SafetyNet 611

Welcome to the February 16 edition of SafetyNet.

Two years into the pandemic, and we are far from 'back to normal' - with workers in our healthcare system at breaking point. NSW nurses and midwives took to the streets this week demanding better conditions and better pay. 

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

COVID Update 
The number of new daily Omicron infections is jumping around a bit, with the state recording 8,159 cases today. However, the active cases are steadily decreasing, as are those in hospital. 

Victorian figures, February 16:

  • Active cases: 49,936 (last week 57,022)
  • Deaths reported today: 18
  • Total of 2,324 COVID-related deaths so far
  • 397 are in hospital, 68 are in ICU, and 13 of these are on ventilators 

You can check the Victorian live update here.

Australia wide: there have been 2,946,681 COVID cases in total (2,780,440 last week) and 4,668 deaths. 
Worldwide: as at February 16 there had been 415,712,429 worldwide infections (400,234,714 last week). There have now been 5,854,581 official COVID-related deaths.  (Source: Worldometer.) 
Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

Masks: No-one is above the law 
We remind our readers that there are still some restrictions in place in Victoria: under current COVID-19 restrictions all Victorians are required to wear masks indoors.

Victoria Police this week issued penalty notices to six people not wearing masks at State Parliament on February 8. Victorian Coalition MPs Matthew Guy, Peter Walsh, David Davis, Gary Blackwood and Melina Bath were fined $100 after being photographed not wearing masks during a function where former AFL coach Kevin Sheedy gave a motivational speech.

The Victorian Liberals and Nationals have advocated for the removal of face mask mandates in low-risk settings.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews was fined $400 in October last year after he was filmed maskless before attending Parliament. Source: ABC news

NSW nurses and midwives strike over horror conditions, wages 
Thousands of nurses and midwives from about 150 public hospitals walked off the job in NSW on Tuesday in protest against staffing levels which have pushed an already stretched system to its limit during the COVID-19 pandemic. They rallied outside state parliament, expressing fury at ‘unsustainable’ work conditions as pleas for pay rise and more staff ‘ignored’.

The workers, their union, the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association defied an order issued on Monday by the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to call off the industrial action. The intervention came after the NSW government took the matter to the IRC, arguing that the planned strike would disrupt health services across the state.

However, the  union had organised for skeleton staff to remain on duty to ensure the sickest patients were cared for. 

Last minute crisis talks between the nurses union and Health Minister Brad Hazzard failed to resolve the stalemate in negotiations over pay and staffing levels in hospitals.

For many nurses and midwives across NSW, the statewide strike was a chance to tell their horror stories. Union assistant general secretary Shaye Candish read out stories from nurses detailing extreme cases of understaffing and burnout. “This government is under-resourcing the health system and it’s creating trauma for us,” she said. “It’s time for the premier to listen. [Nurses] are saying that the system’s not coping and it’s not OK. We are not going away until our demands are met. We will come back bigger and angrier each time we are ignored.”

A midwife from Wollongong boarded a bus to Sydney with 150 colleagues. "We're drowning...we've been drowning for a long time and COVID has really just pressed that point home that this health system is just not working," she said.  Read more: NSW nurses and midwives converge on Sydney's CBD in protest over pay and work conditions during COVID-19 pandemic and Nurses' and midwives' horror stories behind the placards at NSW strikeABC news online. NSW nurses at breaking point as staff at 150 hospitals strike over pay and patient ratios, The Guardian

Vaccination update 
As of February 16, 92.72 per cent of Victorians over the age of 12 had been fully vaccinated, 94.23 per cent had received their first dose, and 48.37 percent had their third dose (note that this has just recently been approved for 16 and 17-year-olds). Australia wide, the figures are 93.14 per cent, 95.28 per cent respectively, and 46.56 per cent had received the third shot. Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates.

Please organise to get your third, or 'booster', shot as soon as possible: boosters reduce your chance of hospitalisation by 90 per cent against Omicron and your chance of death by even more. ATAGI has just provided advice that to be considered fully vaccinated, we need to have the three shots. To book your third shot today, go to the Victorian government's vaccine booking portal hereFind out more: ATAGI statement on defining 'up-to-date' status for COVID-19 vaccination, ATAGI media release  

Survey reminder: Is your workplace doing enough to prevent the spread of Omicron?
The COVID-Safe workplaces team is currently surveying health and safety reps and workers across Victoria to understand how Omicron has affected their workplaces and what employers are doing to limit the spread. Have your voice heard and be part of making our workplaces safer and better for all by completing the survey here!

