Union News

International Nurses Day
Well into year 3 of a global pandemic the life-saving contribution of nurses and midwives was once again celebrated on International Nurses Day, May 12.

Some feared COVID would see an exodus of nurses leaving their profession but ANMF’s Victorian Branch have published statistics showing the greatest healthcare challenge of our times has actually coincided with an increase in nursing numbers.

There are 115,631 practicing registered and enrolled nurses in Victoria - an increase of 5602 through a period that has tested nurses but also revealed their resilience, courage and vulnerability.

ANMF reports the adrenaline of working through the first two years has now turned to exhaustion with many members having to reduce hours to recharge and recover.

SafetyNet would like to wish all ANMF members a belated happy International Nurses Day, and to all midwives for their day of celebration, May 5th.

Injured Workers Day

IWD is a movement developed in early 2020 by Australian injured workers, with support from trade unions and other organisations, to create visibility and solidarity for all injured workers.

IWD seeks improvement to workplace legislation and political commitment to change.

IWD also aims to create recognition for families, spouses and children who in many instances are required to become primary care givers, sharing the psychological trauma and financial hardship associated with long term incapacity.

The IWD movement will identify specific issues affecting injured workers and develop recommendations for collaborative processes to humanise WorkSafe and WorkCover processes and make them more effective.

Join us at Trades Hall June 1st for a BBQ and afternoon focused in what we need to do to fix the system. We'll be sharing the event on our Facebook page along with exciting announcements on speakers and panelists.

COVID-19 Latest Numbers 
There were 13,694 new infections reported in Victoria yesterday. Victorian daily figures for May 17 are: 

  • 77,809 active cases (last week 67,608)
  • 20 deaths reported
  • 3,158 COVID-related deaths so far
  • 516 are in hospital, 31 are in ICU, and 3 of these are on ventilators
  • 1,747,754 total number of reported infections since the pandemic began (an increase of 74,221 from last week)

You can check the Victorian live update here

The figures in NSW are 10,972 new cases, 1,442 in hospital, 59 in intensive care and 19 on ventilation. On May 17 they reported 16 deaths. 

Australia wide: As of May 17, there have been a total of 6,703,295 COVID cases (6,370,417 last week) and 7,872 deaths, sadly an increase of 267 from last week.

Worldwide: As of May 17, there had been 523,343,363 worldwide infections (518,440,513 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,290,813 (Source: Worldometer). Read more: Coronavirus;COVID-19 Victorian situation

Vaccination update 
As of May 17, 83.39 per cent of all Victorians have received their second dose, 86.05 per cent their first, and 54.23 per cent their third - so crucial in protecting against severe disease.

Australia wide, by May 17, the figures are 83.98 per cent, 86.80 per cent respectively, with 52.85 per cent having received the third shot. Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

Ask Renata
Hello Renata, Can you provide the regulations on Office staff coming onto the warehouse floor in a large distribution centre concerning their footwear? Should they be wearing the relevant safety footwear (steel caps)?

Thanks for your question and congratulations on being elected HSR - it’s an important role.

My first thought is: why are the office staff entering and walking through (or even 'throughout') the warehouse? If they are simply walking through as a 'short cut', then this probably needs to be looked at as there are hazards in the warehouse.

If however they do need to go through, then remember that your employer has a duty under section 21 of the OHS Act to provide a safe work environment and safe systems of work.

When it comes to this situation, in order to ensure that any pedestrians are not injured in the warehouse, your employer needs to have a traffic management plan in place that isolates these pedestrians from hazards and risks as they move through your area.  This includes ensuring that they are kept separate from forklifts and falling objects. 

There should, therefore, be no need for office staff entering your work area to wear steel cap boots. They should not be in any area not designated for pedestrians. If they do need to enter other areas for any reason, where they may be at risk of falling objects or whatever, then they may need special footwear and specific information, instruction and training.... but I can’t see why they would need to be there if they are office staff.

There's more information on traffic management on our site  - check out these Safe Work Australia documents: 

General guide to workplace traffic management 

Traffic management guide: warehousing

The warehousing guide includes the following on pedestrian traffic safety:

Where eliminating risks is not reasonably practicable, an employer must minimise the risks so far is reasonably practicable. For example, the following should be considered: 

separating designated areas for pedestrians and vehicles, for example using overhead walkways and installing barriers and fences Where separate areas are temporary e.g. when loading vehicles or unloading containers, consider using temporary high visibility physical barriers 

using separate pedestrian doors at vehicle entries and exits into buildings 

using safety railings or bollards to prevent pedestrians stepping out into traffic from ‘blind spots’ 

using safety measures like walkways and safety zones to protect drivers once they have left their delivery vehicles, and 

using engineering controls like interlocked gates, zoning systems, proximity alarms and speed shields.

