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Business News

New $18M partnership building digital tech for safer workplaces

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The $18 million Tech4HSE program unites leading researchers in emerging technologies such as generative and immersive artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and cybersecurity, to develop tech to aid those working in dangerous environments.

New $18M partnership building digital tech for safer workplaces

 

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, will join forces with five universities to keep Aussies safe at work using the latest digital technologies.

The $18 million Tech4HSE program unites leading researchers in emerging technologies such as generative and immersive artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and cybersecurity, to develop tech to aid those working in dangerous environments.

The program is led by CSIRO’s data and digital arm, Data61, and the University of Queensland (UQ). Swinburne, UNSW, Curtin and ANU have also signed up as partners.

Science Director of Data61, Professor Aaron Quigley, said the technologies developed will support health, safety and environmental (HSE) objectives across a wide range of industries.

“Whether they’re working with electrical equipment, heavy machinery or on our roads, millions of Australians put themselves in harm’s way every day to help and serve others,” Prof. Quigley said.

“We’re bringing the best researchers in the nation together to help get everyone home safely, by creating advanced digital tools for training, identifying and monitoring hazards, and planning responses and actions.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 497,300 Australians suffered from a work-related injury or illness in 2021-22.  

All participating institutions are contributing funding and research expertise to the program, with UQ administering the funding.

The $18 million Tech4HSE program unites leading researchers in emerging technologies such as generative and immersive artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and cybersecurity, to develop tech to aid those working in dangerous environments.

The $18 million Tech4HSE program unites leading researchers in emerging technologies such as generative and immersive artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and cybersecurity, to develop tech to aid those working in dangerous environments.

UQ Tech4HSE Science Lead Dr Mashhuda Glencross said these projects present an exciting opportunity to make an impactful difference.

“The innovative technologies we are researching and developing in this initiative are aimed at supporting the safety of Australians during disasters and when working in potentially hazardous environments,” Dr Glencross said.

Prototypes will be built over five years and trialled in real-world job scenarios, with a focus on developing commercially viable products which are responsible by design.

In the first project currently underway, researchers from Data61 and UQ are developing technologies to support crisis preparedness and response for workers in the energy industry.

Data61 Tech4HSE Science Lead Dr Matt Adcock said one example of the technology being developed will combine state-of-the-art computer vision models and 3D generative AI.

“Our aim is to take smart glasses to a new level by enabling the placement of helpful digital holograms within the physical work environment to support emergency response safety training and assisted decision-making under heightened stress levels,” Dr Adcock said.

Researchers are initially working with stakeholders in the power industry to ensure prototypes are sensitive to industry needs.

The $18 million Tech4HSE program strategically seeks to bring Australia’s university expertise and CSIRO’s capabilities together to maximise the impact of science, research, and development for Australians.

The program was announced by Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Husic, at the launch of Australia’s AI Month, coordinated by CSIRO’s National AI Centre. From November 15 to December 15 more than 50 free and ticketed AI-related events will take place across the country.

 

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What does the supermarket code of conduct actually do?

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Food and Grocery Code of Conduct - What does the supermarket code of conduct actually do?

What does the supermarket code of conduct actually do?

 

By Jeff Gibbs

Public scrutiny of supermarkets has a longstanding history. Nearly a decade preceding the current spotlight on inflated prices and allegations of price gouging, a code of conduct was instituted to address the market disparities between major retailers such as Woolworths and Coles and their suppliers. Fast forward to the present, and it’s evident that issues persist. A 2023 report revealed that over a third of Australian vegetable producers contemplated exiting the industry within a year, citing pressures from retailers on pricing and shrinking profit margins. Consequently, the federal government has commissioned a review of the code of conduct.

So, what precisely is this code, and does it effectively operate? Introduced in 2015, the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct serves as an agreement aimed at enhancing business practices within the supermarket sector, particularly concerning the dynamics among retailers, wholesalers, and suppliers. While suppliers are mandatorily covered by the code, participation by supermarkets remains entirely voluntary. Notably, major players like Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and Metcalf (parent company of IGA) have all opted in.

Under the code, supermarkets bear several obligations, including the fundamental principle of conducting dealings with suppliers in good faith — be it during negotiations, contract establishment, or dispute resolution. However, the code refrains from explicitly defining the concept of “good faith.” Instead, it delineates various factors to assess good faith, such as acting honestly and without retaliatory or coercive measures. Additionally, supermarkets are required to appoint their own code arbiter to investigate disputes and propose resolutions, though a recent review highlighted supplier concerns regarding the arbiters’ lack of independence, resulting in scant formal complaints.

Should a breach of the code occur, suppliers possess the option to file formal complaints with the designated arbiter. Yet, a central critique of the code emerges here: due to its voluntary nature, supermarkets face no tangible repercussions for non-compliance. This deficiency was acknowledged by Dr. Craig Emerson, tasked with leading a review of the code, who emphasised that instituting penalties within a mandatory code could incentivise greater adherence from supermarkets. Nonetheless, supermarkets argue that the paucity of complaints indicates smooth relations between them and suppliers.

Food and Grocery Code of Conduct - What does the supermarket code of conduct actually do?

The Food and Grocery Code of Conduct serves as an agreement aimed at enhancing business practices within the supermarket sector.

Will the code undergo revision? It remains uncertain. Dr. Emerson is slated to deliver a report on the review by June’s end, which will furnish a recommendation to the federal government on potential amendments — either retaining it as a voluntary pact while modifying certain aspects or overhauling it into mandatory regulation. The government, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, asserted a commitment to taking requisite action following the review’s outcome.

