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Anger as second blitz finds more Work Safety breaches

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe, right, and work safety officer Alan Chipperfield.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe, right, and work safety officer Alan Chipperfield. Photo: Karleen Minney

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe has expressed dismay that work sites in Harrison continue to breach safety regulations despite being the subject of two blitzes in two months.

A follow-up blitz by Work Safety inspectors on residential construction sites in the new suburb took place on Wednesday and saw 75 notices and 12 on-the-spot fines issued, amounting to about $20,000.

Mr McCabe said this came just six weeks after a January blitz in Harrison, where 100 notices and 16 on-the-spot fines were issued.

''This is a very disappointing outcome,'' Mr McCabe said.

He noted one disturbing instance where inspectors believed a contractor had attached fake tags to electrical equipment to indicate it had been tested and tagged by a qualified electrician.

''There is no place in this jurisdiction for this kind of behaviour. Basically this contractor appears to have set out to undercut his competitors by avoiding a well-established cost - at the expense of his workers' safety,'' Mr McCabe said.

Inspectors on Wednesday focused on the safety basics - signage, fencing, amenities, housekeeping, falls-from-height issues and electrical testing and tagging. Mr McCabe said once the regulator was satisfied with compliance in these basic areas it would move on to more significant issues such as high-risk construction work and high-risk work licensing. But he said ''at this stage, we are seeing a failure to comply with the basic safety provisions in residential construction''.

''Residential builders need to understand that we won't let up until these issues are fixed. The on-the-spot fines for lack of signage carry a fine of $2160 for a business. Failure to comply with one of our improvement notices is subject to an on-the-spot fine of $3600. I have asked the government to consider extending the range of matters on which we can issue on-the-spot fines,'' Mr McCabe said.

Workers in Harrison had expressed surprise to see inspectors out on the job again this week just weeks after the first blitz.

But Mr McCabe said the blitzes and follow-up blitzes would continue given their high rate of finding obvious safety breaches.

''Since we have started these blitzes I have been contacted by many builders and building companies, thanking us for this focus and urging us to not let up. The better builders in town are sick of spending good money doing the right thing by their workers while less reputable builders undercut them by avoiding their obligation.'' He said the recent independent inquiry into construction safety in the ACT, ''Getting Home Safely'', had noted the importance of the cottage industry as a feeder-source for workers for the larger civil and commercial projects.

The report said poor safety culture in residential construction tended to flow into other areas of construction involving bigger projects and, arguably, greater risks.

One prohibition notice was issued for scaffolding offences and two improvement notices and two on-the-spot fines were issued in relation to electrical tagging.

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