Union News

Industrial Manslaughter: Update
We want to make sure that all our subscribers are kept informed of the progress on the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter legislation in Victoria, which was a major promise of the Andrews Labor government at the last election.

The Taskforce is meeting on Thursday this week, when it will be given the first draft of the legislation to consider and comment on. The government's plan is to then take the draft (as amended/approved by the Taskforce) to Cabinet sometime in July, and a proposed Bill to parliament around October this year. The Taskforce will try to ensure that the legislation Victoria introduces will be effective in prosecuting employers whose negligence leads to incidents where workers are killed.

Truck driver killed near Horsham
In sad news, we report that a truck driver was killed on Sunday afternoon in Nurcoung, near Horsham. Victoria Police have said that the exact circumstances surrounding the incident had not yet been established and the investigation is ongoing. However, it appears the man, who was not a local, lost control of his vehicle, which was carrying hay, at about 4.10pm near Nhill-Harrow Road. It then rolled over and caught fire.

Irrespective of circumstances, this fatality will not be counted as a workplace fatality statistic by WorkSafe, as it occurred on the road. According to the VTHC workplace fatality tally, however, this is the 17th worker to be killed at work this year.  We send our sincerest condolences to the worker's family, friends, and colleagues.

Ask Renata

Hello Renata, 
I work at a timber yard and was wondering if it was compulsory to wear high vis uniform in the yard? There are forklifts and trucks going through the yard during the day.

Of course this is not a specific requirement under the OHS Act or any of the regulations. This is because Australian legislation is 'objective based' – that is, employers have a 'general duty of care' to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

This covers everything, including requiring the employer to ensure that operation of plant and all systems of work are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. To do this they must identify and eliminate – or at least minimise – the hazards and risks to workers and others.

What would be expected of the employer at such a site would be the development and implementation of a thorough traffic management plan. Also, what is widely accepted industry practice, ensuring that workers who are walking/working on site are provided with and wear the appropriate high vis gear. They may also need other PPE – such as steel toed boots, etc

For more information see: Personal Protective Equipment; Reflective gear; and Forklift safety.

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.

Government tried to roll ACCC on quad bikes
Without going into detail on the many OHS-related concerns we have with the re-election of the Coalition Government last weekend, SafetyNet reports on a specific concern regarding quad bikes. Subscribers will be aware that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended the mandatory fitting of operator protection devices to quad bikes. According to key industry sources, an approach was made through the office of either the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, or Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert. The ACCC resisted the move, and Mr Rob eventually releasing the report on April 6. However he ducked adopting the consumer watchdog's recommendations, announcing yet another round of public consultation that would not be completed until at least June 10.
Read more: Quad-bike roll-bar: Federal Coalition tried to roll ACCC on OPDs, The Weekly Times

Australia heading for 'killer' flu season
In very concerning news, health experts are warning that Australia is on track for a killer flu season, with numbers showing three times as many people have been diagnosed with the virus so far this year, compared to the same period in previous years. In March, more than 10,000 people were diagnosed with the flu. In March 2018, that number was 3,173.  There have already been 40,000 clinically confirmed cases around the country. In Victoria, the flu has already claimed three young children as well as 23 elderly people in nursing homes.this year. This year it is expected that the flu will kill about 4,000 people!

While not providing 100 per cent protection, health experts recommend that everyone should get a flu vaccination. For workers who come into regular contact with the general public, this is especially important. The HSR should approach their employer to organise flu shots for all staff in order to minimise infections. 
Further, employers should encourage staff who are ill not to come to work and to seek appropriate medical care if necessary. 
Read more: ABC news onlineThe Age, and on the site: Presenteeism, and a new page Influenza 2019.

Asbestos News
James Hardie profits soar
Shares in James Hardie are up after the construction materials supplier lifted its full-year profit 57 per cent to $US228.8 million ($A331 million). The company reported this week that its net operating profit increased for the quarter and full year, driven by fewer-than-expected asbestos-related adjustments and higher gross profit, partially offset by higher income tax expense and general expenses.

James Hardie received 568 asbestos-related illness claims for the year, a slight uptick on a year ago but 8.0 per cent below estimates. The average asbestos claim settlement was 24 per cent below estimates at $253,000 - a seemingly low figure considering the devastatingly tragic consequences of its asbestos products. Source: The Canberra Times

Brasil: Push to recommence asbestos mining 
Asbestos mining in Brazil ceased on February 1, 2019. This article looks at the current attempts by right-wing Senators to force a U-turn of the national prohibitions. In April 2019, a "caravan" of Senators, including Senate President David Samuel Alcolumbre, accompanied the Governor Ronaldo Caiado of Goiás State, to the mining city of Minaçu to support demands for the renewal of asbestos mining. Data from Brazilian medical experts and interviews with asbestos victims explain the deadly consequences of such an action. Read more: De mineral mágico a poeira assassina: volta do amianto pode causar epidemia de cancer [From magic mineral to killer dust: asbestos revival could cause cancer epidemic]. Source: IBAS

Indonesia: National asbestos seminar
Key stakeholders from civil society and the Indonesian government made valuable contributions to the proceedings of a national asbestos seminar held in Jakarta on May 9, 2019. The event, which was organized jointly by the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Labour Organization, Jakarta, provided the opportunity for reports by civil servants, occupational health and safety specialists, emergency responders, personnel from regional and international agencies and ban asbestos campaigners working on the asbestos frontline in a country which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world; in 2018, Indonesia experienced 2,372 disasters affecting 3.5 million people.
Read more. Source: IBAS

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

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International union news
UK: Huge increase in 'Homeworkers'  
According to a new Trade Union Council analysis published last week to mark Work Wise UK's National Work from Home Day, there are 374,000 more employees working from home than 10 years ago. The analysis shows a 27.7 per cent increase in the number of homeworkers in the last decade. 

However, the UK's peak union council says that not enough bosses are giving their workers the option of homeworking, which could help people to see more of their family and improve work-life balance. The TUC estimates that about 4 million more UK workers would like to work from home for at least some of their working week but aren't given the chance. Read more: TUC media release

France: Telecom Execs on trial over suicides
In highly anticipated news, prosecutors have charged executives at Orange, the biggest telecom company in France, with "moral harassment." Labor advocates say the work environment was so hostile, it was the reason for a spate of worker suicides between 2007 and 2010. The charges relate to a time when the firm - then called France Telecom - was undergoing job cuts and modernising. The defendants include the former president of France Telecom, former human resources director and former deputy executive director. They are accused of having "degraded work conditions of personnel that risked hurting their rights and dignity, altering the physical or mental health (of personnel), or compromising their professional future." Four other officials are charged with complicity in moral harassment. In France, moral harassment can be punished by a year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros (A$24,200). Orange itself is also on trial, and the court could order the company to grant additional damages to each civil party in the case. The problem arose as the firm sought to dramatically reduce staff numbers (by 22,000), but faced a workforce still benefiting from protective public sector contracts inherited at the time before the firm was privatised. 
Read more: French Telecom Executives On Trial Over 'Moral Harassment' NPR; BBC news online, The Independent  

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