Last Friday’s In Orders 2007/23 contained a policy item headed “Exercise Equipment” and which replaced the previous policy of the same name in In Orders 1999/5. On first blush (there was no consultation whatsoever with the Union prior to publication), the revised policy contains two major changes from the ’99 policy.
The first change is to cease to allow members to use their own, personal exercise equipment at their station. Members may now donate agreed exercsise equipment to the Department, which will in turn then accept responsibility for its use and maintenance, but equipment not owned by the NSWFB is no longer allowed on the station. On balance, this amendment appears both reasonable and responsible.
The second (and more objectionable) change occurs at the last dot point under point 4 “use of exercise equipment”, which now reads:
• personnel over 35 years of age wishing to use the equipment or commence an exercise program are to be cleared by the Brigades’ Medical Officer or their family physician. Appropriate documentation such as a medical certificate and/or letter from a registered medical physician should then be kept on file at the station.
However, the previous policy under 1999/5 simply read:
• personnel over 35 years of age wishing to use the equipment must be cleared by the Brigades’ Medical Officer or their family physician.
Many members have expressed concern over the requirement to provide and retain “appropriate documentation” at the station. This new provision raised numerous questions, like who is liable if it isn’t provided – the Station Commander or the firefighter? And what happens if you perform an out-duty or a recall? Are you meant to take your “permission slip” with you, or are you not supposed to exercise? Is your right to workers’ compensation prejudiced if you suffer an injury and the “appropriate documentation” was not provided, or cannot be found?
Above and beyond these concerns, there are also basic industrial considerations regarding the right of all members to absolute privacy when it comes to their medical records, and that this represents yet another new role and responsibility for which Station Commanders are yet to be compensated.
Accordingly, members are instructed that no information or documentation is to be provided to the Station Commander or any other Departmental representative regarding your fitness. Nor, it follows, is any such information to be kept on file at your station. Members who are directed to not use the exercise equipment as a result of this instruction are to contact the Union office or a Union official immediately. This instruction is to remain in force until further notice from the State Secretary.