SafetyNet 642

Welcome to the 28 September, 2022 edition of SafetyNet.  

Happily there have been no reports of a Victorian workplace death since last journal though we have seen another very serious and disturbing carnival ride incident.

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, Ask Renata

Union News

 

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HSR CONFERENCE 2022 - HSR LIFESAVERS
We all know active HSRs save lives! Our annual HSR Conference is back and this year we’re talking all about mentally healthy workplaces and insights from the COVID pandemic. For the first time in two years, this conference will be held in person!

Here are the details:

Date: 27 October 2022
Time: 8:30am – 2:30pm
Where:
Melbourne - Centrepiece Melbourne Park
Bendigo - Bendigo Trades Hall Council
Wodonga - La Trobe University
Portland - Portland Golf Club
Morwell - Italian Australian Sporting Club

This year numbers are limited so sign-up ASAP. Check out the program and register here.

NEW VICARIOUS TRAUMA WEBSITE

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) who represent the Victorian Public Service have established a new website with the aim of helping workplaces become better aware of vicarious trauma and introducing practices that could help prevent or lessen its impact.

Vicarious trauma occurs when workers are exposed to traumatic content, or through hearing or reading about traumatic details in the course of their work, and is often cumulative in effect.

This information has been primarily designed for the Victorian Public Service, however the resources available within it are relevant to all organisations whose staff engage with traumatic content as part of their work. In Victoria, the OHS Act includes psychological health and therefore organisations are legally responsible to look after the mental health of their workers.

You can view the CPSUs website here.

ASK RENATA

What is the allowable legal limit blood alcohol content, for the purposes of operating a forklift?

We would obviously be advising anybody with alcohol in their system, or who is otherwise impaired, not to drive a forklift.

There’s nothing in the OHS Act, nor Regulations, specifically addressing allowable BAC levels when operating a forklift - so in theory there is nothing preventing someone with a BAC above 0.00 driving a forklift.

That being said, forklifts are high risk plant and as you’d be aware the employer has a duty under s.21 to ‘provide and maintain so far as reasonably practicable .... a working environment that is safe and without risk to health.’

Under that duty a policy requiring zero BAC when undertaking high-risk work may be justifiable, contingent on meaningful consultation with affected workers in the formulation of any such policy.

Worth noting: In April 2021 a new law for truck drivers came into effect requiring a zero blood-alcohol limit for drivers of heavy vehicles greater than 4.5 tonne (GVM). You can learn more here.

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 27th September Victoria recorded:   

1,762 new daily infections    
20 COVID deaths   
159 hospitalisations, and 11 are in ICU with 2 patients on Ventilator’s. 

Cumulatively this equals:    

2,604,329 total Victorian infections   
5,597 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 28 since last week)   

You can check the Victorian live update here.   

Australia: As of the 27th of September, there have been a total of 10,161,241 COVID cases (an increase of 44,716 since last week) and 14,950 deaths (an increase of 167 since last week).   

World: As of 27th September, there had been 620 692 913 worldwide infections ( 617,443,967 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,541,640 (Source: Worldometer).   

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation.   

VACCINATION UPDATE    

89.35% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 27th September, have received their second dose, 91.96% their first dose.  For the third dose the figure is 69.9% (16+).   

The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 98.1%, Second Dose 96.4%, the third dose 69.1% and the fourth dose 23.5% (16+).   

Check COVID-Live for Updates.  

MASK MANDATE FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT AND TAXIS ENDS

The Victorian Government announced last week that the mask mandate on public transport, taxis and ride share vehicles would end from Friday the 23rd of September. The Health Minister said that masks are still ‘strongly recommended’ in these spaces and in crowded indoor settings, including schools. Health authorities still recommend being up to date with vaccinations, wearing masks when you can’t adequately distance and proper ventilation in workplaces to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Source: The Age

[email protected] AMENDMENTS INTRODUCED TO PARLIAMENT

Legislation prohibiting conduct creating hostile workplace environments and imposing a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, has been introduced by the Federal Government. If passed it will implement seven of the 55 recommendations from Kate Jenkins' 2020 [email protected] report.

The ACTU is calling for all parties to support the amendment, with the positive duty requiring all employers to prevent harassment, without waiting for victims to raise complaints, being particularly important.

"Only 17 per cent of those sexually harassed at work feel safe reporting it," the ACTU noted.

Importantly, the duty also requires employers to prevent harassment by third parties, critical for many workers in retail and fast food where customers are a common source of harassment.

"For workers in the retail and fast-food industry, many of them teenagers, customers are the biggest perpetrators of sexual harassment. It's welcome to see the Albanese Government taking steps to hold employers accountable for also preventing this type of harassment," ACTU president Michele O'Neil said

The previous Coalition Government introduced laws adopting six of Jenkins' recommendations, but did not support adding a positive duty to the Sex Discrimination Act.

The Labor Government Bill adds the positive duty to the SD Act, prohibits conduct subjecting another person to a hostile work environment on the grounds of sex, and empowers the Human Rights Commission to inquire into systemic unlawful discrimination.

