We’re all aware of the horrible bushfires that are ravaging our beautiful country. But not everyone is aware of the negative effects the smoke is having on some of our colleagues. Last week, the Department of Home Affairs took unprecedented action and shut down workplaces in the ACT on Monday due to hazardous smoke conditions affecting workers in multiple locations, and gave all non-essential staff access to paid miscellaneous leave. But is this enough? Your union delegates, together with union health and safety representatives, are taking meetings with the Department this week asking for answers to the following questions:
- What steps is the Department taking to actively monitor air quality levels inside their buildings, and then notify workers in areas affected of the risks and hazards associated to their health?
- How is the Department managing the risk to workers’ health if air quality levels are deemed unacceptable – with particular regards to essential personnel?
- The Department has said to staff that they are monitoring air quality daily in workplaces using a suitable independent contractor. But is this being conducted as frequently and thoroughly as it should be?
- Does the Department have an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) for poor to hazardous air quality levels?
Health and safety is at the core of union business, and we will always fight to keep each other safe.
Today’s air quality is also rated hazardous in Melbourne and much of Victoria, and will be an ongoing issue across the country for some time. Here is the latest advice on worker health and safety and bushfire smoke that we have issued Health & safety Reps.