Union News

Latest Numbers 
The so-called 'plateau' appears to be tilting upwards. There were almost 14,000 new infections reported today, an increase of 3,194 from daily infection numbers last Wednesday. It's possible numbers will continue to increase through winter, especially with so few restrictions here and around the country.

There were 13,973 new infections reported today in Victoria. Victorian figures, May 11: 

  • 67,608 active cases (last week 57,154). 
  • 17 deaths reported 
  • 3,069 COVID-related deaths so far
  • 533 are in hospital, 33 are in ICU, and 5 of these are on ventilators. Hospitalisation and ICU numbers are on the increase.
  • 1,673,533 total number of reported infections since the pandemic began

You can check the Victorian live update here

The figures in NSW are 12,265 new cases, 1,452 in hospital, 48 in intensive care and 19 on ventilation. On May 11 they reported 11 deaths. 

Australia wide: As of May 11, there have been a total of 6,370,417 COVID cases (6,029,879 last week) and 7,605 deaths, sadly an increase of 295 from last week.

Worldwide: As of May 4, there had been 518,440,513 worldwide infections (514,510,812 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,280,181. (Source: Worldometer). Read more: Coronavirus;COVID-19 Victorian situation

Vaccination update 
As of May 11, 83.3 per cent of all Victorians had received their second dose, 86 per cent had received their first dose, and 53.99 per cent had their third dose. There are still too few Victorians who've had their third dose, which is so crucial in protecting against severe disease. 

Australia wide, by May 2, the figures are 83.91 per cent, 86.76 per cent respectively, with 52.59 per cent having received the third shot. Check the ABC Vaccine tracker and The Age for daily updates. 

Ask Renata
Hello Renata, I am the HSR at my workplace... trying to convince the CEO to improve the ventilation... the per litre levels is 7 litres rather than 10 and the filters are not up to the higher standard that is in your checklist. We have various public groups that use spaces next to the offices as well as function rooms that are hired out. There are no windows that open nor air purifiers. The CEO doesn't think anything needs to change and believes Covid is over.... It is very frustrating. Thank you for your advice. Regards Margaret

Hi Margaret,

We respectfully disagree with your CEOs assertion that ‘COVID is over’. Businesses are still required to have a COVID Safe plan. Victorian COVID figures for May 4th show 57,154 active cases, 473 in hospital (25 in ICU and 6 on ventilators) and 11 deaths. Unfortunately, too many of us are dying every day. It's also likely these numbers will increase with winter coming and so few restrictions in place. To quote immunologist and Nobel laureate, Professor Peter Doherty "when the government decided COVID was over, it forgot to tell the virus."

You've “asked about the per litre levels and it is 7 litres rather than 10 and the filters are not up to the higher standard that is in your checklist”. It is our understanding that the Australian Standard recommends ventilation rates for office spaces be set to 10 L/s/person; which would mean your workplace is not up to Australian standards if your airflow is only 7 litres per second per person.

That being said, we think this line of 7L vs 10L perhaps misses the bigger picture. Your employer has a duty, so far as is reasonably practicable to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to health. Your employer also has a duty, under s.22(1)(b) to monitor the conditions of the workplace to ensure they’re safe and to change those conditions if they are not.

In the context of COVID this means considering all the aspects of air flow in the working area. If you have not seen it already, we have compiled a webpage on ventilation and infectious diseases here that goes into details for HSRs to consider. In short, especially as various public groups use adjacent spaces and you identify that you have ‘no openable windows or air purifiers’, your employer should consider purchasing one or more HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, as well as ensuring that there is a filter on any HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems. The World Health Organization, as best practice to reduce the spread of COVID-19, recommend a F8 grade or higher. It is good practice not to rely on just one control. Where reasonably practicable these measures should be implemented in conjunction with other controls such as physical distancing, mask wearing or WFH.

In Unity,
Martin Raspin

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.

OHS Basics Month - coming June 2022
Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and safety is core Union business. 

In a VTHC first for 2022 we are launching OHS Basics Month. Our aim is to empower HSRs, delegates, and workers by sharing OHS skills and knowledge.

We're kicking off OHS Basics Month with a seminar on the fundamentals of OHS and will be joined by OHS legend, Renata Musolino. Renata will share her insights into the how-to's of organising for a safe workplace.

Some light food and drinks will be provided so make sure to RSVP here for catering numbers

If you can't make it to any of these events, don't worry! They'll be streamed live to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page. Make sure to like our page so you don't miss out.

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 help the ACTU 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  
Blue Mountains City Council and ASEA are co-hosting the Asbestos Safety & Management Conference, May 19–20 in the beautiful Blue Mountains. 

A draft program is now available and includes a mix of plenary, panel and breakout sessions including:

  • Australia’s asbestos history, legacy and future challenges
  • Managing asbestos contaminated sites
  • Asbestos-related diseases including progress in diagnosis and treatment
  • Asbestos management in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • International perspectives and updates on asbestos ban campaigns from around the world

The conference is a hybrid event - attend in-person or live-stream. For more information about the conference, click here

And in international asbestos news:

A second boss of an asbestos removal company is now facing jail time for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure during a major refurbishment project in Plymouth. Chelmsford Crown Court heard that in February 2017, concerns were raised by workers at Ensure Asbestos Management Limited who believed they were being put in danger. The firm’s contracts manager Phillip Hopwood pleaded guilty to three criminal safety offences and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and disqualified from being a director for 10 years. Offences included producing fraudulent asbestos clearance certificates. At an earlier hearing, company director Billy Hopwood was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment and disqualified from being a company director for five years.
HSE news release

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

International Union News 
UK:Education Unions warn about work overload:
Work overload is adversely affecting the health and welfare of teachers and lecturers, their unions have warned. A meeting of leaders from 10 education unions in the British and Irish Group of Teacher Unions (BIGTU) called on policy makers to prioritise action to tackle the problem. BIGTU said there is ‘mounting concern’ amongst education unions about the impact of overwork on health and wellbeing in the sector, adding the ‘stressful working hours’ are causing a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession. BIGTU is calling for a reduction in the non-teaching administrative workload and for action to end ‘unhelpful’ external audit and inspection processes.
EIS news release

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