Welcome to the 2 February edition of SafetyNet.
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
ITS BEEN THREE YEARS
The ACTU reminds us this week it’s been three years since COVID-19 was first detected in Australia, with 11 million confirmed cases and a shocking 16,000 directly-attributable Australian deaths since then.
While our approach to the virus may have changed, one constant remains - employers still have legal obligations to provide a safe work environment.
Australian Unions has several free fact-sheets to assist, including on consultation, vaccination, pandemic leave, ventilation and understanding COVID risks in the workplace.
WEEKLY COVID NUMBERS
From 20 January - 26 January, Victoria recorded:
3,446 total cases for the past week (-29.4%)
21 COVID deaths on average each day over the past week
226 (-29%) cases in hospital (7 day rolling average) with 13 in ICU (7 day rolling average)
See here for more of the latest on COVID
NEW BODY TO OVERSEE SAFETY IN THE ARTS
On Monday the Albanese Labour Government announced its intention to establish a new federal body - the Centre for Arts Workplaces.
The new body will be empowered to receive complaints from artists and other creative industry workers to crack down on sexual harassment, bullying and exploitation and withdraw funding for organisations that fail to meet minimum standards.
The Centre will target businesses with no proper workplace procedures, provide advice on standards of pay, safety and welfare, develop codes of conduct and facilitate referrals to authorities.
The MEAA has described the announcement as a ‘really welcome development’.
‘The acknowledgment that cultural workers are real workers is pleasing, as is the commitment to use funding power to force change – that’s powerful - when current and future funding can be withdrawn.'
'As a courier contractor am I required to lift over 20kg (or items that are marked ‘team lift’)? We’re not employees, and we are paid $2.00 per item we deliver whether it is a 10g satchel or a 25+kg box (including flat pack furniture). There are no lifting aids and many items do not fit on hand trolleys. This is domestic freight most often, as opposed to commercial.'
What you’re describing sounds dangerous. Based on what you’ve told us, it seems inevitable either you, or one of your workmates, will get hurt.
Musculoskeletal injuries can be life-altering, requiring ongoing pain management and never fully healing.
They can restrict our capacity at work and negatively impact our relationships with family and friends.
Your exact employment status is tricky, and we’d strongly encourage you to speak with your Union.
Either way, regulations require any hazardous manual handling be identified (r26) and controlled (r27).
Read more here
FINE FOR CRUSH INJURIES SUSTAINED IN TRENCH COLLAPSE
Landscaping company, Hallmark Landscape and Design was engaged to build a retaining wall on the rear boundary of the Northcote property, July 2020, when trench dug along the width of the property collapsed. One employee was able to move out of the way, but a second worker was engulfed up to his chest.
Fire Rescue Victoria attended the scene and used ply board and other equipment to shore up the trench before extracting the injured worker, who was transferred to hospital with a fractured pelvis, ribs, and tailbone.
At the time of the incident Hallmark had no emergency procedures in place.
The Court found Hallmark failed to provide and maintain a safe system of work and characterised the offending as serious. Hallmark pleaded guilty and was, without conviction, sentenced to pay $15,000 plus costs.
Click here for more detail
UK: AMAZON TREATS ROBOTS BETTER THAN WORKERS
Amazon workers have accused the firm of imposing ‘severe’ conditions and low pay. Staging their the first-ever strike against the online giant on 25 January, the GMB members said they are constantly monitored and upbraided for ‘idle time’ lasting just a few minutes, with staff treated worse than the company’s robots. Two workers at the Coventry warehouse, Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton, described how even a trip to the toilet can lead to questions by managers. They said working conditions are taking a toll on their colleagues, some of whom are working 60-hour weeks to keep up with cost-of-living increases. Westwood sent a message to Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder, executive chair and space adventurer, who Forbes magazine says has a $120bn fortune ‘We don't want his boat or his rockets. We just want to be able to live.’
Source: TUC Risks GMB news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star
CHINA: SEVERAL DEAD IN CHEMICAL PLANT EXPLOSION
China's State Security Commission has ordered an investigation into an explosion at Panjin Haoye Chemical Co Ltd's factory, according to a statement from the Liaoning provincial government on 19 January. Twelve people were killed and one is missing after the explosion Sunday 15 January at the refinery and petrochemical complex in China's northern Liaoning province, the statement said. The incident is reported to have occurred during maintenance work at an alkylation plant.
Source: TUC Risks, Chemistry World
POSITIVE RESULTS OF SUICIDE PREVENTION
Research examining suicide trends among Australian construction workers between 2001 to 2019 suggest population-wide, male-specific, and sector-specific suicide prevention efforts are having an effect.
Researchers at Melbourne and Deakin Universities, examining 19 years of national suicide data, report a significant decline in the suicide rate for construction workers, compared to other male workers.
Their report suggests existing efforts should continue, and expand.
Learn more. Download the full report here
OHS TRAINING UNIT
The Victorian Trades Hall Council’s OHS Training Unit is one of the most experienced training providers in Victoria.
We have delivered OHS training to tens of thousands of Health & Safety Reps across Victoria since 1983.
We deliver high quality WorkSafe Approved training that is practical and solution-focused in multiple locations around Melbourne’s suburbs and regional Victoria.
5 Day HSR Initial OHS Training Course Fee - $950 (inc GST)
1 Day HSR Refresher Training Course Fee - $350 (inc GST)
Click on the links below for dates and locations.
HSR Initial OHS Training Course
HSR Refresher OHS Training Course
VTHC also offers tailored training, including for managers and supervisors, on Comcare, and gendered violence.
Check out our website for more information.