The AEU is currently in consultation with the Education Directorate about the health and safety risks posed to our members and others at ACT public schools once the school year resumes. We are currently satisfied that the Education Directorate is putting into place strategies to deal with this risk to ensure that the Work Health and Safety Act will be complied with. We are confident that the necessary controls will be in place prior to the commencement of the school year.
At this time, we do not have specific details about what controls will be put in place, but we are in discussions with the Directorate and will continue to be over the next couple of weeks before school returns.
It is important to acknowledge that smoke haze risks may vary throughout a day or a week, and we and the Directorate are aware that we need to prepare for different circumstances.
We understand that Worksafe ACT has issued a statement saying that when the smoke hazard is at a level that is detrimental to the health of workers, it is best to be in an airconditioned office and ensure that exterior air cannot enter the building. We understand that school environments are often not airconditioned, so consideration is being given to other options that may prove effective to minimise the potential risk to workers and others.
Outdoor smoke haze will not necessarily pose a risk in buildings. Levels of hazardous air quality outdoors may not be replicated indoors. Staff who are considered in a sensitive group should notify their supervisor immediately so that appropriate steps can be taken to minimise the risk to them. The categories of sensitive people determined by the Health Directorate include people over 65, children 14 years and younger, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions. Further details can be obtained from the Directorate.
The AEU will continue to provide advice to its members as required.