Request for Statements from Sworn and Unsworn QPS Members: Psychological Risks to Workplace Health and Safety

Reason for request:
In May 2018, Justice 4 Workers Qld forwarded a lengthy complaint to Work Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) against the Queensland Police Service (QPS). The initial complaint was over 130 pages long, highlighting that the organisation was breaching it’s duty of care, risk management, and due diligence obligations as legislated in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld). The complaint was primarily focused on risks to psychological health and safety.

The predominant risks were reported as being failing to properly investigate and address workplace bullying, inept record keeping related to the incidence and causes of police suicide and psychological injuries, and inadequate risk management and risk analysis practices associated with these matters.

A teleconference was then held between myself, and the Executive Director of Specialised Health and Safety Services (Office of Industrial Relations), and the Manager of the Psychological Health and Safety Unit (Workplace Health and Safety Queensland). I was advised that a systemic review of QPS practices would be conducted by WHSQ. WHSQ advised that they would be engaging the assistance of a specialist investigator and travelling Queensland to take statements from witnesses. They requested a list of witnesses and contact details for those who were happy to provide a statement to a WHSQ investigator. A list of 42 witnesses (including suburb and contact details) was compiled and provided, with more obtained since that time. Justice 4 Workers was then advised that the number of witnesses provided was sufficient (and not to source any more), however that there was now no guarantee that witnesses would be spoken to at all.

Justice 4 Workers received a letter from Mr. Simon Blackwood, Deputy Director-General for the Office of Industrial Relations who confirmed that a ‘general review’ would be conducted on his behalf by a WHSQ Investigator. I responded to his correspondence with concerns about the scope of the investigation, and reiterated that witnesses should be contacted so that the investigation was not one-sided. He was not able to commit to obtaining witness statements.

It has now been over a year, and witnesses have not been contacted. Risks to psychological health and safety are continuing. The organisation is still not sufficiently identifying risks or acting to reduce risks in problem sections where multiple complaints and psychological injuries are stemming from. Sworn and unsworn staff are sustaining psychological injuries.  The Injury Management section has an excessive caseload and struggles to meet demands.  There have been further police suicides since the WHSQ Review was initiated, however I must stress that this does not mean that the cause was employment related.

The Service initiated Task Force Juniper to handle workplace bullying and harassment cases, however a number of issues have also become apparent with this initiative. In my view, the system is still very much broken and WHSQ ought to conduct a full and thorough Inquiry into the organisation from a workplace health and safety perspective.

The following information has been compiled to enable QPS employees (sworn and unsworn) to prepare their own statements as it appears that this is the only way the matter will be taken seriously and the enormity of the problem will be portrayed.

Please complete your statement following the guidelines, and email to Justice 4 Workers. The statements will then be forwarded to WHSQ as a collective.

It is important to ensure that your statement precisely addresses the elements of the legislation alleged to have been breached. Some relevant legislation is included below, and the Act can be located at;
http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/qld/consol_act/whasa2011218/

Please note – this is not a forum to report workplace bullying in the first instance. If you are being bullied, you must first report this through your usual internal reporting process. The purpose of gathering statements is specifically to provide evidence of breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. If you have already reported bullying and believe that the organisation has breached its duty of care by not managing the risk to your health and safety after you reported it, only then is it appropriate to include this in your statement.

The closing date for statements will be midnight on 19 August 2019.
Please email your statements to admin@justice4workersqld.com.au, along with your contact phone number and address.

Please ensure that your statement covers the following points;
1. Your name, rank (if applicable) and station
2. When and where the alleged breaches occurred
3. Who was involved?
4. What happened?
5. Who you reported incidents to?
6. What action was taken/not taken?
7. Were there witnesses? If so, who?
8. How the QPS has breached the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, with reference to the appropriate sections of legislation .
9. Whether you sustained a psychological injury as a result
10. Whether you had an approved/rejected workers’ compensation claim for your psychological injury
11. That you consent for Kate Rasmussen from Justice 4 Workers to forward your statement to Work Health and Safety Queensland
12. Whether you also consent for your statement to be forwarded to members of parliament
13. Please sign and date your statement, and include the relevant Justices Act Acknowledgement should your statement be required for court purposes.

Relevant legislation to address is contained below. It is hoped that the new Commissioner of Police will encourage and support a full Inquiry.

Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld)
Section 17 Management of risks
A duty imposed on a person to ensure health and safety requires the person—
(a) to eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable; and
(b) if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Section 18 What is reasonably practicable in ensuring health and safety
In this Act, reasonably practicable, in relation to a duty to ensure health and safety, means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including—
(a) the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring; and
(b) the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk; and
(c) what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about—
(i)the hazard or the risk; and
(ii)ways of eliminating or minimising the risk; and
(d) the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
(e) after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Section 19 Primary duty of care
(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of—
(a) workers engaged, or caused to be engaged by the person; and
(b)workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the person;
while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking.
(2) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.
(3) Without limiting subsections (1) and (2), a person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable—
(a) the provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety; and
(c) the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work; and
(e) the provision of adequate facilities for the welfare at work of workers in carrying out work for the business or undertaking, including ensuring access to those facilities; and
(f) the provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking; and
(g) that the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored for the purpose of preventing illness or injury of workers arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking.

Section 27 Duty of officers
(1) If a person conducting a business or undertaking has a duty or obligation under this Act, an officer of the person conducting the business or undertaking must exercise due diligence to ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking complies with that duty or obligation.
(5) In this section, due diligence includes taking reasonable steps—
(a)to acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety matters; and
(b)to gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking of the person conducting the business or undertaking and generally of the hazards and risks associated with those operations; and
(c)to ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking; and
(d)to ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards and risks and responding in a timely way to that information; and
(e)to ensure that the person conducting the business or undertaking has, and implements, processes for complying with any duty or obligation of the person conducting the business or undertaking under this Act; and
(f)to verify the provision and use of the resources and processes mentioned in paragraphs (c) to (e).
Example—
For paragraph (e), the duties or obligations under this Act of a person conducting a business or undertaking may include—
•reporting notifiable incidents
•consulting with workers
•ensuring compliance with notices issued under this Act
•ensuring the provision of training and instruction to workers about work health and safety
•ensuring that health and safety representatives receive their entitlements to training.

Your participation in this important matter is sincerely appreciated. Together I hope we can reduce the risk of psychological injuries to workers in the Queensland Police Service.