SafetyNet 592

Welcome to the September 8/9 edition of SafetyNet.

In some ways this week has been 'same old, same old' - increasing numbers of COVID infections, lockdowns and more. However we have lots of news for you from the world of OHS! 

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

OHS Live Show - Workplace bullying

OHS Reps Live Show is back! Join Bridget from Trades Hall and Dr Carlo Caponecchia next Wednesday the 15th September at 7pm on the We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page for a discussion on workplace bullying and how HSRs can use their powers to address it.

Dr Caponecchia is a senior lecturer and researcher at UNSW with expertise in safety and human factors, particularly psychosocial hazards at work.  He is also the current president of the International Association on Workplace Bullying and Harassment. As always, we'll be taking questions LIVE so mark your calendars and bring your questions.

When: Wednesday September 15, 7pm sharp  
Where: We Are Union: OHS Reps FB page 
Duration: one hour

Coronavirus Update

Victoria: The number of new infections reported on Wednesday September 8 was 221.  The number of active cases: 1,920 (120 are in hospital, 33 in ICU - 15 on ventilators).  Of those in ICU, none had been vaccinated - this underlines why it is crucial to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The efforts to vaccinate as many Victorians as possible has continued to gain pace, with the current rate in Victoria at  38.3 per cent fully vaccinated, and 61.59 per cent partially vaccinated. There have now been 823 COVID-related deaths in Victoria. 

By this week more than 1000 exposure sites had been listed. It is crucial to keep up with these, and comply with the directions (eg to isolate and get tested). Go to this Victorian government page.

In news from around Australia:

  • NSW: the state has continued to have the highest numbers of new community infections since coronavirus first arrived in Australia. Over the past week, the numbers have been over 1000 daily. There were 1,480 new community infections in the state in the 24 hours before Wednesday morning, and nine deaths.   There have been a total of 138 deaths since the beginning of this outbreak. There were 21,216 active COVID-19 cases; and 1,136  cases admitted to hospital, with 194 people in intensive care, 78 of whom require ventilation
  • ACT: the territory is also in lockdown until at least September 17. On Wednesday there were 20 new cases recorded. 

As at September 8, Australia has had a total of 66,317 cases of coronavirus diagnosed (55,111 last week). There have been 1063 COVID-19 related deaths. 

Worldwide: as at September 8, there had been 222,737,866 infections (last week it was 218,540,994). The total number of COVID-related deaths around the world is now 4,599,534. (Note these figures are updated constantly - check the Worldometer website for latest figures and trends). Read more information on Coronavirus   

Vaccinations update

According to the ABC Vaccine tracker 39.02 per cent of Australians are now vaccinated (63.82 per cent have received one dose). This is a great improvement - we are slowly creeping up the OECD ranking and according to The Guardian, we are back to 34/38, so there is still a long way to go.  It came out this week that the Federal government, without consulting with or even informing other state governments, had diverted extra Pfizer doses to NSW. Premier Daniel Andrews has requested that Victoria get the vaccines it should have received, as we clearly have the need.

It is increasingly important that everyone who is eligible be vaccinated as soon as possible. If HSRs are interested in working with their employer to organise vaccinations for a group of workers, the government has set up a system to register interest - click here.

Vaccinations and young people webinar
In Victoria, everyone over the age of 16 is now eligible to get a vaccine. The Victorian Department of Health is hosting a webinar for people aged 16-30 to answer all of your COVID-19 vaccination-related questions, including: what's the difference between the vaccines? How effective are they? How long will they last?

Participants will be able to put questions to the panel, but due to audience size, the questions must be submitted upon registration. If you are unable to attend your nominated session a recording will be shared post event to those who register. 

When: Tuesday, 14 September 2021. 6.00 pm – 7.00 pm AEST
Cost: The event is completely free and you can register online here via Eventbrite.

And remember: check out the VTHC's guide to help you navigate challenging conversations about vaccines and help address some of your workmates' concerns. It's free! Get your copy of Talkin' 'bout My Vaccination  

Ask Renata  

Hello Renata,

I'm the HSR and I am concerned that my employer is not complying with our registered CovidSafe plan. I do not believe I can wait two weeks to consult and then issue a PIN, as I believe this non-compliance poses an immediate risk to the members of my DWG. I need information on how to issue a Ceasework. 

I agree with you that using the PIN process is not adequate for this as your DWG members are being put at risk now. 

For information on how to issue a Ceasework, as well as a proforma you can fill out to assist you, go to this page on the website: Resolution of Issues. If you do issue one, and if the employer does not agree and take immediate action, WorkSafe will come out to check the reason for the Ceasework and the compliance with the CovidSafe plan. If there is an issue, refer the inspector to the advice from the State government that WorkSafe can check compliance (see below). 

The other alternative would be to use the processes the state government has set up. The government has been very clear that workplaces must have plans in place and must abide by them. The following is from the Victorian government webpages:

Report COVID-19 Breaches
To report a suspected breach of public health restrictions, such as isolation, mass gathering or business breaches, contact the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or click here to report online.  

Authorised officers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and WorkSafe may undertake site inspections to ensure employers are operating with a COVIDSafe Plan and are complying with COVIDSafe practices.

Scroll down on this page on CovidSafe plans for more information.  

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

VTHC Migrant Workers Centre Survey

Have you completed the  Migrant Workers Centre research survey? Anyone who has ever stayed on a visa in Australia should complete the survey and let us know how it has impacted your life. 

The MWC is collecting responses from anyone who has ever stayed on a visa in Australia to inform its policy recommendations and most importantly, help drive its campaign for pathways to permanency. Further, the Centre has been able to provide real assistance to some who have completed the survey. All responses are confidential. Take the survey now 

International union news

Qatar: Decade of migrant deaths go unexplained

Amnesty International has said World Cup host Qatar has failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers in the past decade. The majority of migrant worker deaths in Qatar are attributed to “natural causes”, cardiac or respiratory failure: classifications the human rights organisation said are “meaningless” if the underlying cause of death goes unexplained. “In a well-resourced health system, it should be possible to identify the exact cause of death in all but 1 per cent of cases,” Amnesty’s report said.

Qatar’s World Cup organising committee has reported 38 worker deaths on World Cup construction projects, of which 35 have been classified as “non-work-related”. However, Amnesty believes nearly half of these deaths have not been properly investigated or explained. “When relatively young and healthy men die suddenly after working long hours in extreme heat, it raises serious questions about the safety of working conditions in Qatar,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice. “In failing to investigate the underlying causes of migrant workers’ deaths, the Qatari authorities are ignoring warning signs which could, if addressed, save lives. This is a violation of the right to life.”

The findings come as Qatar and the sport’s global governing body Fifa face growing pressure from footballers and national football associations to protect workers’ rights with just over a year to go until the World Cup begins. In February the Guardian revealed that more than 6,500 migrant workers from South Asia had died in Qatar in the past decade. Read more: Amnesty International news release and report, In the prime of their lives [pdf], August 2021. The Guardian.  Source: Risks 1012


Research

Burnout risks extend beyond long working hours

An experimental screening tool to identify workers suffering from burnout, based on the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) revised definition of the syndrome, has identified a range of risk factors aside from excessive work hours.

The WHO's 2019 definition of burnout is a "syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed", and "characterised by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy". 

The tool was developed by occupational and environmental medicine researchers from Inha University Hospital and other South Korean institutions, and was applied to nearly 450 office, service and field workers in South Korea. Predictably it found that burnout was higher among those who worked more than 60 hours per week, affecting 20 per cent of these employees.

It also found young workers were far more likely than their older counterparts to have or be at risk of burnout. It affected 16.8 per cent of participating workers in their 30s, and 10.3 per cent of those in their 20s, compared to just 3.4 per cent of those in their 50s, and 4.4 per cent of workers aged between 40 and 49.

The authors said this could be explained by young workers’ limited work proficiency and experience, and greater exposure to the competition created by promotion and performance evaluations, factors much less likely to apply to workers in their 50s, with job tenures exceeding 10 years.

