Welcome to the March 30 edition of SafetyNet.
Tragically, another Victorian worker was killed this week.
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]
Man killed by livestock
It is with great sadness that we report that a worker was killed while drafting cattle on a farm at Undera, north-west of Shepparton, on Monday. It is believed the 52-year-old was knocked to the ground and kicked by a bull, sustaining fatal head injuries. WorkSafe is investigating the incident.
According to WorkSafe, the death brings the workplace fatality toll to 10 for 2022, seven fewer than at the same time last year.
The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the man's family, friends and work colleagues. No worker should be killed at work. Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.
There were 11,743 new infections reported today. As expected, the number of new infections is increasing.
Victorian figures, March 30:
- 58,488 active cases (last week 52,983)
- 7 deaths reported
- 2,739 COVID-related deaths so far
- 280 are in hospital, 18 are in ICU, and 5 of these are on ventilators (note these numbers are quite a bit lower than they have been over the past week)
- 1,271,494 total number of infections since the pandemic began
You can check the Victorian live update here.
Australia wide: there have been a total of 4,436,572 COVID cases (3,943,245 last week) and 5,926 deaths.
Worldwide: as at March 30 there had been 485,506,335 worldwide infections (471,914,860 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,156,484. (Source: Worldometer.)
Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation
Casuals and the right to apply for sick and carers' leave
The COVID-19 pandemic has fully exposed the toxic impact of insecure work. The Andrews Government has taken a concrete step to remedy this by announcing five days' sick and carers pay for people in casual work and independent contracting. The Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee will initially cover about 150,000 workers in industries including hospitality, food trades and food preparation, supermarkets, retail and sales, aged care and disability, cleaning and laundry, and security.
Premier Daniel Andrews said, "When people have nothing to fall back on, they make a choice between the safety of their workmates and feeding their family. The ultimate decision they make isn’t wrong – what's wrong is they're forced to make it at all.”
The Sick Pay Guarantee, which is currently being totally funded and administered by the government, will be expanded to more industries in the second half of this year. To check your eligibility and to apply visit this site. Read more: Victorian Government media release.
As of March 29, 81.94 per cent of all Victorians had received their second dose, 85.8 per cent had received their first dose, and 51.8 percent had their third dose. This is not high enough, given that it's the third dose that reduces the chance of being hospitalised by 90 per cent.
Australia wide, the figures are 82.43 per cent, 86.4 per cent respectively, with 49.83 per cent having received the third shot.
Almost one-quarter of children aged five to 11 years have received their second COVID-19 vaccine. The latest figures show just under 25 per cent of the age group have completed their primary vaccination course, and over half have received their first dose since the rollout began earlier this year.
The milestone comes a week before winter boosters begin for older and vulnerable Australians, and as the booster take-up rate reaches 67.4 per cent of the eligible population over 16.
Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates.
Ventilation in the workplace
Some weeks ago we ran a very successful webinar on Ventilation in the Workplace - a hugely important issue in these times of COVID. Special guest was Ms Meaghan Flack, who is the OHS Organiser for the Australian Education Union. The many issues related to ventilation were discussed, including the role of the HSR in ensuring the employer takes steps to provide adequate ventilation. Check out the webinar here, and read much more about Ventilation and Infectious Diseases here.
Did you miss our Webinar on the proposed Psychological Health regulations?
Last week the VTHC OHS Unit provided HSRs with a briefing on the proposed Psychological Health regulations, currently open for public comment. Well over 100 HSRs tuned in, making it clear that these are very important and much-needed regulations. If you missed it, or would like to go over what was covered, click here. Public comment closes tomorrow, March 31 - we encourage HSRs and workers to make a submission - even if brief - on this page.
April 5 VTHC Webinar - Occupational Violence
Anyone can experience occupational violence & aggression (OVA) in their workplace. OVA can come in all forms from name-calling to physical acts of violence. Each instance of OVA can have a massive impact on the people involved. HSRs fight for safer workplaces every day, so join our OHS Network for a webinar and workshop on occupational violence & aggression.
When: Tuesday, 5 April
Time: 4pm - 5:30pm
Where: on Zoom
RSVP for the OVA webinar and workshop here.
Is your workplace still COVIDSafe?
