Issue 225 - SafetyNet 225Welcome to another edition of our nationally famous OHS E-journal - as usual it's full of news from Victoria, Australia and around the world. If you have any comments or queries, click HERE to send an email to the editor.
National 'Go Home On Time' Day: November 30
The Australia Institute has designated Wednesday November 30 as Australia's National 'Go Home On Time' Day, saying it's a great way to recognise that life doesn't need to revolve around work. Each year, Australians work more than 2 billion hours of unpaid overtime, the equivalent of $72 billion worth of foregone wages. Also, one in two of Australians say they don't spend as much time with our family as they would like to because of work.
The Australia Institute has conducted research for 'Go Home On Time' day and has found that 'time pollution' is becoming an increasing problem for Australian workers – that is, workers being increasingly 'on the grid' in terms of work due to the use of 'smart phones', mobile computers and so on. According to the AI 'polluted time' could be described as those periods in which work pressures or commitments prevent someone from enjoying or otherwise making the most of their non-work time. Time can be polluted by needing to do work tasks outside of normal working hours, being on call to come into work if necessary, or simply thinking about work to the extent that it affects the way free time is used or experienced. It says polluted time is one of the many consequences of a labour market which has become increasingly 'flexible' over the past few decades. All too often the benefits of such flexibility have flowed to employers, while employees see less flexibility than they would like.
The Institute's survey results suggest that in a workforce of 11.4 million people, approximately 6.8 million workers experience some degree of time pollution in any given week, while 1.75 million workers regularly have their free time polluted by work demands.
Find out more about the issues on the Go Home On Time website , subscribe to their newsletter. Are you a slave to your smartphone? Polluted time: Blurring the boundaries between work and life Read more about Stress and Fatigue on the OHS Reps @ Work website.
What is the requirement of how many first aiders an office should have? Is there a ratio of staff to first aiders?
There is no mandated number of first aiders OHS legislation – however the Compliance Code for First Aid sets out what employers need to provide in order to comply with their general duties under Section 21 of the OHS Act. The code provides two options for employers: the 'Prescribed approach', which involves following specific advice, or the 'Risk Assessment approach', which involves undertaking a workplace specific risk assessment to work out what should be provided.
Under the 'Prescribed approach' the code recommends that offices, which it designates as 'low risk' workplaces, the Code recommends the following number of first aid officers:
one for 10 - 50 workers
two for 51 - 100 workers
one additional for every additional 100 workers
To find out how many first aiders should be in your workplace, check out this FAQ
Don't forget that if you have any OHS - related queries or questions, send in an email through the Ask Renata function on the website. We haven't been getting lots of emails lately – so get your questions in.
Asbestos Awareness Week There have been a number of activities this week marking Asbestos Awareness Week, and it's not too late to participate. Tonight at the Bella Union Bar at the VTHC (corner Victoria and Lygon Streets, Carlton South) you can attend a discussion on the progress of the Federal Government's Asbestos Management Review and hear from Chair Mr Geoff Fary and a panel of speakers. Tomorrow, Friday November 25 there are the two commemoration ceremonies: 10.15am at BMW Edge in Federation Square and at 11am at the Centenary Rose Garden in Morwell. Both events will be followed by a barbeque. Read more.
AISS and ADSVIC mergeThe announcement to merge two of Victoria's asbestos diseases support groups was made at the launch of this week's activities. The new organisation, Asbestoswise, brings together the skills and expertise of the two organisations, the Asbestos Information and Support Service (AISS) and the Asbestos Diseases Society of Victoria (ADSVIC). Asbestoswise has an active volunteer based committee of management and a small dedicated staff.
To coincide with the National Asbestos Awareness Week, the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) has launched Think Smart, Think Safe, Think - it's not worth the risk!, a week-long campaign that includes a new website where homeowners can access important information on where asbestos might be found in the home and how to manage it safely.
