SITREP No. 18/2010

May 7, 2010

Inside this issue:

  • Incident Ground Health Monitoring Banned
  • Station Officers promoted – at last
  • Magnetic 40km/h signs update
  • Critical incident support survey
  • Fishing for information
  • Entitlements for attending medical appointments

Incident Ground Health Monitoring Banned

In Orders 2010/9 included Incident Ground Health Monitoring (IGHM). This SOG arose out of a dispute in January 2009 where the Department stood down a member who was identified as having high blood pressure by NSW Ambulance officers on the fire ground. The matter went before the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) where it was recommended that the member in question get a clearance to return to work from a specialist – which he ultimately did. Not satisfied that it had wasted the member’s and the IRC’s time by standing down a member who was perfectly fit to be at work, the Department continued to press its claim in the IRC for mandatory IGHM.

The Union is committed to a well-resourced health and wellness policy that covers all firefighters. In recent talks with the Department it appeared that this position was shared and the Union requested that last week’s In Orders be with held while talks continued. The Department published regardless.

The Department claims that IGHM protects the health and safety of firefighters. However, its random approach is only practical in metropolitan areas and will not provide any real medical or health advice to members. It does nothing more than cull members from operational duties. While this may well reduce the Department’s workers compensation premiums, it does little for our welfare.

The Union argued that rather than implement an under-resourced and random testing regime, the parties should act on the agreement outlined in the Death and Disability Award at Clause 14 to have a structured and properly resourced health and fitness program that has support programs and protections in place for members.

The Department knows that such a program will save it money. The NSW Government agreed as much when it recently introduced a comprehensive Health and Wellness program in the NSW Ambulance Service.

The Union is serious about Health and Wellness. We are serious about working with the Department  to establish a program that not only benefits firefighters, but also reduces the Department’s exposure on workers compensation premiums. And we are serious about our contribution being recognised in the approaching Award negotiations. IGHM is not a serious attempt to address the issue – it is random health screening on the cheap.

Members are instructed that mandatory IGHM is now banned. Members may (and we advise should) refuse to undergo IGHM and to contact the Union immediately if directed to do so.

Station Officers promoted – at last

The Department finally promoted SOPP 26 today, nearly six months after the class graduation date. As reported in SITREP 19/2009, however, members of this class, and SOPP 25, will be promoted to Station Officer Level 2 two years from the date that their SOPP concluded, not two years from their date of promotion to SO Level 1. The Department has since given the IRC an undertaking that forward planning will ensure all future SOPP graduates will be promoted upon the conclusion of their course.

Magnetic 40km/h signs update

In last week’s SITREP we reported the blunder made by the Department when it ordered magnetic 40km/h signs. A number of members have since pointed out that the In Order instructed members to stick the signs to the back of the Hazard Ahead signs, rather than the back of the trucks. Whilst that is true, our point remains valid as the very great majority of the signs carried on appliances are aluminium – and therefore not magnetic.

The Department has since rectified all this by issuing a further instruction. Use double sided sticky tape.

Critical Incident Support Survey

This week the Department made available an online survey that forms part of the Australian Research Council’s study into critical incident support. So far more that 300 members have completed the survey around the state and the Union encourages all members to participate. The survey being is conducted by the University of NSW and the University of Sydney and is completely anonymous.

The Union supports this research as it will provide both the Union and the Department with a better understanding of what critical incident support is needed and to address the growing evidence that traditional forms of critical incident support and debriefing may be harmful to members.

Fishing for information

The Union has been contacted by more members who have been asked to participate in interviews as part of general investigations. Further, management is also encouraging members to not have a support person who is employed by the NSW Fire Brigades. To be clear, members are not required to participate or assist the Department with these so called fact finding mission – even if the investigator produces an authority signed off by the Commissioner. Members are advised to decline to participate and report the matter to the Union Office.

Entitlements for attending medical appointments

The Union is currently in dispute with the Department over a member’s travel entitlements following a medical appointment he was directed to attend. Whilst we are close to resolving this matter it has highlighted the need for members to ensure the Department confirms all travel arrangements and entitlements in writing prior to any travel. This should include the mode of transport approved and entitlements to accommodation. Members who are not sure of their entitlements should check Clause 26 Travelling Compensation or contact the Union office.

Jim Casey
State Secretary



Recent news: