Union News

Man killed by livestock 
It is with great sadness that we report that a worker was killed while drafting cattle on a farm at Undera, north-west of Shepparton, on Monday. It is believed the 52-year-old was knocked to the ground and kicked by a bull, sustaining fatal head injuries.  WorkSafe is investigating the incident.

According to WorkSafe, the death brings the workplace fatality toll to 10 for 2022, seven fewer than at the same time last year.

The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the man's family, friends and work colleagues. No worker should be killed at work. Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.

COVID Update 
There were 11,743 new infections reported today. As expected, the number of new infections is increasing. 

Victorian figures, March 30:

  • 58,488 active cases  (last week 52,983)
  • 7 deaths reported 
  • 2,739 COVID-related deaths so far
  • 280 are in hospital, 18 are in ICU, and 5 of these are on ventilators (note these numbers are quite a bit lower than they have been over the past week)
  • 1,271,494 total number of infections since the pandemic began

You can check the Victorian live update here.

Australia wide: there have been a total of 4,436,572 COVID cases (3,943,245 last week) and 5,926 deaths. 

Worldwide: as at March 30 there had been 485,506,335 worldwide infections (471,914,860 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,156,484.  (Source: Worldometer.) 
Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation

Casuals and the right to apply for sick and carers' leave
The COVID-19 pandemic has fully exposed the toxic impact of insecure work. The Andrews Government has taken a concrete step to remedy this by announcing five days' sick and carers pay for people in casual work and independent contracting. The Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee will initially cover about 150,000 workers in industries including hospitality, food trades and food preparation, supermarkets, retail and sales, aged care and disability, cleaning and laundry, and security.

Premier Daniel Andrews said, "When people have nothing to fall back on, they make a choice between the safety of their workmates and feeding their family. The ultimate decision they make isn’t wrong – what's wrong is they're forced to make it at all.”

The Sick Pay Guarantee, which is currently being totally funded and administered by the government, will be expanded to more industries in the second half of this year. To check your eligibility and to apply visit this siteRead more: Victorian Government media release.

Vaccination update 
As of March 29, 81.94 per cent of all Victorians had received their second dose, 85.8 per cent had received their first dose, and 51.8 percent had their third dose. This is not high enough, given that it's the third dose that reduces the chance of being hospitalised by 90 per cent. 

Australia wide, the figures are 82.43 per cent, 86.4 per cent respectively, with 49.83 per cent having received the third shot. 

Almost one-quarter of children aged five to 11 years have received their second COVID-19 vaccine. The latest figures show just under 25 per cent of the age group have completed their primary vaccination course, and over half have received their first dose since the rollout began earlier this year.

The milestone comes a week before winter boosters begin for older and vulnerable Australians, and as the booster take-up rate reaches 67.4 per cent of the eligible population over 16. 
Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

Ventilation in the workplace 
Some weeks ago we ran a very successful webinar on Ventilation in the Workplace - a hugely important issue in these times of COVID. Special guest was Ms Meaghan Flack, who is the OHS Organiser for the Australian Education Union. The many issues related to ventilation were discussed, including the role of the HSR in ensuring the employer takes steps to provide adequate ventilation. Check out the webinar here, and read much more about Ventilation and Infectious Diseases here.  

Did you miss our Webinar on the proposed Psychological Health regulations?  
Last week the VTHC OHS Unit provided HSRs with a briefing on the proposed Psychological Health regulations, currently open for public comment. Well over 100 HSRs tuned in, making it clear that these are very important and much-needed regulations. If you missed it, or would like to go over what was covered, click here.  Public comment closes tomorrow, March 31 - we encourage HSRs and workers to make a submission - even if brief - on this page.

April 5 VTHC Webinar - Occupational Violence 
Anyone can experience occupational violence & aggression (OVA) in their workplace. OVA can come in all forms from name-calling to physical acts of violence. Each instance of OVA can have a massive impact on the people involved. HSRs fight for safer workplaces every day, so join our OHS Network for a webinar and workshop on occupational violence & aggression.

When: Tuesday, 5 April
Time: 4pm - 5:30pm
Where: on Zoom 
RSVP for the OVA webinar and workshop here.

Is your workplace still COVIDSafe? 
Now that restrictions are relaxing even further, it can be hard to keep up with what your bosses’ obligations are, and what you can do as a worker. It’s important to remember that workers must be consulted as their COVIDSafe plan changes, if you’re worried or unsure about this, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our COVIDSafe team here. All workers deserve to have a COVIDSafe Workplace.

Ask Renata

Hello Renata,

My workplace has moving machinery, rollers, gears, pinch points etc. Our employees are keeping long hair in pony tails when operating machinery. However, do we need to go a step further and have the hair tied up further in a bun or a hair net worn? I cannot find any information in the Act or the Regulations on whether hair should not be longer than shoulder length.

The OHS Act and regulations do not cover (have no mention) of long hair.

The onus is on the employer to implement the requirements of the Plant regulations. In brief the regulations require the following:

97 Hazard Identification: The employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable (SFARP), identify all hazards associated with the installation, erection, commissioning, decommissioning, dismantling  and use of plant and the systems of work associated with that plant.

98 Control of risk

This must be according to the hierarchy of control. That is:

(1) eliminate, so far as is reasonably practicable (SFARP), any risks that have been identified under regulation 97.

(2) If it is not "reasonably practicable" to eliminate the risk, then it must be controlled according to this order:

    1. substituting with plant that has a lower level of risk; or
    2. isolating the plant from people; or
    3. using engineering controls; or
    4. combining measures in 1, 2 and 3.

