Catherine Morales was in her first year of a postgraduate nursing program and working within a forensic mental health setting when she decided she needed union support to pursue issues at her workplace.
‘I was distraught by a workplace experience surrounding safe work practices and culture issues,’ she says. ‘I came to the conclusion that being a Job Rep and Health and Safety Rep would help expand my network within the ANMF and enable me to access the support that I need.’
One of her wins as an HSR has been around access to training.
After learning that her workplace didn’t provide face-to-face training for staff on night duty (including for mandatory training required for specialised forensic skills payments), and that rostering practices and short staffing were making access difficult for staff on day shift, she gathered information on her colleagues’ ‘many reasons and challenges for not being able to attain mandatory training’.
‘Being a Job Rep and Health and Safety Rep enables me to access the support that I need.’
Armed with this, as well as information from the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) and ANMF support, she requested the OHS manager remind the employer of their legislated obligation to train staff in order to perform their duties in a manner that is safe and effective. ‘The result is that the CEO has placed a priority on training and development, and they are working on improving the provision of their training,’ Catherine says.
Another success involved installation of a requested CCTV camera. After conversations with her colleagues, taking photos and providing written feedback about unsafe working conditions, she communicated the findings to the OHS Rep Committee, management and ANMF, who called in WorkSafe. This led to installation of a camera connected to the monitor at the nurses’ station ‘in order to provide a secondary line of sight along a patient corridor that is otherwise obstructed from view.’
Since being elected as an HSR (and becoming a Job Rep), Catherine has become more confident in advocating for herself and her colleagues. ‘It is not easy to go against the grain, but at times in the process of making positive changes you can’t help but go against the grain,’ she says. ‘The most important aspect [of the role] is networking. Networking helps with finding people who understand the drive for pursuing the issues and provide support to enable positive changes.’