COVID sessions for HSRs 
Online COVID Safe Training for HSRs has returned this year. VTHC is running four (4) sessions over the coming weeks:  

  1. February 21 - 1 to 3.30 pm 
  2. February 28 - 1 to 3.30 pm
  3. March 10 - 12.30 to 3 pm 
  4. March 21 - 12.30 to 3 pm 

The sessions are geared towards Victorian HSRs, and aim to provide resources and information on how to exercise your powers as an HSR in helping prevent workplace outbreaks of COVID-19. They have been updated to cover the Omicron wave and the importance of Rapid Antigen Tests and booster doses - however if you attended the course last year the conversation around your powers at work is the same.

VTHC Ventilation webinar
For two years, HSRs have been fighting tirelessly to make sure all workers are safe from COVID-19 at work - and the fight isn’t over yet. 

Proper ventilation is now considered one of the most important risk controls to ensure workplaces are safe from the spread of COVID. 

What does "proper ventilation" mean? 

It's not straightforward and most of us don't really know. That’s why we have ventilation expert, Meaghan Flack from the AEU joining us for a special HSR webinar and workshop.

When: Tuesday 1st March at 4pm. Online via Zoom Everyone is invited, so RSVP here

Ask Renata

Hello OHS team,

I have a question about my desk location in the workplace. My desk is currently in what is basically a passageway used regularly by other staff, where I am bumped and need to move my chair when others pass. There had been arrangements for the office layout to be rebuilt to suit all parties, but the day before hand my employers canceled the work. They have have chosen not to make any changes at all. What are my rights? 

The OHS/WHS legislation does not specifically address office layout, but this is because the duties on employers are generic, and cover everything in a workplace/working environment. 

Under the OHS Act, the employer has a general duty of care to provide and maintain (so far as is reasonably practicable) a safe and healthy working environment, and also safe and healthy systems of work. 

So, basically what this means is that if the current arrangements are putting your health and safety at risk, then your employer must take action - and must consult with the health and safety reps (if any) with or without the employees about any OHS related matters. If you don't have an elected HSR, then your employer must consult with affected employees. From your question, I would say that your health is being affected - it is clear that you are stressed by the interruptions, which also would/could affect your work performance - and so cause you more stress.  

With regard to what your employer should be providing with regards to office space/layout, there is a lot of guidance - the best is Officewise. Check this page for more information on Office Space, and also a link to Officewise.  

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website. Your questions will be answered by Renata or one of the other members of the VTHC's OHS Unit.  

Last chance: Come work in the VTHC OHS Unit 
If you're experienced in OHS and have strong commitment to unions and workers, then don't forget about the exciting job in the VTHC's OHS Unit. The role includes producing SafetyNet, answering 'Ask Renata' queries, writing content for the OHS [email protected] website and liaising with affiliates and WorkSafe. Closing date for applications is February 20 - so if you're thinking about it, check out the job description on Ethical Jobs here.

Two short term positions at VTHC 
There are two short-term vacancies currently being advertised in the Jobs Team working on the Women Onsite program. The two roles vary slightly, are both located in Melbourne, and are currently funded to June 30, 2022. 

  1. Project Organiser - Project & Participant Support - Women Onsite 
  2. Project Organiser - Partners & Events - Women Onsite

Applications close on February 21, so if you'd like to try out what working at VTHC might be like, here's your opportunity!

Cash consulting on outstanding Jenkins recommendations 
Ahead of the expected May federal election, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has set a five-week deadline for feedback on some of the Jenkins [email protected] recommendations it is yet to act on, including the "positive duty" for employers to stamp-out sexual harassment.

Senator Cash this week released consultation paper and a survey - responses due March 18.

