Union News

Worker dies in hospital after being crushed by garbage truck 
It is with great sadness that we report that a 69-year-old worker died in hospital last Wednesday April 27 as a result of injuries sustained in a collision the Monday before. The the garbage truck he was driving collided with another garbage truck at Mount Wallace. WorkSafe is investigating the incident.

The death brings the official workplace fatality toll to 14 for 2022, five fewer than at the same time last year. Note: the VTHC figure is higher as there are a number of  fatalities, including those in the helicopter crash, which at this stage at least, WorkSafe has not included. 

The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the worker's family, friends and work colleagues. No worker should die as a result of work: mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living. Source: WorkSafe 

International Workers' Memorial Day  
Last Thursday, April 28, was International Workers' Memorial Day (IWMD). Events were held by unions and workers all over the world, including at the Trades Hall.

It was a very affecting event - the official number of Victorian workers lost their lives since the previous IWMD was 62, however we know that many deaths due to workplace exposures and disease were not recorded. There were also a number of fatalities which WorkSafe at this stage does not appear to have included in their numbers. 

The crowd of approximately 450 heard from a range of speakers, including Mr Tim Pallas, Victoria's Treasurer, Ms Ingrid Stitt, the Minister for Workplace Safety, and Mr Colin Radford, Chief Executive of WorkSafe.  The event was live-streamed on the day: check it out here

COVID-19
Latest Numbers 
The so-called 'plateau' is proving to be very stubborn, with numbers stuck at around the 10 - 11,000 mark for new daily infections. It is very possible that with the winter coming on, numbers will again increase, especially with such few restrictions in place in Victoria and around Australia. This week on the ABC, immunologist and Nobel laureate Professor Peter Doherty said, in relation to the lifting of most restrictions: "When the government decided COVID was over, it forgot to tell the virus."

There were 10,779 new infections reported today in Victoria - 

Victorian figures, May 4: 

  • 57,154 active cases  (last week 51,835). 
  • 11 deaths reported 
  • 2,998 COVID-related deaths so far
  • 473 are in hospital, 25 are in ICU, and 6 of these are on ventilators. These numbers have remained fairly stable, if anything slowly decreasing. 
  • 1,597,294 total number of infections since the pandemic began

You can check the Victorian live update here

The figures in NSW are higher, with 11,939 new cases, 139,572 active cases, 1,510 in hospital, 68 in intensive care and 23 on ventilation. On May 3 they reported 21 deaths. 

Australia wide: we have now topped 6 million infections! As of May 3, there have been a total of 6,029,879 COVID cases (5,756,477 last week) and 7,310 deaths. 

Worldwide:  As of May 4, there had been 514,510,812 worldwide infections (510,652,507 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,264,974. (Source: Worldometer). Read more: Coronavirus;COVID-19 Victorian situation

Vaccination update 
As of May 2, 83.23 per cent of all Victorians had received their second dose, 85.97 per cent had received their first dose, and 53.77 per cent had their third dose. We are now at a lower rate of vaccination than Australia overall. There are still too few Victorians who have received the third dose, crucial to protect against severe disease. 

Australia wide, by May 2, the figures are 83.81 per cent, 86.72 per cent respectively, with 52.3 per cent having received the third shot.  Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

Ask Renata

Hi Renata, 
I work in a large supermarket distribution centre. When office staff enter the warehouse and walk throughout it. Should they be wearing steel cap shoes? I am an elected HSR. 

My first thought is: why are the office staff entering and walking through (or even 'throughout') the warehouse? If they are simply walking through as a 'short cut', then this probably needs to be looked at as there are hazards in the warehouse.

If however they do need to go through, then remember that your employer has a duty under section 21 of the OHS Act to provide a safe work environment and safe systems of work.

When it comes to this situation, in order to ensure that any pedestrians are not injured in the warehouse, your employer needs to have a traffic management plan in place that isolates these pedestrians from hazards and risks as they move through your area.  This includes ensuring that they are kept separate from forklifts and falling objects. 

There should, therefore, be no need for office staff entering your work area to wear steel cap boots. They should not be in any area not designated for pedestrians. If they do need to enter other areas for any reason, where they may be at risk of falling objects or whatever, then they may need special footwear and specific information, instruction and training.... but I can’t see why they would need to be there if they are office staff.