Burnout is increasingly recognised worldwide as an occupational disease, and attracts workers' compensation in a number of countries, particularly across Europe. In 2019, the WHO warned that inadequate workplace health and safety policies and poor communication and management practices can create or worsen burnout, stress, depression and anxiety disorders. Other exacerbating factors include inflexible working hours, limited participation in decision-making, low control over work, low levels of support, unclear tasks or organisational objectives, bullying, and harassment, it said. 
Read more: Hyung-DooKim, et al, Development of Korean version burnout syndrome scale (KBOSS) using WHO's definition of burnout syndrome.  Safety and Health at Work, online August 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.shaw.2021.08.001. Source: OHS Alert


Regulator News

Victorian news

WorkSafe Victoria events

The state's OHS regulator has scheduled a number of events in late October. Click on the webinar title for more details and to register for the event you are interested in. 

  • Learn more about the infringement notice scheme and what this means for you.
    A webinar with Natalie Wellard (Legislative Services and Reform Manager, WorkSafe).
    When: Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 1.30pm to 2.15pm

  • Work-related violence in community care.
    A webinar with Dr Robyn Miller (Mackillop), Michael Perusco (Berry Street), Natassia Williams (GenU) and Dr Anneke Jurgens (Melba). Occupational violence and aggression is an ongoing concern in the healthcare and social assistance industry, and often it is seen to be ‘part of the job’. This session will look at the impact of occupational violence and aggression in workplaces such as hospitals, residential care and similar, the health and safety obligations of employers and what they can do to support their workers.
    When: Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 12.00pm to 12.45pm

  • Why WorkSafe exists: Dan and Joanne's stories
    A webinar with Health and Safety Month 2021 ambassadors Joanne Woodward and Dan Casey. Both Joanne and Dan, who received return to work achievement awards in the past, will share their stories of recovery and return to work following work-related injuries.
    When: Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 9.00am to 9.45am

  • Why WorkSafe exists: Case studies of prosecutions.
    A webinar with Mark Glenister - Fatalities/COVID Investigations Manager, WorkSafe Victoria. What happens when employers fail to meet their occupational health and safety obligations? Find out, as WorkSafe investigators share case studies of successful prosecutions arising from serious incidents.
    When:
    Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 at 10.30am to 11.15am

  • Workplace mental health 101: A business case study
    A webinar with Madelaine Barry (WorkSafe), Linda Hunt (Working Well in Wellington), Dr Alison Kennedy (NCFH) and Adrian Panozzo (CCF Victoria).
    When: Thursday 21 Oct 2021 at 11.30am to 12.30pm

National news

Updated guidance on Traffic Management

Safe Work Australia has updated its General Guide on Traffic Management. The document can be downloaded in either word or pdf format from this page.

National Fatality Statistics  

Safe Work Australia updated its statistics on fatalities September 2, at which time it had been notified that 81 Australian workers had been killed at work this year - this is eight more in the time since August 19. Of these: four were in Transport, postal & warehousing, and two each in Agriculture, forestry & fishing, and Public administration & safety. The total numbers of fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 32 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 11 in Construction
  • 9 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 8 in Manufacturing 
  • 5 in Arts & recreation services
  • 4 in Public administration & safety
  • 3 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 2 in Mining
  • 2 in Other Services 
  • 1 in Wholesale trade
  • 1 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in Education & training
  • 1 in Retail trade 
  • 1 in Administrative & support services

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

Victorian news

Recently prosecuted company charged in relation to death

Melbourne Truss Pty Ltd has been charged with breaching section 26 of the OHS Act, in relation to a March 2020 fatality. A 35-year-old worker was fatally struck by a falling steel beam at a residential building site in Point Cook.

WorkSafe Victoria has alleged the company failed to provide a safe working environment during its delivery of trusses to the site. WorkSafe maintains Melbourne Truss could have reduced the health and safety risks by ensuring: truss bundles were unloaded in a safe unloading zone; workers used appropriate personal protective equipment; crane operators worked from a safe location; and truss bundles were attached to a properly balanced sling. The matter is listed for a filing hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 13 September.

