Union News

The Victorian Trades Hall Council is releasing our approved safety standard for exposure to vibration at work.

Workers exposed to vibration at work are at increased risk of developing a number of injuries and illnesses, especially over prolonged periods. Whilst vibration has long been recognised as a hazardous manual handling risk, and is even included in regulation, there are no exposure limits in Australia or even practical guidance on how to measure exposure.

Many vibration related injuries, such as an early degeneration of the spine, have significant impacts on the long-term health and wellbeing of workers. If you have an issue with vibration at work, you can minimise your risk of injury or illness by getting your employer to follow VTHC's approved safety standard found

You can read more about the effects of vibration here - https://www.ohsrep.org.au/vibration_he01zvjn4l4wtpwayrxcsa

The Federal Election
Workplace safety journal OHSAlert has reported on Federal Labor's national work health and safety agenda

'The Australian Labor Party's most recent national platform, debated and adopted last year, sets out the policies to be implemented by an Anthony Albanese Labor Government.'

'According to the 157-page platform document, Labor will work closely with all jurisdictions, employers and unions "to advance a national work health and safety agenda through a refinanced, enhanced and properly tripartite Safe Work Australia".'

'Companies and officers accused of WHS breaches could bear the onus of proving they took all reasonably practicable steps to prevent an incident occurring, while the offence of industrial manslaughter will be added to the national model WHS Act.'

'Key reforms... will include stepping up the enforcement of the WHS duty to "genuinely consult with workers", enabling unions and workers (or their families) affected by work incidents to initiate WHS prosecutions, and requiring "those who conduct businesses and their officers to bear the onus of proving that they have taken reasonably practicable measures to prevent a WHS offence occurring".'

As Victoria is not harmonised, work has already begun here in a number of priority areas.

Additional policies flagged in the national platform include:
  • full implementation of Kate Jenkins' Respect@Work report
  • protecting workers' mental health through specific regulations on pychosocial hazards
  • introducing stronger regulations for deadly industrial and infectious diseases, like COVID-19 and black lung
  • implementing a "specific national response" to silicosis and similar occupational lung diseases
  • tightening regulations for hazardous chemicals and adopting a "coordinated toxic use reduction policy"
  • improving and harmonising regulation of hazardous industries like shipping, stevedoring and offshore work
  • introducing special regulations that recognise dangerous conditions faced by firefighters
  • prioritising the removal of asbestos from the built environment and banning its mining, manufacture, trade and use, world-wide
  • reintroducing a "strongly enforced national safe rates scheme for all parties in the transport supply chain”
  • conducting a thorough review of Comcare and the workers' compensation system, and blocking companies from entering the scheme until the review is completed

Source: OHSAlert Monday, 23 May 2022

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 and other special guests. Renata will share her insights on how-to organise for a safer workplace.

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

Check out the full calendar of events here!
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.

COVID-19 Latest Numbers 
On Tuesday 25 May Victoria recorded:

  • 13,023 new daily infections
  • 64 COVID deaths
  • 567 hospitalisations, 37 in ICU and 8 of these on ventilators

Cumulatively this equals:

  • 1,841,737 total infections
  • 3332 COVID deaths (an increase of 80,639 in the last 7 days)

You can check the Victorian live update here

Australia wide: As of May 24, there have been a total of 7,005,098 COVID cases (6,703,295 a week prior) and 8,140 deaths, an increase of 268 in 7 days.

Worldwide: As of May 24, there had been 528,027,579 worldwide infections (523,343,363 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,301,433 (Source: Worldometer). 

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

Vaccination update 
83.4% of all Victorians, as of May 23, have received their second dose, 86.07% their first, and only 54.41% the crucially important third dose.

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.04%, 86.83% and 52.68%.

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

Ask Renata

'We have a mobile library van that sets up in various locations with staff seated outside. Are there any guidelines for cold weather? - eg: Today we noticed that it was very cold when working on site and we discussed solutions such as exterior heating, warm clothing supplied by employer and gloves. Are there any protocols that you could recommend to suit our situation?'