Now that restrictions are relaxing even further, it can be hard to keep up with what your bosses’ obligations are, and what you can do as a worker. It’s important to remember that workers must be consulted as their COVIDSafe plan changes, if you’re worried or unsure about this, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our COVIDSafe team here. All workers deserve to have a COVIDSafe Workplace.
My workplace has moving machinery, rollers, gears, pinch points etc. Our employees are keeping long hair in pony tails when operating machinery. However, do we need to go a step further and have the hair tied up further in a bun or a hair net worn? I cannot find any information in the Act or the Regulations on whether hair should not be longer than shoulder length.
The OHS Act and regulations do not cover (have no mention) of long hair.
The onus is on the employer to implement the requirements of the Plant regulations. In brief the regulations require the following:
97 Hazard Identification: The employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable (SFARP), identify all hazards associated with the installation, erection, commissioning, decommissioning, dismantling and use of plant and the systems of work associated with that plant.
98 Control of risk
This must be according to the hierarchy of control. That is:
(1) eliminate, so far as is reasonably practicable (SFARP), any risks that have been identified under regulation 97.
(2) If it is not "reasonably practicable" to eliminate the risk, then it must be controlled according to this order:
- substituting with plant that has a lower level of risk; or
- isolating the plant from people; or
- using engineering controls; or
- combining measures in 1, 2 and 3.
(3) If a risk remains after implementing (1) & (2) SFARP, then the employer must reduce the risk/s by using administrative controls
(4) If a risk remains after implementing (1), (2) & (3) SFARP, then the employer/SEP must reduce the risk/s by providing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The above section of the regulations means eliminating or reducing the risk to workers as close to the source as possible. As it is probable that the employer cannot substitute the plant, this means isolating it or using engineering controls – such as having guards in place which prevent hair being caught up. If a risk still remains, then implementing a rule that long hair must be tied back/in a net/in a bun is an administrative control but this can only be implemented after the employer has done everything practicable in terms of isolating or using engineering controls.
The regulations then have specific duties with regard to guarding. More information on the Plant regulations here.
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.
ACT: Mr Fluffy news
1 - Historic home demolished due to asbestos contamination
A piece of history that pre-dates the nation's capital has been lost. Built in 1893, the 'Deasland' homestead survived the development of Canberra's north but not the Mr Fluffy asbestos crisis. Check out the ABC video story.
2 - Fund finally opens
Former ACT residents who contract mesothelioma through their homes being contaminated with Mr Fluffy asbestos will be able to claim lost earnings and have all medical expenses covered, under a landmark financial support scheme. Financial dependents will also be eligible for six-figure lump sum payments after a sufferer dies or becomes terminal, and up to $8500 a year for providing care.
The ACT government will start accepting applications for access to the $16 million scheme, which is being jointly funded by the Commonwealth, this week. The scheme was announced last May, just days before the death of the mesothelioma sufferer who had been lobbying the federal government to support victims after contracting the incurable disease.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the fund was designed to provide "comprehensive and timely support" to sufferers and families, ensuring they could access appropriate treatment and care when it was needed the most.
The ACT-administered scheme will cover people who contracted an asbestos disease after living in a Mr Fluffy house for at least six months, and weren't exposed to the contaminant in an environment which could allow a workplace compensation claim. Source: The Canberra Times
Sustainability Victoria Asbestos Disposal Management Plan update
In February 2021, Sustainability Victoria (SV) launched the Asbestos Disposal Management Plan (ADMP), to guide the implementation of a safe and accessible asbestos disposal system across the state. The plan has five phases. The last six months SV has been working on Phase 2 (System design and consultation). It has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders and decision makers through workshops, interviews and questionnaires to inform the development of asbestos disposal solutions.
ASEA conference: May 19 - 20
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).
Asbestos is still present in 1 in 3 homes across Australia, as well as in a large number of public and commercial buildings. Managing Australia’s asbestos legacy is a challenge for all levels of government, as well as industry and non government. 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 about the conference or to purchase a ticket, go to the conference website.
International Union News
Bangladesh: Inaction of violations of workers' rights
New evidence of violations of workers’ rights in Bangladesh in three major economic sectors – the ready-made garment, shipbreaking, and leather sectors – reveals the impact of government inaction on the lives of working people, the global union confederation ITUC has said. The report, released by ITUC ahead of the government’s latest progress report to the ILO Governing Body this week, shows the human face of a government’s failure to put in place labour protections.
