There’s one statistic that stands out to Chris Hughes as to why AWU Health and Safety Representatives are so essential in the workforce.
It’s that workplaces with dedicated HSR on site are 50 percent safer than those without.
It’s why Chris is so passionate about running HSR training for the AWU and is on a mission to get more members to sign up for this key workplace role.
Chris said: “If you ask workers what are their top priorities, 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 working place as safe as it can possibly be.”
Chris recently ran a five day training course at AWU’s NSW branch attended by a mixture of workers – from those new to the world of HSR to those who had 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 rights.
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 that 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 strategiesthat 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 on site should be paid and done 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 a HSR. They are the channelled voice of their work mates 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 HSR 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 might 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.