Australia moved one step closer to a world-first ban on engineered stone with planning brought forward after strong Union campaigning.
This week’s SafetyNet sees global tugboat operator, Svitzer, prosecuted in both hemispheres, shocking figures on harassment of LGBTIQ teachers in the UK, and results are in from the largest ever four-day working week trial – how do decreasing rates of psychological harm with corresponding revenue improvements sound?
An OHS manager writes to Ask Renata if they can be a HSR too, and as always we encourage you to send in your own queries at Ask Renata
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT RECOGNISED
About 400 people attended Thursday night's WorkSafe Awards at Melbourne's Plaza Ballroom to celebrate the finalists' commitment to improving workplace health and safety.
SafetyNet congratulates all finalists, particularly those shortlisted for HSR of the year, awarded to proud CPSU member, Sheila Narayan,
You may remember Sheila's excellent presentation at last year's HSR Conference,
Sheila was recognised for her determined work combatting excessive workloads within the Office of the Public Advocate.
Our heartfelt congratulations also to Trades Hall legend, Renata Musolino, who received the prestigious Outstanding Leadership and Contribution to Health and Safety award.
For more than three decades Renata has laboured to improve workplace health and safety, through training HSRs, founding and maintaining the OHS Rep website and Safety Net Journal and responding to over 25,000 enquiries in her time at VTHC.
AUSTRALIA ONE STEP CLOSER TO WORLD-FIRST BAN
On Tuesday all state and territory health and safety ministers unanimously agreed Safe Work Australia should prepare a plan banning engineered stone products.
The decision has reportedly been brought forward by 6 months in response to rising rates of silicosis from dry-cutting silica products used in kitchen and bathroom benches.
The welcome development follows a co-ordinated campaign from Australian Unions and the CFMEU's stated intention to implement its own ban, should government fail to do so.
A final decision is expected in the latter half of this year, with the ban to take effect 12 months later.
I am my company's OHS coordinator. Can I also be HSR?
Any member of a DWG is entitled to nominate, however, a manager elected as HSR could be placed in an untenable position.
Attempting to resolve OHS issues as HSR, whilst also acting as the person responsible for responding on behalf of your employer, is problematic.
Under section 73 of our OHS Act, the person nominated by the employer for the purposes of safety issue resolution, must not be a HSR.
Where an employer has failed to nominate a representative, and it therefore defaults to the relevant manager, section 73(2)(a) again requires the manager not be a HSR.
So you can see, acting as the bosses' rep (as might be required of an OHS co-originator) whilst simultaneously acting as the workers' rep, is expressly prohibited under the Act.
This applies equally to dHSRs.
Got a question? Ask Renata
WEEKLY COVID NUMBERS
16 February - 23 February, Victoria recorded:
3,052 total cases for the past week (-8.5%)
5 COVID deaths on average each day over the past week
101 (-4.7%) cases in hospital (7 day rolling average) with 5 in ICU (7 day rolling average)
More COVID numbers here
MANUFACTURER FINED $85,000 AFTER WORKER PARALYSED
Willis Bro, who make and install benchtops, has been convicted and fined $85,000 after pleading guilty for failing to provide safe systems of work resulting in a worker being crushed by a stone slab and left paralysed.
A court heard the worker and a colleague waited several hours for a third person to assist with the installation of a kitchen island stone slab at a construction site in Wyndham Vale, October 2019. When this worker failed to show, the duo attempted to complete the job.
After the slab was unclamped from an A-frame trolley on a ute tray, it fell suddenly, crushing the injured worker.
He suffered traumatic injuries, including a severed spinal cord, broken back and neck and will remain a paraplegic for life.
SVITZER SAFETY FAILURES AT NORTH GEELONG WHARF
On 27 March 2020, a Svitzer employee working on the upper deck of a ferry at berth 3, North Geelong Wharf, tripped on exposed piping and fell almost 3 metres to a lower deck.
The worker sustained injuries to his head and body and was treated by paramedics at the scene before being transported to hospital.
Svitzer has subsequently been found to have breached sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of our OHS Act - failure to provide or maintain a safe work environment and failure to provide or maintain safe plant or systems of work.
Last week the Geelong Magistrates Court subsequently issued Svitzer with enforceable undertakings to an estimated cost of $350,000.
AUSTRALIA'S NEW WHS STRATEGY TARGETS SIX EMERGING ISSUES – STRESSES GREATER CONSULTATION
Employers will expected to take greater ownership of the OHS challenges posed by global supply chain pressures and changing technologies – an expectation that will be enforced by regulators under Australia's new 10-year WHS strategy.
Agreed to by all jurisdictions, the 19-page Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033, released by Safe Work Australia 23 February aims to set ‘a clear, unifying national goal to reduce worker fatalities, injuries and illness
Namely, worker fatalities caused by traumatic injuries by 30 per cent; the serious injury claims rate by 20 per cent; the permanent impairment claims rate by 15 per cent; and the overall incidence of work-related injuries or illnesses by 3.5 per cent.
