SafetyNet 578

June 2, 2021

Welcome to another week's edition of SafetyNet.  

It is with great sadness that we inform our readers that since our last edition another worker was killed when he was struck by machinery at his workplace. 

In other 'breaking news' - Melbourne is in lockdown for another 7 days. If you, like many hundreds of thousands of Victorians, are working from home, check out the information on our site here

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

Worker killed at Dandenong factory

On Thursday last week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release with the tragic news that a 47 year old worker had been killed the day before after being struck by machinery at a factory in Dandenong.

WorkSafe believes he suffered head injuries after being hit by an attachment on a rubber extrusion machine. The regulator is investigating the incident.

The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and work colleagues of the man. No one should lose their life at work. 

The death brings Victoria's workplace fatality toll to 19 for 2021.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update 

It has been almost a week of Victoria being in Stage 4 restrictions, introduced as a 'circuit breaker' to get an outbreak linked to the case of the Woollert man who contracted COVID in an Adelaide quarantine hotel under control. While the new cases are deceasing, and large numbers of people are getting tested, and vaccinated, the state government announced today that while restrictions in regional Victoria will be eased at 11.59pm tomorrow, Thursday June 3, the lockdown has been extended for a further 7 days in metropolitan Melbourne.  Go to this page for updated information on the current numbers and restrictions: Coronavirus the Victorian situation 

There have been six (6) new cases identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in the cluster of local cases to 60. This particular variant, the 'Indian' strain, now known as the 'delta' variant, has been found to be extremely contagious and can be transmitted by even the briefest contact. We have not have much higher numbers of new cases because the lockdown has meant that contact with others has been drastically reduced. Read more: Victorian government statement

Note: the WHO has discontinued using complex names for the 'variants of concern', using the Greek alphabet instead. The so-called UK variant, is now known as 'alpha'.

Australia has had a total of 30,126 cases of coronavirus diagnosed, and a total of 910 COVID-related deaths. Internationally, the numbers of infections and deaths continue to mount: the cumulative number of infections last week was 168,513,226. Today it is 171,938,586 . This is 3.43 million new infections in the past week, continuing the downward trend which is now at -16 per cent. There have now been 3,575,782 COVID-related deaths around the world - a downward trend of about 9 per cent. (note these figures are updated constantly)

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Australia is well behind many other countries when it comes to our population being  vaccinated. At this stage, only two (2) per cent of our population has been fully vaccinated. 

Over the past week, it has become apparent that many workers in the Aged Care and Disability sectors, classified as priority 1a to receive vaccinations, have not received them. In fact, it appears that less then 30 per cent have received both doses. There is also a large percentage - thought to be about 40 per cent - of aged care residents who have not been fully vaccinated. This was the responsibility of the federal government which should have ensured they received vaccinations. Yesterday the Victorian state government announced that any workers in private sector aged/disability care have priority in a 5 day vaccination blitz at 10 large Victorian vaccination hubs. 

Both the government and the VTHC are urging workers who are eligible to get their vaccines, particularly in the light of the recently diagnosed community cases. If you are a 1a or 1b category worker, and under 50, you should be getting the Pfizer vaccine. Anyone between the ages of 40 and 49 can also book to have a Pfizer shot.

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.

For more information, go to these pages on the website: Coronavirus disease 

OHS - We want to hear from YOU!

Australian Unions are conducting a survey about workers’ experience of health and safety in the workplace, and we really want your input. The survey will help Australian Unions, the VTHC and your union better understand your experience at work, what is important to you and what you think could be improved.

The responses we collect help to frame our conversations with governments and employers and develop campaigns to bring about the changes necessary to make work healthy and safe.

Unions had a win this month when work health and safety ministers from across Australia voted in favour of strengthening laws to protect workers’ mental health. These changes are a huge step forward in the prevention of mental illness, sexual harassment and gendered violence in the workplace.

