SafetyNet 556

October 28th: Welcome to another short edition of SafetyNet. 

This edition is a short one - due to our commitments with running the HSR Conference, held yesterday. It was the first we have held online. It is with great sadness that we report that there have been two fatalities in Victoria in the past week.

Visit our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page for news, memes and more. If you have any questions or need any advice, we can be reached via the Ask Renata facility on the website or through the closed OHS Network Facebook page. If you have comments or want to send through any ideas, email us at [email protected]

Union News

Two Victorian workers killed in the past week 

The first fatality was last Wednesday October 21 after a traffic controller died after being struck by a vehicle at Trawalla. According to WorkSafe, it appears the 59-year-old worker was standing next to his vehicle, which was pulled over on the left side of the Western Highway on-ramp, when he was hit by the east-bound vehicle. WorkSafe is investigating. 

The second fatality was that of a 71 year old who was working alone at a folding bed manufacturing plant in Geelong. WorkSafe believes the man sustained fatal injuries when his clothing became tangled in machinery at the North Shore factory before he was found on Friday.

The deaths bring the workplace fatality toll to 59 for 2020, five more than at the same time last year. The VTHC OHS Unit sends our sincerest condolences to the workers' families, friends and colleagues. No worker should die at work. 

VTHC HSR Conference Risks to Psychological Health - a great success

Yesterday we held our annual Conference for health and safety reps, deputies - and this year, lots of 'others'. This is because due to the current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria, we had no choice but to run it online. While there was some drop off from the 2,000 registrations, and a few technical glitches, it was overall a great success. I know that going out to the studio in Port Melbourne, and running a session with the VTHC OHS Unit's team leader, Dominic Melling, was a real treat for me! It's the furthest I've been from home in at least six months!

The materials we developed for HSRs are available to be downloaded from the Conference webpage, where we will also be loading the presentations, hopefully including the slide show from our expert keynote speakers. For those HSRs who have already distributed and collected the Risk survey, go to this page to can load up the results. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update 

Due to the number of cases in Victoria continuing to be very low, (two new cases and two further deaths reported yesterday, but zero the previous two days), retail and hospitality, fitness and other venues are now open in Metropolitan Melbourne - with restrictions on numbers of course. There have also been an easing of restrictions to rules regarding visitors to peoples' homes. Until November 6, however, the 25km limit from home remains in place. Read more on the Victorian situation here. 

According to the latest official figures, there have been 27,552 cases of coronavirus disease diagnosed in Australia - last Wednesday the total was 27,429 - and so there have been only 123  more than last week. The total number of COVID deaths is now 907. 

The international situation continues to be critical, with many countries suffering a worsening second wave. The cumulative number of infections is 44,235,091. Last Wednesday it was 41,022,134this is over 3.2 million more infections in just one week - and the rate is increasing. There have now been 1,171,274 confirmed COVID-related around the world. For more information on Coronavirus and COVID-19, go to this page on our site.

Ask Renata  

Hi, I would like to know whether, in returning to our workplace, managers can elect NOT to wear masks under COVID-normal ops? Now that the restrictions are easing in Victoria, I've notice some people not wearing masks. 

What you need to do is look at the workplace COVIDSafe plan - as the HSR you should have been involved/consulted in its preparation and implementation. See Duty to consult - section 35 of the Act. The wearing of masks must be in the COVIDSafe plan. The advice from government (DHHS) is as follows:

 Do I have to wear a fitted face mask while working? 

Yes, you have to wear a fitted face mask unless you meet one of the reasons for exemptions, such as a medical condition. 

This is taken from this page of the DHHS website. So, your employer should be telling everyone that this is the requirement, and checking those who say they meet the criteria for an exemption. It also means perhaps taking other measures to protect other workers who ARE wearing masks. However, if someone is on their own in an office, then they don't need to wear the mask.

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

Two new resources for health and safety representatives

1 - OHShelp

OHShelp is a free, all-in-one app for Health and Safety Representatives. It’s designed to help Health and Safety Representatives stay informed, organised and in-touch with their unions. HSRs will be able to use the app to identify workplace hazards and access fact sheets written in plain language. The app also allows users to log issues as they find them, and to share the details with their employer, workmates and union. Check out more information on what's on the app, and how to sign up on the OHS Help website. For the moment the app is only available for union members, but a free trial is being organised for non-union members. 

