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 interesting. Feel free to share it, and please, encourage others in your workplace to subscribe.
We also wish you a wonderful extra-long weekend.
WORK SHOULDN’T HURT - SHARE YOUR VALUABLE PERSPECTIVE
Australian Unions are conducting their 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.
NSW MANDATES WORKPLACE PSYCHOSOCIAL RISK CONTROLS
The NSW Government has made the Work Health and Safety Amendment Regulation 2022 to implement recent changes to the national model WHS Regulations, including requiring PCBUs to implement control measures for psychosocial risks.
The NSW instrument states PCBUs must manage risks in accordance with the risk management provisions of the State Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017, aside from clause 36 ("Hierarchy of control measures").
When determining which controls to implement, it says, PCBUs must have regard to: the duration, frequency and severity of the exposure of workers and others to psychosocial hazards; how the hazards might interact or combine; the design of work; how work is managed, organised and supported; the workplace's design, layout and environmental conditions; the design, layout and conditions of workers' accommodation; the workplace's plant, substances and structures; workplace interactions or behaviours; and the information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers.
Marie Boland made 34 recommendations for the national model WHS laws in early 2019 (see related article), with Safe Work Australia subsequently adopting 20 of them June this year, updating the model WHS Act, Regulations and other documents.
Most of the new changes commenced on Friday.
Source: OHSAlert 19 September
Are you able to provide me with research or data supporting for the establishment of a Quiet Mental Health Area in my workplace?
Whilst a quiet space or wellness area can be a particularly helpful workplace adjustment for neurodiverse employees, one should consider why the area is required in the first place. If it is required because the workplace creates mental health hazards for workers, the priority should be identifying and controlling systems of work that create the need for such an oasis in the first place.
We encourage HSRs to first focus on how to prevent exposure to hazards rather than reacting to that exposure.
Proposed new psychological health regulations will make it easier for employers to understand how to reduce worker exposure to psychological risks and will require, in the first instance, that system-of-work issues (high job demands, job insecurity, poor organisational change management, shift work, lack of role clarity etc) be addressed, before lower order controls are considered.
Higher order, more effective controls, focus on changing the system-of-work to create a safe work environment. An example might be: eliminating work overload and addressing workplace culture so that regular breaks are both possible and encouraged.
Lower order controls focus on changing workers' behaviour, requiring the worker to protect themselves from what is essentially an unsafe work environment.
Our webpages contain more information.
COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS
On Tuesday 20th September Victoria recorded:
1,168 new daily infections
20 COVID deaths
163 hospitalisations, and 8 are in ICU.
Cumulatively this equals:
2,600,160 total Victorian infections
5,569 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 105 since last week)
You can check the Victorian live update here.
Australia: As of the 20th of September, there have been a total of 10,161,241 COVID cases (an increase of 49,175 since last week) and 14,783 deaths (an increase of 362 since last week).
World: As of 20th September, there had been 617,443,967 worldwide infections (614,292,991 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,531,566 (Source: Worldometer).
89.35% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 20th September, have received their second dose, 91.95% 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 69.1% and the fourth dose 23.3% (16+).
Check COVID-Live for Updates.
RECOMMENDATION TO INCREASE HSR NUMBERS DECLINED
The NSW Government has declined to act on a recommendation to proactively increase the number of HSRs in the manufactured stone industry. .
A Committee review of the dust diseases workers' compensation scheme made 12 recommendations, including banning manufactured stone products – which have an extremely high concentration of silicosis-causing crystalline silica – if the industry fails to demonstrate sufficient workplace health and safety improvements by July 2024.
Other recommendations included: lowering the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica from 0.05mg per cubic metre over eight hours to 0.02mg; improving processes for measuring and reporting air quality in relation to silica dust; pushing for consistent product labels and safety data sheets for manufactured stone products; considering ways to increase the number of HSRs in the manufactured stone industry; and establishing a licensing scheme for businesses working with manufactured stone.
In its 13-page response the NSW State Government supports only two of the recommendations (around the definition of compensable dust diseases, and services for silicosis victims), supports some of them partly, and does not support the one around HSRs, claiming "SafeWork NSW is not in a position to enforce the election of HSRs.”
Source: OHSAlert 15 September 2022
WA - JUDGE FINDS EMPLOYER TOOK UNLAWFUL ACTION AGAINST SAFETY REP
A Federal judge has found that selecting a worker for redundancy, after he raised multiple safety concerns, constituted unlawful adverse action, with his employer failing to prove his termination was due to poor performance and not his exercise of workplace rights.
Employed as a truck driver at Mondiale International’s Perth depot the worker was also a HSR he was one of two Perth workers made redundant as part of the company's response to the negative financial impact of the COVID pandemic.
The worker declared the termination of his employment contravened general protections because he was selected for redundancy for exercising his workplace rights telling the Judge he exercised his rights by: challenging the validity of written warnings given to him, making a complaint in relation to being the subject of threats of violence, questioning the allocation of working hours, refusing to take a pay cut in March and April 2020 and raising multiple safety and bullying concerns throughout 2019 and 2020.
