Regulator News

Victorian news

Increased scrutiny of construction sites

In response to the identified risks associated with COVID-19 compliance/transmission within the construction industry, WorkSafe has immediately commenced joint visits to construction sites in partnership with the COVID-19 Industry Engagement and Enforcement Operation (IEEO). The aim of this program is to support the IEEO through “joint” visits with IEEO Authorised Officers and WorkSafe Inspectors attending construction sites including multistorey residential apartment builds and large builds. The primary focus is on metropolitan Melbourne, however visits will also take place in regional locations.

The objectives of this intervention is to:

  • Build capability amongst IEEO Authorised Officers to enable them to undertake COVID compliance visits to construction sites
  • Improve compliance in the construction industry with the Chief Health Officer directions
  • Whilst supporting the above, continue to maintain WorkSafe’s strategic focus on OHS risks in construction including but not limited to falls from heights as part of the current Fall Focus Campaign

The IEEO Appointed Officers will be using their own powers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act to enter and take enforcement action whilst the WorkSafe Inspectors will undertake OHS inquiries on site in line with the relevant proactive focus (e.g. Fall Focus Campaign). WorkSafe Inspectors undertaking visits outside of the “joint” program will continue to make inquiries into COVID-19 risk controls.

New resources

Safety alert: Safety when loading and unloading skip bins

Last week WorkSafe issued an Alert about the hazards and risks associated with lifting waste container skip loaders (skip bins) on and off trucks. Recently a  truck driver was fatally crushed by their truck while collecting a skip bin at a residential property. It is believed the truck rolled forward, crushing the driver against a brick wall.

In a separate incident, a worker was seriously injured while conducting work on hooklift equipment fitted to a truck.

The Alert goes through the safety issues, the recommended ways to control the risks, and other ways of controlling the risks of rolling. It also goes through how the legal duties under the Act and regulations apply to this task.  Read the alert: Safety when loading and unloading skip bins.

Short Videos on operating boom and scissor lifts

WorkSafe has released new short videos which show the potential overhead crush and electrocution hazards when operating boom and scissor lifts and the appropriate controls. The video shows different scenarios for operators to take note of before using a boom or scissor lift. Watch on YouTube

September Safety Soapbox

The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was posted today with the title "When OHS standards fall, workers fall"  and focusses on the regulator's Prevention of Falls campaign. 

The editorial begins with “Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry.” It then follows up with: “With this level of risk, it would be easy think safe work at height would be front-of-mind for all builders, employers, self-employed and workers. Unfortunately, all too often it’s not!”

The editorial reminds employers of the duty to apply the hierarchy of control which must be applied when eliminating or minimising the risks of falls. 

Also in this month's edition is a story featuring a small construction and maintenance company which used WorkSafe's OHS Essentials Program, which has been providing free, personalised, and confidential advice for more than 10 years to Victorian small and medium businesses. Other features include:

  • a reminder of WorkSafe's resource for HSRs and deputy HSRs: HSR Support Channel app (powered by CodeSafe). The app is free and can be downloaded onto phones
  • a summary of a recent prosecution of Gippsland civil construction company ACE 
  • news from interstate

As always, the Safety Soapbox has the list of incidents reported to WorkSafe: In August 2021, the construction industry reported 202 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 75 per cent resulted in injury. There was one fatality when a 23 year old apprentice carpenter fell from from height, sustained serious head injuries and later died in hospital. In addition, 51 per cent of the injuries were significant, and 3 per cent serious. Access this edition of Safety Soapbox here  - the summaries of reported incidents can be downloaded from the September Safety Soapbox.

OHS Month: WorkSafe Victoria events

The state's OHS regulator has scheduled a number of free events in late October as part of Health and Safety Month. Remember the VTHC will also be running our annual OHS Reps' Conference - details to come soon. Click on the webinar title for more details and to register for the event you are interested in. 

  • Learn more about the infringement notice scheme and what this means for you.
    A webinar with Natalie Wellard (Legislative Services and Reform Manager, WorkSafe) on the newly introduced infringement notices. When: Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 1.30pm to 2.15pm 
  • Work-related violence in community care.
    A webinar on occupational violence and aggression in the healthcare and social assistance industry, often considered to be ‘part of the job’. This session will look at the impact of occupational violence and aggression in workplaces such as hospitals, residential care and similar, the health and safety obligations of employers and what they can do to support their workers. When: Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 12.00pm to 12.45pm 
  • Why WorkSafe exists: Dan and Joanne's stories
    A webinar with Health and Safety Month 2021 ambassadors Joanne Woodward and Dan Casey. Both Joanne and Dan, who received return to work achievement awards in the past, will share their stories of recovery and return to work following work-related injuries. When: Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 9.00am to 9.45am 
  • Why WorkSafe exists: Case studies of prosecutions.
    A webinar with Mark Glenister - WorkSafe's Fatalities/COVID Investigations Manager who will look at what happens when employers fail to meet their OHS obligations. WorkSafe investigators will share case studies of successful prosecutions arising from serious incidents. When: Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 10.30am to 11.15am 
  • Workplace mental health 101: A business case study
    A webinar with Madelaine Barry (WorkSafe), Linda Hunt (Working Well in Wellington), Dr Alison Kennedy (NCFH) and Adrian Panozzo (CCF Victoria). When: Thursday 21 Oct 2021 at 11.30am to 12.30pm