This was acknowledged by Dr Craig Emerson, who said proper penalties in a mandatory code would improve supermarket behaviour after he was appointed to lead a review of the code in January.

“Critics point to the weak enforcement powers in a voluntary code,” he said in early February.

“A mandatory code with penalty provisions would likely incentivise greater compliance by supermarkets.

“Enforcement options could include infringement notices and court proceedings to impose financial penalties for non-compliance.”

Supermarkets, however, say the paltry number of complaints shows the relationships between them and suppliers are running smoothly.

Is the code going to change?

It might, but we don’t know for sure yet.

Emerson is due to deliver a report on the review by the end of June.

That will include a recommendation to the federal government on whether to amend the code – that is, keep it as a voluntary agreement but change some other elements – or remake it entirely to turn it into mandatory regulation.

The government will then have to choose whether or not to accept Emerson’s recommendation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said when the review was launched that he “will not hesitate to take action” if it’s required.

 

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$900K IN FINES HANDED OUT AS SAFEWORK CRACKS DOWN ON FALLS FROM HEIGHTS THREATS

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Working at Heights in Construction campaign from SafeWorks NSW Blitz

$900K IN FINES HANDED OUT AS SAFEWORK CRACKS DOWN ON FALLS FROM HEIGHTS THREATS

 

Almost $1 million in fines have been issued at the halfway point of SafeWork NSW’s 12-month blitz on falls from heights.

The ‘Working at Heights in Construction’ campaign followed a concerning rise in the number of serious injuries and deaths attributed to falls from heights, resulting in 17 people killed between 2018 and 2022.

Since May 2023, SafeWork Inspectors have visited 1,218 worksites resulting in 1,499 Improvement Notices, 727 Prohibition Notices and 352 Penalty Notices amounting to $972,000.

The blitz has seen Inspectors visit several commercial and residential sites across the state, as well as conducting high visibility checks in manufacturing and warehouse industries in addition to inspections in the transport industry leading up to a busy Christmas period.

During their field work, Inspectors gauged that 65 per cent of industry is using the highest form of safety measures as their first choice including the use of fall prevention devices, such as roof guardrails and scaffolding, rather than fall arrest systems such as harnesses.

SafeWork will continue to prioritise the safety of workers at heights in 2024 with continuing inspections, starting off with a blitz on the safe installation of rooftop solar panels this month.

Working at Heights in Construction campaign from SafeWorks NSW Blitz

Almost $1 million in fines have been issued at the halfway point of SafeWork NSW’s 12-month blitz on falls from heights.

Contractors and builders are obligated to protect workers by identifying height risks and taking steps to control these hazards as far as reasonably practical by implementing higher order controls.

Workers who have concerns about workplace health and safety can anonymously contact SafeWork on 13 10 50 or through the ‘Speak Up Save Lives’ app.

More information relating to working from heights can be found via the SafeWork website

Quotes to be attributed to Head of SafeWork NSW Trent Curtin:  

“As we pass the halfway point of SafeWork’s ‘Working at Heights in Construction’ compliance blitz it is important to note that falls from heights is still the number one cause of traumatic fatalities on NSW construction sites.

“While it is encouraging that 65 per cent of industry is using the highest form of safety measures, this means that 35 per cent are not and this needs to change. Otherwise, businesses run the risk of workplace accidents as well as fines and prosecution.

“During one worksite blitz a SafeWork Inspector noted a worker who was not connected to a harness system while working on a roof. When questioned as to why they were not connected, the worker reasoned that they had been roofing for 30 years without an incident.

“Attitudes like this will eventually result in a workplace accident or death. This is simply unacceptable. SafeWork Inspectors will not hesitate to stop work on site, issue fines and consider prosecution against businesses and individuals disregarding the rules.”

 

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Delivering employment pathways for diverse women

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Return to Work Pathways Program

Delivering employment pathways for diverse women

 

Local organisations in the Lismore electorate can now apply for funding for programs that empower women from diverse backgrounds to thrive in the workforce.

The NSW Government’s Return to Work Pathways Program has launched a new round of applications with grants between $100,000 and $250,000 available for organisations to provide training, mentoring and pathways to employment for diverse women.

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said the Return to Work Pathways Program was designed to help women from diverse backgrounds overcome barriers to employment.

“I want everyone in my community to enjoy the same opportunities to succeed in their career.

“This program has a proven track record of helping women to overcome barriers and gain a sense of achievement in their chosen work.

“I encourage local organisations with ideas to help women succeed, to apply for this funding.

Since its inception in 2023, the Return to Work Pathways Program has funded 13 successful projects and is supporting more than 1,000 women with their employment goals.

Return to Work Pathways Program

Return to Work Pathways Program

Minister for Women Jodie Harrison said the NSW Government was committed to fostering economic opportunity and boosting female participation in the workforce.

“The Return to Work Pathways program focuses on initiatives that support women who are experiencing persistent barriers to employment.

“Grants awarded through this program have helped women access sustainable employment opportunities through coaching and training, mentorships or local opportunities.

“Creating pathways to employment means women can have financial security and face life’s challenges with confidence.”

The Return to Work Pathways Program will focus on supporting women and girls:

  • From Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • Living in regional, rural and remote areas of NSW
  • Of diverse sexualities and genders, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer and/or asexual
  • Who are living with disability
  • Who are living with mental illness
  • Who are in contact with the criminal justice system
  • Who are veterans

Return to Work Pathways Program grant applications are now open and close Monday 11 March 2024. For more information on the grant program, eligibility information and how to apply, visit here.

 

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