SafetyNet 625

Welcome to the May 26, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.

ABC News are reporting a man has died on a farm west of Ballarat after being found with critical injuries. We are waiting on details and confirmation from WorkSafe but send our sincere condolences to family, friends and colleagues of the deceased.

if you're wondering what opportunities the weekend's change of Federal Government might bring, OHS Alert have summarised policy priorities foreshadowed by the Albanese Government. You’ll find a summary and link in the Union News section of this week’s 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]


Latrobe Valley: EnergyAustralia will plead guilty to charges over the death of Graeme Edwards

Latrobe Valley Express reports EnergyAustralia will plead guilty to charges laid by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) over the death of Yallourn power station worker Graeme Edwards.

Graeme, 54 died when he was badly burnt in an electrical short circuit while performing routine maintenance at the plant in November 2018.

An investigation by Energy Australia subsequently cleared Mr Edwards of any responsibility for what happened. On the two-year anniversary of his death, WorkSafe announced it had investigated and decided not to lay charges.

Graeme’s family said in a statement at the time they could not comprehend WorkSafe's decision not to prosecute in relation to the "very easily avoidable workplace incident", and that it was "outrageous and entirely unacceptable".

The CFMMEU subsequently asked the DPP to review WorkSafe's decision.

It was reported yesterday EnergyAustralia intends pleading guilty to breaches of the OHS Act at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court, June 3, after the DPP review, and CFMMEU pressure, resulted in WorkSafe laying three charges, December last year.

Dandenong: Absence of interlock system results in horrific injury and $20,000 fine
The offender operated a business manufacturing die casting moulds for motor vehicles in Dandenong. The company is currently being voluntarily wound up.

Located at the workplace were numerous items of plant including the Makino Milling Machine ('machine'). The machine was used on a daily basis by one employee ('the IP') and occasionally by the Director. It was common practice at the workplace for persons using the machine to go inside the operational area of the machine to see whether it was cutting correctly. There was a front access door to the machine which had an interlock system that prevented the machine's spindle from rotating while the front door was not in the fully closed position but the operator’s door was not fitted with a similar interlock.

On 27 October 2015 a WorkSafe inspector attended the workplace in relation to another matter and while there evaluated the machine guarding on machines at the workplace. The inspector discussed with the Director the need to have interlocking systems on doors of machines, with no specific reference to the machine in this matter.

On 28 September 2020 an incident occurred at the workplace when the IP went into the operational area of the machine and became entangled in the rotating spindle. The IP sustained serious injuries including a collapsed throat, punctured lungs, broken ribs and sternum, liver laceration level 5, burns across the entire right side of his body and lower belly and a right shoulder tear and dislocation.

The offender failed to provide or maintain plant that was, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health in that it failed to ensure that the machine was fitted with an interlocking system that prevented access to the moving parts of the machine by preventing the operator’s door from being opened while the spindle was in operation; and preventing the spindle from being activated when the operator's door was not in the fully closed position (Charge 1).

The offender pleaded guilty and was with conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $20,000.00 and to pay costs of $2,509.00.

Source: WorkSafe Victoria: Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings

SA: WHS regulator lays fatality charge against Inghams
Poultry supplier Inghams Enterprises has been charged with breaching section 32 ("Failure to comply with health and safety duty–Category 2") of the South Australian Work Health and Safety Act 2012, after a worker was fatally struck by a reversing truck and trailer.

The incident occurred in the receiving yard of Inghams' Burton factory in May 2021.

SafeWork SA alleged the employer failed to maintain, so far as was reasonably practicable, a safe work environment by failing to adequately manage the risks associated with interactions between pedestrians and mobile plant.

Source: OHSAlert Wednesday, 18 May 2022


International News

USA: Staff and residents safer in unionised nursing homes

The substantial union safety effect 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-19 infection 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.

