In October and November last year the Visy paper mill located in Tumut underwent is annual shutdown to facilitate major maintenance and upgrade work. During this period an increased number of contractors attended the site to undertake work around control systems, wiring, switchgear and other electrical work.
The shutdown was marred by multitude of safety problems and other issues. The ETU had concerns relating to fatigue as electricians were required to work 12 hour shifts while commuting long distances, in some cases more than 100 kilometres each direction.
The first day of the shutdown saw a major incident when a large section of roofing collapsed. The ETU was astounded by Visy managements response after they simply said “lucky no one was there”. If only this was true! At least one worker had to dive under a table to escape the falling roof section measuring 40 meters by 15 meters. The ETU understands that there were at least 5 or 6 workers onsite and in the vicinity.
A list of other safety incidents at the Visy site include:
Two Electric Shock incidents with one resulting in a 4th year apprentice being hospitalised.
Crane Rollover outside the perimeter of the site with Rural Fire Service, Police and Ambulances responding.
Two switch rooms infiltrated by water resulting in explosions and the need to rebuild them.
A worker suffered burns from caustic or acid solutions during the replacement of control gear.
Repeated sounding of Gas Alarms at the site.
Delay in allowing ETU officials to immediately enter the site under WH&S right of entry – the company delayed entry by two and a half hours.
Excessive hours with some EBAs including a minimum of 12 hours per day for 6/7 days straight.
The ETU also has concerns that union members maybe being targeted by management after the company made changes to individual staff working conditions after safety concerns were raised and complaints were made.
The ETU is continuing to monitor the Visy site closely while providing members with industrial support.