Company fined $80,000 over work health and safety breach

Date: Jul 11, 2012

A company in Tumut has been fined $80,000 plus legal costs by the Industrial Court of NSW after it breached workplace health and safety regulations, according to a WorkCover media release (July 9).

The business is a concrete manufacturing plant and is based just out of Canberra. It is owned and operated by Tegra Australia.

A 29-year-old employee nearly lost his life at the plant in mid-November 2009, when he inhaled large quantities of cement powder.

Tegra was found to be at fault because this powder was unintentionally released, and a WorkCover investigation concluded that if the company had had the right safety equipment and processes in place, the incident would not have happened.

WorkCover NSW general manager John Watson said that all business owners and employers need to be vigilant about workplace health and safety.

"Companies must maintain a high level of safety in everyday activities," he asserted.

Mr Watson went on to say that it is particularly important for those working in high risk environments to be extra careful.

"Working with heavy machinery in manufacturing plants like these can be dangerous. Mandating, and supervising the wearing of facemasks is a well-known and practical way to improving safety," he said.

"People need to also be trained in how to properly respond to an emergency. There was a clear lack of instruction and training in this instance. Had there been better instruction and training the consequences might not have been so severe."

WorkCover would be continuing to work with the company to ensure similar incidents did not occur again in the future, Mr Watson explained.

On the same day of this statement (July 9), WorkCover NSW also published another media release, in this instance reminding those with high risk jobs to renew their licences.

You will most likely need a special licence if you work in a factory, plant or on a construction site. People who operate machinery, pressure equipment or carry out jobs including scaffolding are all required to have them, WorkCover says.

In the past, these licences have been state specific but now they have been standardised to use across the country.

"It makes sense to have one licence recognised no matter where you work in Australia, rather than the present system where some licences are only recognised in the state where they were issued," Mr Watson said.

He is encouraging all holders to check their licences and submit them for renewal if necessary.

"If you received your licence before 1996, or if it doesn't have an expiry date or photo ID, the licence will need to be replaced," he said.

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