SafetyNet 600

Welcome to the November 10 edition of SafetyNet. 

It is with great sadness that we report that another Victorian worker was killed this week. 

The VTHC's annual HSR Conference was a great success, despite it being held, once again, online. 

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

Another Victorian worker killed 

In a terrible incident this week one worker has been killed and another has suffered multiple injuries. At about 7.15am on Tuesday morning a red Holden Commodore hit two traffic control workers setting up a roadworks site in Carrum Downs. 

Emergency services attended the crash at the corner of Hall Road and Lats Avenue where the 44-year-old worker from Bayswater died at the scene. According to police, the worker was wedged between a traffic management ute and the Commodore with force, and investigators will examine whether speed was a factor in the crash.

The second worker injured in the collision, a 38-year-old Traralgon man, was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with multiple injuries. He remained in a stable condition as of Tuesday night.

In what police are calling "a callous, cold act. The act of a coward", the driver of the Commodore got out of his car, looked at the two workers he had just hit, and then fled the scene. 

The driver was chased by a witness who called out to him to stop and took photos. However the man got away, and was picked up by another man in a black Hyundai. Police are looking for both men. WorkSafe Victoria is also investigating the incident and the worker's death. Read more: ‘Callous, cold act’: Driver, accomplice on the run after fatal hit-run The Ag

This fatality brings the number of workplace deaths this year to 50 for 2021. The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and work colleagues of the man killed. Every workplace death is preventable: no-one should die at work. 

VTHC Health and Safety Reps' Conference Recording and Resources

If you missed the annual VTHC HSR conference you can check out the recordings of the speakers, including WorkSafe's CEO Colin Radford, VTHC Secretary Luke Hilakari, and the Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt. Attendees were encouraged to send questions in - and we have published two of these below.

A group of United Workers Union HSRs from Crown Casino spoke about how they took action to get indoor smoking banned at Crown.

Importantly, keynote speaker Professor Lin Fritschi, John Curtin Distinguished Professor and Epidemiologist from Curtin University. Prof. Fritschi addressed HSRs and spoke about how to put the 'H' back in HSR and how HSRs can identify and fix health issues in their workplace. 

This was then followed by the panel of OHS experts from different industries - HSRs were invited to ask questions.

In the afternoon, attendees participated in breakout groups to discuss how the ideas explored in the morning could be implemented in their workplace.

Check out the recording, and download the materials on this page

Ask Renata  

This week, instead of publishing a question that came in to our unit, we are publishing two of the questions HSRs asked WorkSafe's CEO, Colin Radford, whose address included a discussion of the new powers HSRs now have. Mr Radford was asked a couple of questions about them at conference, and committed to responding. Here are two of those questions along with the answers from WorkSafe.

1: Does an HSR need permission from employer to take photographs?

WorkSafe is currently updating the Employee Representation Handbook with guidance on the new powers given to HSRs.

Generally speaking, if an HSR is taking a photo for the purposes of discharging or performing their role as an HSR, they don’t need to obtain permission. This is because the power is vested in the HSR directly by the OHS Act.

However there are some restrictions. HSRs cannot take photos when participating in an interview between an employee member they represent and an inspector or the employer.

Further, in circumstances where taking photographs of a workplace is restricted or prohibited because of the operation of some other legislation, that other legislation is likely to prevail. This includes high security workplaces such as courts, prisons, airports and the like. 

2: What happens if a photograph is taken using an employer-issued phone?

The use of phones for work purposes will often be governed by the Employer’s industrial relations policies.

However there is some comfort that could be given to HSRs around issues that might stem from the use of employer devices when taking photographs, including the following:

  1. Section 69(1)(a) of the OHS Act requires an employer to allow an HSR to have access to information that the employer has relating to actual or potential hazards at the workplace. Photographs taken on a work device are likely to be captured by this provision.
  2. Section 69(1)(e) requires an employer to provide facilities and assistance to HSRs that are necessary to enable  them to exercise their powers. In our view this would include this new power to take photographs. 
  3. All else failing, section 100 of the OHS Act allows a WorkSafe inspector to call upon documents or information held by the employer, which would capture any photographs taken on a work device.

