Oberon Council general manager Gary Wallace defends council after SafeWork NSW notices issued

REASSURANCE: Oberon Council general manager Gary Wallace has defended council after it received two SafeWork NSW improvement notices.
REASSURANCE: Oberon Council general manager Gary Wallace has defended council after it received two SafeWork NSW improvement notices.

THE mayor and Oberon Council general manager have rejected any suggestion the council is in “turmoil or chaos” as they deal with a leak within the organisation.

And they say the leaks are undermining “greatly improved processes” at council.

It follows the Oberon Review and other media outlets being supplied a 2017 report into the “pyschosocial risks” at council and two recent improvement notices issued to council from SafeWork NSW.

In the Review’s case, the documents were supplied anonymously.

Both the improvement notices were issued on August 10 and say council has “contravened a provision” of the Work Health and Safety Act in circumstances that makes it likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated.

The first notice says workers at Oberon Council have been “exposed to risk to their health and safety resulting from failure to manage psychosocial risk factors when identified”.

The notice says “workers are reporting role overload and lack of change management” and “workers have idenitified the risk register does not include risk to psychological health”.

The second notice says workers at Oberon Council have been “exposed to risk to their health and safety resulting from failure to consult workers, so far as is reasonably practicable, about the proposed organisational restructure”.

It says workers have identified and reported “the psychosocial risk of role overload associated with the departure of 18 workers in a 15 month period”.

The documents given to the Review include a June 2017 work survey report conducted by StateCover in conjunction with Safework NSW which was instigated by Oberon Council.

The report says that compared to available benchmark data for all industries, council as a whole had “fewer psychosocial risk factors in some areas and greater risks in other areas”.

“In general, the reduced risks were in the Job Demands category and the increased risks were in the Job Resources category,” the report says.

A breakdown of results indicated that the “survey scores for indoor staff were significantly worse than those for outdoor workers and the benchmark”.

In reference to an item in the media last week, Oberon Council general manager Gary Wallace said "excerpts quoted by the journalist involved were eighteen months old and leaked anonymously - for reasons unknown to council".

A media release from Mr Wallace and mayor Kathy Sajowitz said "after being made aware of potential issues 18 months ago, Oberon Council has been voluntarily and diligently working towards an overview of its WH and S practices and policies through a self-implemented People at Work and Dignity and Respect at Work program”.

“This program was not enforced by either Statecover or SafeWork NSW,” the release said.

“The program was independently mediated by Statecover together with SafeWork NSW in order to provide an open and transparent process to staff and from the outcomes, council developed and implemented a series of actions and recommendations.”

The media release said council was “disappointed by the actions of an anonymous person or persons who seek to undermine greatly improved processes of council during this time”. 

It said SafeWork NSW had “acknowledged and commended Oberon Council for the significant work” undertaken in this program.  

"Council has currently responded to one of the notices and is actively communicating with SafeWork NSW in order to finalise the second,” the release said.

"Over the past 18 months, council has undergone management change as an outcome of the proposed amalgamation process, staff progression and retirements. 

"We will continue to review the needs of the workforce throughout our structure and implement changes to make sure that people are in the right positions to propel council forward.”

The release said council had received no complaints about bullying and harassment “since the introduction of the Dignity and Respect at Work program” 18 months ago.

"Oberon Council refutes any commentary to suggest that it is in, has been or will likely be in turmoil or chaos,” the release said.