Interviews with workers in October and November 2021 showed the systematic violations of rights included unsafe workplaces, violence against workers, unfair labour practices, anti-union discrimination and non-payment of wages and benefits. ITUC said workers do not have a safe complaints mechanism, and any attempt to get grievances resolved often results in verbal and physical abuse from the employer and dismissal.
“Obstruction and refusal by the government of Bangladesh to improve conditions put workers’ lives at risk. Every day they delay on commitments to reform, another worker and the worker’s family feel the pain of inaction,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. “As the government of Bangladesh prepares to update the ILO Governing Body on the progress of reform, anti-union discrimination, wage discrimination and unsafe working conditions continue to be reported in three of the country’s largest employment sectors – the ready-made garment, shipbreaking and leather (tannery) sectors.” She added: “The government of Bangladesh must immediately set up a transparent and effective monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the ILO road map and meaningfully consult with tripartite constituents on all the action points.” Read more: ITUC news release and report, We Need a Better Bangladesh: Violations of workers’ rights in the ready-made garment, shipbreaking and leather sectors [PDF], 15 March 2022. Source: Risks 1037
Global: OHS a fundamental right
A high profile union campaign to get occupational health and safety recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a ‘fundamental’ right at work has taken a big step forward. ILO’s Governing Body has agreed an amendment to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, to include occupational safety and health, will be on the agenda the UN agency’s International Labour Conference in June.
According to ILO: “If adopted, the proposed amendment would indicate that all ILO Member States would have an obligation to respect and promote safe and healthy working conditions in the same manner and with the same level of commitment as the four principles currently covered by the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.”
Most of the world’s countries – 187 states – are members of the ILO. Recognition would mean occupational health and safety joined freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour, and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation as one of ILO’s top-level rules.
As part of the campaign to secure this recognition, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is urging unions worldwide to again take up the issue of health and safety as an ILO fundamental right on International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April.
Read more: ILO news release. ITUC 28 April #iwmd22 webpages. Source: Risks 1037
Lifting 10kg or more can triple chances of shoulder surgery
Researchers from Denmark's Aarhus University and the Danish Ramazzini Centre have found that the risk of workers needing shoulder surgery can triple from exposure to a common form of workplace exertion. The occupational medicine researchers analysed 10 years of employment data, and found lifting and carrying loads of 10kg or more, and pushing and pulling loads of 50kg or more, were significantly linked to subsequent surgery for subacromial impingement syndrome. This condition, which affects up to eight per cent of all workers, encompasses a variety of non-traumatic and often unilateral disorders affecting tissues in the shoulders, including tendinitis, subacromial bursitis and tears.
The risk of surgery increased with both exposure duration and intensity, and was particularly high for workers performing lifting and carrying, they found. They found that after 10 years of high intensity of lifting/carrying loads, the risk was almost three times higher among the most exposed compared with the non-exposed. They also identified that for pushing/pulling loads there was a maximum of 72 per cent increase in risk compared with the non-exposed.
As a result of their findings, the researchers said:
- preventative efforts should focus on reducing the demands associated with lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling loads;
- lifting and carrying loads, in particular, should be considered hazardous;
- assessment of ergonomic exposures for the shoulder should include lifting/carrying and pushing/pulling loads to supplement the assessment of other known harmful exposures to the shoulder such as shoulder force, repetitive shoulder movements and upper-arm elevation;
- workers with shoulder pain should avoid or at least reduce lifting/carrying and pushing/pulling loads to alleviate their pain;
- technical solutions can be implemented in the workplace to reduce the lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling of loads.
In order to comply with duties under Victoria's Hazardous Manual Regulations, employers must look to implement workplace controls to eliminate/minimise the risk of injury to workers first.
Read more: Bjørn Riddervold, et al, Occupational lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling loads and risk of surgery for subacromial impingement syndrome: a register-based cohort study. [Abstract] [Full text PDF] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online March 2022, Doi: 10.1136/oemed-2021-108166. Source: OHS Alert
New rights and protections for labour hire workers
Labour hire workers now have additional rights and protections with the commencement of amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act).
The Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2021 (the Act) amended the OHS Act to make the labour hire changes, which came into effect on Tuesday 22 March 2022.
The Act amended the definitions of 'employer' and 'employee' so that a labour hire worker is treated as an 'employee' of both the labour hire provider and the host employer for the purposes of the OHS Act.
This means host employers now owe all the same duties to labour hire workers under the OHS Act as they do to any other employee.
Consequently, labour hire workers now have the same OHS Act rights and protections at their host employer’s workplace as direct employees of the host.
This includes rights to representation under Part 7 of the OHS Act and protections against discrimination under section 76 of the OHS Act.
Also, a new duty in the OHS Act requires labour hire providers and host employers to consult, coordinate and cooperate with each other where they share OHS Act duties to the same worker, so far as is reasonably practicable.
The changes are in response to the 2016 Forsyth Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work, which recommended addressing gaps in rights and protections for labour hire workers.
Detailed information on the labour hire changes, including updated guidance, is available on WorkSafe’s website here.
Last chance for Public comment on the OHS Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations
We strongly recommend that HSRs (and workers) submit comment, no matter how brief, on these extremely important regulations which are sorely needed in order to protect workers from work-related risks to their mental health. Providing comment is very easy, and you can comment on just a few specific things or make more general comments. It's very important that WorkSafe hears directly from workers and HSRs. Public comment on the regulations closes at 5pm, tomorrow, Thursday 31 March 2022. Find out more here.
Safety advice speaks directly to seasonal workers
Pacific Islander workers will receive specialised safety resources in their own language as part of a WorkSafe initiative to help them stay safe while working on Victorian farms. Co-designed with Victoria's Pacific Island community, the videos, posters and written guides will be available in five languages – Bislama, Fijian, Samoan, Tongan and English.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the resources would communicate directly to seasonal workers to provide straightforward safety tips and advice. Read more: WorkSafe media release.
WorkSafe March newsletters
1 - Safety Soapbox
The latest edition of WorkSafe's Safety Soapbox was sent out last week, just as we had finalised the last SafetyNet. The editorial is on the risk of structural collapse and covers the control methods that should be implemented on Victorian worksites. Recently an incident occurred on a residential construction site, where the external timber stud frame collapsed and fell inwards.
The issue also contains:
- information on falls from heights
- recent prosecutions in the construction sector
- interstate news
- incidents reported to WorkSafe in February: 163 incidents. Of these, 62 per cent resulted in injury.
There was one fatality as a result of a fall from height.
Access the March 2022 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the summary of reported incidents can be downloaded here too.
2 - Major Hazards Matters
The March edition of this newsletter, aimed at anyone who works or is involved in major hazard facilities, considers the effectiveness of Safety Cases, required under the regulations. The article summarises the literature on the effectiveness of safety cases as a regulatory tool and presents some insights from WorkSafe Victoria’s experience with safety case regimes.
The newsletter also has items:
- on recent major hazard incidents both Australian and international
- how to use storytelling techniques to improve toolbox talks
- Electrical Equipment in Hazardous Areas (EEHA)
- Fire Rescue Victoria development of Pre-incident plans (PIP) guidance
Finally, notification of an upcoming online event: Mental Health and Wellbeing Forum. However the date and time is to be confirmed. Access the March Major Hazards Matters on the WorkSafe website.
National Fatality Statistics 2022
Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics on fatalities since March 17, at which time it had been notified that 29 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:
- 15 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 6 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 3 in Public administration & safety
- 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 2 in Construction
- 1 in 'other 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. 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.
Victoria: Principal contractor fined for falling object
Hickory Collins House Pty Ltd, the principal contractor of a 58 storey high rise residential building in Collins Street, Melbourne also had management and control of the workplace. On 28 February 2019 a 32 kilogram DOKA prop, which was being removed by a worker, fell from Level 56 and landed on an amenities shed on Level 3, a drop of approximately 160 metres. The western boundary and north western corner of Level 56 was protected by a 1.2 metre precast wall which failed to prevent the 2775mm long prop which was top heavy, from falling over the edge from its position when being removed.
While the outcome could have been serious injuries or even fatalities, no injuries occurred as a result of the incident.
