SafetyNet 634

Welcome to the 3 August, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.

Happily there have been no workplace deaths reported since last edition.

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].

Union News

HIGH WORK DEMANDS PUT LIVES AT RISK

In an example of how workers lives, and safety, can be put at risk by management practices that impose high work demands and a punitive workplace culture, a recent article in The Age Newspaper claims the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) was placing its 40 building and plumbing inspectors at risk by demanding they finish at least three inspections a day or, five a day, in the case of plumbing inspectors.

It is reported that a leaked WorkSafe review found that what was being asked of building and plumbing inspectors was not reasonable or achievable. “Management place greater emphasis on meeting performance measures than on quality of work or occupational health and safety”..

The investigation follows the suicide of a VBA building inspector in May, which prompted the Community and Public Sector Union the union covering VBA staff, to accuse the VBA of having a “toxic workplace” and demanding that employees be protected from “harassment and bullying”.

WorkSafe staff conducting a “psycho-social safety” review interviewed the authority’s inspectors and found they “feel pressured to not complete a thorough inspection and/or avoid finding risk items in order to meet performance measures”.

Problems with regulation in the industry have led successive state governments to promise ever harsher crackdowns on “dodgy” builders, with the building authority expected to fulfill promises made by planning ministers.

On Tuesday, a union spokesman said members felt “strongly vindicated” by the WorkSafe report.

Source: The Age 27 July, We Are Union OHS Reps

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS 

On Tuesday 2nd August Victoria recorded: 

10,079 new daily infections  
13 COVID deaths 
802 hospitalisations, 44 in ICU and 6 of these on ventilators 

Cumulatively this equals: 

2,438,371 total Victorian infections 
4,674 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 273 since last week) 

You can check the Victorian live update here. 

Australia: As of the 2nd August , there have been a total of 9,476,145 COVID cases (an increase of 290,043 since last week) and 11,960 deaths, an increase of 1,634 since last week. 

World: As of 2nd August, there had been 583,211,121 worldwide infections (576,219,283 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,422,181 (Source: Worldometer). 

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation. 

VACCINATION UPDATE  

89.26% of all Victorians aged over 5, as of 2nd August, have received their second dose, 91.88% 
their first, and only 55.83% for their crucially important third dose. 

The figure for Australians aged over 5 for the same date is 90.02%, 92.77%  and 54.70%. 

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

COVIDSAFE STORY/ARTICLE/QUERY 

Victoria's COVID cases are likely hugely under-reported. 

Health authorities say that amidst the current COVID-19 wave, only around 45% of cases are being reported to them. Alongside this, it is estimated that 10% of cases are people being infected a second time.  

Despite the underreporting of case numbers, according to the Chief Health Officer, Victoria seems to be past the peak of the latest wave, with a rolling 7 day average of cases falling from 11,703 last week to 10,199 this week. Modelling also suggests that the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 will peak in early August with 900 to 1,000 patients in hospital with the virus. This week, the Chief Health Officer has said the number of people in hospital is ‘plateauing,’ but warned that there will still be substantial pressure on the hospital system for ‘some weeks to come.’  

Concerningly, this past July had the highest COVID-19 related death toll since the pandemic began in Victoria with 737 deaths over the past month. The Chief Health Officer has against stressed the importance of safety measures such as mask wearing, physical distancing, proper ventilation and regular testing to help prevent infection, hospitalisation and death. 

Source: Victoria's COVID cases are likely hugely under-reported. Here's what that means for this wave 

ASK RENATA

Hi Renata, we’d like to meet with our boss to clarify the membership of our DWG but are having trouble understanding the views of some of our workmates as there are multiple languages spoken at our workplace. What support is available to help us communicate about DWGs and HSRs?

Hi and thanks for your question,

There are two pieces of WorkSafe guidance you may find helpful:

  1. WorkSafe Victoria’s Compliance Code - Communicating occupational health and safety across languages
  2. WorkSafe Victoria’s Employee Representation Handbook

Both can be found and downloaded from WorkSafe’s website, here and here. Page 4 of the compliance code includes the following…

The Act requires employers to provide information to employees concerning health and safety in such languages as are appropriate to the workplace.

