SafetyNet 622

Welcome to the May 4, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.

Unfortunately, another Victorian worker has been killed since the last edition of the journal.  

A note from Renata: 

This is my last edition of SafetyNet. Today is my last working day at the Victorian Trades Hall Council - though I intend to 'visit' some future events. 

I have loved my time working in the OHS Unit, answering people's questions and doing the SafetyNet journal. I hope I have been able to provide some useful and interesting information over the years.  

But have no fear! The journal and the website will be in safe hands. SafetyNet will now come to you from Martin Raspin, who has taken over my position in the OHS Unit. Martin has come most recently from the OHS Unit at the ANMF, and was previously with the AMWU. As well as his extensive experience as a union OHS Officer, he also has experience as an elected health and safety representative (HSR). His industry background is 20 years in production for print environments such as newspapers and so on. You will have the opportunity to meet him at future VTHC OHS Unit events, such as the HSR Conference in October. 

Visit our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page for news, memes and more. If you have any questions or need any advice, we can be reached via the Ask Renata facility on the website or through the closed OHS Network Facebook page. If you have comments or want to send through any ideas, email us at [email protected]  

Union News

Worker dies in hospital after being crushed by garbage truck 
It is with great sadness that we report that a 69-year-old worker died in hospital last Wednesday April 27 as a result of injuries sustained in a collision the Monday before. The the garbage truck he was driving collided with another garbage truck at Mount Wallace. WorkSafe is investigating the incident.

The death brings the official workplace fatality toll to 14 for 2022, five fewer than at the same time last year. Note: the VTHC figure is higher as there are a number of  fatalities, including those in the helicopter crash, which at this stage at least, WorkSafe has not included. 

The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the worker's family, friends and work colleagues. No worker should die as a result of work: mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living. Source: WorkSafe 

International Workers' Memorial Day  
Last Thursday, April 28, was International Workers' Memorial Day (IWMD). Events were held by unions and workers all over the world, including at the Trades Hall.

It was a very affecting event - the official number of Victorian workers lost their lives since the previous IWMD was 62, however we know that many deaths due to workplace exposures and disease were not recorded. There were also a number of fatalities which WorkSafe at this stage does not appear to have included in their numbers. 

The crowd of approximately 450 heard from a range of speakers, including Mr Tim Pallas, Victoria's Treasurer, Ms Ingrid Stitt, the Minister for Workplace Safety, and Mr Colin Radford, Chief Executive of WorkSafe.  The event was live-streamed on the day: check it out here

COVID-19
Latest Numbers 
The so-called 'plateau' is proving to be very stubborn, with numbers stuck at around the 10 - 11,000 mark for new daily infections. It is very possible that with the winter coming on, numbers will again increase, especially with such few restrictions in place in Victoria and around Australia. This week on the ABC, immunologist and Nobel laureate Professor Peter Doherty said, in relation to the lifting of most restrictions: "When the government decided COVID was over, it forgot to tell the virus."

There were 10,779 new infections reported today in Victoria - 

Victorian figures, May 4: 

  • 57,154 active cases  (last week 51,835). 
  • 11 deaths reported 
  • 2,998 COVID-related deaths so far
  • 473 are in hospital, 25 are in ICU, and 6 of these are on ventilators. These numbers have remained fairly stable, if anything slowly decreasing. 
  • 1,597,294 total number of infections since the pandemic began

You can check the Victorian live update here

The figures in NSW are higher, with 11,939 new cases, 139,572 active cases, 1,510 in hospital, 68 in intensive care and 23 on ventilation. On May 3 they reported 21 deaths. 

Australia wide: we have now topped 6 million infections! As of May 3, there have been a total of 6,029,879 COVID cases (5,756,477 last week) and 7,310 deaths. 

