Union News

Child killed in quad bike incident

In tragic news, a three-year-old child was killed on Sunday in a quad bike incident in rural Victoria. The boy suffered serious injuries at a property in Derrick Valley. Emergency services were called to the scene at about 10am. The boy's family live on a large farm property on the outskirts of the Snowy River National Park near the NSW border. 

According to WorkSafe Victoria, quad bike incidents remain the single biggest cause of death on Australian farms, with more than 1000 people hospitalised from related injuries each year. In 2016, the regulator took steps to tighten the rules on the use of the four-wheel motorbikes: businesses are now required to install rollover cages if quad bikes are used on work sites.

Quad bikes are extremely dangerous and children must kept away from them. The Victorian government last week announced an extension to its quad bike rebate scheme to June next year (see below). Read more: The Age

Truck driver killed while checking vehicle

In another preventable death, a truck driver was killed on the South Gippsland Highway at Bena while underneath his vehicle, which was stopped on the side of the road. It is believed he had pulled over on the Highway, just after 10.30am, and was checking underneath the truck when it rolled backwards on a slight incline. He died at the scene and is yet to be formally identified.

These tragic deaths bring Victoria's workplace death toll to 25 for the year. The thoughts of the Union movement are with the family and friends of the deceased.

Man airlifted after forklift incident

A man has been airlifted to hospital after a forklift incident in western Victoria. The man in his 40s was seriously injured after he became trapped under a forklift at a sit on Wilsons Road in Kooroocheang, north-west of Daylesford Monday afternoon. He was flown to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, with the hospital confirming yesterday morning that he remained in a critical condition. WorkSafe has confirmed it is investigating the incident.

Victorian HSRs and deputies: October 29 HSR Conference

We are now up to over 1000 HSRs (and deputies) coming to our 2019 conference!  The Conference for Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) is the biggest Health and Safety Month event in Australia and has approval under s69 of the Victorian OHS Act meaning employers must allow elected HSRs to attend on paid leave. 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".

This year we will be running the conference in more non-metropolitan Melbourne locations, so it will be easier for HSRs in country Victoria 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. 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.

Ask Renata

Hi Renata

The six monthly test and tag on the equipment at my workplace is six days overdue. Is there a period of leeway at all?

Yes, there is some leeway as the testing and tagging regime is in an Australian standard, and not actually in OHS legislation. The time frame depends on the type of equipment and the frequency of use (see this page for more information)

If it’s been agreed that the six months is the correct frequency, then you need to bring it up with the employer and ensure that the testing has been booked in and will be done within a reasonable time. It would also be worthwhile ensuring that there is a system in place so that the testing/tagging is organised before the agreed period runs out.

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

Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre - lockdown after Cease Work issued

Last week there were two violent assaults at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre. In the first, which occurred on Tuesday, a worker at the centre was allegedly attacked by an inmate with a makeshift knife. Then, at about 7:30pm on Thursday, two other staff members were allegedly assaulted by two detainees. On Friday the staff at Malmsbury stopped work and met with management as a result of a cease work issued under s74 of the OHS Act.

Two 18-year-old men and a 19-year-old man were charged with intentionally and recklessly causing injury, assaulting an emergency worker and affray. The three men appeared in Bendigo Magistrates' Court on Friday and will all be sent to an adult prison. The court heard one of the detainees chased a staff member down a hallway with a plastic cricket bat, hitting him on the head and arm, and breaking his nose and finger.

Mr Julian Kennelly, from the Community and Public Sector Union, said the union was concerned about staff-to-inmate ratios after an increase in violent assaults on workers across Victoria's youth justice facilities, including 300 incidents in just four months earlier this year. He said WorkSafe was organising an inspector to visit the centre to determine if there were enough staff. "We have ongoing assaults each and every day, multiple times a day between the young offenders and involving staff as well," he said.
Read more: Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre trio sent to adult prison after alleged cricket bat attack ABC news online

Warning on Hi-Vis clothing

A Perth doctor has warned of the dangers of wearing high-vis shirts in direct sunlight after what she believes is the world's first case of burns from retro-reflective tape. In a letter to the editor of the Medical Journal of Australia published this week, emergency medicine specialist Ioana Vlad explained how she treated a man for first-degree burns caused by the reflective tape on his shirt.

