NSWNMA recognised for going “above and beyond” in workplace safety
The Association wins SafeWork award for supporting members on the COVID-19 frontline.
The NSWNMA has received the top union award in the 2020 SafeWork NSW Awards for “outstanding work health and safety support to members in the changed working environment due to COVID-19”.
Emma Hogan, Secretary, Department of Customer Services, which hosted the awards, said this was an occasion to “celebrate those workplaces that have gone above and beyond in what has been one of the most challenging years”.
The coronavirus had demanded “forward thinking and rapid innovation” of organisations when practising work health and safety, she said.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said the Association appreciated the recognition for our efforts to ensure NSWNMA members across the public, private and aged care sectors were kept up to date as the COVID-19 situation evolved rapidly.
“When the biggest global health pandemic in 100 years is hurtling towards you, you have a duty to your members to ensure they have exactly what they need to be safe in the workplace, but to also maintain the safe care of their patients and residents,” he said.
“We recognised early that access to personal protective equipment (PPE) was a big problem, not just in the public hospital system, but also in the private sector and aged care, so we were quick to open channels of communication and get issues resolved as promptly as possible.
“The issue of fit-testing P2 and N95 masks worn by our members was another major concern and we’ve achieved improvement, with almost all Local Health Districts committing to fit-testing programs in their public hospitals. The increased fit-testing of clinical staff will go beyond COVID-19, improving respiratory protection for nurses long after the virus disappears.”
Assistant General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said the award showed the union’s commitment to support members, “so nurses and midwives can continue their selfless work”.
“Access to leave was an issue we were determined to tackle quickly. We wanted to ensure the health and wellbeing of our members was properly considered, given the unknown territory they were working in responding to COVID-19,” she said.
“Thousands of nurses and midwives were forced to respond rapidly and absorb new workplace policies at short notice. They have lived, breathed, and continue to work through the pandemic response till today.”
COVID calls for clear communication and organisational agility
COVID has emphasised the need for foresight, the highest levels of protection for health staff and patients, and the importance of local capacity to produce PPE.
Veronica Black, the NSWNMA’s health and safety officer, told the online audience at the SafeWork awards that education was the key to our COVID-19 efforts.
Communication had been important to meet members’ needs, she said.
Expanded online resources on the member portal and The Lamp online delivered FAQs, WHS and workforce updates. Facebook videos and live Q&As also addressed WHS issues.
Sector-specific emails and PPE webinars and educational resources were used to give COVID advice and to educate members around the correct use of protective equipment.
The COVID crisis also required a level of organisational agility and an openness to collaborate, Veronica said.
“We extended our hours of operation and set up WhatsApp groups.
“We sought advice from the highest levels – not only governments but also the Centre for Disease Control in the United States and the World Health Organization.
“We sought advice from other unions – anyone and everyone – to make sure we were as up to date on the information as we possibly could be.
“Some of the things we are proud of are that there has been an increase in PPE availability, substandard PPE has been removed from workplaces and we’re now seeing the start of fit-testing for all nurses wearing P2 or N95 masks at work,” she said.
Veronica also pointed out how COVID had highlighted the importance of local capacity to manufacture PPE.