2 - Mind Your Head

Mind Your Head is a partnership between ACTU, VTHC, EML and CWEx/UniSA – (Professor Maureen Dollard and Dr Tessa Bailey). It is funded by WorkSafe’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement FundThe project’s aims are to:

  • Change/improve the understanding and identification of workplace mental health > to the level of workplace physical health
  • Train HSRs and delegates to identify hazards and manage those hazards using the same rules and tools we use for physical health
  • Bring together employers, managers, supervisors, HSRs, delegates and workers to work with Maureen and Tessa to understand the PSC at workplace and collaborate on plans and changes to address and manage hazards.
  • Ongoing support to HSRs, delegates and workers to recognise, address and manage psychological hazards and issues around workplace mental health

Find out more at the Mind Your Head website. 

Jobs at Trades Hall!

There are two full time positions in the Women On Site team being advertised at the Victorian Trades Hall Council - but if you're interested, you'll have to 'get your skates on' as applications close at 5pm November 2. Both positions are on a short-term contract (until December 2021) notionally in the Carlton office of the VTHC, but due to Covid19 staff will be required to work from home, with appropriate support, until the end of 2020. Arrangements for 2021 have not been confirmed. The positions are in a small team funded by the Victorian Government.The two positions are: 

  1. Project Organiser - Women On Site. The Project Organiser will be working on the Women Onsite project to support more women take up and complete apprenticeships and traineeships in historically male-dominated industries such as manufacturing and construction. The Organiser will be responsible for identifying, recruiting and supporting women to take up apprenticeships and traineeships in these key industries. Read more on the duties, essential requirements and desirable attributes for this position.
  2. Project Organiser - Digital Content. The Project Organiser will manage the team's web and social media pages as well as develop project materials such as booklets and presentations.  Read more on the duties, essential requirements and desirable attributes for this position. 

Asbestos news  

Greece: Asbestos Remediation project 

Between 2005 and 2019, EU-funded efforts made substantial progress in remediating the site of one of Europe’s largest asbestos mines in Kozani, Northern Greece. The output of the mine, which covered 4,144 acres, was 100,000 tonnes of asbestos fiber per year. It was the largest environmental restoration project in the Balkans and was undertaken using a phased approach at a total cost of almost €50 million. Source: IBAS 

Algeria: Asbestos legacy

A recent article highlights the hazard to inhabitants of the Algerian city of El-Guemmas who live in homes with deteriorating asbestos roofing. The city was built in the 1980s following a natural disaster and is home to 31,500, with thousands living in 2,350 contaminated properties. A scheme by authorities encouraging residents to remediate properties was unfit for purpose. Expressing the views of many, Mohamed Hambli said: “We no longer want to live in this city, especially as many inhabitants have made changes to their homes, which has created anarchy, indescribable urban [chaos]…. Reconstruction is not within our reach for considerations of advanced age, financial means, the number of family members under the same roof and the urban configuration of the city.” Read more: Une vie sous un toit d'amiante. Liberte.

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


Regulator news

Victorian news

Put safety first during reopening

Yesterday WorkSafe issued an alert warning employers to put health and safety first, including COVID-19 safety, ahead of businesses reopening on November 2. However, many businesses, such as retail and hospitality, effectively opened today, October 28th. The advice from the regulator is nevertheless pertinent. The alert says that WorkSafe inspectors will be out in force to ensure employers that have been shut down or under work from home arrangements are doing everything they can to protect their workers.

This includes completing housekeeping before reopening to ensure a workplace is safe, training and instructing staff on how to complete tasks and use equipment safely, and ensuring equipment and machinery is restarted in line with manufacturer specifications.

Employers must also provide adequate supervision and instruction to all staff where work practices have changed and for any new staff that might be unfamiliar with the workplace

Every WorkSafe inspection now includes an assessment of COVID-19 preparedness to ensure businesses have social distancing, good hygiene practices and a COVID-safe work plan.

