06 Sept 2005 Powerlink workers high up on new transmission towers as they build a high voltage powerline from the Murarrie Sub Station - PicBruce/Long electricity power construction tower
06 Sept 2005 Powerlink workers high up on new transmission towers as they build a high voltage powerline from the Murarrie Sub Station - PicBruce/Long electricity power construction tower

Linesmen wants frontline call up for profession

A NORTH Queensland electricity linesman is calling for his occupation to be included in a list of first responders to benefit from planned changes to workers compensation laws.

But bureaucrats say the list can be widened when the laws are reviewed after the first year.

The state government is proposing changes to workers compensation to introduce a presumptive approach where claims for post traumatic stress disorder are deemed to be work related for first responders unless evidence is provided to the contrary.

The list includes ambulance officers, firefighters, emergency services workers, police, doctors and nurses - but not linesmen.

Adrian Azzopardi is a linesman based at Tully who has attended fatal road accidents, property fires and the aftermath of severe cyclones Larry and Yasi.

He says linesmen were often first on the scene because power needed to be safely isolated so emergency workers could gain access to a site.

"We, generally, are the workforce that leads the way. We are first on the scene, talking to people. It weighs on you," Mr Azzopardi said.

"No doubt the ambos and coppers struggle with that every day but the (proposed) legislation covers them and not us, which I think is unjust."

Linesman Adrian Azzopardi at work on a platform in North Queensland reconnecting power after Cyclone Yasi in 2011.
Linesman Adrian Azzopardi at work on a platform in North Queensland reconnecting power after Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

Manager of Shine Lawyers in Townsville Gareth Turner said they supported changes to the law and Mr Azzopardi's call for electricity linesmen to be included as first responders.

"Electricity workers - just like police officers, firefighters, and paramedics - are at high risk of psychological injury from exposure to traumatic scenes in their lines of work," Mr Turner said.

"What electricity workers like Adrian have had to endure is extremely confronting and the stuff of nightmares.

"There is no reason why these workers should be required to satisfy any further requirements to access the help they need."

In December, Office of Industrial Relations Deputy Director-General Craig Allen told a parliamentary committee inquiring into the changes that many submissions raised issues about the scope of workers covered by the changes.

But he said taking a presumptive approach did not disadvantage any other workers because psychological injuries already were compensable if a worker could demonstrate the injury was work related.

Should the Bill be passed, Mr Allen said the Office of Industrial Relations was committed to a further review to consider adding additional occupations, professions or departments.

Originally published as Linesmen wants frontline call up for profession


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