The field environmental engineer went to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital's emergency department in late January 2018 complaining of a rash across his back - which the doctor noted was directly underneath a reflective stripe on the high-vis shirt he had been wearing during the day.

Dr Vlad said almost anyone wearing shirts with reflective tape was at risk of similar injuries. "It could happen to other people as well, especially if they wear the same type of shirt and the same type of reflective tape, and especially if they work out in the sun and the sun shines directly onto the shirt," she said.

The man said the tape often became extremely hot when he was working in hot conditions and that he had to regularly change positions to ensure it did not touch his skin.

Standards Australia, which sets requirements for safety equipment including high-visibility clothing, said employers were responsible for ensuring their workers were safe with UV Protection Workwear when they were exposed to direct sunlight. Source: ABC news online. Read more on Hi-Vis gear.

Asbestos news

Vale Serafina Salucci

It is with great sadness that the VTHC has learnt that long time mesothelioma patient and asbestos safety advocate, Serafina Salucci passed away this week.

Serafina was one of the better known campaigners for asbestos safety in Australia, having been diagnosed with mesothelioma at 37 years old in 2007, surviving until now because of radical surgery over many years while raising a family of four children. Her exposure was as a young child while her father built a garage using asbestos-cement sheeting at their house in Sydney. Serafina was awarded an Order of Australia Member in the General Division in 2018 for significant service to community health, particularly as an advocate for people with asbestos-related diseases. Read more: The Leader

Asbestos at Melbourne construction site
A CFMEU member saw what he believed to be large amounts of broken asbestos sheeting mixed into piles of construction rubble at an Altona construction site last Friday, and immediately alerted workers at the site and a nearby childcare centre. The Vic branch of the CFMEU advised the centre's management that children should not play outside until further notice. Gerry Ayers, the union's occupational health and safety unit manager, said he was horrified by the situation. It appears the unsecured asbestos material had been left on site for over two weeks.

Worksafe Victoria confirmed it is investigating the incident and in a statement said: "WorkSafe has visited the site to ensure the removal of any asbestos containing materials is appropriately managed." Source: ABC news online

ASEA Conference: Perth 11 - 13 November
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.

International Union news

UK: Firefighters demand government action
Firefighters have called for more protection after research found they were being exposed to dangerously high levels of harmful chemicals. Research has shown that firefighters were at risk of contracting cancer due to contaminated clothing and equipment. UK firefighters’ union FBU, which supported the research project, has called on the government to protect firefighters. It says the findings will increase understanding of the health implications of exposure to carcinogenic substances and inform best practice for washing and storing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce potential health risks. The FBU is part of a committee looking at a new standard on cleaning, maintaining, storage and transportation of PPE, expected to be published later this year. FBU national officer Sean Starbuck said “we are pleased that our groundbreaking research is getting the recognition it deserves. The health and safety of our members is absolutely paramount, and we are hopeful that this project will go a long way to improving the way we view contaminants in the fire and rescue service.”

Fire chemistry and toxicity expert Prof Anna Stec has called on the government to protect firefighters by providing them with the best preventive medical care, education and support, while investing in guidance and research to ensure best practice was followed. “In my opinion, there is a direct link between firefighters' occupation and cancer,” she said. “Firefighters are twice as likely to die when compared to the general population - and they're dying from not one type of cancer, but they've got multiple types. Yet in the UK absolutely nothing is done to address, generally, fire toxicity or firefighters' health.”

Prof Stec and her team at the University of Central Lancashire said firefighters’ risk of developing cancer was increased by dangerously high levels of chemicals remaining on their protective gear following exposure to smoke. According to Prof Stec's research, firefighters’ leading cause of exposure to carcinogens is not inhalation but absorption via the skin. That absorption automatically increased in hot environments that led to sweating and dehydration, meaning the firefighters became “a sponge for all the fire toxins.” While not compensated in the UK, many cancers in firefighters qualify for state compensation in the US, Australia, Canada and elsewhere. Presumptive cancer lists in North America – cancers presumed work-related unless proved otherwise – provide for compensation for brain, bladder, ureter, kidney, colorectal, oesophageal, breast, testicular, prostate, lung and skin cancers, as well as leukaemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
Read more:  FBU news release. UCLAN research report. BBC News Online. TUC occupational cancer guide. Cancers and their work causes: An ITUC/Hazards at-a-glance guide to cancer hazards. Source: Risks 917

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