New South Wales
SafeWork NSW has released a statement outlining their enforcement approach to ensure compliance with the WHS Act and WHS Regulation with regard to Covid-19.
While the regulator acknowledges that NSW workplaces are in a difficult and unprecedented situation, compliance and enforcement activities will continue around the state.
While orders from the Public Health Act are in force, the work health and safety regulator will be looking to take a supportive role and using a practical approach when it comes to visiting worksites. Actions regarding compliance will be appropriate and proportionate when it comes to what is ‘reasonably practicable’ in these unusual circumstances.
If a duty-holder can show they have made genuine attempts to comply with legislation, SafeWork NSW will be able to take an educational approach, but the regulator is reserving the right to vary this approach, pending circumstances and significant safety risks.
Serious incidents and fatalities will continue to be addressed with the highest priority.
“NSW businesses must take action to prepare and manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for workers and others at their workplace so far as is reasonably practicable consistent with statutory requirements,” the regulator stated in a media release.
SafeWork NSW advises all businesses should:
- review their exposure and infection control policies and procedures, actively promote social distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene and increase cleaning of common areas within the work environment
- develop and implement safe systems of work (in consultation with workers and/or their HSR’s) that include directions and advice provided by our health authorities, and
- keep monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it develops
- continue to comply with statutory requirements including notifying SafeWork NSW of any work-related fatality, serious injury or illnesses (including COVID-19).
Workers also have obligations under WHS legislation to protect themselves and others. If a worker believes they are at risk of infection of coronavirus, they should raise their concerns with their manager or WHS representative as soon as possible.
South Australia suspends class B asbestos removal licence
Earlier this month, the South Australian regulator took action to immediately suspend the class B asbestos removal licence held by a South Australian licensed asbestos removalist and demolition contractor.
SafeWork SA, along with the EPA, had been closely monitoring the business activities of the contractor and determined the business had failed to comply with section 19 of the WHS Act (SA) to take reasonable care of their workers’ health and safety and to ensure they did not adversely impact others.
Evidence put together by the agencies showed the contractor had put workers and others at risk of exposure to asbestos by failing to remove all asbestos from a site, they did not decontaminate the site and failed to engage a licensed assessor to carry out a clearance inspection.
Anyone involved in the demolition or refurbishment of a structure or plant that was installed or fixed before 31 December 2003 must comply with asbestos regulations.
Gas bottle explosion sees Victorian company fined $300,000
In Victoria, a maintenance firm has been convicted and fined $300,000 after a worker was permanently disabled in a gas bottle explosion.
New Sector Engineering Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court on 25 March, to failing to provide a work environment that was safe and without risks to health, and failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The incident occurred when a company ute caught fire from exploding gas bottles (containing acetylene and oxygen) being transported in an enclosed toolbox.
The court heard the two gas bottles had been placed unsecured and on their side as the ute’s enclosed canopy was too low to allow the worker to place them in an upright position, allowing acetylene vapour and air to mix and explode.
The injured worker requires a wheelchair and has memory loss as a result of multiple traumatic, physical and mental injuries.
The court heard that New Sector Engineering failed to have a system of work in place for the transportation of gas bottles, including adequate ventilation and ensuring the bottles were properly secured and upright when moved.
Fatal electric shock in WA
The WA work health and safety regulator has issued a safety alert arising from an incident earlier this year, where an air-conditioning installer suffered a fatal electric shock while working in a roof space.
In Western Australia, any workers must de-energise and isolate all power before entering a domestic roof space. The person responsible for this is the employer, main contractor, self-employed person or person with control of the workplace.
This type of hazard must be managed by ensuring power has been de-energised and isolated (turned off at the main switch) before anyone enters or works in a domestic roof space, whether or not they will be doing electrical work. Always use a licensed electrician to do electrical work and check for any other hazards associated with working in roof spaces such as heat, pests, asbestos or falls. Implement suitable controls based on risk.
WorkSafe QLD issues advice on Covid-19 and PPE
The work health and safety regulator advises PPE should be worn by:
- people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 as advised by their doctor or Queensland Health.
- people with close contact with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 (e.g. healthcare workers). PPE guidance for specific industries is available at www.health.gov.au.
The current shortage of disposable particulate respirators in Australia due to an increase in demand from health care workers and from the public, creates an issue for workplaces which require disposable respirators to protect workers from exposure to hazardous dusts generated from various work processes.
If you cannot get stocks from your regular suppliers, QLD WorkSafe suggests:
- If you normally use P2 disposable respirators to protect against mechanically generated particulates (for example, dust from power tools or bonded asbestos removal), a P1 disposable respirator may be an alternative option. P1 disposable respirators are suitable for mechanically generated particulates while P2 disposable respirators are suitable for both mechanically and thermally generated particulates (e.g. particulates produced by hot processes such as soldering and welding). Use this table to select an appropriate respirator.
If you are able to source respirators, you should ensure you are getting the maximum use out them.
WorkSafe recommends you do this by:
- Rescheduling work for when disposable respirators are available
- Restrict access to respirators to staff who need to use them, i.e. whose work puts them at risk of exposure to a hazardous dust.
- Where respirators are being reused following a rest break, ensure facilities are available to support the following steps:
- Before removing the respirator—wash hands,
- Remove respirator and wash face,
- Ensure a user fit check is completed each time disposable RPE is re fitted, and
- Dispose of RPE if damaged, dust is present inside the RPE or it no longer fits tightly and conforms to the wearers face.
- Use suitable alternatives to disposable respirators
- Use higher order risk controls such as enclosures and LEV that eliminate exposure to airborne contaminants.
- Consider administrative controls such as reducing the level and duration of exposure of employees involved in dust generation through work organisation (periodic rotation of employees both through and in areas with potentially significant dust exposures) and limits on overtime.
- Use other types of respirators which provide the same or greater level of protection such as reusable respirators and powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR). Supply of these respirators has not currently been severely impacted, but this may change.
- Reusable respirators with replaceable particulate filters can be used as an alternative to disposable respirators. Filters can be used repeatedly so long as both parts are regularly cleaned and stored in a clean container between usage. The cost for this type of respirator is very competitive when compared to ongoing replacement costs of disposable respirators.
- Reusable PAPR can be used as an alternative to disposable respirators. PAPR units have a wide variety of head-tops and replaceable particulate filters.
ASOFIA always recommends more detailed information on any concern you have regarding work health and safety on your site, contact your state or territory’s regular as your first point of information.