Do you have any other questions about the new powers? Let us know - via our Ask Renata facility on the website.  

Nov 17: UV Safety Training Seminar

We Are Union: OHS Reps are teaming up with SunSmart to deliver a UV Safety Training Webinar. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a serious health and safety hazard – especially for people who work outdoors. UV is out there all day, every day. Australia has some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world and daily UV exposure adds up to increase your risk of cancer.

The webinar will go over what is UV radiation, how to protect yourself from it and work safely outdoors, early detection of skin cancer, and key information for employers and HSRs. Read more on UV Radiation.
When: 1 - 2pm, November 17
Where: Online RSVP for the webinar here  
Note: This webinar will not be recorded for later viewing so don't miss out on this event! 

Asbestos news

National Asbestos Awareness Week  

National Asbestos Awareness Week 2021 is November 22–28 with the theme “Think Twice About Asbestos.”

November 25: VTHC Asbestos Awareness Week Live Show

How much of a problem is asbestos in Victoria? Probably bigger than you think! Join experts Ms Simone Stevenson and Mr Peter Clark for our Live Show at 7pm on Thursday November 25. Simone is the CEO of the Victorian Asbestos Eradication Agency (VAEA) and Peter is an OHS Organiser with the CFMEU who specialises in asbestos-related issues in the construction industry. Tune in on our Facebook page We Are Union OHS at 7 o'clock for an hour of interesting discussion - and get your questions ready.  

For information and materials developed by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency for the week, check out and download the campaign pack on its website. Resources include:

Short renovation video
Was the building you work in built before the late 1980s? If so, do you know whether there's any asbestos somewhere? How much do you know about asbestos? Check out a short video "Breath-taking renovations" gives potential DIYers great advice on potential dangers in the home. It's amusing but gets across a very important message: Do you want a home that's worth dying for? Check it out now - in time for Asbestos Awareness Week. 

Asbestos mega-tip planned 
Two councils in Melbourne's west are rallying against plans by waste company Cleanaway to start processing asbestos at its 229 hectare Ravenhall tip.  According to the company, its planned expansion would improve an increasing problem in the city’s outer suburbs: the illegal dumping of waste, including asbestos. 

The plans have not been made public yet, but the councils have said that this is another example of the western suburbs being used as a dumping ground. 

Asbestos can be legally disposed on at 27 landfills in Victoria, including five in metropolitan areas and 22 in the regions. However, a Victorian government report earlier this year found there needed to be more asbestos-disposal facilities.

With a significant rise in the landfill levy, disposal companies, contractors and builders are increasingly avoiding tips and illegally dumping soil, forcing councils on Melbourne’s fringe to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in clean-up fees. Read more: Councils rally against asbestos plans for Melbourne's mega-tip, The Age

Bangladesh: Workers now getting some protection in ship breaking yards  
Finally Bangladeshi workers are being issued with PPE (personal protective equipment) as they break up ships weighting thousands of tonnes. These ships contain many toxic substances - including huge amounts of asbestos. Where once they just wore a cap or helmet, new laws mean they now wear masks, gloves, boots and a suit.

However, PHP Ship Breaking and Recycling Industries in the coastal city of Chattogram, is the country's only yard - of a total of about 80 - that complies with international health, safety and environmental rules for the risky occupation. Read more: Labour rights: Bangladesh's hazardous shipyards launch race for cleaner, safer future, Sight

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

Coronavirus Update

Victoria: Over the past two weeks numbers of new infections have stabilised, are and slowly trending downwards.  The number of active cases in Victoria on Wednesday November 10 is 15,031 (almost 1000 fewer than two weeks ago), with 1003 new cases reported. There have now been 1,206 COVID-related deaths in Victoria. Of the active cases, 471 are in hospital, 84 are in ICU, and 46 of these on ventilators. These numbers, too, are coming down. Check the Victorian situation here

The state is opening further, with over 80 per cent of the population now vaccinated. However, there are still measures in place, such as the requirement to wear masks when indoors, checking in with QR codes, and density limits. If you are not yet vaccinated - please arrange this as soon as possible. 

