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Chris Curtin's battle against carcinogenic materials

sstuwa-d-t-teacherCarcinogenic material is something that Chris Curtin didn’t think he would be inhaling at his worksite. For the past year and a half, the D&T teacher at Atwell College has been working at the school in temporary classroom facilities while the new D&T building is constructed. Chris, the students and other staff have been working in facilities that did not meet standard health regulations, the room was not equipped with adequate dust extractors.

“It has been challenging to work in a 1960’s style demountable while trying to teach the current D&T curriculum. I have worked hard to equip the temporary Wood demountable with new equipment and tools, the tools and equipment have been purchased with funds from the colleges Design and Technology budget,” said Chris.

“Whilst it is considered to have sufficient dust extraction in the D&T workshops, what was supplied in the demountable didn’t meet these requirements. I was shocked to arrive at Atwell College as a new employee of the DoE and find out that the dust extraction facilities where inadequate. After four years of training at ECU and a year and a half at Emmanuel Catholic College, I had become accustomed to working in an environment that had very good facilities.”

sstuwa-d-t-teacher

Carcinogenic material is something that Chris Curtin didn’t think he would be inhaling at his worksite. For the past year and a half, the D&T teacher at Atwell College has been working at the school in temporary classroom facilities while the new D&T building is constructed. Chris, the students and other staff have been working in facilities that did not meet standard health regulations, the room was not equipped with adequate dust extractors.

“It has been challenging to work in a 1960’s style demountable while trying to teach the current D&T curriculum. I have worked hard to equip the temporary Wood demountable with new equipment and tools, the tools and equipment have been purchased with funds from the colleges Design and Technology budget,” said Chris.

“Whilst it is considered to have sufficient dust extraction in the D&T workshops, what was supplied in the demountable didn’t meet these requirements. I was shocked to arrive at Atwell College as a new employee of the DoE and find out that the dust extraction facilities where inadequate. After four years of training at ECU and a year and a half at Emmanuel Catholic College, I had become accustomed to working in an environment that had very good facilities.”

“I had to teach for 12 months without adequate dust extraction, I eventually refused to work in such a hazardous environment and a PIN notice was placed on the demountable woodwork building by the Atwell Colleges OHS representative. This was a very difficult and stressful process for me to go through as a new educator.”

In a combined effort, Chris contacted SSTUWA Organiser Ian Daw and met with OSH Organiser Joy Barret to upgrade the system at the school. OSH rep and President of the DATTAWA, Mark Robinson at Atwell, also provided Chris with valuable information in regards to the OSH issues concerning the upgrade. Chris said that the extractors may not have been purchased if it wasn’t for the union’s assistance on this matter.

Whilst Chris has had to deal with OSH issues, he has also been faced with larger than usual class sizes. The union is also working to reduce class sizes from 22 to 16 students. “The large classes in the small workshop have placed me in a stressful situation where it has been difficult to meet my duty of care requirement.”

Taking on these new challenges and workload hasn’t stopped Chris from striving to provide his school with the best. “I am currently trying to secure funds for a laser cutter that will deliver new and exciting outcomes for the current curriculum. I have used a laser in the past and have seen the enormous benefits such a device can bring.”

Since taking on his role as rep, membership has increased nearly 70 per cent. “I am finding it very challenging and it is consuming a lot of my time. I believe it will be beneficial in the long term. I have heard stories about how difficult life can be as a rep, it is a shame that people who volunteer for the role can be so disliked.” 

“I feel that in order to make positive changes we need to work together. I know that numbers count and a collective voice in the political world is what works.” said Chris.

Pictures

Authorised by Tony Mullen, General Secretary SSTUWA

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