Regulator News

Victorian news

Regulator reminder as more workplaces open 

WorkSafe has sent out a reminder to employers and workers as more and more places re-open after lockdown:

"Workplace incidents can happen when we lose our focus on safety. It's possible that adhering to COVID compliance rules has caused you to change your normal workplace practices. So while keeping your workplace COVID safe is essential, don’t lose focus on keeping your workplace safe from incidents too." The link at the bottom of the email goes to the Fatigue section on Worksafe's website. 

WorkSafe issues Safety Alert on Forklifts

Following the tragic deaths of two workers in separate forklift incidents in just a week, the regulator has issued a Safety Alert about the risks associated with forklift use, and the need to ensure forklift loads are secure and forklifts are operating within safe working limits. 

A 49-year-old worker was fatally injured when a large unstable load fell off the fork arms (tynes) onto him.

In a second forklift incident, a 25-year-old worker was killed when standing near a forklift being driven on a sloping driveway. The forklift tipped over, crushing the worker.

The Alert lists the following issues: 

  • Employers must ensure all precautions are taken when using forklifts in the workplace.
  • Unstable loads can cause forklifts to tip, or the load may fall, crushing nearby workers or the operator.
  • Forklifts must only be operated by high risk licence holders.

It makes the point that forklifts are a hazard and, where reasonably practicable, should be eliminated from the workplace, or substituted with other suitable load shifting equipment. If this is not reasonably practicable, the risks associated with using forklifts must be reduced, using engineering or administrative controls, such as traffic management plans.
Read more: Safety Alert

New Executive Director, Health and Safety

It was announced this week that Dr Narelle Beer has been appointed WorkSafe’s new Executive Director, Health and Safety.

Dr Beer comes to WorkSafe directly from Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services, where she is the Assistant Commissioner for Regional and Remote Operations, based in Alice Springs.

Prior to joining NT Police Dr Beer spent 30 years policing in Victoria,  working across General Duties, Criminal Investigation, Corruption Investigation, Collision Investigation, education and in corporate management and policy.  She also holds a Doctorate in Police Leadership. 

Dr Beer will officially start at WorkSafe on November 3. 

WorkSafe Victoria's OHS Month events

There are still a number of WorkSafe webinars interested people can register to attend this week. To check out WorkSafe's events, go to the Health and Safety Month webpage.  

WorkSafe Victoria Awards postponed

A reminder for those wondering: WorkSafe Victoria has postponed both the Awards ceremony and the announcement of the winners. The event was originally scheduled to be held on October 7, but will now be held in early 2022. 

Safety Soapbox newsletter out now

The October edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox is a bumper one, with lots of news from Victoria and interstate. In this edition, the Manager of WorkSafe's construction program, Tony Cockerell, marks the 51st anniversary of one of Australia’s worst peace-time workplace tragedies - the collapse of the West Gate Bridge.  On October 15, 1970, thirty-five construction workers died when a 365 ft (112m) 2000-tonne span between piers 10 and 11 of the West Gate Bridge collapsed and fell 164 ft (50m) onto the Yarra River’s muddy edge below. Another eighteen were injured, many more suffered psychological injuries from this incident.

Other items:

  • A reminder to workers at risk of silicosis to be 'silica smart' and access free health screening at Australia's only dedicated public hospital occupational respiratory clinic. 
  • COVID news: As construction reopens WorkSafe is responding by undertaking strategic visits to ensure that its enforcement activity is responsive to emerging public health issues and mitigating increased pandemic risk.
  • A warning to employers and workers to take trenching safety seriously. Since 2017, there have been four fatalities due to trenching incidents at Victorian construction worksites, highlighting the significant need to address unsafe trenching practices. 

    To reduce the risk of incidents occurring during trenching work, employers and self-employed persons need to be adequately prepared, have the right controls in place, and adhere to OHS rules and regulations. Safety Soapbox has a link to a new video on trenching.   
  • The list of incidents reported to WorkSafe: In September 2021, the construction industry reported 134 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 80 per cent resulted in injury.  There were two fatalities. One was due to fall from a height and the other is under investigation.  

Access the October 2021 edition here  - the summaries of reported incidents can be downloaded from this edition of Safety Soapbox.

Australian news

WA: on track to increase protections in IR laws

WA's McGowan Government has re-introduced legislation which will boost anti-bullying and sexual harassment laws, inspector powers and penalties for non-compliance as part of an overhaul of its State IR system.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston, who was IR Minister when a previous IR bill was introduced last June, said in last week's second reading speech that the earlier legislation failed to pass before Labor's dominant win in the State's March election.

Johnston said the Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 is "largely an embodiment of the 2020 bill", after the McGowan Government made an election commitment to reintroduce it and progress other IR reforms if re-elected. Source: Workplace Express

National: Clean Air. Clean Lungs

A reminder that for National Safe Work Month, Safe Work Australia is asking everyone in industries with a high risk of occupational lung disease to think, work and be safe. The national body has released a series of information sheets about different occupational lung diseases which include:

Safe Work Australia has also been running the Clean Air. Clear Lungs. campaign which provides PCBUs (employers) with information about how to identify and manage the risks of occupational lung diseases at their workplaces. For more information visit: National Safe Work Month CACL webpage

Key WHS statistics now available

Understanding the causes of injury and the industries most affected can help reduce work-related fatalities, injuries and disease. Work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses have a devastating impact on workers, their families and the community. 

Each year, Safe Work Australia produces national work health and safety statistics, providing important evidence on the state of work health and safety in Australia. This is a good source of information for HSR 'super sleuths'!

SWA’s latest publication provides an overview of national work-related fatality data for 2020 and workers’ compensation claims data for 2019-20.

Work-related fatalities 2020

Tragically, 194 people were fatally injured at work in 2020.

Key findings reported in the latest SWA publication include:

  • The fatality rate of Australian workers has decreased by 50% since 2007.
  • 96 per cent of worker fatalities in 2020 were male.
  • Vehicle collisions accounted for 41 per cent of all 2020 worker fatalities. 
  • Machinery operators and drivers had the highest number of fatalities by occupation (67 fatalities) in 2020.
  • The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry had the highest worker fatality rate in 2020.

Workers’ compensation claims 2019-20

  • There were a total of 120,355 serious workers’ compensation claims in Australia in 2019-20. This is an increase from 114,435 claims in 2018-19.
  • Body stressing was the leading cause of serious workers’ compensation claims in 2019-20, accounting for 37 per cent of all serious claims.

Read more: Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2021 report

New Model Code: how to manage the risks of respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone

Safe Work Australia has released a new model Code of Practice on how to manage the risks of respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone in the workplace.

This model Code of Practice provides information to help persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) understand their specific WHS duties for working with engineered stone and protect their workers from exposure to silica dust.

To learn more about silica, visit the SWA crystalline silica and silicosis web page.

Working with engineered stone carries a range of risks beyond those covered in this Code, such as manual handling. Safe Work Australia has published other relevant model Codes of Practice to help manage these risks including:

  • Managing the work environment and facilities
  • Construction work, and
  • Hazardous manual tasks.

To have legal effect in a jurisdiction, the model Code of Practice must be approved as a code of practice in that jurisdiction. To determine if this model Code of Practice has been approved as a code of practice in a particular jurisdiction, check with the relevant regulator.

National Fatality Statistics 2021  

Safe Work Australia last updated its statistics on fatalities on October 14, at which time it had been notified that 102 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. Fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 35 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 18 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 12 in Construction
  • 10 in Manufacturing
  • 6 in Mining
  • 5 in Arts & recreation services
  • 5 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
  • 1 in Healthcare & social assistance

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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