PHEW! With Victorian temperatures reaching the high 30s, remember to check out our working in heat guidance, or play our extreme heat survival game. It’s a fun way to learn about addressing the risks.
This week’s SafetyNet features the campaign to ban engineered stone, some tragic news from Queensland, good news from France, and important research into ongoing support required after exposure to violence and aggression in the workplace.
A health care worker writes in to Ask Renata about heat hazards in their building, and as always we encourage you to send in your own queries at Ask Renata
For OHS news and helpful information visit We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page, or for advice, Ask Renata
SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN TO BAN ENGINEERED STONE
You may have seen the global silica epidemic was in the news again this week. 60 minutes ran a story about the work-wide catastrophe being driven by the trend for installing engineered stone benchtops into newly renovated kitchens.
Unions and health experts are calling for a ban on the manufacturing and processing of engineered stone as well as stronger protections for the half a million Australian workers currently exposed to silica dust.
Support the campaign by signing Australian Union's petition which calls for a ban on the use of engineered stone and a broad silica regulation, supported by industry codes of practice, which will save Australian workers’ lives.
QUEENSLAND MINERS' BODIES RECOVERED
The bodies of Dylan Langridge, 33, and Trevor Davis, 36, were located Friday in the Dugald River zinc mine, 30 hours after ground gave way beneath their ute.
Their deaths come as a Queensland parliamentary inquiry into coalmine safety delivered 11 recommendations calling for new legislation to tighten safety controls.
The enquiry heard stories of labour hire workers being immediately dismissed for flagging safety issues, and other workers who've spoken up being branded ‘unsuited to their role’ before being terminated.
Perhaps that illuminates why, since 2000, there have been 26 deaths in Queensland mines, with four occurring between 2020 and 2022.
Our team work in a weatherboard structure with no cooling. Last Friday temperatures exceeded 36C and by 9am I was already feeling dizzy. What are the guidelines around temperatures in a place of work? Are we within rights to request working from home under these circumstances?
Thanks for bringing up such an important and timely topic. People often assume heat only affects outdoor workers, but office workers are at risk too.
Heat exhaustion happens when we become dehydrated due to fluid loss from a hot environment and/or excessive physical activity. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include dizziness.
If temperatures in your office are making you dizzy they pose a risk to health and safety and your employer is not meeting their section 21 OHS duty to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.
WEEKLY COVID NUMBERS
From Friday 10 February – Thursday 16 February, Victoria recorded:
3,344 total cases for the past week (+14%)
7 COVID deaths on average each day over the past week
106 (-10.2%) cases in hospital (7 day rolling average) with 9 in ICU (7 day rolling average)
See here for more of the latest on COVID
TOP TIPS FOR ELEVATED WORK PLATFORMS
Victorian workers continue to lose their lives, or suffer life-altering injuries, as a result of incidents involving EWPs.
The recent death of a lone worker who was crushed between his EWP and a roof span, is the latest tragedy in a string of 11 preventable fatalities spanning the last 12 years.
WorkSafe launched an industry standard for EWPs back in April 2021, which is worth revisiting.
Guidance on understanding the risks and how to keep safe includes animations depicting crush and electrocution hazards and appropriate controls.
WSV's EWP Standard and Guidance can be viewed here
HALF MILLION FINE FOR PERMANENT DISABILITY
A gas cylinder supplier has been fined a total of $550,000 after a worker was left permanently disabled in a ute explosion in December 2017.
The worker was driving along Mountain Highway in Bayswater when two gas cylinders containing acetylene and oxygen that he had just picked up from Supagas exploded.
Nearby cars, homes and overhead power lines were damaged by the explosion, which sent debris flying up to 200 metres away.
The worker now requires the use of a wheelchair and has memory loss as a result of multiple traumatic, physical and mental injuries.
$20,000 FINE FOR SILO SPILL THAT TRAPPED WORKER
A food manufacturer has been convicted and fined $20,000 following an incident where a worker was taken to hospital after being trapped by grain that surged from a silo at a Kensington worksite in June 2021.
The court heard that following several unsuccessful attempts to unblock the silo, a worker entered a multi-level shed while attempting to clear the blockage when product surged into the shed, trapping him.