As at November 10, Australia has had a total of 182,870 cases of coronavirus diagnosed (162,026 on October 27). There have been 1,841 COVID-19 related deaths. 

Worldwide: as at November 10, there had been 251,497,635 infections (245,256,473 October 27). Since the last edition on SafetyNet, the numbers of deaths have now exceeded 5 million, with the total number now being 5,078,254 COVID-related deaths. (Note these figures are updated constantly - check the Worldometer website for latest figures and trends). Read more information on Coronavirus   

Vaccinations update

By November 10, 84.1 per cent of Victorians over the age of 16 had been fully vaccinated, and 91.9 per cent partially vaccinated. Australia wide, the figures are 81.1 per cent and 89.5 per cent respectively. While Australia has done well overall with vaccinations, what is becoming clear is that there are groups of people where the rates are alarmingly low - First Australians and some rural communities in particular. Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age

COVIDSafe training sessions coming up

Have you missed out on the VTHC's COVIDSafe training sessions? 

Due to high demand, additional COVIDSafe training courses have been added. The sessions will run on the dates and times below and are capped at 40 participants per course due to the interactive nature of the workshops. 

These sessions are geared towards Victorian HSRs and are highly popular so we encourage you to RSVP as quickly as you can to ensure that you have a space. Register by clicking on the date you'd like to attend. 

Do you have a specific question about Covid-Safety in your workplace? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your union, or submit an inquiry through the Covid-Safe Workplaces website.

Union win for Farm workers - but many still being exploited

Last week Australia's unions had a big victory for farm workers when the Fair Work Commission ruled that workers picking fruit on a piece rate must be guaranteed a minimum wage under the Horticulture Award. A 'piece rate' is when a worker is paid according to the amount of produce they harvest, so the more fruit or vegetables harvested the more a worker is paid.

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) lodged its claim with the commission in December and argued that every worker should be guaranteed a minimum casual rate, currently $25.41 per hour. 

In its finding, the Fair Work Commission's full bench expressed the view that "the existing pieceworker provisions in the Horticulture Award are not fit for purpose. They do not provide a fair and relevant minimum safety net as required by the Act."

AWU national secretary Dan Walton described the ruling as one of the most significant industrial decisions of modern times. "I believe this decision ranks among the great victories of our union's 135-year history," Mr Walton said. "Fruit pickers in Australia have been routinely and systemically exploited and underpaid.

"Too many farmers have been able to manipulate the piece rate system to establish pay and conditions far beneath Australian standards. Now it will be easy for workers — even if they don't have good English language skills or Australian connections — to understand if they're being ripped off."

The union has a piece rates calculator on its website for use by agricultural workers to assist in calculating how much they should be being paid. 

However, more news has continued to come out this week about the shocking conditions some of these workers are working and living under. Many have come in from the Pacific Islands under special Seasonal Worker visas: more that 80 per cent of workers in Australia’s horticultural industry are migrants on temporary work visas (or they are totally undocumented). The Seasonal Worker Programme is supposed to be one of the better programs as it is more regulated than the Working Holiday Maker scheme.

With changes being proposed to allow more workers to come into the country, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has raised concerns about allegations of mass worker abuse and exploitation in the Pacific Labour Scheme.  

There is evidence that even though these workers are working 40-50 hours a week in very hot and harsh conditions in many instances, they are taking home less than AUD $300 a week - partly due to employers charging the workers for accommodation (up to $200 per week for a bed in a dormitory), transport to their actual place of work, and water. 

On the ABC's Breakfast program on Wednesday morning, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, when questioned about this, said the comments by the union movement were "a disgraceful generalisation and demonisation" of farmers, given the wrongdoing is confined to a small cohort of labour hire firms.

