Welcome to the October edition of the AFPA Dispatch!
October is National Safe Work and Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to spend a little extra time reviewing your own safety and mental health.
Working for the AFP is not a regular occupation with negligible physical risk; the job regularly exposes members to significant risks which can and do negatively affect mental health and work/life balance.
If you need assistance in this space, I strongly urge you to reach out to your delegates or the AFPA Office and ask for assistance if needed. If you don’t know who the AFPA delegate in your particular workplace is, we can tell you. Just call us.
Some not-so-regular hazards that can affect members’ mental health include:
- Not being afforded the time/ability to switch off after your shift ends,
- Lack of support after traumatic incidents (including short, medium, and long term support)
- Excessive shift changes,
- Being overpaid (and then being subjected to debt recovery)
- Being underpaid
It is vitally important to report all hazards in the workplace, regardless of how small they may appear or what others may say. Doing so might just save yourself or a colleague an injury. Your HSR, WHS advisors, or the AFPA are all ready to support you if you need assistance reporting a hazard.
Remember that the person/s conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU, specifically the AFP) has the responsibility to ensure that the workplace is safe. This responsibility cannot be avoided for any reason (such as costs, time pressures or staffing shortages).
A breach of safety occurs when a person/PCBU fails to, as “reasonably practicable”, meet the standard of care required for the duty holder.
It is not uncommon for workplace culture to “make do” or create a “workaround” that doesn’t address the hazard. These may be symptomatic of management’s lack of understanding or unwillingness to consider the expert knowledge of the employee assessing the risk.
We have all heard the excuses “nothing has happened before”, or “we don’t have the time/money/staff to fix that”. These excuses are not good enough — management should be asking themselves if they can afford for it not to be fixed. The Association encourages all members, especially those in leadership positions, to familiarise themselves with Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
If work pressures and staff shortages are:
- taking a toll on your wellbeing,
- causing you to take on extra work, or
- forcing you to delegate more work
you may like to consider:
- Do I (they) have time to do this?
- If I (they) make time for it, what else won’t get done?
- Do I (they) have the capacity, knowledge and resources to do this?
- Can someone else do it (or part of it) so that the load is shared?
- Is it a reasonable part of my (their) job to do this?
The AFPA is encouraging members to leave their UoCs at work and not attend to calls, emails, or text messages unless you are in receipt of an allowance requiring you to do so. Regardless of any advice to the contrary that AFP Industrial Relations might be trying to peddle, there is NO obligation for members to do this unless you are in receipt of an allowance requiring you to do so (even for shift change notifications). To be clear, the operations working pattern composite is not one of these allowances.
Exercising the right to disconnect is a chance for members to unwind and reset for the next shift.
It is important to prioritise yourself and your family; employers can replace cops, scientists and PSOs but your family, loved ones or friends will not be able to replace you.
Below you can find a summary of the media appearances I have made over October.