October 26, 2020

National Safe Work Month

Since 2009, October has been National Safe Work Month, and this year the topic is ‘Work Health and Safety through COVID-19’, acknowledging and reflecting on the wide-reaching impacts of COVID-19 on businesses, employers and workers.

Workplaces have had to quickly adapt their practices and procedures to reduce the health and safety risk arising from COVID-19, and to manage the psychological effects of the pandemic on workers.

Richard McFarland, Advisor, OHS & Wellbeing, explained improvements in occupational health and safety at Northern Health could not be achieved without the tireless work of health and safety representatives (HSRs).

“HSRs form an integral part of  the organisation’s ‘eyes and ears’ when it comes to potential and actual safety issues across all campuses. Whether it’s participating in a safety walk, an audit, reporting broken equipment or even monitoring staff wearing PPE, in this time of COVID-19, our HSRs are essential in maintaining health and safety,” he said.

The HSRs at Northern Health have their regular duties in a designated “home” location. But in addition, they take on practical health and safety activities and participate in regular meetings in an effort to be consultative, aware and pick up any hazards to staff, patients and members of the public. Essentially, they can act as an early warning for any issues they might notice.

“During the early phases of the second COVID-19 wave, the HSRs played a role in motoring if all the signage in red or yellow covid zones is appropriate, if all staff is wearing the proper PPE, advising on size of the disposal bins after doffing etc. We don’t have to wait for an email or meeting, because the HSRs express their concerns immediately,” he explained.

One of these is Frank Cavaleri, Personal Services Assistant (PSA) and a health and safety representative at Northern Health.

“One day, I was helping an elderly lady and I decided to become an HSR and help the organisation with safety. I’ve been in this role for the last three years and have noticed improvements – there is a lot more communication and issues being dealt with,” he said.

Besides physical safety, psychological safety and staff wellbeing is also an important focus of our OHS & Wellbeing team.

“Northern Health’s Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing team continue to support the psychological safety of our staff through Thrive – our staff wellbeing program. We offer regular yoga sessions, rest and recovery sessions, and support for all of our staff. The Thrive offerings have increased throughout the pandemic, to ensure we continue to offer an evidence-based program to staff, responsive to demands at the time,” said Will Halpin, Director OHS & Wellbeing.

Staff wellbeing resources specific to COVID-19 can be found here.

Featured Image (left to right): Frank Cavaleri and Richard McFarland