How does the union protect national and international standards in our trade and qualifications?

The ETU fights to protect our members and our trade in different ways, representing the interests of workers on over 100 committees, working groups and forums that make decisions about the electrical trades, standards, safety and many other areas.

A key focus is the standards committees and sub-committees. These decide on minimum standards for protective equipment like rubber gloves, machinery such as EWPs, electrical equipment, safety standards (both international and local), wiring rules, high voltage installation rules and much more.

Recently the ETU National Technical Officer Sarah Brunton completed a 10-month Standards Australia NextGen program which aims to give an in-depth understanding of the standardisation process and support the future of standards development through investing in the next generation of standards leaders and experts.

“Standards are so important in Electrical Trades as they set the minimum electrical safety requirements for electrical installations. High electrical safety standards are essential to protect the Australian public and electrical workers,” she said.

“Essentially, high standards ensure that houses don’t burn down due to technical errors or sloppy work, and it is important to make sure the views of electrical workers are represented when drafting these standards.

Program participants gain the necessary skills to further increase their involvement in standardisation and contribute to the development of important standards in their field. Sarah was found the course gave her great insight into standardisation processes and how to be an effective committee member.

“I was keen to learn more about how standards are drafted and how international standards are adopted. Standards are so important to our trades and electrical safety generally so I was keen to learn about the processes that happen behind the scenes,” she said.

Sarah and other union officials regularly participate in these committees around the country, and are always keen to increase the number of union members, delegates and officials involved to strengthen and increase our input.

If members want to get involved and do the NextGen course they must be recommended by a nominating organisation such as the ETU. While it’s a significant time commitment, it is worthwhile for anyone who is currently participating or wanting to participate in standards development. Sarah was the first person living in the NT to participate and people from all regions in Australia, genders and backgrounds are encouraged to apply to ensure a diverse mix of participants.

As the National Technical Officer Sarah is keen to share what she has learnt with the broader union.

“Knowledge is power, and the more we understand about our electrical standards, the more we can do as a union to make sure they measure up in terms of safety, training, qualifications and more.

“I’m working with Standards Australia to develop a training/info session that we can deliver at industry or sector conferences in the future, to help share my knowledge.”

If you’re keen to get involved in a standards committee, please contact your organiser!

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This article was publised on 24 May 2023.