(3) If a risk remains after implementing (1) & (2) SFARP, then the employer must reduce the risk/s by using administrative controls

(4) If a risk remains after implementing (1), (2) & (3) SFARP, then the employer/SEP must reduce the risk/s by providing personal protective equipment (PPE).

The above section of the regulations means eliminating or reducing the risk to workers as close to the source as possible. As it is probable that the employer cannot substitute the plant, this means isolating it or using engineering controls – such as having guards in place which prevent hair being caught up.  If a risk still remains, then implementing a rule that long hair must be tied back/in a net/in a bun is an administrative control but this can only be implemented after the employer has done everything practicable in terms of isolating or using engineering controls.

The regulations then have specific duties with regard to guarding. More information on the Plant regulations here.

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website. Your questions will be answered by Renata or one of the other members of the VTHC's OHS Unit.  

Asbestos News  
ACT: Mr Fluffy news
1 - Historic home demolished due to asbestos contamination 
A piece of history that pre-dates the nation's capital has been lost. Built in 1893, the 'Deasland' homestead survived the development of Canberra's north but not the Mr Fluffy asbestos crisis. Check out the ABC video story.

2 - Fund finally opens 
Former ACT residents who contract mesothelioma through their homes being contaminated with Mr Fluffy asbestos will be able to claim lost earnings and have all medical expenses covered, under a landmark financial support scheme. Financial dependents will also be eligible for six-figure lump sum payments after a sufferer dies or becomes terminal, and up to $8500 a year for providing care.

The ACT government will start accepting applications for access to the $16 million scheme, which is being jointly funded by the Commonwealth, this week. The scheme was announced last May, just days before the death of the mesothelioma sufferer who had been lobbying the federal government to support victims after contracting the incurable disease.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the fund was designed to provide "comprehensive and timely support" to sufferers and families, ensuring they could access appropriate treatment and care when it was needed the most.

The ACT-administered scheme will cover people who contracted an asbestos disease after living in a Mr Fluffy house for at least six months, and weren't exposed to the contaminant in an environment which could allow a workplace compensation claim. Source: The Canberra Times

Sustainability Victoria Asbestos Disposal Management Plan update 
In February 2021, Sustainability Victoria (SV) launched the Asbestos Disposal Management Plan (ADMP), to guide the implementation of a safe and accessible asbestos disposal system across the state. The plan has five phases. The last six months SV has been working on Phase 2 (System design and consultation). It has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders and decision makers through workshops, interviews and questionnaires to inform the development of asbestos disposal solutions.
Read more.

ASEA conference: May 19 - 20 
This year's Asbestos Safety and Management Conference, will be held from 19–20 May 2022 at the Fairmont Resort & Spa in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Blue Mountains. Run by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), it is being jointly hosted by the Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC). 

Asbestos is still present in 1 in 3 homes across Australia, as well as in a large number of public and commercial buildings. Managing Australia’s asbestos legacy is a challenge for all levels of government, as well as industry and non government. This important national event, which will have a special focus on those on the front-line of asbestos safety management, will comprise a 2-day conference including a series of plenary sessions, workshops and networking activities, as well as optional pre-conference activities held on 18 May.

The conference will be a hybrid event, offering delegates the opportunity to either attend in-person or livestream the event.  Read more about the conference or to purchase a ticket, go to the conference website.

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

International Union News
Bangladesh: Inaction of violations of workers' rights 
New evidence of violations of workers’ rights in Bangladesh in three major economic sectors – the ready-made garment, shipbreaking, and leather sectors – reveals the impact of government inaction on the lives of working people, the global union confederation ITUC has said. The report, released by ITUC ahead of the government’s latest progress report to the ILO Governing Body this week, shows the human face of a government’s failure to put in place labour protections.

Interviews with workers in October and November 2021 showed the systematic violations of rights included unsafe workplaces, violence against workers, unfair labour practices, anti-union discrimination and non-payment of wages and benefits. ITUC said workers do not have a safe complaints mechanism, and any attempt to get grievances resolved often results in verbal and physical abuse from the employer and dismissal.

“Obstruction and refusal by the government of Bangladesh to improve conditions put workers’ lives at risk. Every day they delay on commitments to reform, another worker and the worker’s family feel the pain of inaction,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. “As the government of Bangladesh prepares to update the ILO Governing Body on the progress of reform, anti-union discrimination, wage discrimination and unsafe working conditions continue to be reported in three of the country’s largest employment sectors – the ready-made garment, shipbreaking and leather (tannery) sectors.” She added: “The government of Bangladesh must immediately set up a transparent and effective monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the ILO road map and meaningfully consult with tripartite constituents on all the action points.” Read more: ITUC news release and report, We Need a Better Bangladesh: Violations of workers’ rights in the ready-made garment, shipbreaking and leather sectors [PDF], 15 March 2022. Source: Risks 1037

Global: OHS a fundamental right 
A high profile union campaign to get occupational health and safety recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a ‘fundamental’ right at work has taken a big step forward. ILO’s Governing Body has agreed an amendment to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, to include occupational safety and health, will be on the agenda the UN agency’s International Labour Conference in June.

According to ILO: “If adopted, the proposed amendment would indicate that all ILO Member States would have an obligation to respect and promote safe and healthy working conditions in the same manner and with the same level of commitment as the four principles currently covered by the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.”

Most of the world’s countries – 187 states – are members of the ILO. Recognition would mean occupational health and safety joined freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour, and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation as one of ILO’s top-level rules.

As part of the campaign to secure this recognition, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is urging unions worldwide to again take up the issue of health and safety as an ILO fundamental right on International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April. 
Read more: 
ILO news releaseITUC 28 April #iwmd22 webpages. Source: Risks 1037 

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