WorkSafe Health and Safety Executive Director Julie Nielsen said employers had to remember all their health and safety obligations as businesses reopen. “Employers should take the time to review their health and safety processes and consult with their workers or health and safety representatives about controls in place to keep everyone safe,” Ms Nielsen said.

Since the pandemic started WorkSafe inspectors have made more than 15,000 workplace visits and enquiries to ensure COVID-19 compliance and issued more than 460 notices for COVID-19 related health and safety failures.

Common issues have been workers not working from home where possible, inadequate personal protective equipment, failing to enforce social distancing, poor hygiene controls, lack of health screening and not having procedures for when an employee tests positive.
Read more: Put safety first during reopening

WorkSafe: Health and Safety Month helping to navigate COVID-19

A reminder that there are still WorkSafe events for Health and Safety Month happening. Health & Safety month events are free, but registration is essential. Go to this page on the Worksafe website to check out what webinars are being run and to register. 

Reminder: Independent review of Dangerous Goods Act and Regs - submissions sought

A comprehensive review of Victoria’s dangerous goods laws is currently underway. The Review is part of the Victorian Government’s response to high profile incidents associated with illegal chemical stockpiling at several sites across Melbourne, and is considering issues and challenges in the management of dangerous goods. The Consultation Paper raises a number of issues which address the Review’s Terms of Reference and suggests ways in which those issues might be addressed. It also discusses Victoria’s dangerous goods landscape, the current regulatory framework and presents a list of questions to assist in making submissions.

All interested individuals and organisations are invited to share their views by making a submission. The Terms of Reference, the Consultation Paper and the list of questions can be downloaded from this page of the Engage Victoria website. The closing date for submissions is 5pm, 30 November, 2020. 

Other news

WA: Workplace exposure standards for silica and coal dust halved

The workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica has been halved to 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre effective October 27, 2020, and respirable coal dust halved to 1.5 milligrams per cubic metre effective October 27, 2021.

The move aims to reduce the risk of workers contracting potentially deadly lung diseases. Respirable crystalline silica may be generated by different work activities including fabrication and installation of composite (engineered or manufactured) stone countertops; brick, concrete, or stone cutting (angle grinding, jackhammering, and chiselling); excavation, tunnelling, earthmoving, and drilling operations; mining, quarrying, and mineral ore treatment processes; clay and stone processing machine operations; paving and surfacing, and abrasive blasting and foundry casting.

National Fatality Statistics 

Safe Work updated its fatality statistics on October 22, at which time there had been 131 worker fatalities notified to the national body - this is ten more than the previous update on October 8. Of these, five were in Construction, three in Transport, postal & warehousing; two in Agriculture, forestry & fishing,  The deaths this year have been in the following sectors:

  • 41 in Transport, postal & warehousing
  • 27 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 27 in Construction
  • 13 in Public administration & safety
  • 10 in Manufacturing 
  • 5 in Mining 
  • 3 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in 'other services' 
  • 1 in Arts & recreation services
  • 1 in Retail trade
  • 1 in Administrative & support services
  • 1 in Wholesale trade

Note that the figures are based on preliminary reports, and so at times will change. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage.


Two 17 year olds scalded at KFC - employer fined $10k

Mylora Holdings Pty Ltd owns and operates a small number of Kentucky Fried Chicken retail fast food outlets including the store in Plenty Road, Bundoora. On 25 November 2017 at about 1.30pm, two 17 year-old workers both received scald burns to their body when hot water and steam spilt out of the Collectramatic pressure cooker they were cleaning. They had filled the cooker with water, added soap and closed the lid. At some point the cooker was turned on and left on for approximately half an hour – when they noticed, one of them turned it off at the main power point. One tried to release the pressure that had built up by manually releasing a valve on the lid, but when this happened the lid popped open, causing water and steam to flow out of the cooker onto both of them. They were taken to the Austin Hospital where their burns were treated and dressed. They were discharged on the same day.

Although the young workers had not followed the correct procedure for cleaning the cooker, the employer failed to provide an adequate and regular system of supervision for the safe cleaning operation of cookers for workers, particularly young workers.

Mylora pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, fined $10,000 plus $3,000 in costs.

To check whether there have been any recent prosecutions go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.


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