Decision making on PPE at national level in Australia is devoid of Work health safety and union expertise


In a recent paper penned for the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), doctors Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Benjamin Veness, Andrew Miller and David Heslop criticised national government advice around the use of P2 and N95 masks when working with potentially COVID-19-positive patients.

Further, the authors noted:

‘Decision making on PPE at national level in Australia is devoid of WHS expertise and health care worker representation from their professional colleges, societies and unions. Policy on PPE has been dominated by infection control expertise that relies on best current evidence, but this approach has failed to prevent health care worker SARS-CoV-2 infections, suggesting that diversifying the skill mix is urgently required’.

The authors acknowledged that health workers have won important protections for themselves through the pandemic, even when faced with heavy government and employer opposition:

‘Gains in respiratory protection have been hard won by Australian health care workers who have experienced bullying and censure [from management,’ they said. “[This is] despite demands from their professional societies for respirators that should be fit-tested to Australian/New Zealand Standard 1715:2009.

In NSW, the health unions ran a successful campaign which has ensured fit-testing in 12 of New South Wales’ Local Health Districts. The current fit testing program is well underway.

In recognition of their work on fit testing, SafeWork NSW recently awarded our colleagues at the NSWNMA the SafeWork NSW Award for "Outstanding work health and safety support to members in the changed working environment due to COVID-19". We congratulate the Nurses Union for winning this well-deserved award for their work on fit testing and safety! ASMOF is proud to have worked in close collaboration with the Nurses Union on the fit testing campaign and we will continue to work with our health union colleagues on collective issues impacting our members.

If you have any feedback or concerns in relation to the fit test program at your hospital please get in touch with ASMOF.

Link to the MJA article: InSight