needs to demonstrate its ability to control food safety hazards in order to ensure that food is safe at the time of human consumption.

“After intensive workshops and thoroughly executed audits by Lloyd’s Register, we were able to demonstrate that Atlas Copco complies with the highest standards in the food industry with its oil-free compressors and blowers.”

He went on to explain that ISO 2200 is based on the ISO 9000 system, but is very specific regarding food safety hazards.

“While not about the quality of the compressed air in particular, the standard includes an understanding of the whole business operation from an operational and a service point of view, including the implications of using spare parts and other critical components in a compressor that could cause hazards.”

Furolo said the same HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) and procedures, as used in the top quality food and beverage companies, have been implemented in the design and production of the company’s oil-free compressors, blowers and dryers.

With compressed air coming into contact with the end-product in many applications, or even forming an active part of the food, he said it is vital this air should not generate any risk of contamination.

“It is for this reason Atlas Copco decided to invest in this vital food safety certification. As innovators, we are always searching for better ways to serve our customers,” Furolo said.

He explained that Atlas Copco manufacturers a wide range of oil-free compressors that all comply with the Class Zero standard and are all designed for critical applications that require 100% oil-free, clean air.

“Our range includes the well-known Z range, plus the SF range of rotary scroll compressors and the innovative AQ water injected screw compressors. Plus we also manufacture the powerful ZD PET blowing compressors.

“At Atlas Copco, we are committed to sustainable productivity for all our customers,” Furolo concluded.

More than 40 hospitalised after chlorine exposure

A suspected faulty water pipe led to more than 40 workers from the Baiada Poultry factory in Beresfield being hospitalised on Monday after they were exposed to chlorine dioxide.

The Environmental Protection Authority, the meat packers union and Baiada have all launched investigations into the cause of the exposure, believed to have occurred after a fault with the system used to keep the factory’s assembly line clean.

It is understood to have caused workers to be sprayed with the chlorine solution, leading to complaints of nausea, irritated throats and eyes, and breathing difficulties.

More than 200 employees at the factory were evacuated at about 8.30am after workers reacted to the chemical, and 43 were transported to three hospitals across the Hunter.

Paramedics and Fire and Rescue both attended the factory, treating a number of workers at the site.

Inspector Brett Crotty from Fire and Rescue NSW said the cause of the exposure was a “chlorine solution used to disinfect the assembly line and keep everything clean”.

“There’s one tank with chlorine, and one tank with water, they both go through a pipe and mix together to dilute the chlorine, then they’re sprayed over the assembly line,” he said.

“There has been either a blockage or a fault in the water tank [which has] meant that chlorine has sprayed out over the assembly line.

“It wouldn’t have been for a long time, you know pretty quick if you come into contact with a straight disinfectant.”

Baiada could not confirm how many staff were affected or what had caused the malfunction, a spokesman saying that staff were being “monitored”.

“Our concern is for the well-being of our staff, and we will be conducting a thorough investigation of the cause of the leak,” the spokesman said.

“In the coming days we will be able to provide more information on what has occurred.”

Unaffected staff returned to work after the site was declared safe.

The Environmental Protection Authority visited the site after the evacuation, and has since requested a detailed incident report from Baiada as part of its investigation into the incident.

A spokesperson confirmed that chlorine dioxide was the chemical that leaked at the Beresfield plant.

“Once the site was declared safe by NSW Fire and Rescue HAZMAT crews, EPA officers carried out an inspection of the premises to determine the extent of environmental impacts,” the spokesperson said.

“No offsite impacts were identified.”

Hunter New England Health said all 43 workers, who were taken to Calvary Mater, Maitland and John Hunter hospitals, were in a stable condition.

By about 4.30pm 33 of them were still hospitalised.

A spokeswoman for health saying their status was being “reviewed” and could not confirm whether any would stay overnight.

Neighbours said they did not hear an alarm prior to the evacuation and were not notified by anyone from Baiada of the chemical leak, which is being investigated by the Environment Protection Authority.

On Monday afternoon, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union said that its officers were also on site “investigating the incident”.

Grant Courtney from the union said union officers had been at the site on Monday, and would conduct interviews with staff on Tuesday.

“We’ll be speaking with them to find out firsthand what happened,” Mr Courtney said.

“At the moment our concern is our member’s health.”

He said the union had been unable to confirm a number of details from the company, including how many people had been hospitalised.

“All they have said is that they have complied with their health and safety obligations, but we’ll be conducting our own investigations,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation, chlorine dioxide can be used as a disinfectant agent or for treating water.

It exists as a gas at room temperature but can become explosive when its concentration in the air is greater than 10 per cent.

Aussie salmonella scare could spread to Asia

The recent Australian salmonella outbreak linked to leafy vegetables could spread to Asia via exported produce.

As Adelaide Now reports, the outbreak is thought to have originated from Bacchus Marsh’s Tripod Farms.

As the SMH reports, a Senate Estimates hearing has now been told that 23 consignments of Tripod Farms’ produce which could also be affected by salmonella have been exported to Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.

"We have written to those three countries involved, with 23 identified consignments that may contain lettuce from that particular establishment," Chris Parker, assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture’s plant export operations branch told the hearing.

"This is regular business that we would clearly notify our trading partners when issues may or may not arise and it is something they would do for us as well."

To date, 128 Australians have been affected by the outbreak.

Vegetable grower body AUSVEG is urging Australian consumers to continue buying the fresh and pre-packaged vegetable products despite the problem.

“The events of last week have had a substantial impact on growers around the country, including in states unaffected by the recall, and AUSVEG is calling on Australian consumers to throw their support behind the Australian vegetable industry and continue to buy locally-grown produce,” AUSVEG National Manager – Scientific Affairs Dr Jessica Lye said in a statement.

 “This recent recall is not indicative of a systematic food safety issue in the vegetable industry – it is limited to one supplier, and all affected product has been taken off the shelves.”