Judge Lucev found the worker had established the necessary objective facts that formed the basis of his adverse action case, meaning the onus of proof shifted to Mondiale to disprove his allegations.
Source: OHSAlert 20 September 2022
TWO COMPANIES FINED $50,000 FOR COVEYOR BELT ARM INJURY
In 2018 a worker suffered a dislocated elbow, nerve crushing and damage from his bicep to his fingers when his arm became caught at a brick manufacturing company PGH’s Thomastown facility.
The worker was investigating a problem when his right arm became trapped between a conveyor belt and power drum. Another worker, who heard the man's cry for help, activated an emergency stop button in response.
Sentenced on Wednesday for failing to provide plant that was safe and without risks to health, PGH was convicted and fined $40,000.
Bricks Australia Services Pty Ltd, which employs staff that worked at the PGH facility, earlier pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to provide necessary information or instructions to enable its employers to perform their work safely.
It was fined $10,000 without conviction and ordered to pay costs of $3,140.
The court heard it was reasonably practicable for PGH to affix guarding to the head drum and for BAS to ensure that workers received necessary information and instruction in relation to the risk posed by the plant.
"Tragically, this worker's life-altering injuries could have been avoided if appropriate safety measures were put in place," WorkSafe said.
"There is no excuse for duty holders who fail to implement guarding around known danger areas, or who fail to provide their staff with the training they need to perform tasks safely."
Read more from WorkSafe’s News webpage, here.
UKRAINE FINALLY BANS ASBESTOS
A Parliamentary bill prohibiting the use of all types of asbestos and asbestos containing materials in Ukraine, was enacted September 6.
‘Finally, we will get rid of the health-threatening Soviet construction legacy and replace it with modern building materials that will preserve the health of both builders and residents of new buildings.’ Ukrainian politician, Olena Shulyak said.
The road to achieving the ban was not straightforward due to aggressive lobbying by Ukrainian and foreign pro-asbestos stakeholders.
In June 2017, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health outlawed asbestos use, only to have that prohibition quashed by the Ministry of Justice. Judicial and legislative actions were blocked on multiple occasions, testing both the stamina and conviction of campaigners in Parliament and in civic organizations.
On September 6 the parliamentary vote was won, and 14 years of campaigning finally saw asbestos banned in Ukraine.
Russia and Kazakhstan, the world’s two largest asbestos producers, had controlled the country’s asbestos dialogue and opposed the ban for years. It was from these countries, according to the Ministry of Health, that Ukraine imported 556,000 tons of asbestos between 2006-2016.
Between 2018 and 2020, Ukraine’s average annual consumption of asbestos was over 10,000 tonnes.
“Ukraine, Russian and former Soviet countries are riddled with asbestos. There has been a reluctance to recognise the problem and also to halt the mining and use of asbestos. Russia has one of the most aggressive asbestos industries in the world. Ukraine has its problems but the decision by the Ukrainian Parliament to ban asbestos is an illustration of the effectiveness of international campaigning against the asbestos industry which also has deep tentacles in Ukrainian industry. It is also a testament to the progress being made in the Ukrainian parliament regarding public and workers health issues. It has now taken a significant step to distance itself completely from the Russian asbestos influence.” said Counsel General for Wales and Member of the Welsh Parliament Mick Antoniw.
Read more on the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat’s webpage, here.
WORK-RELATED PSYCHOSOCIAL RISKS DRIVE HEALTH INEQUALITIES
Exposure to work-related psychosocial risks leads to avoidable health inequalities that are costly to workers, their families, employers, and society at large. A panel of experts discussed work-related psychosocial risks (PSR) at the ETUI-ETUC ‘Blueprint for Equality’ conference, concluding that many of the risks are avoidable, and more effort should be put into their prevention. Find out more
European social partners signed a joint Work Programme including negotiations on the right to disconnect
On 28 June 2022, the European social partners signed a joint 2022-2024 Work Programme that includes negotiations on legally binding measures to regulate telework and institute the right to disconnect.
Source: ETUI Find out more here.
THE GLOBAL RIGHTS INDEX 2022 TAKES STOCK OF TRADE UNION AND HUMAN RIGHTS
On 28 June 2022, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) launched the ninth edition of the annual Global Rights Index (GRI) tacking stock of trade union and human rights worldwide. The index rates 148 countries on the degree of respect for workers’ rights.
The output is an index ranging from 1 (sporadic violations) to 5+ (no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law), complemented by an interactive website where cases of violated rights and national ratings can be viewed by country and region.
The ten worst countries for workers in 2022 are Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Turkey.
Examples from Australia include civil liberties violations relating to ACCC prosecutions against the CFMEU, and right to collective bargaining violations by stevedoring and container-management companies, against MUA members
Source: ETUI Find out more here.
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.
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