Union News

Two Victorian workers killed in the past week 

The first fatality was last Wednesday October 21 after a traffic controller died after being struck by a vehicle at Trawalla. According to WorkSafe, it appears the 59-year-old worker was standing next to his vehicle, which was pulled over on the left side of the Western Highway on-ramp, when he was hit by the east-bound vehicle. WorkSafe is investigating. 

The second fatality was that of a 71 year old who was working alone at a folding bed manufacturing plant in Geelong. WorkSafe believes the man sustained fatal injuries when his clothing became tangled in machinery at the North Shore factory before he was found on Friday.

The deaths bring the workplace fatality toll to 59 for 2020, five more than at the same time last year. The VTHC OHS Unit sends our sincerest condolences to the workers' families, friends and colleagues. No worker should die at work. 

VTHC HSR Conference Risks to Psychological Health - a great success

Yesterday we held our annual Conference for health and safety reps, deputies - and this year, lots of 'others'. This is because due to the current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria, we had no choice but to run it online. While there was some drop off from the 2,000 registrations, and a few technical glitches, it was overall a great success. I know that going out to the studio in Port Melbourne, and running a session with the VTHC OHS Unit's team leader, Dominic Melling, was a real treat for me! It's the furthest I've been from home in at least six months!

The materials we developed for HSRs are available to be downloaded from the Conference webpage, where we will also be loading the presentations, hopefully including the slide show from our expert keynote speakers. For those HSRs who have already distributed and collected the Risk survey, go to this page to can load up the results. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update 

Due to the number of cases in Victoria continuing to be very low, (two new cases and two further deaths reported yesterday, but zero the previous two days), retail and hospitality, fitness and other venues are now open in Metropolitan Melbourne - with restrictions on numbers of course. There have also been an easing of restrictions to rules regarding visitors to peoples' homes. Until November 6, however, the 25km limit from home remains in place. Read more on the Victorian situation here. 

According to the latest official figures, there have been 27,552 cases of coronavirus disease diagnosed in Australia - last Wednesday the total was 27,429 - and so there have been only 123  more than last week. The total number of COVID deaths is now 907. 

The international situation continues to be critical, with many countries suffering a worsening second wave. The cumulative number of infections is 44,235,091. Last Wednesday it was 41,022,134this is over 3.2 million more infections in just one week - and the rate is increasing. There have now been 1,171,274 confirmed COVID-related around the world. For more information on Coronavirus and COVID-19, go to this page on our site.

Ask Renata  

Hi, I would like to know whether, in returning to our workplace, managers can elect NOT to wear masks under COVID-normal ops? Now that the restrictions are easing in Victoria, I've notice some people not wearing masks. 

What you need to do is look at the workplace COVIDSafe plan - as the HSR you should have been involved/consulted in its preparation and implementation. See Duty to consult - section 35 of the Act. The wearing of masks must be in the COVIDSafe plan. The advice from government (DHHS) is as follows:

 Do I have to wear a fitted face mask while working? 

Yes, you have to wear a fitted face mask unless you meet one of the reasons for exemptions, such as a medical condition. 

This is taken from this page of the DHHS website. So, your employer should be telling everyone that this is the requirement, and checking those who say they meet the criteria for an exemption. It also means perhaps taking other measures to protect other workers who ARE wearing masks. However, if someone is on their own in an office, then they don't need to wear the mask.

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

Two new resources for health and safety representatives

1 - OHShelp

OHShelp is a free, all-in-one app for Health and Safety Representatives. It’s designed to help Health and Safety Representatives stay informed, organised and in-touch with their unions. HSRs will be able to use the app to identify workplace hazards and access fact sheets written in plain language. The app also allows users to log issues as they find them, and to share the details with their employer, workmates and union. Check out more information on what's on the app, and how to sign up on the OHS Help website. For the moment the app is only available for union members, but a free trial is being organised for non-union members. 

2 - Mind Your Head

Mind Your Head is a partnership between ACTU, VTHC, EML and CWEx/UniSA – (Professor Maureen Dollard and Dr Tessa Bailey). It is funded by WorkSafe’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement FundThe project’s aims are to:

  • Change/improve the understanding and identification of workplace mental health > to the level of workplace physical health
  • Train HSRs and delegates to identify hazards and manage those hazards using the same rules and tools we use for physical health
  • Bring together employers, managers, supervisors, HSRs, delegates and workers to work with Maureen and Tessa to understand the PSC at workplace and collaborate on plans and changes to address and manage hazards.
  • Ongoing support to HSRs, delegates and workers to recognise, address and manage psychological hazards and issues around workplace mental health

Find out more at the Mind Your Head website. 

Jobs at Trades Hall!

There are two full time positions in the Women On Site team being advertised at the Victorian Trades Hall Council - but if you're interested, you'll have to 'get your skates on' as applications close at 5pm November 2. Both positions are on a short-term contract (until December 2021) notionally in the Carlton office of the VTHC, but due to Covid19 staff will be required to work from home, with appropriate support, until the end of 2020. Arrangements for 2021 have not been confirmed. The positions are in a small team funded by the Victorian Government.The two positions are: 

  1. Project Organiser - Women On Site. The Project Organiser will be working on the Women Onsite project to support more women take up and complete apprenticeships and traineeships in historically male-dominated industries such as manufacturing and construction. The Organiser will be responsible for identifying, recruiting and supporting women to take up apprenticeships and traineeships in these key industries. Read more on the duties, essential requirements and desirable attributes for this position.
  2. Project Organiser - Digital Content. The Project Organiser will manage the team's web and social media pages as well as develop project materials such as booklets and presentations.  Read more on the duties, essential requirements and desirable attributes for this position. 

Asbestos news  

Greece: Asbestos Remediation project 

Between 2005 and 2019, EU-funded efforts made substantial progress in remediating the site of one of Europe’s largest asbestos mines in Kozani, Northern Greece. The output of the mine, which covered 4,144 acres, was 100,000 tonnes of asbestos fiber per year. It was the largest environmental restoration project in the Balkans and was undertaken using a phased approach at a total cost of almost €50 million. Source: IBAS 

Algeria: Asbestos legacy

A recent article highlights the hazard to inhabitants of the Algerian city of El-Guemmas who live in homes with deteriorating asbestos roofing. The city was built in the 1980s following a natural disaster and is home to 31,500, with thousands living in 2,350 contaminated properties. A scheme by authorities encouraging residents to remediate properties was unfit for purpose. Expressing the views of many, Mohamed Hambli said: “We no longer want to live in this city, especially as many inhabitants have made changes to their homes, which has created anarchy, indescribable urban [chaos]…. Reconstruction is not within our reach for considerations of advanced age, financial means, the number of family members under the same roof and the urban configuration of the city.” Read more: Une vie sous un toit d'amiante. Liberte.

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


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