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Victoria’s Worksafe management sacked over contamination

Heads have rolled at Victoria’s workplace safety body after the discovery of contaminated water at a CFA site. Worksafe’s CEO and chairman were both sensationally sacked by Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday.

Denise Cosgrove and David Krasnostein, the chief executive and chairman of Worksafe in Victoria, have been sacked by the state government.

Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) said he had lost confidence in Worksafe’s management after the government was assured in December that what turned out to be contaminated water at the Country Fire Authority’s Fiskville training centre was safe.

“They cannot explain how they got this wrong, in fact they cannot guarantee us that they even tested the water,” Andrews said in a press conference today. “I will not be lied to, and I will not accept incompetence.”

Noting that it was only two months between Worksafe providing advice that the potable water was safe and the discovery of the chemical, he continued: “when you’re confronted with that complete inconsistency and people can’t explain to you how it is that they got it so very wrong, either someone hasn’t done their job or someone has been untruthful.”

The training centre was closed Monday night following the discovery of a chemical associated with a now-banned firefighting foam in the water supply. The site has long endured issues of contamination, which have been linked to cancer in former CFA personnel.

The resignations of CEO Denise Cosgrove and Chairman Krasnostein were received Tuesday morning.

Clare Amies, the executive director of Worksafe’s insurance business unit, will be appointed acting chief executive. Board member John Walter will step up as acting chair.

“The public needs to have confidence in WorkSafe because it’s responsible for the health and safety of Victorian workers,” said Finance Minister Robin Scott. “Confidence in public regulators must not be compromised. … An assurance of safety was given. The Fiskville findings prove otherwise.”

Krasnostein is a former CEO of MLC Private Equity and chief general counsel of National Australia Bank. He is currently a director of the Transport Accident Commission and director at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Before becoming Worksafe CEO, Cosgrove was general manager of claims management and general manager of people and business services at New Zealand’s injury compensation scheme, the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Cosgrove, who was appointed by the Baillieu government, has previously found herself in the media after the ACC was involved in a significant privacy breach, when it sent the details of 6700 claimants to an individual who should not have had access to them.

She also came in for criticism in 2013 when she sent an email to staff opening with an account of her “relaxing” weekend in Daylesford, eventually leading into an announcement of job losses.

Prior to Cosgrove’s appointment, Worksafe was battling complaints of a bullying culture among its staff.

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne.