SafetyNet 643

Welcome to the 5 October edition of SafetyNet.  

Sadly two workplace deaths have been reported over the course of the week. A 65-year-old woman has died after crashing during a motorcycle training course at Somerton on Saturday, and a truck driver has died after his B-double veered off the Western highway onto train tracks, Thursday morning.

WorkSafe are investigating both deaths. We send our sincere condolences to family, friends and colleagues of the deceased.

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


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.

ASK RENATA

What are my HSR rights to arrange meetings with my DWG, and to determine the format of such meetings? I find engagement online, and through email, to be ineffective and would prefer face-to-face engagement with my workmates.

There is nothing in the Act or Regulations that explicitly mandates regular face-to-face meetings between HSRs and their DWG.

This is because OHS legislation is what we call ‘objective based’, not ‘prescriptive’ – that is, it does not mandate HOW consultation between HSRs and DWGs should be done, just that it must be occur.

It is therefore up to the parties to negotiate and agree on  procedures that meet the requirements of the Act and safeguard the safety of employees and other persons, while taking into account operational requirements.

Note that under s.58(1) HSRs have the power to inspect the workplace. In the event a DWG meeting cannot be organized HSRs are still empowered to speak to everyone in their DWG as part of such an inspection.

Where such in-person interaction is not practicable virtual consultation is better than no consultation. In our experience however the power of face-to-face communication is irreplaceable.

Also worth noting: under s.69(1)(d)(i) employers have an obligation to release HSRs, on paid time, to exercise their powers under the Act.

We’re aware of one HSR who reached agreement with their employer that a 10-minute allocated slot, in weekly toolbox meetings, would achieve the same outcome as allocating 4 hours a week to speak with every member of their DWG, face-to-face.

Under s.35(3) of the Act, an employer who’s obliged to consult, must do so by providing all relevant information to employees and HSRs in a timely manner, enabling opportunity for the matter to be considered and views expressed.

Regular timed meetings between HSRs and DWGs are a good way for employers to ensure they're providing that opportunity.

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.

YOUNG WORKERS CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT APPRENTICES

All apprentices deserve to be safe at work - but right now, too many are bullied, harassed and put in unsafe situations because the system is not vetting bosses and stopping repeat offenders from cycling through apprentices. 

Alia, a young apprentice chef, had to abandon her apprenticeship last year when she was only 6 months from completing it. Her workplace had been so lax on safety she was electrocuted while cleaning an e-water system and she had to walk herself to hospital after cutting her thumb on a mandolin slicer.  

She had already experienced consistent bullying and intimidation, having to duck containers that were thrown at her head. It finally became too much. 

Jae, an apprentice boilermaker, was forced to work in confined spaces with no ventilation or extraction fans, with only a mask that was hard to breathe through. He had to move employers after enduring months of bullying, injuries, and denial of proper training.  

One of the places he had to leave was Marshall Lethlean. The safety was so bad he left because he was afraid someone would die. Just weeks later, a young apprentice named Dillon Wu died in his second week at work after being forced to work unsupervised in an enclosed space, suffocating on argon gas. He was just 20 years old.  

Unfortunately, Alia and Jae’s stories are not unique. It's become so bad that only half of Victorian apprentices ever finish their training. That’s why Jae and Alia are now advocating for changes to the apprentice system.  Support them by signing Jae’s petition and together we can create change that will protect apprentices. 

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS  

On Tuesday 4th October, Victoria recorded:   

1,456 new daily infections    
7 COVID deaths   
143 hospitalisations, and 8 are in ICU with 2 patients on Ventilator’s. 

Cumulatively this equals:    

2,612,409 total Victorian infections   
5,664 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 92 since last week)   

You can check the Victorian live update here.   

Australia: As of the 27th of September, there have been a total of 10,243,195 COVID cases (an increase of 81,954 since last week) and 15,228 deaths (an increase of 278 since last week).   

World: As of 27th September, there had been 623,690,452 worldwide infections (620,692,913 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,551,741 (Source: Worldometer).   

Read more: Coronavirus;COVID-19 Victorian situation.   