The consultation does not extend to recommendation 28 – to amend the Fair Work Act to explicitly prohibit sexual harassment – because the Government committed in its Jenkins response to consider it after assessing the impact of recommendation 16, which she said is now largely in operation. According to the consultation paper, the [email protected] Act, passed in last year implemented "most aspects" of recommendation 16. 
Source: Workplace Express

Asbestos News 
Unscrupulous developers dump asbestos contaminated 'clean fill'  
A NSW family's property has been rendered worthless when unscrupulous developers dumped more than 2,400 tonnes of contaminated material as 'clean fill'. A news item on 9's Current Affair reveals that after carrying out testing, the EPA issued the family with a clean up notice in 2018, just a year after the material was dumped. It warned of a $250,000 penalty if the clean up notice was not complied with. Now the family, which believes there is much more waste than has been found, believes it faces a clean up bill of up to $9 million. Perhaps rightly, the family believes the EPA should do more to control illegal dumping. 
See more: Contaminated land nightmare for family struggling with dementia, A Current Affair.  

Annual Asbestos Conference 
This year's Asbestos Safety and Management Conference, will be held from 19–20 May 2022 at the Fairmont Resort & Spa in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Blue Mountains. Run by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), it is being jointly hosted by the Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC). 

This important national event, which will have a special focus on those on the front-line of asbestos safety management, will comprise a 2-day conference including a series of plenary sessions, workshops and networking activities, as well as optional pre-conference activities held on 18 May.

The conference will be a hybrid event, offering delegates the opportunity to either attend in-person or livestream the event. Read more: 2022 Asbestos Safety and Management Conference.

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

International union news 
Global: Final push for ‘fundamental right’ to safe work 
Unions worldwide want their demand for health and safety to finally become a globally recognised fundamental principle and right at work. “It’s a no-brainer. Every working person should know that they have the right to expect that everything is done to keep them safe at work. We demand that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopts occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work. It’s as important as freedom of association and the elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination in employment,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow.

Three years have passed since the ILO Centenary Conference agreed that this would be done. In that time over 8 million people have died as a result of their work, and even more now live with life-altering injuries and illnesses because their employer did not protect them. A final decision is expected at ILO’s June 2022 conference. Sharan Burrow continued: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated beyond doubt that working people can’t wait for this any longer. Workplace deaths are preventable deaths and the latest figures show that a worker dies at least once every ten seconds. By doing this the ILO will be making a start on cutting this appalling toll of death and injuries.”

To press its case, ITUC is urging unions worldwide to again take up the issue of health and safety as a fundamental right on International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April. The global union body is also pressing for other improvements. “Employers must take responsibility for assessing and eradicating risks in their workplaces and in their supply chains, and consulting unions on prevention through workplace health and safety committees,” Burrow said. “And we need the ILO to do more and address challenges like stress at work, musculoskeletal disorders and a convention on biological hazards like COVID-19. It is urgent that COVID-19 is recognised for the workplace threat that it is. Health and safety should be the first priority at work, not an occasional after thought.” Read more: ITUC news release  and 28 April #iwmd22 webpages

Global: new COVID-19 guidance for hotel workers  
The danger posed by COVID-19 to hotel workers and guests drove critical discussions with international institutions, IUF has said, leading to groundbreaking new guidance. In the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in March 2021, the global union for the sector called upon governments to “develop and implement protocols – negotiated with trade unions - to protect hotel workers.”

The result is the IUF Guide to COVID-19 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in hotels  (in EnglishFrench & Spanish) is a resource which is the product of discussions and consultations with leading industrial hygienists, occupational health experts and specialists from the WHO and ILO. The IUF Guide brings together evidence-based knowledge about the transmission of COVID-19 with international safety and health standards and:

  • complements and updates interim guidance from the WHO issued on August 25, 2020 on “COVID-19 management in hotels and other entities of the accommodation sector”
  • takes into account the specific health risks posed by the aerosol transmission (spread of respiratory particles) of COVID-19
  • includes trade unions’ demands for workers on income and job protection

IUF assistant general secretary James Ritchie commented the guide “has been developed to enable IUF affiliates and others that are involved in negotiating and implementing safety protocols in hotels to protect both workers and guests during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.” Read more: IUF news release Source: Risks 1031

UK: Firefighters and contaminants 
Firefighters in the UK have been urged by their union to protect themselves from toxic fire contaminants. The firefighters’ union FBU has highlighted a study finding rates of cancer in firefighters were more than four times higher than in the general public.