It is therefore the employer’s duty to provide workers with OHS information in their preferred language. Page 8 advises…

You should work out what information you need to give your workers and assess whether it can be easily understood by everyone in the workplace. All workers need to be informed about:

  • the company’s health and safety policy and procedures
  • any hazards in the workplace
  • safe work procedures
  • procedures for safe operation, use, maintenance, or replacement of protective equipment
  • injury and incident reporting procedures
  • consultation structures (e.g., health and safety representatives, designated work groups, management contacts and meeting schedules)
  • procedures for resolving health and safety issues
  • emergency and first aid procedures
  • safety signs and symbols.

Employers must ensure that all this information is available to staff either in their preferred language or in a form that they can understand.

The Representation Handbook provides excellent plain language explanations of the role and functions of DWGs and HSRs.

We suggest as a first step you remind the employer of their duty to provide information to employees concerning health and safety in such languages as are appropriate to the workplace, and then point to the DWG and HSR sections of the Representation Guide explaining this is information you need communicated to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) staff.

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.

WE ARE HIRING!

Victorian Trades Hall Council is seeking a WorkWell Project Organiser responsible for working with the ACTU and partner unions to increase mental health safety and awareness for Victorian workers.

The WorkWell Project Organiser provides outreach and support to unions, mental health advocates and OHS delegates in multiple workplaces as they learn how to identify and manage psychosocial hazards.

The successful candidate will be employed on a short-term contract until December 2022.

More information on duties, essential requirements and conditions can be found here, or simply give us a call if you’d like to talk to someone about this opportunity to work with the dynamic team at VTHC.

WORK-RELATED GENDERED VIOLENCE (INCLUDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT)

Elected HSRs and Deputy HSRs are entitled to at least one refresher training 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.

 

 


Prosecutions

‘ALMOST NO’ HEIGHT PROTECTION RESULTS IN CONVICTION

A PCBU and director have been convicted over a worker's 6.5-metre fall onto a concrete floor after failing to provide personnel with external height safety training as well as a number of convenient and inexpensive other measures.

The incident occurred in June 2020 and involved the removal of roof sheeting and the installation of insulation and mesh on a shed roof about nine metres off the ground.

As two workers were performing the task, the 20-year-old third-year carpentry apprentice, took a step backwards and fell through an unprotected skylight, landing on the concrete floor below and sustaining rib, pelvis and wrist fractures.

The Judge highlighted that no control measures outlined in the State Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 were implemented. The PCBU did not provide fall protection; cover or place mesh below the skylights; provide a temporary work platform for the workers to stand on while performing the roof work; or provide any external working-at-height training.

An undocumented toolbox talk occurred at the start of the day, but there was no instruction on how to access the roof and perform the task safely, or confirmation they understood the risks.

Source: OHS Alert; Wednesday, 27 July 2022 SafeWork NSW v PCW Constructions Pty Ltd & Peter James Woodhouse [2022] NSWDC 290 (25 July 2022)


Regulator News

UPDATED COMPLIANCE CODE APPROVED

Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt, has approved the new Communicating Occupational Health and Safety Across Languages compliance code, which came into effect on 28 July 2022.

The code provides practical guidance for those who have duties under the Act or Regulations to communicate OHS information across languages to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) employees.

The code content is closely aligned with the previous 2008 code, but has been updated to:

  • more clearly describe employer duties in relation to communicating on OHS matters across languages under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations
  • revise definitions and terminology in line with current approaches, such as making reference to culturally and linguistically diverse workplaces, rather than multilingual workplaces
  • include some examples of cultural barriers that may impact communication
  • clarify the role and the limitations of employees as multilingual facilitators in assisting with communication
  • renew information about best practices in translation and interpreting service

A copy of the new code can be found on the WorkSafe website

SOME HSR TRAINING ORGANISATIONS ARE SKIMPING

In an alert resulting from recent audits of HSR training providers, WorkSafe have identified that some newly elected HSRs are not receiving a hard copy of the OHS Act, as required, and are receiving photocopies instead.

WorkSafe have reminded training organisations that all participants in the initial 5 day course must receive an official hard copy of the Act.

