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 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

MENTAL HEALTH WORKPLACE ORGANISING

Last week VTHC co-hosted a Mental Health Workplace Safety Organising Conference with the ACTU. Whilst it appears that there is still much to do to address the psychosocial hazards in our workplaces, the conference allowed unionists to discuss strategies and ideas to make workplaces safer and healthier.

A couple of key highlights for attendees were theBlack Dog Institute’s presentation which explored the massive increase in psychological injuries and drew a link between this the increase in job uncertainty, imbalanced job design and a lack of respect creating the perfect storm. Presenters shared wins, losses, new thinking and research and attendees walked away with a many new idea on how to address some of these issues.

WORK SHOULDN’T HURT. DO YOU FEEL SAFE?

Australian Unions are conducting their second national survey about workers’ experience of health and safety in the workplace, and would really value your input.

The survey seeks to build on Unions existing understanding of your experience at work, what’s important to you, and what you think could be improved. 

Responses collected last year were critical in winning stronger health and safety laws and rights, and we’ve seen important improvements with draft Psychological Health Regulations proposed for inclusion in our health and safety laws - a huge step forward in the prevention of mental illness.

Valuable input from workers like you have the power to bring more change resulting in better health and safety conditions in every workplace. This year’s survey has been extended and is now open until Tuesday 11 October 2022 and can be accessed here.

ASK RENATA

Can a volunteer in my organisation be a HSR?

Under Victoria's OHS legislation, volunteers are not employees* and are therefore ineligible to nominate.

Only members of the DWG can be elected as HSR, and under section 44(1)(a) of the the OHS Act, negotiations concerning DWGs must be directed only at 'the manner of grouping "employees" into one or more DWGs' (my paraphrasing).

In other words, if you're not 'employed under a contract of employment, or contract of training' -the definition of employee provided in section 5 of the Act - you're unfortunately excluded from DWG membership, and by extension, election as a HSR.

*In Victoria we differ to the states and territories covered by the model Work Health Safety Acts where anyone who undertakes any work at a workplace, including voluntary work, is now included in the definition of 'worker'. This also applies to work experience students. SafeWork Australia has a topic page on Volunteers

That being said, volunteers in Victoria are still protected by the Act. Under section sections 23 and 24 the employer has a duty to ensure that no activity of his/her business puts the health or safety of people other than employees at risk.

Read more on our Webpage, Volunteers in the Workplace,

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

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS 

On Tuesday 13th September Victoria recorded:  

1,801 new daily infections   
25 COVID deaths  
229 hospitalisations, and 5 are in ICU. 

Cumulatively this equals:  

2,589,533 total Victorian infections  
5,494 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 131 since last week)  

You can check the Victorian live update here 

Australia: As of 13th September, there have been a total of 10,121,004 COVID cases (an increase of 45,257 since last week) and 14,457 deaths (an increase of 379 since last week).  

World: As of 13th September, there had been  614,292,991 worldwide infections (610,382,282 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,518,098 (Source: Worldometer).  

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation.  

VACCINATION UPDATE   

89.33% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 13th September, have received their second dose, 91.93% their first dose.  For the third dose the figure is 69.8% (16+).  

The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 98.0%, Second Dose 96.3%, the third dose 69.0% and the fourth dose 23.1% (16+).  

Check COVID-Live for Daily Updates. 

REPORTING COMMUNICABLE DISEASES 

Ask yourself: if there aren’t incident reports for COVID cases or outbreaks, then how is your employer recording it? 

It’s important to remind members of your DWG to report communicable diseases, such as COVID, when they are in the workplace. Incident reports are important records for HSRs, allowing HSRs to know how many COVID cases or outbreaks are happening at work. This record keeping will help you see if there are any trends in when or how an outbreak happens and how to prevent future occurrences. COVID cases or outbreaks at work should be treated like any other workplace hazards. 