The research by the University of Central Lancashire involved 10,000 serving firefighters. FBU’s response – a new DECON training and guidance programme – encourages firefighters to take actions before, during and after every fire incident to help reduce their own, their co-workers’ and their families’ exposure to fire contaminants.

UK firefighters are also being encouraged to fill in a University of Central Lancashire firefighter cancer and disease registry. FBU national officer Riccardo la Torre said: “In the past, firefighters have been let down by a lack of information and a lax safety culture being allowed to prevail. DECON guidance and training helps firefighters protect themselves through simple actions like better cleaning of gear and making sure to always wear breathing apparatus when it’s needed, never putting it on too late.”
Read more: DECON training and guidance. Source: Work Cancer Hazards  


Research

Unionisation and injury risk in construction 
Canadian researchers sought to replicate an older previous cross-sectional study to estimate the association between unionisation and the risk of workers’ compensation injury claims.

They examined workers’ compensation company account records in the industrial, commercial and institutional construction sector in the province of Ontario, Canada, 2012–2018. They determined the company unionisation rates through linkage with records of unionised contractors.

The researchers, from the  Institute for Work and Health in Toronto, found that unionisation was associated with a lower risk of lost-time workers’ compensation injury claims. This result corroborates a similar, earlier, study. However they found that the protective effect of unionisation declined as company size decreased. In contrast to the previous study, a positive relationship between company unionisation and no-lost-time claim incidence was not found. However this could have been due in part to a refinement in the methodology. 
Read more: 
Robson LS, Landsman V, Latour-Villamil D, et al Unionisation and injury risk in construction: a replication study [Full articled can be accessed here 

Standing and other desks - good for workers 
Australian researchers have concluded that standing, treadmill and cycling desks improve workers' performance, and can counteract the increase in sedentary behaviour related to pandemic-forced working-from-home arrangements. 

The researchers from Central Queensland University's Appleton Institute looked at a number of studies on active workstations, and found they led to significant sustained improvement in working memory, attention and physical function.

Australian office workers spend 62 to 82 per cent of the working day seated, which negatively impacts their cardiometabolic and musculoskeletal health and cognitive performance. Breaking this up with sit-stand, walking or cycling desks can mitigate these impacts and provide additional benefits, like increased productivity and safety during and possibly after work. 

The review found sit-stand desks led to varied levels of cognitive benefits and that postural change, independent of energy use. Bouts of walking throughout the workday provided higher physical activity levels that could not be met by simply standing. 

According to the researchers, the studies in the review showed promising results for improving workers' cognitive performance through physical breaks.

The transition to working from home, which has led to workers being sedentary for longer periods, and being less physically active, also mean these interventions are now more practical, they say.

The researchers stress that job factors like sleep, stress, work demands and illness impact on workers' cognitive performance during work; employers must address these issues and take into account how they might counteract the benefits of active workstation interventions. Read more: Georgia Tuckwell, et al, Does breaking up sitting in office-based settings result in cognitive performance improvements which last throughout the day? A review of the evidence. [Abstract]  Australia, Industrial Health, published online January 2022, doi: 10.2486/indhealth.2021-0174. Source: OHSAlert

UK: Big office outbreak highlights protective role of rules 
After the UK government axed social distancing and face covering rules, and two weeks after self-isolation rules were weakened, over half the workforce in a UK office where everyone was double vaxxed developed COVID-19, a new study has found.

Experts from the UK Health Security Agency, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the London School of Tropical Medicine undertook the study. In results published ahead of peer-review, they note: “In late August-September 2021, a public-facing office in England, with adherence to governmental COVID-19 control guidance and high vaccination coverage, experienced an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 affecting 55 per cent of the workforce. At the time of this outbreak, governmental guidance for workplaces in England prioritised policies for risk assessments, adequate ventilation, frequent cleaning, self-isolation, and communication/training; however, social distancing and face covering usage were no longer compulsory. Two weeks before the outbreak, government guidance was amended so fully vaccinated people did not need to self-isolate if they were identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19.”

