Dec 10

Inquiry into deaths of Craig Gleeson and Alistair Lucas at Mount Lyell mine in Tasmania to focus on safety harnesses

Investigations into yesterday’s double fatality at a mine on Tasmania’s west coast are expected to focus on whether the workers were wearing safety harnesses.

Underground work at the Mount Lyell copper mine at Queenstown has been suspended after the death of two miners about 600 metres underground.

Craig Gleeson, 45, and Alistair Lucas, 25, died after falling about 35 metres down the main shaft.

Mr Lucas died on the way to hospital, while Mr Gleeson’s body was retrieved about 8:00pm yesterday. Autopsies are expected to be carried out in Hobart today.

The men were maintenance workers who had been standing on a platform 600 metres below ground in the main shaft before they fell.

Inspector Matthew Richman from Tasmania Police says questions have been raised about whether the men had safety harnesses on.

“That’s going to be a significant part of the investigation, together with what the circumstances were at the time,” he said.

The operator, Copper Mines of Tasmania, says underground work will not resume until after the investigation.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union is not aware of any major safety concerns at the Mount Lyell mine, which employs about 300 workers.

The union’s John Short says the investigation should be left to run its course.

“There has been a few safety concerns … we haven’t had a lot of problems here,” he said.

“Mining is intrinsically, I suppose, a dangerous profession and obviously everyone tries to make sure it’s as safe as possible.

“There has been a few mudslides in the past there, but this is obviously a totally different type of accident.

“You’ve got to be vigilant in mines, they’re not forgiving places. I suppose there’s a bit of a hostile environment down there.

“If something does go wrong it’s compounded by that.”


Mr Short says it is too early to speculate on the cause.

“Obviously the story is they were maintenance workers working on the mine shaft, and obviously it’s a tragic accident,” Mr Short said.

Counsellors were brought in for the workers after the incident.

A community in shock

Mayor Robyn Gerrity says the mining town of 2,500 people is in shock.

“You think with all the workplace standards and safety policies around these days, these things just shouldn’t happen,” she said.

Both men have young families; one with an 18-month-old child.

A friend of both men, Craig Richardson, says he feels for the families.

“We still never expect this to happen but it has happened. We have to bond together and make sure these families are looked after,” he said.

“You can’t really say anything to make anything better. It’s just one of those things that’s very hard.”

The men are described as being extremely popular local football players and “salt-of-the-earth” types.

Darwin Football Association president Ray Parry says a meeting will be held tomorrow night to discuss how to honour the men.

“I could only imagine what it would do to a lot of the players,” he said.

“A lot of those people have been down there all their lives. Everyone is known to everyone down there. It’s one of the strengths of the west coast community.”

Premier Lara Giddings says there will be lessons to learn from yesterday’s tragedy.

“It’s absolutely awful, and of course for Queenstown history shows that they have experienced deaths before in mines,” she said.

“What’s important now is that we learn what did happen in this particular instance and try to ensure … that this doesn’t happen again.”

Opposition leader Will Hodgman says he is deeply saddened by the news.

Greens leader Nick McKim has urged people to let workplace investigators determine the cause of the accident.

“It is a terrible tragedy, particularly for a tight-knit community like the west coast,” he said.

“But we just need to let the investigation now play out.”

Above ground work at the mine has resumed.

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Dec 10

Tomago dirty dump frustrates workers

FORGACS Engineering workers have demanded the removal of several tonnes of illegally dumped building waste, suspected of containing asbestos, from outside their Tomago workplace.

Source: The Newcastle Herald – Tomago dirty dump frustrates workers

The material, which is a mixture of mulched building waste, was dumped alongside the Old Punt Road near the company’s entrance earlier this year.

It was spread out over several hundred metres to appear as though it had been landscaped.

Tomago workers took their concerns to management in June.

Subsequent testing by ESP environmental consultants confirmed the presence of chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite asbestos in the mulch.

Another report, commissioned by AGL, which is planning a gas pipeline through the area, did not find asbestos.

More than 200 Forgacs employees have signed a petition calling for the material to be removed. The petition will be presented to Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann on Monday.

“I’m very concerned about the situation. I’ll be following it up with the EPA,” Mr Baumann said.

Forgac’s health and safety representative Ben Horan said workers were frustrated that the matter had dragged on over several months.

“Workers drive past this every day; they are concerned about what’s in it,” he said.

