Sunday, February 14, 2010

Will a South Australian suicide get these people off their collective asses?

Last week on ABC891 radio, and as reported in the Advertiser Friday morning, Safework SA’s Executive Director Michele Patterson urged employers to enforce workplace-bullying policies to eliminate abuse.

SafeWork SA is the business unit of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986.

Safework has the legislative power to seek court imposition of significant fines on employers that contravene the legislation it administers:  up to $300,000 for a first offence and up to $600,000 for subsequent offences under the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act.

Years ago, in the Second Reading speech for the Bill that created the OHSW Act, the then Minister of Labour, in part, succinctly stated the duties on employers and others, together with the role of inspectors and prosecutions:

“… employers will be required to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that their workers are, while at work, safe from injury and risks to health. This duty extends to all things under the employer’s control in the workplace. It applies to the use and maintenance of plant and machinery, the environmental conditions under which work is carried out, the substances used and the manner in which work is organised and performed. This general duty of care is limited by what is reasonably practicable. In practice this will mean that account must be taken of the seriousness of a hazard and the availability of methods for removing or minimising it..."

Safework’s Enforcement Policy, to be found on its web site, details decisions to take compliance or enforcement action.

The decision to take compliance action such as issuing improvement or prohibition notices may be taken when an inspector is of the opinion that:

  • A provision of the OHSW Act is being contravened.   
  • A provision of the OHSW Act has been contravened in circumstances that make it likely that the contravention will be repeated. 
  • Activity is occurring in a workplace that involves an immediate risk to the health and safety of a person at work. 
  • The safety issue cannot be immediately rectified in the presence of the inspector.

Furthermore, the Policy details the Agency’s ability to prosecute:

6.5 Prosecution

The OHSW Act prescribes penalties for a breach of many sections and establishes a process for prosecution of offences against the Act, such as Section 58(1):

A person who contravenes or fails to comply with a provision of this Act is guilty of an offence.”

In relation to who may cause proceedings for an offence to be brought about, it states:

Proceedings may be brought by:

  • The Minister  
  • The Director of Public Prosecutions  
  • The Director of SafeWork SA  
  • An inspector  
  • An employee who has been injured as a result of an alleged offence where proceedings have not been commenced by any of the above mentioned parties within one year of the date of the alleged offence. 
  • Proceedings must be commenced within two years after the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed. In the case of expiable offences, proceedings must be commenced within six months.


The DPP may extend the time limit for the commencement of proceedings if satisfied that ‘a prosecution could not reasonably be commenced within the relevant period due to a delay in the onset or manifestation of an injury or disease, a condition or defect of any kind, or any other relevant factor or circumstance’.

Now, in relation to the detailed and proven history of workplace bullying within the Office of the Public Trustee at 25 Franklin Street, I am somewhat puzzled (well, not really) as to why there has never been any proceedings brought against Michael Atkinson’s agency.

The case has been proven. Extensive investigations by the Government Investigations Unit. A District Court determination. The lengthy and expensive (more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS) Moss Inquiry. The 2009 Parliamentary Inquiry.

Am I the only one to see the Silver Tray???

Safework SA, more than likely will argue that time has drifted past. However, I will argue, in accordance with its own Enforcement Policy, I have the right to appeal for the DPP to grant an extension of this time limit.

This I will do. Consider the request lodged this morning.

During my years at Public Trustee, I doggedly reported workplace bullying (and other serious matters) to Agencies such as Safework SA.

It is my opinion that Public Trustee, for whatever reason has escaped a wrath that, in the past, has been thrust on others outside of the South Australian Public Service.

Time to test the legislation. Time to test that Agency’s own self-proclaimed Enforcement Policy.

On the other hand, this may be, as usual, perhaps a case of Caesar judging Caesar.

As for the bully and those who ignored me all those years, including Messrs Rann and Atkinson? Consider this aspect of the Act:

59C—Liability of officers of body corporate

(1) If a body corporate or an administrative unit of the Public Service of the State contravenes a provision of this Act, and the contravention is attributable to an officer of the body corporate or an employee of the administrative unit failing to take reasonable care, then the officer or employee is guilty of an offence and liable to the same penalty as for an offence constituted by a contravention by a natural person of the provision contravened by the body corporate or administrative unit.

I call upon Safework SA to put its money where its loud mouth is! Alternatively, Michele Patterson can go head-to-head with me anytime anywhere. I am just busting to hear the excuses!

More importantly, I call upon the victims of on-going bullying at the Office of the Public Trustee (or any where) to go banging on Michele Patterson's door. DO NOT accept the answers I did...'We will get back to you'. And I was an elected Workplace OH&S Representative....go figure!

I remember raising the issue of bullying at the Public Trustee OH&S Committee meetings only to be told that it was NOT the proper Forum for the employee grievances to be aired. I got that in writing from the Chairperson. Another Rep then went on to discuss the danger of storing umbrellas in the rear seats of government cars whilst in transit, and the inherent danger they pose to passengers during sudden braking! There's another 'go figure'.