The authors say the outbreak demonstrates the need for multiple mitigations, noting “the importance of a layered SARS-CoV-2 transmission mitigation strategy prioritising ventilation and risk assessment-informed interventions, such as testing, social distancing, appropriate occupancy levels and transmission control measures (eg. face masks), in addition to vaccination.” 
Read more: Atkinson, B, et al. An outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in a public-facing office in England [Full], 2021, medRxiv 2022.01.31.22269194; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.01.31.22269194 Source: Risks 1023


Regulator News

Victorian news 
Online information sessions for horticultural producers  
Agriculture Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria, along with the Labour Hire Authority, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) are working together to run harvest webinars in February and March to assist horticulture producers in navigating the latest requirements. 

These webinars will provide information on:
  • COVID-19 and employer obligations, including vaccination for authorised workers, from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
  • how to keep workers safe in horticultural workplaces during harvest season, from WorkSafe Victoria
  • ensuring labour hire workers are treated fairly and provided through a licensed labour hire provider, from the Labour Hire Authority
  • labour relations and free one-on-one safety consults, available to all Victorian primary producers, from the VFF
  • seasonal workforce support, from Agriculture Victoria.

Each webinar will have time at the end for questions and operational staff will be able to answer these and provide additional information. To RSVP click on the date you'd like to attend: 

Wednesday February 16 (that's today!) or Wednesday March 2  

Safety Soapbox newsletter out now  
The first edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox for 2022 is out today. In this month's editorial, WorkSafe warns employers and workers to take trenching safety seriously: not using appropriate controls can be fatal, irrespective of the depth. Since 2017, there have been three trench-related fatalities at Victorian construction worksites. The newsletter, apart from providing advice, also has a video Safety Guide to Trenching Controls

Other items:

  • OHS Essentials Program for small construction businesses - a free service
  • WorkSafe's new media campaign for young workers: Does your workplace make you feel.. UMM?
  • Notification of a Safety Alert, following the collapse of a wall frame. 
  • A free online webinar on March 3 (8 am - 9.30 am) being run jointly by WorkSafe, Energy Safe Victoria, Environmental Protection Agency and Victorian Building Authority to support their Build Aware campaign in Bendigo. Read more and register here
  • Latest construction prosecutions
  • Interstate news
  • Incidents reported to WorkSafe:
    • During December the construction industry reported 150 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 70 per cent resulted in injury. More than half of these were 'significant' or 'serious'. In of these incidents, an apprentice fell from roof onto concrete slab while laying roof sheets on double a storey house, sustaining multiple injuries.
    • During January the construction industry reported 103 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 81 per cent resulted in injury. 

Access the February 2022 edition here  - the summaries of reported incidents can be downloaded from this edition of Safety Soapbox.

New WorkSafe Dangerous Goods newsletter  
WorkSafe has recently launched a new Dangerous Goods Newsletter, the 'DG Digest’. The 3-monthly newsletter provides useful information and guidance to duty holders who use, manufacture, store, sell, transport or import dangerous goods. 
Subscribe here (to this and other WorkSafe newsletters). View the latest edition.

WorkSafe Awards Dinner  
Due to the number of COVID-19 infections still being relatively high, WorkSafe has decided to postpone its Awards Dinner to April 21. It's a terrific night - particularly for the finalists and their workmates, colleagues and for their union. More information and to buy tickets.

National news 
National Fatality Statistics 2022  
Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics on fatalities since February 3, at which time it had been notified that 12 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 6 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 2 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
  • 1 in Construction
  • 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, consequently sometimes the numbers of deaths in each sector change. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Preliminary worker deaths webpage. 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. 


Prosecutions

Victorian Prosecutions

Pipemaker convicted, fined $275k after death of worker  
Shepparton company Precast Civil Industries Pty Ltd, trading as MC Pipes, was last week sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work, following the death of a worker in 2018.

The red radial press, a piece of machinery the company used to manufacture concrete pipes, was cleaned daily at the end of production. Unlike their other machinery, the red radial press had no self-cleaning apparatus, and so workers had to hammer hardened concrete residue off the rollers underneath the concrete feed conveyor. 

