April 21, 2021
Welcome to a very short edition of SafetyNet. Our Editor has been off work, back today, and so we're just going to cover some 'basics'.
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]
Reminder: April 28 is International Workers Memorial Day
Next Wednesday, April 28th is International Workers Memorial Day, and this year for the first time in Victoria, official statistics will acknowledge the toll of workplace illnesses.
This year's international campaign theme is: HEALTH AND SAFETY IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT AT WORK #IWMD21
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim the lives of health workers and frontline workers around the world, it is particularly relevant to stop and hold a (socially distanced) vigil remembering the dead and fighting for the living. Join workers and bereaved family for a moving ceremony at Trades Hall on 28 April at 10.30 am. Find out more about the day and RSVP.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) - update
Australia has had a total of 29,574 cases of coronavirus diagnosed, and no deaths since last week, so a total of 910 COVID-related deaths. The comparison with the rest of world - and how well we have managed the outbreaks here, is becoming increasingly stark.
Internationally, the numbers of infections and deaths are terrifying: the cumulative number of infections last week was 138,013,074. Today it is 143,541,237. This is 5,523,565 new infections in the past week, an increase of 12 per cent, and the largest increase to date. Another terrible milestone, three million deaths, has been overtaken: there have now been 3,057,512 COVID-related deaths around the world. It had been hoped that the numbers would reduce due to increasing numbers of people being vaccinated - but it is clear that in many countries the vaccination programs have been slow, living conditions such that the infection cannot be controlled, and the hospitals/health systems totally overwhelmed.
This is the situation in India: over a quarter of a million new infections each day. As recently as February, India appeared to have the virus somewhat under control, recording 11,000 daily new cases compared with a September peak of more than 93,000 daily new cases. On Monday this week, the country reported over 270,000 new infections — its highest daily rise since the pandemic started. India has now recorded more than 15 million infections and more than 178,000 deaths, and experts agree that even these figures are likely lower than the actual numbers.
So what happened? By January the government had relaxed almost all of the 2020 lockdown rules. Since then, millions of voters have gone to the polls for major state elections and millions of Hindu pilgrims travelled to attend one of the largest religious festivals, Kumbh Mela. Now New Delhi, the capital, is in a week-long lockdown to prevent the city's health system from collapsing, which authorities say has been pushed to its limit. The city of 29 million has fewer than 100 beds with ventilators, and fewer than 150 beds available for patients needing critical care. Other parts of the country are under similar strains.
Read more: ABC news online)
In last week's journal we reported that the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, had announced the government had abandoned the goal of ensuring that every single person in Australia would receive at least their first vaccine by October of this year.
Since then the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca is preferred for adults over 50 years old and the Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred in adults aged under 50 years. This is due to the now undisputed serious, but very rare, potential side effect of a particular type of blood clot linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
This has meant that due to shortages of the Pfizer vaccine, and the fact that the federal government is still administering it to aged care residents, many workers in Phase 1a are still not vaccinated. It also means that it is likely that there will be a large number of AstraZeneca vaccines available for Australians over 50 years of age.
At time of press, 172,308 Victorians had received at least their first vaccination. This is only about 10,000 more in the past week - so there are clearly problems with supply.
Reminder: The Department of Health's Victorian COVID-19 vaccination guidelines (the guidelines), appendices and resources available online on this DHS webpage. The guidelines provide advice and describe the minimum requirements for delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination program in Victoria, in accordance with the requirements set out by the Commonwealth Government. The guidelines are updated weekly. Please ensure you are using the most up to date version. Updates are highlighted in yellow in the document.
In the time it took to get my manager's approval to attend the OHS training course I was hoping to enrol in, the course has disappeared off the available list on the website. I presume that means it's full. Is there a waiting list? Would it be worth just doing the refresher course in lieu of not having any training at all?
Next time enrol in the course that you're wanting to do first, and then let your employer know that you have enrolled. As long as you've given at least 14 days' notice, and the course is one that has been accredited by WorkSafe, then your employer must allow you to attend it. Try to give as much notice as you can. However, if there are genuine reasons why the dates do not suit your employer, then be prepared to negotiate. If you get resistance from the manager/employer, then contact us, or your union, or WorkSafe.
