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  Issue No 51 Official Organ of LaborNet 28 April 2000  




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Remembering the Fallen

NSW Industrial Relations Minister Jeff Shaw's keynote address to mark the International Day of Mourning for Deaths in the Workplace.


Jeff Shaw addresses union rally

Thank you for inviting me to participate in today's proceedings, the fifth commemoration of an event begun on 28 April, 1996 during the session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development in New York.

On that day, trade unions held a special candlelight ceremony to highlight the number of workers who have died, were injured or became ill due to inadequate occupational health and safety measures.

The date has since been officially designated by the International Confederation of Trade Unions as the International Day of Mourning to commemorate dead and injured workers.

Statistics gathered by the International Confederation of Trade Unions indicate that more than 1.1 million workers die around the world each year - that's almost 3,300 a day.

Of these approximately 12,000 workplace accidents claim the lives of children.

Occupational diseases cause around 325,000 of the deaths. Most of these involve hazardous substances, with asbestos as the largest single killer, claiming about 100,000 lives a year.

Here in NSW, 163 workers' compensation claims were made for work-related fatalities in 1998/99. Between March 1999 and March 2000, WorkCover has investigated 47 traumatic deaths in the workplace.

Each and every one of these workplace deaths, is a tragedy and it is important for us today to remember not only the victims, but their families, friends and work colleagues whom these tragedies also affect.

Young people new to the workforce are particularly vulnerable. On 1 February this year two teenagers were killed in separate workplace accidents.

In one case a 16-year old was working on a roof without fall protection equipment when he fell 12 metres.

In the other a 17-year old apprentice mechanic was killed when he took the motor cycle he was repairing for a test ride, lost control of the bike and collided with a truck. The motor cycle seat had apparently been removed prior to the accident and the young man was not wearing a crash helmet.

The message from these deaths is that employers must ensure that all their workers are equipped to do their job safely. If an employee is young or inexperienced then additional safety checks need to be in place before that person commences work.

As Minister for Industrial Relations, my responsibilities through WorkCover NSW for occupational health and safety matters in this State provide me with clear insight into the impact of workplace injury and illness.

In New South Wales, two major advertising campaigns are currently promoting awareness of occupational health and safety issues. One highlights the need for co-operation between every person, whether manager, supervisor or worker, to ensure that safe work practices are followed and risks are properly managed. The other highlights the co-operative effort needed to help injured workers return to suitable jobs as quickly and safely as possible.

Work injuries affect victims both physically and mentally. Extended time off work and, in some cases, the prospect of never regaining total fitness, can impact on injured workers' future earning capacity and their self-esteem, and this then begins to affect their families.

The Workplace Injury Management and Worker's Compensation Act, introduced in 1998, clearly defines responsibilities of injured workers, their employers, insurers, doctors and work colleagues and the co-operation required to help injured workers regain meaningful employment. A series of workshops on injury management will also be held throughout New South Wales in May, July and August.

In 1998/99 prosecution of offenders for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act resulted in convictions in 95 per cent of all court-determined cases. A total of 650 summonses were laid and court imposed fines for safety breaches totalled $2.97 million.

I am very pleased to announce that I have just given approval for the creation of an additional 25 WorkCover inspector positions. This will bring the total number of inspectors in New South Wales to 301. This gives NSW the largest OHS Inspectorate in Australia.

On 26 February this year 24 new WorkCover Inspectors obtained the nationally accredited WorkCover Diploma of Injury and Illness Prevention and Management. They are now working in the field.

Today provides us with an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives, been injured or made ill in the workplace. The best memorial we can grant them is to prevent such things happening in the future.


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*   Issue 51 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Wrestling With Reith
CPSU national secretary Wendy Caird has faced the full force of Peter Reith's attack on the federal public sector. The good news is she's still fighting.
*  Unions: The Organiser
As the nature of working life changes fundamentally, union organisers like Sally are taking up the challenge and changing too.
*  Safety: Remembering the Fallen
NSW Industrial Relations Minister Jeff Shaw's keynote address to mark the International Day of Mourning for Deaths in the Workplace.
*  History: May Day Connections
May Day as a modern working class celebration and commemoration began from the 1886 events in Chicago where workers were demonstrating for an eight hour day. But the day already had special significance for working people before then.
*  Women: Swelling the Ranks
Jenny Wright wears the honour of being the nation's first pregnant wharfie modestly. But it's not all clear sailing for this trailblazer.
*  International: Dawn Raid to Arrest Korean Union Leaders
Riot police have broken into the office of the Daewoo Motors Workers Union in Pupyung, near Seoul, and taken union leaders into custody for the "crime" of leading a militant struggle to save the jobs of Korean auto workers.
*  Satire: Angry Star City Staff Strike it Unlucky
Gamblers panicked when they discovered they were locked out of the Casino when 1800 workers walked out.
*  Review: The World of Wobbly Window Cleaners
A new book 'Reshaping the Labour Market' shines the spotlight on the impact of labour market deregulation.

»  Government to Outsource Staff Relations
»  Dial-A-Contract Hits Call Centres
»  Reith Loses Plot Over 'Bad Bargaining' Bible
»  Prayer for the Fallen Marks International Day
»  Entitlement Time-Bomb Still Ticking
»  No Joy for Southern Picket
»  Union Fighter Shapes Up For Casino Workers
»  Stopped Clock Starts Ticking at Sydney Water
»  Telstra Tangle Over 'Honest Rob'
»  A Week of May Days
»  Big Drum Up for East Timor!
»  Pick a Pollie - the Truth Revealed

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  SOCOG Makes Another Meal Of It
»  Seeking Unionists With Blues
»  Is Red Ken So Clean?

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