Union News

NSW: Scaffolding collapse kills 18 year old
At about 12.30pm on Monday this week apprentice Christopher Cassaniti was killed in an incident on a Sydney, NSW construction site. Another worker, 39, was critically injured.

Darren Greenfield, NSW state secretary of the CFMEU, said the deceased worker was just 18 years old. His distraught parents arrived at the scene just before police confirmed the tragic news that he had died. The teenager's mother, who operates a coffee canteen around the corner from the site, was at the scene about five minutes after the scaffolding collapsed. "As you'd expect, they're devastated to lose their 18-year-old son," Mr Greenfield said.

The men, believed to be form workers, were on the ground when the 15 - 17 metre structure collapsed on top of them, burying and trapping them under tons of twisted steel and bricks. It is believed the scaffold structure was being dismantled. Another two workers were laying bricks at the top of the structure and jumped to safety.

Police established a crime scene, with SafeWorkNSW investigators at the site. "While the cause of the collapse is unknown at this stage, SafeWork is employing significant resources to fully understand how this tragic incident occurred," it said in a statement. 
Read more: SafeWorkNSW media release; ABC news online; news.com.au

Industrial Manslaughter: Update
With the Berejiklian government being re-elected in last week's NSW election, it's not unreasonable to assume that Industrial Manslaughter legislation will be off the agenda in that satate for many years. To date there has been no announcement of who will be the minister responsible for workplace health and safety and workers compensation, with the government appearing to prioritise planning and other matters. 
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald 

International Workers' Memorial Day
Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents". They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn't that important a priority. Workers' Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers. And every week in Australia, workers are killed in workplace incidents, or die as a result of workplace exposures.

Workers' Memorial Day is held on 28 April and workers and their representatives all over the world mark the day, remember the dead and fight for the living.

This year the VTHC commemoration event will be held at 10.30am on Monday 29 April. There will be a small number of speakers, the Trade Union Choir, and those present will be invited to lay flowers at the Memorial Rock. Following the event, at 11.30am, the VTHC OHS team will be holding an Industrial Manslaughter Campaign meeting.

The Unit has posters available for workers to place in their workplace - if you'd like some, then come pick some up at the Hall (entry via Lygon St, Carlton).

Tonight: Webinar on UV Radiation
Sam and Luke from the VTHC OHS Unit are holding a webinar on UV Radiation tonight, with special guest presenter, Ms Caoimhe Geraghty from Cancer Council Victoria. The webinar begins at 7pm so go to the We Are Union OHS Network Facebook page to participate. If you can't make it at 7pm, you can access the webinar later at any time.

Reminder: Silica exposure standard and petition
Help support the push for a lower exposure standard to silica: by signing Greg Ballantyne's petition now!

Reminder: 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

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
Are people allowed to smoke at the entrance of our workplace?

OHS legislation does not cover smoking specifically – this is separate legislation: the Tobacco Act. There have been gradual changes which continually reduce where people can smoke. At this stage, the Act prohibits smoking in all enclosed workplaces and certain public spaces where members of the public gather and may be exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. For example, smoking outside childcare centres, and Victorian public entrances is no longer allowed, but I don't think it's been expanded to private premises.

Nevertheless, a person who manages or controls a workplace has a duty under s26 of the OHS Act to 'ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplace and the means of entering it and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.' Consequently, it would be reasonable to expect that those managing the building ensure that there is no smoking at the entrances.

See this page for more information and links to the Tobacco Reform legislation site.

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.

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Asbestos News
Changes to asbestos importation penalties
After consistent demands from asbestos diseases advocacy groups, unions and the Cancer Council over many years to strengthen the laws, the federal government has announced increased penalties for importers who knowingly or recklessly import goods containing asbestos. They can now also face up to five years jail.

A joint statement from the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and said the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O'Dwyer last week announced the Coalition has "strengthened and streamlined existing regulations"  "From today, unlawfully bringing asbestos across Australia's border is a Tier 1 offence. This means those who import or export asbestos face the prospect of jail time following a successful prosecution," Mr Dutton said. Read more: Ministerial media release

NSW: residents want royal commission 
Two Granville residents are calling for a royal commission into nearly two decades of alleged negligence by Parramatta Council and the NSw State Government agencies in their handling of the James Hardie asbestos legacy.

They say they have been stuck in a "never-ending asbestos nightmare" as numerous pleas for authorities to clean up a section of A'Becketts Creek, near their homes, go unanswered. The pair has now put in a detailed complaint to the NSW Ombudsman, claiming lives have been put at risk by council and state agencies' "gross mismanagement" of a stockpile of asbestos on the banks of A'Becketts Creek, which is part of the Parramatta River catchment.

Both Parramatta Council and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) deny any mismanagement and say asbestos has not been detected during air monitoring in the area. Read more: The Daily Telegraph

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

Gig workers: take the survey now!
Over 300 gig workers have completed the Gig workers Victoria, a network of on demand workers housed in Victorian Trades Hall Council, survey - have you? The survey can be taken in English or in a range of languages and aims to give gig workers a say on work-related issues.  If you or someone you know has had any experience in this sector, please participate and let others know.

Don't forget too that there is a team of organisers who are working with on demand workers in Victoria to empower them with the knowledge and skills needed to end workplace exploitation and insecurity. Check out the new Gig Worker website

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