Union News

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update  

Due to the number of cases in Victoria continuing to be very low, with only three new cases reported yesterday, there were a number of changes made to the restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne, with some restrictions being eased. Some of these mean that more workers - such as barbers and hairdressers, those working in outdoor sports facilities such as golf and tennis, and some others, will now be at work. It is expected that there will be further changes announced this weekend. Read more on the Victorian situation here. 

According to the latest official figures, there have been 27,429 cases of coronavirus disease diagnosed in Australia - only 112 more than last week. The total number of COVID deaths is now 905. 

The international situation continues to worsen and as the northern hemisphere goes into winter, it is unlikely to improve: the cumulative number of infections is 41,022,134. Last Wednesday it was 38,347,804this is almost 2.7 million more infections in just one week - and the rate is increasing. There have now been 1,128,879 confirmed COVID-related around the world. For more information on Coronavirus and COVID-19, go to this page on our site. 

In some international COVID news:

Spain: there are now over one million coronavirus infections so far –making it the first European country and sixth country overall to reach this number. More than 34,000 people have died.

Health experts say the true number of infections is probably much higher: insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues mean official counts fail to capture the real scale of the outbreak.

USA: CDC finds 300,000 excess deaths

A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen 300,000 more deaths than it usually would. The CDC has been tracking how many deaths have been reported and comparing them with counts seen in other years. Usually, between the beginning of February and the end of September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, the figure is closer to 2.2 million - a 14.5 per cent increase, AP reports.

The CDC says around 200,000 of the deaths are already attributed to coronavirus, but that the it’s likely COVID-19 was a factor in many other deaths, too.  Deaths were up for different racial and ethnic groups, but the largest increase - 54% - was among Hispanic Americans.

October 15: 50th Anniversary of West Gate Bridge collapse event

Last week was the 50th Anniversary of West Gate Bridge collapse. At 11.50am on October 15 1970, a span of the West Gate Bridge, then under construction, collapsed. 35 workers were killed, 17 were injured. If you missed the live streamed event to remember those workers who were killed, you can still see it on the VTHC Facebook page

There were a number of articles in various publications - all worth reading: 

A reminder that the events planned by the West Gate Bridge Committee for this year will be held next year. 

Ask Renata  

Hello there 

I'm coordinating mural project on large wall site. At what ladder height do installers automatically require White Card certification? Is it 2.4 or 2 metres?

There is no requirement to hold a white card for working on ladders. A white card (or its equivalent) is required on all construction sites in Victoria - so unless the site is a construction site, then there's no requirement to have a white card. 

However, there are regulations to do with working at height which kick in once work occurs above 2 metres. The regulations require employers to eliminate or minimise the risk of falls by implementing a hierarchy of control once any work is undertaken at this height. In addition, the employer's general duty under section 21 applies in terms of providing safe systems of work and safe use of 'plant', which includes ladders, even if work is done at 2 metres or less.  

Check the following pages out: 

  1. summary of the Prevention of Falls regulations  
  2. Ladders - what are the rules and regulations? 
However, if it's a large mural, and it's likely to take some time with workers at either 2 or 2.4 metres, I would not be recommending the use ladders. These are too unsafe. I strongly recommend that some sort of elevated work platform be organised.  

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

Last chance to complete Gig workers survey! 

If you haven't yet completed the VTHC Young Workers Team survey for gig workers, do so right now to ensure your views go into the submission. Please complete the survey by the end of this week. For those with friends or family members who work in the sector, please let them know and encourage them to fill it in too.  

International union news

UK: Higher ethnic risk death linked to jobs

Ethnic minorities’ higher risk of dying from COVID-19 is linked to where they live and the jobs they do, rather than their health, figures for England and Wales suggest. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis found almost all ethnic minority groups are more likely to die than white people. The ONS looked at the total number of people in each community in England and Wales whose death involved COVID-19, factoring in underlying health conditions. It concluded: “These findings show that ethnic differences in mortality involving Covid-19 are most strongly associated with demographic and socio-economic factors, such as place of residence and occupational exposures, and cannot be explained by pre-existing health conditions using hospital data or self-reported health status.” Ben Humberstone, deputy director of health analysis and life events at the ONS, commented: “Our statistical modelling shows that a large proportion of the difference in the risk of COVID-19 mortality between ethnic groups can be explained by demographic, geographical and socioeconomic factors, such as where you live or the occupation you’re in. It also found that although specific pre-existing conditions place people at greater risk of COVID-19 mortality generally, it does not explain the remaining ethnic background differences in mortality.”

GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said the figures were “yet more proof that fundamental change is needed. As an employer itself, the government should be taking its public sector equality duty seriously and publishing equality impact assessments of COVID-19 policies. Instead, they have hidden such reports from the public and ignored their legal duty to keep vulnerable ethnic minority workers safe.” 
Read more: 
Updating ethnic contrasts in deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19), England and Wales: deaths occurring 2 March to 28 July 2020, ONS, 16 October 2020.  BBC News OnlineThe Guardian. Source: Risks 970

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