“Becoming an HSR Changed Everything”

We caught up with Bothwell District High School Business Manager Chris Turner, who has been a workplace Health and Safety Representative since 2015 and was in Hobart this week for Unions Tasmania’s HSR Refresher Course.

Far too often you speak to someone who doesn’t know their own WHS obligations under the law and has the mentality of, ‘well, let it be someone else’s problem.’ That doesn’t cut it.

As a School Business Manager, being proactive about workplace safety is a big part of the job. John (one of our Education Facility Attendants, who are responsible for grounds keeping and maintenance of school facilities) and I were both constantly looking for answers when we first got started: what were our responsibilities? What did the regulations have to say? We found out through the union that there was HSR training available for anyone who wanted it. We had another teacher here at the time from Germany who was also very passionate about it because she just couldn’t believe how little information was accessible, as well as how much safer her workplace was with far fewer workplace accidents than we still see in Australia. So we decided it was something we wanted to do for our school.

If you ask any parent, ‘what’s the one thing you expect when you send your child to school?’ really above everything else you want your kids back in one piece at the end of the day.

Looking back, it’s honestly the best thing I’ve done for our staff, school and students. The five day training is one of the most worthwhile things I done in my career. Being an HSR has given me so much more clarity in my day to day. Our entire school has improved as a result.

If you ask any parent, ‘what’s the one thing you expect when you send your child to school?’ Their first answer is probably going to be something along the lines of, ‘quality teaching and learning,’ but really above everything else you want your kids back in one piece at the end of the day.

The training you’re provided to become an HSR is more than just running through a list of what your responsibilities are. It’s about teaching you what questions to ask and when confronted with an issue, and instead of panicking being able to stop and say, ‘okay, we’ve got an issue. How do we fix it?’ Now we’re more proactive and when we’re confronted by a potential risk or challenge in the workplace we aren’t wasting any time working out how to respond.

I think the majority of people think about becoming an HSR and decide it’s probably just extra work, but the reality is that it’s saved me so much time over the years. We’ve been able to answer instantly what the processes were when we needed to, and we’ve established better processes. It gets that much easier when you have more than one HSR in your workplace. Two heads are absolutely better than one.

We’d love a teacher in the role next so we can form a proper committee. We’re all coming at it from a different perspective and the HSR role feels like the missing link where you can actually get the full picture of what’s happening across your workplace.

We cannot allow money to be the reason why we weren’t prepared when something went wrong – that’s one of the most important things I took to heart from my HSR training. Somebody getting hurt shouldn’t be the thing that starts a conversation about WHS and your voice at work. That’s something that should motivate everyone to want an HSR. We can’t afford to be reactive, so start being proactive.

Did this peak your interest in kickstarting the process of getting an HSR in your workplace, or putting your own hand up for the role? Get in touch with the CPSU at cpsu@tas.cpsu.com.au to speak to an Organiser and get the ball rolling.

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