Adam Dean, Jamie McCallum, Simeon D. Kimmel, and Atheendar S. Venkataramani.  Resident Mortality And Worker Infection Rates From COVID-19 Lower In Union Than Nonunion US Nursing Homes, 2020–21, Health Affairs, Published online ahead of print, 20 April 2022. Jacobin magazine. More on the union safety effect.

Source: Risks -the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps  

UK: PCS backs call for Covid safety pledge

Independent SAGE - a group of scientists providing advice to UK government on minimising COVID deaths - is calling on employers to sign up to a Covid safety pledge to ensure safe work spaces for their employees, customers and other users. The civil service union PCS, which is backing the initiative, said “that while the UK government has decreed that the Covid crisis is over,” the facts on the ground show otherwise. “We are now formally writing to the Cabinet Office and Government Property Agency, which is responsible for the management of government property, to enter into talks to obtain a national civil service-wide agreement adopting the employer pledge and setting out national standards on its application,” PCS said, covering ventilation, paid sick leave and other issues.

Source: Risks -the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps  
PCS news release. Independent SAGE Covid-19 pledge to promote the creation of safe spaces at work.

Canada: Firms ignoring safety of new recruits

Almost 20 per cent of Canadian businesses do not offer the safety and orientation programmes 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.

Source: CBC News.

Kenya: Meta – formerly known as Facebook – face a lawsuit over the poor working conditions of content moderators

ETUI reports ‘Content moderators… spend hours a day navigating through the dark side of social networks, performing the brutal task of viewing posts perpetrating and perpetuating hate, misinformation and violence. They are bombarded with thousands of videos, images and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide and murder.

Social media platforms subcontract most of content moderation, a practice that keeps their profit margins high but at the cost of thousands of moderators' health. Over the past few years, stories of content moderators experiencing severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders have repeatedly made the headlines.’

Read more here. Source: ETUI /News/May 03, 2022



Research Shows the Danger of Over-connection

As hybrid work arrangements in both home and office become increasingly common, Eurofound (the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions) finds such flexible arrangements can be both positive and detrimental and should perhaps be given significant consideration in the development of psychological regulations here in Australia.

In the executive summary of its Right-To-Disconnect paper Eurofound claims:

“Digital technologies have made it possible for many workers to carry out their work at any time and anywhere, with consequent advantages and disadvantages. Potential advantages include greater autonomy, better work–life balance, improved productivity and environmental benefits. However, the constant connection enabled by information and communications technology (ICT)-based mobile devices can pose risks to health and well-being, as well as causing work–life balance conflict linked to longer working hours and the blurring of boundaries between work and private life.”

Learn more here. Source: Safety at Work Blog May 25, 2022  by Kevin Jones



Injured Workers Day
Every year we celebrate Injured Workers Day - a day to fight for the rights and dignity of injured workers.

Injured workers are being let down by a system that frequently exacerbates existing injuries or creates secondary psychological harm - this needs to change. To win this change, we need you to come out and show your support for injured workers.

On Wednesday, 1 June 2022, there will be a barbecue and experts from a range of industries speaking on issues facing injured workers. If you're unable to make it on the day, you can join the livesteam on the Victorian Trades Hall Council Facebook page.

We hope to see you there!
Learn more here.

Work-Related Gendered Violence (including Sexual Harassment)
Refresher Training Course for HSRs
Elected HSRs and dHSRs are entitled to a one day refresher course each year, and may choose which course, in consultation with their employer.

VTHC’s WorkSafe-approved Work-Related Gendered Violence course provides HSRs with skills and knowledge to raise and resolve issues arising from work-related gendered violence - a serious occupational health and safety issue.

Our course covers:

  • Consultation, communication and representation
  • Gendered violence, definitions, impacts and injury
  • Identifying risks, risk assessment, prevention and the hierarchy of control
  • Issue Resolution

Course hours are 9am to 5pm and cost $330 or $350 regionally. Please contact Natalie Wood at [email protected] for more information.

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 :  

  • 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:  

  • 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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