Newsletter - March 2012

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents". They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn't an important priority. Workers’ Memorial Day commemorates those workers.

Worldwide, hundreds of thousands die in workplace “accidents”; millions die of occupational diseases every year. The meat industry is far too dangerous. There are far too many serious injuries. But in the past few years there have been a significant number of deaths also.

Union organisation is the remedy. Prevention is the only cure.

The day is also intended to serve as a rallying cry to “remember the dead, but fight like hell for the living”.

Because many workers are not at work on Saturday we propose coming together on Friday 27 April at 10.30am. If you can’t come to Trades hall hold a minutes silence at work to remember those who have died at 11.00am.

Injured at work?

Too often when we are injured at work and need to go to the doctor our supervisors (managers) want to come in with us when we discuss our injuries/illness, diagnosis and treatment with the doctor. However the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship must be respected.

Recently this issue was taken to Fair Work Australia by the CFMEU. See the outcome taken from an article by Clay Lucas in The Age, 28 March 2012:

“AUSTRALIA'S biggest construction materials supplier has been warned by the national workplace umpire that its practice of supervisors accompanying injured staff members into doctors' consulting rooms - to help develop a return-to-work plan - is poor practice.

A Boral Plasterboard worker at the company's Port Melbourne factory on February 21 sustained a minor injury to his hand, requiring a small number of stitches.

The man's supervisor, with the agreement of the worker, accompanied him to the doctor's surgery.

The next day, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union raised the incident with the company, saying it raised issues of privacy and could interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.

Boral argues that, where workplace injuries are concerned, it has a duty of care to accompany employees to medical visits, to ensure they receive proper treatment.

On Monday at a conciliation hearing to help resolve the dispute between Boral and the union, Fair Work Australia commissioner John Ryan recommended the manufacturer change its practice.

''I am of the opinion that the current process implemented by Boral at Port Melbourne has the very real potential to operate unfairly,'' Mr Ryan wrote, in a non-binding opinion issued on Monday.

Boral's request that injured workers permit a supervisor or manager to attend while the employee is being treated could place them in a difficult position, Mr Ryan wrote.

''The real vice in Boral's actions is that an injured worker who needs to get to a doctor for medical treatment may not have the capacity to say 'no' to such a request. Boral puts the request to an employee when the employee is vulnerable,'' he wrote. This could ''create a situation of undue influence or pressure being placed on the employee''.

Mr Ryan said that supervisors should come into the doctor's surgery only once the injury was dealt with.”

Information about Health and Safety or WorkCover call Gwynnyth Evans