ACT News

Workplace safety nets record funding boost

The ACT government has made the biggest single investment in workplace safety across Canberra with a $5.7 million budget injection to increase the safety regulator's reach.

WorkSafe ACT will receive 12 new inspectors as well as five new vehicles to enable them to police standards across residential, commercial and civil construction in the territory.

WE NEED TO REPAY CONFIDENCE: Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe and inspectors Cath Matthews, Niraj Mehta and Anthony ...
WE NEED TO REPAY CONFIDENCE: Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe and inspectors Cath Matthews, Niraj Mehta and Anthony Noakes. Photo: Jay Cronan

Workplace Safety Minister Simon Corbell said budget deliberations had included clear support from all government members to improve safety standards across the city and this would be done through a compliance crackdown.

''It was ranked high on the government's budget priorities from the outset and will send a clear message to industry that the government is serious about work safety,'' Mr Corbell said.

The announcement also means the government will formally meet its commitment to the recommendations of last year's independent inquiry into construction industry safety, chaired by former public service commissioner Lynelle Briggs.

The ''Getting Them Home Safely'' report recommended adding 12 new inspectors to the current WorkSafe ACT workforce of 34 among its 28 recommendations.

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The inquiry was called because the ACT has the worst serious injury rates in Australia and four men died in workplace accidents in 2011 and 2012.

Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe welcomed the new funding on Tuesday, saying he had already received expressions of interest from people working in the construction industry to become qualified inspectors.

''New inspectors will, of course, have to be trained before they can commence full field work but if we are able to recruit directly from the industry this will assist in getting new inspectors up to speed as quickly as possible,'' Mr McCabe said.

The funding also includes wage rates which will allow the inspectorate to hire specialist inspectors to undertake complex investigations. Currently there are 3.5 equivalent staff responsible for preparing the investigations of more serious accidents for prosecution or the coroner.

Mr McCabe said it was a priority to bolster investigations in order to increase prosecutions against builders who flouted safety regulations with the ACT also receiving an Industrial Magistrate to deal with all cases relating to accidents and deaths in the workplace.

''Our job will now be to work with the local industry to improve safety on ACT worksites and I am confident that through a mixture of engagement, education and enforcement we can do that,'' Mr McCabe said.

''I believe this is the biggest increase in the size of the inspectorate in the history of either WorkSafe or its predecessor Workcover and our obligation to the government and the community is to repay this confidence and drive improvements in the health and safety of local worksites,'' he said.