“If this was the Nelson Bay foreshore, it would have been cleaned up within a week.”

An Environment Protection Authority spokeswoman said staff who inspected the site did not find asbestos but did find construction waste and determined the material needed to be removed.

“The EPA has worked extensively with Forgacs Engineering and Port Stephens Council to reach an agreement on clean-up and earlier this week wrote to Port Stephens Council, who is the landowner of the site, advising they are required to remove the mulch by December 13 and take it to an approved waste disposal facility,” she said.

“Council is also required to provide the EPA with receipts for the removal, transport and disposal of the waste to a lawful facility.”

A council spokeswoman said the council would comply with the direction and staff were investigating the incident.

“There are a lot of theories about who is responsible,” she said.

Dec 10

Alec Meikle suicide: Inquest continues into alleged bullying of Downer EDI employee


A Bathurst train builder has admitted spraying a teenage apprentice with flammable liquid while he was welding, knowing it would catch alight, but denies the youth was being picked on.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald –

David Hall was among several workers at the Bathurst plant of Downer EDI who allegedly subjected teenage apprentice Alec Meikle to relentless bullying after he joined the company in January 2008 at the age of 16.

Ten months later, after a battle with depression and anxiety that psychiatrists believe was brought on by the treatment he received, Alec committed suicide.

On Monday, Mr Hall told the continuing inquest into Alec’s death he had sprayed the teenager with contact cleaner as he welded a metal plate, knowing the solution would probably flare up.

The teenagers glove and forearm briefly caught alight, singeing his arm hairs.

”What made you decide to do that to Alec?” counsel assisting the inquest Steven Kelly asked. ”Just loss of concentration I guess – loss of thought,” Mr Hall replied.

Mr Hall, who is now in his 11th year at Downer, said those in the area had a laugh and conceded what happened would have been traumatic for Alec.

”I know how it looks but I didn’t think he was being singled out,” he said.

Mr Hall also confessed to having a central role in the creation of the so-called ”sphincter dilation chart” upon which Alec’s work mistakes were recorded.

He admitted that Alec was made aware of a threat that if he reached the top of the chart he would be sexually assaulted with a metal dildo. ”It was just a joke, it was not as if we were actually going to do that,” he said.

”Looking back now, it was a stupid thing to do,” Mr Hall said, adding that at the time it was a joke among three or four of them, Alex included. After initially telling the inquest the purpose of the chart was to ”encourage” Alec to improve, Mr Hall conceded it had the opposite effect.

But he said that if the youngster had complained about the chart, they would have taken it down. ”If he had ever said it was offensive, it would have been gone,” he said.

He described Alec’s death as ”a tragedy”. ”I didn’t sort of see it coming,” he said.

Earlier, the inquest heard that Mr Hall and a colleague involved in the creation of the chart, Ben Eagle, had been victims of what they described as ”practical jokes ” early in their careers.

These included being dragged across the shop floor by the feet, being water bombed, hit with balls covered in electrical tape and having the gas turned down or off while welding.

”It’s just the way it was I guess – it’s an old industry that hasn’t sort of changed,” Mr Hall said.

The inquest continues.

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Dec 09

Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying


Since the change of Federal Government in September there has been a noticeable shift towards meeting the needs of business over those of workers. Despite our efforts in trying to establish a workplace bullying code of practice, SafeWork Australia have recently released its guidance material for preventing and responding to workplace bullying.

Source: SafeWork Australia – Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying

This Guide provides information for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage the risks of workplace bullying as part of meeting their duties under the work health and safety laws.

Workplace bullying is a risk to health and safety. It can occur wherever people work together in all types of workplaces. It is best dealt with by taking steps to prevent it from occurring and responding quickly if it does occur. The longer the bullying behaviour continues, the more difficult it is to address and the harder it becomes to repair working relationships.

Related information

Publication Information

Topic: Bullying
Type: Guidance material
Industry: General
Publication Date: 27/11/2013


ISBN Title / Download File Format File Size
978-1-74361-243-9 pdf Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying pdf 517.83 kB
978-1-74361-244-6 docx Guide for preventing and responding to workplace bullying docx 4.85 MB

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Dec 09

Reminder: IWSN end of year meeting, Tuesday 10th December 2013,Hosted by Unions NSW in Parramatta, all welcome

Injured Workers Support Network

Assisting and supporting Workers who have sustained

Work related injuries, illness and disabilities.

