Regulator News

Victorians to freecover massive clean up bill

The media has reported that, unfortunately, it will be Victorian taxpayers who will have to pay for the massive clean up of a 2018 West Footscray warehouse toxic fire. The Supreme Court last week ruled the property was not insured at the time of the blaze. The August 2018 fire was the biggest industrial blaze in Melbourne since the Coode Island disaster of 1991 and blanketed the western suburbs with toxic smoke.

WorkSafe Victoria had estimated that remediation of the toxic site will cost at least $15 million, but the full extent of the contamination is yet to be determined. To this point, the property's owner, Danbol Pty Ltd, has been resisting WorkSafe's attempts to take control of the Somerville Road property, insisting it had the financial means to cover all remediation costs. But the Supreme Court found that the company was not covered by any insurance policy when the warehouse caught fire, despite being offered a two-week extension just six days before the fire. Justice Peter Riordan said that representatives of Danbol Pty Limited had not accepted the offer or paid a premium of $3506, which meant the company could not receive an insurance payout of about $9 million. Read more: Taxpayers to cover costs of toxic factory fire clean-up (in the Sydney Morning Herald)

Crystalline silica Engineered stone compliance code now online

Last week the Minister for WorkCover declared the new code on silica. It is now available to download on the WorkSafe website:

27 February: Silicosis Summit

WorkSafe is organising a full day summit on Silicosis: A preventative approach. The summit will be held at the Flemington Racecourse, from 9am - 4pm. The regulator is inviting representatives from the stonemasonry, construction, earth resources and related industries to learn about the prevention of crystalline silica dust exposure in the workplace. The event is free - but registration is required. The VTHC encourages HSRs to approach their employers and seek to attend this event with them. Register here.

Latest edition of Safety Soapbox

The February edition of Safety Soapbox was posted this week.  In this edition, the editorial is on the Victorian bushfires, and the new resources WorkSafe has developed. 

The edition has news of WorkSafe’s activities in the sector and links to new and updated guidance. There's also a reminder of the imminent arrival of the Industrial Manslaughter laws/ The roundup of information from other jurisdictions includes links to Safety Alerts alerts from around the country. 

This edition has the list of incidents reported to WorkSafe during both December 2019, and January 2020, which can be downloaded. In December 90 incidents were reported to WorkSafe. Of these, 71 per cent resulted in injury. During January the construction industry reported 161 to WorkSafe. Of these, 69 per cent resulted in injury. Access the February 2020 edition of Safety Soapbox here  - the summaries of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.

New Safety Alert

WorkSafe has issued a new Safety Alert: Semi tippers overturning while unloading - a reminder about the risks associated with unloading trucks, after two recent incidents involving semi tippers rolling over at mines.

The first incident involved a semi tipper rolling onto its side while unloading roadbase on a downward sloping roadway. Material that stuck within the trailer while it was being raised contributed to instability. The operator was restrained by a seat belt and was uninjured.

The second incident involved a B Double truck’s front trailer rolling on its side while unloading gypsum on flat ground. The material had consolidated as a result of being in the trailer for an extended period, causing it to stick in the trailer during unloading. The operator remained in the cab and was uninjured.

The alert identifies the safety issues and provides recommended ways to control the associated risks.

Mandatory training for solar workers

From 1 July this year, all solar industry workers performing installations under Victoria's Solar Homes Program must have completed or be enrolled in a special work safety course, the State Government announced last week.

Provided by several training institutions, the free two-day course covers common safety issues associated with working on roofs, like the risk of falls and identifying and reporting asbestos, State Solar Homes Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said. For many solar workers like trade assistants, it could be the first time they have received any formal training in safety requirements, she said. Read more: Victorian Government media release

Reminder: WorkSafe is recruiting

We remind our subscribers that WorkSafe Victoria is recruiting for the next intake of Health and Safety Inspectors. Applications close 11pm February 24th. 

The regulator says it is 'looking for passionate individuals who share their vision of Victorian workers returning home safely every day.  If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out more information, please go to this page on the WorkSafe website.

The regulator also has other jobs advertised, including ergonomists and legal counsels - go to this page.

WA: Mirror WHS Act introduced

The Western Australian Government has called for the State Opposition to support its mirror Work Health and Safety Bill 2019, which was debated in the Legislative Assembly yesterday. The Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said the Bill "completely accords with community expectations" by introducing industrial manslaughter offences that will strongly deter unsafe practices.

Tas: Body of miner retrieved

The ABC reports that the body of Cameron Goss has been retrieved three weeks after a section of the Henty Gold Mine, in Tasmania's west, collapsed. Mr Goss, 44, died after the ground underneath his loader caved in, plunging his machine down a 15-metre-deep crevasse on January 23.

Police said that heavy-lift winching gear was successful in lifting the loader, which he was operating at the time, from its position in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Mr Goss' body was recovered by the mine's Emergency Response Team with the help of other mining experts. Rescue crews had earlier made a number of attempts to find his body but were unsuccessful.

Limited mine operations have now resumed at the Henty Gold Mine. This fatality is the fifth mining death in the area in six years. Source: ABC news online.

Safe Work Australia news

New guides released

The national body has released a series of guidance materials clarifying: PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) duties to monitor the health of workers exposed to hazardous substances; the substances that trigger this obligation; and how to act on medical reports. This information would be useful for Victorian employers also as the duties are basically the same.

The dozens of hazardous chemicals that either require health monitoring under the model WHS Regulations, or "may" require monitoring, include arsenic, asbestos, benzene, crystalline silica, fluorides, lead, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, styrene and uranium.

The four new guides are:

SWA has also published explanatory notes on its traumatic injury fatalities database, and explanatory notes on the national data set for compensation-based statistics. (Source: OHSAlert)

National Fatality Statistics

Safe Work Australia has updated its statistics since the last edition of SafetyNet. As at 13 February, there had been 21 worker fatalities notified to the national body, six more since the last update on 30 January. These are preliminary figures, and are based mainly on media reports.

In 2019, 162 Australian workers were fatally injured while working, compared with 144 workers in 2018.

The fatalities this year have come from the following industries:

  • 6 in Construction
  • 5 in Public administration & safety
  • 5 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 3 in Mining
  • 1 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • 1 in Manufacturing

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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