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Home > News > 2018 > November > Teachers have a say in Northern Territory health and safety

Teachers have a say in Northern Territory health and safety

Our union has joined forces with the Australian Education Union (AEU) to tackle workplace health and safety issues in the Northern Territory.

A joint submission between our union and our colleagues in the government sector was developed to ensure teachers' voices were heard in the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety in the Northern Territory 2018.

What’s the problem?

Workplace health and safety in schools is often overlooked due to a broad assumption that a school community’s general duty of care will suffice; however not every risk can be minimised by this duty of care.

In making a submission to this review, our union and the AEU highlighted the damaging effect that psychosocial hazards have on the physical and mental health of our members.

These hazards include, but are not limited to:

• physical violence;

• intimidating behaviour;

• verbal abuse and harassment;

• workplace bullying; • fatigue;

• work overload;

• poor work design;

• discrimination;

• victimisation;

• job insecurity; and

• poor management practices.

A number of employers continue to fail to address psychosocial hazards in a systematic way and tend to deal with complaints as individual grievances, blame a lack of resilience, or treat them as personality conflicts or deficiencies.

Many employer interventions are directed at injured individuals, without identifying the root cause of the incidents or controlling the hazards at their source.

Workplace violence and bullying, as a cause of injury and ill health, are escalating and affecting our members.

Work intensification, casualisation, budget cuts, digitalisation and online platforms are now common features in teachers’ working lives – creating changes in employment arrangements which lead to insecurity, uncertainty of income and a lack of work-life balance.

This is resulting in an increase in mental and physical health issues for workers in the education sector.

Teachers are also very concerned about future injuries that may result from asbestos contamination in schools, houses and communities across the Northern Territory.

Across Australia, asbestos kills 700 people per year directly and over 1000 people per year from asbestos-related diseases.

The alarming prevalence of asbestos and the lack of a concerted action to remove it from workplaces, especially in remote areas of the NT, is a major concern that members feel must be noted in the review.

What’s the solution?

As there are many emerging workplace health and safety hazards in schools due to changes in the way people do their work, there is an immediate need for these issues to be addressed.

Our unions’ joint submission to the review aims to bring these issues into the spotlight, and calls for employers and the government to recognise and meet the basic needs of health and safety required by our staff and students in their schools.

Some of our unions’ joint recommendations to the review included:

• Implementation of a legal requirement for employers to provide a psychosocially safe and healthy work environment.

• An amendment to the NT Workplace Health and Safety Act to adequately recognise severe mental health injuries, as well as incidents of occupational violence and extreme psychosocial hazards that cause harm to both mental and physical health.

• In consultation with our unions, the establishment of a departmental protocol, appropriately trained and resourced, to respond to matters relating to the intimidation, discrimination and harassment of workers making WHS complaints.

• Ensuring recruitment and training of Indigenous inspectors, HSRs and other safety officers occurs.

• Establishment of a plan to remove asbestos from all education settings, including residences, by an agreed year.

Click here to read the full submission and our unions' recommendations.