Source: OHSAlert 27 September 2022 Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022

ASBESTOS NEWS

On September 8, 2022, a milestone was reached in the history of Australian asbestos mining town, Wittenoom, with the eviction of 80-year-old Lorraine Thomas – the town’s last resident. Pursuant to West Australian (WA) legislation, the action was taken by government officials and bailiffs as Mrs Thomas had missed the 31 August 31 deadline to evacuate her home. While there’s now no-one left in residence, blue asbestos fibres remain in Wittenoom’s air, water and soil after decades of crocidolite mining.

Source: International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

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Over recent months the team has been made aware of a number of workplaces that have signs like this stuck to workplace bathroom mirrors.

It certainly prompted some discussion in our office and now we want to hear from you, the magnificent HSRs of the We Union OHS Reps Network - what are your thoughts or response to this ‘safety message.’

Send your responses to [email protected] Best submitted caption will be published in next week's journal, and wins a prize.


Regulator News

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This year’s Health & Safety Month kicks off 4 October, and includes:

15 REGIONAL IN-PERSON EVENTS

Bairnsdale, Traralgon, Warragul, Narre Warren, Shepparton, Mildura, Port fairy, Portland, Horsham, Ballarat, Bendigo, Echuca and Wangaratta.

See here for times, dates and locations.

9 ONLINE WEBINARS:

  • Reducing workplace harm
  • Why WorkSafe exists
  • WorkSafe's priorities to reduce workplace harm in construction
  • The value of HSRs
  • How WorkSafe can help the multicultural community
  • Championing mental health in the public and healthcare sectors
  • Managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace
  • Early intervention
  • Transforming mental health in manufacturing

See here for dates and registration.

AN UPDATE ON OHS CHANGES THAT CAME INTO OPERATION A YEAR AGO

The OHS and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2021 became law last year, which included a prohibition on businesses using insurance or indemnity arrangements to avoid paying penalties for offences under certain Acts and Regulations administered by WorkSafe.

The recent news is that these penalties relating to insurance or indemnity arrangements have now come into effect.

You can find a more detailed explanation of the changes here.

 


Research

COST OF LIVING NOW THE BIGGEST MENTAL HEALTH CONCERN

A survey by Suicide Prevention Australia has found 40 per cent of Australians reported cost-of-living pressures and personal debt has caused them elevated distress compared with this time last year.

The YouGov survey of 1,024 adults taken in August this year, also found frontline services ranked it the biggest risk to suicide rates.

Nieves Murray, the CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, says the findings have coincided with a substantial rise in demand for suicide prevention services, 88 per cent of which have registered an increase in demand over the same 12 months – up from 78 per cent.

Respondents suggested solutions including electricity and gas subsidies, increasing social security payments above the poverty line, building more social housing, removing negative gearing and offering early intervention for people who have rental increases.

Source: ABC, 26 September 2022


International News

FRANCE: AUTHORITIES LINK ASBESTOS TO MORE CANCERS

Some cancers of the larynx and ovaries are linked to exposure to asbestos, French health authorities have confirmed. Laryngeal and ovarian cancers are “under-reported and under-recognised” when they are linked to occupational exposure to this material, reported the National Health Security Agency (Anses). The move clears the way for better compensation for affected individuals, with Anses supporting the addition of both cancers to the list of occupational diseases officially recognised in France. This move would create a ‘presumption’ the cancers are asbestos-related, rather than leaving it to the cancer sufferer to prove their condition is occupational.
Source: France Télévisions

TURKEY: CHILDREN SICKENED IS PLASTICS RECYCLING JOBS

Children as young as nine are working in plastic waste recycling centres in Turkey, putting them at risk of serious and lifelong health conditions, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).  In a new report, HRW accuses the Turkish government of exacerbating the health and environmental impact on the workers by failing to enforce laws that require strict licensing and regular inspections of recycling centres. Krista Shennum, Gruber fellow at HRW and the report’s lead researcher, said: “We call on the UK, the EU and other countries to manage their own waste domestically rather than exporting it to Turkey, where it is causing human health and human rights harms.” HRW interviewed 64 people in the southern Turkish city of Adana and Istanbul, including 26 who now work or have previously worked in plastic recycling facilities, found a third had either begun the work as children or were children when interviewed.
Source: HRW news release and report, “It’s As If They’re Poisoning Us”. The Health Impacts of Plastic Recycling in Turkey, 21 September 2022. The Guardian


USA: THREE FAM DEATHS, BUT REGULATORS ARE POWERLESS

The deaths of three people killed after being trapped in a grain silo in Pennsylvania will not be investigated because they died on a family farm. Andrew Beiler, 47, and his two sons - a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old whose names were not released - died of asphyxiation from “silo gas.” One son was overcome by fumes, and his father and sibling attempted a rescue. All three were asphyxiated. There will be no official labour department investigation, because family members are excluded from Wage and Hour regulations and the safety regulator OSHA is not allowed to enforce safety standards on farms with 10 or fewer employees, or even set foot on the premises. “In other words, on farms, parents are allowed to kill their children, as long as it’s done in a work context,” said Jordan Barab, a former deputy director of OSHA.


Events

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:

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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