SafetyNet 628

Welcome to the 16 June, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.

After years of campaigning by workers globally, the annual conference of the ILO last Friday enshrined the right to a safe and healthy working environment as one of its Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, commiting member states to respect and promote the right.

This is a key step forward in raising standards for workers around the world. It enshrines the principle that all workers should enjoy a safe and healthy working environment.

You can find more information about the decision here and an ITUC report on it here.

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.

For OHS news and helpful information visit We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page, or for advice, our Ask Renata facility on OHS Network Facebook or via email: [email protected]

Regulator News

VICTORIAN REGULATORS VISIT WORK SITES DURING LATROBE VALLEY SAFETY BLITZ

Four Victorian regulators carried out more than 120 inspections across Latrobe Valley work sites as part of last week’s Build Aware campaign.

Inspectors from Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), WorkSafe, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) visited sites across the Latrobe Valley between Monday, 30 May and Friday, 3 June.

The Build Aware campaign works to ensure the construction and demolition industries are meeting safety, environmental, building and plumbing compliance obligations with each agency focused on a specific area of safety.

Read on source website

SAFE WORK AUSTRALIA GUIDANCE ON INDUSTRIAL ROPE ACCESS SYSTEMS

An industrial rope access system is a work positioning system used for gaining access to, and working at, a workface, usually through vertically suspended ropes.

The use of these systems can pose work health and safety risks that must be identified and managed by PCBUs. 

The guide provides information about duties under the model Work Health and Safety laws and practical guidance on:

  • selection and installation of anchors
  • anchor access and layout
  • anchor inspection and testing
  • rigging techniques
  • rope protection
  • exclusion zones

This guide is for industrial rope access service providers, building managers, owners, and body corporates, principal contractors, and other PCBUs at a workplace where an industrial rope access system is used. Download the guide


Union News

VTHC'S OHS BASICS MONTH

The third event for OHS Basics Month - Using HSR Powers to Win - is happening 4pm TODAY, 16 June.



This webinar will be led one of WorkSafe's 2021 HSR of the year Adrian Lidsey and his co-workers from Crown Casino. They used their HSR powers to get indoor smoking banned from the Casino, saving lives. It will cover:

  • Your employers' duties to you as a worker and HSR
  • How to work with your DWG, with other HSRs and hold the best HSR elections
  • Different ways you can use your powers as a HSR under the OHS Act to secure safer workplaces

Understanding your powers as a HSR can save lives. RSVP now to the seminar by clicking on the link below.

This event will be held online.

Zoom -  https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89071124206
Event - https://www.weareunion.org.au/ohs_basics_using_hsr_powers_to_win

We hope you can join us.

ASK RENATA

'I have a question regarding my obligation to attend company-wide HSR meetings organised by my manager at a different work site. In my experience these are token events of little value and I’d rather not participate. What is my obligation as a HSR?'

Becoming a HSR imposes no function or duty upon a person who voluntarily nominates and is elected to the role. Here’s what WorkSafe’s recently updated Guide to Employee Representation has to say on the matter…

The role of an HSR is voluntary and although HSRs have certain powers, there are no duties or functions imposed by the OHS Act or OHS Regulations on the HSR other than those imposed on all employees in the workplace under section 25 of the OHS Act.

Therefore, it is not appropriate for employers to, for example:

nominate or choose HSRs
give HSRs duty statements
request or instruct HSRs to conduct inspections or undertake risk assessments on behalf of the employer
task HSRs to write or develop policies and procedures on behalf of the employer

It is our view that employers cannot mandate attendance at HSR meetings as it inappropriately imposes a duty upon a person acting in that capacity, in breach of s.58(3) of the Act.

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

COVID-19

Latest Numbers 
On Tuesday 16 June Victoria recorded:

  • 7,889 new daily infections
  • 22 COVID deaths
  • 465 hospitalisations, 27 in ICU and 9 of these on ventilators

Cumulatively this equals:

  • 2,009,964 total Victorian infections
  • 3,685 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 163 since last post)

You can check the Victorian live update here

Australia wide: As of June 16, there have been a total of 7,713,806 COVID cases (7,475,637 last post) and 9,199 deaths, an increase of 397 since last week's SafetyNet.

Worldwide: As of June 16, there had been 542,381,868 worldwide infections (535,924,290 last post). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,336,397 (Source: Worldometer). 

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

VACCINATION UPDATE 

83.63% of all Victorians, as of June 16, have received their second dose, 86.19% their first, and only 55% their crucially important third dose.

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.23%, 86.93% and 53.7%.

Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

NATIONAL NEWS

National Fatality Statistics 2022  
Safe Work Australia last updated its statistics on fatalities June 2, at which time it had been notified that 74 Australian workers had been killed at work this year.

The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

31 in Transport, Postal & Warehousing 
16 in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing
6 in Construction
5 in Public Administration & Safety
4 in Electricity, Gas, Water & Waste Services
4 in 'other services'
3 in Manufacturing
1 in Mining
1 in Accommodation and Food Services
1 in Professional, scientific & technical services
1 in Health care & social assistance
1 in Arts & recreation services

Sadly there have been 14 more worker deaths this year, than at the same time last year.

These figures are based 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. As a result 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

$490K FOR MULTIPLE BREACHES, RECKLESSNESS HEARING SCHEDULED

A company has been fined heavily over a fatality and other safety breaches.

The County Court heard that in May 2018, a PST truck driver was killed when the milk tanker he was operating in Leongatha rolled onto its side while travelling around a bend.

