New Victorian COVID advice useful for health sector
The Victorian Health Service Guidance and Response to COVID-19 Risks (VHSGR) has been developed to inform health service processes and interventions in response to changing risks of COVID-19 transmission in the community. It includes guidance on topics such as:
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) use
- Health care worker surveillance testing
- Patient pre-operative testing and screening
- Elective surgery
- Visitor information
- Outpatient consultations
- Emergency Department policy
- Healthcare worker mobility.
If it is decided that a risk rating should be changed, the Department of Health will enact and communicate the decision to health services. This website will also be updated immediately to reflect the new change to risk ratings. Further information can be found here.
New Safety Alerts
With the Easter break and school holidays coming up, WorkSafe Victoria has issued the Alert on the dangers of camping under trees. Without saying when the fatality occurred, the Alert provides the following background information:
"A camper at a holiday park died when a branch fell on his tent. The man had set up camp in his allocated camping spot, locating his tent under a tree canopy. A large branch fell on his tent in the night as he was sleeping."
In the second Alert, WorkSafe reminds employers about the risks associated with mobile plant operating over uneven ground after multiple recent incidents involving rollovers at quarries. The regulator states that in recent months it has been notified of a number of these incidents, involving a bulldozer, drill rig, water cart and trucks. The truck rollovers occurred during tipping activities.
Fortunately, in all cases the plant operators were not injured. Whilst the incidents occurred across multiple sites and operators, a common causal factor identified is the operation of plant over uneven, inclined or unstable running surfaces.
Both Alerts goes through the associated safety issues, recommended ways to control the risks, who has what legal duties under the OHS Act, and have links to further WorkSafe information.
Workplace Safety is our Common Language - new campaign
WorkSafe is ensuring safety is a common language for all Victorians following the launch of its latest campaign to assist workers from culturally diverse backgrounds. The $970,000 ‘Workplace Safety is our Common Language’ campaign speaks directly to workers in 19 different languages to help everyone understand their health and safety rights, and equip them with the knowledge and confidence to raise questions or concerns. This includes translated advice for workers, resources for employers, and videos featuring real workers who share their experiences in Victorian workplaces.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said employers had to ensure workers from culturally diverse backgrounds understood their health and safety rights. "We know people who speak multiple languages and are learning English face unique risks compared to their co-workers, but that is no excuse for failing to ensure their health and safety," Ms Nielsen said. "WorkSafe is providing resources in additional languages to help all workers and employers understand their rights and responsibilities and to ensure every worker returns home safe at the end of the day."
Workers wanting to know more about their health and safety rights can call TIS National on 131 450 to reach WorkSafe with an interpreter, between 7.30am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday. Read more: WorkSafe media release
Victorian government introduces Gender Equality Act
Victoria has taken a nation-leading step towards achieving gender equal workplaces in the public sector, with the commencement of the Australian-first Gender Equality Act 2020. The new Act requires 300 public sector employers – including local councils and universities – to report on and improve gender equality in the workplace.
Victoria’s inaugural Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent is working with public sector workplaces, which employ more than 380,000 people, to close the gender pay gap, improve gender equality at all levels of the workforce and eliminate workplace sexual harassment. Organisations will also need to undertake gender impact assessments – ensuring that policies, programs and services consider the different needs of Victorians of all genders.
The Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector has published detailed guidance and resources on its website and will provide training and support to organisations. Read more: Victorian government media release
NSW: Blitz into gig companies reveals disgraceful OHS breaches
Six gig economy companies have been issued safety notices after a Sydney blitz revealed widespread non-compliance with WHS laws, including the absence of hi-vis gear and explicit health and safety instructions.
Conducted by SafeWork NSW, the blitz found that 90 per cent of bike riders performing food delivery work for gig platforms had inadequate PPE, while 60 per cent were unable to demonstrate or refer to any work safety protocols provided to them by platforms.
Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said he was putting the gig economy sector on notice after all but one of the riders observed were found operating in an unsafe manner. “What we’ve seen is disgraceful - riders out in the dark without high-vis, wearing thongs, cutting in front of trams, using mobile phones and giving passengers a lift while on the job,” Mr Anderson said. “Enough is enough. In the last 12 months alone four lives have been lost in this industry and I won’t sit on my hands while vulnerable workers are at risk.”
SafeWork inspectors will continue to be out in force on Sydney’s streets issuing improvement notices and penalties to anyone who fails to comply with NSW’s work health and safety standards. Last month, SafeWork introduced new draft guidelines to help food delivery operators, drivers and restaurants understand how to fulfil their obligations under the NSW Work Health and Safety Legislation. The guidelines outline existing hazards in the industry, such as poorly maintained bikes, fatigue and extreme weather conditions, and the actions that must be taken by delivery platforms, drivers and restaurants to mitigate these risks.
Data from SafeWork’s compliance activity will be presented to the NSW Government’s Joint Taskforce: Food Delivery Rider Safety, which is due to provide its findings to the Minister in the coming weeks. Read more: SafeWork NSW media release; Joint Taskforce: Food Delivery Rider Safety (the draft guidelines can be downloaded here)
Review of the workplace exposure standards - public comment closes 30 July
In March 2020, Safe Work Australia paused the release and public consultation for the workplace exposure standards (WES) review until further notice. Public feedback resumed on 1 February 2021 with Release 15: paraffin wax to zirconium compounds. This release will be open on the SWA consultation platform, Engage until 30 July 2021. Read more.
National Fatality Statistics
Safe Work Australia last updated its statistics on fatalities on March 18, at which time they had been notified that 23 Australian workers had been killed at work in 2021. The deaths this year have been in the following sectors:
- 9 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 3 in Arts & recreation services
- 3 in Construction
- 2 in Manufacturing
- 2 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 1 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 in Other Services
- 1 in Wholesale trade
- 1 in Public administration & safety
These figures are based mainly on initial media reports and provide a preliminary estimate of the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia updates details of the incident. Updated information is used to publish Safe Work Australia’s annual Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report which includes finalised work-related fatalities from 2003 onwards. 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.