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Put safety first during reopening

Yesterday WorkSafe issued an alert warning employers to put health and safety first, including COVID-19 safety, ahead of businesses reopening on November 2. However, many businesses, such as retail and hospitality, effectively opened today, October 28th. The advice from the regulator is nevertheless pertinent. The alert says that WorkSafe inspectors will be out in force to ensure employers that have been shut down or under work from home arrangements are doing everything they can to protect their workers.

This includes completing housekeeping before reopening to ensure a workplace is safe, training and instructing staff on how to complete tasks and use equipment safely, and ensuring equipment and machinery is restarted in line with manufacturer specifications.

Employers must also provide adequate supervision and instruction to all staff where work practices have changed and for any new staff that might be unfamiliar with the workplace

Every WorkSafe inspection now includes an assessment of COVID-19 preparedness to ensure businesses have social distancing, good hygiene practices and a COVID-safe work plan.

WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director Julie Nielsen said employers had to remember all their health and safety obligations as businesses reopen. “Employers should take the time to review their health and safety processes and consult with their workers or health and safety representatives about controls in place to keep everyone safe,” Ms Nielsen said.

Since the pandemic started WorkSafe inspectors have made more than 15,000 workplace visits and enquiries to ensure COVID-19 compliance and issued more than 460 notices for COVID-19 related health and safety failures.

Common issues have been workers not working from home where possible, inadequate personal protective equipment, failing to enforce social distancing, poor hygiene controls, lack of health screening and not having procedures for when an employee tests positive.
Read more: Put safety first during reopening

WorkSafe: Health and Safety Month helping to navigate COVID-19

A reminder that there are still WorkSafe events for Health and Safety Month happening. Health & Safety month events are free, but registration is essential. Go to this page on the Worksafe website to check out what webinars are being run and to register. 

Reminder: Independent review of Dangerous Goods Act and Regs - submissions sought

A comprehensive review of Victoria’s dangerous goods laws is currently underway. The Review is part of the Victorian Government’s response to high profile incidents associated with illegal chemical stockpiling at several sites across Melbourne, and is considering issues and challenges in the management of dangerous goods. The Consultation Paper raises a number of issues which address the Review’s Terms of Reference and suggests ways in which those issues might be addressed. It also discusses Victoria’s dangerous goods landscape, the current regulatory framework and presents a list of questions to assist in making submissions.

All interested individuals and organisations are invited to share their views by making a submission. The Terms of Reference, the Consultation Paper and the list of questions can be downloaded from this page of the Engage Victoria website. The closing date for submissions is 5pm, 30 November, 2020. 

Other news

WA: Workplace exposure standards for silica and coal dust halved

The workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica has been halved to 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre effective October 27, 2020, and respirable coal dust halved to 1.5 milligrams per cubic metre effective October 27, 2021.

The move aims to reduce the risk of workers contracting potentially deadly lung diseases. Respirable crystalline silica may be generated by different work activities including fabrication and installation of composite (engineered or manufactured) stone countertops; brick, concrete, or stone cutting (angle grinding, jackhammering, and chiselling); excavation, tunnelling, earthmoving, and drilling operations; mining, quarrying, and mineral ore treatment processes; clay and stone processing machine operations; paving and surfacing, and abrasive blasting and foundry casting.

National Fatality Statistics 

Safe Work updated its fatality statistics on October 22, at which time there had been 131 worker fatalities notified to the national body - this is ten more than the previous update on October 8. Of these, five were in Construction, three in Transport, postal & warehousing; two in Agriculture, forestry & fishing,  The deaths this year have been in the following sectors:

  • 41 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 27 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 27 in Construction
  • 13 in Public administration & safety
  • 10 in Manufacturing 
  • 5 in Mining 
  • 3 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in 'other services' 
  • 1 in Arts & recreation services
  • 1 in Retail trade
  • 1 in Administrative & support 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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