Council stuck in safety web


Hannah Hammoud

An industrial dispute has erupted in Brimbank after a council worker lost part of his foot after being bitten by a white-tail spider on a job site.

Municipal and Utilities Workers Union (MUWU) president Jennifer Marriott said staff were offered tins of bug spray in response to the incident that took place at the council-owned Keilor Operations Centre.

Ms Marriott said there are a number of high risk safety-hazards on site, including the presence of spiders and rodents, inadequate lighting during early morning and evening hours for heavy equipment operators and faded pedestrian line markings.

“There are some staff working 12 hour shifts, and at times the lighting is so poor and we have people driving around forklifts. If you can’t see where the walking line markings are and there is heavy equipment driving around at the depot – that’s a safety risk in itself,” she said.

Brimbank council chief executive Fiona Blair said council officers and union representatives undertook a vehicle, machinery and site inspection to identify any reasonable safety concerns.

“Some minor items were raised and will be addressed as soon as practicable,” she said.

“The Keilor Operations Centre was open on Wednesday [February 7], and staff were able to continue providing essential services to the community.”

Upon hearing the response from the chief executive, Ms Marriott said it was time for Ms Blair to “stop burying her head in the sand.”

Ms Marriott said from 5.30am on Wednesday, February 7, work was halted and staff waited around for almost eight hours for council to attend a safety inspection of the site.

“I would not call these issues minor. Ultimately the chief executive has staffing responsibility for all staff, and she is accountable for what happens to staff,” she said.

“She needs to be more accountable. For her to say that council went out and everything is fine now – well no, that’s not acceptable. It’s her head that rolls if something happens.

“I just want to have some respectful conversation to try to resolve these issues.

“We have around 200 staff working at the depot, and we need to ensure that safety is being prioritised and people are being put first. They want to go home to their loved ones at the end of the day.”

Ms Blair said council takes safety “very seriously”, and is committed to providing a physically and psychologically safe workplace for all staff.