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Archive for: June

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) won’t start hearing bullying claims until January 2014, under legislation currently before federal parliament.

The federal government amended the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 two weeks ago to change the start date from July to January.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate.

If the bill passes both houses of parliament, from January workers in constitutionally covered businesses will be able to apply to the FWC for an order to stop bullying.

The FWC will be able to issue any order it considers appropriate, other than the payment of money.

For more details, visit the bill.

A national asbestos exposure register has been created in the wake of the National Broadband Network (NBN) asbestos scare.

As previously reported, Telstra is digging up thousands of cable pits in preparation for the rollout of the NBN for the federal government. Many of these pits are lined with asbestos.

Two weeks ago, some of this work was suspended when contractors were found to be smashing pits without taking appropriate precautions.

A new asbestos exposure register has been set up as part of the response to the problem.

Any member of the community who thinks they have been exposed to asbestos-containing materials in any context, not just through Telstra pits and the NBN, can register their exposure details.

The register captures the identification details of the person exposed to the asbestos, details of the suspected asbestos exposure, witness details, and whether the person has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

The register is managed by the Office of Asbestos Safety and Professor Chris Baggoley, chief medical officer of the Department of Health and Ageing.

Meanwhile, The federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says in a media statement that work won’t recommence in certain Telstra pits until Telstra and NBN employees and contractors are trained in the safe removal and handling of asbestos from the pits.

However, work will continue in pits that do not contain asbestos.

For more details, visit the register and the minister.

A new workplace road safety program will be launched in the second part of this year.

The National Road Transport Commission (NTC) has been working with the business sector over the past two years to develop the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP).

“Work-related road crashes account for almost half of all occupational fatalities in Australia and 15 per cent of the national road toll,” says NTC Acting Chief Executive George Konstandakos in a media statement.

“As almost half of the new vehicles sold in Australia each year are purchased by businesses, there is an opportunity for them to have a significant impact on road safety.”

The NRSPP is based on the ‘Safe System’, which involves safe road users, safe vehicles, safe speeds and safe roads.

The fundamental objectives are to make the road transport system more forgiving of human error and to minimise unsafe road user behaviour, says the NRSPP final strategy document.

The business sector can influence road safety through direct influence on what happens ‘on the ground’, the supply chain, employment, testing research, and feedback to the government and researchers, the document adds.

Abuse allegations in the Australian Army are under investigation and have led to a strong show of leadership from the army’s top brass.

The Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, said in a media statement last week that investigations are underway into the alleged production and distribution of “highly inappropriate material demeaning women, across both Defence computer systems and the public internet”.

“Every person in the Australian Defence Force deserves the right to serve without any kind of physical, mental and sexual abuse and I will defend their right to do so in a fair, just and inclusive workplace,” he said.

He pointed to a systemic problem within Defence. “In the wake of the ADFA (Australian Defence Force Academy) ‘Skype’ case, and the series of inquiries and reviews into various aspects of the ADF culture and military justice over the last 20 years, the leadership of the ADF no longer accepts the ‘bad apple’ argument when one of these incidents occurs,” he says.

“These behaviours are symptoms of a systemic problem and we will continue to address them in a comprehensive manner, through Defence’s Pathway to Change strategy.”

He said three members of the Australian Army have been suspended in response to the allegations, and other suspensions will be considered, pending civilian police and Defence investigations into the behaviour.

Meanwhile, Brian Briggs, head of Slater & Gordon’s military compensation group, said in a media statement that a systemic culture of abuse has existed in the military for years.

“I’ve spoken to dozens of female defence clients who left the forces because of instances of sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse, even as recently as this month.”

He is concerned that the current incident involves high-ranking officers.

“No person, woman or man, should tolerate any form of abuse, nor should it be tolerated,” he says.

“This is important for not only our defence force, but for the wider community.”

For more details, visit Defence and Slater and Gordon.


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