VACCINATION UPDATE    

94.7% of Victorians (16+), as of 30th September, have received their second dose, 96.2% their first dose.  For the third dose the figure is 73.9% (16+).   

The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 98.2%, Second Dose 96.5%, the third dose 71.8% and the fourth dose 40.9% (30+).   

CheckCOVID-Livefor Updates.  

MANDATORY ISOLATION PERIOD ENDS

Last week, the National Cabinet met and announced that from October 14th, the COVID-19 mandatory isolation period would end, except for workers in high-risk industries like aged care and healthcare. The Victorian premier said that he ‘supported the unanimous decision,’ signalling that alongside the scrapping of face masks on public transport, the state would have minimal COVID restrictions. However, the National Chief Medical Officer stressed that advice was subject to change and that ‘This does not in any way suggest the pandemic is finished. We will ... see future peaks.’

Isolation payments will also be stopped once the rules are scrapped, except for those working in healthcare or aged care. If you are a casual worker in Victoria, you may be eligible for the Sick Pay Guarantee, which is a Victorian government program offering five days sick leave to casuals in select industries. For more information, and to sign up, please follow this link.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald-National cabinet scraps mandatory COVID-19 isolation

SILICA NEWS

Coinciding with National Safe Work Month, Lung Foundation’s Australia’s campaign is all about the risks associated with working on silica-containing materials.  

As HSRs would be aware, when silica-containing materials like engineered stone, bricks, concrete, drywall, mortar and tiles are crushed, cut, drilled, ground, sawed, sanded or polished, silica dust is generated, putting those exposed at risk. 

The Lung Foundation are encouraging anyone who works with these materials to complete their anonymous Healthy Lungs at Work Quiz

This quiz will assist those exposed to determine their risk of developing silicosis – an entirely preventable condition.

Take two minutes to complete the organisation’s anonymous and free Healthy Lungs at Work Quiz today, at Lungfoundation.com.au/SafeWork

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.

 

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

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

SAFETY SOAPBOX

WorkSafe’s OHS news bulletin for the construction and utilities industries, Safety Soapbox, hit our inbox yesterday. It contains information on:

  • Working safely on electrical installations
  • Health and safety month events
  • Managing risks associated with high winds
  • Prosecutions
  • News from interstate
  • A summary of reported incidents

Safety Soapbox can be viewed online here.

ENGINEERED STONE LICENCES

The requirement to apply for an engineered stone licence came into effect on 15 November 2021 to undertake an engineered stone process at the workplace.

A transition period until 14 November 2022 provides time to prepare a licence application and applications submitted by Nov 14 then will be free. Licences granted will be valid for 5 years from this date.

Licence requirements must be met before a licence will be granted and as part of the application process a WorkSafe inspector may attend the workplace to verify requirements are met.

Penalties will apply to employers who work with engineered stone without a licence after 15 November 2022.

Find more information here.


Prosecutions

$35,000 FINE AFTER TRUCK DRIVER'S DEATH

Tarantino Investments has been fined following the death of a garbage truck driver at Epping after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to ensure that plant being used for a purpose for which it was supplied was safe and without risks to health.

In December 2019, a subcontracted truck driver was supplied with a side loading trailer to transport a full shipping container from the company's Brooklyn depot to a business in Epping.

After unloading the container, the driver noticed that one of the stabilising legs on the trailer’s crane did not fully retract using the remote control and used manual levers to retract it.

The driver then moved the truck to load an empty shipping container before driving back onto the road without realising that the rear stabilising leg had not fully retracted and was sitting parallel with the ground.

A short time later the protruding stabiliser leg collided with the cabin of a garbage truck travelling in the opposite direction, killing the garbage truck's driver instantly.

An investigation found the wiring of the side loading trailer was in a poor state of repair, having suffered some previous structural damage, and the remote control having been repaired with duct tape and cable ties.

Source: WorkSafe News 03 October

PASSING INSPECTOR NOTICES LACK OF FALL PROTECTION

Prime Roofing supplies and installs metal roofing and cladding for industrial, residential, and commercial roofing.

