SafetyNet 638

Welcome to the 31 August, 2022 edition of SafetyNet. 

Sadly, there has been another workplace death since our last journal.

An unidentified crane operator was reportedly killed at a construction site in Prahran last Friday. WorkSafe are investigating but this workplace death was preventable. Another Victorian worker has not returned home to family and friends, as they should have. We will mourn the dead, but fight like hell for the living.

We hope you find this week's journal useful and interesting. Feel free to share it, and please, encourage others in your workplace 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

HSRs NEEDED FOR RESEARCH ON PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH REGULATIONS WIN one of three $50 gift vouchers

Researchers at the University of South Australia are conducting an online study to investigate Health and Safety Representative's perceptions of the new OHS Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations. Participation involves the completion of an online survey. This survey only takes about 6 minutes to complete. Eligibility Criteria: Current or previous Health and Safety Representative - Able to read and understand English - Computer/laptop or smartphone with internet access

To access the survey, click here.

STOP BALLARAT PAYING PIPECON

On Wednesday 24 August, Ballarat Councillors awarded a $2 million contract to Pipecon Pty Ltd for a road reconstruction project. In March 2018 two local workers, Jack Brownlee and Charlie Howkins, were killed when a trench collapsed. They were working for Pipecon at the time. In November 2021, Pipecon was convicted and fined only $550,000 for failing to provide supervision to ensure a safe workplace.

The company has been found culpable in the deaths of 2 members of the Ballarat community and is under investigation in the death of a third man, Leigh Suckling, in 2020.

Pipecon's actions and the slap on the wrist they received inspired Victoria to introduce Workplace Manslaughter laws. Although Pipecon can't be charged with the new offence retrospectively, they should still never be allowed to work in our community again.

SafetyNet’s believe there’s no level of government that should be awarding contracts to companies that negligently cause the death of workers. Councilors should immediately review this decision, award the road reconstruction tender to another company, and apologise to the community.

If you share our view, please sign this petition: Stop Paying Pipecon

VICTORIAN OHS HISTORY – FREE PUBLICATION RELEASE

OHSIntros this week released the second part of its trilogy on the history of OHS in Victoria. It may now be downloaded free from a link below. The 86-page document will be available for a limited period only, in the lead up to Victoria’s Health and Safety Month in October. The second part – “Commemorating the anniversary of workplace health and safety - from WorkCare to WorkSafe” tells the story of the implementation of the Robens-style Victorian OHS Act in 1985 through the WorkCare/WorkCover eras, then its revision during the WorkSafe era. This was when the regulator was adopting new thinking on reducing work harms across the state as the nature of work and the workplace was changing.

Source: https://spaces.hightail.com/space/ZnNP4zpfGt

ASK RENATA

I’m a HSR in a food manufacturing plant and have been asked to sign a risk management worksheet for my workplace. I've reviewed everything and feel it's acceptable but where do I stand legally having signed these papers? Am I now held accountable if something was missed?

Great question.

Section 58(3)of the OHS Act states, "nothing in this Act or the regulations imposes, or is to be taken to impose, a function or duty on a health and safety representative (acting) in that capacity." 

It is the primary duty of the employer to provide safe systems of work and a safe work environment, a duty which cannot be transferred to a HSR. 

This is because, under Section 4 of the Act (The principles of Health and Safety Protection), 'persons who control or manage matters that give rise to risks to health and safety are responsible for eliminating or reducing those risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. 

As HSRs we do not 'control or manage matters'. 

Employees (including HSRs) do have limited duties under the Act. They are: 

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety 
  • take reasonable care for the health and safety of others who may affected by their acts or omissions 
  • cooperate with anything the employer does to comply with OHS requirements 
  • not 'intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse' anything provided at the workplace for OHS. 

Signing the worksheet could be understood as ‘co-operating with the employer to comply with OHS requirements' and therefore a duty, but doing so does not impose a liability upon you.  

Should something be missed, or go wrong, the breach of duty rests with the employer, not the HSR. 

You can visit our website to learn more about the duties of both employers and employees. 

Of note: under Section 22(2)(b) of the Act an employer must ‘employ or engage persons who are suitably qualified in occupational health and safety to provide advice concerning the health and safety of employees. This role should not be conflated with that of worker-elected HSRs, who’s role is to be the voice of our DWG.    

Ask Renata at OHS Network Facebook or via email: [email protected]

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS 

On Tuesday 30th August Victoria recorded:  

2,950 new daily infections   
18 COVID deaths  
337 hospitalisations, 22 in ICU and 5 of these are on ventilators  

Cumulatively this equals:  

2,561,604 total Victorian infections  
5,282 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 142 since last week)  

You can check the Victorian live update here 

Australia: As of 30th August, there have been a total of 10,013,317 COVID cases (an increase of 79,142 since last week) and 13,814 deaths (an increase of 394 since last week).  

