Regulator news

WorkSafe Victoria news

Safety Soapbox September edition

The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was sent out last week. In this edition, the editorial deals with the serious issue of silica dust exposure which can occur at grout mixing stations: when the cement bags are emptied into the mixers and churned to create the grout, they release dust into the working environment. It is well worth reading.

There's also news of a series of upcoming events: WorkSafe has teamed up with SunSmart and the Victorian Volume Home Builders Safety Alliance to offer a FREE BBQ breakfast at a number of Bunnings stores from 7 - 9am -

  • October 8 - Hoppers Crossing
  • October 15 - Mernda
  • October 22 - Clyde North warehouse

This is an opportunity for the residential trades to have their subbies and staff participate in a SunSmart program at no cost.

In August the construction industry reported 186 to WorkSafe. Of these, 68% resulted in injury. 26 incidents involved young workers.

Go to this page on the WorkSafe website for the September edition of Safety Soapbox.

Blitz on use of portable ladders

Three workers have been fatally injured in past twelve months, and many other workers have been seriously injured due to falls from portable ladders. Last week WorkSafe Victoria began a targeted blitz at domestic and commercial building sites on the use of portable ladders.   Check the guidance here.
QLD: WHS Code on silica, reduction of coal dust exposure standard

Queensland has introduced an Australian-first WHS Code of Practice on preventing exposure to silica dust. It has also committed to lowering its workplace exposure standard for coal dust to the threshold set by Safe Work Australia later this year.

The new 48-page WHS Code, Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry, will begin on 31 October 2019, and apply to "all fabrication or processing, including during installation, maintenance and removal, of engineered and natural stone benchtops", State Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said. "This Code goes a long way to ensuring long-term behavioural change in an industry that, until recently, has not put worker safety first," she said.

The code sets minimum, enforceable standards, focusing on: dust control methods like water suppression to eliminate respirable crystalline silica dust during mechanical processing; the use of appropriate respirable protective equipment; air and health monitoring for checking whether dust controls are effective; methods for safely installing engineered stone products in homes and other sites; and worker consultation, training and supervision.

Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham used Miners' Memorial Day to promise to lower the State's exposure limit for coal mine dust from an average of 2.5mg per cubic metre, over eight hours, to whatever limit SWA sets later this year.  He said the statutory agency is expected to lower the dust threshold in the national workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants from a time-weighted average of 3mg per cubic metre over eight hours to 1.5mg.
Source: OHSAlert

NSW: Drought conditions increase risk of Q fever in NSW

NSW Health and SafeWork NSW are urging people to get vaccinated and to take other steps to prevent Q fever, as drought and high winds may increase the risk of the disease spreading.

SWA News

New guide for working with silica

SWA has published national guidance material for working with silica and silica-containing products, including engineered stone, which has an extremely high silica content. The guide will help persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to understand and make decisions about protecting their workers from exposure to silica dust.

The national guide for Working with silica and silica containing products provides information about controlling the risks of exposure to silica dust when working with silica and products containing silica, like composite stone products. 

New Guide on the safe use of prefabricated concrete elements in the construction industry

Prefabricated concrete (also known as precast concrete) is a concrete element that is manufactured somewhere other than its final place of installation. This method of construction is becoming more common and involves discrete elements like walls or columns being prefabricated offsite and then erected and incorporated by crane into final position in a building structure.

Due to its size and mass, prefabricated concrete elements are vulnerable to collapse which poses a significant safety risk and can cause workers and others to be seriously injured or even killed. Safe design and adequate planning are the best ways to manage the health and safety risks that may arise when working with prefabricated concrete. The guide provides national guidance material for duty holders in the building industry. It provides information on managing risks and work health and safety (WHS) duties associated with working with prefabricated concrete.
Read more: SWA news; Download the Guide to managing risk in construction: prefabricated concrete 

Fatality Statistics

Safe Work Australia has not updated its fatality statistics since the last edition of SafetyNet: as of September 12, there had been 111 fatalities notified to the national body. The workers killed came from the following industries: 

  • 37 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 25 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 16 in Construction
  • 7 in Mining
  • 6 in Public Administration & safety
  • 6 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 4 in Manufacturing
  • 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
  • 2 in Wholesale trade
  • 2 in 'Other services'
  • 2 in Administration & support services
  • 2 in Arts & recreation 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.

National Construction Code to be amended for increased fire safety requirements

The Australian Building Codes Board has announced it is undertaking an out-of-cycle amendment for the 2019 edition of the National Construction Code. It will be known as NCC 2019 Amendment 1.

The amendment will include:

  • Enhanced fire safety measures for early childhood centres in high-rise buildings.
  • A defined term for ‘building complexity’ to be used to identify buildings for which increased supervision of design and construction is appropriate through subsequent initiatives being developed in response to recommendations of the Building Confidence report.
  • Provisions that set out the process to be followed, including the creation of a Performance Based Design Brief, to improve the quality and clarity of Performance Solutions for both approval and auditing purposes. This is also in response to recommendations of the Building Confidence report.
  • Clarification of existing concessions for low-rise Class 2 and 3 buildings.
  • Reference to a new Technical Specification for the permanent labelling of Aluminium Composite Panels.
  • Minor corrections.

The public comment draft for NCC 2019 Amendment 1 has been released for public consultation. It includes proposed amendments for Volumes One and Two, the NCC Governing Requirements and common Schedules. All relevant documents can be downloaded from the ABCB’s Consultation Hub.

Interested stakeholders are invited to provide comment on the draft by 11:59PM AEDT Friday 11 October 2019.
Read more: NCC 2019 will be amended out-of-cycle. ABCB

UK's HSE revised tool on Hand Arm Vibration

The UK's regulator, the HSE, revised its HAV exposure calculator which helps estimate and record workers’ exposures to HAV and compare them with the actions values in the regulations as part of a HAV risk assessment. While we don't have such regulations in Australia, this is a valuable tool for workers and employers where vibration is an issue. It includes drop down vibration magnitudes for common tools from HSE’s HAV database that can be used to make cautious estimates of exposure before representative in-use data for specific tools is available. The revised calculator can be accessed from the HSE website


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