The Branch’s occupational health and safety team manager, Kathy Chrisfield, participated in a panel discussion at the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Sydney in November 2023 – sharing our OVA and fatigue knowledge and learning from others’ experiences.
First held in 1955, this is one of the largest international conferences for work health and safety. The Sydney event hosted around 3,000 people from 127 countries. It was an opportunity for ANMF to share not only what we have learned about occupational violence and aggression (OVA) management and mitigation, but to learn from some of the world’s leading experts.
The panel topic was ‘Healthcare: a resilient workforce on the frontline’, and the other panellists included:
- Dr Jonathan Mensah, director Sefwi Wiawso Hospital and regional HIV coordinator, Ghana Health Service
- Peter Pollnitz, manager of work health safety & injury management, Central Adelaide Local Health Network
- Dr Anja Zyska, head of division of occupational medicine, SUVA, Switzerland
The panellists primarily focused on lessons learned in their respective parts of the healthcare sector in the face of extreme adversity worldwide – from pandemics to patient violence and aggression, fatigue, occupational disease and mental health decline – and how we can mitigate these and other risks in the future, with the ultimate message being that prevention is better than cure.
In her presentation, Kathy shared the Branch’s work and findings in relation to OVA and fatigue among nurses and midwives. ANMF (Vic Branch) sits on more than 30 OVA committees across the state and sees all sorts of initiatives being implemented by different health services. This gives us plenty of insight not only into what is occurring, but into what is and isn’t working.
‘We need to shift the culture around patient safety vs staff safety. One is not more important than the other; both are important and you can’t have excellent patient safety without staff safety.’ – Kathy Chrisfield
As shared at the recent Victorian Public Sector OHS forum, the most successful OVA committees we have seen are those where there is transparency around sharing information and a willingness to learn, coupled with not being scared of trying to tackle OVA. Having health and safety representatives (HSRs) on the committees is also a significant benefit that is paramount to reducing OVA. HSR involvement also increases awareness and reporting.
One of the most common refrains we hear about OVA, Kathy told attendees, is that it’s too difficult to tackle, or that it’s just a part of the job and we just have to accept it.
Neither of these assertions are correct, and Kathy shared the ANMF’s 10-point plan to end violence and aggression, which uses an OHS approach to tackle this hazard and which has proved successful when used as intended: to anticipate, mitigate and prevent OVA risks (rather than reactively, after an event has occurred).
‘We also have inserted requirements around OVA in some of our EBAs,’ Kathy said, ‘which gives power to members as an alternative mechanism to raise and address the issue with management.’
She concluded her presentation by highlighting the need for the 4 Cs – consultation, collaboration, communication and commitment – that apply to any hazard or issue. ‘We need to shift the culture around patient safety vs staff safety,’ she said. ‘One is not more important than the other; both are important and you can’t have excellent patient safety without staff safety.’