Sometimes OHS can be a straightforward matter: a broken piece of equipment or a missing railing on some stairs are clear risks to health and safety that would usually be fixed quickly.
But what do we do when the risk to health and safety is less obvious but just as harmful?
Our health and safety reps (HSRs) across all workplaces are regularly assisting members with the difficult area of workload. Excessive and unreasonable workload is an industrial issue and there are mechanisms across all our certified agreements and workplace policies to assist with it. However, when it becomes a risk to health and safety, an OHS approach could also be helpful.
The OHS Act provides a strong framework to understand risks in the workplace, whether they are physical or psychological and it compels employers to control these risks as far as is reasonably practicable. HSRs can raise issues of excessive and unreasonable workload as a hazardous system of work and consult with the employer to assist individual members or groups of members to address it.
It is important that our HSRs get a clear picture of any hazards in their workplaces and be consulted on the controls put in place to address them.
HSRs use the same process to address workload as a health and safety issue as they would should the issue be a physical hazard: identify the issue, consult on the control, apply the highest level of control that is reasonably practicable and monitor the effectiveness.
The OHS Act also compels employers to monitor the health and safety of their employees and be proactive in addressing safety. OHS committees can work in with consultative committees when developing a long-term plan for the school to foresee risks to health and safety and to identify workload pressures before they occur.
Considering workload as a health and safety issue can provide members with a different approach and a strong set of tools to address the problem.
I have also been assisting many school-based HSRs recently as they liaise with their principals regarding the provision of eduSafe reports.While the content of eduSafe reports can be sensitive, and members are often writing these reports at a difficult time, it is important that our HSRs get a clear picture of any hazards in their workplaces and be consulted on the controls put in place to address them.
The OHS Act states clearly that the employer must allow an HSR to have access to information they have relating to actual or potential hazards. In practice, this means HSRs must be provided with eduSafe reports in order to perform their roles appropriately.
Where HSRs are not being provided with eduSafe reports, please contact the AEU for advice and assistance on 03 9417 2822.