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Tag Archives: Workplace deaths

ACTU advocating justice calls for on-the-job deaths

Responding to revelations surrounding of an increase of workers killed in workplace-related accidents last year, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called for a national set of legislation aimed at punishing those who fail to keep their workplaces safe to acceptable standards.

An ACTU delegation of union officials and family members who have lost loved ones at their worksites spoke out in front of the Federal Senate Courtyard in Canberra on Thursday, and highlighted the fact that 183 workers were killed on Australian worksites and places of business in 2019, an increase of 37 deaths viewed as unavoidable by them as well as WorkSafe compared to 2018.

That rise marked the first of its kind in year-to-year statistics since 2007, said the ACTU.

Moreover, the ACTU sought to remind everyone that these aren’t just statistics – these are actual people who lost their lives at work due to accidents, and how their families, friends and loved ones have been impacted by such losses of life.

“Everyone should feel safe at work. No worker is expendable. Everyone has a right to go home to their families at the end of every day,” said Liam O’Brien, the ACTU’s assistant secretary.

Elsewhere, in Victoria alone, the state’s WorkSafe organisation reported on November 20 that with the electrocution death of a 29-year-old country farm hand in Gerang Gerung, located near Dimboola in the state’s central regions between Horsham and Warracknabeal, approximately 340 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, the state’s 2020 workplace-related fatalities toll has risen to 61, a rise of two from 2019 to date.

The state’s increase rate in workplace-related fatalities over the previous 365 days had been as high as five, when in late October, a 71-year-old worker at a northern Geelong folding bed manufacturing factory got his clothes tangled in machinery.

“I can’t begin to imagine the pain felt by the families who have lost a loved one at work. I don’t want any families to suffer that type of trauma,” said Jill Hennessey, the state’s Attorney-General, when Spring Street passed a workplace manslaughter law last year.

“We promised we’d make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence and that’s exactly what we’ve done – because there is nothing more important than every worker coming home safe every day,” added Hennessey, who was the minister for workplace safety for the Andrews Labor government at the time of the law’s passage that she was responsible for.

 

ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien, calling for action from the Morrison government on workplace deaths (Photo from the ACTU)

 

Under this legislation, in the state of Victoria, workplace manslaughter is deemed a criminal offence, with employers who negligently cause a workplace death are due to face fines of up to $16.5 million and individuals potentially facing up to 20 years in jail.

Similar laws are also being introduced in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory – and O’Brien and the ACTU have called for the Morrison government to step up and introduce similar legislation nationally.

“We hope that politicians on all sides will understand the importance of committing to tougher workplace health and safety laws – especially when hearing that there has been an increase of fatalities since 2018,” he said.

“The Morrison government must take action to ensure that no matter where a worker is killed their family can expect these deaths to be thoroughly investigated and employers are held to account,” added O’Brien.

Victoria Trades Hall has worked together with WorkSafe Victoria to ensure that if a worksite death does occur, that actions such as the offering of counselling, leave, and bereavement are available to all co-workers, affected family members and friends.

“Dealing with grief takes time. It is a normal response to death, trauma and loss. People need support at different times and in different ways. What happens in a workplace following a death can be a very important part of the process,” Luke Hilakari, VTH secretary, wrote in a guide to enable businesses’ occupational health and safety representatives deal with such incidents in a case-by-case basis.

Currently, the biggest industry increases in workplace fatalities have occurred in the construction industry, followed by public administration and safety, and then agriculture. As of 2018, each of these industries had suffered a rate of fatalities at a higher rate than their respective prior five-year averages.

The casualisation of labour forces on job sites, aided and abetted by a move from the Morrison government last year to amend the Fair Work Act (2009) to require union officials to pre-register within 24 hours before setting foot on a job site, is said to be a contributing factor to the increase of workplace-related fatalities.

Sally McManus, the ACTU’s secretary, disclosed on Thursday that in the recently-concluded industrial relations reform negotiations, that proposed changes to the Greenfields laws under the Fair Work Act that would have enhanced workers’ protections on site were voted down by some business groups, which McManus identified as the mining and resource lobby.

