Regulator news

WorkSafe Victoria news

Health and Safety Month - events and competition
WorkSafe's Health and Safety Month has begun, with events starting this week - check out the page for events you and your employer might be interested in attending (of course in addition to the VTHC's HSR Conference!). There are a number of interesting events, both in Melbourne and in other parts of the state.

On October 30, for example, Catherine McGregor, freelance broadcaster, cricket commentator and author, will be speaking on diversity, honesty, courage.
Sharing her own inspirational experiences, Catherine will discuss the rising challenge of mental health issues in the workforce, the importance of being able to adapt and overcome adversity and the impact of technology on workplaces and workplace safety. Read more and register here.

WorkSafe says: "Can't make it to a WorkSafe Health and Safety Month event? There are still plenty of ways to get involved! Host a Health and Safety Month event at your workplace and go in the draw to win $3000 for your workplace." For more information and details on how to enter, click here.

Safety Alert after slurry tank injury
WorkSafe Victoria has issued an alert after a filter tank ruptured during commissioning of a paste plant and released about 400 tonnes of slurry.

A 200,000 litre filter tank failed at a newly commissioned paste plant. The tank was being filled with thickened tailings (slurry) for the first time. The wall in the tank’s lower section ruptured and a section of the tank wall came away, causing significant damage to the structural components of the surrounding building. Workers in the immediate vicinity were impacted by the slurry mass which was released. One suffered an eye injury from contact with the slurry.
Read more: Employee injured from slurry tank failure at paste plant

Silica news

National Taskforce update
The National Dust Diseases taskforce, which is required to produce a final report by December 31, 2020, chaired by Australian Chief Health Officer Prof Brendan Murphy, has been established under a $5 million plan by the Morrison government to address the worsening occupational lung disease crisis. Earlier this month the ABC's 7.30 reported that there were now 260 cases across Australia, with 166 in Queensland, 61 in Victoria, 23 in NSW, 5 in Tasmania, 3 in WA, and 1 each in the ACT and SA. In SA there are also 66 cases where workers need specialist follow-up. The terms of reference for the new taskforce include considering a national dust disease register.

Ex Labor senator Claire Moore chaired a Senate inquiry that made 14 recommendations in 2006 - most of which were ignored. Ms Moore believes deaths from silicosis might have been prevented had the recommendations been fully implemented.   Read more: ABC online

NSW: Greens call for ban of manufactured stone
Last week the NSW upper house passed a motion, with government support, to immediately consider banning manufactured stone in a move which will put Premier Gladys Berejiklian under pressure to act on the fatal disease silicosis.

Silicosis cases in NSW, caused by cutting manufactured stone, have increased from eight to 40 this year. Queensland and Victoria have taken regulatory steps to limit use of manufactured stone, which is made up of crushed stone bound together by adhesive.

Greens MP David Shoebridge’s motion, which also calls on the government to ban dry-cutting of manufactured stone, was passed by the upper house last Thursday night, potentially paving the way for legislation. However Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson’s office failed to commit to legislation on Friday, saying: “Clearly, more needs to be done to educate people about silica dust and silicosis. All 246 manufactured stone fabrication sites in NSW have ­received a visit from SafeWork NSW inspectors and they will continue to see a strong presence from SafeWork into the future to ensure compliance with rules and regulations such as those which prohibit dry-cutting of manufactured stone.’’

Meanwhile, in the UK...
The UK safety regulator the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is being urged to halve the workplace exposure limit for silica dust, a move it says will save 4,000 lives a year. The call, which is backed by unions and the national Hazards Campaign, comes in a  new ‘Choked’ report from Hazards magazine.

The report presents evidence for cutting the current UK legal limit of 0.1 mg/m3 for respirable crystalline silica to no more than 0.05 mg/m3, a move the report says would dramatically reduce the incidence of the lung scarring occupational disease silicosis, lung cancer, autoimmune diseases and other silica-related conditions. Hazards reviewed the international scientific literature and internal HSE documents to calculate the annual excess silica-related death toll resulting from HSE’s repeat refusal to switch to and enforce the tighter standard, instead sticking with a level it admits comes with “significant risks”. Australia's current exposure standard is also 0.1 mg/m3 .
Read more: UK campaign for urgent cut to silica dust limit

NSW: Mobile scaffold warning issued after fatality

In an 'Incident overview', SafeWork NSW has urged PCBUs to consider all reasonably practicable control measures to manage the risk of falling from mobile scaffolds, after a worker sustained fatal head injuries in a 5.7-metre fall.  The 48-year-old man was dismantling a mobile scaffold at a residential site in Sydney earlier this month when he fell from the top deck.  Read more: Fall from scaffold

NT: warning on heat

NT WorkSafe warns workers around the Territory to get ready for the heat as the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts warmer than average temperatures for the next three months. The Bureau also says there is also an increased risk of heatwaves. Exposure to high temperatures and humidity can cause heat stress and other heat-related issues at work.
More information on heat.

Safe Work Australia news

SWA launches the National Return to Work Strategy 2020-2030
According to the national body, the Strategy sets an ambitious 10-year action plan to improve return to work outcomes for workers across Australia.

It was developed in partnership with governments, business, industry and unions, and endorsed by work health and safety ministers. Consultation was also undertaken with academics, peak bodies, organisations and representatives from the insurance, legal and health sectors to help identify national policy issues and action areas to address them.

The return to work process can be complex and involves a range of stakeholders. The Strategy aims to better support workers through this process, and help stakeholders to do the same. Improving national return to work outcomes can be achieved through the commitment and participation of all stakeholders who participate in the return to work process. More information on the strategy. Download a copy from this page of the SWA website.

New draft workplace exposure standards released
Safe Work Australia is reviewing workplace exposure standards (WES) for airborne contaminants, to ensure standards are based on up to date, high quality evidence supported by a rigorous scientific basis. After commissioning research, SWA has released its draft evaluation reports and recommendations for two lists of chemicals (Release 3 & Release 4), on which it is seeking feedback. While it proposes 'no change' for some, for others, the proposed new WES is well below the current one.  Examples include:

  • n-Butyl alcohol:  Current TWA 50 ppm; 152 mg/m3 Recommended TWA 20 ppm; 61 mg/m3
  • Carbon monoxide:  Current TWA 30 ppm; 34 mg/m3 Recommended TWA 20 ppm; 23 mg/m3
  • Chloroform: Current TWA 2 ppm; 10 mg/m3 Recommended TWA 0.5 ppm; 2.5 mg/m3
  • beta-Chloroprene: Current TWA 10 ppm; 36 mg/m3 Recommended TWA 0.00007 ppm; 0.27 µg/m3

SWA has also recommended that some chemicals which previously had no WES now have them. These include Bisphenol-A and Bisphenol A diglycidyl ether.  Feedback is requested via the SWA Engage platform by 11 October 2019 for Release 3 chemicals, and by 25 October 2019 for Release 4 chemicals.

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.

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