Health and safety

Health and Safety is Union Business

NUW trained OHS reps speak up in order to help build safer working environments.

There are many things that can affect the health of workers, including hazardous manual handling, noisy machinery, long working hours, irregular shifts, cold / hot environments, sufficient training, chemical exposure or bullying and harassment.

The NUW aims to have elected and trained OHS reps at all our sites so they can represent members on any OHS matter.

We can only do this through training. Check out our training page here to enrol in a course. 

We welcome OHS related contributions to this site from our OHS reps and members. If you would like to contribute a story, OHS information, or a good link/resource for other NUW members to use, contact your site delegate or organiser, or email training@nuw.org.au.

Injured at Work?

What to do first

The process varies from state to state but you should:

  • Ensure the injury is reported at your workplace
  • Keep records of all conversations with your employer
  • Consult your own doctor
  • Complete a claim form and lodge it with the appropriate medical certificate
  • Fill in the Injury Register and send it to NUW Assist via fax 03 9287 1789 or email nuwassist@nuw.org.au
  • Call NUW Assist on 1300 275 689 to register your injury with the Union

You have the right to:

  • Union representation when talking to your employer or others about your injury
  • Visit your own doctor - the first visit is often most important one in deciding your claim
  • Take time off work to recover from your injury as long as it follows the WorkCover certificate your doctor has given you
  • Receive weekly payments of compensation for any time your doctor gives you off work
  • Payment of reasonable medical and like expenses eg doctor, physio, x-rays etc
  • Return to safe and meaningful work that your doctor agrees is suitable
  • A written return to work plan if you have any work restrictions
  • Rehabilitation support and retraining to help you get back to a safe job

You have the right to refuse:

  • To see the company doctor for treatment. The company doctor can only assess you, not treat you. ONLY the doctor you choose can treat you
  • To be taken to a doctor by your employer or to have your employer attend any visit you have with your doctor
  • To meet with your employer or others without representation

Casual Workers’ Rights

NUW legal partners Ryan Carlisle and Thomas has written these articles about injury and WorkCover rights for casual workers

Hazards in the Workplace, Your Resources

Body mapping: strain and injury

Body mapping is an exercise designed to help you identify your hidden hazards and common patterns of health problems which may be generated in the workplace.

Use the map attached to chart symptoms and health problems which may arise in the workplace - discuss these with other members to help generate possible solutions to these problems.

Body Mapping

Hot and cold temperature

Click here for Heat CheckList

Click here for NUW Heat Agreement

Click here for ACTU Heat Policy

Impairment

Click here for ACTU Drug & Alcohol policy

Click here for Workplace Drug & Alcohol poster

Click here for QLD Govt Drug & Alcohol Management

Shifts and rostering

Click here for ACTU Shift Work Guidelines

Workplace OHS Stories

Stories and OHS campaign updates from delegates and members on site.

Lawrence back at work after support from work mates

Lawrence Vassalo is a NUW member at a small steel distribution site in Melbourne. He got his job back after a battle with a WorkCover insurer.

Lawrence injured himself at work and had to take time off. However, the insurance company rejected his WorkCover claim and asserted that Lawrence’s injury did not happen at work. At the same time, the company would not allow Lawrence to work until he had a full clearance. During this time, he was at home but he was not on his own.

Lawrence’s delegate, HSR and fellow NUW members stood in solidarity with him and decided to stand up to the insurance company. They knew that Lawrence injured himself at work, so they knew that Lawrence had a valid WorkCover claim. They set out to make sure that the insurance company had an accurate record of what happened. They all wrote statements in support of Lawrence’s case, and kept in contact with Lawrence to make sure that he was going to return to work.

After collecting the statements, the NUW fought the insurer’s determination by asking for the company to do an internal review, and then by taking the matter to the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service. At the hearing, Lawrence was represented by someone from Unions Assist, a service provided to all NUW members.

Due to the statements from his workmates, and to Lawrence’s perseverance, Lawrence won at conciliation. He is now back at work on full duties and has been backpaid for his absences from work and for his medical expenses.

Lawrence said that he was “happy that my work mates and the Union stuck up for me, without them I would have given up. I also encourage all workers to stand up for yourself against insurance companies, don’t just accept their decisions.”

If you are injured at work or an insurance company makes a decision about your claim, make sure that you get in contact with NUW Assist on 1300 275 689.

Workers stand united to improve their health and safety representation

Workers at Woolworths’ Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre ran a long campaign to improve health and safety representation.

In 2010 a mere three health and safety representatives (HSRs) were forced to do all the work to represent 460 workers at the site, even though workers had many different shift patterns. They recognised how difficult it was to represent everyone and commenced a campaign to improve health and safety representation.

During this campaign some 350 workers stood together and signed a petition to force the company to increase the number of HSRs. Together, HSRs and Delegates with the back-up of their Union Rep were able to re-negotiate the number of HSRs at the site. Due to the pressure that was mounted on the company, they finally agreed to increase the number of reps to 12.

After this agreement was reached workers then conducted health and safety elections, and just as things were looking on the up; WorkSafe ruled that the election had to be redone. Although this dampened members' spirits, they struggled through and conducted another election. Now Woolworths’ MLDC have 12 fully-fledged HSRs on site.

Newly elected HSR Sean Crotty commented on his new role as HSR, “I feel honoured to have been elected by my peers to represent them on their health and safety issues, it’s a great responsibility and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

“I know how difficult that challenge will be too, as lots of members have already expressed many issues and concerns that they have with the health and safety at the site. However, I am comforted by the strength and unity that we have, and many members have even offered their assistance to help resolve workplace health and safety issues.

“I believe that members have reacted extremely positively to having more representation, and that increased representation will enable us to change the workplace for the better. So far we have done three of the five days of our HSR training, and we have learnt so much that it has already started to help us improve the health and safety for members at MLDC.”

Delegate and HSR Rohan Hill was stoked with the result; “I’m very happy that we’ve been able to improve our health and safety representation. I’m even more happy that we’ve done this by ourselves for ourselves. This really shows that when workers stick together, we can achieve anything.

“Outcomes like this never come easy, they’re always a struggle. But they’re certainly not possible without the help and support of the strong and united members at the site," Rohan said.

Every worker's safety counts

A worker was tragically killed at one of our cold storage sites in Laverton. He was a 37 year-old contractor who originally came from Zimbabwe. He was only known as Colin to his workmates.

Colin was doing routine contract maintenance work for the Dock Leveling company, Tieman, when the hydraulics burst and the dock leveler came down on top of him. More than ten workers immediately scrambled to remove it from his body and then dragged him from underneath. He was still breathing but his head had been badly crushed. He died later in hospital. Workers at the site were particularly shaken. One member has brought a wreath into site to commemorate his memory.

Colin had worked as a maintenance contractor for the company for a period of seven years. His death is a sad reminder of how contractors and casual workers can be most vulnerable and at risk of being injured or killed.

"Casual workers are more likely to be under greater pressure to earn a liveable income." (Regulating supply chains, Quinlan et al. 2001)

"Due to financial pressures, casual workers may be forced into taking on undesirable or high risk assignments off loaded by larger organizations.” (Hidden Health and Safety costs of casual employment, 2006.)

It is incredibly important that all OHS reps, including contractors, labour hire or casuals, become part of their designated work group representation. We must actively support them to ensure we have the strongest standards for everyone.

OHS rep Graeme Dobson said, “We need to be diligent about getting things done right. We must bring things to task to do all jobs safely, if we don’t think they are quite right we should speak up and say NO. No amount of money pays for our life. It’s just not worth it.”