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Static Electricity hazards during transfer operations

Posted on 1 May 2015

Did you know that static electricity can accumulate when gas or liquid moves through pipes or filters?  If there are no flammable materials in the area this is unlikely to be a problem but what happens if the gas or liquid is flammable and a static electricity discharge creates a spark?

Flammable liquids which do not easily conduct electricity pose a high level of risk.  This is because the electrical charge builds up in the liquid and, as the liquid does not conduct the electricity, it does not easily dissipate to it surrounding environment.

The US Chemical Safety Board video of the Barton Solvents fire and explosion, Kansas 2007, is an excellent illustration of static electricity hazards during liquid transfer operations.

Please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVZzdtnZaJk to view this video.

Fair Work Bullying Outcomes and how to get a better result.

The Fair Work Act gives workers the ability to apply for an order to stop workplace bullying.[1]  Bullying at work[2] occurs if the worker is at work at a constitutionally covered business[3] and one or more persons repeatedly behave unreasonably towards the worker, or group of workers, and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

The worker lodges a form and application fee[4] with the Fair Work Commission (FWC).  The FWC then has 14 days to start to deal with the application.  The employer is informed of the application by service of the application on the employer, and requirement to respond, by the FWC.

The order to stop workplace bullying can only be made if the FWC is satisfied that the worker has been bullied AND that there is a risk that the worker will continue to be bullied.[5]

The Commission can dismiss applications which are "frivolous or vexatious" or have "no reasonable prospect of success".[6]

Examination of published information[7] on anti-bullying applications reveals some interesting trends. During the 6 months, ending December 2014, 358 applications for stop workplace bullying orders were lodged with the Fair Work Commission.  Of those 358 applications 247 alleged bullying by the employees manager.

Before any proceedings commenced 146 of those applications were withdrawn.  A further 91 were resolved during the course of proceedings and an additional 58 withdrawn after a conference or hearing but before a decision.  Of the original 358 applications only 35 were finalised by a decision and all were dismissed.

The reasons the applications were dismissed were predominantly (31 of the 35) that they were not made in accordance with the Act, were frivolous or vexatious or had no reasonable prospect of success.

What lessons can we draw from this information?  The first lesson is that management interactions with employees are the primary mechanism behind the applications lodged.  The second is, although the majority of the applications were withdrawn and none have resulted in an order, the cost to the employer in responding to the application, appearing at mediation, conference or hearing is extensive and causes significant disruption to business operations.  Even if the application is withdrawn before any proceedings a response to the application will still be required by the commission.

How can we avoid this situation?  There are two approaches which should be followed.  The first addresses the mechanisms required to prevent bullying from occurring in the first place.  No bullying, no applications.  Examples include a clear Bullying and Harassment policy and supporting procedure and awareness training.

The second addresses mechanisms to mitigate or manage the damaging effects should bullying occur.  We may hope that our prevention strategies will work but it is always possible that they will not.  Mechanisms to mitigate or manage the damaging effects of bullying include a succinct policy that not only defines what bullying is but goes further and defines what Bullying is not. In addition organisations should have a clear investigation procedure for reported cases of bullying, employee support and assistance programs, and clearly articulated disciplinary action

[1] Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), s.789FC
[2] Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), s.789FD
[3] Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), s.789FD(3), a constitutionally covered business is a business or undertaking within the meaning of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and either a constitutional corporation, the Commonwealth or Commonwealth Authority.
[4] $67.20 as at April 2015.
[5] Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), s.789FG(1)
[6] Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), s.587
[7] Fair Work Commission Quarterly Reports: Anti Bullying [https://www.fwc.gov.au/about-us/reports-publications/quarterly-reports]

Ruth Knight - Senior HSE Consultant

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