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Ensuring a safe church

Queensland Synod Risk and Insurance Manager, David Munro.
THE Queensland Synod has responded to the new Work Health and Safety legislation (which took effect in Queensland on 1 January) by reviewing its own Work Health and Safety resources.

Queensland Synod Risk and Insurance Manager, David Munro, said new resources are in their final stages of review
and take into account additional or changed requirements of the legislation and their impact on Uniting Church staff and volunteers.

These updated policies and manuals will provide guidance on appropriate risk management practices for congregations and other Uniting Church affiliated workplace environments.

“The information sheet we have provided gives a good overview of the changes.

The other place to find really good information is on the Safe Work Australia website,” he said.

Safe Work Australia has produced detailed fact sheets on the impact these new laws have on volunteers and volunteer organisations.

The Synod has also produced an information sheet which is now online.

“Providing a duty of care to volunteers isn’t new and our information sheet reflects that,” said Mr Munro.

“In Queensland the occupational health and safety laws already applied to volunteers.

The church has also responded historically.

“The really big thing is that it refers to volunteers explicitly, rather than implicitly wrapped up in a definition of ‘other persons in a workplace’.

“The fundamental reason why the Workplace Health and Safety legislation has been changed, which is what is driving all the other things we are doing, is to bring about national harmonisation.”

Mr Munro said the impact of the changes on the church shouldn’t be any different to what congregations should already be doing.

“It is a good reminder but also, the fact that it is explicitly outlined in the Work Health and Safety Act really draws attention
to the fact that it is something we, as a church, need to do.

“It doesn’t refer to workplaces but ‘businesses’ and ‘undertakings’.

“It is not just about what the law says we have to do, it is about us, as a church, looking after and protecting our people and people who come into contact with us,” he said.

Mr Munro said it is important that when people look at Work Health and Safety, particularly, that it is taken in context.

“One of the big things churches need to remember is that we are churches, not plastics manufacturers or underground

"Within the Act it does provide a reasonably practical test.

“The Uniting Church is committed to providing safe spaces where people are cared for, nurtured and sustained. This is just part of fulfilling that.

"In some respects it is helpful because it provides us with guidance, which isn’t necessarily always common sense.

“We’ve always had a duty of care to look after people.

"All the new legislation has done is formalise this duty of care that is owed to all persons engaged in Uniting Church activities whether paid or voluntary.”

Reorganising ourselves to satisfy this new legislation is part of being organised for mission, one of the Uniting Church in
Queensland’s Vision 2020 goals.

Call the Safe Work Australia Volunteer Assistance Line on (02) 6240 4990 or visit www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au

For more information on Work Health and Safety within the Queensland Synod contact the Synod Work Health and Safety
Resource Advisor on 3377 9729 or health.safety@ucaqld.com.au or visit the services section of www.ucaqld.com.au

Photo : Queensland Synod Risk and Insurance Manager, David Munro.