World: As of 30th August 2022, there had been 606,251,788 worldwide infections (601,376,570 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,489,521 (Source: Worldometer).  

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation 

VACCINATION UPDATE   

89.32% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 30th August, have received their second dose, 91.93% their first dose.  For the third dose the figure is 69.7% (16+).  

The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 98.0%, Second Dose 96.3%, the third dose 68.9% and the fourth dose 22.6% (16+).  

Check COVID-Live for Daily Updates. 

GETTING YOUR FOURTH “WINTER” DOSE 

Getting vaccinated is an act of solidarity. Having a critical mass of the population vaccinated slows the spread of the virus and dramatically lowers the hospitalisation and mortality rates from COVID, preventing our health system from being overwhelmed. 

All eligible workers and their families should book to get their fourth dose as soon as possible. 

As of July, eligibility for the fourth dose – otherwise known as the “Winter Dose” - was expanded to include adults over the age of 30 as well as adults over 50 and anyone with underlying medical conditions. 

You can check your eligibility for your fourth COVID-19 vaccination dose here under “Winter Dose”. 

Eligible people can get their fourth shot 3 months after getting their third shot or 3 months after having COVID-19. The Victorian Government is recommending Pfizer or Moderna for adults above 18 years old getting their fourth dose. 

As an HSR, you should seriously consider encouraging your DWG members to get their fourth dose. Even if you or your co-workers have had your third dose earlier this year, your immunity may have worn off. The fourth dose will improve your immunity and keep you, your workplace, and your community safe. 

If you or someone you know is hesitant to get their vaccinations you can check out our Q&A on vaccines here or download the PDF ‘Your Top Questions About Vaccines - Answered!’ here. 

 

 


Regulator News

IT COMES IN MANY FORMS

WorkSafe continue their work-related gendered violence campaign, raising awareness of employer obligations on prevention and reporting and promoting tools to support duty holders and HSRs. Checkout the campaign page for information on:

  • Prevention
  • Responding
  • Incident reporting
  • Where to find immediate help
  • Other resources such as workplaces posters and media

There are also links to support services for those exposed to gendered violence at work, including the following helplines.

 


Research

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE RISKS PROBED

Artificial intelligence-based worker management (AIWM) systems can help design healthy and safe jobs and workplaces, the EU research agency EU-OSHA has said, but may also bring about risks to workers such as intensification of work, loss of job control and dehumanisation. The agency’s new report also explores possible prevention measures, emphasising the need for human-centred and ‘prevention through design’ approaches to ensure workers’ health, safety and wellbeing. The following policy briefs give recommendations to help address the risks and suggest prevention measures: EU-OSHA news release and report and summary, Artificial intelligence for worker management: implications for occupational safety and health. Policy briefs: Artificial intelligence for worker management: risks and opportunities and Artificial intelligence for worker management: prevention measures and Digitalisation of work project. More on health and safety and AI.

Source: TUC 16 August 2022


Prosecutions

FORMAL WARNING RESULTS IN RARE DISCRIMINATION PROSECUTION

In a rare prosecution involving section 76 discrimination (SafetyNet are aware of only 3 in 18 years), bus company Transdev, has been fined $30,000 and sentenced, without conviction, after giving a written warning to a driver for reporting safety concerns to WorkSafe.

Transdev were found guilty in County Court on Thursday after being charged under the OHS Act for discrimination.

The court heard that Transdev gave the driver a written warning in September 2018 after he contacted WorkSafe after previously informing his supervisor a bus was unroadworthy.

He was instructed to drive it anyway but refused.

After reporting a separate safety issue a few days later, the driver was required to attend a meeting where he was advised by his manager, he’d breached company policy in contacting WorkSafe and that his reports amounted to misconduct.

"Every Victorian worker has the right to a safe workplace and that includes the right to report health and safety concerns to WorkSafe, their employer, or to their workplace Health and Safety Representative or committee member," WorkSafe said.

"It's not always easy to speak out about safety issues at work, but it's vital that workers feel empowered to raise safety concerns without fear of discrimination or unfair repercussions."

Source: WorkSafe 26 August 2022

ALLEGED CATASTROPHIC NEGLIGENCE RESULTS IN MANSLAUGHTER CHARGE

NSW Police allege a sole-trader failed to adhere to applicable Australian Standards when certifying oxygen connections at a neonatal unit within Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital.

The 61 year-old man was contracted to install, test and commission gas delivery lines in 2015, but catastrophically erred in connecting a nitrous oxide pipe to an oxygen outlet and failing to conduct necessary tests before falsely documenting tests had been conducted.