For more information on traffic management on our site check out these Safe Work Australia documents: 

The warehousing guide includes the following on pedestrian traffic safety:

Where eliminating risks is not reasonably practicable, an employer must minimise the risks so far is reasonably practicable. For example, the following should be considered: 

  • separating designated areas for pedestrians and vehicles, for example using overhead walkways and installing barriers and fences Where separate areas are temporary e.g. when loading vehicles or unloading containers, consider using temporary high visibility physical barriers 
  • using separate pedestrian doors at vehicle entries and exits into buildings 
  • using safety railings or bollards to prevent pedestrians stepping out into traffic from ‘blind spots’ 
  • using safety measures like walkways and safety zones to protect drivers once they have left their delivery vehicles, and 
  • using engineering controls like interlocked gates, zoning systems, proximity alarms and speed shields.

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

June 5: ACTU Walk for Safety 
In 2021, 1,500 workers were injured at work every single day. 

194 Australians were killed on the job. That's 194 families who lost a loved one - a father, mother, brother or sister. It's 194 too many.  

Every workplace injury and death is preventable. The ACTU is looking for your help to get that number down to zero by joining the Walk For Safety 2022.

What to do:

  1. Register for Walk For Safety 2022. Get your very own fundraising page to raise funds to support our campaigns for safer workplaces.
  2. Complete the two or four kilometre walk around scenic and historic surrounds of Trades Hall in Carlton.

Every dollar raised will helps the ACTU to continue to organise for safer workplaces and to support injured workers. Find out more

Are you interested in working at the VTHC? 
The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) is looking for a full-time Digital Fundraising Organiser - a great job for someone who is excited about experimenting with digital fundraising to fight for radical change for working people.

The Hall is looking for a digital organiser to work in the digital/data team, managing the digital fundraising program and supporting unions to run digital campaigns. Applications close May 13. Check out the details on Ethical Jobs.

Asbestos News  
NSW: Director fined $460,000 for asbestos pollution  
Former Director of SSADCO Contractors Pty Ltd Fayed Afram has been ordered to pay $460,000 by the NSW Land and Environment Court after pleading guilty to polluting land with asbestos waste and to supplying false and misleading information about waste.

This comes after Afram’s business charged $4 million to remove 17,600 tonnes of soil containing asbestos waste and restricted solid waste from the Green Square development site in inner Sydney in 2016 - 2017. The waste was meant to be taken to two separate landfills, which were both licensed to accept the waste. However an end-of-project waste disposal audit of the Green Square building site by environmental consultants found inconsistencies in weighbridge dockets and invoices. This led to an investigation by the EPA, which found none of the waste had been taken to either of the lawful landfill sites.

Instead, it was illegally dumped elsewhere. Some of the waste was used, without the knowledge of the landowners, by Afram as part of a contract to build a road on a privately owned semi-rural property in Kulnura. Other waste was taken to a property in Horsley Park. Read more: NSW EPA news release 

UK: MPs back TUC’s calls for asbestos removal 
The UK’s peak body the Trade Union Council (TUC) has called for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings. The call has been backed by MPs: the report of a Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into asbestos management cites TUC calls for an explicit asbestos removal plan. The 21 April report from MPs cites concerns that the likely dramatic increase in retrofitting of buildings in response to net zero ambitions means that more asbestos-containing material will be disturbed. It calls for a 40-year deadline to remove all asbestos from public and commercial buildings. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the recognition, but added “a 40-year deadline isn’t ambitious enough: hundreds of thousands of workers risk dangerous exposure in that time. Ministers must commit to removing all asbestos to keep future generations safe.” Read more: TUC news release. House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee news release, report summary and full report. HSE asbestos disease statistics [PDF]. Source: Risks 1042

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

International Union News 
UK: Government chose to abuse health workers
The pandemic efforts of health staff are being undermined by political choices, UK's health union UNISON has said. The union said most worked extra hours and took on more intense workloads. Addressing UNISON’s annual health conference, general secretary Christina McAnea said “both the prime minister and the chancellor are guilty of taking health workers for granted. Over the last two years, health staff have lost colleagues, patients, family members and friends to the virus, and worked under an unbelievable amount of pressure.” She added: “It’s a political choice that keeps pay down and pushes workloads up. It’s also a political choice to increase national insurance contributions for working people, and to decide not to give health and other essential employees a decent pay rise.” Read more: UNISON news release. Source: Risks 1042

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