Ask Renata

A lecturer in my workplace is doing way above his workload, believing he needs to do so to 'stay compliant with his position'. He frequently says he's working up to 3.30am, up a 6.30am, drives his kids to school, drives to work to deliver a lecture, drives home to give an online lecture - a disaster waiting to happen. Any advice?

Has anyone spoken with your colleague about what's going on? Before we proceed, it's important we establish workload expectations from the employer are the cause, and not some other factor.

Are others facing similar pressures?

But if we proceed on the basis that his long hours are the result of work overload, your colleague's working conditions pose a significant risk.

Research suggests that being awake for 17 hours impairs driving performance as much as having a BAC of 0.05; double the risk compared to driving sober.

Section 21 of the OHS Act requires your employer to provide a psychologically and physically safe work environment, including safe workloads and systems of work.

We encourage you to raise the issue of unsafe workloads with your university's OHS Manager, de-identifying examples if necessary. Once the employer becomes aware of the hazard, they have a duty to eliminate or reduce the risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.

The eagerly awaited Psych Health Regulations will no doubt go into more detail on how an employer needs to discharge their obligations.

During consultations, highlight the impending regulations and the duty to consult on prevention plans. Emphasize the proactive action that is in the university's best interest, as legal obligations will soon require compliance.

Under section 58(1)(f) of the OHS Act, HSRs can seek assistance of any person, including fellow HSRs and your union's OHS Officers. Consider collectively adding work demands, stress, and burnout to the agenda of your next Health and Safety Committee meeting.

If your employer fails to take meaningful action, you can issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) under section 60 of the OHS Act. PINs are legal documents that require your employer to address unresolved issues within a specified time frame (at least eight days after issuing).

Clearly state the section of the Act or regulations being breached and specify a deadline for resolution. We strongly encourage consulting with your union before issuing a PIN, as they have significant experience providing guidance and support for HSRs.

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