New on-the-spot fines for workplace safety breaches will come into force from next Monday, greatly broadening the number of offences which will earn fines of $3600 and putting the onus of safety more firmly on the employer rather than workers.
Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Minister Simon Corbell said the ACT government was committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the Getting Home Safely report, which concluded that increased ability for inspectors to issue fines would likely lead to an improvement in employers’ and workers’ attitudes to workplace safety.
ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe said the new fine schedule would also take some of the pressure off the court system when WorkSafe had no option but to seek a prosecution over relatively minor offences.
From July 1, inspectors will be able to issue on-the-spot fines for workplace safety breaches including: not notifying WorkSafe ACT of notifiable incidents; not providing first-aid equipment; not providing personal protective equipment; not providing training and instruction on the use of personal protective equipment; not preparing a safe work method statement for high risk construction work; not ensuring work is carried out in accordance with a safe work method statement; not stopping work if the work is not being carried out in accordance with the safe work method statement; not minimising the risk of collapse of trenches; not preparing a work health and safety management plan; and not ensuring a worker has undergone construction induction training.
Mr McCabe said the fines, which are $720 for an individual and $3600 for a company, targeted employers rather than employees and “will greatly add to our ability, where appropriate, to get an immediate health and safety effect, rather than a significantly delayed one through courts”.
“It also frees us up to spend time preparing the more serious matters for court and for those more serious cases we may need a more public demonstration of the need for accountability than a fine,” Mr McCabe said.
“We will be using the new fines judiciously because there is no substitute for a prosecution when it is warranted."
Mr McCabe said the new fine schedule also better reflected the most common safety breaches he and his team were encountering, but were currently limited to imposing improvement or prohibition notices which did not carry a financial penalty.
“We currently have a situation where we can fine a company for not keeping a record of an incident, but we can’t fine them for not informing WorkSafe when the incident occurred. We can fine workers for not using personal protective equipment, but we can’t fine an employer for not providing it to them. We can fine an employer for not having a White Card (training induction), but we can’t fine employers for allowing them to work on site.”
"This will all change now."
Mr Corbell noted that “any person who disputes an infringement notice could still choose to go to court instead of paying the fine.”
“The government will do everything it can to improve safety on construction sites - this is just one step.”