OHS Regulator News

Victorian news
New Safety Alert
WorkSafe has issued a Safety Alert on the hazards and risk controls associated with working at heights and working with forklifts. A worker was killed in Mordialloc on February 1 after falling from a steel cage while clearing ice from pipework with a fire hose. At the time of the incident the cage was raised on the tines of a forklift. The Alert outlines the safety issues and recommends ways to control the risks.

WorkSafe investigating Coroner's office 
The Age ran an article last weekend revealing that WorkSafe Victoria is commencing an investigation into alleged health and safety breaches at Victoria's Coroners Court. According to a spokesperson the paper contacted, the regulator has spent months assessing a complaint about the work environment at the court. 
Read more: The Age

WorkSafe Events
The regulator runs events around the state which provide an opportunity to meet with WorkSafe staff, get information and so on. Click on the event for more information

QLD: Bulletin on drinking water in mines
The Department of Natural Resources and Mines has released a safety bulletin outlining the regulations and processes for providing sufficient drinking water at mine sites. Once again we are stunned that regulators must provide such advice to employers!

Safe Work Australia news
Review into WHS Model laws released
With the requirement that the Model WHS Laws be reviewed every five years, in 2018, Safe Work Australia (SWA) appointed an independent reviewer, Marie Boland, to conduct the first of these reviews. A discussion paper was released on 19 February, 2018: written submissions closed in April 2018 and the reviewer conducted a number of face to face and phone consultations with stakeholders, including unions, throughout 2018. The ACTU and federal unions made submissions and also provided feedback on the draft report, in November 2018.

The 196 page report, which was released on Monday, makes 34 recommendations. A number of the reviewer's recommendations are strongly supported by the union movement, most notably the introduction of new national offence of Industrial Manslaughter, the development of a new Regulation on psychosocial hazards and reforms to strengthen workers' rights.  The ACTU said that in most jurisdictions companies found to be responsible for the death of a worker pay relatively small fines, which can often be claimed against insurance and provide no deterrent for unsafe workplace practices.

The federal government has been opposed to the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws and industry groups have consistently argued that existing criminal laws against manslaughter under state crimes Acts are sufficient.  The ACT and Queensland have already introduced industrial manslaughter laws.  If successful at the March state election the NSW Labor Party has committed to introducing them. Meanwhile, Victoria's Labor government has begun the process: Workplace Safety Minister and Attorney General, Jill Hennessey MP, tweeted: 'Our plan to introduce tough new workplace manslaughter laws has been recommended to roll out across the country in [the] national review of health and safety laws.'

On the issue of health and safety representatives, Boland said an HSR's right to bring a person with appropriate experience and knowledge into a workplace to assist them should not be restricted if the person is also a union official. She referred to a recent high-profile case where courts found that union officials entering sites at the request of HSRs also needed an entry permit. And in another recommendation supported by the ACTU, Boland has proposed amending the model WHS Regulations "to deal with how to identify the psychosocial risks associated with psychological injury and the appropriate control measures to manage those risks".  This picks up on a regulatory 'gap'.
Read more: Review of the model WHS laws: Final report. The Age. Check out the ACTU's response in this video: Kill a worker, go to jail

Fatality statistics
There has not been an update since the last journal, when, as of 17 February, 18 fatalities had been notified by the state authorities to Safe Work Australia. The workers killed have come from the following industries:

  • 6  Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 5 Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 4 Construction
  • 2 Public Administration & safety
  • 1 Electricity, gas, water & waste services

To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage and in particular, here.

Canada: new website Preventing Occupational Disease
Occupational diseases are health conditions such as cancer, musculoskeletal disorders, and respiratory diseases caused by exposure to hazardous substances or environments in the workplace or as part of work activities. Occupational disease is common and results from exposure to chemical, biological and physical agents in the workplace. Recognizing and preventing occupational disease presents unique challenges, and requires the elimination or reduction of hazardous exposures, and the control of risks.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has teamed up with the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) to create the Prevent Occupational Disease website, an online clearing house of current and credible occupational health disease resources from Canada and around the world.

Protecting workers starts with identification and prevention. The website, aimed at reducing illness and fatalities associated with occupational sources, can help employers, supervisors, safety and health practitioners, and workers increase their understanding of occupational diseases and ways to prevent them.
The resources provided relate to the science and mechanics of prevention; common hazards and their identification, exposure assessment and control; specific occupations and industries where the risk of developing occupational disease is higher; and internationally recognized occupational diseases including cancer, respiratory and skin diseases, and musculoskeletal disorders. Visit the site.

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