Victorian health department charged over COVID hotel quarantine program
In breaking news: WorkSafe Victoria has charged the Department of Health, formerly the Department of Health and Human Services, with 17 breaches of Section 21(1) of the OHS Act, for failing to provide and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that was safe and without risks to health for its employees.
The department has been charged with a further 41 breaches of section 23 (1) of the OHS Act, for failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from conduct of its undertaking.
WorkSafe alleges that the Department of Health breached OHS laws by failing to appoint people with infection prevention and control (IPC) expertise to be stationed at hotels it was utilising for Victoria's first hotel quarantine program. The alleged failures include:
- failing to provide security guards with face-to-face infection prevention control training before they commenced work;
- failing, or initially failing, to provide written instruction for the use of PPE;
- failing to update written instructions relating to the wearing of masks at several of the hotels.
WorkSafe says the complex investigation took 15 months to complete and involved reviewing tens of thousands of documents and multiple witness interviews.
The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Magistrates' Court on 22 October. WorkSafe says it will not be providing further comment, as the matter is now before the court. A number of other investigations relating to the control of COVID-19 related risks in workplaces remain ongoing. Source: WorkSafe media release
Truck body manufacturer charged after worker killed
WorkSafe Victoria has charged Carrum Downs truck body manufacturer Prestige Truck Bodies (Aust) Pty Ltd with breaching the OHS Act after an employee was crushed to death in a shipping container.
The company has been charged under section 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act for failing to provide safe systems of work; and under section 21(1) and 21(2)(e) for failing to provide its workers with information, instruction or training to perform their work safely.
The charges relate to an incident in January 2020 in which an employee died after a stack of panels weighing up to 225kg each fell and crushed him as they were being unloaded from a shipping container. The matter is set for a filing hearing at Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 11 October 2021.
Call to stamp out work related violence
Just one of the appalling outcomes of last week's anti-lockdown, anti-vaccination, anti-government riots was the violence and aggression against healthcare workers and those staffing vaccination hubs. At least one had to be closed down in order to protect its staff. The incidents prompted WorkSafe to issue a warning.
Read more: WorkSafe media release
WorkSafe warning after earthquake
Many people in Victoria and even interstate felt the 5.9 earthquake near Mansfield (127km from Melbourne) last week. WorkSafe Victoria issued a warning regarding the potential dangers, after multiple reports of damage and aftershocks still possible for some days afterwards. Those undertaking immediate clean-up and recovery work are being urged to take time to identify and address the risks involved in each task before getting started. Potential risks to both workers and members of the public include unstable or partially collapsed structures and damaged asbestos containing materials.
WorkSafe Acting Executive Director of Health and Safety Andrew Keen said recovery work needed to be planned carefully. "Earthquake clean-ups can pose a set of risks that you may not be expecting, so we urge anyone who is unsure of how to handle a particular hazard, to seek professional advice," Mr Keen said. "The last thing we want is an injury because a few simple checks haven't been made."
Read more: WorkSafe media release
New Safety Alert on Side by side vehicles
WorkSafe has issued a Safety Alert to remind agricultural employers of their duties in relation to using seatbelts in side-by-side vehicles. WorkSafe says that owners or managers of an agricultural workplace have the responsibility to ensure that people working there, helping out or visiting are kept safe and healthy. This includes making sure they use known safety controls.
Side-by-side vehicles come with seatbelts, and doors or nets to keep occupants safe. There are many ways to control risks in side-by-sides and seatbelts are among the most important.
Read more: Side-by-side vehicles: Don't ignore the seatbelts
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 is also running our annual OHS Reps' Conference - the biggest event for HSRs, so if you can only attend one event, make it this one!
To check out WorkSafe's events - mainly online webinars, go to the Health and Safety Month webpage.
National Fatality Statistics
Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics on fatalities since September 16, at which time it had been notified that 84 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. The total numbers of fatalities have been in the following sectors:
- 31 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 11 in Construction
- 10 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 9 in Manufacturing
- 5 in Arts & recreation services
- 4 in Mining
- 4 in Public administration & safety
- 3 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 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.