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DWF Download: Health and safety insights

12 December 2022

Our health, risk and safety experts in Australia round up the latest news.  Sign up to receive this update direct to your inbox.

In The News

169 people killed at work last year: Safe Work Australia

A sobering reflection:  the latest data from Safe Work Australia in its Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2022 report shows that tragically, 169 people were fatally injured at work in 2021. The data shows the same industries are consistently causing the highest rates of work-related fatalities: transport, postal and warehousing (52 fatalities), agriculture, forestry and fishing (33 fatalities) and construction (24 fatalities). 

Work related mental health conditions on the rise 

The Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2022 report also found there were 130,195 serious workers’ compensation claims in Australia and body stressing was the leading cause of serious workers’ compensation claims (37 per cent).

Mental health conditions are one of the most costly workplace injuries. In 2019 – 2020, the median time lost for mental health conditions was 30.7 working weeks, which is almost 5 times the 6.2 working weeks lost for physical injuries. The 30.7 working weeks had also risen from just 18.8 working weeks in 2015 – 2016. 

Respect@Work Portal launched 

The Respect@Work Portal was launched by the Respect@Work Council and has been described as a 'one-stop-shop' to assist employers in preventing, addressing and responding to workplace sexual harassment.

The online platform will provide a comprehensive set of resources for employers and workers. It includes best-practice guides, training programs, workplace-assessment tools, information, videos and advice. It is the first time all this information has been presented in a single place in Australia.

Regulatory Updates

Amendments to Qld WHS Regulations - Psychosocial Risks

The Queensland Government has made the Work Health and Safety (Psychosocial Risks) Amendment Regulation 2022 which will come into force from 1 April 2023. The Amendment Regulation specifies that employers must now address and manage psychosocial risks through the risk management provisions of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011. 

New Code of Practice in Queensland - Managing the risk of Psychosocial Hazards at Work 

The 'Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work - Code of Practice 2022' is scheduled to take effect from 1 April 2023, which is the same date that new laws (detailed above) will come into force imposing responsibilities on employers to manage psychosocial risks. 

"The legally enforceable psychosocial Code of Practice and regulations will directly address psychological health risks at work, which can be anything from exposure to traumatic events to remote or isolated working," Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace said.

Respect@Work amendments proposed

In September 2022, the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 was introduced and proposed to implement 7 of the 55 recommendations from Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins' 2020 Respect@Work report on workplace sexual harassment.

The Amendment prohibits conduct creating 'hostile' workplace environments, and places a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment. The Amendment also imposes a duty on employers to prevent harassment by third parties such as customers or clients, which is significant for many workers in the retail and hospitality industries where customers are often the main source of harassment. 

New Code of Practice in Queensland - Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in construction

Australia’s first silica dust code of practice for the construction industry will commence in Queensland on 1 May 2023. It applies to all construction work as well as the manufacturing of materials such as bricks, blocks, tiles, mortar and concrete. The code outlines how duty holders can meet the requirements of Queensland’s work health and safety legislation, including eliminating or minimising exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) at work.

Incidents / Case Law

SafeWork NSW v Urban Field Group

Urban Field Group Pty Ltd has been fined $400,000 after a worker sustained fatal injuries falling from an unsuitable ladder. The Court held that steps that could have been taken to prevent the fall included enforcing the offender’s own SWMS through adequate training and supervision, ensuring that the contractor had an appropriate SWMS. 

The induction conducted by the offender was so inadequate that it failed to detect that the worker did not have a White Card. The steps that could have been taken were simple, inexpensive, well known in the industry, referred to in the offender’s SWMS and required by the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union v Teys Australia   

Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd has been fined $30,000 to a union for unlawfully hindering an official by telling him he was required to surrender his mobile phone, purportedly for health and safety reasons, before entering its site. In September 2022, Federal Circuit and Family Court Judge Amanda Tonkin found that Teys Australia contravened section 501 of the Fair Work Act 2009.

Federal Circuit and Family Court Judge Amanda Tonkin reiterated her earlier finding that Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd's policy against using mobile phones and taking photographs in certain circumstances "had little or no connection" to safety matters.

On The Horizon

CFMMEU advocates for ban to Engineered Stone

The CMFEU has recently announced that if the federal government did not ban the importation and use of Engineered Stone by July 2024, it would ban its members from handling it. Incoming CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith said the severity of the action the union was willing to take reflected the severity of the risk to its members.

Significant Industrial Relations Reforms

The Federal Government's Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 was introduced to Parliament on 27 October 2022. The Bill would amend the Fair Work Act 2009 and related legislation, aiming to stimulate wage growth, boost job security, tackle gender inequality and modernise the workplace bargaining system.

Upcoming Events

February 2023 – LGAQ Safety Conference

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Further Reading