Union News

BAD VIBES

Many types of machinery, equipment and power-driven tools generate intense vibration which can be transmitted to workers causing a range of conditions and diseases.

Main findings from a 2008 survey used in a Vibration Exposure in Australian Workplaces Report (2010) include:

  • Approximately 24 per cent of Australian workers were exposed to vibration in their workplace
  • The industries with the highest likelihood of reporting were Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Transport and storage and Construction
  • Occupations with the highest likelihood of reporting were Machinery operators and drivers, Technicians and trades workers and Labourers

Victoria does not have regulation which specifically addresses vibration exposure standards, however it is covered generally under the OHS Act as well as under Plant and Hazardous Manual Handling regulations.

Victorian Trades Hall Council has therefore developed a Safety Standard (based on EU guidelines) for prevention of exposure to vibration. Our Standard informs HSRs on how employers might best meet their duties in relation to vibration. 

Click here to download VTHCs standard, here for more information on the effects of vibration and here for information on legal standards.

VTHC'S OHS BASICS MONTH Event #5: Managing Conflict 

When employers refuse to listen to workers' voices, HSRs have the power to escalate to ensure worker safety. We'll walk you through options HSRs have when they want to manage conflict around safety in the workplace. We'll cover dispute resolution, issuing the perfect PIN, and when and how to cease work.

When: Thursday. 30 June from 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Where: Victorian Trades Hall Council, 54 Victoria St, Carlton VIC
RSVP here We hope you can join us.

ASK RENATA

What is the max distance between the ground and first step on a staircase? We have stairs that are mounted to the side of a substation. The stairs themselves are fine but the gap between the bottom stair and ground is quite large, risking a turned ankle or worse.

Steps and stairs are a common workplace hazard.

There is nothing in OHS/WHS legislation that specifically addresses steps and/or stair safety in the workplace. Both the employer and the person with management and control of a workplace have a duty to ensure the workplace is safe and without risks to health.

Specific requirements for the construction of stairways, platforms, landings and so on, can be found in the National Construction Code (NCC) - which has been given the status of building regulation by Australia's states and territories on 1 May 2015.

The NCC is updated and amended regularly. The current edition is NCC 2019, adopted by the jurisdictions July 1, 2020. It is now available from the NCC website.

In addition, the relevant Australian Standard (AS 1657- 2013: Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders - Design, construction and installation) has recently been updated to be consistent with the Building Code and contains detailed advice on steps, stairs, landings, guard rails and so on, including:

  • All rises (R) and all goings (G), in the same flight of stairs, shall be of uniform dimensions within a tolerance of +/-5mm
  • For each rise: minimum 130mm, maximum 225mm
  • For each going: minimum 215mm, maximum 355mm
  • The going shall be not greater than the tread depth (TD) plus a maximum gap of 30 mm between the rear edge of one tread and the nosing of the tread above
  • The combination of twice the riser plus the going (2R + G) shall be not less than 540 mm, and not greater than 700 mm [i.e. 540 ≤ (2R + G) ≤700]

NOTE: builders must check that any stairs to be constructed comply with the Building Code and also ensure they are using the latest edition of the Australian Standard.

You can find more information on our webpage: Steps and Stairs at Work

Of course, knowing what's required under the NCC or relevant Standard is only half the battle. Your elected HSR has rights and powers to take issues up and follow through to get things done. If you don’t already have a HSR, then you should start talking to your colleagues.

We would also recommend contacting your union for further advice on the issue. They can guide you through the process of electing a rep if required, and provide training to ensure you’re supported with any future OHS issues.  

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata portal. Your questions will be answered by someone in the VTHC's OHS Unit.

COVID-19
Latest Numbers 

On Tuesday 21 June Victoria recorded:

7,507 new daily infections
28 COVID deaths
434 hospitalisations, 21 in ICU and 9 of these on ventilators

Cumulatively this equals:

2,042,109 total Victorian infections
3,778 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 93 since last post)

You can check the Victorian live update here.

Australia wide: As of June 21, there have been a total of 7,840,396 COVID cases (7,713,806 since last post) and 9,425 deaths, an increase of 226 since last week's SafetyNet.

Worldwide: As of June 21, there had been 544,799,140 worldwide infections (542,381,868 last post). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now  6,341,732 (Source: Worldometer).

