Union News

Industrial Manslaughter: Update
The new Industrial Manslaughter Implementation Taskforce, established by the Andrews' Labor Government to consult on the proposed legislation to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence will be meeting for the first time tomorrow. The membership of the taskforce, led by former Minister for Industrial Relations Natalie Hutchins, includes unions, business and victims' families. It is going to be supported by a Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incidents Reference Group representing victims' families to ensure that those who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents can contribute to the reforms. A Legal Advisory Group comprising legal sector stakeholders will also be established to consult on the proposed model for the new offence.


Minister indicates support for lower silica standard
With increasing attention on the numbers of workers affected by silica exposure, the Victorian Government has revealed that 36 workers had lodged WorkCover claims for silica-related conditions.

Victorian Workplace Minister Jill Hennessy gave the strongest indication yet the Government was prepared to introduce sweeping changes to address the regulation of silica dust in workplaces and is supporting the adopt one of the strictest workplace standards in the world to prevent silicosis.

Safe Work Australia has been reviewing the national workplace exposure standard of silica dust (currently set at 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre over an 8-hour shift) which has been in place since 2005. Last year the United States introduced an exposure limit of 0.025mg/cubic metre — a quarter of the Australian standard.

The VTHC and unions, the Cancer Council of Australia, medical specialists and lawyers want the US standard matched in Australia.

Ms Hennessy said Victoria would lobby for the national standard to be dropped to 0.02mg/cubic metre, and if adopted, could make it the strictest in the world. "We need to look at the regulatory environment as well as supporting calls to lower the standard around exposure," Ms Hennessy said.

After recently meeting with her Queensland counterpart, she said that state was looking at adopting similar changes. "We're very impressed with the model in Queensland and … we are currently working on a model to improve the regulation and enforcement when it comes to silica," she said.
Read more: ABC News online

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
just wondering, a WorkSafe inspector came out to my workplace and I was not notified even though I am the HSR. The visit was the result of a complaint from one of the workers in my DWG. I thought that I would be notified and involved in the visit. Is this mandatory or how does it work? I was not happy when I read this from previous committee minutes. Is there anything I can do to make sure this does not occur if I am correct.? Thank you

Yes, you are correct. The inspector should have contacted you when he/she entered the workplace. Division 4 of Part 9 of the Act (Procedure relating to entry) is clear:

102 Announcement on entry

  1. (1) Immediately on entering a place under Division 3, an inspector must take all reasonable steps to notify the following persons of the entry and to produce his or her identity card for inspection by those persons -

    (a) the occupier or apparent occupier for the time being of the place; 
    (b) if members of a designated work group are affected in any way by the entry, a health and safety representative for the designated work group.


The inspector should have notified you -  asked the employer whether there was an elected HSR for the DWG, and then notified you of entry, so that you could have been present too. Also, did you get a copy of the inspector's Entry Report? If not, then request a copy now AND contact the inspector and let him/her know that you are the HSR and you are unhappy with what happened – and if necessary, request a return visit.

On a separate issue: the member of the DWG who made the complaint should have come to you as the HSR first. I recommend a meeting with the DWG to discuss your role and how important it is for them to come to you first when they have an OHS issue.

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.

Worker loses foot at West Melb construction site
The CFMEU has confirmed that a 40 year old construction worker has had his foot amputated after a workplace incident at a West Melbourne apartment development on the weekend.

Surgeons at the Royal Melbourne Hospital were unable to save the foot of Miladin (Mick) Adamovic. The construction site was shut down, and CFMEU occupational health and safety manager Dr Gerry Ayers said Mr. Adamovic's colleagues were in shock. "Our thoughts are with Miladin's family and the workers who witnessed the incident. We're going to provide counseling for all those workers," he said.

He will require more surgery in the coming days. Mr. Adamovic's wife Mirela said in a statement: "My husband's injury has devastated our family. He simply went to work to provide for his family, and now we're dealing with this. While we try to make sense of what has happened, we ask for privacy."