A WorkSafe Victoria investigation into the incident found that despite the company experiencing nine previous rollovers since 2009, it failed to provide drivers with detailed information, instructions or supervised training in driving milk tankers carrying dynamic loads.

A subsequent inspection of vehicles at PST's Leongatha depot resulted in major defect notices being issued for eight of the 10 prime movers and tanker trailers inspected, requiring them to be taken off the road immediately.

PST then failed, in September 2018, to notify WorkSafe of a rollover incident in Echuca that resulted in a driver needing hospital treatment for a serious laceration.

PST has recently charged with reckless endangerment, relating to incidents involving the alleged poor condition of its heavy vehicles.

It faces a maximum penalty of about $3.3 million under the recklessness charge.

Source: OHS Alert, Thursday, 09 June 2022

COMPANY FINED OVER CRYSTALLINE SILICA EXPOSURE RISK

Hilton Stone Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court yesterday to two rolled-up charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

The company was fined $12,500 for failing to provide proper controls to reduce the risk of exposure to silica dust and a further $12,500 for failing to have required guarding on a power saw.

A WorkSafe found that equipment used to cut, grind or polish engineered stone did not have controls in place such as an integrated water delivery system to suppress silica dust an on-tool extraction system to remove airborne particles, personal protective equipment such as a respirator or health monitoring checks of workers.

Employers can protect workers from the dangers of crystalline silica exposure by:

  • Providing tools with water suppression.
  • Providing on-tool extraction.
  • Providing fit-for-purpose respirators and appropriate PPE.
  • Carrying out air monitoring.
  • Ensuring workers undergo an annual health check

Source: WorkSafe Victoria media release

 


International News

US: AMAZON HOLDING UP INVESTIGATION INTO EMPLOYEE DEATHS

Congressional Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform are accusing Amazon of “obstructing” their investigation into the company’s labor practices during severe weather events.

In a letter signed by committee members to the Amazon CEO, Congresspersons including, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accused the company of failing to produce materials requested more than two months ago.

6 Amazon employees were killed last month, when a warehouse collapsed during a tornado, OSHA sent a letter calling on the company to address several risk factors that led to the deaths. Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company had supplied the requested documents and was “surprised” to receive the letter.

Source: Confined Space and Washington Post

US: 50 GIG WORKERS KILLED IN FIVE YEARS

Explaining the connection between safety and  independent contractor status, US Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley says “drivers are only put at greater risk because they have low pay, low wages, that pushes them to work longer hours and that pushes them to accept more rides, even when they feel unsafe”.

A recent report found that at least 50 gig workers have been killed over the past five years. There is a battle raging in Massachusetts between labour groups and gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash over a ballot measure that would maintain the independent status of drivers and delivery people instead of making them employees.

Labour advocates argue that the ballot measure would continue to misclassify drivers and delivery workers as independent contractors continuing to put drivers and deliverers in jeopardy.

Source: Confined Space and the New York Times.

UK: ‘CRIMINAL INJUSTICE’ AS WORKING PEOPLE DIED

Conservative ministers committed a ‘criminal injustice against working people’ by letting so many die unnecessarily during the Covid-19 pandemic, BFAWU’s national president has said. Speaking at the union’s conference, Ian Hodson said unions were the safe choice and called on workers to “organise in our workplaces and make demands to improve our lives.”

He said: “You can see the difference in lives lost in non-organised workplaces compared to ones which are organised by trade unions that have health and safety committees.” He added: “If people feel that they are unsafe in the workplace due to an outbreak of coronavirus, then they have the right to remove themselves. And if our members decide to take that action, this union will support them.”

Source: Risks, Morning Star and related story.


Research

UK: TUBE DUST 'COULD CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS'

Dust exposures on the London Underground system have the potential to cause serious illness to station staff, research has revealed. The first study on the impact of particulate matter (PM) from an underground railway found exposure increased the risk of pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia. Professor Jonathan Grigg, who led the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) research team, called for a new study comparing the health of Tube drivers and platform staff with those working closer to the surface. He said the investigation made the “remarkable finding” that there was increased mortality from pneumococcal infection in mice exposed to the dust and demonstrated the ability of bacteria to enter the body. Laboratory tests were also done using human cells, which confirmed the ability of the dust to harm humans.

Sources: Risks, Lisa Miyashita and others. Underground railway particulate matter and susceptibility to pneumococcal infection, The Lancet eBioMedicine, volume 80, 104063, 1 June 2022. Evening Standard.

US: ‘ESSENTIAL’ WORKERS DIED MORE OFTEN FROM COVID-19

A University of South Florida study whose findings will surprise absolutely no-one has confirmed Americans who could not work from home and had low-paid jobs without paid sick leave or health insurance, suffered a much higher rate of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic’s first year.

The study found that 68% of COVID-19 deaths the first year of the pandemic were low socioeconomic position adults, employed in labour, service and retail jobs requiring on-site attendance and prolonged close contact with others. 

The findings point to the urgent need to implement population-based infection control efforts, especially for those in low socioeconomic positions.

Historically, data shows low socioeconomic status workers are disproportionate exposed to risk and increased burden of disease.  COVID-19 proved no different. The research team confirmed hazardous conditions, like working in close proximity with others, were primary drivers of disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates.

Source: Confined Space A newsletter of workplace safety and labour issues

 


Events

WORK-RELATED GENDERED VIOLENCE (INCLUDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT)

Refresher Training Course for HSRs
Elected HSRs and Deputy HSRs are entitled to at least one 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 at least 1 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 :  

  • 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:  

  • 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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