Closing the door on workplace injuries

More than 9000 of society’s most challenging and complex people are managed in Queensland’s prisons.

Every day our officers undertake a vital front line public safety role in managing these prisoners, working with them to change their attitudes, address their health and behavioural issues and ensure the safety and security of our centres.

It sounds dangerous, doesn’t it?

It is true that our officers step into harm’s way to protect the safety of others, and dealing with critical incidents in prisons, such as protests and assaults can be very risky for our staff.

To minimise these risks, we provide our officers with the training, equipment and technology they need to manage critical incidents in the safest way possible.

But the reality is the main risk of workplace injuries for our officers comes from far more mundane activities.

Like any workplace, slips, trips and falls account for a significant number of workplace injuries.

For instance, we know that one of the activities most likely to cause injury to our officers is opening doors.

Prison doors are heavy (as you would expect) and 26% of our workplace injuries last year resulted from manual handling incidents, such as opening doors and lifting and carrying heavy items.

These injuries accounted for one third of all injuries requiring time off work.

So while our officers work in highly dynamic and potentially risky environments, in some ways they are a lot like other workplaces, and we need to focus not only on the unique challenges of prison environments, but also on the more mundane ‘every day’ activities to improve the safety of our officers.

Safety and security are our top priorities. We take responsibility for the safety of all people interacting with the correctional system, and we are proud of our officers who work hard to keep Queenslanders safe every day.

This is why we support our officers to work safely.

Every correctional centre and community corrections region has occupational health and safety and environmental coordinators (OHSECs) or regional services managers, who are responsible for promoting a positive safety culture.

Maryborough OHSEC, Chris Smith has a long and varied history working in corrections. He started in New Zealand Corrections as a cadet in 1975 and worked for 32 years in New Zealand Prisons, making his way through the ranks to become Prison Manager in both female and male prisons.

He commenced with QCS in 2017 as the OHSEC at Brisbane Women’s and in August this year, Chris moved to Maryborough to take on the role of OHSEC.

“Safe work practices are important for everyone. Workplace injuries not only affect, the officer involved at work, but also in their personal life as well. It is everyone’s job to minimise the risk of injury and ensure the ongoing wellbeing of themselves and their colleagues,” Chris said.

Brisbane Regional Services Manager, Helen Montgomery oversees the WHS of one of the largest Community Corrections regions in Queensland.

“Brisbane is a busy region, and I’m inspired by the sense of passion and purpose the officers bring to their roles. It’s an honour to be able to support them,” she says.

“The most important reason to work safely, and go home safely is because of the people who love you outside of the workplace. As an organisation, we want to support, develop and keep our officers safe – as they truly are our most valuable assets.”

“Healthy officers are happier, more productive, and are able to provide a higher level of service to the community through the work we do.”

Borallon OHSEC Fiona Allen has also had a varied career with QCS, having worked across records management, sentence management and support roles since 2014.

“We all want a safe environment to work in, so we can all go home safely,” says Fiona. “It’s important to remember that by ensuring the workplace is safe, our officers are not only protecting themselves, but also their colleagues, prisoners, and visitors to the centre. It’s a big deal, and everyone has a role to play.”

As we wrap up Safe Work Month, we’d like to acknowledge all of our staff working to keeping our officers safe in the workplace.

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