“Our mission is to assist and support workers and their families who have sustained work related injuries, illness and disabilities to rebuild their lives.”

Meeting Notice

Date: Tuesday 10th December 2013

Time: Between 11 am and 1pm

Venue: UNIONS NSW, Level 2/20 Wentworth Street, Parramatta


  • Recap June 2012 NSW Workers Compensation reforms, discuss IWSN activities for 2013.
  • Discuss IWSN strategies for 2014.
  • IWSN group structure and how we can assist injured workers and their families.
  • General business.


Important: Please RSVP by 09th December 2013 on  (02) 9749 7566  or by email:

Dec 09

Colin Wiggins denies bullying Alec Meikle at Downer EDI plant in Bathurst, Coroner’s Court hears


A Bathurst boilermaker accused of ruthlessly bullying a teenage apprentice has admitted he stood idly by while the teenager was subjected to ”gross, violent and abhorrent” suggestions from colleagues.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald – Colin Wiggins denies bullying Alec Meikle at Downer EDI plant in Bathurst

But Colin Wiggins, who was given the task of supervising teenager Alec Meikle when the 17-year-old began work as an apprentice at train manufacturer Downer EDI, told Glebe Coroner’s court the company had a culture against ”dobbing”.

An inquest into Meikle’s death has heard that within days of starting the apprenticeship at Downer’s Bathurst plant, the young man was allegedly subjected to near-constant verbal abuse and put downs by Mr Wiggins, including being called a ”f—n useless c—”. Other staff allegedly burnt Meikle with a welding torch, sprayed him with adhesive spray, set him on fire and suggested that he would be raped with a steel dildo if he made too many mistakes.

Alec Meikle, who killed himself aged 17 after alleged bullying at his workplace.

In October 2008 Meikle hanged himself with yellow rope from a staircase bannister.

On Thursday Mr Wiggins, who was suspended from supervisory duties for three months after the bullying was reported, denied ever bullying or abusing Alec, and said he had been ”very shocked” when the allegations were first put to him in May 2008.

”I couldn’t see those sort of allegations happening,” he said.

”I’d never seen it before and I’d never heard of it happening.” But the 40-year-old admitted he knew that staff at Downer EDI had put up a ”sphincter dilation” chart in relation to Alec. The teenager’s mistakes were allegedly recorded on the chart and it was allegedly suggested that he would be raped with a steel dildo if the top of the chart was reached.

Mr Wiggins said he had seen staff, including Meikle, standing around the chart ”laughing”, and that he thought it was just another of the ”practical jokes” that were commonplace at the plant.

”You would have known that that was a gross, violent and abhorrent thing to suggest,” the barrister representing WorkCover at the inquest, Robert Reitano said.

”That’s correct,” Mr Wiggins replied.

”And you did nothing about it?” ”Correct.” Mr Wiggins said that he had been given no training in how to deal with such situations, or about the vulnerabilities of working with young people generally.

He said the workplace had a culture against telling management about inappropriate behaviour.

”The reason that you didn’t want to do anything about the sphincter dilation chart was that the culture didn’t encourage dobbing,” Mr Reitano said.

”Correct.” ”You didn’t want your mates in trouble?” ”Correct.” The boilermaker told the court that in hindsight he ”would have done a lot of things differently”.

But he claimed that he had been an ”approachable”, ”responsible” manager, and that he had ”no idea” why Meikle had made allegations against him personally.

The hearing continues.

❏ Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.



Dec 09

Cattle stations inspire employment program

An indigenous training and employment program at Camooweal in North West Queensland has reached an impressive milestone this year, increasing it’s intake five fold since it began in 2006.

Source: ABC Rural – Cattle stations inspire employment program

The Myuma training program young men and women, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds, and gets them ready for work in 10 weeks.

There were 18 trainees in the final intake for 2013, and they all graduated into mining and environmental jobs, taking Myuma’s total number of graduates to 400.

The Mount Isa Mayor, Tony McGrady, opened the ceremony by describing in a nutshell, why the Myuma program is so important.

“People can steal your money, people can take away you clothes, they can take away your home… But nobody can ever take away what you have been taught, that will be with you for the rest of your lives.”

The program has been equipping young aboriginal men and women with life skills for 7 years now.

Local aboriginal man Colin Saltmere is the managing director, he was inspired to start the program by his father.

“It’s based on the philosophy of stock camps. that we grew up in on stations. My father, who’s passed away now, ran one of the best and cleanest stock camps in the country.

