Union News

Worker killed at Dandenong factory

On Thursday last week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release with the tragic news that a 47 year old worker had been killed the day before after being struck by machinery at a factory in Dandenong.

WorkSafe believes he suffered head injuries after being hit by an attachment on a rubber extrusion machine. The regulator is investigating the incident.

The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and work colleagues of the man. No one should lose their life at work. 

The death brings Victoria's workplace fatality toll to 19 for 2021.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) -  update 

It has been almost a week of Victoria being in Stage 4 restrictions, introduced as a 'circuit breaker' to get an outbreak linked to the case of the Woollert man who contracted COVID in an Adelaide quarantine hotel under control. While the new cases are deceasing, and large numbers of people are getting tested, and vaccinated, the state government announced today that while restrictions in regional Victoria will be eased at 11.59pm tomorrow, Thursday June 3, the lockdown has been extended for a further 7 days in metropolitan Melbourne.  Go to this page for updated information on the current numbers and restrictions: Coronavirus the Victorian situation 

There have been six (6) new cases identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in the cluster of local cases to 60. This particular variant, the 'Indian' strain, now known as the 'delta' variant, has been found to be extremely contagious and can be transmitted by even the briefest contact. We have not have much higher numbers of new cases because the lockdown has meant that contact with others has been drastically reduced. Read more: Victorian government statement

Note: the WHO has discontinued using complex names for the 'variants of concern', using the Greek alphabet instead. The so-called UK variant, is now known as 'alpha'.

Australia has had a total of 30,126 cases of coronavirus diagnosed, and a total of 910 COVID-related deaths. Internationally, the numbers of infections and deaths continue to mount: the cumulative number of infections last week was 168,513,226. Today it is 171,938,586 . This is 3.43 million new infections in the past week, continuing the downward trend which is now at -16 per cent. There have now been 3,575,782 COVID-related deaths around the world - a downward trend of about 9 per cent. (note these figures are updated constantly)

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Australia is well behind many other countries when it comes to our population being  vaccinated. At this stage, only two (2) per cent of our population has been fully vaccinated. 

Over the past week, it has become apparent that many workers in the Aged Care and Disability sectors, classified as priority 1a to receive vaccinations, have not received them. In fact, it appears that less then 30 per cent have received both doses. There is also a large percentage - thought to be about 40 per cent - of aged care residents who have not been fully vaccinated. This was the responsibility of the federal government which should have ensured they received vaccinations. Yesterday the Victorian state government announced that any workers in private sector aged/disability care have priority in a 5 day vaccination blitz at 10 large Victorian vaccination hubs. 

Both the government and the VTHC are urging workers who are eligible to get their vaccines, particularly in the light of the recently diagnosed community cases. If you are a 1a or 1b category worker, and under 50, you should be getting the Pfizer vaccine. Anyone between the ages of 40 and 49 can also book to have a Pfizer shot.

Reminder: The Department of Health's Victorian COVID-19 vaccination guidelines (the guidelines), appendices and resources available online on this DHS webpage. The guidelines provide advice and describe the minimum requirements for delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination program in Victoria, in accordance with the requirements set out by the Commonwealth Government. The guidelines are updated weekly. Please ensure you are using the most up to date version. Updates are highlighted in yellow in the document.

For more information, go to these pages on the website: Coronavirus disease 

OHS - We want to hear from YOU!

Australian Unions are conducting a survey about workers’ experience of health and safety in the workplace, and we really want your input. The survey will help Australian Unions, the VTHC and your union better understand your experience at work, what is important to you and what you think could be improved.

The responses we collect help to frame our conversations with governments and employers and develop campaigns to bring about the changes necessary to make work healthy and safe.

Unions had a win this month when work health and safety ministers from across Australia voted in favour of strengthening laws to protect workers’ mental health. These changes are a huge step forward in the prevention of mental illness, sexual harassment and gendered violence in the workplace.

Valuable input from workers like you has the power to bring about more of these changes that result in better health and safety conditions in every workplace.

The survey is open until 9th July 2021Take the survey now! Click here

Did you catch the VTHC OHS Unit liveshow on COVID 19 and vaccines?

The OHS unit had a liveshow last Thursday night which covered Victoria's vaccine rollout. The unit's new staff members, Divina and Bridget, ran the show, and were joined by special guest Professor Ben Cowie lead immunologist from DHHS. 

It was a great show, so if you missed it, you can catch it on the We Are Union: OHS Reps website. 

June 1: Injured Workers Day

Yesterday, June 1, was Injured Workers Day. The 'live' activities planned by the VTHC and the Health and Community Services Union (HSUA) had to be moved 'online' due to Melbourne's lockdown. You can watch it on the Facebook Injured Workers Day page here.