And no, you need to do the full course before you do a refresher. To properly understand what the law says, what the employer's duties are, what powers and rights you as the HSR have - and how to be able to use them effectively, you must do the initial 5 day course first. The one day refresher training - which HSRs are entitled and should attend each year after they have done the full course, is designed to keep HSRs up to date, give them a chance to learn about new and emerging risks, and practise their skills.
To find out more, including the parts of the Act that are relevant, go to this page: OHS Reps' Right to Training.
Please remember: if you have any OHS related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.
OHS Reps @ Work Live Show - Gendered Violence in the Workplace
Did you miss our latest Live Show last Wednesday? If you, like me, missed the show, don't worry as you can check it out now on our Facebook page, or just click here. Listen to special guests Wil Stracke, Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council and Sophie Ismail from the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a conversation about gendered violence in the workplace and what HSRs can do to help address it. During the session Sophie talks about the new ILO Convention and its definition of gendered violence, how gendered violence impacts workers, and much more.
Many HSRs sent in questions, which were discussed during the show. Again, check out the video of the Live Show here, and also check the information on Gendered Violence and Sexual Harassment on the OHS Reps website.
Have you downloaded the OHShelp App yet?
OHShelp is a free, all-in-one app for Health and Safety Representatives. It has been designed to help HSRs stay informed, organised and in touch with their unions.
HSRs are now 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 OHShelp website. For the moment the app is only available for union members, but a free trial is being organised for non-union members.
Reminder: nominate now for the 2021 WorkSafe Awards
The WorkSafe Awards are a way to recognise those individuals, teams or organisations that go above and beyond for workplace safety.
WorkSafe Victoria want to recognise and celebrate the efforts of those who work to keep Victorians safe at work. health and safety and return to work champions. The VTHC encourages subscribers to nominate themselves, a colleague or your workplace.
Entries are now open across the following categories:
- Health and Safety Representative of the Year (the main event for HSRs!)
- Commitment to Workplace Health and Safety on a Farm
- Workplace Health and Safety Solution of the Year
- Leading Return to Work Practice
- and more..
Sally Collier-Clarke and Sara Jorgensen, ANMF members and HSRs at Bendigo Health were the joint winners of HSR of the year in 2019. They were also key note speakers at the VTHC OHS Reps Conference in 2020. Find out more about the awards here and nominate your HSR. Entries close on 7 May 2021, so don't delay!
Campaign: Unsafe is Always Unacceptable
In a social experiment, WorkSafe invited a group of young people to a series of 'industry information sessions' and outlined some of the unsafe conditions they could face in the workplace.
Sadly, and shockingly, 91 per cent said that they would work in unsafe conditions – meaning they were willing to accept customer abuse, crazy hours and no breaks!
Unsafe is always unacceptable. Young workers have the right to feel safe at work, and employers have a responsibility to create a safe working environment.
WorkSafe says the “Unsafe is Always Unacceptable” campaign reinforces this message and reminds employers that they have a responsibility to protect young workers, and create physically and mentally safe workplaces. However we know that many young workers are desperate to get a job, and will accept jobs they know are going to put them at risk. The lessons? Join the union, talk to your health and safety rep, say no if it's dangerous.
Major Hazards Newsletter
WorkSafe has today sent out the April edition of Major Hazard Matters - Issue 16. As well as an article on the National Major Hazards Forum (a 'virtual' two day event, May 4 and 5, hosted by WorkSafe Victoria), there are a number of other interesting items, including the report of a fire at an Indonesian refinery and a SafeWork NSW animation of fatal 2018 H2S incident.
NSW: UberEats caught in safety failings over driver deaths
New details have emerged about the deaths of three delivery drivers in last year after UberEats representatives gave “deeply worrying” evidence to an inquiry in New South Wales. Documents tabled in NSW Parliament on Monday reveal an UberEats worker was killed last year while driving an e-bike that “appeared to not be approved” for use in the state, just months after another worker died while wearing an “unapproved helmet”.
NSW’s workplace safety regulator, SafeWorkNSW, found UberEats broke health and safety laws on multiple occasions in 2020, noting 74 separate incidents of serious injury.
In a series of shocking admissions during the NSW parliamentary inquiry, UberEats claimed it was “not possible” to ensure all of its delivery riders were using safe equipment and vehicles permitted for use on Australian roads. Read more: The New Daily
Updated traffic management guidance available
Safe Work Australia has updated its workplace traffic management guidance to include information on working on or near public roads.
