SafetyNet 518

Welcome to the January 29th edition of SafetyNet - our second for the year.

Tragically, it has been a shocking week, with three, possibly four, workers killed in the state.

Union News

More workers killed this month in shocking start to 2020

It is with great sadness that we report that it has been confirmed that three more workers have been killed in Victoria this month - possibly four.

On the morning of Tuesday January 21st, a production manager was killed after a stack of 3.6-tonne panels being unloaded from a shipping container fell on top of him. It is believed the 56-year-old was inside the container at a Carrum Downs truck body manufacturer when the panels crushed him against the wall. WorkSafe is investigating.

The second fatality occurred on Dawson St in Brunswick on Sunday. A 37-year-old man was killed while painting inside a factory. It is believed the man, a contractor, was using an elevated work platform (a 'scissor lift') to reach windows near the factory's roof at about 1pm when he struck a steel truss. He died at the scene. WorkSafe is investigating the incident.

And in what is devastating news for the Ballarat community, a man in his sixties died on his way to hospital late yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon after what appears to have been an incident between two trucks at an Icon Drive business in Delacombe just after 3.30pm. This was the sixth workplace fatality in the Ballarat region in the past two years.  WorkSafe is investigating this incident also. (Read more: The Courier)

Further, there was news of another fatality in the media: A man died in hospital on Sunday after being thrown from a tractor in bushfire-hit East Gippsland.  The tractor is believed to have rolled down an embankment on the Tambo Upper Road in Bruthen some time after 8.15pm on Friday, and the man was unable to move. It appears he spent two nights alone seriously injured before he was found at about 11.30am Sunday morning and rushed to hospital. WorkSafe is inquiring into this incident to determine whether it was work-related. (Read more: The Age)

These deaths bring the number of confirmed workplace fatalities this year to five, possibly six if the Bruthen fatality is deemed work-related. The staff of the VTHC OHS Unit express our condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the deceased workers. No worker should be killed at work.

Permanent memorial planned for Delacombe

The Ballarat Trades Hall is seeking expressions of interest from artists to work together with the families of Jack Brownlee and Charlie Howkins who were killed almost two years ago in a trench collapse at Delacombe, to create a lasting legacy to both men and others who have been killed at work.

The second anniversary of the Delacombe incident will be on March 21. While the WorkSafe court case against the employer Pipecon is yet to be heard,  the tireless efforts of the families, the union campaign and the public reaction to the tragedy were all extremely influential in the passing of Industrial Manslaughter laws in Victoria last November, which will come into force on July 1 this year, and in the allocation of funds to provide more support for bereaved families from 2020-21.

In addition, a new WorkSafe consultative committee on death and serious incidents, which will have legal powers under the law, will be established this year as part of the IM implementation package.  It is expected that the matters of "harm" and acceptable compensation for harm will be central to the committee's deliberation as will matters of compliance and prevention in the Victorian jurisdiction.
Read more: The Courier; 9News; OHSIntros FB page

Next Wednesday, February 5: You're invited to the 2020 VTHC OHS Unit launch

With the start of a new year and a new decade we want to take some time to look back on past achievements, and look ahead to the future. 2019 was the year we won the fight for Industrial Manslaughter legislation, and in 2020 we're keeping up the momentum for safer workplaces.

Join us in Trades Hall's historic Solidarity Hall for an evening of OHS, community, friends and refreshments.

WHEN: February 5, 2020 at 6pm - 8pm
WHERE: Solidarity Hall, Victorian Trades Hall
CONTACT: Luke Bowman · [email protected] or RSVP here.

Asbestos News

Bernie Banton Foundation to wind up
Karen Banton, asbestos related disease campaigner and widow of Bernie Banton, is retiring from her role as CEO of the Bernie Banton Foundation, with the Foundation set to close its doors by 30 June 2020. The organisation states the decision was based on "a number of factors", but highlights that this will allow Ms Banton and her husband Rod Smith, to take a much needed break and focus on their health following twenty years of tireless asbestos related disease advocacy. Mr Smith has been Awareness and Support Coordinator at the Bernie Banton Foundation since 2012.

The Board decided the best way forward was to wind up the charity, particularly as the organisation bears the name of Karen’s late husband.

