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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2448

Question No. 467

Mr Blanchard asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 7 September 1983:

(1) What are the safety standards adopted by the Commonwealth Public Service for the protection of visual display unit operators.

(2) Have these standards been reached in consultation with Public Service unions.

(3) Is he able to say whether Public Service unions are pressing for changes in safety standards; if so, what are the changes.

(4) What are (a) the maximum number of hours worked by visual display unit operators on any shift and (b) the shift spacings.

(5) How many Commonwealth public servants are involved in using visual display units.

Mr Dawkins —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH and MRC) guides on ' Visual Display Units' and on 'Repetition Strain Injuries' (which advise on the causes and prevention of injuries in repetitive work, including the operation of VDUs) have been gazetted by the Director-General of Health for application in all Commonwealth employment as relevant standards in this area.

(2) The Australian Council of Trade Unions is represented on Committees of the NH and MRC and the Standards Association of Australia. The ACTU also consults on these issues through its participation in the National Labour Consultative Council and the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee.

(3) The ACTU has recently published 'Health and Safety Policy-Screen-Based Equipment'. Some unions with members in Commonwealth employment have also expressed views; the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Australian Public Service Association have published health and safety policy statements related to working on screen-based equipment. These cover a range of matters, including proposed arrangements for eyesight testing and medical examinations of staff, an increase in the level of staff association participation in job design, and more rigid technical standards for equipment. Some of these matters are dealt with by the general standards referred to above, while others are not the subject of any standard determination but relate to working conditions and arrangements on such reached between employers and staff associations.

(4) VDU operators in the Australian Public Service (APS) generally work clerical staff hours, 7 hours 21 minutes per day. The amount of time actually spent on VDU work varies widely among departments and with the type of work performed but is thought to range from four to seven hours a day.

(5)VDUs are now used in a wide range of job classifications and in many types of work and in is therefore difficult to identify all staff who work at some time on VDUs. However, in this APS it is estimated that around 700 word processing typists use VDUs as do a major proportion of the estimated 600 computer operators, 2,200 data processing operators and 2,100 computer systems officers. These figures relate to full time staff at December 1982.