Worldwide:  As of May 4, there had been 514,510,812 worldwide infections (510,652,507 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,264,974. (Source: Worldometer). Read more: Coronavirus;COVID-19 Victorian situation

Vaccination update 
As of May 2, 83.23 per cent of all Victorians had received their second dose, 85.97 per cent had received their first dose, and 53.77 per cent had their third dose. We are now at a lower rate of vaccination than Australia overall. There are still too few Victorians who have received the third dose, crucial to protect against severe disease. 

Australia wide, by May 2, the figures are 83.81 per cent, 86.72 per cent respectively, with 52.3 per cent having received the third shot.  Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
I work in a large supermarket distribution centre. When office staff enter the warehouse and walk throughout it. Should they be wearing steel cap shoes? I am an elected HSR. 

My first thought is: why are the office staff entering and walking through (or even 'throughout') the warehouse? If they are simply walking through as a 'short cut', then this probably needs to be looked at as there are hazards in the warehouse.

If however they do need to go through, then remember that your employer has a duty under section 21 of the OHS Act to provide a safe work environment and safe systems of work.

When it comes to this situation, in order to ensure that any pedestrians are not injured in the warehouse, your employer needs to have a traffic management plan in place that isolates these pedestrians from hazards and risks as they move through your area.  This includes ensuring that they are kept separate from forklifts and falling objects. 

There should, therefore, be no need for office staff entering your work area to wear steel cap boots. They should not be in any area not designated for pedestrians. If they do need to enter other areas for any reason, where they may be at risk of falling objects or whatever, then they may need special footwear and specific information, instruction and training.... but I can’t see why they would need to be there if they are office staff.

For more information on traffic management on our site check out these Safe Work Australia documents: 

The warehousing guide includes the following on pedestrian traffic safety:

Where eliminating risks is not reasonably practicable, an employer must minimise the risks so far is reasonably practicable. For example, the following should be considered: 

  • separating designated areas for pedestrians and vehicles, for example using overhead walkways and installing barriers and fences Where separate areas are temporary e.g. when loading vehicles or unloading containers, consider using temporary high visibility physical barriers 
  • using separate pedestrian doors at vehicle entries and exits into buildings 
  • using safety railings or bollards to prevent pedestrians stepping out into traffic from ‘blind spots’ 
  • using safety measures like walkways and safety zones to protect drivers once they have left their delivery vehicles, and 
  • using engineering controls like interlocked gates, zoning systems, proximity alarms and speed shields.

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

June 5: ACTU Walk for Safety 
In 2021, 1,500 workers were injured at work every single day. 

194 Australians were killed on the job. That's 194 families who lost a loved one - a father, mother, brother or sister. It's 194 too many.  

Every workplace injury and death is preventable. The ACTU is looking for your help to get that number down to zero by joining the Walk For Safety 2022.

What to do:

  1. Register for Walk For Safety 2022. Get your very own fundraising page to raise funds to support our campaigns for safer workplaces.
  2. Complete the two or four kilometre walk around scenic and historic surrounds of Trades Hall in Carlton.

Every dollar raised will helps the ACTU to continue to organise for safer workplaces and to support injured workers. Find out more

Are you interested in working at the VTHC? 
The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) is looking for a full-time Digital Fundraising Organiser - a great job for someone who is excited about experimenting with digital fundraising to fight for radical change for working people.

The Hall is looking for a digital organiser to work in the digital/data team, managing the digital fundraising program and supporting unions to run digital campaigns. Applications close May 13. Check out the details on Ethical Jobs.

Asbestos News  
NSW: Director fined $460,000 for asbestos pollution  
Former Director of SSADCO Contractors Pty Ltd Fayed Afram has been ordered to pay $460,000 by the NSW Land and Environment Court after pleading guilty to polluting land with asbestos waste and to supplying false and misleading information about waste.

This comes after Afram’s business charged $4 million to remove 17,600 tonnes of soil containing asbestos waste and restricted solid waste from the Green Square development site in inner Sydney in 2016 - 2017. The waste was meant to be taken to two separate landfills, which were both licensed to accept the waste. However an end-of-project waste disposal audit of the Green Square building site by environmental consultants found inconsistencies in weighbridge dockets and invoices. This led to an investigation by the EPA, which found none of the waste had been taken to either of the lawful landfill sites.

