SafetyNet 511

Welcome to the November 6 edition of SafetyNet. Due to Victoria's public holiday yesterday and common RDO the day before, this is going to be an extremely short version!

Union News

Union HSRs recognised at WorkSafe Awards

Last week WorkSafe announced the winners of the annual WorkSafe awards. The Award ceremony, held at the Melbourne Town Hall, was one of the highlights of Health and Safety Month. Contributions and 'inventions' were recognised, but the most important award was that for Health and Safety Representative of the Year. In an unusual move, two Health and Safety Reps and members of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) were nominated jointly - and won! Congratulations!!

Sally Collier-Clarke and Sara Jorgensen are joint HSRs at Bendigo Health, and were elected by their DWG in January 2018. They predominantly represent midwives who work in the antenatal unit, postnatal unit and birthing suites. A 'Change of Impact' statement was done by the executives at Bendigo Health, which led to a proposal to reduce the night time staffing level from eight to seven. They proposed initiating a trial of the reduction. The staff, however, were understandably concerned of the effects this would have on their workload, and on their stress and fatigue levels. The recent move to a new hospital meant that their area was physically larger and the proposed staff reduction would lead to one staff member being responsible for three areas.

Sally and Sara got to work: they developed a template and asked DWG members to fill this out at the end of each shift to collect data such as when they worked 'over ratio', or went without a meal break, and so on. Simultaneously they encouraged DWG members to file incident reports directly with management. Using this information, they were able to clearly identify that there were stress and fatigue issues - even before the proposed staff reduction! And so they issued a PIN: despite being advised against it by 'some', and being told it wouldn't have an effect (except maybe on their employment!) Even though they were new HSRs, and more than a little fearful of the potential consequences, they went ahead and issued a PIN (for breach of s21).

It was received by the executives, a meeting was held and they were successful! They got agreement that there would be no reduction in staff numbers. The executives still wanted a trial - but Sally and Sara successfully argued against this. In their acceptance speech, the best friends thanked the members of their DWG, their union and Bendigo Health.

In an interview with SafetyNet, Sally and Sara said " little voice can get heard, but you have to speak up and not be afraid to ask!"  Their DWG members were with them all the way, they contributed and stood behind them to enable them to achieve a great outcome.  Sally and Sara proved that when HSRs work with the support of their DWG and are not afraid to use their powers, they can help ensure that the workplace is safer and healthier.

The other finalists for HSR of the year were:

  • Stephen Jones - Viva Energy Refining, and member of the Australian Workers Union (AWU). Representing workers at the Viva Energy Refinery in Geelong, Stephen was elected HSR in April 2016. He completed a Cert IV in WHS in 2017, and a Diploma in WHS in 2018. Stephen has built up a network of support from subject matter experts from both the union and externally. He is also a very active weareunionohs network member.
  • Jason Atkinson - DP World Melbourne, and member of the MUA.  Jason represents 439 (!) skilled straddle operators and has been an elected HSR for 15 years. Jason recently won a DP World Australia Shark Tank Award for implementing a site-based text messaging service that provides all employees with live updates about all type of OHS matters.

The VTHC Unit congratulates these four outstanding HSRs, as well as the finalists and winners in all the categories. These included: Best Solution to Manual Handling Issue; Best Solution to Specific Workplace Health and Safety Issue; Health and Safety Invention of the Year; OHS Leadership, Achievement Award; Commitment to Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing as well as a number of Return to Work related awards.
Read more: Winners named for for distinguished WorkSafe Awards. WorkSafe media release

Ask Renata

Hi Renata,

There are a number of my colleagues who are using Essential Oils (whether by infusers, melts or other means). I am wondering whether this is an OHS issue? I have heard they may be a potential hazard to the health of other staff and clients - but I can't find anything in writing about this. Would securing a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the oils mean they can be used?

Essential oils, room fresheners, and other 'perfumes and scents' can be a problem in a workplace. Quite apart from personal likes/dislikes, there is the potential that someone will have an allergy and a reaction to these and therefore they should be avoided. For this reason, many workplaces now have 'Scent-free policies' in place. See this page for more information: Perfumes and Scents - chemicals too!

If you have any OHS related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.

Gendered Violence: conference video

We have received a number of requests for materials and a link to the fabulous video on Gendered Violence shown at the HSR Conference last week. The link to the video and other resources on gender equality can be found on this page: Safe and Respectful Workplaces.  The website also allows people to upload stories and if anyone comes across useful other resources they can send them to the team via the website email address and these will be added to the site.

November 28: Feminism in the Pub - Eliminating Gendered Violence at Work 

As part of the 16 days of Activism against gender based violence, Feminism in the Pub is celebrating women fighting for everyone to be physically and mentally safe at work. The VTHC Women's and Equity Team and activists invite you to attend the next event which will be on November 28. The topic: Eliminating Gendered Violence at Work will be of great interest to HSRs. There will be a panel and discussion on safe and inclusive workplaces, gendered violence as a workplace hazard and collective action. The event will be co-facilitated by Renata from the OHS Team.