Anonymous said...

You go for it mate. Another Rann agency that let you down. What a joke. Please keep us posted re your progress.

J of Public Trustee still sucks and AGD didnt give a toss said...

The umbrella issue certainly highlights a problem with that organisation. Im not there anymore, thank god, but I remember trying to get the Occ Health rep to help me but it all just seemed too hard for him. Same bloke that ranted on about those umbrellas. I remember that carry on whilst people like you were being subjected to the most disgraceful of treatment at the hands of bullies. Keep it up Robbo. Get their asses into Court including you know who...J

Anonymous said...

Robbo, is there any CCTV footage of the abuse you suffered at PT? Incredible isn't it. Ignore you and dramatise a bit of hanky panky in an office. Happens all the time, even at PT. I can still remember DON dancing with his barefoot PA in his office after hours!!!! Good Luck Robbo. J.D.

Anonymous said...

Bully bosses love to character assasinate the victim. BEHIND THE BACK of the victim OF COURSE. Much easier to explain the reaction of the victim to continual bullying by alleging the victim is unhinged. Which is why any victim must remain calm and not react with the same sort of fire as the abuser is flicking at the victim. So these modern day bullies do NOT resort to clumsy school pranks. No, these are sophisticated bullies in the SA PUBLIC SERVICE. They prefer the allegations about you only told in STRICTEST CONFIDENCE to someone they know will spread the rumor, even though it is completely untrue.

The Hooded One said...

I know a bloke who was shafted by Safe Work. Seems to be there are different horses for different courses. Even if the Government is fined they only give the money to themselves. Keep up the valuable work in exposing these wrongs.

Anonymous said...

"A CEO that believes the maximum penalty for staff misbehaviour is a bloody Letter of Reprimand"
Funny, funny, Rob.
Only at the level DON was would a letter of reprimand be acceptable.
Below DON's level PT has used much more effective ways of turning the screws tighter, daily, as their form of retribution. And people at PT have had their contract not extended with no explanation. Or shifted elsewhere with no warning. Or niggling little jibes thrown at you daily. Or dirty looks from the manager. Or belittled constantly for much less than DON's actions. PT knows how to do it. The actions and tone of what is conveyed, when they want to ramp up the pressure delivered to a worker is well practised. Often the troubles rained down on a so called transgressor are not explained. That's because it comes down to if the one in charge of you likes you or not, on a personal level. If the one in charge of you likes them then all and everything will be explained away, excused, or hidden away. They protect their own. It is not about how you work, or some of the managers would have been dispensed with long ago. So when they want to 'run you outta PT' they do it. Imagine the commandant in Hogan's Heros saying: "we have ways and means of making your life very very difficult. We've done this before"
That's how they do it.
They mask it behind words that do not tell the real story. And they mask it in all sorts of ways. Deep down I think they believe it is their right to do it and in the way they do it.
And I should know because they did it to me, before they got rid of me. If the manager does not like you or if the manager believes what is told to him by the next level down, and he always does, then you are history. But not before they have had their chance to make you suffer as much as possible and as publicly as possible. Their symbol should not be the wheat. It should be a wreckers ball and chain. Because there are managers there, and still there according to my sources, who I think enjoyed wrecking lives of staff they did not like.

Anonymous said...

Find your blog very interesting. Noted not to mark anything in Notice of Vacancies that says Public Trustee
But wondered about this thing call the Umbrella issue? Is that a Public Trustee thing or a government thing? And what does it mean?

adelcomp said...

At that time, and this is a few years ago when I was one of the OH&S Reps, one of the Reps took this Umbrella issue to the Committee. I remember it well as I was trying to raise Workplace Bullying as an issue, but I got shutdown by the Chairperson, one Dr Mark Witham. The Minutes reflect that he considered it not appropriate to consider the issue. BUT THEN, another Rep raised the issue of placing umbrellas in the back seat of Public Trustee vehicles. The Umbrella issue was certainly considered more serious than me wanting to discuss a staff member who had spoke of suicide because of the incessant bullying. Bullying I witnessed firsthand. Think I would rather be speared by a brolley than put up with bullying at Public Trustee!!

Anonymous said...

Oh Gee, what sort of twit would think discussing umbrellas in back of car more important than discussing bullying and possible suicide at your workplace under OH&S? Do hope someone that stupid (above twit Dr) has been pensioned off? completely out of touch. Probably becoz Im not a Dr I think Drs are smart. Your blog proves there are exceptions to my assumption. Dr had only to issue memo to put umbrella in boot. But bullying and suicide should be discussed under OH&S. And any doctor worth his salt should know better than to ignore a serious health issue you wanted to raise. Frightening stuff and and incompetence on part of that Dr.
What hope have staff got in the face of that incompetence?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for explanation. More stories like umbrella please. I know it is serious but the incompetence of the people facilitating bullying culture at your work place astounding. Other work places don't seem so bad when hear stuff like Public Trustee umbrella issue.