Union News

Worker fatalities
On Wednesday last week a 55 year old worker died at work after being stung by a bee. He was stung in the eye at SEM Fire and Rescue just before midday, and died less than an hour later, despite the efforts of paramedics at the scene. The Ballarat community is mourning the loss of a well-liked and active community member. Read more: The Courier.

The second fatality was a 55 year old truck driver who was killed on Thursday after being struck by his own truck while collecting a hire rubbish skip bin at a workplace in Kew. The driver had left the cabin of his vehicle when the truck moved and struck him before it crashed through a side fence and into a garage on an adjoining property. Source: WorkSafe media release

WorkSafe is investigating. These two fatalities bring the total to six (this currently differs from WorkSafe Victoria's tally of four).

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
Can one refuse taking on the role of a safety rep? My daily duties as electrician are too much as I am the only one in the company. I don't get time to carry out the safety rep duties which are expected of me. Can I refuse?

The position of safety rep is a voluntary one. The HSR is elected by fellow workers in the DWG - but the person must agree to be nominated. While the role is unpaid, the rep is entitled to time to exercise powers and be released on paid leave to attend training and meetings.  See Facilities and Time Off FAQ.

Further, an HSR has no 'duties' - rather the Act gives HSRs rights and powers to exercise those rights, but NO LEGAL DUTIES. The role of the rep is to represent the DWG.

See these pages on the site:

Most of the dozens of questions that have come in over the last fortnight have been heat-related. As we are likely to get more hot weather in the coming month, a reminder that heat can affect both indoor and outdoor workers. For more information, go to our FAQ on Heat and the longer Heat hazard page.

Please send any OHS related queries in to Ask Renata - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can – usually within a couple of days.

Asbestos News
High risk asbestos in WA schools
More than120 schools in Western Australia have an asbestos risk where the condition of the material is either severely weathered or has a high probability of disturbance. A risk rating system is in place for all WA public schools that still have asbestos materials, believed to be around 600, plus about 200 transportable buildings.  Read more: Perth Now

Asbestos changed the lives of the Pilbara's Aboriginal people 
An ABC radio program going to air this Saturday examines the deadly legacy of Wittenoom, particularly on the Aboriginal people who have one of the highest mortality rates from mesothelioma of any group, anywhere in the world. This is because they often did the most dangerous jobs; bagging the asbestos, loading and unloading it, and driving the trucks carrying the asbestos out to the port. Furthermore, the children played in it; rolling around in piles of asbestos in the gorge, chewing on it, hitching rides on top of the bagged asbestos on the trucks carrying it to port.

The mine closed in 1966, and almost everybody left - but not the Aboriginal people whose country it was. Tragically, their exposure to asbestos continued and people have died, including many significant elders and cultural leaders.
Read more: The ghosts of Wittenoom - how asbestos changed the lives of the Pilbara's Aboriginal people (Part One) ABC's Earshot  

ASEA Matters newsletter
The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has released its latest newsletter ASEA Matters [pdf]. In it there are a number of interesting items, including news of the organisation's enhanced Safety Hotline, and an 18-month jail sentence in relation to a fraud charge brought by NSW Police with the assistance of the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) over asbestos dumping. The court found the man had defrauded a construction company to the value of about $225,000 by providing false invoices regarding the disposal of waste (EPA Media Release).

Read more on Asbestos in the home and Asbestos in the workplace

International Union news
Global: BS programmes 'undermine' safety and solidarity
Global food and farming union federation IUF has issued a serious health warning about behavioural safety (BS) programmes at work. The union body notes: "Behaviour-based safety programmes, which are now the guiding method used by many companies, shift employer responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace onto workers by focusing on workers' 'behaviour' rather than the workplace hazards which are the source of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. They undermine union-based health and safety committees and workplace solidarity based on collective bargaining." IUF has a policy position opposing behaviour-based safety which also commits the global union "to develop programmes to educate workers on their dangers, among other measures." IUF says a new policy paper and summary, developed by its food processing division, "detail the destructive impact of these programmes and explain how occupational safety and health management systems which truly protect workers' health and safety are developed and implemented."  
Read more: IUF news release. Policy paper [pdf] and summary [pdf], developed by the IUF Food Processing Division. Source: Risks 882. See our BBS Kit

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