"I’m extremely proud of what the Bernie Banton Foundation has achieved in the last decade," said Ms Banton. “We encourage government, organisations and advocates to continue their support for asbestos awareness as a means to prevent future asbestos exposure and also for medical research into asbestos related diseases in an effort to discover new treatments toward ultimately finding a cure." Speaking of her later husband, Ms Banton said, “Bernie was a major force in the fight for justice and compensation for asbestos related disease sufferers. It has been an honour to continue Bernie’s legacy of supporting victims and their loved ones.”
Read more: Bernie Banton Foundation Media release

More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home.


PM2.5 pollution - No safe level

Australian researchers say there is "no safe level" of PM2.5 air pollution after a large-scale study found a significant association between cardiac arrest and exposure to fine particles – levels of which have recently and frequently soared beyond "hazardous" in south-eastern Australia as a result of bushfire smoke. 

An article in today's Age reports on the Sydney University-led study (published in The Lancet Planetary Health yesterday) which analysed Japanese air quality data against 249,372 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. The study found that even short-term exposure to low levels of PM2.5 leads to an elevated risk for people over 65.

The study found the risk of cardiac arrest increased by 4 per cent for every 10-unit increase in PM2.5 levels – but more than 90 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurred at levels below the Australian standard of 25 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3). In other words, at air quality levels deemed "fair", "good" or "very good" under Australian standards.

In another recent article, also in The Lancet Planetary Health, researchers from Monash University in Melbourne explore the general health effects of bushfire smoke.

Read more: Researchers found a link between PM2.5 pollution and increased risk of cardiac arrest. The Age. 
Kazuaki Negishi, et al: Short-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a nationwide case-crossover study in Japan [Full text]DOI: The Lancet Planetary Health 
Pei Yu, et al: Bushfires in Australia: a serious health emergency under climate change [Full text] DOI: The Lancet Planetary Health 

Britain: One in six have been bullied recently at work

A quarter of employees think their company turns a blind eye to workplace bullying and harassment, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK. Although 15 per cent have experienced bullying in the past three years, more than half of them did not report it to the firm. The report by the CIPD, which represents human resources (HR) professionals, was based on two online surveys carried out by polling organisation YouGov. One canvassed the views of more than 2,000 workers, while the other surveyed HR professionals and decision makers.

The CIPD also conducted an online focus group with workers who had experienced bullying and harassment. Some people said they suffered from stress, anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations and suicidal thoughts. The most common form of bullying or harassment was “being undermined or humiliated in my job,” reported by 55 per cent of women affected and 50 per cent of men. This was followed by “persistent unwarranted criticism” and “unwanted personal remarks.” Around 4 per cent of employees said they had been sexually harassed over the past three years, the CIPD said. It described the problem as “stubborn,” despite decades of equalities legislation. But it said there had been “positive change” in the past two years in employees’ willingness to stand up to sexual harassment, with 33 per cent feeling more confident to challenge it.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said the survey was “a wake-up call to employers to put training managers at the heart of efforts to prevent inappropriate workplace behaviour.” She added: “Our research shows that managers who've received training can help to stop conflict from occurring and are much better at fostering healthy relationships in their team. And when conflict does occur, they can help to resolve the issue more quickly and effectively.”
Read more: CIPD news release and Managing conflict in the workplace report, 21 January 2020. BBC News Online. Source: Risks 931. More information on Bullying

Lack of job control linked to increased risk of death

A major Australian study has found that low job control, such as not having the freedom to decide when and how to work, is associated with a 39 per cent increased risk of death from any cause. The University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health researchers used data from more than 18,000 workers who participated in the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

The researchers say that with high numbers of Australian workers being exposed to low job control, this association could have considerable public health consequences.  Psychosocial work stressors resulting from changes in the structure, organisation and management of work in recent decades are increasingly being recognised as causes of physical and mental illness, sickness absence, presenteeism and poor organisational outcomes.

The researchers also found that the increased risk of all-cause mortality among low job control workers was independent of demographic, socioeconomic, health and behavioural factors.  They found that for each one-point score increase in job control, the risk of death fell by two per cent. Job control was assessed using three self-reported measures: freedom to decide how to work, freedom to decide when to work and having a lot of say about what happens at work.

