In the downstream petroleum industry there are situations where workplace surveillance will be a business and safety imperative, but the implementation of any surveillance can cause fear and contention in the workplace, and it comes with strict requirements in terms of notice and consultation for both staff and customers, that all operators should be aware of.
Watching, tracking and recording staff and their movements
There are many business reasons for utilising surveillance at work. From recording sales calls to utilise in training and development, to utilising video in a retail setting as part of overall crime prevention strategies. Perhaps the most involved use of surveillance in the downstream petroleum industry is the use of on-board cameras in fuel transport vehicles. Typically these cameras also include a GPS and cellular transmitting device. Utilised as a safety and training tool these cameras can be a cause of concern for the staff they are intended to assist and protect.
Businesses do not implement surveillance to spy on staff, however, it can often be perceived by staff that this is the case. Communication on the operation, use and functionality of surveillance is key to ensuring that such safety and training tools can be used to the benefit of the business and staff.
Keep it Legal
The recording of staff actions and movements is regulated under the law at a State level. Each jurisdiction has different requirements around consultation for different surveillance types. While some States require simple notification schemes, whereby staff are informed that surveillance will be undertaken at work, others require a more involved consultation approach. Irrespective of the jurisdiction, businesses cannot just record staff or their movements without first communicating with them on this surveillance.
The common element across all jurisdictions is the requirement to notify and or consult with staff on the role, function and operation of the surveillance as well as the use and storage of information gathered.
Also common is the ‘no go’ surveillance areas of; toilets, change rooms and other ‘private places’ such as prayer rooms.
In most States notification is the standard that is required. Notification, in the form of a written communication to all effected staff prior to the activation/installation of the surveillance. The notification period will differ from State to State. For example the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 (NSW) outlines a requirement of written notification 14 days prior to the activation/installation of the surveillance when it is being introduced to the business.
In this example formal notification will require a clear articulation of:
- Why the surveillance is being undertaken,
- What the surveillance entails,
- When the surveillance will commence,
- How long the surveillance will continue for, and
- How will the data or information gathered be used.
Notification should also include a formal articulation of the business case for using surveillance and/or the type of surveillance being used.
In other States consultation of a more involved and collaborative nature is required. Like notification, consultation will need to involve written communication to all effected staff prior to the activation/installation of the surveillance. Unlike notification, however, the ongoing discussion and comment phases that characterise consultation will require much longer timelines to be followed.
Key elements of surveillance Consultation include:
- Formal meetings on the business need, options for addressing the need and preferred business option
- Formal feedback and comment phase, where comments are documented and addressed
- Formal selection of option
- Formal communication of the nature, function timing and use of the surveillance option selection, and
- Formal training in functionality
Consultation is the standard required by the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (VIC).
Training and communication are essential to ensure that the facts are understood by all in what can be an emotional and poorly understood area. Training should commence with management, including line managers, and should include a detailed understanding of the options and the functionality of the systems, as well as training on the handling of the consultation and notification of staff. Staff should also be trained once an option has been selected, in the function and use of the system.
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Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM &IR)
Executive Manager Employment and Training