New regulation on notifying positive COVID-19 cases in the workplace
The Victorian government yesterday, July 28, 2020, declared the Occupational Health and Safety (COVID-19 Incident Notification) Regulations 2020 - effective immediately and in place for one year.
In essence, the new regulation requires employers and self-employed persons, with management or control of a workplace to notify WorkSafe immediately after becoming aware that:
- an employee, independent contractor, employee of the independent contractor or self-employed person has received a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) and;
- the employee, independent contractor, employee of the independent contractor or self-employed person has attended the workplace within the relevant infection period.
Immediate notification to WorkSafe is to be done on this number: 13 23 60. WorkSafe will then lodge details of the incident and email the employer a link to an online incident notification form. WorkSafe will then advise if an inspector will make a site visit and whether the incident scene can be disturbed before the inspector's attendance.
The online incident notification form must then be completed and lodged within 48 hours - employers will then receive a confirmation email with a copy for their records. Failing to notify WorkSafe under section 38 of the OHS Act can lead to fines of up to $39,652 (240 penalty units) for an individual or $198,264 (1200 penalty units) for a body corporate.
July edition of Safety Soapbox
The July edition of Safety Soapbox was posted yesterday. In this edition, the editorial is on scaffolding safety awareness. Earlier this year five employees were injured, two seriously when a scaffold they were working from collapsed. Then in May, a worker at a residential construction site fell from scaffolding to the ground. He suffered severe head injuries and died in hospital two days later.
The edition also reminds employers and workers of the safety issues of working on roofs, and links to WorkSafe guidance. There is news of interstate activities and incidents, including the death 50-year-old worker in Maningrida, NT who was fatally injured when a chain used in a towing operation failed.
As always, the Safety Soapbox has the list of incidents reported to WorkSafe: In June the construction industry reported 156 incidents to WorkSafe, 67 per cent of which resulted in injury. 26 incidents involved young workers, and there were two serious near misses. Access the July 2020 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the summaries of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
Building regulator on working during COVID-19
The Victorian Building Authority has issued advice to building industry on working during the pandemic and the wearing of masks. The VBA is urging Victorians to take extra precautions when using a builder or plumber to slow down the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Builders, plumbers, and other trades can continue work in private homes and buildings if the owner or tenant is not self-isolating or in quarantine. If the owner or tenant has coronavirus, feels unwell with a fever, or has cold or flu-like symptoms, any non-urgent work should be postponed. An exception exists for any building or plumbing issues – such as blocked or burst pipes, blocked stormwater drains, roof leaks, collapsed balconies, ceilings or walls, faulty heaters, gas leaks, no hot water, and non-functional smoke alarms - that pose a serious risk to health or safety. In these cases, homeowners can call a builder or plumber, but need to inform the tradesperson that they are self-isolating, so the trade can take all necessary safety precautions.
In advice to tradespeople, the VBA says that masks are now compulsory for workers in the building and plumbing industry who live or work in Melbourne or the Mitchell Shire. It clarifies that this means wearing a face covering at all times, including when:
- travelling to and from sites on public transport or with other people in a vehicle
- travelling in a personnel hoist or lift
- working in a confined space
- operating an item of plant or equipment with another person.
There are exceptions for people affected by a relevant medical condition, such as breathing problems or a severe skin condition on the face, and for those whom wearing a face covering creates a health and safety risk as determined through OH&S guidelines. Read more: VBA news on Face masks; and working during the pandemic [pdf]
Safe Work Australia
National Safety Month theme - Work Health and Safety through COVID-19
On Monday Safe Work Australia launched the theme for this year’s National Safe Work Month: Work Health and Safety through COVID-19. It has also launched a campaign kit.
The national body says that this year’s theme acknowledges and reflects the impacts of COVID-19 on work health and safety. It recognises that every Australian workplace has been affected by the global pandemic and that workplaces have had to adapt their practices and procedures to reduce the WHS risks associated with the disease. This year’s campaign kit resources are digitally focused and include web graphics, social media tiles and document templates which can be customised to appeal to a broad range of organisations and industries.
Safe Work says that over the coming months, additional resources will be made available on the National Safe Work Month website, including animations and information sheets on COVID-19 work health and safety.
COVID-19 Information for workplaces
A reminder of the information for workplaces on the SWA website - for specific industries, case studies, how to do risk assessments, and much more. Check it here.
National Fatality Statistics
Safe Work has not updated its statistics since the last edition of SafetyNet. As of July 16 there had been 95 worker fatalities notified to the national body. The fatalities this year have been in the following sectors:
- 32 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 17 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 15 in Construction
- 11 in Public administration & safety
- 9 in Manufacturing
- 4 in Mining
- 2 in 'other services'
- 1 in Arts & recreation services
- 1 in Accommodation & food services
- 1 in Retail trade
- 1 in Health care & social assistance
- 1 in Administrative & support services
To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage.