MENTAL HEALTH WORKPLACE ORGANISING
Last week VTHC co-hosted a Mental Health Workplace Safety Organising Conference with the ACTU. Whilst it appears that there is still much to do to address the psychosocial hazards in our workplaces, the conference allowed unionists to discuss strategies and ideas to make workplaces safer and healthier.
A couple of key highlights for attendees were theBlack Dog Institute’s presentation which explored the massive increase in psychological injuries and drew a link between this the increase in job uncertainty, imbalanced job design and a lack of respect creating the perfect storm. Presenters shared wins, losses, new thinking and research and attendees walked away with a many new idea on how to address some of these issues.
WORK SHOULDN’T HURT. DO YOU FEEL SAFE?
Australian Unions are conducting their second national survey about workers’ experience of health and safety in the workplace, and would really value your input.
The survey seeks to build on Unions existing understanding of your experience at work, what’s important to you, and what you think could be improved.
Responses collected last year were critical in winning stronger health and safety laws and rights, and we’ve seen important improvements with draft Psychological Health Regulations proposed for inclusion in our health and safety laws - a huge step forward in the prevention of mental illness.
Valuable input from workers like you have the power to bring more change resulting in better health and safety conditions in every workplace. This year’s survey has been extended and is now open until Tuesday 11 October 2022 and can be accessed here.
Can a volunteer in my organisation be a HSR?
Only members of the DWG can be elected as HSR, and under section 44(1)(a) of the the OHS Act, negotiations concerning DWGs must be directed only at 'the manner of grouping "employees" into one or more DWGs' (my paraphrasing).
In other words, if you're not 'employed under a contract of employment, or contract of training' -the definition of employee provided in section 5 of the Act - you're unfortunately excluded from DWG membership, and by extension, election as a HSR.
*In Victoria we differ to the states and territories covered by the model Work Health Safety Acts where anyone who undertakes any work at a workplace, including voluntary work, is now included in the definition of 'worker'. This also applies to work experience students. SafeWork Australia has a topic page on Volunteers
That being said, volunteers in Victoria are still protected by the Act. Under section sections 23 and 24 the employer has a duty to ensure that no activity of his/her business puts the health or safety of people other than employees at risk.
Read more on our Webpage, Volunteers in the Workplace,
COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS
On Tuesday 13th September Victoria recorded:
1,801 new daily infections
25 COVID deaths
229 hospitalisations, and 5 are in ICU.
Cumulatively this equals:
2,589,533 total Victorian infections
5,494 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 131 since last week)
You can check the Victorian live update here.
Australia: As of 13th September, there have been a total of 10,121,004 COVID cases (an increase of 45,257 since last week) and 14,457 deaths (an increase of 379 since last week).
World: As of 13th September, there had been 614,292,991 worldwide infections (610,382,282 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,518,098 (Source: Worldometer).
89.33% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 13th September, have received their second dose, 91.93% their first dose. For the third dose the figure is 69.8% (16+).
The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 98.0%, Second Dose 96.3%, the third dose 69.0% and the fourth dose 23.1% (16+).
Check COVID-Live for Daily Updates.
REPORTING COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
Ask yourself: if there aren’t incident reports for COVID cases or outbreaks, then how is your employer recording it?
It’s important to remind members of your DWG to report communicable diseases, such as COVID, when they are in the workplace. Incident reports are important records for HSRs, allowing HSRs to know how many COVID cases or outbreaks are happening at work. This record keeping will help you see if there are any trends in when or how an outbreak happens and how to prevent future occurrences. COVID cases or outbreaks at work should be treated like any other workplace hazards.
UK: END OF NHS COVID TESTING WILL CAUSE SAFETY WORRIES
The UK government’s decision to end Covid testing for NHS staff will create safety worries and must be kept under review, health union UNISON has said. Responding to the announcement on 24 August that asymptomatic Covid testing is no longer required for NHS workers, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “NHS staff were already alarmed that last month’s withdrawal of Covid pay and leave measures could be a backward step. Dispensing with testing requirements will make them even more worried about safety and the resilience of services.
Decisions about regular testing should be based on clinical risk and not on factors such as cost. The price will be far greater if hospitals become overwhelmed.” She added: “This decision must be kept under careful review and asymptomatic testing has to be restored as soon as possible if infections begin to escalate.”
Source: UNISON news release.