Glen Barber: 2010 OHS Rep of the Year

L-R: Joe Groves Worksafe inspector , Glen Barber OHS Rep, Greg Hardy CFMEU, Kerri Slatter OHS Rep, Andrew Johnstone OHS Rep, Neil Bates LYP, Alan Bullen LYP.

So what makes a great HSR?

At the WorkSafe Awards Dinner on Thursday October 28, Glen Barber, HSR at Loy Yang A Power Station was named 2010's HSR of the Year. SafetyNet had an opportunity to talk to Glen about how he felt getting the Award, and what his experiences have been.  STOP PRESS: As winner of the WorkSafe Award, Glen was automatically entered into the 2011 SafeWork Australia Awards. SafeWork recognised his contribution and awarded Glen the gong for Best individual contribution to workplace health and safety - (a) An employee, such as a health and safety representative.Congratulations from all the team at the VTHC OHS Unit, Glen. Read more about Glen's SafeWork Award 

1 - How long have you worked at Loy Yang A Power Station in the La Trobe Valley?

I started at Loy Yang as a trainee Engineering Assistant with the SECV just before Christmas 1976, in a caravan, in an abandoned quarry doing ground resistance testing, with a group called Plant Tests. Varying positions took me away for short stints, but basically I have been at Loy Yang since the first sod was turned, until today.

2 - How long have you been an HSR and why did you take on the role?

I joined Operations in 1983 and became a unit controller in 1988. As an operator you get a unique insight into how the plant behaves and in the late 90's I was becoming concerned as to how things worked, or rather did not work. I became a CFMEU rep to help gain an understanding into how the organisation functioned. In 2002 I was becoming increasingly frustrated over the condition of plant and how it affected operations personnel, so I put my hand up to become a HSR.

3 - When your name was read out at the Awards Dinner as HSR of the year, you brought your two daughters up with you. Why was it important for you to have them with you when you accepted the award?

Two reasons: Firstly, and unfortunately, there has been a fair bit of spillage of work (HSR) issues at home and the girls learn of the struggles and how it affects you. Even though the youngest is only 12 she has a sense of what goes on, she understands what I do and what WorkSafe is all about.

Secondly, the power industry is predominately staffed with a generation of employees who have served their time. In my workgroup of over 100 operators, the median age is well over 50. It won't be long before the next generation arrives and I don't want to leave a legacy of inappropriate, unsafe plant and conditions

4 - After your initial 'Good grief!' you said:

'This award is not so much about me (but about) all the blokes and girls.. it's about them really'

What did you mean by this?

I suppose some would say I am a bit of a focal point, but the truth is I am just part of the group.

I, we, would be totally ineffective without the support we receive from many. Other HSR's, DWG members, other workgroup members, union support: they are a great bunch really.

5 – What are some of the hazards and risks faced by the members of your DWG?

Hazards and risks? I cannot think of any we don't have!

The power station is reaching the end of its designed life and we are witnessing first hand what that means: nearly every day it's a new problem. Also, it would appear there is not much money in generating electricity. (Plenty in selling it you might say!) Funding solutions is always an issue for us.

In saying that though, we cannot let it distract us from proper, safe outcomes.

6 – What do you think you've been able to achieve during your time as HSR? And how did you manage to achieve these things?

Achievements? You cannot underestimate the impact "OPSWORLD" – the one-page newsletter /information sheet I do - has had. I do these 'as required', sometimes twice a day, sometimes weekly. It's become a very useful tool as well as a great information source for the guys – I've found that anything in it becomes part of the 'public record'. I don't pull any punches and try to make sure that everything is clear and to the point.

Normal work processes tend to 'hide things' – and so talking about issues I've identified as the HSR in 'OPSWORLD' means that everyone gets to know about them and consider what needs to be done. It's made it difficult for management to ignore issues because they are out there in the open.

We're up to Edition 60, and it's only been going for 18 months. I think it's the most useful tool we've ever had – it's meant that issues are resolved much more quickly.

Challenging what is acceptable or achievable in this manner has really put Health and Safety talk to the front. Getting people to actually talk about Health and Safety and taking even a small degree of ownership has been a real change. You can see that change in some people where an understanding of "you can make a difference" happens.

7 – What have been some of the difficulties you have encountered as HSR? How did you tackle these difficulties? Have things improved or deteriorated?

Difficulties? Just your average HSR-Boss scenarios. I must admit we have had some doozies, two different view points I reckon. Every time I just keep asking myself, "What would a reasonable thinking person think is right? Generally, if it does not feel right, it's not. Dealing with these difficulties has normally been in a prescribed manner. Research, consult, talk and put your position in writing. Communicate with your DWG, seek their input and consult again. Do not be backwards in using the tools that OHS Act gives the HSRs, they are for a purpose and effective.

8 – Do you think receiving the award is going to make it easier or harder for you in your role as HSR? Why?

It's been about two weeks now, makes me smile every time I think about it. I'm happy with that.

9 – What have you found most useful in terms of being an effective HSR?
Do enough research to know the answer before you ask the question.

10 – What advice would you give:

  1. a new HSR?

    Pay attention to the members of your DWG and learn from blokes like your union organiser and OHS trainer (like Garry Cameron - VTHC trainer). Make sure that as a new rep you do either a union or a Trades Hall course – reps who have done other courses haven't found them to be as useful.
  2. an HSR who has been in the role for some time and is feeling frustrated?

    Sorry can't print that answer! Seriously: think about what you can do to make sure management doesn't get away with ignoring the health and safety issues you've raised – this is often the source of frustration – issues that you've seen or had raised that just don't get resolved. As I've noted above, the tool I use now is my information sheet, OPSWORLD. Once it's out there, management is more likely to respond. And if that doesn't work, then remember that as HSRs we have rights and powers: think about issuing a PIN, or calling the union for assistance, or calling an inspector.

    Inspectors are not the ogres that people make them out to be – we've received tremendous help from them. We've found that when the inspectors come out and find the reps have had a red hot go at something, they will follow up. This is particularly the case if the rep can show the inspector the document trail, photos and any other evidence. This makes the inspector's job much easier.

    And if it's an immediate risk to health and safety, don't forget that reps have the right to direct that work cease (s74)

Other finalists:

  • Dave Jones – Ambulance Victoria and member of the AEAV
  • Keni Navusolo - Woolstar Pty Ltd
  • Marten Kelders - Heidelberg Graphic Equipment Ltd



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