SafetyNet 523

Welcome to the March 11, 2020 edition of SafetyNet - it's a slightly shorter edition (due to Victorian public holiday on Monday and some low-level illness in the unit!)

It has been a tragic two weeks in Victoria, with three workers killed since our last edition on February 26. Every death is preventable and no worker should be killed at work. 

We invite feedback on the journal - this helps us to ensure that SafetyNet is as useful and interesting for our subscribers as possible. Please send your comments through to Renata at ohsinfo@vthc.org.au.  We welcome all and any comments.

To keep up to date and informed between editions of the journal, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page. Also, if you're an HSR or deputy, you should join the OHS Network Facebook

Union News

Three more fatalities

We are saddened to report that three more Victorian workers have lost their lives since our last edition:

On March 3 a worker was killed after being struck by a falling steel beam at Point Cook. The man was 35 years old. It is believed the beam fell on the man after it was hit by a roof truss being unloaded at the residential construction site about 12.20pm.

Then, during what WorkSafe has described as a 'horror Labour Day weekend': 

A 68-year-old worker was killed after being hit by a tractor trailer combination on a farm at Somerville on Saturday. According to WorkSafe, the tractor and trailer were being reversed when the man was knocked to the ground and run over at about 1pm.

A 31-year-old horse racing stable worker died after falling from a horse that was hit by a car near Barwon Heads about 6.30am on Monday. It appears the horse and male rider were attempting to cross Thirteenth Beach Rd at the time.

WorkSafe is investigating both incidents. The fatalities bring the 'official' number of workplace deaths this year to 11, which is five more than at the same time last year. However, by our count, these deaths bring the total number of fatalities since 1 January to 13.

The staff of the OHS Unit sends our sincerest condolences to the families, friends and work colleagues of the deceased workers - no-one should lose their lives at work.

Ask Renata

There have been a growing number of inquiries coming in regarding Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Here is one from an HSR:

I have a query about what guidelines we should be following to advise our workplaces about how to best respond to this viral outbreak, especially if there is client facing work being undertaken - can you help?

I appreciate that this is a question with what is probably a myriad of complex answers for each different workplace but is there something I could be directed to or just work with management and the usual risk management framework to mitigate risk for your own particular workplace?

There are general precautions and measures that all employers need to be implementing now, even though there have only been only three deaths as a result of coronavirus in Australia. This is because it is highly likely that the number of people infected by the disease will increase, as will the risk to workers. Depending on the type of work, the work environment, who the 'clients' are, and so on, more specific measures may need to be taken.

HSRs need to be taking this issue up with their employers now, to ensure that simple measures are implemented immediately, specific risks have been identified, and measures to control these are ready to go when necessary.  We have now posted a page of information and advice on COVID-19 on the OHS Reps @ Work website - which will be updated and amended regularly - see: Coronavirus disease. We welcome any input or views on the information, as things are moving very quickly and we would like the page to be kept as up to date as possible.

Also, tune in to our webinar on Coronavirus tonight!

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

7pm Tonight: Webinar on Coronavirus disease

In the latest installment of the OHS Reps Live Show, Luke and Sam will be navigating the problems associated with COVID-19 and how it may affect you in the workplace from an OHS perspective.

The stream will be on the We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page tonight (Wednesday March 11) night at 7pm sharp. Questions from the audience are strongly encouraged. Ms Deborah Vallance, Senior Policy Officer, WHS at the ACTU will be the expert in attendance to help Luke and Sam with the questions. 

Following the live show, you'll be able to check it out on the page, as well as on our Hazards page (later in the week).

Meanwhile, Qantas issued with notice on coronavirus

Last week SafeWorkNSW issued Qantas with a WHS Improvement notice involving a system of work that "may" expose workers and others to a risk of illnesses like coronavirus.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) called for Qantas Airways Ltd to listen to workers' concerns and engage hygiene and infection control experts to minimise the risk of workers and passengers being exposed to the coronavirus COVID-19, after the airline received the notice.