The strategy identifies six ‘high priority’ industries where the highest rates of worker harm occur: agriculture; construction; road transport; manufacturing; healthcare and social assistance; and public administration and safety.
The strategy's other targets are to: reduce the work-related respiratory disease rate by 20 per cent; and ensure there are no new cases of accelerated silicosis by 2033.
The document identifies six "high priority" industries where the highest rates of harm to workers occur: agriculture; construction; road transport; manufacturing; healthcare and social assistance; and public administration and safety.
‘Persistent’ OHS challenges are identified as:
- the management of psychosocial risks posed by hazards such high work demands, low job support and harmful behaviours like bullying and sexual harassment
- health and safety vulnerability, common to young workers, lone workers, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and those, like labour-hire workers, involved in complex contractual chains
The six ‘emerging’ challenges are identified as:
- the rise of artificial intelligence, automation and related technologies
- new types of work, such as gig economy work and where multiple employers have duties at one location
- workforce demographic shifts
- hybrid work models (such as WFH)
- climate-related risks
- risks resulting from the creation of new ‘circular economy’ jobs
- increasingly complex supply chains
The strategy stresses ‘greater consultation and collaboration between employers and workers at a local level and governments, industry and unions at a national level is necessary to make further gains in reducing OHS fatalities, injuries and illnesses.’
Source: OHS Alert, 24 February
UK: OVER HALF L.G.B.T.I.Q. TEACHERS FACE ABUSE
Over half of LGBTIQ teachers (52 per cent) experience discrimination and abuse from pupils and parents, new polling by teaching union NASUWT has found.
The findings were released as the union’s LGBTI Teachers Consultation Conference met to discuss issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex teachers and to identify solutions.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, commented: ‘With teacher recruitment and retention reaching crisis levels, governments and employers need to be doing everything in their power to make teaching an inclusive and attractive profession. But instead of being valued and respected, 1 in 2 of LGBTI NASUWT members report experiencing discrimination and abuse at work.’
Source: NASUWT news release
UK: SVITZER FINED 3.8 MILLION OVER WORKER DEATH
The tug boat giant has been fined £2 million plus £136,000 costs (a total of 3.8 million AUD) for criminal safety offences that led to the death of an experienced worker.
Ian Webb, 62, was working as the chief engineer on a tugboat at Tranmere Oil Terminal during a ‘violent storm’ on 27 January 2019 when he slipped into the river from a jetty and was killed. His employer Svitzer Marine Ltd pleaded guilty to two criminal safety breaches.
The prosecution came after an investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) identified ‘serious failings’ by the company, which ‘should have stamped out this unsafe working practice.’ Prosecutors said the firm had failed to implement ‘safe systems of work over a significant period of time’ despite issues having been raised by staff on numerous occasions.
Source: Liverpool Echo
OVER 1,300 AMAZON INJURIES IN CANADA LAST YEAR
New workplace injury data from Ontario, Canada, shows Amazon was ordered to pay out nearly 5 million (5.4 million AUD) in connection with over 1,300 workplace injuries last year.
According to health and safety data from Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Amazon Canada has seen a sharp increase in workplace injuries since the start of the pandemic – with related penalties up five-fold from Can$1 million in 2019.
David Newberry, legal worker with the Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic, said the spike in injuries reflects Amazon’s hazardous working conditions. ‘Not only does it show a disregard for the safety of workers,’ Newberry said, ‘it shows that a growing issue is being ignored or improperly addressed, and that workers are increasingly thought of simply as disposable parts.’
RESULTS ARE IN: FOUR-DAY WEEKS REALLY WORK
With psychological safety regulations commencing here in Australia, results are in from the largest ever four-day working week trial, conducted in the UK.
The study has found that reducing workers' hours for the same pay increases the organisations’ productivity and revenue while decreasing psychological distress experienced by staff.
2900 workers from 61 manufacturing, hospitality, creative, finance, education, marketing and professional care organisations participated in the six month UK study, which was conducted by an independent research organisation being supported by the University of Cambridge and Boston College.
The study found shorter working hours resulted in an average 35% increase in revenue, when compared to a similar period from previous years, a 1.4% rise in productivity and encouraged innovative new working methods.
60% of participating workers reported their ability to combine work with care had improved, saving on childcare costs and creating time to complete chores, support children and have leisure time.
The majority of workers reportedly used the additional day off for 'life admin' and chores, freeing up their weekends for genuine leisure activities.
Participating organisations were required to meaningfully reduce working hours and maintain pay at 100%, but were free to design their own bespoke policies.
The diverse range of four-day models adopted included 'Friday off' models, 'staggered', 'decentralised', 'annualised', and 'conditional structures’.
Read the full 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.
VTHC also offers tailored training, including for managers and supervisors, on Comcare, and gendered violence.
Check out our website for more information.