SA announces it will maintain mandatory air-monitoring for all removalsAt the launch of the inaugural Asbestos Awareness Week for South Australia, the state's Minister for Industrial Relations Russell Wortley said the SA government has 'no intention' of using the model WHS Regulations to diminish standards for the safe removal of asbestos, especially in regard to air monitoring. This means it will retain provisions requiring air quality monitoring to be in place for all asbestos removals within its new Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations – at least for the first 12 months, during which time it will be seeking to have the model regulations changed. The current model regs make monitoring mandatory only for removal of friable asbestos, although the model code suggests air monitoring be considered essential for non-friable asbestos removals in public locations, such as schools and hospitals. SafeWork SA Media Release [pdf]
WorkSafe Victoria warning Also to coincide with the week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a Media Release in which it reminded both employers and workers of the need to focus on good work practices to prevent people inhaling fibres. The release points out that although the manufacturing, use, re-use, sale, storage of asbestos-containing material was been banned in Australia in 2003, the widespread use of asbestos since the 1930s and 1940s means it is present in the community and remains a potential risk to health. Materials containing asbestos were used in over 3000 products, including under tiles in kitchens, laundries and bathrooms, wall and roofing material and as a form of insulation around pipes and in switchboards.
WorkSafe Operations General Manager, Lisa Sturzenegger said the major issue with asbestos was exposure to fibres during removal work and when working on asbestos-containing material such as when hand cutting or hand drilling. Because of a delay in the onset of asbestos-related disease, the number of people with asbestos-related diseases in Australia was yet to reach its peak. A Safe Work Australia report released in August this year found 660 new cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed in Australia in 2007. That same year, 551 deaths were attributed to mesothelioma in Australia.
Safe Work Australia Report: Mesothelioma in Australia Incidence 1982 to 2007 Mortality 1997 to 2007
'Bonded' asbestos not so safeCancer specialists last week heard that 'bonded asbestos' may not be as safe as once thought. The specialists gathered in Perth for an annual oncology conference heard from the chairman of the Federal Government's Asbestos Management Review, Geoff Fary.
Asbestos fibres cause cancer, but many claim that solid or 'bonded' asbestos is safe, does not necessarily have to be removed, and needs fewer protections when it is removed. Mr Fary said support groups for sufferers of asbestos-related disease were keen to see asbestos management rethought quickly. "What they say in their submissions is that the previous approach - which said that if asbestos was bonded and encapsulated, that you monitored it and made sure that it was OK but didn't remove it - may no longer be appropriate because stuff suddenly becomes not bonded and encapsulated when it's hit by a fire or a flood or a cyclone," he said.
The Asbestos Management Review is due to deliver its final report and recommendations to the Federal Government by the end of June 2012. Read more ABC Online
CFMEU calls for global ban on asbestosAfter the revelations on the ABC's 'Foreign Correspondent' program about the widespread use of asbestos in India and its devastating effects, CFMEU Construction National Secretary Dave Noonan has called for an international ban, saying the program was a wake-up call to anyone who thinks that asbestos is no longer an issue.
"Unions have successfully campaigned to end the production and export of asbestos from Australia, and to obtain proper compensation for mesothelioma victims and their families," Mr Noonan said. "We now need to be part of the international effort to stop the use of asbestos and save lives. It is unconscionable for the asbestos industry to simply shift its operations to the developing world, knowing the terrible effects of its product on users." Mr Noonan called on the Gillard government to push for a worldwide ban on the export of the deadly substance. CFMEU Media release
Canada told to stop asbestos exportsCanadian opposition MPs last week renewed calls for the Canadian government to stop their efforts to block asbestos being listed on the UN's list of hazardous substances, and to help asbestos miners and communities dependent on the substance in their adjustment as that economy ends. During a debate on the issue Carol Hughes MP said 'Canada can save millions of lives by stopping what remains of our asbestos exports given that we cannot guarantee the dangerous material will be properly handled in developing countries where it is still widely used. Here in Canada, we understand how dangerous asbestos is. We have, for years, mitigated against the worst effects of this substance and sought to replace it when we know it has been used in homes and public buildings but we are supposed to believe that developing nations will manage to do an adequate job of utilizing this unique material and protecting those who work with it or, worse, do not much care what happens to people in other countries once we get payment.' The debate happened as the last operating asbestos mine in Canada, operated by LAB Chrysotile, announced its indefinite closure. It is no longer able to produce asbestos because of a landslide in 2010 and because of depletion of the mine's reserve. This is the first time in 130 years that Canada is no longer producing asbestos. Both LAB Chrysotile and the Jeffrey Mine hope, however, to expand into other asbestos deposits and to re-start asbestos mining next year. Once completed the proposed underground mine, the Jeffrey mine, which ceased operations in October 2009, has sufficient reserves to produce 200,000 tons of asbestos fibre per year for 25 years. Canada produced 175,000 tons of asbestos in 2008. Approximately 98% of their annual production is exported to 50 different countries, 60% of which are in Asia. Canada is the world's third largest exporter of white asbestos. The World Health Organization claims that asbestos is responsible for as many 10 million deaths worldwide. Source: Risks 532
Have your say on insecure work – last chance
If you would like to tell your story on your experiences of insecure work and its effects on you and your family, or make a more formal submission to the ACTU's inquiry into insecure work you have until December 16 to do so. The Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work has been commissioned by the ACTU to analyse the increase in casual, contract, labour hire and other forms of insecure work in Australia over recent decades, and the impact it has on workplace rights, household finances, and wider society.
