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Mask Update

Jan 29, 2021News


The NSW Government has fine tuned the direction for mandatory masks. After representations by unions including the RTBU, the government has introduced a degree of common sense to the Public Health Order.

As always, the rule of thumb is that if the mask your employer gives you makes doing your job more dangerous in any way, a risk assessment should be done or talk to your local delegate.

Q- Who should wear a mask?
A- Anyone that is doing a job where they are interacting with the public. At a depot or mealroom, you’re not required to wear one. For train and LRV drivers, once you’re in the cabin you’re exempt. For train guards, while you’re in the guards compartment you’re fine, and for bus drivers who are running special you do not have to wear a mask. Station staff will continue to have to wear a mask and train and LRV drivers will have to wear a mask when walking on a platform, as will light rail CSO and AOs.

Q- What if I don’t want to wear a mask?
A- A Public Health Order is a legislative change- that means it has the force of law. Unless you have a valid reason, you can be fined $200.00 for not wearing one. Exemptions are available for medical reasons.

Q- Can I get fined by my employer?
A- No. Only the police can issue fines for breaching the Health Order.

Q- What is a ‘valid reason’ for not wearing a mask?
A- Valid reasons for not wearing a mask are generally medical reasons backed by a certificate or other evidence, or because wearing a mask introduces a hazard into the workplace (makes your job more dangerous, as described above). 

Q- Are there enough masks?
A- Yes, there are currently about 1.5 million masks stockpiled, and more are being ordered.

Q- What is the ‘Greater Sydney Area’?
A- The Public Health Order has set those boundaries.

Q- Who enforces wearing a mask?
A- NOT YOU! Only the police have the power to issue fines, it is absolutely not up to any RTBU member to enforce this. It is also illegal to refuse service to people for not wearing a mask. If you have a location or service where it’s an issue, report it to your line supervisor after your shift and police can be directed there in the future.

Q- Where do people have to wear a mask?
A- Anywhere past an Opal machine basically. That means vehicles as well as all train and LRV platforms, as well as at bus stops.

Q- Can I get in trouble for not wearing a mask?
A- First, without a valid reason (work risk or medical exemption) you can be fined by police. Second, wearing a mask is considered a ‘lawful reasonable direction’ given the Public Health Order and declaration of a pandemic. Refusing means it can become a disciplinary issue. The RTBU has sought urgent and clear direction from TfNSW to all employers on how this is to be dealt with, and that it should be done with a very light touch if at all. This seems to be the approach so far.

As things evolve we will ensure members are kept up to date. Remember, just like physical distancing, masks are just one of the measures that can help protect you and your families, as well as help us get back to a more normal lifestyle faster. The RTBU supports health advice for the safety of our Members and the travelling public.

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