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

VACCINATION UPDATE

83.66% of all Victorians, as of June 21, have received their second dose, 86.21% their first, and only 55.09% their crucially important third dose.

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.26%, 86.95% and 53.8%.

Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates.

UPCOMING CHANGES TO VICTORIAN COVID PROTECTIONS

Over the weekend, Minster for Health Martin Foley made some changes to Victoria’s pandemic orders. A new Pandemic Order has not yet been published however it is expected these changes will take effect on Friday 24 June at 11.59pm.

VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS TO WORK

Third dose requirements to work are being lifted in all industries except for workers in hospitals, care facilities, and emergency services. For the general workforce, the requirement to be fully vaccinated (two doses) will be lifted. It is currently unclear whether the two-dose requirement to work will remain for workers in schools, food distribution, meat processing, and quarantine accommodation. This should be clarified when the new Pandemic Order is published.

The new settings leave vaccination requirements open to employers. It is important to remember that whether a workplace requirement to be vaccinated is a lawful and reasonable direction, will depend on the circumstances of your workplace.

POSITIVE COVID CASES

If you test positive for COVID you will still have to isolate for 7 days from the day you tested positive. There are now some exceptions to this, such as driving a household member to and from work/school without leaving the car, getting medical care, COVID-19 tests, or in an emergency.

MASKS

Masks must be worn on public transport, in taxis and ride shares, and on planes. They must also be worn in hospitals and other care facilities. Masks are now no longer required at airports.

VISITOR CAPS

Visitor caps are removed in care facilities if visitors test negative on a rapid antigen test that day. If you can’t get a test, then you can only visit care facilities for reasons such as end-of-life visits.

Additional visitor caps will be up to an individual employer’s response to the pandemic.

VACCINATION UPDATE 

83.63% of all Victorians, as of June 16, have received their second dose, 86.19% their first, and only 55% their crucially important third dose.

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.23%, 86.93% and 53.7%.

Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

MASK DISMISSAL ARGUMENT FAILS TO TAKE OFF FOR QANTAS FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Last year, flight attendant Jessica Watson argued she had been dismissed by Qantas following a dispute over a workplace requirement to wear a face mask. Qantas gave alternative options to wearing a mask and asked the worker to do an independent medical examination (IME) to prove a mask exemption. Jessica did avail herself of these options and subsequently did not attend her following shifts, arguing she had been dismissed.

The Fair Work Commission found that Jessica had not been dismissed and had effectively communicated her resignation to the employer and dismissed the application. The Fair Work Commission also found that in a pandemic, the requirement to wear a mask was a lawful and reasonable direction.

Jessica subsequently sought permission to appeal the decision on a number of grounds, including jurisdiction, error of fact and public interest. The commission found Jessica had not established any of these grounds for appeal and rejected permission to appeal the decision.

The key take-away here is that in the context of a pandemic, there is a significantly wider remit for employers to make law and reasonable directions which go towards the health and safety of employees.

 


SafetyNet 629

Welcome to the 23 June, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.

It’s being reported a man died yesterday after a quarry truck tipped while reversing at a rail project site in Northern Victoria.

WorkSafe also report they’re investigating the death of a 50-year-old who fell at a Carrum Downs hotel, June 12. The man apparently walked through an aluminium screen, fell 60 centimetres to the concrete below, striking his head. He was taken to hospital but died on Saturday.

We await details and confirmation from WorkSafe but send our sincere condolences to family, friends and colleagues of the two deceased. "Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living."

We hope you find this week's edition useful and interesting. Feel free to share it and please encourage others in your workplaces to subscribe.

For OHS news and helpful information visit We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page, or for advice, our Ask Renata facility on OHS Network Facebook or via email: [email protected]


Prosecutions

VICTORIAN DAIRY COMPANY FINED $50,000 AFTER AMPUTATIONS

Australian Dairy Packaging Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in Heidelberg Magistrates' Court on Friday to two charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

In March 2019, a worker reached inside the blender's discharge chute to clear a blockage when the revolving blades amputated one of his fingers and severely injured another.

He spent two months in hospital and underwent three operations to reattach the fingers.

Following the incident, the company complied with an improvement notice ensuring appropriate guarding was used to prevent access to the ribbon blender's danger area.

Two months later, another worker lost multiple fingers when she reached inside the discharge chute opening while the blender was running after the new guarding had been removed so the machine could be cleaned.

WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Health and Safety Adam Watson said in both incidents, much more should have been done to control the risks posed by the machine.

To manage risks when working with machinery employers should:

  • Identify hazards, assess the risks associated with them and eliminate or control those risks by isolating them or using an alternative.
  • Ensure safety guards and gates are compliant and always fixed to machines
  • Regularly service and inspect machines and equipment.
  • Train staff in the safe operation of machines and equipment and provide written procedures in the worker's first language.
  • Develop and implement safe operating procedures in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives.
  • Place signs on or near a machine to alert employees of the dangers of operating it.

Source: WorkSafe News, 21 June 2022

PCBU FINED OVER ELECTRIC SHOCKS IN NSW

One of three PCBUs charged over an incident where a crane came into contact with overhead powerlines, and two workers suffered serious electric shocks, has been convicted and fined $150,000, plus $102,000 in prosecution costs.

In sentencing the PCBU, Judge David Russell said it could have prevented the electric shocks through "simple and well-known steps", and found its level of culpability was in the "mid range".

The incident occurred in October 2018 at Wingecarribee Shire Council's Moss Vale sewerage treatment plant.

A worker who delivered the crane operated the vehicle despite not being licensed to do so. The crane's boom then touched or nearly touched overhead powerlines, causing two Arkwood workers to suffer electric shocks and serious burns.

Source: OHS Alert, Friday, 17 June, SafeWork NSW v Arkwood (Gloucester) Pty Limited (No. 2) [2022] NSWDC 201 (10 June 2022)

 

 

 


Regulator News

WORKSAFE VICTORIA AWARDS 2022

WorkSafe are calling for nominations for their 2022 Awards acknowledging excellence in workplace health and safety, and return to work.

There are 7 award categories in all, including, of course, Health and Safety Representative of the year, the category which acknowledges HSRs who’ve represented their DWG in an outstanding manner.

It is, in our view, the most important and prestigious award, and was won last year by United Workers Union members Adrian Lidsey and Christopher Ball for their outstanding achievement in finally turning Crown Melbourne into a non-smoking workplace.

Read more here.

Entries close on 15 July 2022, so don't delay if you’d like to nominate a HSR, or HSRs, at your workplace. Find more information here.

 

 


Research

REMOTE-WORK PAIN

Australian researchers have found employers need to look beyond workstation set-ups to prevent multi-site musculoskeletal pain (MSP) for remote workers.

A study, involving 488 participants, and led by Associate Professor Jodi Oakman, from La Trobe University, identified four distinct trajectories that lead to the development of MSP amongst employees working from home, with data collected over three time points between October 2020 and November 2021.

Musculoskeletal discomfort was recorded separately for five body regions and was scored using a Likert scale.

The four identified distinct trajectories of multisite MSP included:

  1. a high-stable group (36.5% of respondents), characterised by a high number of pain sites that remained constant throughout the study
  2. a mid-decrease group (29.7%), characterised by a number of pain sites which dipped during the first follow-up survey and then slowly rose
  3. a low-stable group (22.3%), characterised by a low number of pain sites with minimal change throughout the study
  4. a rapid-increase group (11.5%), characterised by a low number of pain sites that subsequently increased

Researchers looked at a variety of potential contributing variables including work-family conflict, demographics (age, gender etc), workstation location, workstation comfort, psycho-social factors (quantitative demands), and job satisfaction.

They found that decreased workstation comfort, quantitative demands such as large workloads and time pressures, and having a low level of influence at work were associated with being in the high-stable (constant pain) group compared to low-stable.

Workstation location, specifically having to work "wherever is free", such as at the kitchen table, and quantitative demands were associated with being in the rapid-increase group.

As the study found quantitative factors to be important predictors for both the high-stable and rapid-increase groups (nearly 50% of workers), it highlights the importance of:

  1. setting realistic workload expectations
  2. a collaborative approach between employers and employees when setting workloads and deadlines

Source: OHS Alert, 16 June 2022, Musculoskeletal pain trajectories of employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jodi Oakman, et al, Australia, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online June 2022, doi: 10.1007/s00420-022-01885-1.


