Telstra 2020 –Where there’s Heat, Fire & Smoke

A new decade, filled with many employment challenges is now upon us. Whether it’s appropriate or not, be prepared for it!!!

Summer time in Victoria has bought some serious weather events, as well as major fires in large areas of the state. This bulletin builds on our experience over the years of dealing with inclement weather conditions, heat and also fire related. Our last big fire event was Black Saturday (February 2009) and significant precautions were put in place by Telstra to ensure the safety of employees. However, we suspect that memories may be short or non-existent, so we think it is timely to revisit those times.

Firstly, the obvious issue where heat is concerned is related to exposure in those conditions. On building sites, there tends to be a set temperature figure where all work stops. We don’t have any such clauses in the Enterprise Agreement,, however, common sense and the aspects of the emergency procedures of the Commonwealth Work Health & Safety Act 2011 apply.

Clause 84 of the Act says the following: “Right of worker to cease unsafe work – A worker may cease, or refuse to carry out, work if the worker has a reasonable concern that to carry out the work would expose the worker to a serious risk to the worker’s health or safety, emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard” and clause 86 indicates who you should adviseWorker to notify if ceases work – A worker who ceases work under this Division must a) as soon as practicable that the worker ceased work under this Division unless the worker has ceased work  under a direction from a health and safety representative, and b) remain available to carry out suitable alternative work “

You should also, as well as advising the team leader, notify the elected Health and Safety Rep of your concerns and legally protected action you have undertaken. In the case of heat stress, you need to gain respite from the heat and, as the temperature elevates, go to a cooler place on a correspondingly increased time scale. There really is no absolute temperature when this occurs, but common sense should prevail. You all have either air-conditioned buildings to go to, or air conditioned vehicles. Provided you have followed the advice arrangements to your team leader, there should be no repercussions. The WH&S Act protects you in this situation.  However, simply just don’t go absent – you must stay safe until advised by your team leader what to do and where to go.

Be smart and be sensible – Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act is there to protect you, and you need to know your rights when faced with any unsafe situation.

The aspects of the WH&S Act apply as well. You should not be directed to, required to, (or decide to) enter unsafe areas. This includes areas where there are imminent threats from smoke or flame (including both vision and respiratory). At present, there is a blanket of smoke across most areas of Victoria, and indications that some sort of rudimentary PPE will look after you is nonsense. You clearly should not be there.  Driving in these conditions to or from these fire areas is also extremely dangerous, particularly relating to falling trees, visibility, etc. Just don’t go there if you are concerned, and provide the correct advice to your team leader. (And if you find yourself unfortunately travelling through those areas, there is a likelihood that vehicle headlights may not turn on automatically)

Many residue chemicals and hazards exist in burnt areas, in particular uncontained contaminants, and particularly asbestos hazards. You should not be going anywhere near burnt/destroyed buildings unless there has been a clearance from the relevant authorities. This was particularly evident in the Black Saturday fires of 2009, in the areas north of Melbourne, so don’t risk it. All these places should be avoided, but again, advise of your concerns, and remove yourself from any imminent threat. There is no reason to put yourself at risk at any time, so don’t entertain the idea.

1970 TiT Reunion – (advice from Tony Meade, Bairnsdale)
There is going to be a reunion of 1970 intake TiT’s (Technicians In Training) at the Mail Exchange Hotel on the corner of Bourke and Spencer Streets, 2pm 17th February (Monday). It will be a casual meeting with no catering. The pub may need to know numbers so email John Morton ( if you are attending. Hope to see you all there. If you know of any other 1970 TiT’s, let them know. Also, there is a 1970 year book available (which was provided at the completion of year 1) in soft copy from John Morton (via email) as well.

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