SafetyNet 633

Welcome to the 27 July, 2022 edition of SafetyNet. 

Happily, no workplace deaths have been reported since last SafetyNet.  

We hope you find this week's edition useful and interesting. Feel free to share it and please encourage others in your workplaces to subscribe. 

For OHS news and helpful information visit We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page, or for advice, our Ask Renata facility on OHS Network Facebook or via email: [email protected]

Union News

ASK RENATA

My workplace has a significant mould and water damage issue and as a result my health has dramatically deteriorated. Time taken off work has seen significant improvement in my symptoms and for this reason I am very concerned about returning to my workplace.

We’re very sorry to hear you’ve been injured at work.

As a first step we’d encourage you to lodge a WorkCover claim. If your claim is accepted you’ll be eligible to have expenses and leave entitlements reimbursed and be able access payments to cover any ongoing medical and like expenses.

Information on how to lodge a WorkCover claim can be found here and on our webpage here.

Under section 21 of the OHS Act your employer must provide and maintain, so far as reasonably practicable, a work environment that is safe and without risk to health.

Based on what you’ve told us your employer is in breach of that duty, exposing workers to injury and themselves to significant penalties.

See here for more information on employer duties, and here for more information about mould - a long understood and significant workplace hazard.

Regarding your understandable reluctance to return to a mould-affected workplace - you have the right to refuse dangerous work. Every individual worker has this right under what’s called the Common Law Contract of Employment.

See our webpage for more information.

Of course, knowing your rights is only half the battle – you’ve got to have the power to enforce your rights under the law, and principles of health and safety.

Check to see if there is an employee-elected health and safety representative (HSR) at your workplace. If there is one, ask them to raise the matter with your employer who must then seek to resolve the issue.

If that consultation proves unsatisfactory, your HSR has the power to issue a PIN or even direct that work cease until the area is made safe.

See here for more information on resolution safety issues.

If you don’t have an HSR there, then you should start talking to your fellow workers and set up a meeting with the employer to collectively raise your concerns.

We recommend contacting your Union for advice and support through this process. OHS is an area where unions provide advice on issues, guide you through the process of electing a HSR, and provide training to ensure you’re supported with any future OHS issues. 

The only other option you have at the moment is to contact WorkSafe, Victoria’s OHS regulator and seek advice and assistance there.

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata portal. Your questions will be answered by someone in the VTHC's OHS Unit.

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS 

On Tuesday 26th July Victoria recorded: 

12,339 new daily infections  
40 COVID deaths 
869 hospitalisations, 39 in ICU and 12 of these on ventilators 

Cumulatively this equals: 

2,369,621 total Victorian infections 
4,401 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 310 since last week) 

You can check the Victorian live update here. 

Australia: As of 26th July, there have been a total of 9,186,102 COVID cases (an increase of 669,255 since last week) and 10,326 deaths, an increase of 533 since last week. 

World: As of 26th July, there had been 576,219,283 worldwide infections (561,388,387 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,405,237 (Source: Worldometer). 

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation. 

VACCINATION UPDATE  

83.91% of all Victorians, as of 25th July, have received their second dose, 86.38% their first, and only 55.83% for their crucially important third dose. 

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.50%, 87.1% and 54.70%. 

Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

VENTILATION AS A CONTROL FOR COVID-19 OUTBREAKS 

The COVIDSafe team at the Victorian Trades Hall Council has been visiting a variety of workplaces in Melbourne and in regional Victoria speaking with workers about COVID safety measures at their workplaces. One of the most common questions the team receives is how a workplace can actually improve ventilation.  

Ventilation: A few quick steps!  

Good ventilation is one of the most important ways we can reduce the spread of COVID-19 at work, as it helps remove the virus from the air. There are some simple ways to improve ventilation that most workplaces can do:  

  1. Windows and doors can be opened to increase fresh air flows 

  2. Ensure heating ventilation and air conditioning systems [HVAC] are turned on and are not running on recycled air 

  3. Using air conditioning filters of a high enough quality to limit the spread of COVID-19 (of a F8 standard or higher) 

  4. Purchasing air purifiers for rooms that can’t get air flow, such as storerooms. These should be placed away from doorways or windows to be most effective.  

 Ventilation is just one way your boss can help keep you and your co-workers as safe as possible from COVID-19.  

Conversations with your Manager 

You can have a conversation with your manager about ventilation.  It might be easier to approach it with the angle that by preventing you and your co-workers from getting COVID, it minimises the risk of there being an outbreak at the workplace and therefore any staffing shortages. Staffing shortages can lead to the workplace having to temporarily close, which is obviously not going to be a good outcome for the store! Checking if there is an updated COVID safe plan and risk assessment is also something that is a worthwhile conversation with your manager. If you don’t already have an elected HSR this is also something that could help you and the other staff to be proactive on COVID 19 control measures. 

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) have the power to introduce effective controls for COVID-19 such as: 

  1. Checking there is a risk assessment for COVID-19 

  2. Reviewing and evaluating the risk assessment and the controls for COVID-19 

  3. Requesting a Ventilation audit. 

  4. Implementing the outcomes from that audit. 

  5. Using Provisional Improvement Notices (PIN) if necessary.  

If you’d like to read more about ventilation, you can read more here. 

 


Prosecutions

COMPANIES CHARGED FOLLOWING WORKER'S DEATH

Two companies have been charged with a series of offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following the death of a carpenter at a construction site in August 2021.


Regulator News

WORKER DEATHS PROMPT TRUCK SAFETY REMINDER

WorkSafe have issued a reminder of the hazards involved in working around trucks after four workers died in separate incidents within the past two months, with nine truck-related fatalities having occurred within the past 12 months.


Research

STUDY PREDICTS 10,000 AUSSIE WORKERS WILL DEVELOP LUNG CANCER FROM SILICA DUST

The ACTU, as part of their advocacy work in relation to the prevention of silicosis, recently commissioned a report from researchers at Curtin University.

Modelling used in the report predicts as many as 10,000 Australians may develop silica-caused lung cancer amid warnings more than half a million Australian workers are currently exposed to the harmful dust.


International News

UK: BOSS JAILED AFTER RECYCLING WORKER’S HORRIFIC DEATH

Recycle Cymru Ltd boss Stephen Jones has been jailed for nine years at Mold Crown Court for the manslaughter of Norman Butler in 2017. The employee had climbed up a sloping conveyor belt to unblock waste cardboard but slipped or fell into a hopper container.


Events

HSR INITIAL & REFRESHER TRAINING 

Trained HSRs are more effective HSRs - have you just been elected and haven't organised your training yet? Do it now! And if you completed your initial five-day training then organise your annual refresher now. There are things happening in the OHS space you need to be aware of.   


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