WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY
- Health and safety risks exist in all workplaces. In the tertiary sector there are prevalent health risks associated with physical, chemical, biological, mechanical and electrical hazards as well as psychosocial hazards and there is an ongoing need for vigilance in all aspects of worker health and safety.
- Historically psychosocial hazards have been less well regulated than physical hazards but they are now recognised by bodies such as Safe Work Australia and the World Health Organization. These hazards can, and do, impact on the mental health of tertiary education workers and have the capacity to inflict psychological injury and physical harm.
- Such psychosocial hazards include:
- High job demands such as:
- Long work hours
- High workload
- Work intensification
- Emotional effort in responding to distressed clients (students);
- Poor workplace relationships where there is:
- Workplace bullying, aggression and harassment
- Poor relationships between workers and their managers
- Lack of fairness and equity;
- Lateral Violence;
- Poor organisational change management;
- Poor organisational justice where there is:
- Inconsistent application of policies and procedure
- Unfairness or bad in decisions about resource allocationPoor management of under-performance;
- Exposure to violent or traumatic events;
- Vicarious trauma arising from repeatedly listening to distressed individuals;
- Insecure Work.
NTEU further notes the pattern of behaviour of employers in the sector to:
- Provide support or assistance to workers after they have suffered psychological injury, in the form of Employee Assistance Programs.
- Provide wellness and resilience training to train workers to better tolerate psychosocial hazards such as over-work, rather than engaging in a concerted effort to remove or eliminate the hazard.
- Every employee has a right to a healthy and safe work environment, so that everyone can go to work and come home safely.
- Employers have a responsibility to assess risk and remove or reduce all hazards, including physical, chemical, biological, mechanical, electrical and psychosocial hazards.
- The provision of support for psychologically injured workers, or the provision of training in how to cope with workplace psychosocial hazards does not remove the responsibility of employers to prevent injury through the removal or reduction of risk. Employees injured at work should not suffer additional disadvantage.
- HSRs and representatives on Work Health and Safety Committees in the tertiary education sector, should, where possible, be NTEU members.
- Prioritise developing capacity in work health and safety through education, training and development of health and safety representatives.
- Take steps to regularly and consistently fill vacancies for staff-elected or union nominated positions on institutions’ Work Health and Safety Committees with NTEU members.
- Provide work, health and safety training for NTEU staff, officers and delegates.
- Take out accident make up pay and/or journey cover insurance for members not currently covered, or insufficiently covered, by State legislation or their Enterprise Agreement.
- Establish a standing Work Health and Safety Working Party to develop and maintain comprehensive WHS strategies and training plans in conjunction with Divisions.
- Provide specific education and support to members on psychosocial hazards in the workplace.