Members safer thanks to dual campaigners
Two ANMF (Vic Branch) members, who proved particularly tenacious in securing changes to reduce risks of occupational violence and aggression (OVA) in their workplaces, have been named joint recipients of the 2019 Health and Safety Representatives of the Year.
Working under very different circumstances, Alyce Dickson of University Hospital, Barwon Health, and David Scicluna of Bendigo Health District Nursing each campaigned strongly and consistently for a range of improvements at their respective workplaces.
Ms Dickson demonstrated exemplary representation on behalf of her colleagues when members of her designated working group were repeatedly exposed to serious OVA while dealing with complex patients at University Hospital in Geelong.
Staff described being fearful and wearied due to significant incidents of OVA related to a long-term patient. Over a prolonged period and in several meetings with hospital executives, Ms Dickson highlighted the inadequacy of the existing systems that failed to prevent or manage the escalating incidents.
These failures included a lack of instruction, training and information for staff about complex patients whose behavior was known to be of concern, as well as a lack of de-escalation techniques and clinical management of OVA in the workplace.
WorkSafe was called to the site several times, and Ms Dickson was able to demonstrate to WorkSafe officers how important it was for the inspectors to engage directly with nursing staff about their concerns.
Ms Dickson’s work in constantly trying to resolve the significant OVA issues led to a review of criteria for admission both to the relevant ward and the emergency department, as well as appropriate training and education to manage complex patients. Fixed and personal duress alarms were installed for all staff.
Bendigo-based Mr Scicluna is renowned for listening to colleagues’ concerns and persistently lobbying for better and safer conditions over some years.
He continues to lobby for changes to improve the safety of night staff working in District Nursing Bendigo Health, where numerous incidents of OVA and concerns about safety arose due to the DNS sharing offices with Bendigo Health’s mental health unit.
Mr Scicluna collated data about incidents and petitioned management for capital works and changes to alleviate risks to staff. He issued Bendigo Health with a Provisional Improvement Notice (known as a PIN) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and conducted an environmental audit to detail the OVA issues. Bendigo Health consulted and worked with Mr Scicluna to achieve changes.
These included better external lighting, fence repairs to minimise intrusions and installation of a swipe card access gate for the staff carpark. As well, Mr Scicluna drafted plans and successfully lobbied for the construction of a dividing wall to separate the district nursing and case management offices from the mental health unit.
‘It’s been a big year and I’ve got a good team behind me,’ Mr Scicluna said, ‘We’re all a small cog in a big machine and the small cog needs to make that machine turn so everyone keep up the good work.’
High regard for model advocate
The 2019 Hannah Sellers Job Representative of the Year award was presented to Anna Kenny of Gippsland Southern Health whose work in pursuing better workplace conditions, attending all ANMF job rep meetings and encouraging her colleagues to voice their concerns is held in the highest regard.
Ms Kenny has encouraged her colleagues to collect data about their workloads, nurse patient ratios and other issues so that their concerns can be reported to the union and other members. Importantly, she has liaised with management and advocated effectively on behalf of colleagues for improvements.
This level of engagement and activism, particularly when a solution may not seem obvious, is important to assist the ANMF in resolving member issues.