“Hi, I just want to know if, on returning to our workplace, managers can elect NOT to wear masks under “COVID-normal” ops? I do and was never asked not to, just the same, is the law not strong on this?”
“I am almost 63 years old and was wondering what weight an employer can ask me to lift on a regular daily basis? I’m working in a job where the employer says that 20 kgs is the “standard weight”. But in reality we’re often told to lift and carry bags that are closer to 25 kgs, and this can be up to 50 times a day. I feel this is too heavy for someone my age. After I raised this, the site supervisor gave us a demonstration on safe lifting techniques, and put some posters up in the lunchroom.”
One of the seemingly hardest duties for many employers to comply with is the duty to consult with elected health and safety representatives (HSRs). This is a legal duty under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 – and has been a legal duty since 1985 when workers were given the right to elect representatives, and these representatives were given rights and powers.Read more
COVID-19 – and the measures workplaces are having to take in seeking to minimise the risk of workers contracting the disease – is continuing to have consequences, sometimes unforeseen ones. The VTHC gets some interesting questions from workers – here’s one:
“I’m a truck driver and make deliveries to, and pick up containers from, various companies and locations. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I am constantly getting denied access to toilets. Previously there were no problems with me using their facilities. Is this legal? Can these companies deny me access to the toilets when I’m doing deliveries? On one occasion recently three clients in a row wouldn’t allow me to use their facilities, and this created a real problem for me.”Read more
On the evening of August 4, a fire in what is believed to be a fireworks factory, led to a small explosion in the port area of Beirut, Lebanon. Subsequently there was a massive explosion of a warehouse holding 2,700 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
Ammonium nitrate is a common fertilizing agent - and is also the main ingredient in some types of explosives. The chemical had been stored in the warehouse since 2014 when it had been seized from a Russian cargo ship. It has been reported that Lebanese customs officials wrote letters to the judiciary at least six times from 2014 to 2017, seeking guidance on how to dispose of the highly combustible material – reportedly not getting any response. Because of the nature of the materials they were unable to act. Other reports are that customs officials did not follow proper procedures: they simply kept resending the same letters in response to the judge’s request for more information.Read more
Last edition we looked at the unions’ struggle to achieve industrial manslaughter (IM) laws in Victoria, and how, in 2017 under Luke Hilakari as Secretary, the VTHC relaunched the campaign for these laws.
Since the earlier campaign, two other jurisdictions, the ACT and Queensland had introduced IM laws - but neither had had any successful prosecutions. So we wanted better laws, laws which would ‘work’.Read more
Why have we wanted and campaigned for industrial manslaughter laws in Victoria?
On a simple level it’s a desire for justice. When a family loses a loved one in a preventable workplace incident only to see the employer, who too often broke the law, prosecuted only to avoid paying the fine by going into receivership it hits them in the guts. Even when large corporations do end up paying the fine, that fine is like a slap on the wrist, and they can even insure themselves against it. Those companies, those employers don’t really pay; no-one seems to care. Yet if someone kills another person with a drunken punch or as a result of reckless driving, that individual is sent to jail.Read more
In the past week there has been an increase in alarm with the number of new COVID-19 infections growing in Victoria in numbers not seen since mid-March. The numbers are still extremely low if we look at other countries – for example the hotspot councils of Moreland and Hume had 26 and 51 active cases respectively early last week. However, the number of new infections in the state increased by 75 on Sunday June 28, the highest since the peak in April, illustrating we cannot be complacent.Read more
Last week we discussed some of the issues relating to returning to work, including the necessity that employers consult with workers and their representatives to ensure measures are taken to minimise risks of infection at the workplace (for example: the physical layout; air conditioning; cleaning and sanitisation; etc).
There are other risks workers may be exposed to when returning to work over which the employer has no control. A big one is the commute. We’ve seen reports of the congested public transport system in the UK as their restrictions are being lifted and workers urged to return to work, and the outrage this caused to the public and the transport unions in particular. This is an example of how things should NOT be done.Read more
"My employer has started to make noises about us
gradually returning to work. What are some of the issues
we need to be aware of?"