March 14, 2023

We Are Northern: This is the Occupational Health and Safety team

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) team is part of the People and Culture department at Northern Health. The team works across four units: Occupational Health and Safety, Injury Management, Staff Health Clinic and Occupation Violence and Aggression, to ensure a healthy and safe workplace for all staff at Northern Health.

Each of the four units specialise in different areas of workplace related OHS matters, such as:

  • Occupational Health and Safety – risk assessments, incident investigations, stakeholder engagement, WorkSafe engagement, general OHS support.
  • Injury Management – early intervention, return to work support, collaboration with stakeholders, insurer management.
  • Staff Health Clinic – physiotherapy and exercise physiology appointments to improve health and performance, education on exercise and injury prevention.
  • Occupation Violence and Aggression (OVA) – prevention, management and follow up of OVA related incidents.

OVA Coordinator, Eve Kodermann, has been an employee of Northern Health for almost 30 years. She says she has seen many changes since she first started working as a nurse at PANCH.

“The organisation has grown significantly since I moved from PANCH in February 1998. The building expansion, workforce growth, specialties and the patients we now care for reflect the community’s growth, demographics and needs. Coming to work now, I miss the farmland on Cooper Street and the kangaroos that used to hop past the ED ambulance bay in the early hours of the morning,” said Ms Kodermann.

The global pandemic brought many challenges to the OHS team at Northern Health. The team only consisted of six employees at the height of the pandemic, however it since managed to grow back to 13. Despite these challenges, the OHS team persevered with continued OHS delivery – incident investigations, WorkSafe engagement, injury management and staff health clinic.

During this time, the engagement and teamwork with Respiratory Medicine and Infection Prevention to develop and implement the Respiratory Protection Program (N95 Fit Testing) was a great success for the OHS team.

“The huge uptake of N95 respirator usage coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, and this posed a mammoth challenge in getting staff fit tested quickly, and in a way where they felt confident that they were being protected when caring for their patients. From this, we’ve learnt how valuable N95s have been and I certainly see N95s playing an ongoing role in protecting staff at risk of exposure to respiratory diseases,” said Respiratory Protection Program Coordinator, Tess Norwood.

OVA Educator, James Watt, joined the team in 2022 as a High Reliability Organisation (HRO) explorer and says his role helped him appreciate the work the OHS team does.

“I love how this role enables me to bring together my areas of interest which are communication skills training and staff wellbeing. I’ve experienced first-hand the negative impact that occupational violence can have on staff so feel really committed to working with the rest of the team to make Northern Health a safer place for us all,” he said.

In 2023, the team are focused on increased engagement and communication across all areas of Northern Health, working closely with staff and managers and delivery of training.

OHS Team Leader, Leon Tan, says the team is delighted to launch new and exciting projects in 2023.

“We are excited about the launch of the revamped manual handling/no lift training, our new OVA training, the collaboration with RMIT for undergraduate nurse community placement with the OVA team and the launch of the Wellbeing App, to name a few,” said Mr Tan.

Thank you to our OHS team for making our workplace feel safe and healthy!

Pictured first row (left to right): Gim Loe, Vasalia Govender, Eve Kodermann, Tanya Rando

Second row (left to right): James Watt, Tess Norwood, Tom Cooper

Third row (left to right): Vicki Petrou, Dylan Perera

Fourth row (left to right): Kevin Barry, Leon Tan