Union News

Calling all Victorian HSRs and deputies: October 29 HSR Conference:

We already have over 600 people registered to attend our Conference for Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), which has approval under s69 of the Victorian OHS Act so if you haven't done so already, register now! The conference is being held on Tuesday October 29, with the theme of "Emerging Issues - Safe and Inclusive Workplaces". Note that this year we have expanded where we will be running the conference, so it will be easier for HSRs in non-metropolitan Melbourne to attend:

  1. Melbourne: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
  2. Bendigo: Trades Hall Council, Bendigo
  3. Gippsland: Federation University, Gippsland Campus, Churchill
  4. Portland: South West TAFE campus, Portland
  5. Wodonga: Wodonga TAFE Space, Lawrence Street Campus

The conference is free and is sponsored by WorkSafe - but registration is essential. It is the primary event for HSRs in Health and Safety Month. Elected HSRs are entitled to attend the conference on paid leave as per s69 of the Act, but they must give their employer at least 14 days' notice. Employers must grant HSRs the paid leave to attend as long as they have received the 14 days' notice - so this means you must do this by October 15th at the very latest to guarantee you will get paid leave to attend. So get on to this as soon as possible to ensure you've got the leave and you're registered.

We also welcome Deputy HSRs - and many employers are happy to grant them paid leave to do so. So ask!

Go to the Registration website page now to register - it's super easy. Once you've registered you'll be able to download a letter for your employer and proof of the s69 approval from WorkSafe Victoria.

FREE posters for the conference are available now - we have lots of these available and if you'd like some, contact OHSCampaigns@vthc.org.au. You can check out the poster here.  Feel free to copy it and post it on your noticeboard if you can't get hard copies.

VTHC: Training on 'Independent Medical Examiners'
IMEs are part of the Workers' Compensation system, and judging from the experiences of injured workers, sometimes their 'independence' leaves a lot to be desired. The IWSN and the VTHC OHS Unit are combining to provide training to interested people (HSRs, union organisers, injured workers) around a campaign on IMEs. There will be two separate training sessions, one of which was held very successfully yesterday. If you're interested in attending, it's not too late to register for tomorrow evening's course:  Thursday 26 September, 6 - 8pm. Register here

The training will take place at the Trade Hall (Corner Victoria and Lygon Streets, Carlton South) - come along and meet the OHS team, if you haven't already.

Injured Workers Support Network new website
And just another reminder: Have you checked out the new Injured Workers' Support Network (IWSN) website yet? It's a great new site, with resources and advice for any worker who has been injured in the workplace. There's an invitation to join the Network, and also to sign up to get regular updates. Check the new site here.

Ask Renata

Hi Renata

A visiting consultant told us our small workplace was "non compliant" for not having HSR nominations. We had understood that we were not required to have a HSR but found it strange to be non compliant because we had not called for nominations for a position we are not required to have and for a position that nobody has expressed the need for. In any case, we called for nominations and received none at all. This seemed like a waste of time. Did we need to go through this process at all?

Well, that's a little bizarre! Under the OHS Act, employees have the right to be represented - and to elect an HSR (or more than one, depending on the DWGs established).  Usually the process is that workers put in a request to establish DWGs and then they, with the employer's assistance if they wish, call for nominations and elect their HSRs. However, there is no legal obligation on employees to have HSRs if they don't want them. However, irrespective of whether there are HSRs or not, the employer has a legal duty to consult with employees on a wide range of issues - and this is usually much easier if there are elected HSRs (see Duty to consult).

If you have any ohs related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.

New website and support service for Queensland HSRs

There's new help out there for HSRs in Queensland: The HSR Support Service. While everyone is more than welcome to visit and use our site, non-Victorian HSRs need to remember that our laws are slightly different to those in other jurisdictions. So if you're up in Queensland, check out this site now!

Asbestos news

Man sues Viva over asbestos exposure
A man who worked at the Geelong oil refinery 50 years ago is suing Viva Energy over claims it failed to protect him from asbestos. Bruce Reginald Ham has launched legal action in the Supreme Court. He worked as a labourer at the Corio plant in 1969, and was in his late teens when he was contracted to work at the Shell refinery for about a month. Mr Ham is also suing Amaca Pty Ltd, formerly operating under the James Hardie name, claiming its products led to the inhalation of asbestos while he was working on a house in the ACT in 1981. According to his lawyers, Mr Ham was diagnosed in April with pleural mesothelioma, has a reduced life expectancy and is suffering anxiety and depression.

In a statement of claim directed at Viva Energy, lawyers accuse the company of failing to take adequate precautions for Mr Ham’s safety during his employment at the refinery. They said their client was exposed to dust emanating from asbestos insulation products used to line furnaces. “The plaintiff was required to work in and around the asbestos-containing products, which were cut and otherwise handled in a matter that release dust,” they said. “The dust was inhaled by the plaintiff and fell on the plaintiff’s skin, in his hair and on his clothes.”

On top of damages, Mr Ham is seeking compensation for lost earnings as a farmer. He is also pursuing reparations for medical treatment. Lawyers acting for Viva Energy and Amaca have filed defence submissions that largely deny the allegations contained in Mr Ham’s statement of claim. A trial is scheduled to start at the Supreme Court in Melbourne on October 9. Source: The Geelong Advertiser

ASEA Conference: Perth 11 - 13 November
Early bird rate available to September 27! Don't forget the 2019 Asbestos Safety Conference, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.  All members of the asbestos management system have the opportunity to come together, exchange information and share ideas with over 300 domestic and international professionals from a range of sectors including workers’ health and safety, public health, the role of the non-government sector, and international campaign work. There will also be sessions focused on the work of asbestos support groups, the latest research into asbestos awareness communications and the latest from medical researchers. Check out the conference program here. For more information and to register, click here

More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home.

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