In February this year, this company was convicted and fined $40,000 for a March 2018 safety breach (see SafetyNet 564). The incident involved an employee riding a crane's chains from the first floor of a building to the tray of a truck. 
Source: WorkSafe media release

There were a number of prosecutions not reported on last week due to time constraints

  1. Cee Jay's Quality Meats: The company operates a stall at Victoria Market. The prosecution was as result of an unguarded mincer, which WorkSafe inspectors had observed on multiple visits and issued several notices on over a period from 1 July 2019 to 12 March 2020. The offender was found guilty (ex-parte) and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $18,000 and to pay costs of $4,326.

  2. Cyco Systems Corporation Pty Ltd: Engine parts manufacturer let off with paying into Court Fund after an incident led to the degloving of part of a worker's hand in an inadequately guarded piece of plant. The company pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to an adjourned undertaking for a period of 12 months, and to pay $12,000 to the Court Fund with costs of $1,891.

  3. Bayside Demolition: a demolition contractor and licenced Class B asbestos removalist. WorkSafe inspectors attending one of their worksites identified a range of issues including an unsuitable SWMS for working at height; employees not being required to wear appropriate PPE for asbestos removal work; lack of barricading and appropriate signage; unlicensed workers removing asbestos; and more.  The company pleaded guilty to two charges under s.21(1) of the OHS Act and was convicted and fined $25,000 plus costs of $3,682.

  4. David Franklin Builders: a company providing carpentry works. An inspector noted an apprentice working at a height of more than two metres, with no fall protection. In addition, the company failed to produce a SWMS at the time of the visit, though produced one at a later date. The company pleaded guilty and was with conviction fined $10,000 plus costs of $1,662.

  5. BDT Pty Ltd - Rockstar Sealing: a company which cleans and seals surfaces, including marble and stone, and also decants and mixes dangerous goods to make sealing and cleaning products for sale, was fined $12,000 plus costs of $2,660. The charges related to an explosion due to inadequate labelling and storage of the hazardous substances and dangerous goods, which led to an employee mixing two chemicals. 

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


International news

USA: Whistleblower warning on chemical assessments

Whistleblowers say the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been falsifying dangerous new chemicals’ risk assessments in an effort to make the compounds appear safe and quickly approve them for commercial use.

Over the past five years, the EPA has not rejected any new chemicals submitted by industry despite agency scientists flagging dozens of compounds for high toxicity. Four EPA whistleblowers and industry watchdogs say a revolving door between the agency and chemical companies is to blame, and that the program’s management has been “captured by industry”.

Four EPA whistleblowers and industry watchdogs say a revolving door between the agency and chemical companies is to blame, and that the programme’s management has been “captured by industry”. The non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is representing the four scientists. The charges also reveal how management has systematically undermined scientists while working to quickly rubber-stamp dangerous chemicals as safe for use by industry and in consumer products. The alterations to risk assessments mostly involved the deletion of health hazards without the authors’ knowledge after assessments were submitted.
Read more: PEER news release and complaint [pdf]. The Guardian. Source: Risks 1012


Events

Tuesday 14 September: Central Safety Group
Topic: New research on manual handling injuries

A reminder of the CSG online event next Tuesday, with Professor David Caple presenting on projects related to manual handling injury prevention in hospitals which he has been involved in.

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, 14 September, 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 by COB Monday 13 September

HSR Initial & Refresher training

With the lockdown still underway in Victoria, the VTHC training courses are still being delivered online. If you've enrolled in a course and are not sure what's happening, then please contact Natalie Wood at [email protected] at the VTHC Training Unit.

Remember: if you haven't got around to doing your annual refresher, then you should enrol now: it's a very important 'update' on all the new stuff going on. Most HSRs do their initial training, but many do not then enrol in the subsequent 'Refresher' courses. All HSRs are entitled to, 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 (some of these may be online):

  • 21 September  – HSR Refresher Training (Geelong)
  • 29 September - HSR Refresher Training (Carlton)
  • 26 October - HSR Refresher Training (Carlton)

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 five-day initial or a refresher course. Remember to then notify your employer at least 14 days before the course. 


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