While schoolkids can smother their possessions with stickers, burly South West construction workers have been banned from putting them on their helmets for safety reasons.
Engineering contractor AusGroup told workers at the Greenbushes lithium mine expansion last month to remove stickers, including ones promoting mental health, from their helmets.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union State secretary Steve McCartney said the move was hilarious because the company put its own sticker on the helmets.
“It’s really about trying to control workers,” he said. “It’s a simple thing to make them concede, and once you start them conceding they keep conceding, that’s what it’s about.”
He said AusGroup management told workers the Australian Building and Construction Commission drove the move.
The ABCC has a code intended to stop discrimination based on whether workers are or are not union members.
Items banned from employer-provided clothing and equipment include union symbols and slogans and the Eureka flag.
An AusGroup spokeswoman said the company supported freedom of association and had no problems if employees were union members.
She said the clean hat policy that banned the stickers allowed personal protective equipment to be inspected and maintained for issues like cracks in helmets. It is understood BHP has a similar policy to protect protective equipment and its brand.
AusGroup’s move comes weeks after the State Government released a report on the mental health of fly-in, fly-out workers. It found they had high levels of psychological distress, almost twice the rate of non-FIFO workers.
Mr McCartney said WA had the worst reputation for suicides on construction sites.
Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said he could not see any problem with stickers on helmets promoting positive mental health in the workplace.