Forest & Wood Communities Australia has formally requested prosecutions of the Bob Brown Foundation by the work safety regulator WorkSafe Tasmania. Source: Timberbiz
The requests, made under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (Tas), are for the reckless and dangerous actions engaged in by the BBF during workplace invasions in Tasmanian timber harvesting coupes in 2020.
The submissions, prepared by FWCA director Kelly Wilton, have drawn WorkSafe’s attention to incidents where there were risks of a serious injury or death, constituting the most serious breaches under the Act.
These include reckless and dangerous actions such as jumping onto heavy harvest machinery while in operation and climbing dangerous trees, including one during high winds.
“That tree had a high number of dead branches which are defined in the Forest Safety Code (Tasmania) 2007 as ‘widow makers’,” Ms Wilton said.
“Due to the tree’s species, old age, poor health, high frequency of dead limbs, and likelihood of rot and unpredictable and spontaneous branch shedding, the tree presents a high risk to the safety of anyone climbing or occupying the canopy of the tree.
“It is extremely concerning that the Bob Brown Foundation would direct and assist someone to climb trees that even the most basic risk assessments would deem too dangerous.”
Ms Wilton said of more concern is that WorkSafe is familiar with these dangerous actions, which continue with increasing regularity, but they refuse to take meaningful action.
“The BBF have paid staff who train people, without proper qualification to conduct these dangerous media stunts, seemingly with the blessing of WorkSafe Tasmania,” Ms Wilton said.
“WorkSafe Inspectors witnessed first-hand agents of the BBF jumping onto an excavator while it was in operation.
“It is our understanding that following the incident WorkSafe issued a mandatory request for information but the BBF publicly stated that it would not comply – an offence that carries a $50,000 penalty. WorkSafe have not taken any further action.”
Ms Wilton said the timber industry is rightly highly regulated and the people employed in it take safety very seriously.
“Yet every day workers carry the unfair burden of fear that the reckless actions of illegal protesters will cause them to witness or be inadvertently involved in a tragic death,” she said.
“WorkSafe’s reluctance to act seems to condone the actions of the BBF which continues to make a mockery of the Work Health & Safety laws and the regulator whose role it is to enforce them.
“The BBF use these media stunts to raise a lot of money to keep their corporate organisation financial, but what price do they and WorkSafe place on a life?”