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Fairness and justice drives AWU Health and Safety Reps

October 7, 2020

AWU National Safety Trainer Chris Hughes is on a mission to get more members to sign up for this key workplace role.

Chris said, “If you ask workers what their top priorities are, coming home safe every day is right up there with good wages and working conditions.

“What the AWU does is provide the skills to workers to ensure they have a say in their workplace, get a voice at the table, engage with employers and ultimately make their workplace as safe as it can possibly be.”

Chris recently ran a five-day training course at AWU’s NSW branch. The course was attended by a mixture of workers, from those new to the world of HSRs, to those who have had more experience.

The course covers a whole range of items from understanding workers’ rights and legislation, to the development of skills and strategies to implement them.

Chris said, “We want to work with employers to create the safest and healthiest workplace possible. Many employers see HSR training as an investment, and those workers can contribute to workplace safety.

“There are, of course, some employers who want to run the business as they see fit, and there can be some tension as a result.

“We equip HSRs with the skills and strategies that they can use to improve workplace safety. Whether or not the employer wants workers’ input and scrutiny, the legislation is on our side.”

Employers have to meet the costs of all HSR training, and health and safety work onsite should be paid and carried out during work hours.

HSRs don’t need to have specialist Health and Safety knowledge, nor are they safety cops for the boss.

They are not legally liable for actions or non-actions taken in good faith as an HSR. They are the channelled voice of their workmates wanting a voice at the table on health and safety.

So what makes for a good HSR? According to Chris, any worker can do this, but most are passionate about “fairness and justice.” He says that skills and knowledge are easy to teach, but it’s difficult to teach someone passion, and HSRs generally self-select this role because they care.

The course also provides guidance on how to deal with difficult employers.

Chris said, “There are workers out there who are reluctant about stepping up to be a HSR, as they may think it could affect their job security or be subject to discrimination. We make it very clear that there are legal protections in place to prevent any discrimination or targeting.”

The AWU can also help with the processes involved in setting up HSR structures in workplaces, and outline employer obligations too.

If anyone is keen on finding out more about becoming a HSR or AWU training click here.

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