“These construction projects rely on FIFO workforces, who both live and work on site. They have been plagued with problems related to mental health, with a high number of suicides,” said McManus.

“If there is no means for workers on these sites to address problems as they arise, and they are denied the right all other workers have to renegotiate their working conditions, they must as a minimum have access to the Fair Work Commission to resolve issues so we do not see an intensification of the pre-exiting issues.

“Unfortunately, the mining and resource employers rejected this reasonable and sensible offer and pushed for agreements being doubled in length, expanding the scope so even construction sites in cities are covered and locking workers out of any fair means to resolving issues as they arise,” McManus added.

Lowering the numbers of workplace fatalities should involve issues surrounding fairness, as well as that as compassion towards enhancing policies around OH&S issues, according to O’Brien.

“You cannot hear the harrowing stories of these loved ones left behind and not want to commit to stronger laws protecting Australians in their workplaces,” he said.

“Every year hundreds die in workplaces and their families deserve justice,” added O’Brien.

 

 

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Australia and public safety

Domestic Violence

According to the most recent National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP) annual report, there have been more than 6,200 homicides in Australia since data collection began in 1989–90, with one in every four cases involving the death of a victim killed by his or her intimate partner (see Chan & Payne 2013).

It is quite difficult to find a list of deaths due to domestic violence on the internet.

This one authoritative reference shows that, on average, over the past 25 years, 60 people have died every year due to domestic violence.

There is no reference to the terror and fear felt by the victims and by those who have escaped such situations. No reference to the research which shows that this is just the tip of the iceberg with statistics revealing that over 20 per cent of women have suffered from domestic violence during their lives.

There is no juggernaut of Governmental policing, investigation and information gathering to deal with this ongoing human tragedy.

There are no screaming headlines, no great election announcements, no hysteria.

Simply an acceptance that “These things happen.”

Workplace deaths

There are more workplace deaths and injuries than Domestic Violence deaths and injuries. There is a consequent larger proportion of our national wealth spent on combating these problems. I will not make any comment about the fact that there are more men involved in these statistics than in domestic violence statistics.

The lastest key ststistics I have found are in the 2014 Work Place report. To summarise – in 2014, 184 people died at work.

So we are looking at near 200 people who leave home for work in the morning and do not return that night.

Yes, there are Governmental departments which look into work-place safely and breaches of safety regulations. Yet they are always being subject to cuts in Government funding.

There are no screaming headlines, no great election announcements, no hysteria.

Simply an acceptance that “These things happen.”

Mesothelioma

Then there is the epidemic of asbestos-caused diseases:

“Recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data show that there were 606 deaths attributed to mesothelioma in 2011. It has been estimated that this number will not peak until after 2014″.

However, this epidemic was caused by one man who happened to be the father of Australia’s richest and most litigiousness woman.

There are no screaming headlines, no great election announcements, no hysteria.

Simply an acceptance that “These things happen.”

Terrorism

In 2014, New Matilda posted an article Death Down Under: A History Of Muslim Terrorism In Australia By Chris Graham. Graham says:

Real or imagined, the threat of Muslim terrorism can’t be ignored. In this NM exclusive, we bring you the shocking death toll of Australians on Australian soil at the hands of Muslim terrorists.

Zero.

This was not quite correct. There was the Broken Hill shooting in 1915 which left 6 people dead, including the two Muslims who started the killing spree.

Since then four people have died in terrorist events inside Australia.

So in 100 years, an entire century, ten people have died in Australia from terrorism.

One person a decade, or .1 of a person per year.

Billions of our dollars are being spent to stop these overly common and completely unacceptable events. Political leaders are in a lather. Millions of words are being spewed by the Main Stream Media. We are all being taught to fear the vague possibility that we may be close to such a happening. Yet we are not being taught to fear being killed at work or at home.

No! For terrorism things are different . . .

There are screaming headlines, great election announcements, hysteria.

Simply an acceptance that “These things MUST NOT happen.”

This article first appeared on Ærchies Archive – Digital Detritus and has been reproduced with permission.