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A police prosecutor sacked for taking drugs has unsuccessfully sought reinstatement on the basis he was suffering emotional problems following the 2005 suicide of a police friend and the 2013 death of his father.

Matthew Baker was found to have used cocaine in a random police drug test. The 18-year veteran admitted using the drug but failed to identify the one of seven friends he was drinking with who supplied him with the drug.

Hearing the reinstatement application, Acting Justice Peter Kite of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW said he had taken into consideration the personal grief and suffering suffered by Baker. However, this had to be weighed against the public interest. Baker had demonstrated a “lack of insight” into the implications of his actions on the integrity of the police force, reflected by his failure to identify who supplied him the drug.

Accordingly, his removal from the force was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable. AJ Kite said the circumstances might have been different had Baker volunteered his use of the drug. “This is not a case of an officer coming to his senses, admitting he has an issue and seeking help,” AJ Kite said. “Even when he knew of the possibility of the random test he did not volunteer his use of the prohibited drug.”

AJ Kite said it was not until Baker had been selected and was about to be tested that he made the admission. “It is clear he was hoping to get away with his misconduct. Facing inevitable discovery he made the admission, but even then he did not go further and assist with information which could identify the supplier(s). He exercised his right to silence when invited to be interviewed.”

The commission earlier heard evidence the police force had zero tolerance of drug use by officers. Officers who used drugs or believed they had a problem were actively encouraged to come forward for counselling and support services. “The effectiveness of the police in protecting the community rests heavily upon the community’s confidence in the integrity of the members of the police force, upon their assiduous performance of duty and upon the judicious exercise of their powers,” AJ Kite said.

“Applying these principles, I am satisfied that the findings I have outlined above demonstrate that it was open to the [police] commissioner to conclude both that Mr Baker’s integrity and that of the police force had been significantly compromised.”

Company fined $250k over ramp collapse death

A company has been fined $250,000 in the Victorian County Court after a loading ramp collapsed killing a driver.

Frewstal Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to three counts under the Victorian 2004 OHS Act of failing to ensure that people other than its own employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety.

The court was told that the incident took place in September 2013 at Frewstal’s abattoir in Stawell, Victoria as the driver was unloading a shipment of lambs. The driver was on the loading ramp when the hoist he was using to move the ramp broke apart above him and the ramp collapsed. He suffered severe head injuries and was taken to Stawell Hospital before being airlifted to Melbourne. He died several weeks later.

WorkSafe Victoria spokesperson Leanne Hughson said issues around the company’s decision to alter the design of the hoist, a lack of maintenance, and poor driver training in relation to the loading ramp and hoist had “an all too familiar ring to them”. “A lack of maintenance and a lack of training are common causes of serious injuries and fatalities in workplaces across the state,” Hughson said.

“And, far too often, WorkSafe investigators will discover that an incident has been caused by a piece of machinery being altered without due regard for the safety implications. WorkSafe will continue to prosecute employers who fail to understand that there can never be shortcuts when it comes to safety.”
The court was told an investigation at Frewstal’s abattoir revealed a lug on the loading ramp hoist had failed “catastrophically”.

The court heard that when a new loading ramp and safety mechanism was installed at the abattoir in 2010, the hoist lug was moved 300mm. However, the new position made it more susceptible to fatigue damage, stress and corrosion. The court was told that the company had failed to get expert opinion about the design change before moving the lug, and then failed to regularly inspect the hoist system during regular maintenance checks of the loading ramp.

The company also failed to put in place a system to train, direct or induct drivers to the use of the loading ramp and hoist. The court heard that in order to lower the loading ramp, a safety bar had to be manually disengaged. It had to be manually re-engaged once the loading ramp had been moved into its new position. The court was told that the driver had not been adequately trained in the safety bar’s operation and the safety bar had not been engaged when the loading ramp collapsed.

Hughson said the health and safety failures in relation to the abattoir’s loading ramp meant the risk of a serious injury – or worse – kept growing. “The decision to move the hoist lug without first assessing the engineering consequences was a critical error,” Hughson said. “The failure to keep an eye on this vital part of machinery during regular maintenance checks also created a serious risk.”

Safety alert on fragile roofing

SafeWork SA has issued a safety alert on working with fragile roofing.

Fragile roofing materials include corroded corrugated steel cladding, structurally unsound roof members, plastic sheeting, wired glass and corrugated asbestos-cement roof sheeting.

It is essential to identify all potential hazards and conduct a risk assessment before working on any roof area or using the roof as a means of access (eg, for construction, repair, maintenance, demolition or inspection), the alert warns.

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