Instead, it was illegally dumped elsewhere. Some of the waste was used, without the knowledge of the landowners, by Afram as part of a contract to build a road on a privately owned semi-rural property in Kulnura. Other waste was taken to a property in Horsley Park. Read more: NSW EPA news release 

UK: MPs back TUC’s calls for asbestos removal 
The UK’s peak body the Trade Union Council (TUC) has called for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings. The call has been backed by MPs: the report of a Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into asbestos management cites TUC calls for an explicit asbestos removal plan. The 21 April report from MPs cites concerns that the likely dramatic increase in retrofitting of buildings in response to net zero ambitions means that more asbestos-containing material will be disturbed. It calls for a 40-year deadline to remove all asbestos from public and commercial buildings. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the recognition, but added “a 40-year deadline isn’t ambitious enough: hundreds of thousands of workers risk dangerous exposure in that time. Ministers must commit to removing all asbestos to keep future generations safe.” Read more: TUC news release. House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee news release, report summary and full report. HSE asbestos disease statistics [PDF]. Source: Risks 1042

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

International Union News 
UK: Government chose to abuse health workers
The pandemic efforts of health staff are being undermined by political choices, UK's health union UNISON has said. The union said most worked extra hours and took on more intense workloads. Addressing UNISON’s annual health conference, general secretary Christina McAnea said “both the prime minister and the chancellor are guilty of taking health workers for granted. Over the last two years, health staff have lost colleagues, patients, family members and friends to the virus, and worked under an unbelievable amount of pressure.” She added: “It’s a political choice that keeps pay down and pushes workloads up. It’s also a political choice to increase national insurance contributions for working people, and to decide not to give health and other essential employees a decent pay rise.” Read more: UNISON news release. Source: Risks 1042


Research

Australian truck drivers’ physical and mental health

The negative health consequences of truck driving are well documented. However, despite the distinct occupational challenges between long- and short-haul driving, limited research has been conducted on how the health profile of these drivers differ.

Researchers from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, sought to characterise the physical and mental health of Australian truck drivers overall, and to identify any differences between long-haul and short-haul drivers.

1390 Australian truck drivers completed an online survey between August 2019 and May 2020. The survey included questions on psychological distress, general health, work ability and health-related quality-of-life. Participants driving 500 km or more per day were categorised as long-haul and those driving less than 500 km as short-haul.

The researchers found:

  • The majority of survey respondents were either overweight (25.2 per cent) or obese (54.3 per cent).
  • Three in ten reported three or more chronic health conditions (29.5 per cent) and poor general health (29.9 per cent).
  • The most commonly diagnosed conditions were back problems (34.5  per cent), high blood pressure (25.8 per cent) and mental health problems (19.4 per cent).
  • Chronic pain was reported by 44 per cent of drivers.
  • 50.0 per cent reported low levels of psychological distress, whereas 13.3 and 36.7 per cent experienced severe or moderate level of psychological distress respectively.

There were a small number of differences between the health of long and short-haul drivers. A higher proportion of short-haul drivers reported severe psychological distress compared to long-haul drivers. Long-haul drivers were more likely to be obese and report pain lasting over a year.

In conclusion: Australian truck drivers report a high prevalence of multiple physical and mental health problems. The researchers recommended strategies focused on improving diet, exercise and preventing chronic conditions and psychological distress, that can also be implemented in the trucking occupational environment are needed to help improve driver health. Further research is needed to explore risk and protective factors that specifically affect health in both short-haul and long-haul drivers. 
Read more: van Vreden et al. The physical and mental health of Australian truck drivers: a national cross-sectional study [Full article] BMC Public Health, vol. 22, no. 1. 2022

