Union News

Union HSRs recognised at WorkSafe Awards

Last week WorkSafe announced the winners of the annual WorkSafe awards. The Award ceremony, held at the Melbourne Town Hall, was one of the highlights of Health and Safety Month. Contributions and 'inventions' were recognised, but the most important award was that for Health and Safety Representative of the Year. In an unusual move, two Health and Safety Reps and members of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) were nominated jointly - and won! Congratulations!!

Sally Collier-Clarke and Sara Jorgensen are joint HSRs at Bendigo Health, and were elected by their DWG in January 2018. They predominantly represent midwives who work in the antenatal unit, postnatal unit and birthing suites. A 'Change of Impact' statement was done by the executives at Bendigo Health, which led to a proposal to reduce the night time staffing level from eight to seven. They proposed initiating a trial of the reduction. The staff, however, were understandably concerned of the effects this would have on their workload, and on their stress and fatigue levels. The recent move to a new hospital meant that their area was physically larger and the proposed staff reduction would lead to one staff member being responsible for three areas.

Sally and Sara got to work: they developed a template and asked DWG members to fill this out at the end of each shift to collect data such as when they worked 'over ratio', or went without a meal break, and so on. Simultaneously they encouraged DWG members to file incident reports directly with management. Using this information, they were able to clearly identify that there were stress and fatigue issues - even before the proposed staff reduction! And so they issued a PIN: despite being advised against it by 'some', and being told it wouldn't have an effect (except maybe on their employment!) Even though they were new HSRs, and more than a little fearful of the potential consequences, they went ahead and issued a PIN (for breach of s21).

It was received by the executives, a meeting was held and they were successful! They got agreement that there would be no reduction in staff numbers. The executives still wanted a trial - but Sally and Sara successfully argued against this. In their acceptance speech, the best friends thanked the members of their DWG, their union and Bendigo Health.

In an interview with SafetyNet, Sally and Sara said " little voice can get heard, but you have to speak up and not be afraid to ask!"  Their DWG members were with them all the way, they contributed and stood behind them to enable them to achieve a great outcome.  Sally and Sara proved that when HSRs work with the support of their DWG and are not afraid to use their powers, they can help ensure that the workplace is safer and healthier.

The other finalists for HSR of the year were:

  • Stephen Jones - Viva Energy Refining, and member of the Australian Workers Union (AWU). Representing workers at the Viva Energy Refinery in Geelong, Stephen was elected HSR in April 2016. He completed a Cert IV in WHS in 2017, and a Diploma in WHS in 2018. Stephen has built up a network of support from subject matter experts from both the union and externally. He is also a very active weareunionohs network member.
  • Jason Atkinson - DP World Melbourne, and member of the MUA.  Jason represents 439 (!) skilled straddle operators and has been an elected HSR for 15 years. Jason recently won a DP World Australia Shark Tank Award for implementing a site-based text messaging service that provides all employees with live updates about all type of OHS matters.

The VTHC Unit congratulates these four outstanding HSRs, as well as the finalists and winners in all the categories. These included: Best Solution to Manual Handling Issue; Best Solution to Specific Workplace Health and Safety Issue; Health and Safety Invention of the Year; OHS Leadership, Achievement Award; Commitment to Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing as well as a number of Return to Work related awards.
Read more: Winners named for for distinguished WorkSafe Awards. WorkSafe media release

Ask Renata

Hi Renata,

There are a number of my colleagues who are using Essential Oils (whether by infusers, melts or other means). I am wondering whether this is an OHS issue? I have heard they may be a potential hazard to the health of other staff and clients - but I can't find anything in writing about this. Would securing a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the oils mean they can be used?

Essential oils, room fresheners, and other 'perfumes and scents' can be a problem in a workplace. Quite apart from personal likes/dislikes, there is the potential that someone will have an allergy and a reaction to these and therefore they should be avoided. For this reason, many workplaces now have 'Scent-free policies' in place. See this page for more information: Perfumes and Scents - chemicals too!

If you have any OHS related queries, then send them in via our Ask Renata facility on the website.

Gendered Violence: conference video

We have received a number of requests for materials and a link to the fabulous video on Gendered Violence shown at the HSR Conference last week. The link to the video and other resources on gender equality can be found on this page: Safe and Respectful Workplaces.  The website also allows people to upload stories and if anyone comes across useful other resources they can send them to the team via the website email address and these will be added to the site.

November 28: Feminism in the Pub - Eliminating Gendered Violence at Work 

As part of the 16 days of Activism against gender based violence, Feminism in the Pub is celebrating women fighting for everyone to be physically and mentally safe at work. The VTHC Women's and Equity Team and activists invite you to attend the next event which will be on November 28. The topic: Eliminating Gendered Violence at Work will be of great interest to HSRs. There will be a panel and discussion on safe and inclusive workplaces, gendered violence as a workplace hazard and collective action. The event will be co-facilitated by Renata from the OHS Team.

When: 6.30pm, Thursday November 28
Where: Clyde Hotel, 365 Cardigan St, Carlton
Cost: Free - drinks and food at your own expense - but please RSVP at Union Women

UK: Older workers bear the brunt of night working growth

Older workers are represented disproportionately in Britain’s growing army of night workers, a new TUC (the UK's peak union council) analysis has found. The TUC research shows that over 50s account for all the growth in night working since 2014. According to the analysis, there are now nearly one million (924,000) night workers aged over 50 in Britain – up from 751,000 five years ago. A significant number are aged over 60 (222,000) and 65 (69,000). Night working is now at the highest level since current records began, the TUC said. The analysis of official data shows that 3.25 million people - more than 1 in 9 workers - work in Britain’s night-time economy, 100,000 more than five years ago. The TUC is calling for greater protection for workers who regularly work through the night. It says as well as being bad for family life, the health risks of regular night work include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. It adds these risks are heightened for older workers. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Night work can be really hard – disrupting family life and placing a strain on people’s health. The government is not doing enough to protect these workers.”
TUC news release and related release. The health and safety of older workers, TUC guide, 2014. More on older workers and health and safety. Hazards. Source: Risks 921

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