Valuable input from workers like you has the power to bring about more of these changes that result in better health and safety conditions in every workplace.

The survey is open until 9th July 2021Take the survey now! Click here

Did you catch the VTHC OHS Unit liveshow on COVID 19 and vaccines?

The OHS unit had a liveshow last Thursday night which covered Victoria's vaccine rollout. The unit's new staff members, Divina and Bridget, ran the show, and were joined by special guest Professor Ben Cowie lead immunologist from DHHS. 

It was a great show, so if you missed it, you can catch it on the We Are Union: OHS Reps website. 

June 1: Injured Workers Day

Yesterday, June 1, was Injured Workers Day. The 'live' activities planned by the VTHC and the Health and Community Services Union (HSUA) had to be moved 'online' due to Melbourne's lockdown. You can watch it on the Facebook Injured Workers Day page here.

Injured workers around Victoria are fighting for a system that treats injured workers with dignity and puts our needs before profit. The WorkCover system needs major reform. We need a system that looks after injured workers first, and gives workers the medical and financial support to recover and live in dignity. 

The VTHC and our affiliates are calling on Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Government to reform our WorkCover system so it serves the needs of injured workers first, including:

  • In-sourcing the services of independent agents and bringing the entire WorkCover scheme back into public hands;
  • Phasing out self-insurance scheme and bringing all workplaces onto the same scheme;
  • Amending the definition of ‘complex claim’ so that workers who need extra support can get it when they need it;
  • Extending employers' return to work obligations past the 52 week mark.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Injured Workers Support Network, like the Facebook page Injured Workers Support Network Victoria.

Ask Renata  

Hi Renata,  

At our workplace we have one first aid kit that is fixed to wall inside the staff bathroom. Is this an acceptable position given that a kit must be accessible at all times?

Both the number of kits and their location depends on a number of factors, such as the type of work, the number of employees on site at any one time and so on.

 According to the current First Aid in the Workplace Compliance Code, an employer can follow one of two approaches: either the ‘Prescribed approach’ or the ‘Risk assessment approach'. Many go with the first, as it’s less work.

In the prescribed approach, depending on the risk level of the workplace:

  • 1 kit for up to 50 employees, then one additional for each additional 50 for low risk workplaces
  • 1 kit for up to 25 employees, then two, including specific modules for up to 50 employees, then one additional for each additional 50, for higher risk workplaces

Depending on how many workers are on site, and what sort of hazards are in the workplace, you might need more than one kit. 

Location:

The code talks about the need for employees to have ‘access’  and with regard to actual location, all it states is: “Where there are separate work areas, it may be appropriate to locate first aid facilities centrally and provide portable first aid kits in each work area. This may include motor vehicles.”

So, as the HSR you need to look at where the employer has placed the first aid kit and whether it is accessible to all employees. If it’s in the staff bathroom – do all staff/employees have access to it? And at all times? If not, then this is not a suitable location and you should seek to have it moved to a better spot. Also, is one enough? If you think there’s a problem, then ask to meet your employer, or your employer ohs rep and raise the issue, and what you think needs to be done.

Check out the information and you can also download the code from this page: First Aid Kits.

The current First Aid in the Workplace Compliance Code (2008) has been reviewed and a new compliance code is due to be released soon. Keep your eyes on SafetyNet as we will announce when it is released. The code was reviewed, released for public comment, has been updated and a number of changes made.   

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

ANMF: leader in training

The ANMF (Vic Branch) provides professional courses for nurses, midwives and personal care workers.  The union's Education Centre is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO 22609) offering a range of training that includes courses resulting in Nationally Recognised Qualifications and continuing professional development seminars and workshops.

The courses offered are:

  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116)
  • Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety (BSB41419)
  • Provide First Aid (HLTAID003)

The union also offers non-accredited courses seminars and workshops for continuing professional development. Interactive courses and workshops are offered virtually and from their education centre. In addition, it offers more than 30 online modules via our CPD Portal. Members receive annual $400 credit (20 hours) for online ANMF (Vic Branch) CPD Portal modules and case studies.
Find out more on the ANMF website.