Other non-conformances include participants failing to receive a summary of recent amendments to the Act, which include:

  • Changes to incident notification requirements
  • Changes to prohibition notices
  • Changes to labour hire arrangements

Click the links below for a summary of recent amendments:

Do you know what your rights to training are? Take our Quiz: 

 


Research

COUNTERACTING FIFO STRESSORS

Recurrent separation from families, long and compressed rosters and shift patterns, increased workloads, isolation, loneliness, and an inability to meet family demands are all factors linked to high psychological distress levels and risky health behaviours, a study has found.

The Australian study, led by Bernard Yeboah-Asiamah Asare from Curtin University in Perth collected self-reported data via online questionnaires covering psychological distress, sleep behaviours, alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, BMI and work-related factors such as schedules and shift hours.

Some 40.3 per cent of participants reported poorer sleep quality during on-shift days, with 78.2 per cent reporting they only got more than the recommended seven hours of sleep per day during their off-shifts periods.

Long working hours, irregular shift patterns and the swing shifts are all factors previously linked to sleep disorders due to a disruption of the circadian rhythm. This study indicates workers accumulate sleep debt during on-shift days and try to recover away from work.

The researchers explain that the high job demands associated with mining result in long periods of family separation and loneliness, known to contribute to high psychological distress levels.

This is in line with the work-family theory, which highlights how being absent from home due to work interferes with the accomplishment of family duties and leads to psychological distress and stress-related problems such as high alcohol intake, smoking and mental health issues.

In addition to psychological distress, the presence of "wet messes" at campsites and a culture that supports drinking are also contributing factors to high alcohol intake.

The study shows there is potential within the work setting to modify FIFO-related factors that negatively impact worker health, and could be the focus for interventions improving the health and mental wellbeing.

Source: OHS Alert, Thursday, 28 July 2022
Health and related behaviours of fly-in fly-out workers in the mining industry in Australia: a cross-sectional study. Bernard Yeboah-Asiamah Asare, et al, Australia, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online July 2022, doi: 10.1007/s00420-022-01908-x.


International News

UK: UNION SAFETY WARNING OVER TUBE STAFF CUTS
Transport for London (TfL) plans to cut 600 frontline Tube customer service staff will have long term impacts on passenger safety, TSSA has warned. TSSA said members on London Underground “describe this as an accident waiting to happen. Our members want to be there for victims of assault and crime and deal with their reports sensitively, but soon we just won’t have the numbers.”
Source: TUC Risks 28 July TSSA news release.

US: ROOFER DIES AFTER FALLING OFF LIBRARY
A roofer died after plunging off the top of a library near the North Carolina coast, officials said. The contractor was working on the Morehead City Library when he fell on Wednesday, July 27. He later died from his injuries. The man was identified in a news release as 36-year-old Miguel Trinidad Delgado of Beulaville. The city said it had hired A-D’s Metal Roofing Co., which started a repair project on the roof days before the worker’s death.
Source: Confined Space, 2 August

UK: PPE PROFITEERS UNDERMINED COVID SAFETY
Unite has said ‘PPE profiteers’ must be held to account following a damning report from the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC). PAC identified ‘significant failings’ in the management of 176 PPE contracts worth £2.7 billion that led to a stockpile of almost 4 billion items that were not needed. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The guilty profiteers must be held to account and so must the government ministers who abused their position to fast track firms they had links with.”
Source: TUC Risks 28 July Unite news release. PAC news release and report

US: FORKLIFT ACCIDENT CLAIMS WOMAN’S LIFE
Officials with the Wichita County Sheriff’s Office said an investigation is underway after a woman died from injuries sustained during an industrial accident over the weekend. The incident apparently occurred sometime before 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at Vitro Architectural Glass. Authorities said deputies responded to the United Regional emergency room around 6pm in reference to a death investigation. Deputies said the reporting party told them a woman had been brought to the emergency room by AMR after she was run over by a forklift. The 31 year old woman died a short time after her arrival at the emergency room.
Source: Confined Space, 2 August


Events

WORK-RELATED GENDERED VIOLENCE (INCLUDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT)

Elected HSRs and Deputy HSRs are entitled to at least one refresher training 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!

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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