Wake-up call over Orica workers hitting the sack

ORICA has threatened to sack any workers at its Kooragang Island site found sleeping on the job.

The warning came as Orica released yesterday its half-yearly results, confirming the August hexavalent chromium problem and other issues at Kooragang have cost it $90million.

The Kooragang plant’s new site manager, Greg Holmes, laid down the no-sleeping law in a memo sent to employees last week.

The memo angered employees, with night shift workers holding a meeting yesterday. Australian Workers Union organiser John Boyd said the ‘‘poorly worded’’ memo should not have been sent. The union and the company are set to meet this morning, but Mr Holmes said the company had the right to manage its site, and the policy applied to contractors as well as employees.

‘‘At the end of the day it has come to my attention that there has been some form of sleeping on the site,’’ Mr Holmes said.

‘‘This sort of sleeping and fatigue management are two different things and I am not going to have them confused with each other.’’

Mr Holmes said Orica was conducting a company-wide review of ‘‘fatigue management’’, which he described as taking ‘‘20-minute power naps under a controlled environment’’.

While power naps could rejuvenate a worker on night shift – making someone ‘‘more able to do what they have to do’’ – longer-term sleeping on the job was not helpful.

In his memo Mr Holmes said ‘‘we work in an environment that requires a high level of attention and focus’’.

‘‘Sleeping at work, whether planned or not, is unacceptable,’’ Mr Holmes wrote.

‘‘Any member of our team found not to have adhered to this fundamental requirement of their employment ... will be subject to investigation and further disciplinary action, which may include termination of their employment.’’

Mr Boyd said he feared that raising the issue would unnecessarily worry the public, especially as none of the problems that had troubled Orica could be sheeted home to sleeping workers.

‘‘The workers on site are self-managed teams who have always been able to manage their own fatigue without adverse impact to safety,’’ Mr Boyd said.

‘‘It is not unusual for employees on a major hazard facility to be relieved for scheduled fatigue breaks.’’

At its half-yearly results yesterday, Orica confirmed its six-month profit had fallen by $11million to $253million.

Orica chief executive Ian Smith said stronger demand and higher prices partly offset the $90million cost of the Kooragang shutdown.

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