Australian Employer Fined after Pair of Employees Receive Serious Burns
Visy Pulp and Paper Pty Ltd (Visy) in New South Wales, Australia was recently fined $170,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs following an investigation after two employees sustained serious burns while carrying out maintenance according to the WorkCover Authority. Visy owns the pulp and paper mill at Tumut, west of Canberra and produces recycled paper for the packaging and building industries.
Two men were carrying out maintenance on a piece of the mill’s production equipment, known as a chip meter, which melts wood chips into pulp under extreme heat and chemical exposure. The men were given approval to start the maintenance before all the wood chips and chemicals were completely removed from the equipment. After opening the door hot steam, chemicals, and wood chips ejected from the chip meter, causing serious chemical and thermal burns to both men. Neither man was wearing a chemical suit at the time. [WCx]
A WorkCover investigation found that Visy failed to provide adequate supervision, training, and instruction so that the maintenance was carried out in accordance with the company’s procedures. Although the company had a range of safety policies, it failed to enforce adequately those procedures and as a result workers were seriously injured.
Visy was charged with one breach of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000. Visy pleaded guilty to the offence and was fined $170,000.
WorkCover’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said the employees were lucky not to have been more seriously injured. “Steps to secure the health and safety of workers in the manufacturing industry are well known,” Watson said. [WCx]
“This case is a reminder of the importance of ensuring that practices on the factory floor reflect safety polices and systems. The culture of safety is as important as a well-documented safety system. WorkCover will work with the company to ensure that the lessons of this incident are learnt for the benefit of all staff,” Watson added.
Ohio Employer Sentenced for Not Complying with Workers Comp Law
A Mount Gilead (Morrow County), Ohio business owner was recently sentenced for failure to comply with the law after amassing more than $90,000 in premiums and penalties owed on his workers compensation insurance policy. Phil Kraus, owner of KC Berkshire, a janitorial service, pleaded guilty recently following an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Special Investigations Department (SID).
“Protecting one’s workforce from injury and illness ought to rank among any employer’s highest priorities,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “Fortunately, Ohio law allows employees of businesses with lapsed policies to receive care should they be injured, but BWC must recover these costs in order to maintain a fair system that keeps all employers’ premiums as low and stable as possible.” [WCx]
SID’s Employer Fraud Team began investigating Kraus when he failed to enter into a payment plan after falling behind on his premiums. Kraus was previously investigated by SID for issues pertaining to under-reporting his business payroll, which is used to calculate premium. SID closed that case after Kraus amended the payroll reports and agreed to enter into a reinstatement payment plan to pay overdue premiums.
After several attempts to contact Kraus, BWC’s collections department referred the matter back to the SID as Kraus was continuing to operate his business without coverage and without establishing a payment plan. Attempts to reach Kraus regarding the lapsed policy were unsuccessful, and SID referred the case for the prosecution. [WCx]
Kraus pleaded no contestto two counts of Failure to Comply with Law and two counts of Attempted Failure to Comply with Law. He was sentenced to 18 months of community control, and ordered to pay $91,555 in restitution. He must also pay court costs and a $50 fee for each count.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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