“I guess from there I’ve seen some of the good men that he put out into the cattle industry.”

Mr. Saltmere says the program is breaking the cycle of unemployment that has become ingrained in some remote indigenous communities.

“From our statistics we know that at least 35 to 40 percent come from low literacy and numeracy areas, the other half have experienced family problems, from domestic violence to drug and alcohol abuse. And then there’s about 15 percent that are really functional and can operate in any area.”

Graduates will start work almost immediately in MMGs Century Mine, a CopperChem mine site near Cloncurry, and as rangers based in Mount Isa and Longreach.

Colin Saltmere says the vast majority of trainees that have graduated from the Myuma program stay in the workforce long term.

“About 70 percent are in the workforce and working, there’s a percentage of them in part time, some of them have started work and dropped out.”

He hopes to continue to grow the program to take up to 90 graduates per financial year, it currently takes up to 66.

Graduate Daniel Strangeways believes he’s come a long way thanks to the people who run Myuma.

“I was actually on Centrelink and then put my name forward for the program, was shortlisted, then was interviewed by a panel of four and then I actually passed it.

“It’s been a good place, it’s calm, and the people and the atmosphere is awesome.

He says the program has put him in touch with his culture.

“I’ve learnt how to maintain the cultural land, to do surveys and monitor those sites. For instance, there’s a site just near Camooweal where tourist vehicles have been damaging the land, so we have to restore and monitor that.

“Through this course, I actually found out where I’m from and who my family tribe is, because there’s an elder based here who can help you with that.”

To top off the day, there were rain puddles on the ground in Camooweal for the first time in 18 months, thanks to 100 millimetres that fell on the eve of the ceremony.

Aboriginal elder, Mrs Ruby Saltmere, believed the rain was a sign of great things to come.

“Don’t forget, when you all go home, about the big send off you had with this big blast from up top, it’s like it was meant to be.”

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Dec 07

Public servants claims hit Comcare for $309 million in year


STRESSED and depressed public servants lodged so many workers’ compensation claims in the past year that they blew a financial hole in the national insurance scheme.

Source: – Public servants claims hit Comcare for $309 million in year

Comcare, which pays compensation to Commonwealth and some state public servants for workplace injuries, is blaming a rise in “mental stress” claims for its budget blowout.

“Psychological injury costs continue to rise and the length of time ill and injured people are away from their work has worsened at public sector workplaces,” its annual report says.

The latest data reveals an 11 per cent jump in the cost of compensation payments to public servants during 2012/13 – totalling $309M.

Comcare raised its premiums by 26 per cent during the year – yet still spent more on compo payouts than it charged in premiums, plunging it $98m into the red.

Taxpayers had to spend 1.77 per cent of the public service wage bill on workers’ compo premiums in 2011/12 – up from 1.4 per cent the previous year.

“They key factor in the increased premiums is the higher cost of claims caused by longer periods of time off work,” the report says.

“This is particularly evident in recent injury years.”

Comcare has been forced to contest 72 compensation appeals in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) so far this year.

In a recent case, a Tax Office official demoted for giving the wrong advice to members of the public lodged a compo claim for depression.

The woman told the AAT she had felt like she was being “bullied and harassed” by supervisors who criticised her work.

One of her managers had complained that customers were “becoming irate” because the tax official was not listening or answering their questions.

The AAT ruled that she should not be compensated, because her supervisors had taken “reasonable administrative action” in demoting her.

“The applicant was in a position where she was advising the public of their tax rights and liabilities,” the AAT ruled.

“It was certainly reasonable for the ATO to appraise and monitor her performance, to counsel her where her actions caused conflict and confusion, and reasonable to withdraw a benefit such as the increased pay for higher duties where performance was inadequate.”

The AAT also dismissed a compensation claim from a retired public servant who accused her department of invading her privacy.

The woman, who had previously lodged claims for sexual harassment and discrimination, had accused her bosses of wrongly giving her date of birth, signature, tax file number and citizenship details to Comcare as part of another claim over unfair rostering, verbal abuse and bullying.

But the AAT ruled that the privacy breach had not exacerbated what it described as a “personality disorder”.

Comcare’s annual report reveals the number of claims from public servants fell 12 per cent, to 3881 claims, during 2012/13.

But the payouts jumped 15 per cent to $262m – on top of a 5 per cent increase in medical and rehabilitation costs to $126m and an 11 per cent blowout in legal and administrative expenses to $151m.