He also said that the problem was a 'cultural one' in that these workers were not reporting these problems - despite a current government campaign urging visa holders not to leave their designated employer and seek work elsewhere and warning of consequences including visa cancellation; not being allowed to work in Australia again (“this may include your family and community members”), and bringing “shame to your family’s reputation”.
Read more: Fair Work rules every farm worker on every farm entitled to take home a minimum rate of pay, ABC news online; ACTU media release; ABC Breakfast (including audio of interview); 
Australia needs better working conditions, not shaming, for Pacific Islander farm workersThe Conversation

International union news

UK: Night workers face low pay and high risks

Britain's peak union council, the TUC, is calling for better pay and conditions for the 3.2 million workers who regularly work nights. An analysis by the union body found many working overnight are on low pay and on insecure contracts, with 1-in-3 (33 per cent) night workers earning less than £10 (AUD$18.39) an hour. It revealed key workers are twice as likely (16 per cent) to do night shifts than other workers (8 per cent).

The TUC added that employers should consider health hazards of night working and take responsibility for workers safely travelling to and from the workplace. It said as well as being detrimental to family life, the health risks of regular night work include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.

The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has said night work is also a ‘probable’ cause of breast cancer in women. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) study in 2012 concluded each year there are 555 deaths and 1,969 new cases of breast cancer in Great Britain attributable to shift work. The TUC adds that workers – particularly women - are at greater risk of harassment and attacks in their journey to and from work when it’s late at night.

The TUC says employers should consider the health hazards of night working in risk assessments, and take responsibility for workers’ safety travelling to and from the workplace. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working through the night is tough – with night workers at higher risk of health problems and disruption to their daily lives.” She added: “The government must ensure that all night workers are treated with dignity at work. That means levelling up working conditions and pay and ensuring people are given proper notice of their shifts. And it means an immediate increase in the minimum wage to £10 an hour - which would benefit over two million key workers, and fair pay agreements across sectors which can agree fair rewards for those who work at night.” Read more: TUC news release. Wales TUC news release. Source: Risks 1020

Global: End ‘impunity’ for journalist deaths

More than 35 journalists around the world have been killed this year in the course of their work, some hit by bomb blasts, others personally sought out and killed in cold blood, figures from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have revealed.

Commenting on 2 November - the United Nations International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists – UK journalists’ union NUJ joined the IFJ and its affiliates worldwide to demand that governments stop turning a blind eye to attacks on media workers and bring those who threaten journalists to justice. The unions say “death threats, rape threats, doxxing, racist abuse, impersonation have led journalists to silence themselves, and many have been psychologically damaged.”  Across the globe journalists are regularly attacked while reporting in the field, their equipment is destroyed, their families are threatened. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said world leaders must call out the “evil regimes and speaking out for press freedom. The NUJ, IFJ and journalists’ trade unions will never cease from shining a light on these attacks on their members.” Read more: NUJ news release. IFJ news release and End impunity campaign. Source: Risks 1020


Workplace health promotion benefits ‘marginal’

Workplace interventions to address unhealthy worker ‘behaviours’ such as physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, high alcohol intake and smoking show only ‘marginal gains’ and are ‘disappointing’, workplace health researchers have concluded.

The editorial in the Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health is critical of the wide adoption of health promotion programmes focusing only on lifestyle and not on work-related factors, despite significant ‘knowledge gaps’ on their effectiveness. The authors note: “Because of the persistent socioeconomic health inequalities and the low number of scientific studies conducted among workers with a lower socioeconomic position... interventions should use approaches that go beyond a single behavioural component, for example a systems approach that considers underlying issues that coincide among workers with a low socioeconomic position (eg. unhealthy behaviours, unfavourable working conditions, health problems, and underlying social and financial issues)."

The editorial, authored by researchers from public health institutes in the Netherlands, concludes “workplace health promotion programmes thus far show marginal gains, as the effectiveness and implementation of traditional universal preventative workplace health promotion interventions are still disappointing.”

