Union News



We all know active HSRs save lives! Our annual HSR Conference is back and this year we’re talking all about mentally healthy workplaces and insights from the COVID pandemic. For the first time in two years, this conference will be held in person!

Here are the details:

Date: 27 October 2022
Time: 8:30am – 2:30pm
Melbourne - Centrepiece Melbourne Park
Bendigo - Bendigo Trades Hall Council
Wodonga - La Trobe University
Portland - Portland Golf Club
Morwell - Italian Australian Sporting Club

This year numbers are limited so sign-up ASAP. Check out the program and register here.


The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) who represent the Victorian Public Service have established a new website with the aim of helping workplaces become better aware of vicarious trauma and introducing practices that could help prevent or lessen its impact.

Vicarious trauma occurs when workers are exposed to traumatic content, or through hearing or reading about traumatic details in the course of their work, and is often cumulative in effect.

This information has been primarily designed for the Victorian Public Service, however the resources available within it are relevant to all organisations whose staff engage with traumatic content as part of their work. In Victoria, the OHS Act includes psychological health and therefore organisations are legally responsible to look after the mental health of their workers.

You can view the CPSUs website here.


What is the allowable legal limit blood alcohol content, for the purposes of operating a forklift?

We would obviously be advising anybody with alcohol in their system, or who is otherwise impaired, not to drive a forklift.

There’s nothing in the OHS Act, nor Regulations, specifically addressing allowable BAC levels when operating a forklift - so in theory there is nothing preventing someone with a BAC above 0.00 driving a forklift.

That being said, forklifts are high risk plant and as you’d be aware the employer has a duty under s.21 to ‘provide and maintain so far as reasonably practicable .... a working environment that is safe and without risk to health.’

Under that duty a policy requiring zero BAC when undertaking high-risk work may be justifiable, contingent on meaningful consultation with affected workers in the formulation of any such policy.

Worth noting: In April 2021 a new law for truck drivers came into effect requiring a zero blood-alcohol limit for drivers of heavy vehicles greater than 4.5 tonne (GVM). You can learn more here.

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


On Tuesday 27th September Victoria recorded:   

1,762 new daily infections    
20 COVID deaths   
159 hospitalisations, and 11 are in ICU with 2 patients on Ventilator’s. 

Cumulatively this equals:    

2,604,329 total Victorian infections   
5,597 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 28 since last week)   

You can check the Victorian live update here.   

Australia: As of the 27th of September, there have been a total of 10,161,241 COVID cases (an increase of 44,716 since last week) and 14,950 deaths (an increase of 167 since last week).   

World: As of 27th September, there had been 620 692 913 worldwide infections ( 617,443,967 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,541,640 (Source: Worldometer).   

Read more: Coronavirus; COVID-19 Victorian situation.   


89.35% of all eligible Victorians (5+), as of 27th September, have received their second dose, 91.96% their first dose.  For the third dose the figure is 69.9% (16+).   

The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 98.1%, Second Dose 96.4%, the third dose 69.1% and the fourth dose 23.5% (16+).   

Check COVID-Live for Updates.  


The Victorian Government announced last week that the mask mandate on public transport, taxis and ride share vehicles would end from Friday the 23rd of September. The Health Minister said that masks are still ‘strongly recommended’ in these spaces and in crowded indoor settings, including schools. Health authorities still recommend being up to date with vaccinations, wearing masks when you can’t adequately distance and proper ventilation in workplaces to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Source: The Age


Legislation prohibiting conduct creating hostile workplace environments and imposing a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, has been introduced by the Federal Government. If passed it will implement seven of the 55 recommendations from Kate Jenkins' 2020 Respect@Work report.

The ACTU is calling for all parties to support the amendment, with the positive duty requiring all employers to prevent harassment, without waiting for victims to raise complaints, being particularly important.

"Only 17 per cent of those sexually harassed at work feel safe reporting it," the ACTU noted.

Importantly, the duty also requires employers to prevent harassment by third parties, critical for many workers in retail and fast food where customers are a common source of harassment.

"For workers in the retail and fast-food industry, many of them teenagers, customers are the biggest perpetrators of sexual harassment. It's welcome to see the Albanese Government taking steps to hold employers accountable for also preventing this type of harassment," ACTU president Michele O'Neil said

The previous Coalition Government introduced laws adopting six of Jenkins' recommendations, but did not support adding a positive duty to the Sex Discrimination Act.

The Labor Government Bill adds the positive duty to the SD Act, prohibits conduct subjecting another person to a hostile work environment on the grounds of sex, and empowers the Human Rights Commission to inquire into systemic unlawful discrimination.

Source: OHSAlert 27 September 2022 Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022


On September 8, 2022, a milestone was reached in the history of Australian asbestos mining town, Wittenoom, with the eviction of 80-year-old Lorraine Thomas – the town’s last resident. Pursuant to West Australian (WA) legislation, the action was taken by government officials and bailiffs as Mrs Thomas had missed the 31 August 31 deadline to evacuate her home. While there’s now no-one left in residence, blue asbestos fibres remain in Wittenoom’s air, water and soil after decades of crocidolite mining.

Source: International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



Over recent months the team has been made aware of a number of workplaces that have signs like this stuck to workplace bathroom mirrors.

It certainly prompted some discussion in our office and now we want to hear from you, the magnificent HSRs of the We Union OHS Reps Network - what are your thoughts or response to this ‘safety message.’

Send your responses to [email protected] Best submitted caption will be published in next week's journal, and wins a prize.

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