Today’s question relates to the application of natural justice and conflicts of interests in NSW RFS disciplinary matters. My correspondent asks:
Can an appointed investigator of alleged allegations against a RFS volunteer be then placed as the Chairperson of the Zone Discipline Panel to make decisions on the same allegations?
The critical issue here is ‘natural justice’. One of the key elements of natural justice is that the decision maker must not have a stake in the matter and must hear from both sides and decide the issue before them without prior judgment.
A volunteer sent us an email and a document that was circulated from a Fire Control Centre recently. We have decided to share this information in a quest to discover if this Tick Insect Bite Pro Forma documentation is widespread and are there other injury specific forms in use.
The Tick Insect Bite Pro Forma is dated August 2016 and the document control states that it is version 1.3.
The questions being asked on the form are:
1. Was insect repellent containing Picaridin (e.g. Johnson ‘OFF!’ repellent) available to the injured member on the day of injury? If yes, did the injured member apply the repellent before commencing work and reapply as necessary during work?
2. On the day of injury did the Supervisor remind the injured member that repellent MUST be applied prior to work, then reapplied at regular intervals (particularly when sweating)?
3. When the tick was found was the removal undertaken by a competent first aider and can you confirm that the whole tick was removed (i.e. No head left behind)? If more than one tick, specify number of ticks.
4. What part(s) of the body were bitten by the tick(s)?
5. Has the injured member had any medical complications from the tick bite(s)?
beyondblue is undertaking the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services to build a comprehensive picture of the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services personnel in Australia.
There is nothing more important than the mental health and wellbeing of the people who serve and protect our communities every day. This is a landmark piece of research beyondblue is undertaking, and I am delighted that almost every police and emergency services agency in Australia is participating. The information we generate will enable us to improve and strengthen our approach to protecting those who protect us, to make a real difference to people’s lives.
Ken Lay AO APM, Chair of the Advisory Group of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services
1. Mr Eburn can’t say whether there has been any, or adequate consultation on the establishment of workgroups.
2. The fact that Mr Eburns’ correspondent does not ‘believe that 49 HSRs are sufficient nor does this represent the different work groups’ is irrelevant. The question is ‘has the establishment of the workgroups been arrived at in consultation, and by agreement, with the workers?’
3. The process for the RFS to conduct elections of HSRs appears to Mr Eburn to be inconsistent with the Act. It is up to each workgroup to determine how HSRs will be elected.
4. Without a detailed examination, the Service Standard looks broadly consistent with the Act and Regulation (with the exception of the election of HSR representatives discussed at (3), above) noting that if there is an inconsistency, the Act and/or Regulation will prevail.
5. Mr Eburn does not see any issue with respect to a perceived ‘lack of urgency’ in the resolution of health and safety issues.
Of course if there has not been proper consultation on the establishment of workgroups and the health and safety consultation arrangements then that is another matter. The model of the Act anticipates that resolution of health and safety issues, including the processes for consultation and resolution, will be subject to cooperative negotiation between the PCBU and its workers. If that has not occurred the PCBU’s policy, no matter how comprehensive and otherwise in line with Act, fails at the first hurdle. As noted, Mr Eburn cannot say whether or not there has been adequate consultation on the preparation of this service standard.
Members of the Central Coast District were advised via email on Friday 26th May that the RFS has no stocks of current PPC and if new members require gear they will have to beg or borrow PPC from other members.
The following Draft Service Standards are currently out for consultation and members are encouraged to provide feedback.
The VFFA is sharing this material to help provide the widest circulation possible.
Send you feedback or enquiries by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or provide your feedback via the MyRFS forums.
1. Consultation Draft Service Standard 1.1.3 – Notice of Grievance Form.
2. Consultation Draft Service Standard 1.1.3 Grievances v3.0
The VFFA is concerned that in NSW volunteer rural fire-fighters who are subject to disciplinary action and who lodge grievances against paid staff have no option than to place faith in a system that is owned, controlled and arbitrated by the RFS.
Under the NSW Rural Fires Regulation 1997 a member of a rural fire brigade can be guilty of a breach of discipline if they are negligent, careless, inefficient or incompetent in the discharge of their duties. Hence the grounds for bringing discipline charges against a volunteer rural fire fighter are very broad, poorly defined and wide open to interpretation.
This post raises several concerns, the foremost being the proposal that the cost of attending an outsourced first aid course be borne by the Brigade(s).
The following questions have been posted:
Does the NSW RFS desire to have as many members as possible qualified in first aid?
Is the proposal for Brigades of the NSW RFS to meet costs for outsourced courses approved or sanctioned by the NSW RFS?
Is there a proposal for the costs of other courses such as chainsaw being covered by Brigades and/or individual members?
Was the issue discussed with volunteer training groups and if so what was the outcome?
Associate Professor, Dr Michael Eburn (PhD), provides advice on his Australian Emergency Law blog.
1. A service such as the RFS should have a clear policy of when ‘response’ driving is permitted. It should be when a faster response is likely to significantly improve the outcome and is it necessary to save life, property or the environment. That will require consideration of the nature of the call, time of day, traffic environment etc. It may be appropriate for a first responder to a triple zero call to respond under lights and sirens, but once the service is ‘on scene’ the incident controller needs to consider whether an ‘urgent’ response will make a significant difference to the outcome.
2. The faster response must be necessary, not merely convenient.
3. When the criteria to justify response driving is not met, drivers must drive in accordance with the Australian Road Rules as adopted in your state/territory.
4. The fundamental obligation on all drivers is not to crash. Crashing an emergency service vehicle creates another emergency, delays the response to the first event and causes more trauma. People may die in floods, fires and other events but more people die in car accidents. Drivers should be reminded that no matter what they are responding to, the most important objective is not to crash.