Injured workers around Victoria are fighting for a system that treats injured workers with dignity and puts our needs before profit. The WorkCover system needs major reform. We need a system that looks after injured workers first, and gives workers the medical and financial support to recover and live in dignity. 

The VTHC and our affiliates are calling on Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Government to reform our WorkCover system so it serves the needs of injured workers first, including:

  • In-sourcing the services of independent agents and bringing the entire WorkCover scheme back into public hands;
  • Phasing out self-insurance scheme and bringing all workplaces onto the same scheme;
  • Amending the definition of ‘complex claim’ so that workers who need extra support can get it when they need it;
  • Extending employers' return to work obligations past the 52 week mark.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Injured Workers Support Network, like the Facebook page Injured Workers Support Network Victoria.

Ask Renata  

Hi Renata,  

At our workplace we have one first aid kit that is fixed to wall inside the staff bathroom. Is this an acceptable position given that a kit must be accessible at all times?

Both the number of kits and their location depends on a number of factors, such as the type of work, the number of employees on site at any one time and so on.

 According to the current First Aid in the Workplace Compliance Code, an employer can follow one of two approaches: either the ‘Prescribed approach’ or the ‘Risk assessment approach'. Many go with the first, as it’s less work.

In the prescribed approach, depending on the risk level of the workplace:

  • 1 kit for up to 50 employees, then one additional for each additional 50 for low risk workplaces
  • 1 kit for up to 25 employees, then two, including specific modules for up to 50 employees, then one additional for each additional 50, for higher risk workplaces

Depending on how many workers are on site, and what sort of hazards are in the workplace, you might need more than one kit. 

Location:

The code talks about the need for employees to have ‘access’  and with regard to actual location, all it states is: “Where there are separate work areas, it may be appropriate to locate first aid facilities centrally and provide portable first aid kits in each work area. This may include motor vehicles.”

So, as the HSR you need to look at where the employer has placed the first aid kit and whether it is accessible to all employees. If it’s in the staff bathroom – do all staff/employees have access to it? And at all times? If not, then this is not a suitable location and you should seek to have it moved to a better spot. Also, is one enough? If you think there’s a problem, then ask to meet your employer, or your employer ohs rep and raise the issue, and what you think needs to be done.

Check out the information and you can also download the code from this page: First Aid Kits.

The current First Aid in the Workplace Compliance Code (2008) has been reviewed and a new compliance code is due to be released soon. Keep your eyes on SafetyNet as we will announce when it is released. The code was reviewed, released for public comment, has been updated and a number of changes made.   

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

ANMF: leader in training

The ANMF (Vic Branch) provides professional courses for nurses, midwives and personal care workers.  The union's Education Centre is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO 22609) offering a range of training that includes courses resulting in Nationally Recognised Qualifications and continuing professional development seminars and workshops.

The courses offered are:

  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116)
  • Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety (BSB41419)
  • Provide First Aid (HLTAID003)

The union also offers non-accredited courses seminars and workshops for continuing professional development. Interactive courses and workshops are offered virtually and from their education centre. In addition, it offers more than 30 online modules via our CPD Portal. Members receive annual $400 credit (20 hours) for online ANMF (Vic Branch) CPD Portal modules and case studies.
Find out more on the ANMF website.

Asbestos news

ACV/GARDS June Newsletter

The Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS has this week issued its June newsletter, which is full of interesting news and articles. The organisation is extremely active, running Asbestos and Silica Awareness sessions in TAFEs not only in Gippsland where they are based, but all around the state. 
Read more: download the June and also previous newsletters here.

NSW: more schools with friable asbestos identified

According to new figures revealed in NSW Budget Estimates last week, the number of known schools with friable asbestos has grown in the past 18 months. 

The Education department has now identified 352 schools which have friable asbestos — a figure a Labor upper house MP claims had tripled from 109 schools from 2019.

But despite some of those being rated as “high priority” for removal, School Infrastructure NSW chief executive Anthony Manning said that did not mean they had to be removed but simply monitored.

The definitions of friable asbestos, both by the department and in all of Australia's asbestos regulations is “any material that contains asbestos and is in a powder form or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry”.

The regulations state that friable asbestos must, so far as is reasonably practicable, be removed. 
“More than half of the elements are in things like kilns and heaters … or vinyl floor tiles,” Mr Manning said - clearly not understanding that the asbestos in kilns or floor tiles is unlikely to be friable. Read more: The Daily Telegraph 
More information on Asbestos: In the workplace and In the Home
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