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Workplace Safety and Consumer Affairs - Tassal Worksafe Investigation

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tags: Tassal, WorkSafe, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, you would be aware of the terribly dangerous incident that occurred at Tassal's Strathblane facility near Dover earlier this year which led to more than 20 people being hospitalised. I understand WorkSafe Tasmania attended and has investigated the incident.

Our office has received information that it was not a gas leak but a gas-powered fork truck being used inside that caused poisoning and that the poisoning came from the exhaust of the fork truck. These fork trucks are not supposed to be used inside ever. I also understand that workers made complaints about feeling sick. Two of those workers were pregnant at the time, but that they were told to finish their shift and go back inside; a decision that was nearly fatal. Can you please tell me what was the result of WorkSafe Tasmania's investigation? Has Tassal been fined or has there been any other enforcement actions taken?

Ms ARCHER - Again, that is for Ms Pearce. I think that investigation is still ongoing.

Ms PEARCE - Yes, WorkSafe Tasmania was notified of the incident at Tassal and our inspectors attended. While the cause of the incident has been identified, the investigation into whether or not there have been breaches of the duties under the Work Health and Safety Act is still ongoing.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. There has been no fine and no enforcement because it's ongoing. It was a gas -

Ms PEARCE - The use of the incorrect type of forklift vehicle within the shed was the cause.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, it's also been reported to our office that a number of workers involved in the incident have either not fully returned to work, or are still on light duties. Are you aware of what long-term injuries these workers are suffering from?

Ms ARCHER - I'm not personally, no. I don't undertake those investigations.

Ms PEARCE - That's not information that I have to hand, nor would we necessarily have the full details at this particular point in time.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, would that form part of the investigation, to determine the long-term impacts of an incident?

Ms PEARCE - The nature of the injuries certainly comes into play, but that's part of an ongoing investigation. I don't have that information.

Dr WOODRUFF - You will be looking into that, okay. Thank you. How long will the investigation take to complete?

Ms PEARCE - It depends on the complexity of the issues that need to be followed up. It can be up to two years. We aim to try to complete our investigations much sooner than that though.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's very concerning that there are still people reportedly off work, one of whom I understand was one of the women who was pregnant. We seek to really understand and elevate this issue from a workplace staffing point of view.

Ms ARCHER - WorkSafe Tasmania deals with it from an investigative approach. The issue there is those people would be, I'm sure, on workers' compensation. That is again, another separate issue that isn't in the realm of the WorkSafe Tasmania investigation.

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm not sure that casual workers necessarily -

Ms ARCHER - Sorry, you didn't say what type of worker they were. I'm not sure.

Dr WOODRUFF - No, I'm not sure if I'm correct in that. But I think that is the implication - that they're casual staff and they wouldn't have access to that and don't necessarily speak English as their first language. We're concerned to know what investigation is being done about these people.

Ms PEARCE - Casual workers are certainly covered by workers compensation entitlements. They have an entitlement to be paid, based on a calculation of average weekly earnings. There is an entitlement to workers' compensation. There should be a return-to-work plan put in place for those workers, as well as an injury-management plan and should there be language issues, then the expectation would be that an insurer, given that it's a privately underwritten scheme, would be making appropriate arrangements to ensure that there is going to be proper engagement with those workers. That's in a different hat, the workers' compensation hat, not with health and safety.