FRANCE: FIRST STEP IN RECOGNISING BREAST CANCER AS AN OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE
At the beginning of this month a night worker has had her breast cancer recognised as an occupational disease for the first time in France.
Martine, as is customary in hospitals, has worked many night shifts over the course of her career. A diagnosis of breast cancer however forced her to stop working for treatment.
After five years of proceedings her cancer has been recognised as an occupational disease creating a significant work incapacity.
Several studies show that night work is harmful to workers' health. However, a distinction must be made between proven risks (sleep disorders and metabolic disorders), probable risks (type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and carcinogenic risk) and possible risks (high blood pressure and vascular accidents).
For women in particular, night work increases the risk of breast cancer by up to 30%.
This decision is the result of a large-scale union campaign which made good use of a worker's survey to raise public awareness and mobilise around the issue of occupational cancers.
ONGOING SOCIAL SUPPORT CRUCIAL AFTER WORK-RELATED VIOLENCE
Failing to provide long term support for workers exposed to Occupational Violence and Aggression (OVA) can cancel-out positive impacts of immediate interventions and increase their risk of depression and other disorders, Scandinavian researchers have found.
Studying 276 psychiatric ward workers exposed to violent incidents with patients, researchers found stable or increasing levels of support from supervisors and co-workers over the three months following an incident was associated with significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms, compared to those who experienced decreasing support levels across the same time period.
Positive types of workplace social support include listening to victims, being sympathetic and supportive.
The researchers, from the University of Southern Denmark, say their findings show that organisations must go beyond offering crisis social support immediately after a violent incident.
‘Decreased support during the first three months, irrespective of the level of support within the first month, were associated with a higher level of depressive symptoms,’ they warn.
Enhancing the availability of crisis social support can help employers prevent the negative health outcomes from workplace violence, like depression, anxiety, burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder, they say.
‘Supervisors and colleagues should be aware of the need to offer social support throughout the subsequent months following a violent and threatening incident.
‘Immediate social support for employees who have been exposed to work-related violence is recommended, but it is equally important for supervisors to follow up and offer social support in the following months.’
Access the report here
WRAW FEST EVENTS:
PSYCHOSOCIAL HAZARDS AT WORK WITH WORKSAFE
All workers deserve to be safe at work and that means we need to prevent workplace psychological hazards and injuries.
This session will explore how the OHS framework can be used to prevent psychosocial injury at work and how Worksafe can support workers, members and HSRs to create safe workplaces.
Friday 10 March, 11am–12.30 ZOOM
WOMEN AS HSR’S - Q&A AND NETWORKING
It's crucial that we have women health and safety representatives in our workplaces, but what's it like to be one?
Hear from women health and safety reps from different industries, including construction, transport and health and community services about why they got involved in advocating for safe workplaces, how they've overcome challenges in their role as HSRs, learn about their approach to the role and how they've helped create safe workplaces for all workers!
This session is open to women and non-binary and gender diverse comrades.
Tuesday 14 March, 6.00pm–7.30pm, Trades Hall
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY RALLY
All over the world women are not safe. Women are not equal. Women are not respected. This year, we're saying enough is enough! Join us as we march through Melbourne together and show bosses, governments and the media that women are speaking up and demanding change.
Wednesday 8 March, 5.30pm, Old Treasury Building, Spring Street
OHS TRAINING UNIT
The Victorian Trades Hall Council’s OHS Training Unit is one of the most experienced training providers in Victoria.
We have delivered OHS training to tens of thousands of Health & Safety Reps across Victoria since 1983.
We deliver high quality WorkSafe Approved training that is practical and solution-focused in multiple locations around Melbourne’s suburbs and regional Victoria.
5 Day HSR Initial OHS Training Course Fee - $950 (inc GST)
1 Day HSR Refresher Training Course Fee - $350 (inc GST)
Click on the links below for dates and locations.
HSR Initial OHS Training Course
HSR Refresher OHS Training Course
VTHC also offers tailored training, including for managers and supervisors, on Comcare, and gendered violence.
Check out our website for more information.