Devon NHS worker wins award for better safety at work

Caroline wins the better safety at work award

An NHS admin worker has won an award for her campaigning for better safety at work across the South West

Caroline Emery, a health and safety rep for public service union UNISON, was presented with the award on Friday 26 January 2018 at the annual Get Active event.

Caroline is a UNISON member in Torquay, where she works for the mental health trust’s learning disability centre.

Caroline Emery said:

“Health and Safety is my passion. The injustice and inequality in how people are treated has always shocked me. This is why I got involved and became a UNISON rep. For the last 10 years we have done our best to get better safety at work for all. To be recognised is wonderful.

“However, we can’t rest on our laurels so stand up, be counted and get active!”

Caroline highlighted three times she secured better safety at work that she was particularly proud of.

Fixing extreme heat at work

“Staff in one of our buildings were exposed to temperatures above 30 degrees regularly. This was making them ill and they were fainting, suffering migraines, and sickness.

“I challenged this and got staff to record the temperatures for a certain period of time, three times a day. Then I also asked them to record all instances of sickness due to the heat exhaustion.

“This information was then taken to the health and safety committee and also the Emergency Preparedness, Resilience And Response Officer.

“Unfortunately, it turned out that works required had been ignored by the trust and the builders.

“I wrote to the trust advising I had communicated with staff and notified them to contact the Health and Safety Executive direct. On top of this I also told the trust I would issue them with a UNI for failure to abide by the health and safety at work regulations.

“In less than six weeks works carried out to expand the area, install air conditioning and reconstruct a better environment.

“After a number of visits since, I have had nothing but good reports from staff and no current issues with heat and sickness”

Fighting unfair treatment of people with hidden disabilities

“Second was an issue around the sickness policy and the unfair treatment of people with disabilities.

“Sitting on the working group, it became obvious that there were issues for people who had a disability that was not visible.

“I found cases of a certain type of disability that the trust seemed to be ignoring. Staff were being isolated and targeted with the threat of sacking and this was having an effect on their mental health and wellbeing. It was also showing that a mental health trust was not as supportive as they could be to their own staff.

“Through engagement with HR and the members, I have been able to ensure these staff now have the incidences relating to their disability taken into account through the disability tool rather than escalating the sickness process.

“This has helped their mental health and well-being. While their absences may not improve in all cases, it has made them more able to stay in their jobs.

“Reasonable adjustments have been made and the managers and colleagues are more aware. I encouraged them to talk about the disability to widen the knowledge and learning.”

Making sure all staff get a fair hearing

“A member approached me regarding bullying behaviour from her manager due to her sickness and issues with the lighting in her reception area.

“She needed the light off and the manager insisted it was on so the reception did not look closed.  The manager only worked two days a week there but the staff member was full time.

“After discussing this with the member and gathering more information it seemed that the solution was to organise for a light test as again the member was suffering from migraines which were as a result of the lighting issue.

“Initially the manager did not wish to engage. But after doing an assessment of the area and taking into account the work and requirements for the reception, we also concluded that there was indeed an issue with the lighting through the test.

“The member was able to remain in her job and reasonable adjustments meant that the manager was given other options to work rather than in reception.”

Find out about UNISON’s work on health and safety