Regulator News

Victorian news  
Psychological Health Regulations 
The proposed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations (proposed regulations) have a number of requirements that we, as unions, fully support. These include:

  • a duty on employers to identify psychosocial hazards and control the risk by first trying to eliminate them.
    Psychosocial hazards are defined as any factor/s in: 
    • the work design, or
    • the system of work, or
    • the management of work, or
    • the carrying out of work, or
    • personal or work-related interactions

that may cause a worker to experience a negative psychological response that creates a risk to their health and safety. 

  • a duty to develop written prevention plans for certain psychological hazards. Those in the proposed regulations are:
    • aggression or violence;
    • bullying;
    • exposure to traumatic content or events;
    • high job demands; and
    • sexual harassment.
  • a duty to submit, in writing, a report detailing  'reportable complaints' (we don't like this term) - these are currently complaints involving aggression or violence; bullying; and sexual harassment  

Note: VTHC and affiliates are currently formulating our submission, and have a number of changes and amendments which we believe will strengthen the regulations and provide increased protection to workers. These include adding insecure work and fatigue as psychosocial hazards, and more. We will make our submission available for HSRs and anyone interested to use as a basis for their own submission.  

Public comment on the regulations closes at 5pm, Thursday 31 March 2022. Find out more here.  Keep your eyes on SafetyNet, for material for HSRs so they can send in their views. 

New guidance on Labour Hire amendments  
WorkSafe has published three pieces of new guidance to support labour hire amendments in the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2021 (the Act), which commences on 22 March 2022.

The three pieces of guidance, available on WorkSafe’s website, are:  [PDF comparison table] 

The guidance has been made available in advance of the amendments taking effect to allow time for duty holders to familiarise themselves with their new duties. WorkSafe is preparing additional material, including case studies, to support the labour hire amendments when they commence.  

New guidance on Rapid Antigen Tests
WorkSafe has produced advice on the use of rapid antigen testing as one of a broader range of COVID-19 control measures that employers should consider as part of their obligations under the OHS Act. Read more here.

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 
WA: Insecure work is a health hazard
In an Australian first, Western Australia (WA) has formally recognised that job insecurity can harm both a worker’s physical and mental health. A new code of practice on psychosocial hazards in the workplace introduced by the state safety watchdog provides practical guidance on how all workplaces across the state can comply with their duties under its OHS Act. 

According to Alexis Vassiley of Edith Cowan University’s Centre for Work and Wellbeing, including insecure work in WA’s code is unlikely to change much in the short term. “Real change will require legislative reform or an increase in union strength,” he noted. “Some countries in Europe, for example, now have laws limiting the numbers of temporary agency workers and those on fixed term contracts. Such laws also need to be backed up by enforcement mechanisms – notably vastly increased resources for regulators.” He continued: “The WA government’s new code of practice represents an important first step within Australia’s industrial relations landscape. Formal recognition of insecure work as a health hazard should act as spur to further reform. Insecure work is widespread. We know what’s wrong with it. It’s time to do more about it.”

Two of our leading experts in this field, Michael Quinlan of the University of New South Wales Sydney and Elsa Underhill of Deakin University, told an ongoing federal Senate inquiry into job security there are three major negative outcomes of insecurity: higher incidence/frequency of injuries, including fatalities; poorer physical and mental health (such as from bullying); and poorer knowledge of, and access to, employment rights and less willingness to raise concerns. 
Read more: Code of practice - Psychosocial hazards in the workplace, [pdf] Western Australia Worksafe 2022. The Conversation.

National Fatality Statistics 2022  
Safe Work Australia last updated its statistics on fatalities on March 3, at which time it had been notified that 25 Australian workers had been killed at work this year - this is five more since the previous update on February 17. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 12 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 6 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 2 in Public administration & safety
  • 2 in Construction
  • 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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