Union News


HSR CONFERENCE 2022 - HSR LIFESAVERS
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
Where:
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.

ASK RENATA

What are my HSR rights to arrange meetings with my DWG, and to determine the format of such meetings? I find engagement online, and through email, to be ineffective and would prefer face-to-face engagement with my workmates.

There is nothing in the Act or Regulations that explicitly mandates regular face-to-face meetings between HSRs and their DWG.

This is because OHS legislation is what we call ‘objective based’, not ‘prescriptive’ – that is, it does not mandate HOW consultation between HSRs and DWGs should be done, just that it must be occur.

It is therefore up to the parties to negotiate and agree on  procedures that meet the requirements of the Act and safeguard the safety of employees and other persons, while taking into account operational requirements.

Note that under s.58(1) HSRs have the power to inspect the workplace. In the event a DWG meeting cannot be organized HSRs are still empowered to speak to everyone in their DWG as part of such an inspection.

Where such in-person interaction is not practicable virtual consultation is better than no consultation. In our experience however the power of face-to-face communication is irreplaceable.

Also worth noting: under s.69(1)(d)(i) employers have an obligation to release HSRs, on paid time, to exercise their powers under the Act.

We’re aware of one HSR who reached agreement with their employer that a 10-minute allocated slot, in weekly toolbox meetings, would achieve the same outcome as allocating 4 hours a week to speak with every member of their DWG, face-to-face.

Under s.35(3) of the Act, an employer who’s obliged to consult, must do so by providing all relevant information to employees and HSRs in a timely manner, enabling opportunity for the matter to be considered and views expressed.

Regular timed meetings between HSRs and DWGs are a good way for employers to ensure they're providing that opportunity.

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.

YOUNG WORKERS CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT APPRENTICES

All apprentices deserve to be safe at work - but right now, too many are bullied, harassed and put in unsafe situations because the system is not vetting bosses and stopping repeat offenders from cycling through apprentices. 

Alia, a young apprentice chef, had to abandon her apprenticeship last year when she was only 6 months from completing it. Her workplace had been so lax on safety she was electrocuted while cleaning an e-water system and she had to walk herself to hospital after cutting her thumb on a mandolin slicer.  

She had already experienced consistent bullying and intimidation, having to duck containers that were thrown at her head. It finally became too much. 

Jae, an apprentice boilermaker, was forced to work in confined spaces with no ventilation or extraction fans, with only a mask that was hard to breathe through. He had to move employers after enduring months of bullying, injuries, and denial of proper training.  

One of the places he had to leave was Marshall Lethlean. The safety was so bad he left because he was afraid someone would die. Just weeks later, a young apprentice named Dillon Wu died in his second week at work after being forced to work unsupervised in an enclosed space, suffocating on argon gas. He was just 20 years old.  

Unfortunately, Alia and Jae’s stories are not unique. It's become so bad that only half of Victorian apprentices ever finish their training. That’s why Jae and Alia are now advocating for changes to the apprentice system.  Support them by signing Jae’s petition and together we can create change that will protect apprentices. 

COVID-19 LATEST NUMBERS  

On Tuesday 4th October, Victoria recorded:   

1,456 new daily infections    
7 COVID deaths   
143 hospitalisations, and 8 are in ICU with 2 patients on Ventilator’s. 

Cumulatively this equals:    

2,612,409 total Victorian infections   
5,664 Victorian COVID deaths (an increase of 92 since last week)   

You can check the Victorian live update here.   

Australia: As of the 27th of September, there have been a total of 10,243,195 COVID cases (an increase of 81,954 since last week) and 15,228 deaths (an increase of 278 since last week).   

World: As of 27th September, there had been 623,690,452 worldwide infections (620,692,913 last week). The number of official COVID-related deaths is now 6,551,741 (Source: Worldometer).   

Read more: Coronavirus;COVID-19 Victorian situation.   

VACCINATION UPDATE    

94.7% of Victorians (16+), as of 30th September, have received their second dose, 96.2% their first dose.  For the third dose the figure is 73.9% (16+).   

The figure for all eligible Australians (16+), for the same date is First Dose 98.2%, Second Dose 96.5%, the third dose 71.8% and the fourth dose 40.9% (30+).   

CheckCOVID-Livefor Updates.  

MANDATORY ISOLATION PERIOD ENDS

Last week, the National Cabinet met and announced that from October 14th, the COVID-19 mandatory isolation period would end, except for workers in high-risk industries like aged care and healthcare. The Victorian premier said that he ‘supported the unanimous decision,’ signalling that alongside the scrapping of face masks on public transport, the state would have minimal COVID restrictions. However, the National Chief Medical Officer stressed that advice was subject to change and that ‘This does not in any way suggest the pandemic is finished. We will ... see future peaks.’

Isolation payments will also be stopped once the rules are scrapped, except for those working in healthcare or aged care. If you are a casual worker in Victoria, you may be eligible for the Sick Pay Guarantee, which is a Victorian government program offering five days sick leave to casuals in select industries. For more information, and to sign up, please follow this link.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald-National cabinet scraps mandatory COVID-19 isolation

SILICA NEWS

Coinciding with National Safe Work Month, Lung Foundation’s Australia’s campaign is all about the risks associated with working on silica-containing materials.  

As HSRs would be aware, when silica-containing materials like engineered stone, bricks, concrete, drywall, mortar and tiles are crushed, cut, drilled, ground, sawed, sanded or polished, silica dust is generated, putting those exposed at risk. 

The Lung Foundation are encouraging anyone who works with these materials to complete their anonymous Healthy Lungs at Work Quiz

This quiz will assist those exposed to determine their risk of developing silicosis – an entirely preventable condition.

Take two minutes to complete the organisation’s anonymous and free Healthy Lungs at Work Quiz today, at Lungfoundation.com.au/SafeWork

NEW VICARIOUS TRAUMA WEBSITE

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.

 

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

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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