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Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 69 – The importance of inductions

It has been several years since we have looked at Occupational Health and Safety Issues, so I thought I would rectify that for you today. But in particular I would like to focus on what should happen on Day 1 of your new job.  Please note, this applies to all types of positions – including fixed-term contract, casual work, part-time or full-time employment. The risks are the same for you on day 1 as they are for anyone else. As a registrant and contractor with Information Enterprises Australia you are in the interesting situation whereby you can be in many different places throughout your working career, and therefore exposed to many situations and circumstances most people do not experience. This means of course you have to be alert to the many problems and issues that may arise, that perhaps others hadn’t thought about. So – let us begin.

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In this issue we will look at:
• Your first day on the job
• Questions to ask if you are not told
• What is a hazard?
• Other issues to consider

Your first day on the job
It has been said the first day on any job is the most dangerous. Why? Simply because you don’t know where anything is, you don’t know about the faulty wiring, the damaged step out back, or that the fire alarms stopped working a couple of years ago and no-one thought to say anything.

As a contractor, you should be given an induction on day 1 of the contract with the host employer.

The Host employer has exactly the same as the OH&S responsibilities to you as a contractor as they have to their own employees, and do not let them tell you otherwise, the law is quite strict on that fact.  They have a Duty of Care to those people who are working on their premises to:
• Provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work;
• Identify potential hazards in your workplace;
• Provide mechanisms to address safety & health hazards;
• Provide ongoing safety & health training, information, instruction and supervision;
• Provide personal protective clothing & equipment (where necessary);
• Consult & cooperate with safety & health representatives & other employees regarding OH&S.

Questions to ask if you’re not told:
• Where are the evacuation muster points?
• Who is the health & safety representative?
• Are there any known hazards I should be aware of?
• Who can I talk to if I have a problem at work (apart from IEA that is).

What is a hazard?
A hazard is anything that may cause injury or harm to a person. Common hazards include:
• Slips, trips & Falls;
• Gas, Electricity, Water;
• Manual handling – over-exertion or repetitive movement;
• Extremes in temperature (my feet are freezing !!);
• Machinery or equipment – being hit, hitting objects or being caught in between things eg., compactus;
• Hazardous substances including glue, toner & acids; One of my early jobs in the academic library sector was photocopier maintenance – making sure there was enough toner and paper in the machines before the students arrived for the day. A Colleague was responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the microfiche equipment, both jobs involved handling what could quite conceivably be classed as dangerous substances, but apart from a general “this is how you do it” I do not recall ever being given any safety advice or personal protective equipment. If you’ve ever inhaled toner – you know what that feels like. If your duties include using solvents, paints, toners or cleaning fluids, make sure you have personal protective equipment before starting, always make sure the area is well ventilated and wash your hands afterwards.
• Radiation – it’s best not to stand in front of microwaves when your dinner is cooking – the seals may be worn out – and if there isn’t a sticker on it to say when it was last checked, best avoided;
• Biological agents such as anthrax; and
• Psychological Stress. This includes intimidation, racial and sexual harassment, bullying, violence, as well as conflict and time pressure. Remember you are only a phone call away from us, and we will come to the Host Employer if you would like us to deal with any issues you raise with us.

Other issues to consider:

Safe Lifting Practices: Working on contract to a host employer, you may be tempted to rush a job, especially if the timeframe is a little tight. If this involves lifting and carrying, you may forget all about the safe lifting practices you were taught and end up hurting your back or other body parts.

Presenteeism: Or going in to work when you don’t feel up to the mark. As a contractor – as you know, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. If money is a little tight (and who isn’t feeling the pinch at the moment?!) you may be tempted to go to work regardless. A couple of points about this – if you are genuinely sick – then stay at home, and do not inflict your colleagues with whatever is ailing you. Depending on the duration of the illness of course you may need to supply a Doctor’s Certificate, and another one that clears you to return to work.

Don’t take on work without the contract first: Make sure you have a contract before you start work otherwise you may find yourself without workers compensation and public liabilities insurance if you’re not careful.

Do not take on any work that is not on current list of duties: There are a couple of reasons for this, and discretion is required when considering whether to say yes or no to the extra tasks / jobs on top of your current work load. Does your job description say “Other duties as required?” this is a real cop out on the host employers part – if it seems a reasonable thing to do, by all means oblige. But if you are not sure, or if you think the job / task is way above your current level or ability you may not be being paid enough to do the extra work. If the new task / job requires you to use machinery you haven’t used before (more so with manual type jobs I know – but you should still be aware of the issues) then please ask for training on it. “Could you please show me what to do? I haven’t used that particular piece of equipment before.” No-one will refuse that kind of request. There have been many instances in the courts of late whereby a host employer had asked a contract personnel member to use a different machine and had an accident as a result. What you may not be aware of though is – IEA (and other employment agencies) are liable as well as the Host Employer to ensure you are safe at work. This is of course why we ask you to come in and see us and go through the induction program we have set up.

And talking of insurance: If you are not on the clients premises during lunch or other breaks – you may not be eligible for workers compensation or public liabilities coverage should anything happen to you. Worthwhile considering before agreeing to join your host employers annual abseiling xmas function.