Given the intense disruption of the past months, it is reassuring to welcome back one of the AEU’s most experienced officers. Our long-serving and highly knowledgeable occupational health and safety organiser, Janet Marshall, has returned from a period of leave and will continue her work in OHS three days a week.
I will be sharing the role with Janet, working two days a week focusing on OHS and the remainder of my role on organising across schools, early childhood and disability settings.
Janet and I have been colleagues for nearly two decades and we are very excited to be working together and having a team approach to OHS.
The change in personnel, however, does nothing to change the AEU’s focus on OHS – a focus that has become ever more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many HSRs have had to confront the challenge of how to maintain consultation, how to identify hazards and how to seek input from those they represent when everyone is working remotely
While significant numbers of our members across several sectors have seen radical and rapid change to how they work, the role of the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and the rights afforded to all staff under the OHS Act remain constant.
Many HSRs have had to confront the challenge of how to maintain consultation, how to identify hazards and how to seek input from those they represent when everyone is working remotely. Others have had to deal with the realities of infection control, social distancing and anxiety while many of our members remain working onsite.
Janet and I have run online forums for HSRs to discuss the issues and put together practical strategies to ensure the new way of working doesn’t diminish the rights of everyone to a safe workplace.
So, while everything may change at work, nothing changes for OHS. HSRs will just need to think differently about how to approach their role. Janet and I are always here to help any HSR who needs some help adapting to a new work environment. HSRs should also keep an eye out for our regular online forums so they can stay connected and learn from each other.
Finally, the AEU continues its commitment to provide education-focussed OHS training to newly elected HSRs and those seeking their annual refresher. All scheduled courses will proceed in Term 2, but they will be conducted with an eye to the safety of all participants and, as such, will be conducted remotely until further notice.
OHS and COVID-19: a resource kit
The Victorian Trades Hall Council’s OHS Training Unit is one of the most experienced training providers in Victoria. They have put together a free resource kit to help workers and HSRs deal with OHS in the age of COVID-19. The kit includes mapping, ‘how to’ guides and checklists to assist reps in the workplace. Much of the material can be downloaded, amended and saved.