Tracey Sandow has been working in the disability sector for 12 years. When she first came into the industry, she didn't know much about it. But when she was handed a brochure to join HACSU, she knew she needed that extra security and knowledge to succeed in her role. Since then, she has spent 10 years at Home@Scope in Dumfries Street, Deer Park, caring for behavioural clients, and is a Health and Safety Representative (HSR). A HSR is a person elected by the workers to represent them on any and all occupational health and safety matters. To be an effective representative, that person must be supported by the members of the Designated Work Group. A good and effective representative listens to and consults with their members.
Sandow possesses all of these qualities, having played a pivotal part in her house during the COVID-19 pandemic. When her workforce was down to just two permanent staff members because of the pandemic (instead of their usual seven), she stepped up in her role as a HSR, ensuring that all the appropriate forms were filled out, all chemical waste was disposed of properly and that the safety of all staff and clients was of the highest standard. These steps have led to her clients being "more relaxed" and unaffected by the virus, to her great pleasure. In typical Sandow fashion, she has been keeping the mood up in her workplace by making those around her laugh to ease the pressure of the situation the world finds itself in.
In light of the positive impact Sandow has had in her own workplace, HACSU would like to see this extend to every workplace. By becoming a HSR, you will play a pivotal yet rewarding role in keeping your colleagues and clients safe, and be the person they turn to for important conversations. Sandow's advice for anyone thinking of becoming a HSR is simply to "go ahead and do it".
"It's an extra part of your learning," she said. "It opens your eyes a lot more when you're in the workplace. It is a good job. It's not demanding at all. You do feel a little empowered when other staff members come to you and go 'Listen, I've got a bit of a problem. Can I talk to you about it?'"
Sandow also says her role as a HSR has added a dynamic element to her usual day.
"You're not just on the floor all the time," she said. "You're getting different emails, different information sent to you constantly."
And after initially joining HACSU for some extra security and knowledge, Sandow is now leading the way in recruiting new members, as she knows the importance of having union support.
"Whenever I get anything from HACSU, I print it off immediately and put it on the staff board to let everyone know about it," she said. "In all of our meetings, I do all of the OH&S and talk about HACSU and things like that. We've just had two brand new staff members come into out house in the last two weeks and the first thing I did was print them off in the membership form for HACSU. (I told them to) fill it in, send it in and join HACSU."
On what makes her tick as a HSR, Sandow attributes her attention to detail.
"I'm really particular on how things are done," she said. "I like things done by the book and by the rules. When I became a permanent (staff member) in this house, I saw a need to make sure that everyone is safe."
Despite these trying times, Sandow is still pushing on in her impotant role and keeping the mood in the workplace light and fun, all at the same time. But she takes one key lesson away from this pandemic.
"Don't ever take anything for granted," she said. "Everyone's tired, everyone's looking forward to having a bit of a break. I don't think anyone has worked so hard in their life."