In the March edition of the HSR Newsletter, WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Dr Narelle Beer introduces herself. Dr Beer points HSRs to WorkSafe's Corporate Plan and says they "will know that supporting Victoria’s network of Health and Safety Representatives" is one of WorkSafe's six strategic choices.
She says the organisation is "actively discussing ways we can engage and support [HSRs]. One potential opportunity is to host a ‘HSR event’. This will allow [WorkSafe] to have face to face conversations, exchange ideas and develop systems and processes to ensure WorkSafe can support and engage meaningfully and effectively."
Other items in the newsletter include the importance of consultation on changes to office-based work; the proposed Psychological Health regulations; WorkSafe's "UMM.." campaign which targets younger workers; Return to Work; and more.
Referring to the tragic loss of 66 lives in 2021, WorkSafe Chief Executive Officer Colin Radford comments that no one in the community was immune to the devastating consequences of a death or injury at work. He said, ""We need every workplace to take the time to properly assess their health and safety risks and plan how to eliminate or manage them, because failing to do so can lead to tragedy." Read more: March 2022 HSR Newsletter
Public comment: Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations (proposed regulations)
These are very important regulations and contain 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;
- exposure to traumatic content or events;
- high job demands; and
- sexual harassment.
- a duty to submit, in writing, a report detailing 'reportable complaints' - these are currently complaints involving aggression or violence; bullying; and sexual harassment
Public comment on the regulations closes at 5pm, Thursday 31 March 2022. Find out more here. Providing comment is very easy, and you can comment on just a few specific things or make more general comments. It's very important that WorkSafe hears directly from workers and HSRs.
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.
SA: New Labor government committed to introducing Industrial Manslaughter
It appears likely that South Australia will become the sixth Australian jurisdiction to enact the WHS offence of industrial manslaughter, with Labor winning the State election last weekend. In Labor's pre-election industrial relations platform, Premier-elect Peter Malinauskas said there are "too many avoidable injuries and deaths in workplaces", and his party will "introduce industrial manslaughter laws with a focus on avoiding preventable deaths".
The document said the laws will apply "where an employer acts recklessly and their actions are the primary cause of an employee's death", and "the penalty will fit the crime, with maximum prison term of up to 20 years along with significant financial penalties for companies".
If SA brings in this legislation, then NSW, Tasmania and the Commonwealth jurisdiction will be the only jurisdictions without the offence (although NSW has a WHS clause clarifying that the death of a person at work can, in certain circumstances, constitute manslaughter under the State Crimes Act 1900).
SA Labor's policy also promises to legislate for aggravated offences carrying higher penalties for abuse and assault on frontline retail workers and extending labour hire regulation across all industries. In addition, there is a commitment to introduce jail time for the worst cases of wage theft. Sources: OHS Alert; Workplace Express
NSW: New Engineered Stone Code of Practice to reduce silicosis
The national Code of Practice – Managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone in the workplace came into force in NSW on 25 February 2022.
The Code provides clear guidance on how businesses can protect workers from breathing in silica dust from engineered stone to prevent the deadly lung disease silicosis. Businesses can also access useful resources to help put the Code into practice. A Silica Dust Control Plan template is currently available on the NSW Code of Practice webpage. A simple safety checklist and translated resources will be made available soon.
SafeWork NSW is also offering a free educational webinar on Monday 28 March to help businesses and workers learn about their responsibilities under the Code. The webinar will explain what steps businesses need to take to protect workers from silica dust exposure, provide key updates on the industry, and more. Participants can also speak with SafeWork inspectors during the live Q&A session. For more information, and to register, visit Eventbrite.
National Fatality Statistics 2022
Safe Work Australia updated its statistics on fatalities on March 17, at which time it had been notified that 29 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. This is four more than at March 3. Three of these were in the Transport, postal and warehousing sector. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:
- 15 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 6 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 3 in Public administration & safety
- 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 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.