When: 6.30pm, Thursday November 28
Where: Clyde Hotel, 365 Cardigan St, Carlton
Cost: Free - drinks and food at your own expense - but please RSVP at Union Women

UK: Older workers bear the brunt of night working growth

Older workers are represented disproportionately in Britain’s growing army of night workers, a new TUC (the UK's peak union council) analysis has found. The TUC research shows that over 50s account for all the growth in night working since 2014. According to the analysis, there are now nearly one million (924,000) night workers aged over 50 in Britain – up from 751,000 five years ago. A significant number are aged over 60 (222,000) and 65 (69,000). Night working is now at the highest level since current records began, the TUC said. The analysis of official data shows that 3.25 million people - more than 1 in 9 workers - work in Britain’s night-time economy, 100,000 more than five years ago. The TUC is calling for greater protection for workers who regularly work through the night. It says as well as being bad for family life, the health risks of regular night work include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. It adds these risks are heightened for older workers. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Night work can be really hard – disrupting family life and placing a strain on people’s health. The government is not doing enough to protect these workers.”
TUC news release and related release. The health and safety of older workers, TUC guide, 2014. More on older workers and health and safety. Hazards. Source: Risks 921


Ex-footballers (soccer players) at greater risk of degenerative brain diseases
A landmark study funded by the charitable arm of the UK footballers’ union PFA and the Football Association has confirmed former professional footballers (soccer players) are much more likely to die of degenerative brain diseases compared to the general population. The University of Glasgow led FIELD study compared the causes of death of 7,676 former Scottish male professional football players who were born between 1900 and 1976 against those of more than 23,000 matched individuals from the general population.

Commenting on the findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, lead author and consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart said former professional footballers had an approximately three and a half times higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease than expected. “This is the largest study to date looking in this detail at the incidence of neurodegenerative disease in any sport, not just professional footballers,” he said. “This analysis revealed that risk ranged from a 5-fold increase in Alzheimer’s disease, through an approximately 4-fold increase in motor neurone disease, to a 2-fold Parkinson’s disease in former professional footballers compared to population controls.”

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: “The PFA co-funded FIELD, alongside the FA. It is now incumbent on football globally to come together to address this issue in a comprehensive and united manner. Research must continue to answer more specific questions about what needs to be done to identify and reduce risk factors.” He added: “Our members’ wellbeing is of paramount importance to us, and we are committed to representing their voice as this conversation opens up across football’s stakeholders.”
Read more: PFA news release. University of Glasgow news release and FIELD study webpages.
Daniel F Mackay and others. Neurodegenerative disease mortality among former professional soccer players, [abstract] New England Journal of Medicine, 21 October 2019. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1908483 Related NEJM editorial.


There have been no new prosecutions loaded onto the WorkSafe Victoria website - but to keep up to date with prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.


Regulator news

QLD: regulator issues Christmas party warning

In advice that is useful for workplaces around Australia, the Queensland WHS regulator has issued advice on work Christmas parties, just as the holiday season draws close. The regulator says:

"With many workplaces starting to organise Christmas break up parties, employers are reminded the ‘silly season’ is not an excuse to disregard normal safe work practices, including responsible service of alcohol.

Employers should ensure staff understand what behaviour and conduct is acceptable, and what the repercussions are if they don’t act appropriately. Reminding people in advance of the policies around acceptable behaviour and conduct is a good start. Managers also have an important role to play making sure events go smoothly and people go home safely. Staff behaviour expectations do not change at a work function whether alcohol is involved or not. Workplace harassment, bullying and even violence are serious issues and losing inhibitions after a little too much cheer is no excuse."
Read more: Don’t let work Christmas parties spoil a safe working year

Safe Work Australia news

Fatality Statistics
SafeWork has not updated its stats page since the last edition: as at October 24, the number of fatalities notified to national body was  124 - this is 3 more than the previous update on October 10. The workers killed came from the following industries: 

  • 43 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 28 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 19 in Construction
  • 8 in Mining
  • 6 in Public Administration & safety
  • 6 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 5 in Manufacturing
  • 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
  • 2 in Wholesale trade
  • 2 in 'Other services'
  • 1 in Administration & support services
  • 2 in Arts & recreation services

To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage and in particular, here.

Safe Work Australia has released a report on the fatalities in 2018: The report shows that in 2018, 144 people were fatally injured at work. The number and rate of worker fatalities have continued to decline in line with long-term trends.

“While these trends are encouraging, they are not a cause for celebration. Every work-related fatality is a tragedy, and there’s a lot more work to be done” Safe Work Australia CEO, Michelle Baxter said. “We know that work-related fatalities, injuries and disease have a devastating impact on workers and their families. Understanding the latest statistics can help identify ways to prevent these” Ms Baxter said. The Key Work Health and Safety Statistics Australia 2019 report is a high-level overview of national statistics on work-related fatalities, injuries and disease. Read more: Safe Work Australia media release.

International news

ILO launches new statistics portal

The International Labor Organization (ILO) Department of Statistics has launched a new statistics’ portal that makes it easy to access data about a wide range of labour-related topics, by country or by subject, in English, French and Spanish.

It is a one-stop shop to obtain labour data and learn about labour statistics. ILOSTAT provides bulk downloads for those who need large datasets and detailed cross-tabulations. It is also an invaluable tool for data producers, who can find data collection guidance and other resources. Statistical information can be accessed by country, or by key topics – such as employment, working poor, union membership and child labour – and includes data tables, concepts, methods and publications. The ILOSTAT country profiles are also available on mobile devices via a free app.

The statistics topics options are here: and the occupational health and safety portal is here. Read more: ILO media release



Please remember: If you have an OHS related event you would like us to advertise, please email Renata at [email protected] with details, including location, cost (if any), and where to RSVP.


Make sure you attend training provided either by your union or the VTHC! HSRs are elected by their fellow workers to represent them. We understand what HSRs need and have been training effective HSRs for many years. Remember that under Section 67 of the OHS Act, both HSRs and deputies have the right to attend the training course of their choice (in consultation with their employer).

The VTHC OHS Unit is now running courses in a number of new locations to cater for HSRs in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. This is in addition to courses in our usual locations. If you have any questions on the registration process or the courses themselves, send an email to Lisa Mott (or call her on 03 9659 3511). Below are the dates for the next few courses run by the VTHC OHS Training Centre. You can now register and pay directly from the site here.

HSR Initial OHS training course  

November 11 – 15: Carlton AND Bendigo
November 18 – 22: Werribee
November 25 – 29 (Education Sector ONLY): AEU Abbotsford
December 9 – 13: Carlton

HSR Refresher OHS Training Courses*

December 12 (Education Sector ONLY): AEU Abbotsford
December 16, Carlton

* HSRs are entitled to attend this course every year subsequent to attending the Initial OHS training course.

OHS Training at the ACTU

The ACTU (Australian Council of Trade unions) runs training courses in occupational/workplace health and safety. These are the upcoming courses in Melbourn


Part 2 12th – 15th November 2019

The course will be delivered at the ACTU (VIC). 

For more information, phone Chris Hughes (03 9664 7389 Mon-Fri) or Anna Pupillo (03 9664 7334 Mon-Wed & Fri). ACTU health and safety training 

Tonight November 6: An evening with Professor Patrick Hudson

A lively Q&A session will explore the challenges we face as we work to improve the safety culture and performance in organisations.  It is co-hosted by Professor David Caple AM for the Australian Institute of Health and Safety. The event is free, but registration is essential.

When: Wednesday, 6 November, 5:30–7:30 pm
Where: 990 Latrobe Street, Docklands
Cost: Free Register here for your free ticket.

November 12: Central Safety Group

Topic: Safety shakeup across the Tasman

The death of 28 miners in an underground explosion at New Zealand’s Pike River Coal Mine nine years ago led to anger, accusations and the call for a major inquiry into the country’s safety laws. The result was a major re-engineering of New Zealand’s safety systems with the introduction of the new Health and Safety Work Act in 2016.

Nan Austin will give a first-hand account of the safety reforms in New Zealand, and how the new system is working out, at Central Safety Group’s lunchtime meeting on 12 November. Nan has just returned to Melbourne after three years as Manager, Health and Safety at the University of Waikato on New Zealand’s North Island. This talk will be of particular interest to anyone who works for an organisation with operations in New Zealand.

When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, November 12
Where: DXC Technology, Level 19 (Board Room 1), 360 Collins Street, Melbourne (between Queen & Elizabeth Streets)
Cost: attendance members free, non-members $10
          Lunch (optional): sandwich and juice lunch $15
          [Individual membership fee for 2019: $70]

RSVP by close of business Friday November 8. Book online now

Nov 19 - 21 International Symposium on the system of radiological protestion
Mines - Medicine - Mars

ICRP 2019 is a combined event that offers the opportunity for more than 400 professionals, experts and researchers worldwide to discuss their respective concerns and the current challenges faced in all areas of radiological protection, as well as the ways forward through new research, updating doctrines, or better interactions with stakeholders. The program looks at a range of issues associated with radiological protection in mining including the latest science on radon risk, waste management practices, and best practice in the protection of the environment.

When: 19-21 November 2019 
Where: Adelaide Convention Centre, South Australia.
Website: ICRP 2019
Registration Link: Registration


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