WHS breaches at Coffs Harbour Community Services Centre – Michael Coutts-Trotter must show leadership and act now! - Public Service Association

WHS breaches at Coffs Harbour Community Services Centre – Michael Coutts-Trotter must show leadership and act now!

WHS breaches at Coffs Harbour Community Services Centre – Michael Coutts-Trotter must show leadership and act now! – October 2018 (PDF version)

PSA members at Coffs Harbour CSC referred their concerns about the failure of FACS management to provide a safe work environment to SafeWork NSW.

SafeWork’s investigation found that workers at the CSC are currently exposed to the risk of psychological injury: “from an existing culture/behaviour of bullying, harassment and intimidation of workers by managers (past and present) during the period May 2012 to present”.

This is an indictment of FACS senior managers who breached their WHS responsibilities by failing to provide a safe place of work and a safe system of work.

Three legally enforceable Improvement Notices which describe the contraventions of WHS legislation were issued by SafeWork on 12 October 2018:

“Workers are exposed to a risk to their health and safety from psychological injury resulting from an existing culture/behaviour of bullying, harassment and intimidation of workers by managers (past and present) during the period May 2012 to present at the Coffs Harbour Office of FACS (unsafe environment/unacceptable workplace behaviours) as the current Respectful Workplace Policy (no bullying, harassment or discrimination) is not being followed as per the FACS Code of Ethical Conduct”.

“Workers may be exposed to risk to their health and safety from psychological injury due to the inconsistent approach by management to one on one and group supervision (de-briefing) at the workplace”.

“Workers are exposed to a risk to their health and safety from psychological injury as there appears to be a lack of appropriate consultation in relation to identifying and minimising risks of psychological injury and resolving WHS issues at the workplace”.

By 23 November 2018, FACS is required to demonstrate how they will consult with staff, provide appropriate training, monitor the health of staff and implement a safe system for identifying and managing risks associated with the potential for psychological injury at Coffs Harbour CSC.

FACS Secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter must show leadership and respond to these damning failures by instituting reforms at Coffs Harbour and elsewhere to protect staff from psychological injury and ensure their safety at work.

The PSA has written to the Secretary seeking his commitment to consultation with the PSA and our members. We’ve requested a meeting to discuss how FACS plans to address at Coffs Harbour and state-wide the issues covered by the Notices. You can view the letter HERE.

The PSA will not accept a brush-off response.

Senior management must accept that these are long-standing and systemic problems which need to be resolved.

The PSA is recommending the establishment of a high-level taskforce as part of the FACS response.

However, early indications are not promising.  In an email to Coffs Harbour CSC staff on 15 October 2018, the new Director Community Services, Mid North Coast, narrowed the first Improvement Notice to “historical issues” rather than recognising that the problems of bullying, harassment and intimidation remain very much a current problem.

The email states:

“Several months ago concerns were raised with SafeWork NSW around historical issues relating to Bullying and Harassment in the workplace. This resulted in SafeWork NSW conducting an investigation into the concerns raised with FACS”.

The Director gave no detail about the other contraventions of WHS legislation identified by SafeWork and no information about how FACS will consult with staff as they are required to do by the Improvement Notices.

Unfortunately bullying, harassment, intimation and the risk of psychological injury are not isolated to Coffs Harbour. Members in other workplaces with similar WHS concerns should consult with their Health and Safety Representative and PSA delegate as a first step. The PSA will also provide support and advice to members seeking the intervention of SafeWork to address WHS concerns.

The PSA wishes to sincerely thank our courageous members at Coffs Harbour who came forward and provided evidence to SafeWork. We are stronger together and we are safer together.

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