To learn more about the enquiry, or to enter your story online, go to the Secure Jobs website or phone 1300 362 223 (toll free).
Victorian nurses campaign for better wages and conditions
The Victorian branch of the ANF last week launched protected industrial action across the state to protect and improve nurse/midwife patient ratios to be abolished under the Baillieu Government's plan to replace nurses and midwives with health assistants and cut eight hour shift lengths in half. The action saw the closure of one in three beds – but ANF bans were subject to the condition that no ban threatens to endanger anyone's personal safety, or their life, health or welfare. Exemptions to the bans were: emergency, neo-natal and paediatric patients, haemodialysis patients, haematology patients, maternity patients, oncology patients, palliative care patients, terminations of pregnancy, intensive care unit, coronary care units, high dependency patients (including medically indicated telemetry) and the Royal Children's Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Read more: ANF Media Releases Nurses and midwives to escalate industrial action to protect patients from Baillieu Government plans to cut 1758 nurses and Industrial action starts across the state as nurses and midwives await a new Baillieu Government offer
Tasmanian prison guards taken hostage
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), covering prison guards, called an urgent meeting with its members after last week's hostage crisis at Risdon Prison in Tasmania. According to the union, its worst fears were realised when the eight-hour stand-off began mid-morning on November 14. Two guards were taken hostage and held inside a jail cell by two maximum security inmates. Luckily, neither of the prison guards was hurt.
There have been safety concerns for officers working in the prison's Tamar Unit for years. Union organiser Mat Johnston told the ABC that delegates raised safety concerns at a state industrial commission hearing earlier this year but were ignored. "In fact, 56 correctional officers were stood down for raising those concerns," he said. The union believes the two officers held hostage will probably be traumatised for the rest of their lives.
The union is demanding the Corrections Minister, Nick McKim, move quickly to implement the recommendations of an independent report which found ineffective leadership had created a volatile environment of distrust at the prison. The independent report, released earlier this year, found ineffective leadership at the prison had created a volatile environment of distrust.
Read more: ABC Online
Workers injured at Baiada poultry
At about 11pm last Friday night police attacked the peaceful picket line at the Baiada Poultry processing plant in the Melbourne suburb of Laverton. One picketer was severely injured.
Baiada workers are low-paid, predominantly Asian and African migrants. Baiada management has repeatedly rejected their modest claims, and refuses to recognise their rights to collective bargaining. The workers are particularly concerned at the large number of workers employed as cash in hand, contract and labour-hire workers at the plant. This use of insecure work undermines pay, conditions and safety. Baiada is Australia's largest poultry producer. It controls about 35% of the domestic market, turning over more than $1.2 billion a year. Workers at Baiada want secure jobs, safer conditions and a better future. A young worker was beheaded last year at the plant and there have been many ohs incidents.
The efforts of the workers have begun to pay off, with the company now agreeing to restrictions on the use of contract and cash-in-hand labour, and to pay temporary workers the same rates as permanent staff. The workers' union, the NUW, says every worker at Baiada in Laverton will be paid site rates, with no more cash in hand payments, and no more $10 per hour rates. The agreement being negotiated will also more than double the workers' redundancy payments, and give union and delegate rights, as well as improved procedures to deal with bullying and harassment.
Union survey shows truckies pushed beyond limit
In one of the largest ever surveys of truck drivers, approximately forty per cent of drivers reported being pressured into breaking fatigue regulations and one-in-four have said they are forced to drive at excessive speeds in order to meet deadlines. The Transport Workers' Union's '2011 Safe Rates Survey' was conducted over a three-week period ending on 11 November 2011, and took comments from 715 transport workers from across the country.
