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Package tackles work safety in car industry

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The Victorian Minister for WorkCover, John Lenders, yesterday launched a $500,000 package to make Victoria's car manufacturing industry safer for workers.

Mr Lenders said the new Guide to Manual Handling in the Automotive Industry and the Safe Handling of Chemicals in the Automotive Industry project were part of $6 million WorkSafe program to improve occupational health and safety in workplaces across Victoria.

"The motor vehicle manufacturing and parts industry is a major employer in Victoria and a significant contributor to the State's economy," Mr Lenders said.

"However, more needs to be done to prevent workplace injuries in the sector.

"There are about 1000 serious workplace injuries each year resulting in more than $40 million in WorkCover claims - or about two per cent of the industry's total $2 billion annual output.

"While workplace injuries can significantly impact on a person's quality of life, it is important to remember that it can also adversely effect a company's viability, particularly smaller manufacturing companies that make up a majority of the industry's 600 workplace."

Mr Lenders said about two thirds of workplace injury claims in the car manufacturing industry were for musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains, strains and joint disorders, caused by poor manual handling.

Speaking at Ford Australia's Campbellfield car assembly plant, Mr Lenders said the industry's support for the two projects demonstrated its commitment to workplace safety.

He said the new Guide to Manual Handling in the Automotive Industry provided information on how to safely carry out a range of activities, including lifting, pushing, pulling, holding and carrying.

"In vehicle manufacturing, many injuries are caused by repetitive tasks such as packaging, assembling, using hand tools and operating machinery and equipment," Mr Lenders said.

"The simple fact is that manual handling injuries are not acceptable when the majority of them are preventable - something this guide will go a long way towards doing."

Mr Lenders said the Safe Handling of Chemicals in the Automotive Industry, was the 19th project to be funded under WorkSafe's $6 million WorkSafe Safety Development Fund, launched in 2001.

"The safe handling and management of chemicals in vehicle manufacturing and parts is crucial to preventing serious injury and disease caused by exposure to or handling of chemicals," Mr Lenders said.

"This project will help industry develop better risk management approaches to the safe handling, purchasing and control of chemicals in the automotive industry.

"Over the next two years, businesses, employer groups and unions will investigate injuries and diseases caused by manual handling of - and exposure to - chemicals, including chemical reactions.

"This includes sprains and strains related to chemical handling and acute and chronic illnesses such as skin diseases, respiratory illnesses, motor neurone diseases and cancers."

Mr Lenders said the WorkSafe-funded project would be led by the National Union of Workers and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (Vehicle Division) in conjunction with other unions and employer groups that form the Motor Vehicle and Parts OHS Industry Forum.

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