Asbestos news

ACV/GARDS June Newsletter

The Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS has this week issued its June newsletter, which is full of interesting news and articles. The organisation is extremely active, running Asbestos and Silica Awareness sessions in TAFEs not only in Gippsland where they are based, but all around the state. 
Read more: download the June and also previous newsletters here.

NSW: more schools with friable asbestos identified

According to new figures revealed in NSW Budget Estimates last week, the number of known schools with friable asbestos has grown in the past 18 months. 

The Education department has now identified 352 schools which have friable asbestos — a figure a Labor upper house MP claims had tripled from 109 schools from 2019.

But despite some of those being rated as “high priority” for removal, School Infrastructure NSW chief executive Anthony Manning said that did not mean they had to be removed but simply monitored.

The definitions of friable asbestos, both by the department and in all of Australia's asbestos regulations is “any material that contains asbestos and is in a powder form or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry”.

The regulations state that friable asbestos must, so far as is reasonably practicable, be removed. 
“More than half of the elements are in things like kilns and heaters … or vinyl floor tiles,” Mr Manning said - clearly not understanding that the asbestos in kilns or floor tiles is unlikely to be friable. Read more: The Daily Telegraph 
More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home

Research

'Walkthrough strategy' effective in tackling workplace violence

A major review of anti-violence programs has found workplace violence prevention strategies must go beyond training workers on how to deal with perpetrators, and target the issue through stakeholder-identified environmental and policy changes. This is exactly the approach promoted by unions – to implement controls at the source, according to the hierarchy of control.

The review focussed on healthcare organisations and nursing and found a range of training and education programs provided only "peripheral improvements", like increased confidence among workers and better conflict management and communication skills. These programs did not actually decrease the level of violence in workplaces.

"Basically, these interventions do not address the behaviour of the person (generally) instigating the violence," said the public health researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada and the US's University of Illinois Chicago.

However, they found ‘multicomponent interventions’ developed in consultation significantly decreased workplace violence against nurses. One of the studies reviewed used a 'worksite walkthrough strategy' to involve staff and administration in assessing potentially effective interventions. The employer subsequently implemented measures across environmental, administrative and behavioural levels, including panic buttons, security locks, safety policies, prevention procedures, and staff training on violence management.

Multicomponent interventions are in line with recommendations from bodies like the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organisation that violence prevention programs should include areas like training, security measures and structured workplace violence prevention and management policies.
Read more: Rozina Somani, et al,  A Systematic Review: Effectiveness of Interventions to De-escalate Workplace Violence against Nurses in Healthcare Settings. [Full article] Canada and US, Safety and Health at Work, online first May 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.shaw.2021.04.004. Source: OHS Alert


Regulator News

Victorian news

Proposed Workplace facilities, amenities and work environment compliance code - Public comment

One of the most important Compliance Codes has been redrafted and updated by a tripartite committee and has been released for public comment.

The proposed Workplace facilities, amenities and work environment compliance code (proposed code) was made available for public review and comment from tomorrow Tuesday 1 June 2021.

There is a dedicated webpage for public comment on the Victorian Government’s consultation platform, Engage, to allow employers, employees, other interested parties and members of the public to view materials online and provide online submissions. Submissions can also be lodged by email or via post. Comments will be accepted until close of business on Monday 28 June 2021. 

Please note: All submissions will be treated as public documents and will appear online unless clearly identified as being confidential.

Reminder: Changes to the Dangerous Goods regulations

From 1 July, the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 will require all duty holders occupying premises with prescribed quantities of dangerous goods to notify WorkSafe at least every two years - previously, notification was required every five years.