This has been a long-held union position: many employers who seek to introduce 'health promotion' programmes aimed at employees' individual behaviours often have not identified and controlled all the work-related hazards. They have a legal duty to do this first - and only then, once all workplace hazards and risks have been eliminated/minimised should they consider programmes aimed at individual worker behaviour. 
Read more: Robroek SJW, Coenen P, Oude Hengel KM. Decades of workplace health promotion research: marginal gains or a bright future ahead, Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, volume 47, number 8, pages 561-564, 2021. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3995. Source: Risks 1020

Regulator News

Victorian news

New Silica regulations approved

The Victorian silica regulations have now been approved, and will come into effect Monday 15 November. We will be updating the website in the next few weeks to reflect the new regulations. 

New Compliance Code - First Aid in the Workplace

The Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt, has approved the making of the First aid in the workplace compliance code. The new code came into effect on Thursday 4 November 2021. It replaced the 2008 First aid in the workplace compliance code.

The new codes has a lot of new and amended information, including recommendations that employers consider adding asthma-relieving inhalers and epinephrine auto-injectors (Epipens) to first aid kits and to also consider training for first aid officers to assist people experiencing a mental health crisis. 

It provides updated information on providing adequate first aid room facilities, assessing first aid needs and ensuring training remains up-to-date. The current code continues to offer two options for compliance – the prescribed approach and the risk assessment approach. 

The prescribed approach gives prescriptive guidance on complying with the OHS Act and is suited to small to medium-sized workplaces. The risk assessment approach guides employers through the process of determining their first aid responsibilities based on an assessment of their workplace hazards and risks.

While the code is not mandatory, employers complying with it are considered to have complied with their duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. 

The information on our FAQ pages will be updated over the next little while. In the meantime, download the new code from this page of the WorkSafe website. 

Communicating OHS across languages compliance code: public comment open

The draft compliance code Communicating OHS across languages is now available for public review and comment from until close of business Monday 6 December 2021.  The draft was developed by a reference group comprising of union and employer representatives and WorkSafe staff. 

A dedicated webpage has been created to facilitate public comment on each of the proposed code via the Victorian Government’s consultation platform, Engage Victoria. This enables employers, employees, other interested parties and members of the public to view the proposed code materials online and provide online submissions. Check the draft code and provide comment here: Communicating occupational health and safety across languages compliance code

Regulator warns of falling trees

With the holiday season approaching, WorkSafe is reminding all campsite and holiday park operators to undertake a tree assessment to control the risk of falling trees and branches.

Earlier this year a camper was killed at a holiday park. He had set up camp in his allocated camping spot, his tent under a tree canopy. As he was sleeping, a large branch fell on his tent, crushing him.

Although large trees with high potential to fall or drop heavy branches in populated areas pose the highest level of risk, all trees have some level of risk.

The recent storms in Victoria caused a lot of damage to trees and properties. Following storms, severe weather and wind events employers should increase inspections of treed areas in workplaces and campsites and, if necessary, should incorporate periodic inspections by a qualified arborist.

Find out recommended ways to control the risks here

Webinars on horticultural safety

Harvest is one of the busiest times for farmers, and with the challenges of a labour shortage, market fluctuations and COVID-19, Victoria's regulator says it can be difficult to manage health and safety requirements.

WorkSafe and Agriculture Victoria, the Labour Hire Authority, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) are holding a series of webinars to assist growers in protecting themselves and their workers against OHS risks.

These will provide an opportunity for horticulture producers around Victoria to learn more about keeping farms safe, seasonal workforce support, COVID-19 employer obligations (including vaccination requirements), and the treatment of labour hire workers.

Attendees will also learn about WorkSafe's OHS Essentials program, which links small to medium businesses with independent consultants who offer free, confidential and tailored advice on how to improve health and safety in their workplace.

The virtual sessions will run from 4-5pm on 10 November 2021, 8 December 2021 and 19 January 2022. Farmers are welcome to attend all three sessions to keep up with the latest information. Register for the webinars hereRead more: WorkSafe media release 

National news 

National Fatality Statistics 2021  

Safe Work Australia last updated its statistics on fatalities on October 28, at which time it had been notified that 105 Australian workers had been killed at work this year - is this three more than at the time of its previous update on October 14. Fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 36 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 18 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 12 in Construction
  • 11 in Manufacturing
  • 6 in Mining
  • 5 in Arts & recreation services
  • 5 in Public administration & safety
  • 4 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 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
  • 1 in Healthcare & social assistance

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 database 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 Preliminary worker deaths webpage


Youth justice workers seriously injured: $100k fine 

The Department of Justice and Community Safety has been fined a total of $100,000 (plus $16,207 costs) following two separate assaults on youth justice workers by children in detention in 2018.