In September 2018 a 25-year-old worker was undertaking this task when he came into contact with the rollers, was drawn in and crushed by the conveyor.

WorkSafe's investigation found there was no documented procedure for cleaning the conveyor rollers. The company could have implemented a number of reasonably practicable measures to reduce the risks of entanglement, including installing self-cleaning rollers; stopping employees from bypassing existing safety measures that would have turned the machine off; and ensuring the underside of the conveyor belt was reached by alternative means, such as a forklift and cage.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it was crucial duty holders ensure safe systems of work are in place. She said, "In this tragic case, there were simple steps the employer could have taken to reduce the health and safety risk to their workers and ultimately prevent a senseless loss of life." 
Read more: WorkSafe media release 

Company convicted, fined $210k after truck crash killed three  
Wodonga based Heavy Mechanics Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Wodonga County Court last week after being found guilty in June 2021 of a single charge of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety - after a 2014 truck crash claimed three lives.

In August 2014, a petrol tanker serviced by the company de-coupled on the Wodonga-Yackandandah Road at Staghorn Flat. The detached trailer crossed the road and struck two cars travelling in the opposite direction, killing all three occupants including a four-year-old child.

WorkSafe found the tow-eye coupling was worn to excess and had failed under load.  At the time of the incident it had been used for more than three years and 350,000 kilometres. Heavy Mechanics had serviced the truck just days before the incident, including testing the tow-eye coupling. However, this did not involve an accurate visual inspection and there was no testing conducted when the truck was detached from the trailer, which limited the ability to inspect the parts involved.

A jury found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have conducted more accurate testing and inspections, which would have revealed the wear and tear to the coupling.

Dr Narelle Beer said the company's failure to do so had led to a tragic loss of life. "This is an absolutely horrific incident that not only claimed three lives but left countless others continuing to deal with grief and trauma," she said. Read more: WorkSafe media release

Editor's note: 
The fines of $275,000 and $210,000 meted out by the Melbourne and Wodonga County Courts following the deaths of four people are totally inadequate. In the first case, a young man was killed in horrific circumstances. In the second case, three people, including a toddler, were killed as they were travelling on a country road. The fines imposed by our courts need to be higher. Further, union members campaigned for and achieved Workplace Manslaughter laws - we want to see them being used.  

Transport company charged for serious safety breaches 
Peter Stoitse Transport Pty Ltd has been charged this week under section 32 of the OHS Act with recklessly engaging in conduct that placed others in danger of serious injury after unsafe work practices caused two serious truck crashes.

WorkSafe alleges the company directed or allowed workers to drive two milk tankers that were involved in separate crashes in February and July 2020 despite being aware the trucks were unsafe.

WorkSafe has also charged the company for breaching section 23 of the OHS Act by exposing people other than employees, namely road users, to health and safety risks when it failed to ensure unsafe milk tankers were not driven on public roads.

The company is facing a further three charges under section 21(2)(a) of the OHS Act for failing to provide or maintain safe plant; and failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work to ensure vehicles were free of mechanical defects and driver fatigue was managed.

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today, 16 February 2022.

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

Comcare: Transport company fined $300k for safety breach 
National transport and logistics company K. & S. Freighters Pty. Ltd. was last week convicted and fined $300,000 for breaching federal work health and safety laws in an incident that caused severe injuries to a worker. The company is a self-insured licensee in the Comcare scheme and is regulated under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

Following a Comcare investigation, the company pleaded guilty to breaching s19 of the WHS Act by failing to provide a safe system of work. The charge is a Category 2 offence under the Act, with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million. The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

The incident occurred on 25 November 2018 at a freight depot in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. After delivering a load of steel coil, workers were manually raising the heavy interlocked gates on a truck trailer when the gates fell on a K. & S. worker, causing severe leg fractures.

In sentencing in the District Court of South Australia, Judge Ian Press said there were considerable and foreseeable risks to the drivers and workers in failing to ensure the use of exclusion zones and mechanical lifting of the gates. Judge Press also took into account the impact on the victim.

Comcare’s General Manager of Regulatory Operations Justin Napier said the risks involved in the case were obvious and potentially fatal. Source: Comcare media release 

NSW: company and director convicted and fined after amputation 
A NSW PCBU and its director, who relied on his managers to implement safety measures, have been convicted and fined for WHS contraventions, after a new, unsupervised employee lost three fingers on a machine.