National news

Comcare releases scheme performance data for 2020-21

Comcare's scheme performance data is now available from website, here. The regulator notes the 'highlights' at 30 June 2021 were:

  • The number of accepted claims continues to trend downwards, falling to 10.9 claims per 1,000 FTE compared with 11.3 in 2017-18.
  • Body stressing remains the top cause of claim, accounting for 42 per cent of all claims.
  • The top type of claims is injury (61 per cent), followed by disease (31 per cent) and psychological (nine per cent).
  • In its regulatory work over the year  Comcare responded to almost 1,500 reported incidents and concerns, 975 inspectorate compliance enforcement activities, issuing 368 statutory notices and commencing five prosecutions. 

Comcare: Free webinar series on Driver health and wellbeing

Key findings from Australia's largest national research project to improve the health and wellbeing of truck drivers will be shared as part of a new webinar series to be held throughout this month. Unfortunately, the series began on Monday, but there are webinars scheduled to the end of September.
The nationwide research supported by Comcare and led by Monash University revealed a health crisis facing the transport sector. Insights from approximately 1400 truck drivers indicated high levels of obesity, chronic pain and psychological distress. The research was co-funded by partners the NSW Centre for Work Health and Safety, Linfox, and the Transport Workers Union.
The series covers the following key themes from the research, including:
  • Driver fatigue
  • Mental health
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Health and fitness
  • Pain management

For more information about the free webinar series, and to register, visit the Monash University events page.

New SWA guides

Safe Work Australia has published guidance for employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to identify and manage the work health and safety risks associated with construction. 

1 - Managing risks in concrete pumping

There have been a high number of injuries (including 2,100 workers’ compensation claims) and three fatalities associated with concrete pumping in the past five years. 

Risks that may arise from concrete pumping equipment include those related to the plant itself, its placement, concrete delivery, and by-products such as fumes and noise. PCBUs must do everything that is reasonably practicable to eliminate these risks.

Safe Work Australia’s latest guide provides information on how those risks can be identified and managed. Check out the guide, Managing risk in construction: Concrete pumping 

2 - Managing the Risks of Elevating Work Platforms

Known hazards and risks associated with using an Elevating Work Platform (EWP) include:

  • structural failure, overturning, or collapse of the machine
  • contact or collision of the EWP with people, plant and structures leading to crush injuries and entrapment
  • inadequate ventilation in the area the EWP is used
  • restricted working space, and
  • falling objects and falls from heights.

Incidents relating to EWPs have resulted in death and serious injury, with at least 9 fatalities and 355 workers’ compensation claims during the period 2015-2019.

The guide steps persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) through the process of identifying the hazards associated with EWPs in their workplace and how to do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risks to health and safety. Download the guide to Managing the risks of elevating work platforms

'Have a safety chat'

Safe Work Australia is promoting October's National Safe Work Month, a time to make WHS a priority and think safe, work safe and be safe. 

The national body is appealing to all workers, whether in the office, on site or from home, to Have a safety chat over a cuppa and commit to a healthier and safer workplace. 

It advises people to follow these simple steps and play an active part in National Safe Work Month:

  1. Download Safe Work's simple Safety Chat checklist
  2. Promote your chat by downloading the editable poster and bunting 
  3. If your meeting is online, download the National Safe Work Month video background and share with your colleagues.
  4. Upload a picture of your ‘Safety chat over a cuppa’ on your socials using the hashtags:   #ThinkWorkBeSafe and #safeworkmonth

National Fatality Statistics  

Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics on fatalities since September 2, at which time it had been notified that 81 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. The total numbers of fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 32 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 11 in Construction
  • 9 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 8 in Manufacturing 
  • 5 in Arts & recreation services
  • 4 in Public administration & safety
  • 3 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 2 in Mining
  • 2 in Other Services 
  • 1 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in Education & training
  • 1 in Retail trade 
  • 1 in Administrative & support 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

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