In 2016, a newborn baby girl suffered severe brain damage after being administered nitrous oxide from the oxygen outlet. The gas problem was not identified, and a newborn baby boy then died from being ventilated with the toxic substance a month later.

In 2021 a coronial inquest commenced, and the matter was referred to NSW's Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to review.

As a result of a the ODPP review and advice provided to police, the man was arrested and charged with manslaughter by criminal negligence and causing grievous bodily harm by negligent act or omission, under the State Crimes Act 1900.

The offence of manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 25 years' jail.

Source: OHSAlert 23 August 2022


International News

GLOBAL: UNION ACTION ON ASBESTOS SHIP HAZARDS

Brazilian and Turkish trade unions are working together to address asbestos and other hazards linked to plans to break up a warship. The Nea São Paulo has left Brazil for Turkey, where there are plans to recycle the toxics laden vessel. “Together, CUT and DISK declare that we will fight to prevent the damage caused by asbestos and the dismantling processes to workers, public health, and the environment,” a joint statement said. “A ship containing toxic waste… will put the lives of workers and others in their community at risk. Workers’ unions CUT (Brazil) and DISK (Turkey) oppose this move and commit to intensify the fight.” The unions warn the İzmir Aliağa shipyard in Turkey, to which the vessel is underway, does not have the facilities needed for job and has poor working conditions, low wages, and inadequate safety measures at work. They want the former French navy vessel to be recycled in France.

Source: DISK/CUT statement 16 August 2022

USA: UPS DRIVERS PUSH FOR SAFETY AS TEMPERATURES SOAR

Drivers with the US Postal Service (UPS) are wilting under the pressure of making hundreds of stops a day in sweltering conditions, as the company makes record profits. Now the workers, represented by the Teamsters union, are pushing for air conditioning in vehicles and better protections on the job. The union is demanded urgent details from UPS on the company’s plans, training materials, and assessments on protecting workers from excessive heat. As the climate crisis worsens, workers are increasingly at risk of illness or death due to heat exposure on the job, with high heat index days of above 100F expected to double by mid-century.

Source: The Guardian.

UK: TRAIN DRIVERS REMEMBER DEAD COLLEAGUES

Train drivers’ union ASLEF has said Britain must no longer neglect the infrastructure of the railway system, or we could see a repeat of the Carmont tragedy in which three people lost their lives after a landslip onto the railway line caused a train to derail.  Kevin Lindsay, ASLEF’s organiser in Scotland, said: “It is with enormous sadness that we remember the event at Carmont on Wednesday 12 August 2020, which claimed the lives of three people – the driver, Brett McCullough, 45; the conductor, Donald Dinnie, 58; and a passenger, Christopher Stuchbury, 62 – and in which six other people were injured. It was an accident which cast a long shadow across the railway industry, not just here in Scotland, but throughout the United Kingdom.” ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan added the tragedy highlighted the need to “ensure that the infrastructure of Britain’s railways is not neglected, so that accidents of this sort do not happen again.”

Source: ASLEF news release.


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 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 linkto enrol in any of the five-day initial or refresher courses. Remember to then notify your employer at least 14 days before the course.

Initial Courses Dates:

5, 6, 7 September & 19, 20 September – Trades Hall Carlton – FULL
26 - 30 September – Ringwood – Available
10 - 14 October – Carlton – Available
17 - 21 October Narre Warren – Available
7 - 11 November (Early Childhood Education Sector) – AEU Abbotsford – Available
7, 8, 9 November & 14, 15 November - Trades Hall Carlton – Available
21 - 25 November – Geelong – Available
21 - 25 November (Education Sector) – AEU Abbotsford – Available
5, 6, 7 December & 12, 13 December – Carlton – Available
5 - 9 December -Bendigo - Available

Refresher Course Dates:

7 September -Trades Hall Carlton – Available
6 October -Trades Hall Carlton – Available
11 November (Education Specific) – AEU Abbotsford – Available
16 November - Narre Warren – Available
29 November - Trades Hall Carlton – Available
1 December – Geelong – Available
14 December – Trades Hall Carlton - Available


RELATED

SafetyNet 641
Welcome to the 21 September, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.   Happily there have been no reports of a Victorian workplace death since last journal.  We hope you find this week's journal useful and...
Read More
SafetyNet 640
Welcome to the 14 September, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.   Happily there have been no reports of a Victorian workplace death since last journal.  We hope you find this week's journal useful and...
Read More
SafetyNet 639
Welcome to the 8 September, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.  Happily there have been no reports of a Victorian workplace death since last journal. This week's SafetyNet is somewhat truncated to enable our...
Read More