NSW District Court Judge Wendy Strathdee said there was "little, if any, meaningful training or supervision" of the worker to prevent the obvious risk of him using his hands to clear blockages in the unguarded vegetable cutting machine.

In the early of hours of Christmas Day in 2018, the 21-year-old worker was on his first shift at All Seasons (Aust) Gourmet Produce NSW Pty Ltd's Marrickville premises when his right hand was pulled into the machine's conveyors and forced onto the rotating blades. He suffered severe injuries resulting in three fingers being amputated at the first knuckle.

All Seasons was charged with and pleaded guilty to breaching sections 19(1) and 32 of the State WHS Act, in exposing the worker to the risk of injury from clearing the operating machine's chute.

The PCBU's sole director, Skevos Kakias, pleaded guilty to breaching section 27(1) of the Act in failing, as a company officer, to exercise due diligence to ensure All Seasons complied with its health and safety duties.

On the night of the incident, the worker's supervisor was unaware that the worker started employment, and did not realise he needed to supervise him for the entire night shift as well as doing his own work.

The Judge found the information and training, the work process and the machine guarding were all inadequate. She noted that blockages were not only foreseeable but "happened regularly".

Kakias allowed the machine to be operated without adequate guarding, and "did not provide All Seasons with processes to enable it to assess the risks associated with operating the machine to develop the necessary safe work procedures", she said.

Judge Strathdee found appropriate fines for All Seasons and Kakias were $150,000 and $50,000 respectively, before reducing the amounts by 25 per cent to $112,500 and $37,500 for their guilty pleas, and ordering them to pay costs. Source: OHS Alert


International news

UK: New regulations on PPE  
Unlike in Victoria, employers in the UK have clearly legislated duties when it comes to providing workers with Personal Protective Equipment - there are regulations. 

Employers’ responsibilities to workers regarding the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) are changing from 6 April 2022. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (PPER 2022) amend the current Regulations to extend employers’ and employees’ duties in respect of PPE to a wider group of workers.

HSE (UK's OHS regulator) has provided interim guidance explaining the changes and what employers may need to do in preparation.  The HSE’s PPE at work website contains further advice and guidance.
Read more: Personal Protective Equipment  


Events

HSR Initial & Refresher training

Get organised now to do either your initial five day training or your annual refresher in 2022. 

Remember: under Section 67 of the OHS Act 2004 all HSRs and DHSRs are entitled to attend a one-day refresher course every year, yet many just don't get around to it. If this is you, then check out the courses scheduled for next year, and enrol now, before they fill up.  It's important to attend in order to keep up your knowledge of OHS law and practice up-to-date. In the past year we have had significant amendments to the OHS Act, new regulations (for crystalline silica) and new codes. Trained health and safety reps make a real difference in their workplaces, and it's great to meet with others and share experiences!

Initial course dates :  

  • 28 February  - 4 March  (Education Sector) – Online*
  • 2, 3, 4 & 17, 18 March - Trades Hall, Carlton*       
  • 9, 10, 11 & 23, 24 March - Trades Hall, Carlton*   
  • 28, 29, 30 March & 11, 12 April - Trades Hall, Carlton*  

Course hours: 9am - 5pm
Course length: All initial OHS training courses are 5 days.
Course fee: $870.00 incl. GST Regional: $895.00 incl. GST

Refresher course dates:  

  • 8 March - Trades Hall, Carlton*       
  • 16 March 2022 (Education Sector) - AEU, Abbotsford*

Other courses:

1 - COMCARE Refresher: Thursday 31 March 2022 - Trades Hall, Carlton*

3 - COMCARE Initial course: 7, 8 April and 20, 21, 22 April 2022 - Trades Hall, Carlton*

4 - 2 Day Manager’s Training Course: 5-6 May 2022 - Trades Hall, Carlton*

Go to this link to enrol in any of the five-day initial or refresher courses. Remember to then notify your employer at least 14 days before the course. 

*Note: all courses scheduled in February are being run online via Zoom. This will be reviewed at the end of the month.


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