TWU National Secretary, Tony Sheldon, said 'These shocking results again confirm the deadly squeeze that powerful industry clients like the major retailers apply to drivers and operators. With no way to ensure cost recovery on essentials like fuel and maintenance, or when forced to work slabs of unpaid waiting time, truck drivers have to push themselves to - and sometimes through - the limit.'
Other results include: 48 per cent reporting that they spent almost one day per week in unpaid 'waiting time'; 56 per cent of owner-drivers foregoing vehicle maintenance because of economic pressure; 27 per cent of drivers feeling they had to drive too fast, and nearly 40 per cent feeling pressured to drive longer than legally allowed as a result of client pressure. TWU Media Release
In related news, the Federal Government has announced it will establish a new national road safety system to tackle speed, fatigue and dangerous work practices in the trucking industry – 'to make Australia's roads safer for all drivers'. In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Transport and Workplace Relations Ministers Anthony Albanese and Chris Evans said they would introduce legislation this week to establish a national road-safety remuneration system and the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
The Tribunal, which will include members of Fair Work Australia, will begin work on 1 July next year and will have the power to set pay or pay-related conditions where safety outcomes were poor. 'This will save lives by ensuring that truck drivers are paid reasonably for the work they do, getting rid of the economic incentive for drivers to take unacceptable risks on our roads,' Albanese and Evans said.
End-of-year function warnings
A number of different organisations and newspapers have been running items warning on the dangers associated with the end-of-year festivities. The best advice we've seen is from an article in the Courier Mail: 'Remember that it is a work function and many of the same rules during working hours still apply.'
The Courier Mail Tips for surviving end-of-year work functions
India Workers injured in shipbreaking fire
Workers at the Mumbai shipbreaking yard in India faced yet another fire accident on November 14 in which three workers suffered 40 per cent burn injuries. The incident took place as the three workers were engaged in breaking the engine room of the ship M V Khalijia III at Lakri Bundar Plot No 8.
'This accident is yet another painful reminder of harsh working conditions and poor occupational health and safety measures at Mumbai shipbreaking yards. We will once again take the issue to the concerned authorities to improve the working conditions and to get due compensation for victims and their families,' said VV Rane, Secretary of Mumbai Port Trust Dock and General Employees' Union (MPTDGEU).
More evidence of dangers from "Trike"
An international study has linked trichloroethylene (TCE), also called 'trike', an industrial solvent, to Parkinson's disease. Researchers found a six-fold increase in the risk of developing Parkinson's in individuals exposed in the workplace. Trike is still used for degreasing and metal cleaning despite it having been linked to cancer and it is currently classified as a Category 2 carcinogen – and employers should be using substitutes where available and ensuring workers are not exposed. In Australia, we have no idea of the amount of 'trike' being used. This is not the first time that a link between solvents and Parkinson's has been found. The research was based on analysis of 99 pairs of twins selected from US data records. The findings are presented as the first study to report a "significant association" between Trike exposure and Parkinson's and suggest exposure to the solvent was likely to result in a six-fold increase in the chances of developing the disease. The study also adjudged exposure to two other solvents, perchloroethylene (PERC), which is used in dry-cleaning, and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), "tended towards significant risk of developing the disease". No statistical link was found with the other three solvents examined in the study - toluene, xylene and n-hexane.
Source: Risks 532 News report
Workers at laser injury risk not wearing PPE
A recent US study has found that health workers at risk of eye damage due to medical laser exposure are not wearing suitable protective equipment. The University of Illinois researchers called for the mandatory reporting of incidents to chart the "poorly understood" hazards faced by workers exposed to lasers, pointing out there was almost no up-to-date information on the acute and chronic impact of medical laser use. Based on 500 references to laser hazards to healthcare workers in medical literature, and the analysis of a self-reported laser-accident database, the study found that eye damage was the most commonly reported laser injury. In the majority of cases, the workers were not wearing PPE. There were also skin burns, and as well the laser itself, other hazards included fire, bacteria-containing smoke, noise and electrocution.
