Union News

WORK SHOULDN’T HURT  -  SHARE YOUR VALUABLE PERSPECTIVE

Australian Unions are conducting their 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.

NSW MANDATES WORKPLACE PSYCHOSOCIAL RISK CONTROLS

The NSW Government has made the Work Health and Safety Amendment Regulation 2022 to implement recent changes to the national model WHS Regulations, including requiring PCBUs to implement control measures for psychosocial risks.

The NSW instrument states PCBUs must manage risks in accordance with the risk management provisions of the State Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017, aside from clause 36 ("Hierarchy of control measures").

When determining which controls to implement, it says, PCBUs must have regard to: the duration, frequency and severity of the exposure of workers and others to psychosocial hazards; how the hazards might interact or combine; the design of work; how work is managed, organised and supported; the workplace's design, layout and environmental conditions; the design, layout and conditions of workers' accommodation; the workplace's plant, substances and structures; workplace interactions or behaviours; and the information, training, instruction and supervision provided to workers.

Marie Boland made 34 recommendations for the national model WHS laws in early 2019 (see related article), with Safe Work Australia subsequently adopting 20 of them June this year, updating the model WHS Act, Regulations and other documents.

Most of the new changes commenced on Friday.

Source: OHSAlert 19 September

ASK RENATA

Are you able to provide me with research or data supporting for the establishment of a Quiet Mental Health Area in my workplace?

Whilst a quiet space or wellness area can be a particularly helpful workplace adjustment for neurodiverse employees, one should consider why the area is required in the first place. If it is required because the workplace creates mental health hazards for workers, the priority should be identifying and controlling systems of work that create the need for such an oasis in the first place.

We encourage HSRs to first focus on how to prevent exposure to hazards rather than reacting to that exposure.

Proposed new psychological health regulations will make it easier for employers to understand how to reduce worker exposure to psychological risks and will require, in the first instance, that system-of-work issues (high job demands, job insecurity, poor organisational change management, shift work, lack of role clarity etc) be addressed, before lower order controls are considered. 

Higher order, more effective controls, focus on changing the system-of-work to create a safe work environment. An example might be: eliminating work overload and addressing workplace culture so that regular breaks are both possible and encouraged.

Lower order controls focus on changing workers' behaviour, requiring the worker to protect themselves from what is essentially an unsafe work environment.

Our webpages contain more information. 

For advice, locate our Ask Renata facility on OHS Network Facebook or via email: [email protected] 

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS 

On Tuesday 20th September Victoria recorded:   

1,168 new daily infections    
20 COVID deaths   
163 hospitalisations, and 8 are in ICU.  

Cumulatively this equals:    

2,600,160 total Victorian infections   
5,569 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 105 since last week)   

You can check the Victorian live update here.   

Australia: As of the 20th of September, there have been a total of 10,161,241 COVID cases (an increase of 49,175 since last week) and 14,783 deaths (an increase of 362 since last week).   

World: As of 20th September, there had been 617,443,967 worldwide infections (614,292,991 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,531,566 (Source: Worldometer).   

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation.   

VACCINATION UPDATE    

89.35% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 20th September, have received their second dose, 91.95% 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 69.1% and the fourth dose 23.3% (16+).   

Check COVID-Live for Updates.  

RECOMMENDATION TO INCREASE HSR NUMBERS DECLINED

The NSW Government has declined to act on a recommendation to proactively increase the number of HSRs in the manufactured stone industry. .

A Committee review of the dust diseases workers' compensation scheme made 12 recommendations, including banning manufactured stone products – which have an extremely high concentration of silicosis-causing crystalline silica – if the industry fails to demonstrate sufficient workplace health and safety improvements by July 2024.

Other recommendations included: lowering the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica from 0.05mg per cubic metre over eight hours to 0.02mg; improving processes for measuring and reporting air quality in relation to silica dust; pushing for consistent product labels and safety data sheets for manufactured stone products; considering ways to increase the number of HSRs in the manufactured stone industry; and establishing a licensing scheme for businesses working with manufactured stone.

In its 13-page response the NSW State Government supports only two of the recommendations (around the definition of compensable dust diseases, and services for silicosis victims), supports some of them partly, and does not support the one around HSRs, claiming "SafeWork NSW is not in a position to enforce the election of HSRs.”

Source: OHSAlert 15 September 2022

WA - JUDGE FINDS EMPLOYER TOOK UNLAWFUL ACTION AGAINST SAFETY REP

A Federal judge has found that selecting a worker for redundancy, after he raised multiple safety concerns, constituted unlawful adverse action, with his employer failing to prove his termination was due to poor performance and not his exercise of workplace rights.

Employed as a truck driver at Mondiale International’s Perth depot the worker was also a HSR he was one of two Perth workers made redundant as part of the company's response to the negative financial impact of the COVID pandemic.

The worker declared the termination of his employment contravened general protections because he was selected for redundancy for exercising his workplace rights telling the Judge he exercised his rights by: challenging the validity of written warnings given to him, making a complaint in relation to being the subject of threats of violence, questioning the allocation of working hours, refusing to take a pay cut in March and April 2020 and raising multiple safety and bullying concerns throughout 2019 and 2020.

Judge Lucev found the worker had established the necessary objective facts that formed the basis of his adverse action case, meaning the onus of proof shifted to Mondiale to disprove his allegations.

Source: OHSAlert 20 September 2022

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