Ask Renata

We recently ran an employee experience survey which found 64% of staff are experiencing symptoms of burnout, 52% say their workload is unmanageable and 48% feel unsafe to challenge the way things are done here. I'm wanting support on how to work with other HSRs and talk to management about making changes.

Firstly, we’re very sorry to hear you're required to work in such an unsafe environment. The employee experience survey provides clear evidence of poorly controlled psychological hazards at your workplace.

The four steps in the risk management process (identify, assess, control and monitor) must all be done in consultation with affected workers, including their elected HSRs, as stated in section 35 of our OHS Act.

Your employer has the duty, under section 21, to 'eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.' It is important to note that the definition of 'health' includes psychological health.

Understanding that your employer has statutory obligations to both listen to the concerns of workers, and provide a safe work environment, should empower those staff who are feeling 'unsafe to challenge the way things are done.'

It is worth mentioning that the impending enactment of Psychological Health Regulations in Victoria is a significant development for both you and your colleagues. These regulations will require employers to have written prevention plans if one or more of the following psychological hazards are identified in their workplace:

  1. aggression or violence
  2. bullying
  3. exposure to traumatic content or events
  4. high job demands
  5. sexual harassment

Learn more here.

WorkSafe has provided examples of high job demands, they include long work hours, high workloads, work beyond employees' capabilities, exposure to traumatic events, and working in unpleasant or hazardous conditions. By raising awareness of these impending regulations during negotiations with your employer, you can emphasize the importance of initiating consultation and implementing written prevention plans. It is in the best interests of the university to proactively address these issues before being legally compelled to do so.

Learn more, via our video: Psychological health Regulations Briefing. Our Psychosocial Hazards page provides additional information.

Under section 58(1)(f) of our OHS Act you have the power to ‘seek the assistance of any person.’ We strongly encourage you to rely on this provision to consult with other HSRs, and your union, and to raise the issue of high work demands, stress, and burnout in your workplace's Health and Safety Committee.

You may find our Stress: Action Plan for Health and Safety Representatives webpage helpful.

If your employer doesn't take meaningful action, and in a timely manner, you have the right, under Section 60 of our OHS Act, to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN).

PINs are legal documents that HSRs can use when negotiations with the employer have failed to yield a resolution. The notice should state that you believe there is a violation of the Act or regulations and specify the date by which the issue must be addressed (at least eight days after the day of issue). It is advisable to consult with your union before issuing a PIN, and you can find more information here.

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