By CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS
A DANDENONG furniture fittings supplier has denied sacking a worker for being an overly-officious OHS rep, describing itself as an industry leader in workplace safety
Calvin Andrews, of Cranbourne West, was terminated after 11 years working as a storeperson and 10 years as an Occupational Healthy and Safety representative at Hafele Australia.
Backed by the National Union of Workers, he has lodged an unfair dismissal claim at Fair Work Australia alleging he was dismissed because of his role as an OHS rep.
“It was a big shock not only to me but all the employees,” Mr Andrews said.
Mr Andrews said he had raised various safety issues about manual handling – justified by 20 workplace injuries in the past few years.
He claimed he had reported the company to WorkSafe about 10 times, and that the workplace safety watchdog had either upheld his complaints or issued its own improvement notices.
One of his safety initiatives was to require strapping to secure packaged goods loaded on 10-metre high stacks of pallets.
Hafele human resources manager Stefanie Soussa did not confirm the number of workplace injuries but said the company boasted a Worksafe record better than the industry standard.
“Hafele considers itself an industry leader in OHS with our WorkCover premiums significantly lower than the industry standard,” she said.
Ms Soussa supplied a WorkSafe report extract on its claims and premium performance as of 13 January this year, which showed the company was ranked 40 per cent better than its peers.
In July, shortly before his dismissal, Mr Andrews issued Hafele with a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) asking it to overhaul its manual handling policy.
Ms Soussa said WorkSafe gave the company a “clean bill of health” after investigating the PIN claim.
“[WorkSafe concluded] Hafele had not breached any provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 as had been recently alleged by a trade union,” she said.
Mr Andrews said he was motivated to look after the occupational health and safety needs of his colleagues after injuring his own back early in his tenure.
He claims he was dismissed on 6 August after re-injuring his spine, despite arguing he hasn’t yet received a specialist’s report on his injury. Mrs Andrews believes he could have taken on lighter administrative duties in the meantime.
Now he, his wife Angie and children, Belinda and Joseph, face a financial struggle.
Until Mr Andrews’s back heals, he fears it will be hard to find another job.
“I even couldn’t get work at the local KFC,” he said.