SafetyNet 624

Welcome to the May 18, 2022 edition of SafetyNet. We hope you find this week's edition useful and interesting. Feel free to share it and please encourage others in your workplaces to subscribe.

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]  

Featured in this issue:


Lung risks increase even with lawful exposure levels

In a timely study on the insidious reach of silica, Swedish researchers have found a significantly high level of chronic lung disease in metal foundry workers exposed to silica dust, even at levels well below government exposure limits.

The findings coincide with the commencement of more stringent silica-related safety regulations for multiple industries in Victoria.

The Swedish study, led by Örebro University's Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at patterns of lung disease among a cohort of 1,752 foundry workers, with a particular focus on those exposed to respirable silica dust.

The study cross-referenced the levels of exposure recorded in workplace testing, with the number of years worked. This allowed a quantitative analysis of exposure over a 17-year period to assess the incidence of disease.

The results showed significantly increased incidence of various chronic obstructive lung diseases (COPDs) for all exposure groups as well as increased silicosis risk in higher exposure groups.

The higher incidence of disease occurred at exposure levels well below the current Swedish occupational exposure limit of 0.1mg per cubic metre of air, and even below the threshold that currently applies in most Australian jurisdictions, of 0.05mg per cubic metre.

The researchers say the results showed statistically increased morbidity for respiratory diseases of silica-exposed Swedish foundry workers, particularly at exposure levels well below the current Swedish exposure limit.

The morbidity of COPD and silicosis was significantly increased in the high exposure group in the study, which was still less than the current Swedish exposure threshold of 0.1mg per cubic metre.



Caravan park charged after camper's death:

WorkSafe has charged a Healesville accommodation business after a man was crushed by a tree branch in March 2021.

Yarra Valley Park Lane Holiday Park Pty Ltd is facing two charges under Section 26(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure that the workplace was safe and without risks to health.

The camper was sleeping in his tent at the caravan park when a large tree branch fell and killed him.

WorkSafe alleges the company failed to take reasonable measures to reduce the risk of that branch falling and reduce the risk of other branches falling causing serious injury or death.

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 26 May 2022.


John Holland Pty Ltd has been granted permission to enter a $1.2 million enforceable undertaking (EU) in lieu of prosecution over a worker's seven-metre fall through a hole on a major infrastructure project, and will develop a freely available virtual reality app for identifying height risks.

The construction giant, licensed under the Comcare scheme, was charged with a category-2 breach of the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011, in relation to the September 2018 fall.

The PCBU was accused of failing to comply with its section-19(3)(a) duty to provide and maintain a work environment without risks to health and safety.

The worker who fell was a DJD Brick and Blocklaying Pty Ltd contractor engaged to perform construction work at the Sydney Metro rail project's Castle Hill Station.

The man was on a mezzanine level when he stepped on a board covering a void and the board gave way, causing him to fall through the hole and land on the concrete floor below, suffering a broken leg and other injuries.

John Holland's alleged contraventions included failing to ensure the board was properly fastened in place.

For the EU, the PCBU has committed to sharing insights from the incident and its working-at-height initiatives, and making the virtual reality training app available for free to the broader construction industry.

The PCBU's other EU commitments include: improving it site induction process using 360-degree cameras and virtual reality systems to increase the understanding of site risks and hazards; partnering with Indigenous and cultural diversity organisations to provide new job opportunities; and supporting a mental health initiative for the industry.

It has committed to spending $1,221,840.

Read more: John Holland Pty Ltd enforceable undertaking

WHS changes to follow Qld inquest into nine quad deaths:

Queensland's Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 could be amended to block workers from operating quad bikes unless they wear a helmet and have undergone nationally recognised training on safely operating the notoriously hazardous vehicles.
In a 12-page discussion paper open for comment until 17 June, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland also proposes:
  • requiring quad bike operators to be at least 16 years of age
  • prohibiting passengers on quad bikes unless the bike is designed to carry a passenger and the passenger is at least 16
  • requiring side-by-side vehicle (SSV) operators to be at least 16, wear a helmet, and wear a seatbelt where fitted
  • preventing young children from being passengers on SSVs.

WHSQ notes that using quad bikes and SSVs is associated with a high number of fatalities and serious injuries, and this prompted a Queensland coronial inquest into nine quad bike deaths in the State between March 2012 and January 2014.

The inquest found such fatalities often occur in "quite benign conditions", such as on gentle slopes and coincided with a NSW inquest into eight quad bike fatalities and one SSV death and was followed by a Tasmanian inquest into seven quad bikes deaths.

Tassie recently introduced new WHS laws for the vehicles.

The discussion paper says that while current WHS provisions do require PCBUs to properly train and issue PPE to quad bike operators, they "do not explicitly mandate helmet use and training, nor prohibit children using adult-size quad bikes and being carried as passengers in workplaces".

The proposals do not apply to the private non-work-related use of quad bikes and SSVs.





Unmasked Exhibition

If you did not get a chance to see the Her Place Women’s Museum Australia’s exhibition which paid tribute to Victorian nurses and midwives, or you would like to see it again, it's available now online.

Unmasked: celebrating nursing and midwifery, Victoria and beyond was originally planned to mark the international year of the nurse and the midwife in 2020. The exhibition was funded by the Andrews Government and presented in partnership with the Department of Health, Safer Care Victoria and ANMF (Vic Branch).

The pandemic meant it was unable to open its doors until March 2021. Further outbreaks and restrictions meant a regional Victoria tour had to be cancelled.

To preserve Unmasked and its fascinating objects and stories, a digital exhibition has been created.

National Safe Work Month 2022

Safe Work Australia has released the theme and campaign kit for National Safe Work Month 2022 ahead of the official campaign launch on 1 October.

The theme for 2022 is Know safety, work safely - encouraging everyone to make health and safety a priority in the workplace.

Safe Work Australia are encouraging interested parties to start planning their work health and safety activities for October by joining National Safe Work Month following these steps:

  1. Go to the National Safe Work Month Website and download our campaign kit.
  2. Customise and share the resources with your workplace.
  3. Follow Safe Work Australia on social media to keep up to date on new campaign materials and to share National Safe Work Month updates.
  4. Use the hashtags #safeworkmonth, #KnowSafety and #WorkSafely when promoting National Safe Work Month on social media.

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 :  

  • 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:  

  • 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. 


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