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2014-10-31

isolated locations

Comcare highlights risks of remote and isolated work

October has been Comcare Safety Month and as part of its activities Comcare has been highlighting risk management issues.

Comcare’s Safety Month page contains some interesting and important information about risk management for communication workers, especially for those who regularly work in remote or isolated situations.   

The definition of remote or isolated covers those who work alone, especially at night (a/hrs Assurance team in Canberra for example), travel long distances (construction and maintenance staff), work in difficult and remote localities (such as mobile towers and repeater stations or at isolated customers premises).

It also covers employees who work unsupervised or unescorted in public environments at any hour where some degree of harassment from members of the public may be experienced. 

In all situations there is a shared responsibility of the employer, staff supervisors and the affected employee to ensure that the workplace is free from risk and that all effort is made to minimise the hazards encountered before staff attend.  

However in many cases it seems that the employers are prepared to put cost saving before the safety of their staff and where possible transfer the sole responsibility for safety onto the employee.

In 2013 for example, Telstra in its wisdom outsourced its after-hours monitoring of call out techs to India. Not surprisingly there have been examples of miscommunication as a result as the local knowledge of place names and distances to available assistance has been lost.  

With fire, flood and accident on remote back roads an ever present possibility, any lack of regular contact and communication could end up costing lives.

As well as that, with fewer external staff on their books now due to downsizing at both Telstra and Optus, these companies are often requiring employees to travel many more hours than normal to a work location and then return.  

The Comcare guidelines around driver fatigue state clearly that regular rest breaks are vital if staff are to perform their work and return home safely.   Members are urged to access these guidelines and apply them to their own work situations.  

More information about Safety Month can be found at http://www.comcare.gov.au/news__and__media/features/safety_month_2014_-_managing_risk_in_the_workplace.

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