Regulator News

Victorian news  
Proposed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations

Public comment on the proposed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations (proposed regulations) and associated Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is now open.

The proposed regulations will strengthen the occupational health and safety framework and will recognise that hazards that pose a risk to psychological health are no less harmful to workers’ safety and wellbeing than physical hazards.

They will also provide clearer guidance to employers on their obligations to better protect workers from mental injury.

HSRs in particular are invited to review and make comment on the proposed regulations and RIS. Public comment closes at 5pm, Thursday 31 March 2022. Find out more here.  Keep your eyes on SafetyNet, as we will be developing some material to encourage HSRs to send in their views. 

New Sex Work bill extends OHS protections 
On 10 February 2022 Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 was passed by Victorian Parliament.

The new laws recognise that sex work is legitimate work and should be regulated through standard business laws, like all other industries in the state. The government has said that decriminalisation of sex work will maximise sex workers’ safety, health and human rights, while also reducing stigma and fear of criminal repercussions.

Decriminalisation of sex work will occur in two stages, with the first stage of the reforms to commence in May 2022 and the remainder to commence by December 2023.

"Sex workers report current working conditions as unsafe in both the licensed and unlicensed sectors, including violence in the workplace, deterrents to reporting violence, and a lack of compliance with safe-sex measures," a Government statement said.

With the passing of the laws, WorkSafe Victoria, health authorities and local governments will be more closely monitoring OHS standards for Victorian sex workers, including those who are street-based. Sex work is currently only legal in Victoria when it takes place under certain conditions.  

"This is a historical day and a ground-breaking step towards ensuring sex workers receive the same rights as any other employee in the State," Victorian Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Melissa Horne said. "Sex work is legitimate work and should be regulated through standard business laws," Ms Horne said. The minister recognised Fiona Patten "for the her ongoing efforts to drive this reform."

Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt said, "Decriminalising sex work will improve sex workers' access to services that all workers have the right to: a safe workplace, healthcare and legal help."
Read more: Decriminalising sex work in Victoria, State government media release. Source: OHSAlert

WorkSafe Awards Dinner  
A reminder that due to the number of COVID-19 infections still being relatively high, WorkSafe has postponed its Awards Dinner to April 21. It's a terrific night - particularly for the finalists of the HSR of the Year Award - and for their workmates, colleagues and for their union. More information and to buy tickets.

National news 
New guidance on Rapid Antigen tests 
Safe Work Australia has published guidance for employers on COVID-19 rapid antigen testing.

The information will help employers determine whether a rapid antigen testing program (RAT program) for their workers is a reasonably practicable control measure to manage the risks of COVID-19 at work.
Read more: Rapid antigen testing 

The national body warns employers that even if they determine that a rapid antigen testing program is a reasonably practicable control measure for the workplace, they must continue to implement all other reasonably practicable control measures to minimise the risks from COVID-19.
Read more: Information about work health and safety for specific industries and COVID-19

2021 National Return to Work Survey – Summary report  
Safe Work Australia has published highlights from the 2021 National Return to Work Survey, including key metrics, insights and time series data.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • The vast majority (91.6 per cent) of all workers surveyed in 2021 reported having returned to work at some time since their work-related injury or illness.
  • 3 per cent of workers reported they had returned to work at some stage since their work-related injury or illness and were currently working.
  • Of those respondents asked about the impact of COVID-19 on their recovery and return to work most stated that the pandemic had no impact (around 73 per cent).

The National Return to Work Survey is a biennial survey that measures outcomes of ill and injured workers receiving workers’ compensation to better understand their experiences and factors that may influence their return to work. Access the 2021 National Return to Work Survey Summary report on the SWA website.

National Fatality Statistics 2022  
Safe Work Australia updated its statistics on fatalities on February 17, at which time it had been notified that 20 Australian workers had been killed at work this year - this is eight more since February 3. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 10 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 4 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 1 in Construction
  • 2 in Public administration & safety
  • 1 in 'other 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. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Preliminary worker deaths webpage. 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.  

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