A SafeWork inspection identified an "inadequate system of work used to clean planes that may have transported passengers with an infectious disease". The inspector reportedly saw cleaners wiping multiple plane tray tables with the same wet cloth without disinfectant, and wiping unknown liquids on surfaces and floors. Cleaners were required to handle wet used tissues, used face masks and soiled nappies, and advised that they occasionally had to clean vomit and blood off surfaces; PPE was not mandated for most of these tasks, the inspector found.

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline is investigating SafeWork's claims and is considering appealing the improvement notice, which requires Qantas to consult with an expert on infection control, consult aircraft cleaners on implementing a safe system of work, provide adequate PPE and assess workers' contact with bodily fluids, by 30 March. 
Source: OHSAlert


Research

National inquiry recommends new duties on employers to manage s-xual harassment

Not research as such, but rather the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission report following the national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment.

The Commission has recommended the model WHS laws be amended to control psychosocial risks, in line with the Boland review, and that a WHS Code of Practice on sexual harassment be developed.  The inquiry also recommended the Fair Work Commission be given power to issue "stop sexual harassment" orders, equivalent to stop-bullying orders in its anti-bullying jurisdiction.

In its 932-page report Respect@Work, the Commission says Australia's model WHS laws already impose a general positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment as part of their broader safety obligations.  But the "lack of an express WHS Regulation, Code of Practice or guideline means that workplace sexual harassment is not being addressed by WHS regulators or employers in a consistent, robust or systemic way", it stresses.

"There is an urgent need to raise awareness that sexual harassment is a work health and safety issue," it says. In her foreword to the report, Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, notes that Australia was once at the forefront of tackling sexual harassment globally, but no more. She says "Sexual harassment is not a women’s issue: it is a societal issue, which every Australian, and every Australian workplace, can contribute to addressing. Workplace sexual harassment is not inevitable. It is not acceptable. It is preventable."

The inquiry has made 55 recommendations, including that WHS ministers agree to amend the model WHS regulations to prescribe control measures for psychological risk, as recommended by Marie Boland in her review of the model WHS laws, and "develop guidelines on sexual harassment, with a view to informing the development of a Code of Practice"

The Commission acknowledges that "this will require a cultural and institutional shift in a field that has historically focused on physical harm and risks". It recommends that Safe Work Australia and safety regulator staff undergo training on the "nature, drivers and impacts of sexual harassment".
Read more: Respect@Work - Report and Community Guide, Australian Human Rights Commission. Source: OHSAlert


Regulator News

WorkSafe Victoria news

New Campaign to improve the safety of Young Workers

The Andrews Labor Government is warning employers to protect young workers and making sure young Victorians are aware of their rights through a powerful new campaign launched yesterday. Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy and WorkSafe Chief Executive Colin Radford launched the new campaign, at Melbourne’s KereKere Green Cafe.

The campaign is part of a social experiment which saw young workers aged 18-25 asked to participate in a mock job information session for a research company. Participants were asked a series of questions about the risks they were willing to take to secure employment – revealing young workers lacked the confidence to question unsafe working conditions.

Twenty-one of the 23 participants said they would accept that their employer had no responsibility for their health and safety, that they would work without first being trained, accept bullying and harassment in the workplace, and accept unsafe work conditions to secure and maintain employment. Almost all of the participants displayed vulnerability in speaking up when they were uncomfortable about having their health and safety compromised.

Ms Hennessey said, "This campaign reveals how our young Victorians are vulnerable to injuries in the workplace and reminds us of the importance of making sure they know they have the right to come home safe from work at the end of each day.”

The interviews will feature in the campaign through a series of online and print advertisements, which discuss the unique pressures young workers face. The campaign will also be supported with education for employers and young workers to increase awareness of their rights and responsibilities.Mr Radford added, "With more inspectors completing more inspections than ever before, WorkSafe will not hesitate to take enforcement action where it finds employers failing to meet their health and safety obligations.”
Source: Victorian government media release

March 20: Jobs At Home Day

On Jobs At Home Day, Friday 20 March, Victorians can create a customised sticker featuring a fun job at home title such as Chief Cuppa Maker or Master of All Things Doggo – a reminder to return home safely to where they're needed most.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Colin Radford said the stickers are a fun, wearable way to start a conversation about workplace safety. "We know being injured on the job changes everything at home," Mr Radford said. "A workplace injury isn't left behind when you clock off," he said. "I'm the Unpaid Uber Driver in my house, and for me that's a pretty important reason to get home safe every day."

