Union News

Ask Renata

Hello Renata, 
Can a manager present a site induction from a printed booklet when he has not been to the site and the site is not owned by our employer? We have been asked to read and then sign to say we have understood the Induction even though we have not been to the site, nor been taken through it. From what I know, the workplace has containers, container loading tractors, trucks, rail traffic, and so on.

No I don't think this is adequate and you and the other workers should not sign the document.

Under section 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act, the employer must "provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health."

This applies to both 'direct' employees AND, for the purposes of 21(1) and 21(2):

  1. a reference to an employee includes a reference to an independent contractor engaged by an employer and any employees of the independent contractor; and
  2. the duties of an employer under those subsections extend to an independent contractor engaged by the employer, and any employees of the independent contractor, in relation to matters over which the employer has control or would have control if not for any agreement purporting to limit or remove that control.

This means both your employer and also whoever the employer is at the site have duties to you and the other workers.Reading a manual for a site where there is continuous movement and change is not sufficient to ensure you have been given adequate information so that you can work safely. Also, this business of asking workers to 'sign off' would not satisfy the requirements – some might sign out of embarrassment, fear, or whatever, and not really have understood the information.

Check out this information on Induction Training.

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.

Union silica, coal campaigns pay off
In the light of the re-emergence of black lung disease in mines and silicosis in young workers, unions and respiratory physicians around the country have been campaigning on silica and coal dust over the past few months. These campaigns have paid off with Safe Work Australia announcing that it is seeking comment on draft recommendations to greatly reduce the exposure standards for these two substances.

SWA has announced it is currently evaluating the Workplace exposure standards (WES) for airborne contaminants "to ensure they are based on the highest quality evidence and supported by a rigorous scientific approach", and will be seeking comments on the draft evaluation reports and recommendations for the WES throughout 2019. A review of all the WES is well overdue, with little movement in these for several years.

SWA is kicking off the process with comments sought on the recommended values for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and respirable coal dust (RCD). We can only assume that public and union pressure has led to this outcome.

SWA is particularly seeking comments of a technical nature regarding:

  • the toxicological information and data that the value is based upon, and
  • the measurement and analysis information provided.

The draft report on silica recommends a TWA of 0.02 mg/m3 to protect for fibrosis and silicosis, and consequently minimise the risk of lung cancer, in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica at the workplace. The VTHC has been campaigning to reduce the current silica exposure standard of 0.1mg/m3 and supports the recommendation.

SWA is proposing the WES for respirable coal dust (with less than 5% quartz) be cut from a time-weighted average (TWA) of 3mg/m3 over eight hours to as low as 0.4mg/m3 for anthracite coal, which has a very high carbon content, and to 0.9mg/m3 for bituminous and lignite coal, to prevent coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP, or black lung), progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

To provide comments on the draft evaluation reports and recommendations for respirable crystalline silica and respirable coal dust by 30 April 2019, access the SWA consultation platform Engage.  Help strengthen the VTHC submission supporting the reduced exposure standard by signing Greg Ballantyne's petition now!

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Asbestos News
J&J talc supplier files for bankruptcy
Imerys Talc America Inc. has filed for bankruptcy protection as it faces accusations that the talc it supplied for Johnson & Johnson's baby powder causes cancer.

The company filed for chapter 11 protection last week after spending tens of millions of dollars to defend itself against lawsuits alleging its talcum powder causes ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The talc supplier faces claims from more than 14,600 people, a number that has grown dramatically in recent years in the wake of large verdicts against Imerys and baby powder maker Johnson & Johnson.

The two companies contend talc doesn't cause cancer or contain asbestos and have succeeded in getting some verdicts overturned on appeal. Read more ACVFN

International union news
Bangladesh: 1000s of workers lose jobs, face violence
A massive wave of protesting garment workers demanding an increase of minimum wages swept across Bangladesh's garment industry in December 2018 and January 2019. State repression following the protest has resulted in arrests and mass terminations of workers in more than a hundred garment manufacturing units. According to an estimate provided by the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), the national coordinating body of affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union, over 11,600 workers have lost their jobs.

Employers and the police have filed cases against over 3,000 unidentified workers and about 70 workers have been arrested, some of them released on bail. Earlier this year, one worker was killed and many injured in the protests.

Weeks after the protests, many workers fear being arrested on false charges. Large numbers of workers have faced threats of physical violence by hired goons if they continue to demand higher wages.
Read more: IndustriALL media release

Brazil: Unions mobilise for victims of dam disaster
Unions are stepping in to support the victims and bereaved families of last month's Brazilian mine disaster, which may have claimed over 300 lives - 121 bodies have been recovered but 205 people are still missing (SafetyNet 472). Global union federations BWI and IndustriALL are also calling wide-ranging safety improvements. The Mine do Feijão dam in Brumadinho collapsed on 25 January 2019. It is the second deadly collapse in Brazil in three years associated with mining multinational Vale, which operates the mine. Unions are proposing a permanent forum for negotiating on the safety of Vale dams and an investigation with full union participation into the latest disaster. They also want negotiations on working conditions at the mine. Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the global building union federation BWI, stressed the connection between occupational health and safety for workers and the dangers to local communities, stating, "it is up to companies, but also governments, to protect workers as well as residents from dangers from mining and other industrial activities. There is no excuse for repeated disasters like the collapse of the Mine du Feijão".

Speaking in the days after the disaster, Victor Sanches, general secretary of the global mining union federation IndustriALL, said: ""This is a crime, not an accident. We mourn for the dead and sympathize with the victims of this terrible tragedy. Vale has failed to learn from the past. And now its workers are paying the ultimate price with their lives. There can be no more excuses. It's time for Vale to listen and take real action to improve safety. The Brazilian authorities must shut down all companies' operations with tailings dams until they are rigorously inspected," says IndustriALL Global Union's general secretary, Valter Sanches." Ambet Yuson of BWI added: "This tragic accident could have been prevented had measures been put in place when it was revealed publicly that Brumadinho dam posed safety risk to workers and the community. Vale failed to adhere to these warnings and once again shown its disregard to safety. Workers have paid tragically with their lives."

Brazilian police have arrested eight Vale SA employees, including two executives, have been arrested as part of a criminal investigation into the cause

Read more: BWI news release. IndustriALL news release The Guardian. ABC News online.

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