Telstra exchange buildings: know your rights
CWU members and other employees who are required to enter Telstra exchange buildings need to be aware of their rights under relevant health and safety laws.
- Even if it is only entered irregularly, an exchange building is still a “workplace” for the purposes of relevant Workplace Health and Safety legislation. As such Telstra has a responsibility to ensure that it :
- is free from threats to health and safety and
- provides adequate facilities for the welfare of those who carry out work in it.
- Employees have a right to cease or refuse to carry out work that they consider to be unsafe i.e. work which “exposes the worker to a serious risk”.
- Employees who cease work due to a health and safety risk must notify Telstra that they have done so and must make themselves available to perform alternative duties.
Your local Health and Safety Representative (HSR) also has specific rights in relation to the kind of hazards that are being reported as being present in some exchanges (e.g. broken tiles) and in relation to any failure to provide proper workplace facilities (which is a breach of the Workplace Health and Safety Act).
Your HSR can:
- Issue a notice (a Provisional Improvement Notice) to Telstra requiring them to fix the problem;
- Give directions to employees not to work in a hazardous situation.
Under the Act, the HSR is designed to be your first point of call in dealing with workplace hazards and they are given powers to deal with them. CWU members are also encouraged, however, to report such issues directly to their state branch.