UK: END OF NHS COVID TESTING WILL CAUSE SAFETY WORRIES

The UK government’s decision to end Covid testing for NHS staff will create safety worries and must be kept under review, health union UNISON has said. Responding to the announcement on 24 August that asymptomatic Covid testing is no longer required for NHS workers, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “NHS staff were already alarmed that last month’s withdrawal of Covid pay and leave measures could be a backward step. Dispensing with testing requirements will make them even more worried about safety and the resilience of services.

Decisions about regular testing should be based on clinical risk and not on factors such as cost. The price will be far greater if hospitals become overwhelmed.” She added: “This decision must be kept under careful review and asymptomatic testing has to be restored as soon as possible if infections begin to escalate.”

Source: UNISON news release.

 

 

 


Regulator News

WORKSAFE WANT TO SPEAK WITH YOUR BOSS!

WorkSafe’s are hosting a Business Owners Breakfast where your boss can meet WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health & Safety, Dr. Narelle Beer.

Dr Beer will provide insights into preventing workplace harm, improving outcomes for injured workers, supporting small business and challenges regarding mental health in the workplace.

This is a chance for your boss to learn the latest on workplace safety challenges, harm prevention and keeping your workplace safe, all year round.

The event is free and will be hosted by Cameron Ling. Friday 7 October, 7 to 9am at Bunjil Place, 2 Patrick Northeast Drive, Narre Warren. Breakfast provided

Get your boss to register here

OCTOBER IS HEALTH & SAFETY MONTH

WorkSafe’s Health and Safety month is back in October. This year’s theme is Connect, Learn and Share. All events are free, delivered as a series of webinars and face to face sessions including throughout regional Victoria, so everyone can participate.

 


Research

US: INSECURE INCOME IS HARMFUL TO WORKERS

The insecure income associated with ‘gig work’ has a negative impact on the overall health and wellbeing of US workers, according to University of Texas (UT) research. The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, used data from the 2008-2019 IPUMS Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. UTHealth School of Public Health researchers found that insecure income from gig work contributed to poor health outcomes, including a sicker workforce, higher unreimbursed healthcare costs, and greater costs to the consumer. They found insecure income earners reported a 50 per cent increase in poor overall health and psychological distress compared to salary earners. Black and Hispanic workers earning insecure income were more likely to report poor health than their white counterparts. Higher rates of hourly pay reduced, but did not remove, the correlation between insecure income and workers' health.

Source: Robert D Thomas, John W Davis, Paula M Cuccaro, Gretchen L Gemeinhardt. Assessing associations between insecure income and US workers’ health: An IPUMS-MEPS analysis, Social Science & Medicine, volume 309, September 2022: 115240. University of Texas news release. Science Daily

UK: COVID-19 STUDY SHOWS ISOLATION PERIOD IS TOO SHORT

A comprehensive study has revealed that two-thirds of people with Covid-19 are still infectious five days after symptoms begin, calling into question the UK’s self-isolation advice. Seran Hakki and colleagues at Imperial College London studied people before, during and after they developed Covid-19 between September 2020 and October 2021. They did this by asking those who had been in close contact with known cases to carry out frequent nasal and throat swabs and keep daily symptom diaries. Towards the end of people’s illness, two-thirds were still infectious five days after their symptoms began, and a quarter were still infectious after seven days. Current UK advice is that most people can stop self-isolating after five days.

Source: Seran Hakki, Jie Zhou, Jakob Jonnerby and others. Onset and window of SARS-CoV-2 infectiousness and temporal correlation with symptom onset: a prospective, longitudinal, community cohort study, The Lancet Respiratory Medicinepublished online 18 August 2022. DOI: 10.1016/S2213-2600(22)00226-0. New Scientist.


Prosecutions

$100K FINE FOR BENDIGO HEALTH OVER PATIENT'S DEATH

Victorian healthcare provider Bendigo Health has been fined $100,000, plus $5,062 in costs, for breaching section 23 ("Duties of employers to other persons") of the State Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, in relation to the suicide death of a patient in a psychiatric unit.

The Bendigo Magistrates Court that in August 2016, the woman was involuntarily admitted into the unit after presenting at Bendigo Health's emergency department seeking help and reporting suicidal thoughts.

She took her own life within the unit later that month, reportedly after nurses failed to remove an object that helped facilitate the suicide.

The Court heard it had been reasonably practicable for Bendigo Health – which pleaded guilty to contravening section 23 in failing to ensure non-workers weren't exposed to risks – to reduce the woman's risk of injury or death.

"This is an extremely sad incident that should never have happened," WorkSafe Victoria health and safety executive director Dr Narelle Beer said after the healthcare provider was sentenced.

"Every employer has a duty to do everything they can to reduce risks to the health and safety of everyone within a workplace, including those associated with intentional self-harm," she said.

Lifeline's crisis line: phone 13 11 14, pronounced "thirteen eleven fourteen".

Source: OHS Alert, 06 September 2022 -

SUSPENDED LOAD SLIPS - CAR TRADER FINED $40,000 

Neil Beer Motors, a licensed motor vehicle trader with approximately 40 employees in Seymour, has pleaded guilty to one charge under section 21(1) of the Act; failing to maintain a safe work environment free of risks to health.  

On 26 August 2019 it was decided items in a large storage shed should be disposed of or sold and several employees were tasked with different aspects of the work. Lighter items were to be removed by hand and heavier ones with a forklift. Amongst the heavy items was a vehicle transmission at the back of the shed.  

As the forklift tynes were too short to reach it, the forklift operator decided to use a set of extension attachments, forged in metal and shaped as sleeves to ‘slip over’ the tynes to extend their reach. 

The slippers had holes with pins to secure them to the tynes but the pins could not be located.  

Having fitted the slippers on the forklift without safety pins, the forklift operator was able to reach the pallet loaded with the transmission and proceeded to remove it.  

Predictably, the safety bracket of that slipper became jammed on the tyne, preventing the smooth operation of the forklift and preventing the tynes from being lowered.  

The forklift operator instructed an employee to cut the bracket using an angle grinder, which he did wearing a protective face shield, but no hard-shell PPE. He moved under the suspended tynes - still loaded with the transmission - and began cutting when the load fell onto the employee’s head.  

The forklift operator then moved the forklift away, freed and transported the injured worker to a hospital, where he remained for three days with skull fractures on both sides, nerve damage to an eye socket, black eyes, nerve damage to the right eye (which caused his right eyebrow to droop down over his eye), nosebleed, brain-bleed, headaches, and vertigo.  

The offender failed to maintain a safe system of work and there was a comprehensive lack of care with no risk assessment conducted and employees made to work under a suspended load. 

Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings 

SHEPPARTON CONCRETE MANUFACTURER FINED $35,000 OVER CRANE INCIDENT

In order to extract a 5-meter rectangular concrete trough from the mould had to be inverted. Clamps were removed and the mould lifted by a bridge cranes. The crane was connected to a spreader bar by chain slings. The spreader bar was connected to the top half of the mould by further chain slings attached to each end of the mould.

An employee stated the task can be difficult to do, because once inverted the product wants to return to its original position. Further, if one person is spinning the mould, substantial force is required and the product can become unstable and unsteady.

On 7 April 2020, employees of the offender were directed to perform the task.

CCTV captured the mould detaching from the chain slings and beginning to fall, striking upright stands before coming to a rest on the ground. The eastern end of the mould remained connected to the crane, causing the plant to bounce around. The employees were able to jump back and were uninjured.

By its plea, the offender acknowledged that it was reasonably practicable for the task to be performed by mechanical means (that is, without the physical involvement of an employee), for an exclusion zone to be set up before the task was undertaken around the rotation area, and for employees to be formally training in the use of the crane and/or mould spinning task by a qualified person.

The producer of concrete pits, risers, drinking troughs for livestock, encasements and septic systems pleaded guilty, was with convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $35,000.00 and costs of $3,716.00.

