New OHS bill read in parliament
The Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (the Bill) has been introduced into Parliament and was second read today, Wednesday 23 June 2021. Workplace safety laws will be strengthened with reforms to expand worker rights and protections, boost employer accountability and streamline enforcement.
A key change in the Bill will ensure that labour hire workers have all the same rights and safety protections as other workers. Labour hire workers are employed by a labour hire company or agency and perform work at the worksite of a “host” employer, often supervised by the host or their staff. Under current laws, the host employer does not owe labour hire workers the same health and safety duties as they do their own staff.
The Bill addresses this gap by extending the definition of “employer” and “employee” in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 to ensure labour hire workers are considered employees of the host under the Act. Labour hire providers and host employers will also be required to consult and cooperate on their shared responsibility to ensure the safety of labour hire workers with sizeable fines for any breaches.
The Bill will also:
- prevent employers dodging liability for breaching workplace safety laws by prohibiting contracts that insure or indemnify a person against paying monetary penalties under workplace safety laws
- update powers for HSRs and authorised employee representatives (ARREOs) to take photos or videos to record suspected workplace safety breaches in real time, as well as enabling WorkSafe Inspectors to issue notices and reports electronically
The Minister for Workplace Safety Ingrid Stitt said, “We’re making common sense changes to Victoria’s workplace safety laws to make them stronger and more effective in keeping all workers safe on the job.” Read more: Victorian government media release
Mental Injury Provisional Payments
From July 1, Victorian workers will be able to access to early treatment and support while awaiting an outcome for their mental injury claim through a mental injury provisional payments pilot. Eligible workers can access provisional payments for reasonable treatment and services for their mental injury for up to 13 weeks, even if their claim is rejected. Workers who are eligible for provisional payments will be entitled to claim reasonable costs of:
- Medical treatment and services,
- Travel to and from treatment appointments,
- Return to work support,
- Other costs associated with the mental injury.
More support for injured workers is always welcome. The Victorian union movement pushed for better support, including weekly payments on top of expenses, and while we did not achieve everything we wanted, this scheme will make life easier for workers with a mental injury and remove financial barriers to getting the support they need.
June edition of Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was posted yesterday. This month's edition has items on the death of a worker struck by a concrete-placing boom, elevating work platforms, overhead powerlines, and more.
The 'Absolute shocker' shows a worker on a scaffold standing on a bucket in order to reach where he needs to be working! The scaffold has no fall protection. Whoever organised the scaffold is in breach of his duties - and further there appears to be no supervision of the worker.
As always, the Safety Soapbox has the list of incidents reported to WorkSafe: In May 2021, the construction industry reported 192 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 73 per cent resulted in injury, there were two fatalities, one of which was due to a medical condition. Access the June 2021 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the summaries of reported incidents can be downloaded from this edition of Safety Soapbox.
New occupational lung disease campaign
Today, Safe Work Australia launched the Clean Air. Clear Lungs. campaign.
The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of occupational lung diseases and provide persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) and employers information to manage these risks at work.
Occupational lung diseases are caused by workplace exposure to a range of often invisible hazardous chemicals and dusts. High risk industries include agriculture, construction, manufacturing and those working with engineered stone.
Safe Work Australia has information, including case studies, information sheets and checklists, to help duty holders identify and assess the risk of exposure to hazardous materials at their workplace. Go to the site to learn more about occupational lung diseases, identifying the hazards, managing the risks, and monitoring and reviewing the controls at your workplace. Information has also been translated into languages other than English.
For more information and to access the Clean Air. Clear Lungs. campaign kit, visit this page on the SWA site. Subscribe to the Occupational Lung Diseases mailing list and keep an eye on SWA's social media
National Fatality Statistics
Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics on fatalities since June 10, at which time it had been notified that 43 Australian workers had been killed at work this year, nine more than the previous update on May 13. TThe total numbers of fatalities have been in the following sectors:
- 15 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 7 in Construction
- 5 in Manufacturing
- 4 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 3 in Arts & recreation services
- 2 in Mining
- 2 in Other Services
- 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 in Wholesale trade
- 1 in Public administration & safety
- 1 in Accommodation & food services
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, consequently sometimes the numbers of deaths in each sector change. 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.