28 APRIL 2023 – The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) is marking International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) by calling for greater powers for union delegates and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) as well as federal industrial manslaughter laws and more protections for workers exposed to dangerous fumes and chemicals.
AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer said:
“Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day – a day where all are called on to remember those workers who have failed to come home after leaving for work. A day we remember those who have been diagnosed and perished with cancers and other illnesses, sometimes decades later, because of their exposures whilst at work. A day where we remember the thousands of Australian workers who have been maimed in the pursuit of making a living, some bearing their scars and disabilities for the rest of their lives.
“This day presents an opportunity to pause in our otherwise busy lives and think about what really matters: our workmates, our families, our friends and those we love. An opportunity to evaluate what is important and reaffirm the value we as Australians place on life. The 169 workers who were traumatically killed at work in 2021, the last complete reporting period , were all victims of needless and preventable incidents.
“The best possible way to prevent tragedies occurring at work is by empowering union delegates and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) to do their jobs as effectively as possible. No government regulator can replace the thousands of delegates and HSRs who keep their workmates safe every day. Outdated industrial relations laws are making that vital work much harder and endangering people on the job.
“We need the government to go that extra step to protect Australian workers. We need to introduce industrial manslaughter laws into the Commonwealth Work Health & Safety Act, we need to stop Australian workers from being exposed to dangerous chemicals and ensure that exposure standards are health-based, not simply an artificial upper limit.
“In the case of welding fumes, under the current Workplace Exposure Standards welders are notionally ‘allowed’ to breathe up to 11 grams of a known carcinogen every year . Our policy bodies have failed to do what they are entrusted to do. We have a responsibility to right this wrong.
“The AMWU calls on all who mark this day to recommit to making workplace health and safety our highest priority. That means doing what our gut tells us is right, despite it not always being what’s popular or comfortable. If you see or sense something’s not right or not safe, or you’re just not sure, speak up. Let’s not watch any more workers needlessly die at work. Let’s watch out for our mates and if something feels unsafe, let’s stop.”
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