Regulator News

Victorian news

Reminder: Silicosis Summit, tomorrow, 27 February

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.

Unit to target waste criminals to be established

Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio has announced that a new unit, the Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate, will be established to target criminals who stockpile huge quantities of dangerous chemicals and toxic rubbish, creating unacceptable risks and costs to the community. The unit, which will be a new division within the Environment Protection Authority, will monitor and prosecute waste disposal operators who accumulate toxic materials, including asbestos, and do not handle or dispose of them properly. It will work in conjunction with WorkSafe, emergency services and local councils. 

The minister said the government was giving the EPA the dedicated resources it needed to tackle waste crime and keep the community safe. "For too long, waste crime has undermined Victoria's recycling sector and put the community at risk with dangerous and illegal stockpiling."
Read more: Special unit to hunt toxic waste criminals, The Age

Worker vaccinations compulsory under new laws

Victorian healthcare workers will be required to be fully immunised against the flu, chicken pox, hepatitis B, measles and whooping cough, under new laws introduced to State Parliament last week.

Made by an Amendment Bill, the rules will apply to workers in public and private hospitals and ambulance services with direct patient contact, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, dentists, orderlies and cleaners, as well as public sector residential aged care services staff. Workers who refuse to be vaccinated may face work restrictions or be redeployed to other parts of the health service.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said, "“Last year’s flu season was our worst on record – highlighting why it’s so important our staff are protected against infectious diseases, so they can continue to provide the best care for patients.” There were more than 69,000 laboratory-confirmed cases. The new laws will protect healthcare workers from preventable diseases, while reducing the risk of transmission to vulnerable people like children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions, she said.
She noted that Victorian healthcare workers have free access to flu shots.
Read more: Victorian Government media release. Health Services Amendment (Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Workers) Bill 2020 [pdf]

Queensland: government response to Coroner's findings into Dreamworld tragedy

In a statement released this week, the Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations, the Honourable Grace Grace, said the Queensland Government accepts the coroner’s findings. She confirmed that the matter has been referred to the independent Work Health and Safety Prosecutor for a decision on whether action will be taken against Dreamworld’s owner, Ardent Leisure, under the Work Health and Safety Act.

Minister Grace said that although the majority of recommendations in the findings had already been implemented by steps taken in the past three years to improve safety on amusement rides, the government is conducting a thorough examination of these to determine if more needs to be done to ensure the highest levels of safety in theme parks.

The coroner's investigation uncovered numerous failings including the company's reliance on "frighteningly unsophisticated" safety systems and unqualified staff, and the absence of holistic risk assessments across 30 years.  The Coroner, James McDougall, said a recurring theme of his inquest was Dreamworld management's "general ignorance of proper safety and adequate assessments", which "reflects a systemic failure to ensure the safety of patrons and staff by the use of a proper safety management system, with the necessary engineering oversight of high-risk plant". 

The government has implemented a new regulatory framework which she said, "...fundamentally improves the approach and safety standard for amusement rides and theme parks in Queensland – laws which are nothing short of world class that include;

  • Mandatory major inspections of all amusement rides by qualified engineers every ten years – this is in in addition to the mandatory annual inspections which are already required.
  • More stringent operator training. 
  • A comprehensive safety case and licensing regime for major theme parks that includes a full safety assessment of all rides at the park. 
  • More stringent record keeping for all amusement rides in relation to inspections, maintenance and operator competency.

Other measures include: strengthening Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s (WHSQ) capabilities through a stronger focus on enforcement and compliance, including comprehensive annual audits on all six major theme parks; an increase of 33 inspectors; the initiation of a code of practice to support the new regulations, and more.
Read more: Inquest into the deaths of Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Cindy Low & Roozbeh Araghi at Dreamworld, October 2016 Findings and Recommendations February 2020. [pdf] Minister's statement. Source: OHSAlert

National Fatality Statistics

Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics since the last edition of SafetyNet. As at 13 February, there had been 21 worker fatalities notified to the national body. These are preliminary figures, and are based mainly on media reports.

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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