Charges laid after assault on youth justice worker
WorkSafe has charged the Department of Justice and Community Safety for alleged health and safety breaches. Two charges have been filed at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court under section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for failing to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health. The charges relate to an incident in which a youth justice worker had hot liquid thrown in his face in the Park View Unit of the Parkville Youth Justice Centre on 10 December 2018.
WorkSafe alleges the department failed to provide and maintain safe systems of work and failed to provide necessary information and instruction to reduce this risk.
The matter is listed for a file hearing at Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 6 January 2020.
Ombudsman releases scathing report
Victoria’s WorkCover scheme is failing to deliver just outcomes for long term injured workers, inflicting a huge emotional toll on them, their families and wider society, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has found.
Ms Glass said WorkSafe agents – five commercial bodies who manage WorkCover claims on behalf of WorkSafe – are continuing to make unreasonable decisions, in some cases for financial incentives. “The system is failing to deliver just outcomes to too many people. WorkSafe agents continue to make unreasonable decisions, the dispute process can be time consuming, stressful and costly, and WorkSafe is too often unwilling or unable to deal,” Ms Glass said.
Revisiting an issue she first investigated in 2016, Ms Glass yesterday tabled in the Victorian Parliament her 18-month long WorkSafe 2: Follow-up investigation into the management of complex workers compensation claims.
“I said in 2016 these cases involve people’s lives, and the human cost should never be forgotten; that human cost continues to this day,” Ms Glass said. “From the evidence in this report it would appear that my 2016 investigation only scratched the surface. Many of the decisions and actions we saw were not only unjust and wrong. Some were downright immoral and unethical.”
Her investigation found evidence of agents:
- selectively using evidence to terminate a worker’s entitlements, even where the medical opinion relied on was unclear, contradictory or inconclusive
- conducting surveillance of workers without adequate, or any, evidence they were misrepresenting their injury
- requiring workers to attend occupational rehabilitation at inappropriate stages of their recoveries, and then issuing the workers with non-compliance notices if they failed to attend.
Ms Glass found that WorkSafe had failed to hold agents accountable for poor decisions, shirking from requiring agents to overturn decisions that had failed its own audits. She said while her 2016 investigation had resulted in some improvements, it also appeared to have driven some practices underground.
WorkSafe Victoria's new Chief Executive, Colin Radford, said improvements made to the way complex claims were managed after the Ombudsman’s 2016 investigation had unfortunately not been enough.
"Our people are absolutely committed to preventing workplace injuries and illness and to supporting injured workers to return to health and return to work." He said, "I am therefore disappointed by the Ombudsman’s findings. "No one chooses to be injured at work. When injuries or illness do occur, workers deserve to be treated with empathy and respect and to receive the right support and the right entitlements in a timely manner."
Read more: Full report WorkSafe2 - Follow-up investigation into the management of complex workers compensation claims or read: WorkSafe2: Easy English summary; WorkSafe Victoria media release.
Inspectors to visit construction sites checking scaffolding & fall safety
Over the coming months WorkSafe inspectors will be checking construction sites to make sure fall risks are being controlled, and scaffolds are safe and fit for purpose. With the holiday season fast approaching WorkSafe is reminding all employers, builders, site managers, contractors and workers to put safety first. The regulator wants all construction workers to go home safely and enjoy this holiday season.
Falls: Two workers have been fatally injured this year in Victoria due to falls, with many more workers sustaining life-changing injuries.
Scaffolding: Wherever scaffolding is being used, it is important to understand how to identify hazards and control risks associated with its use. WorkSafe inspectors are also checking processes are in place to ensure scaffolding is and remains safe, and is fit for the task(s) it is being used for.
Read more here.
Safe Work Australia news
SafeWork has not updated its stats page since the last edition: as at November 21, the number of fatalities notified to national body was 144 - this is 6 more fatalities than the previous update on November 13. The workers killed this year have come from the following industries:
- 54 in Transport, postal & warehousing (eight more since the last update)
- 30 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 21 in Construction
- 8 in Mining
- 6 in Public Administration & safety
- 6 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 6 in Manufacturing
- 5 in 'Other services'
- 3 in Arts & recreation services
- 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
- 2 in Wholesale trade
- 1 in Administration & support 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.