If there are significant changes, as prescribed in the Regulations, to a site where dangerous goods are stored and handled, an additional notification will also be required within three business days of the change occurring. Prescribed changes include a significant change in the quantity or type of dangerous goods, changed ownership or control of the dangerous goods, and other prescribed changes that significantly alter the risk profile of the site. 
Read more: WorkSafe media release 

National News 

NSW: Code of Practice for Managing Psychological Hazards at Work

NSW has become the first state in Australia to introduce an industry-wide Code of Practice to formally clarify the legal responsibilities businesses have to address hazards in the workplace that have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm.

NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson and Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor released the Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work which encompasses risks to psychological health covering all NSW workplaces.

“This Code comes after our research found only one in five NSW businesses reported having a basic awareness on how to control work-related psychological health risks and less than ten per cent of all workplaces said they have an established approach to handling these issues,” Mr Anderson said. “Every workplace in NSW has a legal duty of care to their employees to protect them from psychosocial hazards such as bullying and harassment, violence in the workplace and importantly, remote and isolated work." 
Read more: NSW media release. Download the Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work

Comcare: reminder to employers

As Victoria continues its lockdown this week, Comcare wanted to provide a summary of its guidance to help employers and workers stay safe, remain vigilant and maintain COVID-Safe workplaces. Comcare has continued to develop its COVID-19 guidance to support workers and employers, including:

Employers are reminded to notify Comcare of all COVID-19 cases that are work-related, including cases acquired while working overseas, and should follow the public health advice in their jurisdiction.

National Fatality Statistics 

Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics on fatalities since May 13, at which time they had been notified that 34 Australian workers had been killed at work in 2021. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 15 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 4 in Construction
  • 3 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 3 in Arts & recreation services
  • 2 in Manufacturing 
  • 2 in Other Services 
  • 1 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 1 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Public administration & safety
  • 1 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in Mining

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, consequently sometimes the numbers of deaths in each sector change. 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


Prosecutions

Sole trader fined $40k

Adam Raymond Nelson, a sole trader operating a painting and decorating business, was contracted to paint two houses and two sheds at Ulupna Island Station. The second shed had 7 skylights. He engaged a painting sub-contractor to assist with the work, which began on 21 September 2018.

Nelson and the sub-contractor washed down the sheds and started spray painting. While preparing paint on the roof of one the sheds, the sub-contractor stepped backwards and fell through a polycarbonate skylight, landing on a metal cattle fence 5.5 metres below.

He suffered a lacerated spleen, two broken ribs, a punctured lung, several fractured vertebra and a compressed spinal cord.

An investigation found there was no guarding on the edge of the shed's roof or mesh underneath the skylights to prevent a fall from height, and no harnesses were being used. While the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) for the workplace addressed the measures for controlling various risks including falls from height, it was not site-specific and did not identify the skylights as a risk.

The Cobram magistrates' court fined Nelson $40,000 plus costs of $3,574. No information was provided as to whether Nelson was convicted.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for working at such heights without having control measures in place. "It's up to all employers, including sole traders, to ensure they assess each and every safety risk in the workplaces they control," she said. "This employer decided not to use appropriate fall prevention devices despite knowing the clear dangers, and their sub-contractor is now dealing with the catastrophic consequences of that failure." Read more: WorkSafe media release

Cleaning contractor falsifies white cards

Simon Ellis ran a cleaning business ('The Supreme Clean Team'), and had a contract with a building company to clean three residential buildings in a RAAF base in East Sale.

As at the time they had not been handed over and were still considered construction sites, the job required that all employees be holders of a 'white card'. At induction, all needed to provide a copy of a certificate of attainment that they had completed a 'Construction Industry General Safety Induction'. Ellis did this, and was inducted accordingly.

However, for a number of his Ellis provided the company with false certificates of attainment/white cards. He told the employees who didn't have a white cart that it was not actually required, or that, if asked, to say that they had one. These employees accessed the workplace and completed the work on false pretences.

