Regulator News

Victorian news

New Crystalline Silica regulations require licences

Engineered stone is commonly used for kitchen and bathroom benchtops. When it is cut, ground or polished workers may be exposed to respirable silica dust, which can cause deadly lung and respiratory diseases – including silicosis.

Silicosis is caused by breathing in tiny silica particles which can cause incurable scarring of the lungs. In severe cases it can be fatal or patients may need a lung transplant. For this reason the VTHC, unions and respiratory physicians began a campaign on silica several years ago. This led to interim and now permanent regulations. 

The Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt MP, has approved the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021 which came into effect on Monday 15 November 2021. The Regulations replace the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Interim Regulations 2021.

The Regulations strengthen the regulatory regime to better protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica by:

  • introducing Australia’s first licensing regime for engineered stone, including increased manufacturer and supplier duties; 
  • making permanent Victoria’s prohibition (first introduced in 2019) on uncontrolled dry-cutting of engineered stone; and 
  • adding additional regulatory oversight of high risk crystalline silica work outside of engineered stone across all industries, including the construction and earth resources industries.

Commencement of the Regulations will be a phased approach to ensure duty holders are provided with enough time to ensure they are prepared for the relevant changes to their duties and obligations. 

A 12 month transition period for the licensing regime and specific controls mandated when working with engineered stone, including the continued prohibition on dry-cutting, began on November 15.

WorkSafe CEO Colin Radford said licensing the use of engineered stone would ensure the necessary safety measures were in place to protect workers. "Silicosis is a serious disease that can strike down young workers with devastating consequences for them and their families," Mr Radford said.

"This year alone, WorkSafe has accepted 59 claims from workers who have developed silica related disease as a result of workplace exposure and sadly, four people have lost their lives. This is unacceptable."

While the VTHC welcomes the new regulations, we would like to see the exposure standard lowered to 0.02mg/m3 as an 8-hr TWA, with an action level of 0.01mg/m3. We also support the phasing out of engineered stone completely. Read more: WorkSafe media release; Summary of the Crystalline Silica regulations (currently being updated)

Major Hazard Facilities Forum presentations

Recordings of 11 presentations from the National Major Hazard Facilities forum in May 2021 are now publicly available via the WorkSafe Victoria website.

Check out the presentations from the event, which brought together people from across Australia to engage with Major Hazard Facility operators, Safety Practitioners and Regulators with modern safety theory. Forum presentations

Safety Soapbox newsletter out now

The November edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was posted out today. The editorial urges caution during what is traditionally one of the most dangerous times of the year in construction. Employers and workers are urged to 'slow down'.

this time of year sees busy workloads and tight deadlines - but these are no excuse for workplaces to cut corners on safety. 

Builders and contractors also need to start thinking about what they need to do to make their sites and workplaces safe over the holiday period. Builders, site supervisors and contractors should be starting now rather than waiting to the last minute to review and implement controls make their sites are safe for the holiday period.

Other items:

  • Promotion of the new First aid compliance code (see our FAQs);
  • Increased site inspections and audits to ensure solar installations are conducted safely and in accordance with all industry and safety regulations by Solar Victoria, Energy Safe Victoria and WorkSafe. 
  • New COVID signs, posters and templates for workplaces; 
  • Electrical safety; and
  • Incidents reported to WorkSafe: In October 2021, the construction industry reported 173 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 66 per cent resulted in injury. There was one fatality due to electric shock.  

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

Reminders:

1 - Communicating OHS across languages compliance code: public comment open

The draft compliance code Communicating OHS across languages is now available for public review and comment from until close of business Monday 6 December 2021.  The draft was developed by a reference group comprising of union and employer representatives and WorkSafe staff. 

A dedicated webpage has been created to facilitate public comment on each of the proposed code via the Victorian Government’s consultation platform, Engage Victoria. This enables employers, employees, other interested parties and members of the public to view the proposed code materials online and provide online submissions. Check the draft code and provide comment here: Communicating occupational health and safety across languages compliance code

2 - New Compliance code on first aid

We have now updated our FAQs based on the Compliance code on first aid:

3 - Webinars on horticultural safety

WorkSafe and Agriculture Victoria, the Labour Hire Authority, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) are holding a series of webinars to assist growers in protecting themselves and their workers against OHS risks.

These will provide an opportunity for horticulture producers around Victoria to learn more about keeping farms safe, seasonal workforce support, COVID-19 employer obligations (including vaccination requirements), and the treatment of labour hire workers.

Attendees will also learn about WorkSafe's OHS Essentials program, which links small to medium businesses with independent consultants who offer free, confidential and tailored advice on how to improve health and safety in their workplace.

The remaining virtual sessions will run from 4-5pm on 8 December 2021 and 19 January 2022. Farmers are welcome to attend all three sessions to keep up with the latest information. Register for the webinars hereRead more: WorkSafe media release 

National news 

Safe Work Australia launches new website

On November 10, Safe Work Australia launched its new website. Some of the changes  include: 

  • a clean look and feel
  • easier to find content and data 
  • filter options in the search function
  • improved accessibility
  • improved navigation experience

However, this has caused us a little headache: whenever a regulator or government agency updates its website, all the links on our site to that site are broken! We will be working through these to update them, and apologise for any inconvenience! 

National Fatality Statistics 2021  

Safe Work Australia last updated its statistics on fatalities on November 11, at which time it had been notified that 118 Australian workers had been killed at work this year - is this thirteen more than at the time of its previous update on October 28. Fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 41 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 20 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 17 in Construction
  • 12 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 
  • 2 in Retail trade
  • 1 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in Education & training
  • 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 database 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 Preliminary worker deaths webpage

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