Regulator news

WorkSafe Victoria news

Latest edition of Safety Soapbox

The December edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox arrived today.

In this edition, the editorial announces that a Piling Working Group has been formed as a result of the increased volume of work occurring within the rail corridor in Victoria and in particular adjacent to operational rail. The working group is being led by the Level Crossing Removal Project Joint Coordination Committee (LCRP-JCC) which comprises industry, client and rail representatives. The purpose of the LCRP-JCC is to assist in the coordination and cooperation between contractors during project delivery.

The e-journal also announces that 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.

In the month of November, 161 incidents were reported to WorkSafe, 69 per cent of which which resulted in injury: 43 per cent of these were significant, and 11 per cent were serious. 19 per cent involved young workers, and the most common injuries were lacerations.
Access the December 18 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.

Safe Work Australia news

Employers go for lower order controls - still!

According to a report prepared for Safe Work Australia, many employers continue to rely on administrative controls like training in lifting techniques and stretching to tackle work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) risks, despite strong evidence that these strategies don't work.

The report outlines current knowledge of WMSD hazards and risk factors, including psychosocial hazards, statistics on incidence and impact, and a review of workplace interventions in Australia and internationally.

WMSDs are the most common type of work-related injury in Australia, accounting for 55 per cent of all serious workers’ compensation claims in 2015-16. Based on a literature review and interviews with Australian regulators, WHS consultants and industry association representatives, the study by La Trobe University's Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors found WMSDs account for the majority of workers' comp costs.

They found that there were almost 125,000 accepted claims for WMSDs in 2015-16, and 50 per cent of these were serious claims, involving one week or more away from work. Yet despite WMSDs affecting almost 7 million people, most workplace interventions for WMSD prevention focus on changing an individual's behaviour or reducing task-specific hazards, with "no consideration of the broader contextual factors which are associated with the complex aetiology of WMSDs", the 72-page report says.

According to the report, barriers to the effective implementation of WMSD controls include:

  • a failure to adopt a systems approach to risk management and inadequate adherence to the hierarchy of controls;
  • poor management commitment, organisational culture and climate;
  • a poor understanding of the importance of workers actively participating in the development of risk management programs that acknowledge the complex nature of hazards and provide adequate resources to support interventions; and
  • limited knowledge of relevant legislation and codes of practice, as well as the role of competencies in WMSD risk management.

Editor's comment: The regulations require employers to, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risk associated with hazardous manual handling, and where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, then control it by following the hierarchy of control.
Read more: SWA Media release; Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in Australia; Summary of Hazardous Manual Handling Regulations; More information on Sprains and Strains. Source: OHSAlert

Warning on air pollution

Safe Work Australia has issued a media release reminding employers/PCBUs that their workplace must have measures in place to protect worker health and safety and manage the risks of working outdoors. It says employers/PCBUs should consider the geographic location of the workplace. "If you are in close proximity to a dust storm or smoke from bushfires, check your local air quality index to obtain the latest health advice." See the SWA guide Working outside page for more information on how to identify and manage risks of air pollution. 

Last week SWA reminded employers/PCBUs that they must ensure outdoor workers in Sydney and other areas choked by bushfire smoke have access to face masks capable of filtering out very fine particles. "If your employees must be outside, they must have access to respiratory protection such as a P2 face mask. Paper face masks and P1 masks are not effective against bushfire," it said, pointing duty holders to a US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health guide [pdf] to properly putting on and taking off disposable respirators. 

Fatality Statistics
SafeWork has not updated its stats page since the last edition: as at December 5, the number of fatalities notified to national body was 152. The workers killed this year have come from the following industries: 

  • 54 in Transport, postal & warehousing (eight more since the last update)
  • 31 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 24 in Construction
  • 9 in Mining
  • 7 in Public Administration & safety
  • 6 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 6 in Manufacturing
  • 6 in 'Other services'
  • 3 in Arts & recreation services
  • 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
  • 2 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Administration & support services
  • 1 in Healthcare & social assistance

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.


NICNAS - the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme - is the federal body which assesses industrial chemicals. In its end of year wrap up there were a couple of interesting items.

  • IMAP assessments – (Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and Prioritisation, is a framework designed to rapidly assess industrial chemicals). As of 1 July this year, NICNAS had published a cumulative total of 20,554 chemical risk assessments. These assessments are of chemicals already registered and in use in Australia. Many had not been assessed for many years. On 13 December, the regulator published Tranche 28, comprising 2,806 chemical risk assessments which are now open for public comment.  Public comment closes on February 21, 2020. Subject to any public comment, this should bring the total number of chemical risk assessments up to 23,360.  
  • E-cigarette report – in October, NICNAS published a report on Non-nicotine e-cigarette liquids in Australia. The report helped to address a lack of public information surrounding e-cigarettes.


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