Union News

Employers taken to court over exposure to silica dust.

In Union News this week, working people are heading to court over silica related disputes, as the number of people diagnosed with lung diseases increases.

As I'm sure you're all aware, miners, construction and quarry workers have traditionally been prone to silicosis, but doctors last year identified an alarming spike in the number of stonemasons diagnosed with the condition.

9 News is reporting that there has been a flurry of new silica related cases hitting the courts as the damage done to workers through exposure to silica is being realised.

In the past year in Queensland alone, more than 100 stonemasons have been diagnosed with the lung disease. Last month, 36-year old Gold Coast tradesman Anthony White, who had become known to the media as a face of the silica dust crisis passed away. In Victoria, 36 workers have lodged WorkCover claims for silica-relate conditions.

Trades Hall has lodged their submission earlier this week to a review of working standards conducted by SafeWork, containing thousands of signatures gathered via our petition.

Future updates on changes to policy from SafeWork following their review will be published in future SafetyNET updates.

More details covered in this story by 9 News.

Dry cutting of silica materials is now illegal in Victoria.

In related news it was announced this week that the Victorian government has banned dry-cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust. Dry cutting being the most dangerous method of preparing the stone, creating massive amounts of silica dust. Wet cutting and using engineering controls such as vacuums to remove the dust have both proven to be effective methods to reduce the risk of working with silica, although as always, removing materials containing crystalline silica is always the most effective way to remove the risk of the hazard.

This is an absolutely massive win for workers, and part of a larger campaign from the union movement to protect workers from silica dust. We look forward to more action on controlling workers exposure to the dangerous dust soon.

Labor lays down an election pledge on industrial manslaughter laws.

The Labor party pledged last week to introduce uniform industrial manslaughter laws across Australia If elected this coming election following up from an independent review of national workplace safety laws headed up by Marie Boland, former executive director of SafeWork South Australia.

The review put forward the recommendation that there should be a separate industrial manslaughter offence for workplace deaths where there has been a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care.

The announcement took place here at Trades Hall last week, where Labor's assistant spokeswoman for workplace relations announced that a Shorten government would work with state and territory governments to establish a uniform industrial manslaughter offence across the country.

If elected, Labor would also establish a national advisory committee made up of representatives from each state and territory who have been personally impacted by a serious workplace injury or death to provide advice on how best to progress the laws to SafeWork Australia and the federal government.

It can't be overstated how big of a win this is for the OHS space, unions and working people, who have been campaigning so hard for industrial manslaughter laws.

Read the full details in a story from the Sydney Morning Herald.

29 workers who were killed at work honoured at Workers Memorial Day.

Workers Memorial Day was held earlier this week at Trades Hall. 100's of people gathered at the memorial stone, out the front of Trades Hall to remember those who have lost their lives in the past year while at work.

29 pairs of shoes were laid out, one by one, to represent the 29 people who have lost their lives at work during the last year, including one 12 year old and one 2 year old, who both lost their lives on work sites during the past year.

During the ceremony we heard from Dave and Janine Brownlee, who lost their son Jack during the past year in the tragic Delacombe trench collapse. Janine spoke of how the trench collapse that killed her son was not an accident, but an incident, and that worksite was cutting corners, and it cost two young men their lives.

Many chose to lay flowers at the base of memorial rock as a tribute to those who have been killed at work.

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Ask Renata

Q: Hi, I currently work for Architectural timber joinery We make custom doors windows and frames. I am the delivery driver and I am having issues lifting the large awkward joinery it ranges between 20kgs and 450kg average 2.5m x 3.5m all hand unloading with up to 8 guys but we commonly Lift approx 100kg to 200kg glass timber framed doors with 2-4 people. When I have talked to the boss about it being to heavy and dangerous carrying items across under and over build sites. I was informed I am complaining and there have been customers tell him I complained about the lifting and I should look for a new job if I can't do it. Being a permanent employee and having done the job for 7-8 months now I was a little surprised that I got no support from him. I also get compliments from almost every customer about the weight and how dangerous the work is. Not to mention the truck has seen better days and the upright rack is close to collapsing when doing heavy loads. Just wondering what I should do.

A: Hi Timothy,

Thanks for getting in touch,

It's great to see that you are receiving compliments from customers regarding OHS in how you work.

In regards to Manual Handling the person conducting a business or undertaking, must ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers (section 19 of the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011).

Our website offers guidance material on Manual Handling found at http://www.ohsrep.org.au/hazards/sprains-and-strains-manual-handling

There is no specific safe weight limit but it is what every individual is comfortable with based on individual circumstances – age, height, strength etc.

In regards to Manual Handling the employer is required to identify, assess, control and review hazards while encompassing all of this through a consultative framework firstly with the Health and Safety representative if one exists or with the employees.

The Regulations and Compliance Codes also provide a framework on how this should be achieved. Both Victoria and Queensland has specific Compliance Codes/Codes of Practice on Manual Handling. I would encourage you to review the Queensland Hazardous Manual Tasks compliance code and encourage you to utilise the Risk Assessment Worksheet (Appendix D).
Link (https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/58166/Hazardous-manual-tasks-COP-2011.pdf).

It may be best to share this information with the employer as lack of consultation and or providing a safe workplace can incur penalties.

Let me know if you need any further guidance or clarification.


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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