HR News in Brief: Police fined for workplace safety breaches

by Human Capital15 Apr 2014
Police fined for workplace safety breaches
The NSW Police Force has been fined $350,000 after several officers were exposed to hazardous substances while conducting an audit of drug exhibits. Three officers were affected when a broken seal on an exhibit bag exposed them to a precursor substance called safrole, which caused a burning sensation in their eyes, noses and throats. The bag also contained three kilograms of methylamphetamine, also known as the drug speed, and two kilograms of MDMA, known as ecstasy. This 2009 incident isn’t the first work safety breack for which the department has faced censure – Judge Roger Boland of the NSW Industrial Court noted that the department has had eight convictions in 11 years. 

Less work and more play for the Swedes
Swedish workers will take place in a trial to see whether a six-hour working day will reduce sick leave and save the country money. For the trial, workers in one government department in Gothenburg will work the six-hour days on full pay, while another department will work the standard seven-hour days. While opposition politicians have slammed it as a pre-election stunt and said that similar trials have been unsuccessful in the past, Gothenburg deputy mayor Mats Pilhem told media that a car manufacturing business in the city had tried the scheme with promising results.

Union health and safety representative powers curtailed in Queensland
Union health and safety representatives in Queensland will soon have fewer opportunities to weigh in on health and safety issues through rights of entry for safety reasons, due to the recently passed Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014. The bill has removed representatives’ power to direct workers to stop working due to “a reasonable concern that to carry out the work would expose the worker to a serious risk to the worker's health or safety, emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard”. Now, the enforcement avenues for representatives will be consultation or issuing provisional improvement notices. Work Health and Safety Queensland is reportedly expecting an increased demand for it to respond to issues once the representatives’ powers are curtailed.

Company pays the price after worker falls down lift shaft
Operating a heavy goods lift in an unsafe condition has seen South Australian steelmaker OneSteel Manufacturing  fined $56,250 plus legal fees by the Industrial Court. SafeWork SA began investigating the company’s Whyalla plant after a worker fell down the lift shaft and suffered minor injuries. The fall wasn’t part of the charges brought against the company, but it was discovered that the lift was unsafe due to missing door guides, a worn door lock, broken emergency access devices and a pool of water in the bottom of the lift pit. Magistrate Stephen Lieschke noted that the employee’s fall was the type of risk posed to workers using the lift, which was known to be unreliable. 

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