Castlemaine Health perioperative RN Jenny Adamthwaite has been the health and safety rep (HSR) in her designated work group for almost a decade – and she’s still enjoying the role.
Day to day in her capacity as an HSR, Jenny simply keeps a look out for risks and hazards as they occur, reminds staff of the appropriate processes, and listens to their concerns. ‘Any issues that can’t be solved directly would then be discussed with my manager and escalated further if required,’ she says.
‘Most days there are no issues and it’s just business as usual.’
As for what keeps her in the role, Jenny says that one great part of being an HSR is meeting all the other HSRs from other departments who she would not otherwise interact with.
‘Being able to discuss issues that arise and get opinions from outside our department has been really helpful,’ she explains. ‘The HSR meetings also give you a direct line access to upper management, so we can directly explain our issues with them.’
And, of course, helping to make her workplace safer for herself, her colleagues and their patients is the cherry on top: HSR work has led to three significant recent improvements in the department.
‘We have had a long-term issue of staff injuring their shoulders and backs pushing trolleys along carpeted corridors,’ she notes. Through HSR involvement, a resolution was reached in the form of a motorised bed mover that will be used in their department and throughout the hospital – a great win not just for Jenny’s immediate colleagues but for all staff hospital-wide.
The department has also had issues with security. During operating hours there was no physical barrier to stop people walking from off the street into the department. But thanks to Jenny and her HSR colleagues, they were funded to install swipe card entry onto all entrances.
The third improvement has been in staffing, with continual gaps in the roster taking a massive toll and ‘making fatigue and burnout a very real proposition’. Along with fellow HSRs, Jenny was able to make management aware of how expensive it was to be filling out roster gaps with agency staff and in early 2023 upper management approved the advertising for additional permanent staff.
‘Our most recent roster has had fewer gaps than we have had in over five years,’ Jenny says.
‘All of these resolutions have been the result of ongoing work within the HSR meetings and with our safety officers, discussions with direct line and upper management and access to funding for works to be carried out or equipment to be purchased,’ she adds. ‘Each part of the process was important and necessary to achieve the end goals. It shows what can be done through persistence and cooperation.’