Union News

Two workers freed from trench collapse
In what could have been a double tragedy, two men were freed and taken to hospital after being trapped when a four-metre deep trench collapsed in High St, in Epping yesterday. They were freed in a major rescue operation, involving twenty-four firefighters and police. WorkSafe Victoria was notified and will be investigating.

A worker in his 20s was taken to The Royal Melbourne Hospital in a stable condition with a leg injury, The second worker, in his 50s, was also taken to hospital in a stable condition with suspected crush injuries. (More on News.com) WorkSafe Victoria yesterday issued a Safety Alert following the incident.

In March last year, two young workers, Charlie Howkins and Jack Brownlee, were killed in a trench collapse in Delacombe, near Ballarat.

Silicosis - a growing epidemic?
An audit of Queensland's manufacturing stone industry ordered by the government has revealed 98 workers have contracted the potentially deadly lung disease silicosis - 15 of those terminal - with more than 550 workplace breaches in what health experts are calling a major epidemic. 

Over a four-month blitz, workshops known to fabricate engineered stone benchtops were given 552 breach notices for inappropriate workplace cleaning practices, dry-cutting of engineered stone, and inadequate protective equipment. But the only fines issues were to ten businesses or individuals for failing to comply with notices - totalling a mere $36,000.

Brisbane physician Dr Graeme Edwards has been testing the lungs of hundreds of stone workers and predicted the health crisis would be worse than asbestosis. "From a clinician's perspective this is worse than asbestos, because asbestos affects people at the end their working life and into their retirement," he said, "where this particular disease is affecting young workers, people with dependent children, with wives and a whole working life expectation before them."
Read more: ABC News online

Reminder: Draft silica standard
Safe Work Australia is seeking input on the recommended values for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and respirable coal dust (RCD). 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.

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!

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
I was wondering if you could please tell me how often fire safety training needs to take place in the workplace according to the OHS Act? Is it based on frequency, when new workers are hired, or what? 

There's nothing specific in the Act nor in the regulations regarding how often or when employers must provide fire safety training. The Act simply states that the employer must provide 'such information, instruction, training or supervision as is necessary to enable [employees] to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.'  This is absolute duty, and includes emergency training, such as fire drills. So any new members of staff must be provided with the relevant training, as part of induction for example. The employer must also ensure that current employees are kept up to date on procedures, fire wardens, and so on.

You might also consider raising with your employer the possibility of calling in one of those companies which provide advice in setting up fire drills and so on.

See: Duties of employers; Induction Training, Fire and Emergency Evacuation

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.

Beginning this Friday March 1 with a fabulous Gala Event, the VTHC Women's team brings you the Women's Rights at Work (WRAW) Fest with heaps of activities. There are over 20 events planned, including:

  • March 1: WRAW Fest Feminist Gala. This is coming up this Friday, and it's going to be a fabulous event. There will be drinks, dinner, awesome feminist networking and great tunes. It's just $25 for waged, and $15 for unwaged/student concession - find out more and buy tickets here
  • March 4: International Sisterhood Meeting
  • March 5: Women's Conference
  • March 7: Feminism in the Pub
  • other much more, including union run events
Check out the WRAW website, and get yourself along to an event or five!!

International Women's Day March 8: Save the date
Don't forget that Friday March 8 is International Women's Day - so join the rally and march at the State Library Victoria at 5.30pm. Come join the many thousands of who will listen to inspiring speakers and rally for women's rights, including the right to healthy and safe workplaces. All welcome! Check out the Facebook event page and the list of demands here.

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