Canada: Firms ignoring safety of new recruits 
Almost 20 per cent of Canadian businesses do not offer the safety and orientation programmes that are legally required for new workers in much of the country, a survey has found. The research, commissioned by Threads of Life, a group that advocates for workplace safety, questioned hiring managers at 545 companies. Of these, 102 said their companies offer no orientation, onboarding, safety, emergency, hazard or illness and injury protocol training. Eric Tucker, a labour law professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, said for companies to admit openly that they don't offer training that's mandated by legislation shows there is “widespread lawbreaking” taking place. Read more: CBC News. Source: Risks 1042

USA: Staff and residents safer in unionised nursing homes  
The substantial safety effect of unions has been confirmed in a study of COVID-19 infections in US nursing homes. The research, published in Health Affairs, examined whether unions for nursing home staff were associated with lower resident COVID-19 mortality rates and worker COVID-19 infection rates compared with rates in non-union nursing homes.

A research team led by Adam Dean of George Washington University found that "unions were associated with 10.8 per cent lower resident COVID-19 mortality rates, as well as 6.8 per cent lower worker COVID-19infection rates".  They conclude: "With more than 75,000 COVID-19 deaths among residents in non-unionised nursing homes during our study period, our results suggest that industry-wide unionisation would have been associated with approximately 8,000 fewer resident deaths." 

The findings are not surprising for those of us who work in union health and safety. While the US system differs from ours a great deal, one thing that can be counted on is that unions all over the world provide assistance and advice to their members, and particularly in OHS, the hazards faced at work and what can/should be done to minimise these hazards and risks. Unionised workplaces are safer workplaces. 
Read more: Adam Dean, et al, Resident Mortality And Worker Infection Rates From COVID-19 Lower In Union Than Nonunion US Nursing Homes, 2020–21, [AbstractHealth Affairs, Published online ahead of print, 20 April 2022. Unionized Nursing Homes Literally Saved Lives at the Pandemic’s Height Jacobin magazine. More on the union safety effect. Source: Risks 1042


Regulator News

Victorian news   
WorkSafe HSR Newsletter
Last week WorkSafe sent out its regular newsletter for HSRs. The newsletter has a great feature on the WorkSafe Award winners, including a video of joint Health and Safety Representative of the Year - Adrian Lidsey and Christopher Ball. Both United Workers Union members at Crown Casino, Adrian and Christopher finally succeeded in making the casino smoke free. They won the battle not only for Crown Melbourne, but also for workers at the casinos in Sydney and Perth.

The newsletter has other items of interest, including an invitation to access WorkSafe's HSR Support channel by scanning a QR code. Note, however, at this stage we are not recommending WorkSafe's support service for injured workers, as we believe there a few issues to be resolved. If you are injured on the job, then contact your union as soon as possible if you have any questions or issues. You can also contact the VTHC's Union Assist for expert advice. Check out the April edition of the HSR Newsletter.

Safety Soapbox April edition  
The latest edition of Safety Soapbox was sent out last week. 

The edition's editorial looks in detail at the changes introduced to the regulations in November 2021 to further protect workers against crystalline silica. While some of the changes commenced immediately in November, two requirements will commence on May 15, 2022. If you work with crystalline silica, then you need to check out what should be in place in your workplace. Also check the summary of the regulations, here.  

As well as this major information piece, there are items on International Workers' Memorial Day, a summary of the changes to the OHS Act to specifically cover labor hire workers, and more. 

In April the construction industry reported 214 incidents to WorkSafe. Of these, 74 per cent resulted in injury.  20 per cent involved young workers. Go to this page on the WorkSafe website for the April edition of Safety Soapbox.

National News
National Fatality Statistics 2022  
Safe Work Australia has not updated its statistics on fatalities since April 21, at which time it had been notified that 52 Australian workers had been killed at work this year, this is five more than at the time of its previous update on April 7.  

