Union News

HSRs NEEDED FOR RESEARCH ON PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH REGULATIONS WIN one of three $50 gift vouchers

Researchers at the University of South Australia are conducting an online study to investigate Health and Safety Representative's perceptions of the new OHS Amendment (Psychological Health) Regulations. Participation involves the completion of an online survey. This survey will take approx. only 6 minutes to complete. Eligibility Criteria: - Current or previous Health and Safety Representative - Able to read and understand English - Computer/laptop or smartphone with internet access

To access the survey, go to: https://tinyurl.com/HSR-OHS-survey

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS 

On Tuesday 23rd August Victoria recorded:  

3,638 new daily infections   
25 COVID deaths  
433 hospitalisations, 28 in ICU and 7 of these are on ventilators  

Cumulatively this equals:  

2,543,202 total Victorian infections  
5,140 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 165 since last week)  

You can check the Victorian live update here 

Australia: As of 23rd August, there have been a total of 9,934,175 COVID cases (an increase of 104,082 since last week) and 13,420 -deaths, an increase of 461 since last week.  

World: As of 23rd August 2022, there had been 601,376,570 worldwide infections (596,179,834 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,473,566 (Source: Worldometer).  

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation.  

VACCINATION UPDATE   

89.31% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 23rd August, have received their second dose, 91.92% their first dose.  For the third dose the figure is 69.6% (16+).  

The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 97.9%, Second Dose 96.2%, the third dose 68.8% and the fourth dose 22.2% (16+).  

Check COVID-Live for Daily Updates  

COVIDSafe Workplace Outreach Update 

Every week, the COVIDSafe Workplaces team visits dozens of Victorian workplaces to find out what the major issues are for frontline workers in retail, hospitality, and other public facing business.

The results have been of concern; despite ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and record deaths, most workplaces management of the risk had progressed little from earlier in the pandemic. One of the most effective and least intrusive ways to manage the risk of COVID-19, is ensuring adequate ventilation and airflow. Unfortunately, this is one area the team saw lacking.  

Why should I care about good ventilation? 

COVID-19 is a virus predominantly spread by airborne droplets and aerosols, a well-ventilated space brings in new air and reduces transmission by diffusing particles in the air before they can be breathed in. Ventilation means bringing in fresh air and removing stale air. 

I’m a Health and Safety Representative, what are some steps that can improve ventilation? 

Find out if your workplace is adequately ventilated! 

The first thing to do to is ask your employer to figure out if your workplace is adequately ventilated. This means: 

  • A minimum fresh air flow of 10 litres per person per second
  • Co2 levels of under 1000ppm (although 800ppm is best practice) 
  • Humidity levels between 40% and 60%

Your employer can monitor ventilation by investing in a CO2 monitor. These are not expensive and can be easily set up to make sure CO2 levels are below 800ppm. Remember that you can always ask your employer for a risk assessment on workplace ventilation. 

What if this shows that the ventilation isn’t adequate? 

If your workplace is not adequately ventilated your employer should go through these steps until you reach CO2 levels below 800ppm: 

  1. Can windows and doors can be opened to increase fresh air flows?
  2. Are heating ventilation and air conditioning systems [HVAC] turned on and set not to run on recycled air?
  3. Can air conditioning filters of a high enough quality limit the spread of COVID-19 (of a F8 standard or higher)?
  4. If the above isn’t possible consider purchasing air purifiers for rooms or spaces where adequate ventilation can’t be achieved.

I work in a small business, my boss says they can’t afford it to improve ventilation. 

Firstly, when it comes to providing a safe workplace, your boss has a duty, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure your workplace is safe and free of hazards. Cost is generally not a relevant consideration. 

However, if you work in a small public-facing business government support is available! Ventilation grants are still available through Business Victoria, and registration is open until Thursday 8th September 2022. For more information on the Business Victoria ventilation grant visit Small Business Ventilation Program – Ventilation Grant 

You can read more about the importance of ventilation on our website here. 

Is your workplace still COVIDSafe? 

Now that restrictions have eased, it can be hard to keep up with what your employers’ obligations are, and what you can do as a worker. Even though restrictions have eased, your employer still has a duty to keep your workplace safe and free of hazards, including COVID-19. If you think your employer should be doing more, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here.All workers deserve to have a COVIDSafe Workplace. 

ASK RENATA

I am a HSR at my workplace. I contacted WorkSafe’s enquiry line because my employer was insisting they conduct the election for a HSR vacancy in my DWG. I don’t believe this is appropriate. My boss claims WorkSafe attended and determined it’s OK for the employer to run the election. I have received no entry report nor was I provided opportunity to accompany the inspector or ask any questions about the determination. Can you please advise?

It is up to the members of the DWG to decide how to run the election, not the employer. Members may decide to hold a meeting and elect someone with a show of hands, or the election process may be more complex. The DWG can also choose to ask their union to assist. See our webpage for more helpful information.

That said, if the DWG cannot agree on a method they can ask Work Safe to arrange for an inspector to conduct the election, or appoint another person to do so, including someone from your union.

Regarding the workplace visit by a WorkSafe Inspector, they may visit the workplace at any time and HSRs have the power to request a visit by an inspector. HSRs also have the right to be notified by WorkSafe of any inspection and to accompany WorkSafe Inspectors if they're conducting the inspection anywhere a member of their DWG works. (See section 58 (1)(b) of the Act)

Under section 103, a Work Safe Inspector is required to give a written report when or as soon as practicable after leaving the workplace, to the occupier and HSRs (if any). The report must cover several items, including: 

  • The time of entry and departure 
  • The purpose of the entry 
  • A description of things done while at the place 
  • A summary of the inspector’s observations while at the workplace 
  • The procedure for contacting WorkSafe and the Inspector for further details of the entry 
  • The procedure for seeking a review of any decision made by the inspector during the entry

If an inspection occurs when you are not present, as an HSR you are entitled to a copy of the entry report which can be obtained either from your employer or WorkSafe. 

The OHS Act also has processes for seeking an internal review if you disagree with an Inspector’s decision (or non-decision). See our webpage for more information

ETU ISSUES SAFETY ALERT REGARDING HIGH VOLTAGE SWITCH GEAR

The ETU have issued a Safety Alert regarding the safe operation of high voltage switch gear following what it describes as 'industry steering away from the once established practice of routine switch gear maintenance to ensure the best possible protection'.

Following multiple incidents of switches failing, being incorrectly operated or injuring workers, the ETU have strongly advised workers should not operate any high voltage switching device unless steps detailed in the alert have been satisfied, including but not limited to:

  • A risk assessment undertaken of the task 
  • A manual handling and ergonomics assessment documenting loads and stresses placed on the employee
  • Adequate measures put in place to mitigate any risks or hazards identified

Click here for further information and more ETU OH&S and Safety Alerts

 

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