Injured Workers Payments

Don’t forget injured workers payments over Christmas, regulator warns

Employers that fail to ensure injured workers receive all their compensation payments over the Christmas break could be fined thousands of dollars, WorkCover WA has warned.

The regulator said that every Christmas period it received a spike in complaints from “financially distressed injured workers faced with missed weekly compensation payments”.

In Western Australia, unlawfully discontinuing weekly payments is an offence under the State Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981, and employers can be fined $2000 for each missed payment, it said.

“If you are an employer managing a current workers’ compensation claim, and you intend to close down over Christmas, talk to your insurer about your obligations to continue payments during this period,” WorkCover said.

“In most cases, weekly compensation payments must continue regardless of leave or shut-down arrangements.”

Meanwhile, WorkCover WA has upgraded its gpsupport website to provide easier access to certificates of capacity (and explanatory notes), a news service for general practitioners and improved navigability.

The website is an online resources hub for GPs who deliver services to injured workers under the State workers’ comp scheme.

“Squeaky clean” policy fails to prevent drum explosion

In other Western Australian news, an employer whose safety policy for cutting hazardous drums relied too heavily on employee compliance has been fined $35,000, after a worker was injured in an explosion.

Swiftstar Pty Ltd’s director John Bronislaw Roman was also charged over the incident, and fined $17,500. Both parties pleaded guilty to breaching the State OSH Act.

The Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court heard that in January 2013, the worker was using an oxy torch to cut the lid off a second-hand drum so it could be used to hold scrap metal when the drum exploded, knocking him to the ground and propelling the lid 60 metres.

The worker sustained skull fractures, bleeding on the brain and a ruptured ear membrane.

The Court heard the drum had flammable liquid stickers on it, and Swiftstar had a “squeaky clean” policy against cutting drums containing residual chemicals, but didn’t ensure workers complied with the policy.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said cutting sealed drums with an oxy torch was a well-known hazard in the scrap metal industry, and needed to be controlled by strict procedures.

Swiftstar could have required workers to fill drums with water before cutting them with an oxy torch, or only used drums with removable lids to store scrap metal, he said.

“In fact, subsequent to this incident, the employer purchased 64 drums with removable lids to use for smaller pieces of scrap metal. The drums cost $3.30 each, a small price to pay for the removal of the risk to employees.”

Widespread safety breaches found in Coles blitz

NSW Roads and Maritime Services heavy vehicle inspectors identified 29 load-restraint issues and issued 62 defect notices during an operation at Coles’ major distribution centre in Eastern Creek, Sydney on Thursday, the regulator says.

Two truck drivers also tested positive to prohibited drugs – one to cannabis and one to both cannabis and methamphetamine, it said.

“This is the third time we have carried out operations at Coles’ distribution centres in 18 months and we are seeing the same poor practices,” Roads and Maritime safety and compliance director Peter Wells said.

“It seems from [Thursday’s] results that no effective checks and balances are in place to ensure loads are safely secured or associated risks minimised. As one of the largest distributors in the country managing the movement of thousands of trucks every day, these results are unacceptable and compromise safety on the road network,” he said.

Wells said the latest operation was prompted by complaints of overloaded trucks and driver fatigue mismanagement, as well as load-restraint issues.

“Strong penalties apply for any individual or company in the chain of responsibility who breaches dimension, load restraint and mass regulations, with fines exceeding $10,000,” he said.

Off-road logistic and freight companies face even higher fines of more than $50,000 for each offence, he added.