Hello, thanks for your question.

Our page might be a good place to start for ‘guidelines on cold weather.’ It contains some practical information including:

Action Plan for HSRs
Legal Standards
The Problem
Health Effects of Cold

Also click here to access Work Safe Victoria’s Workplace Amenities and Work Environment Code which explains how your employer may meet their s21(2)(d) duty - to provide ‘adequate facilities’ for the welfare of workers.

A section that would appear particularly relevant to your circumstances is:

Paragraph 104 Outdoor Work
Outdoor employees need to have access to shelter for eating meals and taking breaks, and for protection when weather conditions become unsafe.

Certainly, current arrangements at your workplace are inadequate and the negative impacts of exposure to cold have been long understood. Your employer needs to do better to make sure they are meeting their duties to you and your co-workers.

Knowing your rights is only half the battle of course – as an elected HSR you have powers under the Act to take up issues with management to ensure matters are addressed. See our page for more information on issue resolution and this one for HSR powers. I would also recommend contacting your Union for further advice and support into the future. 

We congratulate you on the important work you’re doing and hope this information has been helpful.

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.

Asbestos News
Four Victorian regulators will take their Build Aware campaign to the Latrobe Valley next week.

Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), WorkSafe, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) will visit worksites providing operators with information on laws that protect the community and the environment.

WorkSafe will look to risks associated with exposure to asbestos and crystalline silica dust and remind employers and workers of the recent changes to the OHS regulations, including the requirements to identify ‘high-risk’ crystalline silica work.

The initiative to focus on the Latrobe Valley will run between Monday, 30 May and Friday, 3 June.

Source: Plumbing Connection For more information, visit Victorian Building AuthorityWorksafe VictoriaEnergy Safe Victoria and Environment Protection Authority websites.

International Asbestos News
UNISON hope for getting asbestos out of schools

UNISON (claimed to be the UK’s largest union representing 1.3 million public service members) has welcomed a call from a cross-party committee of MPs for the safe removal of all asbestos in public buildings. The House of Commons report also calls on the UK government to develop a central, digital asbestos register, containing information on asbestos in schools and hospitals as well as other public buildings. UNISON submitted written evidence with national health and safety officer Kim Sunley saying: “Many of our members are living with the legacy of previous asbestos exposures and the devastation a diagnosis of mesothelioma can bring. The government must act now with a strategy to protect workers and future generations from this preventable cancer.”

Source: UNISON news release.

On 28 April 2022, in Belgium
The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) reports that company Eternit has been summoned to appear before the Court of First Instance, charged with “intentional fault” providing opportunity to ‘review the heavy historical responsibility borne by Eternit in playing down and covering up of the danger of asbestos.’

‘The manufacturing process of asbestos cement was patented in 1900 by Austrian chemist Ludwig Hatschek under the name of Eternit. The patent was subsequently sold to several building material manufacturers, most of which would take the name Eternit.

Read more here Source: ETUI/News/Eternit: the conspiracy of silence

More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home.  

National news 
National Fatality Statistics 2022  
Safe Work Australia updated its statistics on fatalities 19 May, at which time it had been notified that 65 Australian workers had been killed at work this year. The fatalities have been in the following sectors:

  • 29 in Transport, Postal & Warehousing 
  • 14 in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing
  • 5 in Construction
  • 4 in Electricity, Gas, Water & Waste Services
  • 4 in Public Administration & Safety
  • 4 in 'other services'
  • 3 in Manufacturing
  • 1 in Mining
  • 1 in Accommodation and Food Services

There have been 10 more worker deaths this year, than at the same time last year.

These figures are based on initial media reports and provide a preliminary estimate of the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia updates details of the incident. As a result the numbers of deaths in each sector change. To check for updates, and for more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Preliminary worker deaths webpage. Updated information is used to publish Safe Work Australia’s annual Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities database which includes finalised work-related fatalities from 2003 onwards. Note that the figures are based on preliminary reports, and so at times will change.  



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