SafetyNet 714

This week in SafetyNet: QLD introduces public sector reproductive health leave, experts and unions unite on asbestos removal, COVID dumped from deemed diseases list, progress in Indonesia on asbestos, $250k in fines for concrete spill and much more.

A healthcare worker writes to Ask Renata about employer duties in relation to their car park, and as always, we encourage you to send your questions to Ask Renata.

For OHS news and helpful information, please visit the We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page.

To access previous issues, you can visit our SafetyNet Archive.

 

Asbestos News


EXPERTS AND UNIONS UNITE ON ASBESTOS REMOVAL

Despite asbestos being completely banned in Australia since December 2003 over 4,000 Australians die each year due to to asbestos exposure.

Phase Three of the Asbestos National Strategic Plan 2024-2030 is currently under consideration by Work Health and Safety Ministers and aims to remove over 6 million tonnes of asbestos from buildings over the next 40 years, potentially saving 28,000 lives.

Learn more

 

HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED ASBESTOS?

Have you recently encountered asbestos at your workplace, in buildings, or in parks?

Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of work-related deaths worldwide, and the impact of asbestos diseases extends beyond workplaces into our broader communities.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council is advocating for stricter regulation of asbestos contamination following recent discoveries of asbestos in mulch and soil at playgrounds and parks in Melbourne.

If you have concerns about soil safety in your community, please let us know here.

 

Union News


QLD INTRODUCES REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH LEAVE

Unions are praising the Queensland Government for introducing new reproductive health leave entitlements for its public sector workers, providing up to 10 days of leave per year for issues related to reproductive health and chronic conditions like endometriosis, as well as screenings for diseases such as breast and prostate cancers, fertility treatments including IVF, and other reproductive health-related procedures like hysterectomies and vasectomies.

Learn more

 

DEEMED DISEASES LIST UPDATED: COVID REMOVED

Changes to Safe Work Australia's (SWA) deemed diseases list, used to determine eligibility for occupational disease compensation, have included the addition of two cancers, while COVID-19 has been removed from the list due to widespread community transmission.

Learn more

 

ASK RENATA

What is the definition of the workplace? Does it cover the public car park next to the building?

Section 5 of our OHS Act defines a workplace as follows: 'workplace means a place, whether or not in a building or structure, where employees or self-employed persons work.'

Unless staff are directed to perform work tasks in the public car park, it may not be considered 'the workplace' under the Act.

That said, under section 26, the person who has management or control of a workplace must ensure that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health (paraphrased).

In other words, there is a duty to ensure the safety of staff members when leaving work - particularly in the dark or in the early hours of the morning.

Read our response in full

 

International News


CANADA'S NEW OVA PREVENTION DUTIES

The Saskatchewan Employment Act mandates that all workplaces in Saskatchewan must implement a Policy Statement and Prevention Plan (PSPP) by May 17, 2024, to address and eliminate Occupational Violence and Aggression (OVA). The amendment requires every employer in the province, regardless of industry, to have PSPPs in place, whereas previously only high-risk sector workplaces were required to do so.

Learn more

 

INDONESIA: ASBESTOS. NOT HERE. NOT ANYWHERE.

There’s been a significant achievement in the campaign against asbestos in Indonesia. Following a petition submitted to the Indonesian Supreme Court by various organisations, including LION, LPKSM, and the Yasa Nata Budi Foundation, the court ruled in favour of mandatory labelling of asbestos-containing materials.

Learn more

 

Research


OHS REGULATION REDUCES FIRE INJURY SEVERITY

Researchers suggest workplace safety protocols and organisational culture likely contribute to lower severity of work-related fire injuries while ‘cooling interventions’ applied at the scene of workplace burn injuries and increased availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) have improved outcomes for workplace burn injuries.

Learn more

 

Regulator News


COMCARE’S UPDATED HSR HANDBOOK

The Comcare HSR Handbook has been revised to incorporate recent amendments to the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws and updates from the Safe Work Australia Worker Representation and Participation Guide.

Comcare's handbook assists Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) in understanding how to fulfill their roles and exercise their powers under the WHS Act.

The handbook is also a valuable resource for others seeking to understand HSR powers, functions, and any obligations they may have toward HSRs.

Download the HSR Handbook here

 

BORDER BUILDING BLITZ: FALLS REMAIN AN ISSUE

A recent safety blitz in Albury and Wodonga, conducted by WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW, was aimed at addressing fall risks and work-related mental health hazards in construction.

During the operation, inspectors visited 49 building sites and issued improvement notices for various safety issues, including fall hazards, incomplete scaffolding, and psychosocial hazards such as bullying and fatigue.

The initiative also included educational sessions to raise awareness about safety. While most employers were compliant, some continue to neglect risks, particularly related to working at heights.

SafeWork NSW highlighted falls as a major concern, especially from heights of two to four meters, which are a leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry.

Inspectors issued penalties and improvement notices to address critical issues.

 

FEDERAL INDUSTRIAL MANSLAUGHTER: EFFECTIVE JULY 1

Recent changes to the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) have strengthened penalties and introduced an industrial manslaughter offence.

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023 introduced an industrial manslaughter offence for the federal jurisdiction. This offence targets reckless or negligent conduct leading to workplace fatalities and carries severe penalties:

  • Up to $18 million for a body corporate or the Commonwealth.
  • Up to 25 years' imprisonment for an individual.

These provisions will apply to PCBUs and officers from 1 July 2024.

Penalties for all offences under the WHS Act were also significantly strengthened and came into effect December last year.

More information here

Worth noting: Victoria's Industrial Manslaughter Laws came into effect on 1 July 2020.

 

WHS MINISTERS AGREE ON HARMONISED SILICA REGS

Federal WHS ministers recently agreed on amendments to model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations aimed at protecting workers from silicosis.

Learn more

 

WORKSAFE AWARDS: NOMINATIONS OPEN

Nominations for the 35th edition of the WorkSafe Victoria Awards have opened. The seven categories are:

  • Commitment to prevention of mental injury in the workplace;
  • Farm safety solution;
  • Health and safety representative of the year;
  • Leading return-to-work practice;
  • OHS leadership/achievement;
  • Worker return-to-work achievement; and
  • Workplace health and safety solution of the year.

Entries for the 2024 competition close on 21 June, and the winners will be announced in February next 2025.

 

Prosecutions


250K IN FINES FOR METRO TUNNEL CONCRETE POUR



Two construction companies have been fined a total of $250,000 after a dangerous incident occurred during work on the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.

Learn more

 

FARM CHARGED AFTER FATAL SEED BAG CRUSH

WorkSafe has charged a Crowlands farming business after a local farmer was killed using the company's telehandler to unload seed oats from a bulka bag when the bag fell from the telehandler's tynes and fatally crushed him.

Learn more

 

Events


‘PURE RISK' PROSECUTIONS AT LABOUR LAW SEMINAR

HSRs are invited to participate in a Labour Law Seminar focusing on legal and policy issues related to 'pure risk' prosecutions under the Australian Work Health and Safety Acts.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024, at 5.30pm
Room 317 Level 3 Melbourne Law School

Learn more

 

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 on gendered violence.

Check out our training webpage for more information.

 

OHS Team
http://www.weareunion.org.au

 

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