When managing traffic on a public road, there are actions which should be taken to ensure the safety of workers and the public. This could include installation of barriers and warning devices to ensure workers and vehicles stay separated. Read more and access the new guidance here.
Review of the workplace exposure standards - public comment closes 30 July
In March 2020, Safe Work Australia paused the release and public consultation for the workplace exposure standards (WES) review until further notice. Public feedback resumed on 1 February 2021 with Release 15: paraffin wax to zirconium compounds. This release will be open on the SWA consultation platform, Engage until 30 July 2021. Read more.
National Fatality Statistics
Safe Work Australia updated its statistics on fatalities on April 15, at which time they had been notified that 29 Australian workers had been killed at work in 2021 - this is four more than at April 1. There were two in Transport, postal & warehousing, and one each in Construction and Agricuture, forestry & fishing. The deaths this year have been in the following sectors:
- 11 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 4 in Construction
- 3 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 3 in Arts & recreation services
- 2 in Manufacturing
- 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 in Other Services
- 1 in Wholesale trade
- 1 in Public administration & safety
These figures are based mainly on initial media reports and provide a preliminary estimate of the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia updates details of the incident. Updated information is used to publish Safe Work Australia’s annual Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report which includes finalised work-related fatalities from 2003 onwards. 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.
Melbourne Health convicted and fined $340,000 in patient suicide case
A major public healthcare provider has been convicted and fined $340,000 for breaching workplace health and safety laws in failing to identify and control a suicide risk to a patient. Victorian County Court Judge Amanda Fox said she would have fined Melbourne Health $520,000 if it had not pleaded guilty to the breach.
Melbourne Health's undertakings included operating a mental health impatient facility in Broadmeadows, where aged persons with acute mental illnesses were assessed and treated, and often involuntarily admitted under the State Mental Health Act 2014.
In September 2013, a 75-year-old man admitted to the facility, and identified as being at a high risk of suicide, hanged himself in his room using a slide sheet designed for manually handling patients.
At the June 2017 coronial inquest into the man's death the Victorian Coroner, Peter White, found that:
- at least two days before the incident, a facility staff member attached the slide sheet to the window in the man's room to replace a curtain that had fallen down;
- there was no evidence to suggest that any risk analysis was done regarding the the use of such a sheet as a curtain in the room of a person who had been admitted because he was at risk of suicide;
- no steps had been taken to replace the curtain, or to notify appropriate staff of the need to replace it;
- at the relevant time, the 19-bed facility was being supervised by only two staff members, who were both "extremely busy with waking patients"; and
- it was unlikely that the workers checked on the 75-year-old man every 15 minutes, as required.
In June 2019, WorkSafe Victoria charged Melbourne Health with contravening section 23 ("Duties of employers to other persons") of the State Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. WorkSafe alleged the healthcare provider failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the patient was not exposed to risks to his health or safety arising from the conduct of its undertaking.
In the County Court, Melbourne Health acknowledged, through its guilty plea, that it had been reasonably practicable for it to identify the risk of the slide sheet being used as a ligature for hanging, resulting in serious injury or death. It accepted it had been reasonably practicable to ensure the slide sheet was removed and not available to be used for hanging.
Judge Fox noted Melbourne Health pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, was an otherwise good corporate citizen, responded to the incident with workplace improvements, apologised to the deceased man's family, and demonstrated remorse. Source: OHSAlert
To check for any Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Chinese coal miners still trapped underground
Last weekend, during upgrading works at the large Fengyuan mine in Xinjiang's Hutubi county, in the west of China, flooding trapped 29 miners at a depth of over 1,000 metres underground. While eight miners were able to be rescued quickly, a huge rescue operation, comprising over 1,500 personnel, has spent days trying to reach the trapped miners.
Records indicate that in 2018, the mine was sanctioned twice for failing to provide proper training to staff and failing to correctly calibrate its carbon monoxide sensors. In addition, the mine also violated water flow control regulations, and while it received a fine of 105,000 yuan (~US$16,000), it is unclear if the problem was addressed. Overall, Chinese mines remain among the deadliest in the world. At the time of writing, rescue efforts are still continuing and the 21 miners remain trapped underground. Read more: BBC News online
Tonight, Wednesday 21 April: Yallourn Closure Webinar
Last month, Yallourn owners EnergyAustralia announced they had struck a deal with the Victorian government and would close in 2028. This is an important step in Victoria’s transition from dirty coal to clean renewables.