Source: OHS Alert An Assessment of the Occupational Hazards Related to Medical Lasers. Jennifer Pierce, et al, US, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 53, Issue 11, November 2011.[abstract]
WA considering Victoria's anti-bullying laws
There are reports that the Western Australia Government is considering introducing anti-bullying laws similar to those in Victoria following a meeting of federal and state attorneys-general in Tasmania last week. The WA Attorney-General Christian Porter apparently showed interested in the laws to deter workplace bullies at the Standing Council on Law and Justice meeting. Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark raised workplace bullying and the Victorian legislation, in which bullies face up to 10 years' jail under changes to stalking laws made in June 7 this year. The law is also known as 'Brodie's Law' - after Brodie Panlock, a young waitress who suicided in 2006. Her co-workers had abused her and the company management did nothing to prevent the appalling behaviour. The matter was referred to WorkSafe by the Coroner's Court, and although those responsible were convicted and fined under the OHS Act 2004, none was charged with a serious criminal offence.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said in a statement the ministers "noted the importance of finding effective means of dealing with all forms of bullying whether in the workplace, school yard, sporting club, cyberspace or elsewhere". No-one has yet been charged under the new laws, and very few cases of bullying are prosecuted by WorkSafe Victoria.
It now looks like South Australia will be the third state not to have implemented legislation allowing the national work health and safety (WHS) regime to be in place January 1, 2012, as the law remains stuck in the state parliament, with the shadow industrial relations minister saying a six to 12-month extension to the January 1 deadline would give the state time to sort out problems with the legislation.
Meanwhile, Federal workplace relations minister Senator Chris Evans last week announced a delay to transitional arrangements for Safe Work Australia's model WHS laws of a year or more for some sectors. He said the delayed start would apply "where the new laws result in a new or significantly different set of duties".
Safe Work Australia releases Annual report
Safe Work Australia (SWA) has published its Annual report for 2010–11, which outlines the regulator's performance in delivering improvements to key work health and safety and workers compensation arrangements across Australia. According to the report, one of the major achievements for the period is harmonisation (!) – well, at least the finalisation of the Model Work Health and Safety Act, Regulations and some Codes of Practice 'ready for implementation' by the jurisdictions by January 1, 2012.
SWA Website to download the Annual Report
Reminder: Industrial Chemicals Regulator Review
This is a short reminder that the Government is seeking high level input into the review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). The review is being carried out as a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership, and is investigating how regulation of industrial chemicals can be improved to achieve better public and environmental health outcomes, and enhance the competitiveness of the Australian chemical industry.
The VTHC encourages anyone with any concerns on how chemicals in general, and industrial chemicals in particular, are regulated, to send in their views.
Read more Joint Media Release
ACCC warns of OHS scam
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned employers of a company making misrepresentations about the workplace safety products it sells. The ACCC notice alleges that Safety Compliance Pty Ltd, which operates from Tweed Heads in NSW, has "engaged in harassment, coercion and misleading or deceptive conduct" in all Australian states and the Northern Territory through telephone calls. It appears the company had been informing employers that they were required to purchase charts, fire-escape-plan posters and other materials it sold in order to comply with safety laws. It had also falsely claimed to be affiliated with workplace health and safety regulators, warning employers they were likely to be fined by inspectors if they didn't have the posters and charts in place. Businesses approached by Safety Compliance have been advised to contact the ACCC on 1300 302 502.
From WorkSafe Victoria: a Safety Alert Handling used metal drums following a number of incidents in which metal drums that were being used as makeshift work benches or for other purposes exploded, resulting in death and serious burns.
From WorkCover NSW: a safety alert Working on vehicles with air-suspension systems after an apprentice mechanic suffered crush injuries when a leak in an air-suspension system caused the bus he was working on to unexpectedly lower.
WorkCover has also published a brochure [pdf] outlining the physical and emotional reactions people are likely to have after witnessing a traumatic work-related event, and what to do about it.
Safe Work Australia has released a number of publications related to the harmonised legislation:
Guide to the Model Work Health and Safety Regulations – which provides an overview of the structure of the model Work Health and Safety Regulations. Cross references to relevant additional Regulations are provided by the Guide, as are references to provisions of the model Work Health and Safety Act. The Guide will help readers identify what duties or rights are contained in each Part of the Regulations.
Legislative Fact Sheet on First Aiders [pdf] which provides information on the role of first aiders under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws. The fact sheet clarifies that a person who is a First Aider under the regulations has no extra duties other than those of any other worker. However, the PCBU must ensure that all first aiders are properly trained to administer first aid, that the training has been provided by a registered training organisation, and that the first aiders undergo regular training.
Third prosecution in four years; over 100 safety notices
Colac company Associated Kiln Driers Pty Ltd (trading as AKD Softwoods) was last week convicted and fined $70,000 for failing to comply with a safety improvement notice and having an unguarded machine which injured a worker. The company did not have a good record, having received more than 100 safety improvement notices over less than a decade.
