Action taken against Education Directorate to support improvement in occupational violence prevention and management

Released 15/10/2018

Following a two year investigation by WorkSafe ACT into occupational violence in ACT public schools an enforceable undertaking with the Education Directorate has been accepted with a range of actions committed to improving safety.

Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones said the action taken by WorkSafe ACT, and value of the undertaking, reflected the significant impact violence in the workplace could have on individual workers as well as their colleagues and community.

“All workers can rightly expect to go home safely and not be injured in the course of performing their duties,” Mr Jones said.

“When workplace injury occurs, particularly through violence, it can have a profound and lasting effect on those directly impacted but also those who may witness it and by extension colleagues, friends and family. There is a duty for employers to ensure as far as practicable that workplaces are safe.

“Following an investigation by WorkSafe ACT, it is alleged that between 2016 and 2018 the Education Directorate did not comply with its health and safety duty (s.19 WHS Act) as it did not do all that was reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of its staff.

“As a result, staff were exposed to the risk of injury, and were injured in three schools as outlined in the undertaking. WorkSafe ACT has not named these schools to respect the privacy of the individuals involved in these incidents.”

The issues of alleged non-compliance related to:

  • applying inconsistent or inadequate controls to workplace hazards associated with student behaviours
  • failing to adequately adjust controls following incidents or changes in circumstances
  • failing to provide adequate training to staff in the application of controls identified.

WorkSafe ACT had previously issued an improvement notice in relation to one of the schools outlined in the undertaking.

An enforceable undertaking is a legally binding agreement which must be complied with or further regulatory action will be considered.  The undertaking includes commitments to improvements for employees, industry and the community with timelines and reporting requirements that have to be met.

Mr Jones said the Education Directorate had already recently implemented a range of improvements and initiatives when it came to occupational violence awareness, prevention and management and this was reflected in the undertaking. The value of completed activity, committed initiatives or work underway that was made during the investigation period was $7.67 million.

In addition to this,  the following strategies need to be delivered by the Directorate as part of the undertaking:

  • full implementation of their recently completed Occupational Violence Policy and Management Plan
    • includes: strengthening the implementation and control of risk assessments, provision of specific work health and safety training including on occupational violence, improving communication around reporting and support, enhancing sensory spaces in schools to support students with complex needs and enhanced incident reporting.
      Total: $2.225 million (including engagement of an additional four full time employees, external expert services and other resourcing over a two year period).
  • share learnings and resources with other education jurisdictions nationally
    • a forum will be hosted on work health and safety and occupational violence in education settings.
      Total: $50,000
  • building safe communities
    • support for the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations to deliver three workshops with a focus on supporting the safety of staff, students and families and meeting the diverse range of student  academic and wellbeing needs.
      Total: $100,000

“This brings the total value of this undertaking to $10.045 million with the cost directly supporting safety initiatives and improvements in the education system,” Mr Jones said.

“I am pleased by the Education Directorate’s commitment to improvement and cooperation throughout the investigation and look forward to seeing this improvement continue through the terms of this undertaking.

“This undertaking should also serve as a reminder to employers and industry to ensure that occupational violence and supporting safe workplaces for employees is a key priority.”

- Statement ends -

Section: Access Canberra | Media Releases

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