In the past two years almost 20,000 Victorians have taken part in Jobs At Home Day. This year, WorkSafe is hosting coffee carts around Melbourne and regional Victoria where people can receive a Jobs At Home Day sticker and stay for a free coffee. The stickers are designed to be displayed on laptops, hard hats, phones or notebooks. Those participating can also enter a competition to win $1000.

To order a free, customisable sticker, and learn more about the competition and pop-up cafes, visit the Jobs At Home website.

National Fatality Statistics

Safe Work Australia has updated its statistics since the last edition of SafetyNet. As at 27 February, there had been 28 worker fatalities notified to the national body - seven more since the previous update on February 13. All seven were in the Transport, postal and warehousing sectors. SWA is still saying that these are preliminary figures, and are based mainly on media reports.

The fatalities this year have come from the following industries:

  • 11 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 7 in Construction
  • 5 in Public administration & safety
  • 3 in Mining
  • 1 in Agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • 1 in Manufacturing

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.


Prosecutions

Company faces new chemical stockpile charges

WorkSafe Victoria has charged Bradbury Industrial Services Pty Ltd with an additional 21 alleged breaches of the Dangerous Goods Act relating to chemical stockpiles at three Craigieburn warehouses.

The company, which is now in liquidation, has been accused of committing seven offences under sections 31(1) and 45 of the Act for each warehouse.

The charges are in addition to seven charges filed against Bradbury in January for alleged offences at a Campbellfield site.

The new charges allege that Bradbury failed to take all reasonable precautions to prevent a fire or explosion of dangerous goods at the three Yellowbox Drive warehouses. WorkSafe alleges Bradbury also failed to reduce the risks associated with dangerous goods storage and failed to notify it of an excess quantity of dangerous goods at its sites. Having exceeded the regulated fire protection quantity of dangerous goods, WorkSafe further alleges the company failed to request the advice of the relevant emergency services in relation to a fire protection system and failed to have a written fire protection plan. It is also alleged the company failed, at each site, to properly display HAZCHEM placarding and failed to keep a manifest of its dangerous goods.

The Craigieburn stockpiles were uncovered during a joint WorkSafe and Environment Protection Authority (EPA) investigation into the dangerous goods storage in Melbourne's northern suburbs in January, 2019.

The matter has been listed for a filing hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on April 3, 2020.

Construction firm fine increased to $55k after appeal

Warrnambool civil construction firm Rodger Constructions Pty Ltd was undertaking works including the construction of roads, storm water drainage, sewerage and the provision of water supply.

On 13 February 2018 a Rodger Constructions employee filmed three workers inside a trench, with a height significantly higher than the workers. It was alleged that a qualified geo-technical engineer had not assessed the trench for risk of wall collapse before the work commenced. It was also alleged that there were no control measures in place to control the risk of wall collapse within the trench.

This incident formed the basis of charge 1, to which the employer pleaded guilty, admitting they had failed to reduce or eliminate the risk of wall collapse.

On 15 February 2018, the company was tasked with laying storm water pipes into trenches at the workplace. A pipe was not slung properly and a worker turned and walked towards the trench shield to enter the trench to assist with the positioning of the pipe at it was lowered. The trench did not have an access gantry. As he stepped over the gap between the trench and the shield, his foot slipped on sand sitting on the shield bar and he fell into the 2.4m deep trench, hitting his back and head. He suffered soft tissue injuries to his hips and back and spent three days in hospital.

WorkSafe inspectors attended the site, investigated and issued an improvement notice. Although it was complied with by the next day, this incident formed the basis of charge 2, to which again the company pleaded guilty, acknowledging it failed to install a fall arrest system.