Colac Magistrate Stephen Myall heard that since 2001, AKD had received 117 safety improvement or prohibition notices and was prosecuted twice in 2007 for inadequate traffic management (convicted and fined $10,000) and for inadequate guarding on a conveyer (convicted and fined $40,000).
WorkSafe's General Manager for Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said the timber products industry was a major focus for WorkSafe enforcement activity in 2011-12. "It is among eight industries that have a particularly high rate of injuries and needs to do much more to ensure the safety of workers. We require businesses to be proactive about safety, invest some time and effort and doing whatever is practicable to prevent people being hurt. We'll provide help and support, but they have the legal responsibility to ensure people aren't put at risk, hurt or killed. We should not have to issue as many safety improvement notices as this company received, but it is not alone in terms of safety issues in this industry. The risks are well-known; so are the solutions."
Labour Hire company fined $50,000 for crush injury
Labour hire company Skilled Group Ltd, was last week convicted and fined $50,000 in the Sunshine Magistrates' Court over a September 2009 incident that left a worker with serious injuries after his arm was crushed in a machine.
The injured worker was an employee of Skilled Group Ltd, and working at the Pampas Factory in Footscray. The court was told the worker was cleaning a dough extruder when it suddenly activated, trapping and dragging the man's arm into the rollers of the machine. The fire brigade needed to attend to free him. WorkSafe's investigation revealed the worker was not adequately trained in how to operate the machine's controls. The machine was also inadequately guarded, allowing the worker to place his hand through a gap and into an unsafe area while attempting to clean it.
While Skilled Group pleaded guilty to one charge under the OHS Act, Goodman Fielder Consumer Foods Pty Ltd, which operates the Pampas Factory, has pleaded not guilty to two charges in relation to the same matter. Goodman Fielder representatives also appeared in court last week, and will re-appear to contest the charges next year.
WorkSafe Media Release.
Council ordered to run OHS Expo
A country council was this week ordered by a Geelong magistrate to stage a health and safety expo for local farmers, contractors and businesses after a worker reversed a truck into power lines causing it to catch fire. WorkSafe Victoria prosecuted the Golden Plains Shire Council, which pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe system of work in relation to the incident which happened in October last year.
Magistrate Ann McGarvie said the OH&S Expo and other requirements, including development and distribution of pocket-size safety booklets for employees and contractors and safety articles for industry and local publications was a more productive outcome than issuing a fine. She placed the Golden Plains Shire Council on a two-year adjourned undertaking requiring it continues to review, implement and supervise compliance with its safety processes regarding site induction, traffic management and working near powerlines.
WorkSafe Media Release
Reckless SA 'mate' causes two deaths at sea
A South Australian employer, B & A Fisheries Pty Ltd, has been convicted and fined for safety breaches, after two 28 year old men both drowned when the five-metre shark fishing boat they were on sank in rough waters. The skipper/owner of the vessel, who was a friend of the men, survived after swimming several kilometres to shore. Even though the men were not formal employees, having been offered just a 'feed' in return tor their work as deckhands, B & A Fisheries was nevertheless considered to be their employer. The company pleaded guilty to breaching SA's OHSW Act, in failing to provide plant in a safe condition and safe systems of work. The magistrate was told of several serious shortcomings, including that the vessel was unregistered and inherently unstable due to the addition of a heavy net reel and inboard motor. The magistrate imposed a 'nominal fine' of $200,000 on the employer, but reduced the penalty to $20,000, plus $1143 in costs, because of its 'diminished financial standing'. He also ordered the employer to pay $5000 in compensation to each of the deceased workers' mothers, and $10,000 to one worker's partner and son. SafeWork SA Media Release [pdf]
New Zealand: Pike River's Australian CEO and others charged over disaster
Former BHP Billiton engineer Peter William Whittall, who became CEO of Pike River Coal Ltd just two months before the explosions that killed 29 workers at its mine on New Zealand's South Island, has been charged with not doing enough to prevent the blast. The New Zealand Department of Labour has charged him with 12 offences. The company, which is in receivership, has been charged with 10 offences for failures relating to "methane explosion management, strata management, ventilation management, mitigating the risk and impact of an explosion and health and safety management for contractors, subcontractors and their employees."
A third party, VLI Drilling Pty Ltd (Valley Longwall), was charged with three offences relating to the maintenance and operation of machinery.