Regulator news

WorkSafe Victoria

Safety Alert following serious fall

WorkSafe has issued a Safety Alert following an incident where a worker slipped off a roof and fell through the guardrail system on a catch platform at a housing construction site. The young worker was critically injured after he fell will performing metal roof installation works on a double storey house under construction. He slipped, slid down the metal roof sheeting off the roof, through the guard rails that were on the perimeter scaffold, and fell approximately 6 metres to the ground. We do not have news of the young man's condition.

The Safety Alert goes through the possible contributing factors, safety issues, recommended ways for employers to control the risks and a summary of legal duties. The Safety Alert also links to extra materials such as the Compliance Code: Prevention of falls in housing construction, and advice on SWMS.

Silica regulations extended

On 20 August last year WorkSafe Victoria inserted Part 4.5 - Crystalline Silica into the 2017 OHS Regulations. This part was to apply until 19 August 2020, by which time it was expected that a new regulation would replace it. However, this has not occurred, and the expiry date has been extended to 19 February 2021. 

Note that while the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica dust is now 0.05mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration over 8 hours, WorkSafe Victoria recommends that employers take a precautionary approach and reduce employees' exposure to below 0.02mg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA to prevent silicosis and minimise the risk of lung cancer. The VTHC standard, which we are campaigning to have made into the official WES, is 0.025mg/m3
Read more: Silica 

QLD: stone benchtop industry fails to ensure safety of workers

The Queensland government has announced a blitz of every stone-cutting business in the state. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) plans to visit all 166 firms across the state after 179 young men have been diagnosed with silicosis. Inspectors have so far issued 30 enforcement actions after visiting 14 stone-benchtop fabrication workplaces. Reports are that one was so hazardous it was immediately shut down.

Penalties for businesses flouting improvement notices and failing to adequately protect fabricators from inhaling potentially fatal silica dust include on-the-spot fines of up to $3600 or other enforcement action. Source: The Mercury

Comcare Australia resources

Comcare says it is important not to become complacent about the basics of maintaining COVID-safe workplaces. In particular, Comcare is reminding employers and workers of the importance of maintaining physical distancing.

There is extensive workplace guidance on the Comcare website, including:

In additions there are resources to use in the workplace:

And from Safe Work Australia: Physical distancing in the workplace

Safe Work Australia 

Reminder of national guide on working with silica

Recently the national workplace exposure standard (WES) for silica dust has halved from an eight-hour time weighted average of 0.1mg/m3 to 0.05mg/m3. The reduced silica dust WES was implemented in most jurisdictions from 1 July 2020.

Safe Work Australia has published information, including a checklist, to help persons conducting a business or undertaking (for example, an employer or small business owner) to understand the changes to the WES for silica dust, and to assess and effectively manage the risks of silica dust in their workplace. 

The national guide Working with silica and silica containing products explains what employers must do to keep your workers safe from the risks of silica dust. This guide has been translated into six languages for those who speak a language other than English: Arabic; Traditional Chinese; Simplified Chinese; Greek; Vietnamese and Italian. 

National Fatality Statistics 

Safe Work updated its fatality statistics on September 10, at which time there had been 110 worker fatalities notified to the national body - just one more than the previous update on August 27. This was in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing sector. The fatalities this year have been in the following sectors:

  • 36 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 22 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 18 in Construction
  • 12 in Public administration & safety
  • 9 in Manufacturing 
  • 5 in Mining
  • 2 in 'other services' 
  • 1 in Arts & recreation services
  • 1 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in Retail trade
  • 1 in Administrative & support services
  • 1 in Electrical, gas, water, & waste services
  • 1 in Wholesale trade

Note that the figures are based on preliminary reports, and so at times will change. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage.

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