The researchers also found "some suggestion" of a reduced risk of mortality associated with high job demands, but say the results were "not conclusive". Other stressors like job insecurity and unfair pay did not appear to be associated with mortality, they found.
Read more: Yamna Taouk, et al, Psychosocial work stressors and risk of mortality in Australia: analysis of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey.[AbstractOccupational and Environmental Medicine, online first January 2020, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-106001. Source: OHSAlert


Regulator news

Compliance Code Amendments

Effective from 19 December 2019, the Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, has approved minor amendments to 11 compliance codes made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and four compliance codes under the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (WIRC Act).
Amendments to the OHS Act compliance codes were made to reflect amendments to section 35 and 36 of the OHS Act made by the Treasury and Finance Legislation Amendment Act 2018, and to improve style and branding consistency across existing codes. The amended codes are:

  • Confined spaces
  • Demolition
  • Excavation
  • Hazardous manual handling
  • Hazardous substances
  • Noise
  • Plant
  • Prevention of falls in general construction
  • Prevention of falls in housing construction
  • Managing asbestos in workplaces
  • Removing asbestos in workplaces

Amendments to the WIRC Act compliance codes were made to reflect WorkSafe’s current brand and head office address. The amended codes are:

  • Providing employment, planning and consultation about return to work (Compliance code 1 of 4)
  • Return to work Coordinators (Compliance code 2 of 4)
  • Return to work information (Compliance code 3 of 4)
  • Cooperating with labour hire employees about return to work (Compliance code 4 of 4)

Copies of the codes can be downloaded from the WorkSafe website or viewed at any WorkSafe office.

New Safety Alert: Security of explosives

Following a spate of thefts, on January 24 WorkSafe issued a reminder about ensuring the security of stored explosives. Recently thieves have targeted magazines containing explosives. In another recent incident, display fireworks were allegedly stolen from storage at a public fireworks display. Victoria Police is currently investigating the incidents. The Alert provides information on the related safety issues and provides advice on how to control the risks. Download it here. To report a theft or loss of explosives, or a break in or attempted break in, contact WorkSafe Victoria on 132 360 (24 hour number).

Reminder: First aid in the workplace compliance code available for public comment

A reminder to our subscribers that the draft First aid in the workplace compliance code (First aid code) has been released for public comment. To view the materials and provide online submissions, go to the dedicated webpage on the Victorian Government’s consultation platform,   Submissions can also be lodged by email or post.

Supporting information including a copy of the proposed First aid code, a summary of changes, and frequently asked questions is also available from the webpage.

The public comment must be submitted by Cob Tuesday 18 February 2020.  The VTHC participated in the working group and we encourage HSRs and other to provide comment. If you feel very strongly about any particular issue, please send your comment through to Renata: [email protected], and we will consider including it in the VTHC comment.

National Fatality Statistics
Safe Work Australia has not yet begun publishing this year's national statistics for the number of workers killed around Australia. The latest update has the numbers for 2019, when a total of 166 were notified. The workers killed last year were from the following industries: 

  • 60 in Transport, postal & warehousing (eight more since the last update)
  • 33 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 24 in Construction
  • 10 in Public Administration & safety
  • 9 in Mining
  • 8 in Manufacturing
  • 7 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 6 in 'Other services'
  • 4 in Arts & recreation services
  • 2 in Professional, scientific & technical services
  • 1 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Administration & support services
  • 1 in Healthcare & social assistance

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.


WorkSafe enters into three Enforceable Undertakings

  1. Retpro Management Pty Ltd: a large leasing and management company which operates shopping centres across Australia and New Zealand, including the Dandenong Plaza Shopping Centre. The EU followed an incident in which a manager of a premises in the shopping centre was struck by a forklift in the loading bay. She sustained significant injuries including fractured ribs, difficulty breathing and a fracture to her right foot.

  2. Wilsons Sheet Metal Pty Ltd: a manufacturer of aluminium down pipes, gutters and clips. The EU followed an incident in which a worker was feeding sheet metal into an unguarded roller machine. His glove was dragged into the machine, which lifted him off the floor and caused his foot to come off the operating pedal and the roller stopping. He suffered partial digital amputations and crush injuries to the right hand.