There are also some publications on the WorkSafe website, including:

developing a forklift traffic management plan 

I hope this is helpful to you - I would also have referred you to your union, but see you are not a member. I strongly recommend that you consider joining the union as OHS is an area where unions provide advice, guidance and support. The only other option you have is to contact WorkSafe Victoria, our OHS regulator, and seek advice and assistance there.

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

OHS Basics Month - coming June 2022
Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and safety is core Union business. 

In a VTHC first for 2022 we are launching OHS Basics Month. Our aim is to empower HSRs, delegates and workers by sharing OHS skills and knowledge.

We're kicking off OHS Basics Month with a seminar on the fundamentals of OHS and will be joined by OHS legend, Renata Musolino. Renata will share her insights on how-to oganise for a safer workplace.

Some light food and drinks will be provided so make sure to RSVP here for catering numbers

If you can't make it to any of these events, don't worry! They'll be streamed live to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page. Make sure to like our page so you don't miss out.

Sunday June 5: ACTU Walk for Safety - Victorian Trades Hall, Carlton
In 2021, 1,500 workers were injured at work every single day. 194 Australians were killed on the job. That's 194 families who lost a loved one - a father, mother, brother or sister. It's 194 too many.  Every workplace injury and death is preventable. The ACTU is looking for your help to get that number down to zero by joining the Walk For Safety 2022.

What to do:

  1. Register for Walk For Safety 2022. Get your very own fundraising page to raise funds to support our campaigns for safer workplaces.
  2. Complete the two or four kilometre walk around scenic and historic surrounds of Trades Hall in Carlton.

Every dollar raised will help the ACTU continue to organise for safer workplaces and to support injured workers. Find out more

Silica News
New silica safety laws requiring industries such as construction, quarrying and tunnelling to provide special training to employees and information to job applicants have taken effect in Victoria.

New provisions also require manufacturers and suppliers of crystalline containing products to provide statements outlining the percentage of the hazardous substance in their products, along with information on safe handling and exposure controls.

The Victorian Government made the new laws under the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021 in November last year establishing a licensing regime for engineered stonework; permanently banning the uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone and introduced eight silica-related offences.

Crystalline silica is contained in engineered stone, ceramic tiles, concrete, bricks and marble. High-risk crystalline silica work generates dust which can cause deadly lung and respiratory diseases.

WorkSafe inspectors' powers have recently increased to allow the issuing of prohibition notices and directions pertaining to non-immediate but serious health and safety risks, like exposure to silica dust.

Click here for more information

Paid Family and Domestic Violence Win
A Fair Work Commission full bench has, in a 266-page decision, come to "provisional view" that modern awards should be varied to provide employees with 10 days of paid family and domestic violence (FDV) leave per year.

In April last year, the ACTU and gender equality groups identified the provision of paid FDV leave as a key part of meeting the WHS recommendations of the national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment and delivering "real safety for women"

Several days later, President Justice Ross, Vice President Hatcher and Commissioner Spencer agreed to the ACTU's request to fast-track a scheduled review of the FDV provisions in modern awards, and to consider providing paid FDV leave.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil described yesterday's development as an "historic win" affecting the 2.66 million Australian workers covered by modern awards.

Family and domestic violence leave review 2021 [2022] FWCFB 2001 (16 May 2022)

International Union News 
UK: NEU warns of school mental health crisis

In the latest annual survey of 1,788 National Education Union members, conducted ahead of their Annual Conference in Bournemouth:

  • 90% of teachers in English state schools report pupils’ poor mental health has become more prevalent in their school, compared to before the pandemic. The same number report an increase in socialisation difficulties, and 72% a delay in speech and language development. 
  • There is a gulf between what a school wants to do for education recovery and what is possible through funding and other Government policy. 77% agree it is important to increase the number of teachers, but only 3% have seen this delivered at their school. 77% want curriculum flexibility, but only 14% have seen it in action.

The State of Education survey is an extensive look at the current mood of the profession, the challenges facing teachers, support staff and school and college leaders, and what they wish to see from Government.

NEU news release.

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