A sentence hearing was held in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court last week after the department had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching s21(1) of the OHS Act. 

The department was convicted and fined $80,000 in relation to an incident at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct in January 2018. In this incident a youth justice worker needed surgery for serious head and shoulder injuries and could not return to work for four months after she was struck with a guitar by a 16 or 17 year old youth in a courtyard of the centre's Deakin Unit. The youth had been known to be violent and use guitars as weapons. 

The department was separately convicted and fined $20,000 in relation to an incident at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre in December 2018, where a youth justice worker sustained serious facial burns and later developed post-traumatic stress disorder after having hot water thrown in his face and being punched and kicked by a child in a corridor of the centre's Park View Unit.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said both incidents could have been prevented. "It's not good enough for an employer to have workplace policies and procedures in place if their employees are not made aware of them or not properly instructed on how they should be applied," Dr Beer said.

Ms Karen Batt, Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said: "The fine is highly insufficient considering the trauma pain and suffering for the staff involved and the numerous previous warnings about safety failings."

She added, "Joining both safety breaches into a single prosecution and plea bargaining to have the joined cases remain in the lower court jurisdiction smells. The Department would have spent more on their legal fees defending their safety inadequacies than the sanction imposed."

Ms Batt said, "WorkSafe should be directly accountable to the Parliament and not to the Department it was ultimately prosecuting. Serious machinery of government change is necessary if the health and safety of public service workers is to be treated fairly and appear at least arm's length from the employers."
Read more: WorkSafe media release; Department fined $100,000 for failing to protect youth justice guards from attacks, The Age.

Charges laid over high pressure concrete blast

WorkSafe has charged two companies after workers and a member of the public were injured when they were sprayed with concrete at a Southbank construction site.

Form 700 Pty Ltd has been charged with two breaches under section 21(1) of the OHS Act for failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

It is alleged the company breached regulation 327(1) of the OHS Regulations by failing to prepare and use a Safe Work Method Statement for high risk construction work, and section 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act by failing to provide information and instruction to its employees to enable them to perform work safely.

WorkSafe has also charged Rapidcrete Pty Ltd with a single breach of section 23(1) of the OHS Act for failing to ensure that persons other than its employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety. 

The charges relate to an incident in October 2019 where an unsecured discharge pipe blew out of an agitator truck and pressurised concrete was sprayed across the work site, striking three workers and a passenger in a passing vehicle.

Form 700 Pty Ltd had been engaged to provide formwork and concrete at the site while Rapidcrete Pty Ltd was engaged to pump concrete.

The matters are listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 10 November 2021.

International news

US: Department of Labor fights back to protect workers

As more than 1100 Americans continue to die each day from COVID-19, the Department of Labor has pushed back against a temporary injunction blocking the recently issued OSHA Vax-or-Test mandate. DOL attorneys told the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judges that the stay "would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day."

Republican attorneys general in at least 26 states - most of which have Republican Governors - have challenged the OSHA emergency standard in five different U.S. appeals courts. The first requirements of the standard involving development of a policy and masking for non-vaccinated workers, come into effect on December 5. The vaccinate-or-test requirement comes into effect January 4.

Data shows a significantly higher COVID-related death rate in counties that voted for Trump in the 2020 election than those that voted for Biden. This is mainly due to the lower level of vaccinations among Republicans.

The White House also weighed in. Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told employers “Do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe. The administration clearly has the authority to protect workers, and actions announced by the President are designed to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19.” 
Read more: Confined Space  

Global: IOSH urges businesses to look after their workers 

The safety professionals’ organisation IOSH has urged the world’s businesses to ‘harness the wave of social change’ by putting the needs and welfare of people first. IOSH said it was making its call “as the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of social justice movements and emerging global crises mean there is now more focus than ever on how businesses treat their workers, with investors and consumers paying close attention to how they make profit.”