Ellis pleaded guilty and was sentenced fined $7,000, without conviction, plus costs of $5,377. In mitigation, the court took account of a number of factors, including his early guilty plea, lack of ‘priors’, and that he had lost the business.

To check for any Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage. 

UK: Firm fined after painter plunged to his death

A plant hire firm has been fined £200,000 (AUD$364,658) after a Scottish worker plunged to his death from a shipping container. The 70 year old was painting the roof of one of the huge containers at a yard in Blantyre, Lanarkshire. He began helping other employees place chains to the metal containers to move them. But a ladder he was using to clamber on top of the structures was not properly secured and slipped, sending him plunging to the ground below.

An investigation revealed flaws in the safety procedures at the yard when the accident occurred in August 2017. The worker was not wearing a harness and no other barriers were in place when he fell from the ladders. JMS Plant Hire Ltd admitted a criminal health and safety offence at Hamilton Sheriff Court and was fined. Sheriff Thomas Millar said: “I express the condolences of the court to the loved ones of [the worker]. He was a man who worked well beyond retirement age and was personally known to the directors of the company and is also a loss to them. There were regulations in place for working at height but it would appear they were not being fully complied with.” Read more: Daily Record. Source: Risks 998


Events

Tuesday 8 June: Central Safety Group
Topic: Safety risks and understanding human factors 

Human Factors issues constitute a significant source of risk in many industries. Human error contributes to an estimated 60-80 per cent of incidents, while other Human Factors issues also play a part in a large proportion of incidents.

Understanding human error, how it contributes to safety incidents and how it can be managed, will be the subject of the next CSG session by Dr Kate Branford. Kate is the Senior Human Factors Specialist at V/Line, which operates Victoria’s regional public transport network, and has worked in this role for seven years.  She will talk about what Human Factors is, how it relates to human error and how it can be applied in the workplace to help improve health and safety performance.

This is part of a series of zoom presentations by Central Safety Group while in-person meetings are suspended.

When: 12:00-1:00pm, Tuesday, 8 June, 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. Others $10 [Individual membership fee for 2020: $75] *If unsure of your membership status, contact: [email protected]   Book online now

HSR Initial & Refresher training

Most HSRs attend the five day Initial training course - it's extremely important that they do in order to understand their rights and powers as HSRs, and also the duties of employers and others. However, many do not then enrol in the subsequent 'Refresher' courses. All HSRs are entitled, and should, attend 'Refresher Training' each year subsequent to completing the five day initial training. 

Section 67 of the OHS Act 2004 entitles all OHS and Deputy Reps who have completed a 5 day initial training course to attend a one day refresher training course each year to keep their knowledge of OHS law and practice up-to-date.  It's important to take this right up, as the Refresher training provides an opportunity to catch up with new legislation and material, meet with other HSRs, and further hone skills. 

The refresher course covers:

  • Session 1 - covers legislative update on the Victorian OHS 2004 Act, OHS Regulations 2007, WorkSafe compliance codes and guides.
  • Session 2 - covers consultation, communication, problem solving.
  • Sessions 3 & 4 - covers hazard identification and control with either manual handling, work related stress, incident investigation or hazard mapping.

Details:

Course hours: 9am - 5pm
Course length: 1 day
Course fee: Metro: $330.00 incl. GST Regional: $350.00 incl. GST 

Upcoming 2021 dates and locations:

  • 25 June – HSR Refresher Training (Frankston)
  • 15 July – HSR Refresher Training: Work-related gendered violence including sexual harassment (Carlton)
  • 29 July – HSR Refresher Training (Carlton)
  • 30 July – HSR Refresher Training (Ballarat)
  • 18 August – HSR Refresher Training: Education AEU (Abbotsford)
  • 19 August – HSR Refresher Training (Carlton)
  • 21 September  – HSR Refresher Training (Geelong)

Read more about the Work-related gendered violence course here: Knowledge is power in fight against gendered violence.  Go to this link to enrol in a course. Remember to then notify your employer at least 14 days' of the course.


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