Regulator news

WorkSafe Victoria news

Silica: Regulations amended to cover working with engineered stone

On May 1 of this year, the Premier and the Workplace Safety Minister announced a ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone.

On August 20, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 were amended to provide greater protection to Victorian employees working with engineered stone. They now prohibit uncontrolled cutting, grinding and abrasive polishing of engineered stone with power tools. The amendments came into effect immediately. 

Under the amended regulations, an employer, self employed person or person who manages or controls a workplace must ensure a power tool is not used to cut, grind or abrasively polish engineered stone, unless the tool:
  • has an integrated water delivery system that supplies a continuous feed of water (on-tool water suppression), or
  • is fitted with on-tool extraction attached to a HEPA filtered dust class H vacuum cleaner (or similar system that captures the dust generated).

If these controls are not reasonably practicable, the use of power tools must be controlled through local exhaust ventilation (LEV).

These are interim regulations, made in response to the clear evidence of the health risks resulting from the inhalation of crystalline silica dust by workers, and the heightened risk to those working with engineered stone. They will be in place until August 2020. Work has already commenced to develop 'permanent' regulations and a compliance code. Both will be developed in consultation with stakeholders and released for public comment, together with a regulatory impact statement (RIS).   

The VTHC applauds the quick action of the Victorian government and the Workplace Safety Minister, Jill Hennessy, in introducing regulatory protections for workers in this industry - there is no doubt that this action will save lives. 
Read more: Changes to protect Victorians working with engineered stone 

VWA Awards finalists announced 
The outstanding contributions of 27 businesses, health and safety representatives and individuals will be recognised at this year’s WorkSafe Awards.
The finalists from around the state have been shortlisted across nine categories for their outstanding efforts in improving workplace health and safety and supporting injured workers to return to work. There were 219 nominations this year, the highest number since 2013.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said every finalist deserved to be recognised for their dedication. She said, "The WorkSafe Awards highlight the amazing things people do every day to make the lives of workers better, whether it’s through improving health and safety, or helping injured workers return to work." 

The VTHC congratulates the three HSR of the Year finalists:

  • Stephen Jones (Viva Energy Refining Pty Ltd, Geelong)
  • Sally Collier-Clark and Sara Jorgensen (Bendigo Hospital)
  • Jason Atkinson (DP World West Melbourne)

New media campaign goes live 
The VWA has launched its new media campaign "More inspectors. More inspections." focussing on construction, manufacturing and agriculture with four television advertisements: one general and three industry-specific. These will run on TV, in railway stations and on-line. Check out one of the TV ads here. In addition to TV, there are billboards in metropolitan and regional Victoria, press advertisements, radio ads, and digital and social media 'assets' such as videos, Twitter posts, and more. Where appropriate, the message will be translated into the language of the target audience. 

Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, said “Worksafe inspectors are out in force, cracking down on employers who do the wrong thing – because one death in a workplace is one too many. This campaign is about reminding employers of their responsibilities, and that those who do the wrong thing will be caught and prosecuted.”
Read more: WorkSafe Victoria media release

QLD: New silica research project 
WorkCover Queensland has engaged two leading universities to undertake important research on how to best support workers who have been diagnosed with silicosis, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace announced last week.

Ms Grace said Professor Malcolm Sim from Monash University and Professor Bob Cohen from the University of Illinois would lead expert teams to address important issues including:

  • the treatment, rehabilitation and retraining options that are available to improve workers’ capacity to work;
  • the mental health impact and issues preventing return to work; and
  • ensuring the return to work environment is safe to protect workers’ long-term health.

“Both teams bring extensive experience in the management of dust diseases and best practice return to work,” Ms Grace said. “They are involved in research and other initiatives in schemes across Australia and internationally to improve how workers with dust diseases are supported in their recovery.”
Read more: New research to support workers diagnosed with silicosis Media statement

Safe Work Australia

Fatality Statistics

There still has been no update on the Safe Work Australia - the last being August 1, when there had been 83 fatalities notified to SWA. The workers killed came from the following industries: 

  • 28 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 19 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 12 in Construction
  • 6 in Public Administration & safety
  • 5 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 5 in Mining
  • 3 in Manufacturing
  • 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
  • 2 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in 'Other 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.

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