Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) – Volunteers Overlooked

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) – Volunteers Overlooked

The VFFA received an email from a member, suggesting that the HSR program for volunteers has not been properly addressed by the NSW RFS.

The RFS has published the following key HSR election dates:

12 September to 8 October 2018 – Notice of Election sent to members and HSR nominations open
5 November 2018 – Ballot papers posted to members
10 December 2018 – Voting closes at 12:00pm
31 January 2019 – Results of HSR elections announced by this date
1 March 2019 – Elected HSRs commence their three year term

The VFFA is concerned that the period (12 September to 8 October 2018) is insufficient time to properly advertise this important program to all volunteers across the state.

The RFS is seeking to fill 47 HRS positions for NSW.

The VFFA is concerned that 47 HSR’s across the state is simply a compliance exercise designed to appease the legislation and SafeWork NSW is allowing it.

FRNSW have over 100 HSR’s for their 22,000 membership.

The RFS claims to have over 70,000 volunteers. Even at a more realistic figure of 20,000 volunteers fighting fires, the number of HSR’s should be greater than 47.

The RFS claims to have 47 work places (Districts). The VFFA does not feel that 47 work places is an accurate representation of actual work places within this diverse organisation.

Do you want to help make your fire fighting workplace a safer, healthier and cohesive workplace?

Do you want to make a real change in your workplace in ensuring compliance to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act)?

Become a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and help make your workplace a safer and healthier place to be.

If there is more than one nomination for one position an election needs to take place.

Petition to Protect our Protectors (10,000 signatures required)

Petition to Protect our Protectors (10,000 signatures required)

Philip Donato, the Hon. Phillip Donato, Member for Orange, has distributed a petition throughout the emergency services which has been enthusiastically received.

The petition will bring to the attention of the Legislative Assembly of NSW Parliament the urgent need to protect our emergency services by introducing an enforceable 40 km/h speed limit for the vicinities of emergency service personnel operating on or near roadways.

The petition is fully supported by the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, The Rural Fire Service Association, NSW Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and the Police Association of NSW.

Police, Fire and RFS officers have already started signing.

Philip Donato has invited the entire community to support the men and women of the emergency services by signing the petition. When the requisite 10,000 signatures has been obtained, Mr Donato will table it in parliament and will vigorously debate the issue.

It is important that we obtain original signatures for Mr Donato.

You can help by printing the petition document, gathering signatures and posting the original (signed copies) to the VFFA Media Officer at PO Box 359, Terrey Hills. NSW 2084.

Stories of Fatigue – Part 1

A Strike Team was sent from (name suppressed).
The strike team had been available (at their brigade stations) since 12 midday.
It was estimated that most of the crew would have been awake since 0700hrs.
It took approx. 1 hour 45 minutes to drive from (name suppressed) to a staging area.
Upon arrival, crews waited while information was gathered.
Crews were provided with water and snack packs.
They were sent to the fire ground on an evening shift.
The Strike Team was stood down at 0300hrs.
They drove back to (name suppressed).
It would be fair to say that the crew members had been awake for almost 24 hours.
Do you have a similar story?
We are hearing stories of frustrated firefighters who are deployed, only to sit around without doing much (sometimes without doing anything). This in itself is tiring.

Did the cracks contribute to the roll over?

Did the cracks contribute to the roll over?

There was a report of a vehicle roll over (NSW RFS Cat 9) near Narrabri on Monday 22nd Jan 2018.

The welfare of those involved is the highest of priorities. It does appear that everyone is okay without serious injury.

It is now very important that the NSW RFS acts upon any reports received to determine if this accident (reported as a tyre failure) or the resulting vehicle roll over are in any way connected to the faulty wheels that were reported in November 2017.

Cracked Wheels

Cracked Wheels

1. The wheel in the photo was fitted to a NSW RFS Cat 9 response vehicle.
2. The NSW RFS has not issued a safety notice or safety alert about this issue.
3. There has not been any recalls of these wheels.
4. There does not seem to be any Safety Alerts issued in 2017 (no Safety Alerts about any topic).
5. We have been informed that the Hawkesbury District has replaced five wheels.
6. Apparently, these wheels were specified to reduce vehicle weight.
7. It has been reported that at least two different vehicles have had cracked wheels.

We are not suggesting that the NSW RFS has failed to properly respond to this issue but we would like to know if this issue has occurred more frequently than reported.

Conflict of interest and natural justice in an RFS Disciplinary hearing

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.

Appropriate Duty of Care or Over-Complication?

Appropriate Duty of Care or Over-Complication?

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)?

What is the volunteer perception of this form?

National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services

National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services

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

Establishing WHS procedures in the NSW RFS by Michael Eburn

In Mr Eburns’ post:

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.