  3. Goodstart Early Learning Ltd: owner and operator of about 650 childcare facilities around Australia. Goodstart is incorporated and registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

    On 3 April 2017, a four year-old child at a Goodstart facility in Preston received a serious laceration to her right wrist when a window she leaned against broke. There was a requirement that glass in windows such as this one at childcare centres be fitted with Grade A safety glass. WorkSafe's investigation revealed that the glass in place at the time of the incident was not safety glass.

To find our more details, including the details of the EUs, and to keep up to date with new prosecutions, check WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

International news

China: Officials punished for burying blast death toll

A total of 29 officials have been punished after the death toll in a factory blast in central China's Hunan Province was intentionally underreported, the state media agency Xinhua has reported. The number of fatalities in the 4 December 2019 explosion at a workshop of a fireworks company in the city of Liuyang was initially given as seven, but the provincial authorities later confirmed 13 people had been killed. Liu Fayu, then Party chief of Chengtanjiang Township who ordered concealment of the death toll and who had some bodies transferred and hidden, has been detained for investigation by supervisory authorities. Other officials who participated in, turned a blind eye to or failed to find the concealment have received penalties such as being removed from posts, major demerits and internal Party warnings. Ten people from the fireworks company have been placed under ‘criminal compulsory measures’ on suspicion of the crime of causing a major workplace incident.
Read more: Peoples’ Daily. Source: Risks 931


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 runs 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 - after January 29).

It's the start of a new year, and so all HSRs should be thinking about registering for their annual one-day refresher course. Training course will be starting up in February. You can now register and pay directly from the site here.
NOTE: there may be a glitch in that not all courses listed have been linked to the online registration. We hope to have this rectified soon.

The upcoming Initial 5 day courses for HSRs are:

February 10 - 14, 2020


February 24 - 28


February 24 - 28

AEU Abbotsford
Education Sector ONLY

March 2 - 6


March 23 - 27


March 30 - April 3


And the one day refresher courses:

February 21


March 11


March 12


March 13

AEU Abbotsford

March 19


March 27


March 30


5 February : Dangerous Goods Advisory Group Meeting

The DGAG bimonthly meeting is a general networking / update meeting, open to all, to discuss issues that are going on for Dangerous Goods and Chemical Regulation . The next meeting of the GDAG  will be on February 5. The Agenda covers a range of issues:

  • Hazardous Chemicals / Dangerous Goods Incidents
  • The ADG Transport Code & Changes in the UN Model Regs, IMDG Code, IATA Regs, NZ Regs etc
  • Dangerous Goods (Storage & Handling), GHS hazardous chemicals, & Related Issues
  • Classification and training matters
  • Information sharing

When: 5.30 pm for a 6pm start -8.15pm, February 5 (with a meal afterwards for those who are interested at the Emerald Elephant Thai Restaurant in Port Melbourne)
Where: at the Sandridge Centre - Trugo Club Rooms; 1 Tucker Avenue, Port Melbourne (Garden City part)
Enter along Clark St which turns into Tucker Av, from Graham St. Melways reference is Map 56 K2 (or 2J A4). Please park in Clark St.
Cost: a donation of $3-$4 to cover costs (Tea, coffee and snacks provided) Read more here.

11 February: Central Safety Group
Topic: Rebuilding safety culture – a case study

When employee morale, trust and job satisfaction plummet in the wake of major changes, how do you restore a strong safety culture?

Mary Kikas faced that challenge when asked to help the Health and Safety team of a utilities company that had undergone a significant change management process and redundancies. Ms Kikas, from Action OHS Consulting, will outline what happened in a presentation to the Central Safety Group at its first lunchtime meeting for the year on Tuesday 11 February 2020. She will discuss the principles and approach adopted and the setbacks and obstacles that had to be overcome. In addition, she will describe step-by-step what it took to drive effective risk management and improve safety culture.

The presentation will be followed by a brief Annual General Meeting of CSG, to which all 2019 Financial Members are invited to attend.

When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, February 11
Where: Room B411 - Level 4, CAE building, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (between Swanston & Elizabeth Streets)
Cost:  attendance members free, non-members $10
          Lunch (optional): sandwich and juice lunch $15
          [Individual membership fee for 2020: $75]

RSVP by close of business Friday February 7. Book online now



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