Union News

Three more fatalities

We are saddened to report that three more Victorian workers have lost their lives since our last edition:

On March 3 a worker was killed after being struck by a falling steel beam at Point Cook. The man was 35 years old. It is believed the beam fell on the man after it was hit by a roof truss being unloaded at the residential construction site about 12.20pm.

Then, during what WorkSafe has described as a 'horror Labour Day weekend': 

A 68-year-old worker was killed after being hit by a tractor trailer combination on a farm at Somerville on Saturday. According to WorkSafe, the tractor and trailer were being reversed when the man was knocked to the ground and run over at about 1pm.

A 31-year-old horse racing stable worker died after falling from a horse that was hit by a car near Barwon Heads about 6.30am on Monday. It appears the horse and male rider were attempting to cross Thirteenth Beach Rd at the time.

WorkSafe is investigating both incidents. The fatalities bring the 'official' number of workplace deaths this year to 11, which is five more than at the same time last year. However, by our count, these deaths bring the total number of fatalities since 1 January to 13.

The staff of the OHS Unit sends our sincerest condolences to the families, friends and work colleagues of the deceased workers - no-one should lose their lives at work.

Ask Renata

There have been a growing number of inquiries coming in regarding Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Here is one from an HSR:

I have a query about what guidelines we should be following to advise our workplaces about how to best respond to this viral outbreak, especially if there is client facing work being undertaken - can you help?

I appreciate that this is a question with what is probably a myriad of complex answers for each different workplace but is there something I could be directed to or just work with management and the usual risk management framework to mitigate risk for your own particular workplace?

There are general precautions and measures that all employers need to be implementing now, even though there have only been only three deaths as a result of coronavirus in Australia. This is because it is highly likely that the number of people infected by the disease will increase, as will the risk to workers. Depending on the type of work, the work environment, who the 'clients' are, and so on, more specific measures may need to be taken.

HSRs need to be taking this issue up with their employers now, to ensure that simple measures are implemented immediately, specific risks have been identified, and measures to control these are ready to go when necessary.  We have now posted a page of information and advice on COVID-19 on the OHS Reps @ Work website - which will be updated and amended regularly - see: Coronavirus disease. We welcome any input or views on the information, as things are moving very quickly and we would like the page to be kept as up to date as possible.

Also, tune in to our webinar on Coronavirus tonight!

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

7pm Tonight: Webinar on Coronavirus disease

In the latest installment of the OHS Reps Live Show, Luke and Sam will be navigating the problems associated with COVID-19 and how it may affect you in the workplace from an OHS perspective.

The stream will be on the We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page tonight (Wednesday March 11) night at 7pm sharp. Questions from the audience are strongly encouraged. Ms Deborah Vallance, Senior Policy Officer, WHS at the ACTU will be the expert in attendance to help Luke and Sam with the questions. 

Following the live show, you'll be able to check it out on the page, as well as on our Hazards page (later in the week).

Meanwhile, Qantas issued with notice on coronavirus

Last week SafeWorkNSW issued Qantas with a WHS Improvement notice involving a system of work that "may" expose workers and others to a risk of illnesses like coronavirus.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) called for Qantas Airways Ltd to listen to workers' concerns and engage hygiene and infection control experts to minimise the risk of workers and passengers being exposed to the coronavirus COVID-19, after the airline received the notice.

A SafeWork inspection identified an "inadequate system of work used to clean planes that may have transported passengers with an infectious disease". The inspector reportedly saw cleaners wiping multiple plane tray tables with the same wet cloth without disinfectant, and wiping unknown liquids on surfaces and floors. Cleaners were required to handle wet used tissues, used face masks and soiled nappies, and advised that they occasionally had to clean vomit and blood off surfaces; PPE was not mandated for most of these tasks, the inspector found.

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline is investigating SafeWork's claims and is considering appealing the improvement notice, which requires Qantas to consult with an expert on infection control, consult aircraft cleaners on implementing a safe system of work, provide adequate PPE and assess workers' contact with bodily fluids, by 30 March. 
Source: OHSAlert

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