The Melbourne Magistrates' Court found the company failed to reduce the risk to health and safety in several ways, including installing additional precast panels on top of the existing western boundary and north west boundary precast panels.
Hickory Collins House pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $30,000 plus $7,412 costs.
To check for more Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Queensland: Owner gets record jail time for industrial manslaughter
A business owner will spend at least 18 months in jail – a record under Australian workplace health and safety laws – after being found guilty of the industrial manslaughter of his friend, in a case which highlights the broad meaning of "worker" under the Work Health Act.
In the Queensland District Court, Jeffrey Owen was sentenced to five years' jail, suspended after 18 months of actual prison time for an operational period of five years.
In July 2019, Owen was using a forklift to unload a heavy generator from a flatbed truck at his business – Owen's Electric Motor Rewinds, in Gympie – when the generator fell from the tines and landed on and fatally crushed his adult male friend, who was helping with the task.
In late 2020, after a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation, Owen was charged with industrial manslaughter under section 34C of the State Work Health and Safety Act 2011, as a person conducting a business or undertaking, as opposed to a "senior officer".
This week, WHSQ noted this was the first time an individual had been prosecuted, convicted and jailed for industrial manslaughter since the offence was introduced in Queensland in 2017.
The regulator said Owen caused his friend's death by negligently operating the forklift:
- he was not licensed to drive the machine,
- its lifting capacity was not adequate enough to be used for unloading the generator from the truck, and
- the business did not have any documented health and safety procedures, in particular for using the forklift to unload heavy equipment.
District Court Judge Glen Cash heard safe alternative methods for unloading the generator were available at low cost. He found Owen's sentence needed to reflect punishment, general and personal deterrence, and denunciation, as well as his personal circumstances and his remorse.
Source: OHS Alert
Washington OSHA cracks down on Amazon
Sunday, March 20, marked the 22nd anniversary of one of the greatest crimes in American labor history: President George W. Bush's signing of Senate Joint Resolution 6 which repealed OSHA's ergonomics standard that had been issued just 4 months earlier. Two and a half years later, Washington state voters, succumbing to lies and job blackmail from the state's business community, voted to repeal the state's ergonomics standard.
Ergonomics regulations may have gone away, but neither the hazards nor the musculoskeletal injuries hundreds of thousands of workers suffer every year disappeared: not nationally, not in Washington and not at Amazon.
Two days after that anniversary, on March 22, 2022 Washington State OSHA announced a $60,000 citation for multiple “Willful Serious” ergonomics violations, filed under Washington OSHA's general duty clause, at Amazon's warehouse and fulfillment center in Kent, Washington. According to a Press Release from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries' (L&I), which houses Washington OSHA, the Amazon Kent inspection "found 10 of the 12 processes L&I evaluated create a serious hazard for work-related back, shoulder, wrist, and knee injuries.... L&I ergonomists found that many Amazon jobs involve repetitive motions, lifting, carrying, twisting, and other physical work. Workers are required to perform these tasks at such a fast pace that it increases the risk of injury."
But the most impactful violation did not just address the specific hazards (such as repetitive motions and carrying). The citations states that "There is a direct connection between Amazon's employee monitoring and discipline systems and workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)."
Read more: Confined Space Blog.
HSR Initial & Refresher training
Trained HSRs are more effective HSRs - have you just been elected and haven't organised your training yet? Do it now! And if you completed your initial five day training then organise your annual refresher now. There are things happening in the OHS space you need to be aware of.
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 :
- 6, 7, 8 April & 28, 29 April - Trades Hall, Carlton
- 26, 27, 28, April & 4, 5 May - Trades Hall, Carlton
- 16 - 20 May - Geelong
- 16 - 20 May (Education Sector) AEU - Abbotsford
- 23 - 27 May - Bendigo
- 15, 16, 17 June & 29, 30 June - Online
- 18 - 22 July - Narre Warren
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:
- 27 April - Trades Hall, Carlton
- 5 May - Geelong
- 10 May - Online
- 26 May (Education Sector) - AEU, Abbotsford
- 31 May Work-Related Gendered Violence (Education Sector) - AEU, Abbotsford
- 16 June - Online
- 1 July - Narre Warren
1 - COMCARE Initial course: 7, 8 April and 20, 21, 22 April 2022 - Trades Hall, Carlton*
2 - 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.