Newsletter – October 2018

A few points of interest in the world of safety and compliance!

There have been several articles coming across our desk top at late, and I have taken note of a few points of interest that we wanted to share. I have been speaking to a few of you about several campaigns that the regulators have been running and focus in the workplaces, so I thought we should expand on some of the forward “planning” of implementation.

Silica and Air Borne Contaminants:

Minister Grace Grace spoke recently reminding employers that uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone is prohibited, she also announced plans to develop explicit regulations to re-enforce existing legislative requirements. This will include a new code of practice (remember COPs are enforceable) prescribing the minimum standard for controlling silica exposure in the stone benchtop industry, to be in place by early 2019.

A working group has been established to develop the code of practice, comprised of medical, union, industry, WorkCover Queensland and government representatives. This group has already acknowledged that aspects of the code will have relevance to managing silica dust exposure in the construction industry. Development of the stone benchtop industry code will therefore lead to the development of a silica dust code for the whole construction industry.

There is no proven treatment for silicosis and the effects are irreversible, which means prevention of this disease through control of silica dust exposure is vital. WorkCover Queensland is currently managing multiple silicosis claims from engineered stone benchtop workers and tragically several of these workers have been diagnosed with Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF). Many of these workers are under the age of 40 and most had no symptoms when their disease was diagnosed.

Focus: Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is currently auditing all known stone bench top fabrication workshops in Queensland, with over 150 to be audited by the end of 2018. From 105 of these, already 405 improvement notices have been issued for matters such as health monitoring, provision of respiratory protective equipment and inadequate dust control measures. As well, 40 prohibition notices have been issued, mainly for uncontrolled dry cutting. WHSQ will follow up and take enforcement action where it’s required to ensure these businesses take steps to arrange health monitoring for their workers.

Vehicle Lifting Cranes (VLCs):

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Department of Transport and Main Roads recently completed a series of weighbridge and roadside assessments of vehicle loading cranes. The assessments were part of a response to several serious incidents involving failed or incorrectly stowed outriggers on trucks fitted with VLCs.

To date there have been over 300 assessments of VLCs, with inspectors identifying a significant number of non-compliance issues, many creating a risk that stabilisers could extend during travel.

These issues include:

  • VLCs with only one stabiliser locking device and no secondary locking mechanism
  • VLC operator not competent to use the stabilisers
  • stabilisers not secured due to faulty or damaged locking device
  • no maintenance on the stabilisers (damaged, with oil leaks)
  • stabilisers secured by non-rated (electrical wire) straps due to faulty or damaged locks
  • stabiliser alarms by-passed due to faulty locks.

Focus: So far, inspectors have issued over 90 statutory notices to PCBUs and owners of VLCs. That number is likely to increase when a second round of roadside and weighbridge assessments kicks off next month.

Work health and safety inspectors will also visit around 400 workplaces with a focus on how PCBUs and VLC owners are managing the risk of unintentional extending of stabilisers during travel. In the last decade there have been three fatalities, several serious injuries, and extensive property damage on Queensland roads when VLC stabilisers extended during travel. The audit campaign responds to what is a clear need to educate operators and enforce the safe use and operation of VLC stabilisers and outriggers in this state.

Speaking to some of our clients that have had this undertaken, the audit campaign is focusing on procedures and operating instructions, as well as maintenance records.

Heat:

A reminder, Queensland workplaces are urged to take extra care this year when preparing for work in heat, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting above average daytime temperatures in the months ahead.

Employers need to plan now and protect workers from heat stress hazards.

Workers must be provided with heat and sun protection, as well as having general sun safety tips explained to them. If they’re not clear, have trouble understanding, or are concerned they’re working in an unsafe, hot environment, workers should be encouraged to speak up. If you or your workmates are struggling in excessive heat or high humidity, don’t stall – talk to your supervisor immediately. Employers must ensure workers wear protective gear, including a hat and sunscreen, take adequate breaks, seek shade, and keep hydrated to prevent heat exhaustion, heat stroke, fainting and cramps.

Heat stress risk is not just related to temperature – there are a combination of factors which contribute to heat-related problems at work, including:

  • carrying out strenuous tasks or work for sustained long periods
  • exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day
  • exposure to additional heat from machinery
  • exposure to reflected heat from construction materials, polished aluminium and glass.
  • inadequate cooling off, rest periods or insufficient water consumption
  • climatic conditions (low air movement, high humidity, high temperature)
  • inappropriate clothing
  • factors that may cause dehydration such as poor diet, vomiting, diarrhoea or alcohol and caffeine consumption.

New resources available:

  1. A new website for farmers (farmonline.com.au) includes articles on health, the rural work of Lifeline, case studies of injured workers, safety campaigns, mental health and working with chemicals. There also is advice on technological developments and their impacts on safety, and free work safety tools for inductions, safety action plans and emergency plans.
  2. The Work Health and Safety Board, the peak advisory Board to the Government on work health and safety issues, has developed a five-year plan to make Queensland safer. The development of the five-year strategic plan is one of 58 recommendations of the Best Practice Review into Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. The Best Practice Review was conducted following the Dreamworld and Eagle Farm tragedies in October 2016.
  3. Asbestos Awareness Week. 19-25 November as a date for the calendar

So hopefully there are some points in this newsletter that are of interest to you all.

As always, happy to chat about your requirements and the business needs.

Give us a call or drop a note on our web site.

Until next time. Stay safe and well.

     

 

Workplace Health & Safety Consultants

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