Union News

BAD VIBES

Many types of machinery, equipment and power-driven tools generate intense vibration which can be transmitted to workers causing a range of conditions and diseases.

Main findings from a 2008 survey used in a Vibration Exposure in Australian Workplaces Report (2010) include:

  • Approximately 24 per cent of Australian workers were exposed to vibration in their workplace
  • The industries with the highest likelihood of reporting were Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Transport and storage and Construction
  • Occupations with the highest likelihood of reporting were Machinery operators and drivers, Technicians and trades workers and Labourers

Victoria does not have regulation which specifically addresses vibration exposure standards, however it is covered generally under the OHS Act as well as under Plant and Hazardous Manual Handling regulations.

Victorian Trades Hall Council has therefore developed a Safety Standard (based on EU guidelines) for prevention of exposure to vibration. Our Standard informs HSRs on how employers might best meet their duties in relation to vibration. 

Click here to download VTHCs standard, here for more information on the effects of vibration and here for information on legal standards.

VTHC'S OHS BASICS MONTH Event #5: Managing Conflict 

When employers refuse to listen to workers' voices, HSRs have the power to escalate to ensure worker safety. We'll walk you through options HSRs have when they want to manage conflict around safety in the workplace. We'll cover dispute resolution, issuing the perfect PIN, and when and how to cease work.

When: Thursday. 30 June from 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Where: Victorian Trades Hall Council, 54 Victoria St, Carlton VIC
RSVP here We hope you can join us.

ASK RENATA

What is the max distance between the ground and first step on a staircase? We have stairs that are mounted to the side of a substation. The stairs themselves are fine but the gap between the bottom stair and ground is quite large, risking a turned ankle or worse.

Steps and stairs are a common workplace hazard.

There is nothing in OHS/WHS legislation that specifically addresses steps and/or stair safety in the workplace. Both the employer and the person with management and control of a workplace have a duty to ensure the workplace is safe and without risks to health.

Specific requirements for the construction of stairways, platforms, landings and so on, can be found in the National Construction Code (NCC) - which has been given the status of building regulation by Australia's states and territories on 1 May 2015.

The NCC is updated and amended regularly. The current edition is NCC 2019, adopted by the jurisdictions July 1, 2020. It is now available from the NCC website.

In addition, the relevant Australian Standard (AS 1657- 2013: Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders - Design, construction and installation) has recently been updated to be consistent with the Building Code and contains detailed advice on steps, stairs, landings, guard rails and so on, including:

  • All rises (R) and all goings (G), in the same flight of stairs, shall be of uniform dimensions within a tolerance of +/-5mm
  • For each rise: minimum 130mm, maximum 225mm
  • For each going: minimum 215mm, maximum 355mm
  • The going shall be not greater than the tread depth (TD) plus a maximum gap of 30 mm between the rear edge of one tread and the nosing of the tread above
  • The combination of twice the riser plus the going (2R + G) shall be not less than 540 mm, and not greater than 700 mm [i.e. 540 ≤ (2R + G) ≤700]

NOTE: builders must check that any stairs to be constructed comply with the Building Code and also ensure they are using the latest edition of the Australian Standard.

You can find more information on our webpage: Steps and Stairs at Work

Of course, knowing what's required under the NCC or relevant Standard is only half the battle. Your elected HSR has rights and powers to take issues up and follow through to get things done. If you don’t already have a HSR, then you should start talking to your colleagues.

We would also recommend contacting your union for further advice on the issue. They can guide you through the process of electing a rep if required, and provide training to ensure you’re supported with any future OHS issues.  

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 21 June Victoria recorded:

7,507 new daily infections
28 COVID deaths
434 hospitalisations, 21 in ICU and 9 of these on ventilators

Cumulatively this equals:

2,042,109 total Victorian infections
3,778 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 93 since last post)

You can check the Victorian live update here.

Australia wide: As of June 21, there have been a total of 7,840,396 COVID cases (7,713,806 since last post) and 9,425 deaths, an increase of 226 since last week's SafetyNet.

Worldwide: As of June 21, there had been 544,799,140 worldwide infections (542,381,868 last post). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now  6,341,732 (Source: Worldometer).

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

VACCINATION UPDATE

83.66% of all Victorians, as of June 21, have received their second dose, 86.21% their first, and only 55.09% their crucially important third dose.

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.26%, 86.95% and 53.8%.

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

UPCOMING CHANGES TO VICTORIAN COVID PROTECTIONS

Over the weekend, Minster for Health Martin Foley made some changes to Victoria’s pandemic orders. A new Pandemic Order has not yet been published however it is expected these changes will take effect on Friday 24 June at 11.59pm.

VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS TO WORK

Third dose requirements to work are being lifted in all industries except for workers in hospitals, care facilities, and emergency services. For the general workforce, the requirement to be fully vaccinated (two doses) will be lifted. It is currently unclear whether the two-dose requirement to work will remain for workers in schools, food distribution, meat processing, and quarantine accommodation. This should be clarified when the new Pandemic Order is published.

The new settings leave vaccination requirements open to employers. It is important to remember that whether a workplace requirement to be vaccinated is a lawful and reasonable direction, will depend on the circumstances of your workplace.

POSITIVE COVID CASES

If you test positive for COVID you will still have to isolate for 7 days from the day you tested positive. There are now some exceptions to this, such as driving a household member to and from work/school without leaving the car, getting medical care, COVID-19 tests, or in an emergency.

MASKS

Masks must be worn on public transport, in taxis and ride shares, and on planes. They must also be worn in hospitals and other care facilities. Masks are now no longer required at airports.

VISITOR CAPS

Visitor caps are removed in care facilities if visitors test negative on a rapid antigen test that day. If you can’t get a test, then you can only visit care facilities for reasons such as end-of-life visits.

Additional visitor caps will be up to an individual employer’s response to the pandemic.

VACCINATION UPDATE 

83.63% of all Victorians, as of June 16, have received their second dose, 86.19% their first, and only 55% their crucially important third dose.

The figure for all Australians for the same date is 84.23%, 86.93% and 53.7%.

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

MASK DISMISSAL ARGUMENT FAILS TO TAKE OFF FOR QANTAS FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Last year, flight attendant Jessica Watson argued she had been dismissed by Qantas following a dispute over a workplace requirement to wear a face mask. Qantas gave alternative options to wearing a mask and asked the worker to do an independent medical examination (IME) to prove a mask exemption. Jessica did avail herself of these options and subsequently did not attend her following shifts, arguing she had been dismissed.

The Fair Work Commission found that Jessica had not been dismissed and had effectively communicated her resignation to the employer and dismissed the application. The Fair Work Commission also found that in a pandemic, the requirement to wear a mask was a lawful and reasonable direction.

Jessica subsequently sought permission to appeal the decision on a number of grounds, including jurisdiction, error of fact and public interest. The commission found Jessica had not established any of these grounds for appeal and rejected permission to appeal the decision.

The key take-away here is that in the context of a pandemic, there is a significantly wider remit for employers to make law and reasonable directions which go towards the health and safety of employees.

 

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