Environment Victoria is holding a webinar TONIGHT where participants will be able to hear from energy analysts, Latrobe Valley community leaders and Environment Victoria campaigners about what's behind the Yallourn closure announcement and what it means for our transition beyond coal.
What: Webinar: What does Yallourn's closure mean and what’s next for Victoria’s energy transition?
When: Wednesday 21 April, 7-8.15pm
- Professor Bruce Mountain, Director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, on what we know about the Yallourn closure deal and what it means for our energy transition in Victoria.
- Tony Wolfe, coal power station worker and member of Communities Leading Change, and Wendy Farmer, President of Latrobe Valley community group Voices of the Valley, will provide their perspectives on the local response to Yallourn’s closure announcement, what we need to get right in the transition beyond coal, and how people outside the Valley can stand in solidarity with the community.
- Taegen Edwards and Emma Horsburgh, Environment Victoria, will share what Yallourn’s closure means for getting the climate action we need and what’s next for our campaign to move Victoria beyond coal this decade.
Tonight, Wednesday April 21: Dangerous Goods Advisory Group
The second DGAG bimonthly meeting for 2021 will be held tonight, via Zoom, from 5.30pm - 7.30pm. The DGAG is a general networking / discussion update meeting, open to all, to discuss issues that are going on for Dangerous Goods and Chemical Regulation at the moment.
The meeting will have a similar agenda to past meetings
The topics to be discussed will be:
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 Haz. Chemicals, & Environmental Risk Management of Industrial Chemicals
Update on Classification and Training for Dangerous Goods
Other meetings and events
For more information, contact Jeff Simpson (DGAG convenor and Webinar host), Haztech Environmental, Ph: 03-9885-1269 Mob: 0403-072-092, Email: [email protected]
Jeff can assist in setting up the Zoom meeting or adjusting computer settings. Contact Jeff for instructions on how to join.
The following 3rd DGAG meeting in 2021, will be on Wed 16th June 2021 (meetings are now the 3rd Wed), as another DGAG Webinar Discuss/Chat Meeting at 5.30-7.30pm.
There are two upcoming events being run by APHEDA
1 - Tonight, Wednesday April 21st: Venezuela Solidarity Forum
Venezuelans are experiencing serious hardships due to sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies. They are fighting back but need international support to stand up and build the future that they choose. There will be a number of Venezuelan and Australian speakers.
When: April 21, 6.30 for 7pm start
Where: MUA Auditorium (46-54 Ireland Street).
Light refreshments provided.
2 - Friday 7th May: MUA Fundraiser Painters & Dockers Timor Leste Solidarity Gig
Don’t miss out on a ticket to this awesome gig featuring legendary punk rock band the Painters & Dockers plus support acts in Solidarity with the people of Timor Leste.
When: Friday 7th May, 7pm-11pm
Where: MUA Auditorium, 46-54 Ireland Street, West Melbourne
Tickets: $80 or $800 for a table of 10 Includes: Food and entertainment
Tuesday May 11: Central Safety Group - Using technology to make work safer
Speaker: Gavin Kenny, Manager SHEQ - Service Delivery, Melbourne Water
Melbourne Water is a statutory body which supplies high-quality water, provides reliable sewerage services, integrates drainage systems to prevent flooding and enhances waterways and land for Melbourne and its surrounds. Gavin will talk about the changes involved, how they were introduced and the resulting efficiency gains.
These new systems are integrated with and supported by the organisation’s existing IT systems. He will describe the transition from using cumbersome, paper-based processes to easy-to-use digital systems. Among other things, this has made safety data at Melbourne Water more transparent and easy to access, making it easier to analyse trends.
When: 12 - 1pm, Tuesday, 11 May, 2021
How: Online via Zoom. Financial members will automatically be emailed the Zoom meeting link. (N.B. A video recording of the session will be available on the website exclusively for financial members.)
Cost: Financial members* free. Non-members $10
[Individual membership fee for 2020: $75] *If unsure of your membership status, contact [email protected]