The safety organisation’s new global campaign on social sustainability, Catch the Wave, says business leaders at every level of the supply chain need to act now - not just to improve the social sustainability and long-term prosperity of their own businesses, but to help build stronger, more sustainable communities around the globe.

“Those with a stake in business are no longer interested solely in how it makes profit,” said Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher, IOSH chief executive. “They want to understand how its profit-making affects people and the environment. They want to know how sustainable it is.” She added: “Before they invest in a business, investors want assurance that it has a long-term plan for managing the skills, knowledge and experience that are integral to a sustainable business model. This can’t be captured in financial metrics alone.” IOSH said it launched Catch the Wave because it sees the occupational safety and health profession it represents as being irrevocably linked to social sustainability. It says “by viewing everything through a health and safety lens, a business can not only manage the risks to its workforce but also secure its long-term prosperity.” Read more: IOSH news release and Catch the wave campaign. Source: Risks 1020


November 17: Dangerous Goods Advisory Group

The final DGAG bimonthly meeting for 2021 will be held on Wednesday November 17. 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. 

This meeting will be a combined Physical Meeting and Zoom Meeting at 5.50 pm to initially meet up and then Physically and Remotely run between 6.10pm and 8.10pm.


  • On Zoom (Zoom attendees please join from 5.50pm).  To join the Zoom Meeting click here. Meeting ID: 851 0071 9278 Passcode: 606492
  • Face to face: the Middle Park Community Centre (Upstairs) Meeting Room in Middle Park 254-256 Richardson St, Middle Park VIC 3206. (with a clean up to 8.40pm, followed possibly by a meal at the Thai Cafe in the nearby (200m) shopping centre)

The meeting will have a similar agenda to past meetings

The topics to be discussed will be:

  1. Hazardous Chemicals / Dangerous Goods Incidents 

  2. The ADG Transport Code & Changes in the UN Model Regs, IMDG Code, IATA Regs, NZ Regs etc

  3. Dangerous Goods (Storage & Handling), GHS Haz. Chemicals, & Environmental Risk Management of Industrial Chemicals

  4. Update on Classification and Training for Dangerous Goods

  5. Information sharing 

  6. Other meetings and events

  7. Discussion regarding a possible end of year event - possibly in a public garden

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.  

November 18: VTHC Annual Young Workers Conference

Young workers are facing an uncertain future.  It's harder than ever for young people to access affordable housing, healthcare and to find secure work.

We're up against a Liberal government hellbent on smashing workers, selling out to their big business mates, and refusing to take the urgent climate action we need. 

To win a fairer, safer future for all young workers we need to make our voices heard. 

That’s why this year, the Young Workers Centre conference is all about building youth power - and we can’t do it without you! 

As part of the conference the Young Workers Centre holding a practical how-to on the skills you need to organise other young people in your workplace, neighbourhood or electorate.  You'll hear from young workers who are building worker power and community power and learn the skills needed to start organising yourself. Sounds good?  RSVP and we'll see you there!

When: Thursday 18th November, 6:00 - 8:00pm 
Where: Zoom, RSVP now to get the link!

VTHC Training for HSRs and Deputy HSRs

With Metropolitan Melbourne still in lockdown, the VTHC training courses continue to be delivered online for the time being (the only exception may be regional courses). 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. 

Five day Initial Training Courses

It's extremely important for HSRs to complete the five day initial course - this ensures they have the best training to be able to understand their rights under the Act and represent the members of their DWGs. Here are the dates and locations of the courses:

  • 15 - 19 November - Werribee  (currently full)
  • 29 November - 3 December - Carlton (currently full)
  • 13 - 17 December - Carlton

HSR Initial & Refresher training

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.

Upcoming 2021 dates for Refresher training and locations:

  • 15 November - Education focus: AEU, Abbotsford
  • 26 November - Carlton
  • 29 November - Bendigo 
  • 16 December - Carlton

Go to this link to find out about costs and 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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