I’m sure many of you were hoping for a more straightforward start to 2022. Seeing off the end of 2021 felt like a relief – and then we’ve found ourselves managing similarly complex issues in Term 1. Safe workplace practices have never been more important.
Depending on which part of the education community you are working in, you might be developing a familiarity with rapid antigen testing, isolating protocols, critical worker exemptions, mask wearing, air purifiers, booster shots, distancing, and a whole range of safety measures.
While the ever-changing landscape of COVID can feel overwhelming, the important role our Health and Safety Reps (HSRs) play in keeping our workplaces safe remains constant.
Whatever the compliance requirements of the moment, HSRs continue to consult with their managers, principals and employers to ensure workplace risks are controlled to the highest possible level reasonably practicable.
When faced with challenging situations, HSRs refer back to the basics of the OH&S Act – raise issues, consult on controls, use issue resolution procedures and rely on powers under the Act if required.
It’s heartening to see new HSRs continually being elected in our schools, TAFEs and early childhood centres.
At the start of every year, it is timely to remind HSRs that they have an entitlement to attend a WorkSafe-approved initial five-day training course and an annual one-day refresher. Victorian Trades Hall Council runs education-specific training at the AEU office, along with one-day refresher courses, and the details can be found here: ohsrep.org.au/training.
It’s also timely to remind HSRs that their term of office is between 12 months and three years. Has it been a while since your workplace has held an election? Make sure this occurs when required.
Should an HSR need to use their powers, they may need to demonstrate that they are duly elected. Conducting an election also allows people in your workplace to focus their minds on safety, provoke some good questions or even inspire a new person to take over the reins.
If your workplace doesn’t have an HSR, talk to your organiser or contact me at [email protected] about getting one elected.