The company was initially, on 14 November 2019, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000 on charge 1, and $15,000 on charge 2, plus $6,642 in costs. On appeal by the DPP the orders imposed by the Magistrates' Court were set aside, and in their stead the offender was ordered, without conviction, to pay a fine of $15,000 on charge 1, and $40,000 on charge 2, with costs not changing.

Host employer prosecuted after labour hire worker injured

Laverton North steel products manufacturing and distribution firm  Australian Steel Company (Operations) Pty Ltd engaged a third party to provide labour for its use at the workplace.

On 5 June 2018 three workers at the workplace were tasked with cutting, trimming, felling and removing 16 trees using a chainsaw. The three workers removed 13 of the 16 trees that day without incident. The next day, June 6, the workers resumed the task. As the final, smaller, tree was being cut, the chainsaw blade came into contact with a weed mat protruding from the ground, which caused it to kick back, striking the other worker's leg. An ambulance was called and the worker underwent surgery on his leg.

Australian Steel held a toolbox meeting and conducted a documented risk assessment prior to the task commencing, but had relied on the previous training and experience of two of the workers, not providing specific training.

The company pleaded guilty following a sentence indication, and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $27,500 plus $3,000 costs. By its plea, the company acknowledged that it ought to have provided training to the workers in the use of the chainsaw and in the safe cutting of trees.

Salad grower fined, not convicted, after worker's leg trapped in machine

Hussey and Co Asset Holdings Pty Ltd, is a large salad growinging and processing business in Newry. The company used a pea seeder connected to a tractor by an A-frame to sow seeds. The pea seeder consisted of a hopper, where seeds were placed, and a rotating auger inside the hopper, which was controlled by hydraulics in the tractor. The hopper did not have any guarding to restrict bodily access to the rotating auger - creating a risk to workers of becoming seriously injured as a result of becoming entrapped by the rotating auger in the hopper.

On 7 March 2018, the risk eventuated when an employee suffered injuries to his leg after attempting to step over the hopper to put weight on the A-frame, which had unhooked itself from the pea seeder. As he stepped over the hopper, his foot slipped and became trapped.

The company pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay a fine of $25,000 plus costs of $3,623.

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

 


Events

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

March 27: Conference on Working hours, shifts and fatigue conference

Want to know about the impacts of shift work and what you can do to reduce the effects of fatigue?
Want information on rostering for nurses and midwives to minimise fatigue and maximise health and safety for staff and patients?
Back by popular demand the Working Hours, Shift & Fatigue Conference is a full-day presented by the ANMF (Vic Branch) on Friday 27 March 2020. Find out how working hours, shifts and fatigue affect the health and safety of nurses, midwives, carers and patients in this integral one-day conference. The conference is open to all, and if you register before Friday, then early bird rates apply.

When: 9am to 4pm, 27 March, 2020
Where: ANMF, Carson Conference Centre, 535 Elisabeth St, Melbourne, 3000
Find out more, including the program and how to register, here.

BE TRADES HALL TRAINED: VTHC OHS Training Centre 

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).

It's the start of a new year, and so all HSRs should be thinking about registering for their annual one-day refresher course.
You can now register and pay directly from the site here.

The upcoming Initial 5 day courses for HSRs are:

March 23 - 27

Carlton

March 30 - April 3

Werribee*

April 27 - May 1

Carlton

May 11 - 15

Morewell*

May 25 - 29

Carlton

Course hours: 9am - 5pm
Course fee: Metropolitan: $870.00 incl. GST     Regional: $895.00 incl. GST
Course Length: All initial OHS training courses are 5 days.

And the one day refresher courses:

March 19

1 Day Refresher Training

Bendigo

March 27

1 Day Refresher Training

Ballarat

March 30

1 Day Refresher Training

Carlton

April 17

1 Day Refresher Training

Carlton

April 23

1 Day Refresher Training

Werribee

April 24

1 Day Refresher Training

Geelong

May 8

1 Day Refresher Training

Wangaratta

May 8

1 Day Refresher Training

Carlton

May 21

1 Day Refresher Training

Carlton


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