On 26 March 2020 a WorkSafe Inspector was driving past a Hungry Jacks in Ballarat East when he observed a person standing within two metres of the edge of the roof on the south elevation of the building. The inspector observed that there was no fall protection in place, will a fall height of 3.9 metres.

The inspector took photographs and directed the person down from the roof. Handrails were installed following a Prohibition Notice prohibiting access to the roof area.

The offender's safe work method statement (SWMS) stated safety harnesses ‘may’ be required if the pitch of the roof exceeded 12 degrees. The roof on the south elevation was flat.

An Improvement Notice required the offender to review, and if necessary, revise the safe work the SWMS to control risk of falling.

The offender failed, so far as is reasonably practicable, to reduce the risk associated with a fall at a workplace by using a passive fall prevention device, pleaded guilty and was sentenced, without conviction, to pay $10,000 in addition to costs in the sum of $4,409.


Research

PREVENTION OF WORK-RELATED MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS

Work can be a protective factor for mental health, but it can also contribute to potential harm. All workers have the right to a safe and healthy environment at work. The Mental health at work: policy brief, developed jointly by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organization, provides a pragmatic framework for implementing the recommendations of the WHO guidelines on mental health at work. This policy brief provides actions for governments, employers, employers’ and workers’ organizations, civil society and health service planners to prevent work-related mental health conditions, protect and promote mental health at work and support workers with mental health conditions.

The WHO mental health policy brief can be downloaded here

 


International News

GLOBAL: UNIONS IN ACTION TO STAMP OUT HARASSMENT

The ground-breaking work of unions to secure the ratification and implementation of a key International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention to tackle violence and harassment in the world of work has been captured by a new ITUC survey and report, as part of the ITUC’s #RatifyC190 campaign. The survey of 107 ITUC-affiliated unions in 70 countries revealed that 97 per cent of trade unions surveyed have worked to secure the ratification and implementation of Convention 190.

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said: “We need to see governments and employers matching the activism of the trade unions. Governments must involve workers’ unions as social partners in social dialogue and collective bargaining and ratify and implement Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 as soon as possible. Employers must do the same by integrating C190 and R206 at sector and workplace level and ensure this happens throughout their supply chains.”

Source: ITUC news release

ARGENTINA: STRIKE WINS QUICK OFFSHORE SAFETY DEAL

Unions representing thousands of striking Argentine oil workers called off a strike one day after it started after a meeting with business leaders produced a deal on greater safety measures and training for employees. The strike was triggered by a fire in a storage tank which caused an explosion at the New American Oil (NAO) refinery in the town of Plaza Huincul in western Neuquen province, leaving three workers dead and one injured.

Union leaders, representatives of oil companies, and local government officials signed the deal designed to improve “training programmes and prepare active personnel and future workers on issues of on-the-job safety.” Prior to reaching the agreement, Marcelo Rucci, secretary general of the Private Oil and Gas Union of Rio Negro, Neuquen and La Pampa, the country's largest oil union, said: “We can't continue to lose lives to satisfy unrealistic production targets.”

Source: Reuters

EUROPE: NEW EU ASBESTOS LIMIT LEAVES WORKERS AT RISK

Responsible EU action on asbestos exposure could save up to 90,000 lives a year across Europe – but the European Commission has sided with business lobbyists who want to limit measures in order to save money.

A new European Commission proposal says the asbestos exposure limit should be reduced to 0.01 fibres/cm3, a tenth the current limit. However, the European Parliament had called for a new limit of 0.001 fibres/cm3, based on the recommendation of the International Commission of Occupational Health.

ETUC deputy general secretary Claes-Mikael Stahl said: “Unfortunately, the Commission have sided with business lobbyists over science in proposing a limit which would still leave many workers exposed to asbestos and at risk of developing cancer.” He added: “Trade unions will work with MEPs and ministers to improve this proposal and ensure workers, their families and taxpayers don’t have to keep paying the price for inaction over asbestos.”

Source: ETUC news release. European Commission news release. Politico.


Events

This year’s Health & Safety Month kicked 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.

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:

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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