Source: WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings

 


International News

UK: THOUSANDS QUIT JOBS BECAUSE OF RACISM

More than 120,000 workers from minority ethnic backgrounds have quit their jobs because of racism, TUC research have found. The landmark study concluded workplace discrimination is sapping the confidence of a large part of the UK workforce. More than one in four workers from Black and other minority ethnic backgrounds have faced racist jokes at work in the last five years and eight per cent of victims left their job as a result of the racism they experienced, it found. A separate TUC report last month exposed widespread racial inequalities in occupational health and safety and highlighted “the importance of interaction with existing workplace health and safety reps for encouraging new recruits to the role and the focus groups advocate the importance of identifying, nurturing, encouraging and supporting a new generation of Black reps.”

Source: TUC news release. Usdaw news release. The Guardian.
Health, safety and racism in the workplace: A study of Black workers’ experiences, TUC, 2022.

KOREA: TRUCK DRIVERS FIGHT ‘DEADLY SQUEEZE'

On 16 August, four members of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers’ Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) gained access to the top of the building housing the headquarters of Hite-Jiro, South Korea’s top alcohol manufacture. The workers were protesting Hite-Jiro’s ‘deadly squeeze’ on truck drivers.  Global transport union ITF said this desperate act came close to three months after Hite-Jiro truck drivers began strike action for ‘safe rates’ on 2 June. Drivers, who are classified as independent contractors, say rates have been frozen for the last 15 years and are too low to cover the costs of operating vehicles with fuel prices and cost-of-living skyrocketing. Instead of bargaining with the drivers’ union in good faith, however, Hite-Jiro has notified 130 workers of the cancellation of their contracts and filed a suit for damages worth KRW 2.8 billion (GBP 1.76 million) against striking workers.

Source: ITF news release.

JAPAN: ASBESTOS MANUFACTURER IN PAYOUT FIRST

An asbestos products manufacturer in Japan has become the first to settle an asbestos-related cancer claim. The settlement was reached at Osaka District Court on 23 August. Japan Insulation Co agreed to pay the bereaved family of a male construction worker 12.87 million yen (£80,000) in compensation, almost on par with the maximum amount of benefits provided by the government under the asbestos victims relief law, or 13 million yen per victim. Japan Insulation, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, offered to settle the suit. The settlement includes an apology from the company. The man worked as an exclusive subcontractor for the company's predecessor between 1981 and 1997, installing asbestos-containing fireproofing on steel frames. He died in 1999 at the age of 74 after developing lung cancer.

Source: Nippon News.

UK: NEW ‘WHOLE SCHOOL APPROACH’ TO WELLBEING IN WALES

An NEU project in Wales aims to introduce ‘a whole school approach to wellbeing for all’. Stuart Williams, NEU Cymru’s policy officer, said: “Excessive workload continues to be the leading cause of workplace stress and mental health issues. We feel we need a holistic, whole-school, multi-agency approach to improving mental health and wellbeing across the education sector, and this is why today’s event is so important.” He added: “Every workplace must be supported to conduct a stress/wellbeing audit, so that any issues can be identified and addressed.” He said: “Every time a new policy/strategy/initiative is introduced, a workload impact assessment must be conducted. Educators must be told what they can STOP doing.”

Source: NEU news release.

UK: RETAIL STAFF URGED TO REPORT INCIDENTS

Retail trade union Usdaw has marked the first anniversary of a protection of workers law in Scotland coming into force by urging retail staff to report incidents. The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021 took effect on 24 August 2021. It provides a new specific offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a shopworker and a harsher sentence if they were enforcing a statutory age restriction, resulting in a fine or prison sentence. The union said the legislation is a direct result of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign. Tracy Gilbert, Usdaw regional secretary for Scotland, said: “Usdaw has been working with employers to make it easier for staff to report attacks and abuse, highlighting the legislation to improve confidence, backed up with training, and promoting the importance of reporting all incidents.”

Source: Usdaw news release and Freedom From Fear campaign. Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021.


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:

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:

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

Refresher Course Dates - Work-related gendered violence including sexual harassment:

13 October -Trades Hall Carlton - Available
1 December - Narre Warren - Available


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