International News

OHS RECOGNIZED AS FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE AND RIGHT

On the 10th of June 2022, following the proposition by the General Affairs Committee, the delegates attending the International Labour Conference have adopted a resolution  to add the principle of a safe and healthy working environment to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Occupational Health and Safety becomes the fifth category of Fundamental Principles and Rights at work, completing the existing four categories: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Source: HesaMail, etui, June 2022, read more here

EUROPEAN ALERT FOR DEFECTIVE 3M ASBESTOS MASKS

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) recently passed on a French-initiated alert to all its European affiliates regarding defective Proflow asbestos masks manufactured by the US 3M corporation. These protective masks are the most widely used masks on asbestos removal sites throughout Europe. In France alone, they are regularly worn by more than 25,000 workers.

The motor pulsing asbestos-contaminated air through the mask’s filter system could present rpm fluctuations during use. As the 160-litre per minute airflow required by the legislation and necessary for the proper functioning of the device is not constantly ensured, workers wearing this mask are no longer effectively protected against inhaling asbestos fibres.

Source: HesaMail, etui, June 2022, read more here

US: TRENCH COLLAPSE

Authorities in Denver, Colorado received a 911 call about the collapse. Work was being done on a sewer line when the trench collapsed, according to the fire department. Trench rescue experts from several agencies attempted to free the 35-year-old worker. At about 5:15 p.m., his body was recovered. Police and firefighters are working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on the investigation. Multiple fire departments in the north metro area responded. “Our hearts are with the victim’s family,” police said on Twitter.

Source: Confined Space, Weekly Toll: Killed on the Job, 20 June 2022

WORKER DIES IN MINNESOTA GRAIN BIN

An employee died in a grain bin incident located in Steele County, Minnesota. Emergency personnel responded and immediately began rescue efforts. Reports indicate the employee became fully engulfed in a grain bin while loading a train. First responders removed the man, 36-year-old Paul Jasper Frantum of Pemberton, from the grain bin. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation into the man's death is ongoing, the sheriff's office said. Historically, Minnesota ranks third in the US in documented agricultural-confined space-related accidents, which include grain entrapment cases. According to Purdue University, there were 212 Minnesota cases from 1962-2020.

Source: Confined Space, Weekly Toll: Killed on the Job, 20 June 2022


Events

WORK-RELATED GENDERED VIOLENCE (INCLUDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT)

Refresher Training Course for HSRs
Elected HSRs and Deputy HSRs are entitled to at least one refresher course each year, and may choose which course, in consultation with their employer.

VTHC’s WorkSafe-approved Work-Related Gendered Violence course provides HSRs with skills and knowledge to raise and resolve issues arising from work-related gendered violence - a serious occupational health and safety issue.

Our course covers:

  • Consultation, communication and representation
  • Gendered violence, definitions, impacts and injury
  • Identifying risks, risk assessment, prevention and the hierarchy of control
  • Issue Resolution

Course hours are 9am to 5pm and cost $330 or $350 regionally. Please contact Natalie Wood at [email protected] for more information.

HSR INITIAL & REFRESHER TRAINING

Trained HSRs are more effective HSRs - have you just been elected and haven't organised your training yet? Do it now! And if you completed your initial five day training then organise your annual refresher now. There are things happening in the OHS space you need to be aware of.  

Remember: under Section 67 of the OHS Act 2004 all HSRs and DHSRs are entitled to attend at least 1 one-day refresher course every year, yet many just don't get around to it. If this is you, then check out the courses scheduled for next year, and enrol now, before they fill up.  It's important to attend in order to keep up your knowledge of OHS law and practice up-to-date. In the past year we have had significant amendments to the OHS Act, new regulations (for crystalline silica) and new codes. Trained health and safety reps make a real difference in their workplaces, and it's great to meet with others and share experiences!

Initial Course Dates :  

  • 18 - 22 July - Narre Warren
  • 26, 27, 28 July & 10, 11 August - Carlton

Course hours: 9am - 5pm
Course length: All initial OHS training courses are 5 days.
Course fee: $870.00 incl. GST Regional: $895.00 incl. GST

Refresher course Dates:  

  • 1 July - Narre Warren
  • 7 July - Carlton
  • 14 July - Work Related Gendered Violence - Carlton
  • 3 August - Work Related Gendered Violence (Education Sector) -  AEU, Abbotsford

Go to this link to enrol in any of the five-day initial or refresher courses. Remember to then notify your employer at least 14 days before the course.