ASK RENATA

I work at a youth justice centre. There's a proposal to transfer clients involved in a seriously violent incident from another facility. We've shared our safety concerns with management but have received no meaningful response.

Oh dear, this sounds like a high-risk situation requiring meaningful consultation and urgent action from your employer.

In the absence of the above we think you’ll find our Right to Refuse webpage useful, along with our Cease Work and Issue Resolution resource.   

Both provide advice on ways workers can lawfully refuse to undertake work that’s an immediate risk to their health and safety.   

Usually, refusing unsafe work prompts employers to engage in consultation quickly.

We encourage you to make use of our 'record of consultation' form to document your employer's response to the serious concerns raised, formalizing the consultation process.

Section 21 of our Act mandates that employers provide and maintain a safe working environment, free from risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Section 20 of our OHS Act says consideration must be given to the following when assessing what is reasonably practicable.

  • Likelihood of an incident occurring
  • Consequences, or the potential harm
  • State of knowledge, or whether the employer should understand the risk
  • Availability of controls
  • Cost

Importantly, once the likelihood and degree of harm from a hazard or risk is understood, and the availability and suitability of a relevant safety measure is established, that safety measure should be implemented unless the cost of doing so is so disproportionate to the benefit (in terms of reducing the severity of the hazard or risk) that it would be clearly unreasonable to justify the expenditure.

Learn more about how WorkSafe interpret 'reasonably practicable’ here, or refer to our own webpage.  

By failing to eliminate or reduce risks associated with workplace violence and aggression your employer is not meeting their section 21 duty.

Learn more about how your employer should be protecting staff on our Violence at Work and External violence resources webpages.

We would also commend the Hazardous Handling Manual regulations to you, for their prescriptive hierarchy of control and applicability to 'work requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain live persons.'

Using your understanding of above provisions, we strongly encourage you to your employer urgently eliminate, or reduce, your exposure to OVA whilst at work.

We’d also strongly encourage you to contact your Union as a matter of urgency for advice and support. Your Union employs officials with significant experienced assisting HSRs in school environments who’ll be able to provide additional guidance, should you require it.

Congratulations on the important work you’re doing. We hope this information has been helpful to you and your colleagues.

 

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