CFMEU Assistant Branch Secretary Shaun Reardon yesterday visited Mr. Adamovic and spoke with his shocked family. Investigations into the incident by the union and WorkSafe Victoria are continuing. Mr. Reardon has also demanded urgent meetings with industry stakeholders and the Melbourne City Council. 
Read more: CFMEU media release, The Age

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Nurse reports harassment; then targetted
A nurse suing Barwon Health for more than $850,000 says the hospital turned on her when she came forward to report allegations that her manager was sexually harassing her. She was a nurse unit manager at the Geelong hospital's inpatient rehabilitation centre when she alleges her direct supervisor subjected her to prolonged sexual harassment between February 2015 and June 2016. 

A union member, she reported the harassment to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation in June 2016 and the union took the complaint to Barwon Health. "Once Barwon Health became aware of the complaint, they in fact turned the gun against (her)," Ms Bowen's lawyer Josh Bornstein, of Maurice Blackburn, said. After the complaint was lodged, Barwon Health's then workforce relations director questioned her about her work performance. Read more: The Age

Asbestos News
Parents urged to record asbestos exposure
The media is reporting that lawyers are urging Essendon North Primary School parents to officially record their children's exposure to asbestos after it was found in four classrooms earlier this month. The exposure appears to have been the result of workers pulling up the carpet at the front of the Grade 1 rooms and grinding flooring to repair damage caused by a leaking roof. The advice comes after the education department announced last week that a classroom block where students were exposed to the asbestos will be demolished. Source: The Herald Sun, KIIS News

Earlier this week, asbestos was discovered at the Calliope State School in the Gladstone region in Queensland. The asbestos was in wall sheeting. This illustrates that it is likely that many Australian schools still contain asbestos-related materials.

Global: Asbestos industry renews deadly product defence
The global asbestos lobby is campaigning actively to resist listing of chrysotile asbestos under a UN Treaty that would requiring its cancer-causing exports to include a health warning. The next Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention will start on 29 April 2019, the day after International Workers' Memorial Day.

The asbestos industry has lobbied successfully at a succession of the biennial meetings against the convention's prior informed consent procedure, which would require a health warning accompanied its exports. Now the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) reports a February 2019 meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) – representing Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia – agreed EEU members will work together to defeat UN attempts to list chrysotile asbestos. Key lobbying targets for the industry are those Asian countries it now sees as development markets for its product. The rearguard action comes as latest figures show a dramatic decline in asbestos production worldwide.

According to IBAS, figures released in February 2019 show a reduction from global output of chrysotile asbestos in 2017 of 1,170,000 tonnes to 1,100,000 tonnes in 2018, with falls in production in China, Russia and Brazil but a big increase in Kazakhstan. The asbestos industry's dirty tricks were again exposed in November last year, when a UK corporate intelligence organisation, K2 Intelligence, settled a legal case which involved an asbestos-industry financed and long-running spying project on trade union, safety and victims' advocacy organisations and activists.
Read more: Asbestos lobby news release. Corporate deceit: Asbestos espionage at home and abroad, IBAS, March 2019. Latest USGS global asbestos production statistics [pdf].
TUC asbestos guide [pdf] and workplace cancers guide [pdf].

More information on the site: Asbestos in the home and Asbestos in the workplace

International union news
US: New York workers remember Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire victims
About 300 people gathered to commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire's 108th anniversary at NYU's Brown Building on Monday. Labor groups spoke out about workers' rights in honor of the tragedy, which resulted in 146 deaths largely due to poor working conditions.

A sea of paper shirtwaists hung suspended from hand-held poles over the crowd while speakers took to the small stage. At the end of each speech, the names of some of the victims were read off to the chime of a bell, which continued until all 146 victims' names had been spoken.

Many of the victims of the fire were young, female immigrants from Russia, Austria or Italy. The factory workers had been locked inside by management to ensure they continued working, and when fire escapes collapsed, workers were left with no way to escape the building. Many of the victims ended up jumping from the ninth floor of what is now the Brown building. The fire called attention to workers' rights issues and brought a slew of safety regulations in its wake. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition (RTFC) began planning for a permanent memorial to the Triangle fire on the Brown Building after the centennial in 2011. This week the RTFC asked not only for remembrance but also a continued focus on advocating for workers' rights both in the United States and abroad. Read more: The Washington Square News

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