The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 24 in Transport, postal & warehousing 
  • 12 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
  • 4 in Public administration & safety
  • 3 in Construction
  • 2 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services 
  • 4 in 'other services'
  • 1 in Accommodation & food services
  • 1 in Manufacturing
  • 1 in Mining

These figures are based mainly on initial media reports and provide a preliminary estimate of the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia updates details of the incident. Consequently, sometimes the numbers of deaths in each sector change. 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 
Fatal fall at construction site leads to charges 
WorkSafe Victoria has charged a company over the death of a worker who fell at a residential construction site in Templestowe in April 2020. The 26-year-old man died in hospital from head injuries sustained in a fall of more than two metres from scaffolding onto a concrete floor.

Ourarchi Pty Ltd has been charged under section 26(1) of the OHS Act for failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health. It has also been charged under section 38(1) for failing to notify WorkSafe immediately after becoming aware that an incident had occurred.

The regulator further alleges the company breached section 39(1) of the OHS Act by failing, without reasonable excuse, to ensure that the site where the incident occurred was not disturbed.

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 11 May 2022. Source: WorkSafe media release

Company charged over serious safety breaches 
Also in the past week, WorkSafe charged a wheel manufacturer following a number of incidents at a Mildura workshop between August 2018 and February 2020.

Titan Australia Pty Ltd is facing a number of charges:

  • three charges under s21(1) of the OHS Act for failing to provide and maintain a workplace that was safe and without risks to health. WorkSafe alleges the company twice breached s21(2)(e) of the Act by failing to provide instruction, training or supervision;
  • five charges under s38(1) of the OHS Act for failing to notify WorkSafe immediately after becoming aware that an incident had occurred;
  • five charges under s38(3) of the OHS Act for failing to provide a written record to WorkSafe within 48 hours of an incident;
  • one charge under s39(1) of the OHS Act for failing, without reasonable excuse, to ensure that the site where an incident occurred was not disturbed
  • WorkSafe also alleges the company contravened regulation 101 of the OHS Regulations by failing to locate or guard operator controls from unintentional activation.

The matter was listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 3 May 2022. 

The media release had very little detail - however, because several of the charges relate to alleged breaches of s38 (Notifiable Incidents) it is safe to assume that the incident/s were serious, and possibly involved at least one very serious injury caused by insufficiently guarded plant. 
Source: WorkSafe media release

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


Events

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 :  

  • 16 - 20 May - Geelong    
  • 16 - 20 May (Education Sector) AEU - Abbotsford    
  • 23 - 27 May - Bendigo   
  • 15, 16, 17 June & 29, 30 June - Online (Currently Full)
  • 18 - 22 July - Narre Warren
  • 26, 27, 28 July & 10, 11 August - 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:  

  • 10 May - Online
  • 26 May  (Education Sector) - AEU, Abbotsford   
  • 16 June - Online
  • 1 July - Narre Warren
  • 7 July - Carlton
  • 14 July - Work Related Gendered Violence - Carlton
  • 3 August - Work Related Gendered Violence (Education Sector) -  AEU, Abbotsford

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. 

Tuesday 10 May: Central Safety Group
Topic: Ethics in Safety
Guest Speaker: Keith Govias,

How important is it to have an ethical approach in the role of OHS practitioner? What is involved? For some answers to this, join Keith Govias, an expert on the subject, in a CSG lunchtime Zoom talk on Tuesday, 10 May.

Keith is the first OHS professional to become a Vincent Fairfax Fellow in Ethical Leadership, and is also a peer-reviewer of the Ethics and Professional Practice chapter for the Body of Knowledge produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety.

He will discuss the ethical challenges of the profession and how an ethical framework can be applied to OHS decision making, performance measurement, injury management and other areas, and give examples from his own professional experience.

When:
 12 -1 pm, Tuesday, 10 May, 2022 
How: Online via Zoom. Financial members will automatically be emailed the Zoom meeting link. (N.B. A video recording of the session will be available on the website exclusively for financial members.) 

Cost: Financial members* free.  Others $15
[Individual membership fee: $75. In 2022 this includes a free 12-month subscription to Kevin Jones' SafetyatWorkBlog valued at $250] *If unsure of your membership status, contact [email protected]   Book online now by COB 9 May.


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