THE ACT Government has accepted all 28 recommendations of the “Getting Home Safely” inquiry into safety in the local construction industry, with the key aim of reducing the territory’s serious injury rate by 35 per cent.
Attorney-General Simon Corbell said today that the government had already begun to implement the recommendations of the report, which he described as “a wake-up call to everyone involved in occupational health and safety.”
“Four deaths on construction sites in the last 18 months is four deaths too many,” Mr Corbell said.
“… We have to make sure there is an ongoing commitment. We have to remind employers and unions at every turn that we’re talking about death; we’re talking about the serious injury of workers, often injury that has lifelong consequences in terms of the ability of those workers to work and support their families.”
The government’s response to the report includes committing to establish an Industrial Magistrate, with legislation expected to be introduced to the Assembly in June, and 12 new WorkSafe ACT safety inspectors at a cost of $2 million per annum.
The increased cost of regulating occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation will be passed on to employers through a levy that will be imposed on workers’ compensation insurers, Mr Corbell said.
A new forum has also been established with representatives from the Master Builders Association, the Housing Industry Association, building unions and the Work Safety Commissioner, Mark McCabe.
Mr Corbell said the government was also continuing to work with the Tax Office to “stamp out sham contracting” and changing the government’s procurement arrangements to reward companies with good safety records.
“If you’ve got a poor safety record, don’t expect to get government work,” he said. “… This doesn’t mean that you have to have a perfect safety record. Accidents can and will happen, but you have to demonstrate that you’re learning from that, and that you’ve put in place the appropriate changes.”
Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said that while the “damning” report was difficult for the construction industry to receive, he was heartened by the support from the government, peak employer bodies, unions and the community.
“The real work now is going to shift to local construction companies,” Mr McCabe said. “They control what happens on construction sites every day. There’s construction work going on around town as we speak here. It’s in their hands whether that’s done safely or not so I’m calling on them to step up to the mark now and make the improvements the community wants to see.”
As well as recruiting 12 new safety inspectors in the new financial year, WorkSafe ACT has committed to being “more visible [and] more ready to provide help and advice”, as well as take strong enforcement action if required.
Mr McCabe said that the introduction of an Industrial Magistrate could lead to more major prosecutions and large fines for construction companies that continue to operate unsafe work sites.