Union News

Industrial Manslaughter: Update 
Work on finalising draft legislation is progressing well with submissions from various organisations provided to the Minister for Workplace Health, Ms Jill Hennessy's office by May 30. The VTHC jointly submitted with our affiliated unions and the plaintiff law firms. The Taskforce is scheduled to meet on June 20, at which time it will consider the latest draft of the legislation as amended taking into account the submissions received.

Ask Renata

Hello OHS Info, 
At what height on a ladder do you need someone to hold the ladder for you?

There's no 'rule' or regulation which specifically covers this, particularly as our legislation is 'objective based': that is aimed at achieving safe and healthy outcomes.

Under s21 of the OHS Act the employer has 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, including safe systems of work. (See Duties of employers). In order to do this the employer must identify hazards and risks associated with any tasks and then take action (in consultation with the HSR) to either eliminate or minimise them.

If the work is being performed at a height of above 2 metres, then the Prevention of Falls regulations apply (see this page for a summary). The regulations set out what is called a 'hierarchy of control measures' which the employer must follow to seek to eliminate or minimise the risks of falling.  What it says about ladders is basically that if a ladder is used, the employer must ensure the ladder is fit for the purpose, appropriate to the type and duration of the task and set up in a correct manner..

Also take a look at this page which has information and advice on working on ladders: Ladders: What are the rules and regulations?

So what this all means is that if there is a risk of the person falling, then the employer must introduce controls – these might include a number of controls, such as providing a 'cherry picker', having the person use a harness, or, if a ladder is used, making sure someone is holding the ladder.

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.

Asbestos News
WorkSafe Victoria new asbestos ad campaign
Victoria's regulator has launched a new awareness-raising campaign with the theme of Asbestos lurks in more places than you'd think. The message is paired with a number of clever photographs of asbestos-containing materials with an uncanny resemblance to faces. The aim is to take people (workers, tradies, DYI'ers, etc) to the governments asbestos website, which has information on the over 300 common building materials that could contain asbestos, how to recognise it, what to do and so on.
Check out the asbestos.vic.gov.au website and some of the images. 

WA: Energy corporation fined for importing asbestos
The District Court of Western Australia has convicted and imposed fines on a multi-national energy corporation for inadvertently importing gaskets containing asbestos. The corporation, which has not been named publicly, was convicted of two counts of contravening the Customs Act 1901 for importing a prohibited item, namely chrysotile asbestos, contained in gaskets in a condensate metering skid and two storage tanks in 2012 and 2013.

After much ACTU/union lobbying, the Australian Border Force (ABF) has enhanced its capability in recent years in risk profiling and targeting for asbestos across all cargo entering Australia. Despite some countries being lawfully permitted to label or test goods declaring them asbestos free if they are below a certain threshold, the ABF reminds importers not to assume that goods labeled "asbestos free" are in fact free of asbestos or that testing of goods undertaken overseas and certified "asbestos free" meet Australia's import requirements. Source: The Maritime Executive 

Johnson & Johnson to pay US$300m in asbestos settlement
A New York State court jury last week ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $US300 million ($432m) in pun­itive damages to a woman who claimed the company's talc powder caused an asbestos-linked cancer.  This award was one of the largest to an individual in a series of trials over a range of safety-related claims about its talc products, including Johnson's Baby Powder. Donna Olson was also awarded $US20m for pain and suffering and $US5m to her husband, bringing the total damages in the case to $US325m. A J&J spokesman said the New York trial had legal errors the company believes will warrant a reversal on appeal, which it plans to pursue. Source: The Australian

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

Workers launch silica class action 
The labour law firm Slater and Gordon has established a national registry of workers affected by silica dust, in preparation for a class action against the manufacturers of the stone bench tops. It has been reported that at least 135 stonemasons have been diagnosed with silicosis in Victoria and Queensland - with no doubt many more in other states/territories. The youngest worker diagnosed to date is just 22 years old.

Workers exposed to silica dust are at risk of developing chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, emphysema, kidney damage and acute, accelerated or chronic silicosis. Slater and Gordon spokesperson Margaret Kent said the largest stone benchtop suppliers – Caesarstone, Quantum Quartz and Smartstone – did not adequately communicate the severe safety risks or convey the necessary safety precautions. The class action is aimed at supplementing existing workers' compensation entitlements and the law firm wants to hear from other workers who believe may have been exposed.
Read more: The Guardian, ABC news onlineEngineered stone silica class action Slater and Gordon, More information on Silica.

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First glyphosate lawsuit in Australia
There have been several items in past editions of SafetyNet reporting on a number of successful lawsuits against Monsanto in the US, where juries determined that the weed killer Roundup, with glyphosate as its active ingredient, is directly responsible for causing cancer.  This week, Melbourne gardener Michael Ogalirolo, who in 2011 was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, has launched legal action against the global pharmaceutical giant in the first Australian case to link cancer with the widely used weedkiller.

The lawsuit filed on Monday in the Supreme Court coincides with a Victorian government review into the safety of glyphosate. Several councils across Melbourne and Sydney are also considering a ban on Roundup and other products that include the chemical.  "Based on recent developments in the United States, Victoria's Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is reviewing the use of glyphosates, including Roundup, across its public land management function as a matter of precaution," a government spokesman said last week.

In a statement on its website the company denies that glyphosate has harmful side-effects. "Glyphosate has a 40-year history of safe and effective use. In evaluations spanning those four decades, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been that glyphosate can be used safely," the statement says. Read more: The Age; SBS News

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International Union News
UK: Unions lobby investors over Amazon working conditions
Unions are lobbying investors to increase the pressure on Amazon to improve conditions for its workers in the UK. At a meeting at the TUC's head office this month GMB presentations, including one from an Amazon employee, were made to a dozen leading fund managers and pension funds that own stakes in Amazon. The meeting was organised by Trade Union Share Owners (TUSO), which forged a successful coalition with institutional investors in 2016 to force Sports Direct to set up an independent review of working practices. TUSO's strategy then involved highlighting the high number of injuries at the company.

In its Amazon campaign, GMB told investors that workers at the company's giant warehouses worked long shifts under pressure to hit targets for items picked, causing pain and injuries. The Amazon worker addressing the fund managers outlined problems including a lack of action on sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions and warehouse managers dismissing employees' concerns. Janet Williamson, TUSO's chair, said the meeting was a first step in getting shareholder support for better working conditions at Amazon. "Our aim was to introduce investors to working life at Amazon and enable them to hear for the first time from an Amazon worker about the reality of working at Amazon," she said. "We will keep investors up to date with Amazon's working practices in the UK and elsewhere and ask investors to raise these points with the company." 
Read more: The Guardian. GMB Amazon campaign. Source: Risks 898

Global: Unions warn FIFA on Qatar 'rogue' neighbours move
The global federation of construction unions, BWI, has sent an open letter to Gianni Infantino, the president of football's global governing body, opposing any FIFA move to expand the 2022 World Cup beyond Qatar to neighbouring 'rogue' states. BWI has secured agreements to improve working conditions for migrant construction workers undertaking work on World Cup projects in Qatar. However, it warns that similar agreements do not exist in other Gulf states and conditions for migrant workers, the majority of whom come from the Indian sub-continent, are worse.

The BWI letter to FIFA notes: "The prospect of expanding the co-hosts at the last moment to human rights rogue countries is shocking and deplorable. It would use a legal loophole in FIFA rules to renounce the spirit of FIFA human rights reforms and issue an invitation to a wide range of human rights risks." The letter adds: "A decision to expedite an enlargement of host countries would be neither good nor good-looking governance. We call on you, as President of FIFA to take another, more careful look at the dangerous human rights risks in the countries under consideration and halt the initiative to expand the 2022 FIFA World Cup Games." Read more: BWI open letter.  Source: Risks 898

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