The Public Service Commission has revealed, meanwhile, that bureaucrats have been taking more sickies over the past four years.

Public servants each take an average of 12 days a year in sick leave and other “unscheduled absences”, its State of the Service report shows.

Bureaucrats from the departments of Human Services, the Tax Office, Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, Safe Work Australia took the most unscheduled leave, averaging 15 to 19 days a year.

Health Department workers averaged 14 days’ leave.

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Dec 06

Depression in Australian workplaces more ‘hidden’ than in Europe: new research


Almost 50% of Australian workers who had taken time off work because of depression kept the reason hidden from their employer according to a large scale national study released today by SANE Australia involving more than 1000 workers.

Source: SANE Australia – Depression in Australian workplaces more ‘hidden’ than in Europe

The Impact of Depression at Work: Australia Audit found almost double the number of Australians had not told their employer their depression was the reason for their time off, as compared with workers surveyed in Europe.  Almost 1 in 2 who hadn’t informed their employer (48%) had felt they would put their job at risk if they told their employer the reason for time off.

‘It’s concerning that despite all the good work done to increase awareness about depression, many people still don’t feel its okay to talk about their illness,’ says SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath.

‘Depression means more than just ‘feeling down”, emphasises Heath. ‘It is a serious condition which affects every aspect of a person’s life, including relationships at work and home.’

‘Not disclosing a mental illness increases stress and prevents access to the very support that can promote successful employment. With one in five Australians experiencing some form of mental illness every year, we are talking about as many as 2 million facing difficulties in the workplace,’ explains Heath.

The research found that Australian workers with depression took much less time off than those in Europe.

For Australians diagnosed with depression, the average number of working days taken off during their last episode was 14.6 days compared to 35.9 days reported by European workers.

‘Further research is needed to determine why people are returning to work sooner in Australia. It may be people are getting better treatment or it may be because of the greater stigma attached to mental illness,’ says Heath.

Australian managers are far behind their European counterparts when it comes to knowledge of the days lost due to depression.

Over half of managers have no support from a human resources department while almost 1 in 3 (29%) have no formal support or resources. Australian managers are also calling for more support from HR departments (where they have one), more training on mental health, and more counselling for staff.

According to Jack Heath, the research suggests stigma surrounding mental illness is playing a bigger role in attitudes in Australia, compared with views in some European countries.

‘Increasing awareness around mental illness must go hand in hand with a change in attitudes and behaviours. That is why we need a targeted and comprehensive campaign to reduce stigma across the full spectrum of mental illness,’ says Heath.

SANE Australia is hosting a national Round Table in Sydney today, drawing together stakeholders from the business, government, and non-government sectors, to develop recommendations for action.

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Dec 06

Racist abuse condoned at work if law is repealed


Workplaces will not be safe from racial discrimination if provision 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is repealed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis this week.

Source: ACTU Racist abuse condoned at work if law is repealed

ACTU President Ged Kearney warned: “There is a big difference between free speech and discrimination and repeal of the law will allow people to use offensive racially-motivated language against others. Is Australia really willing to go back down that path?”

“Repeal of the laws should be seen as an extreme move by a government out of touch with our multicultural landscape. It’s not okay to slur others in the workplace because of their skin colour or nationality. That’s what the current laws protect against.”

“The Fair Work Act provides no remedy for exposure to racial vilification in the workplace unless it creates a risk of injury or is coupled with a deprivation of employment or employment opportunity. The only avenue available in Commonwealth law, to remedy a workplace culture of racial vilification, is this provision.”

“If the Government goes through with this repeal, as they seem intent on doing, it will be a green light to those who wish to be openly racist.”

“Most Australians are not racist. They don’t want to hear racist remarks and they don’t speak that way. However, as we have seen from a number of ugly incidents over the past year, some are willing to inflict humiliation, often publicly, on others with unacceptable language.

“For the first law officer of the nation in an incoming Government to proudly declare that one of his first legislative acts will be to legalise racial abuse is a disgrace and a national embarrassment.”

Ms Kearney said that, “Repeal of section 18C is the Federal Government effectively saying to employers that unless, or until, someone loses a job opportunity or suffers an injury – it’s fine to be racially vilified at work.”

“It’s the ugly underside we prefer not to look at but our First People often bear the brunt of this type of discrimination,” she said.

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