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Safety first: treat health services like the construction industry

Safety first: treat health services like the construction industry

Paul Gilbert

ANMF believes health services would be safer workplaces if they were placed under a legislative regime similar to the construction and mining industries.

Construction and mining are known as ‘regulated industries’ in Victoria. This means they are named in the regulations that sit under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The regulations include enforceable detailed rules for at risk industries which compel employers to ensure their employees are safe.

ANMF wants the health-specific measures in our 10 point plan to end violence included in the regulations, amongst other relevant hazards. This would mean all employers would have to implement our plan consistently across the state to ensure the safety of nurses, midwives, carers and all healthcare staff.  It would also mean that WorkSafe Victoria had more prescriptive requirements to enforce, enabling clearer regulatory action and potential deterrence following incidents where health employers were found to be failing to comply.

Since 2016 public health services have been required to publicly report the number of occupational violent and aggressive (OVA) incidents against their staff in their annual reports. The latest reports were tabled in the Victorian Parliament in October and November. ANMF believes the number of incidents is still under reported.

We successfully campaigned for the Victorian government to mandate the inclusion of this OVA data in health service annual reports to ensure hospital executives, board members and managers could see the issue and take responsibility for making their workplaces safe.

ANMF sits on more than 30 OVA committees across the state. We know some employers are moving in the right direction. But many are implementing piecemeal action plans and still have a reactive approach only implementing change after a preventable incident has occurred.

The Department of Health, the administrator of the healthcare system, now has access to eight years’ worth of data and the ability to monitor trends across employers. We would like to see the department play a stronger role in overseeing and designing statewide systems to prevent and manage the risks rather than leaving it up to individual health services to reinvent the wheel.

ANMF secured an election commitment from the Andrews/ Allan Victorian Government to consider making the healthcare a ‘regulated industry’ under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The OVA data from the most recent round of annual reports tells us all this must be a priority in 2024.

ANMF (Vic Branch) wishes members and your families and friends a safe and peaceful 2024.