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ACT worksites in for overhaul

Date

Emma Macdonald

Minister for workplace safety and industrial relations Simon Corbell, joined by Inquiry Chairperson Lynelle Briggs, right, and ACT Worksafe Commissioner Mark McCabe, left, to release a report into compliance with Work Health and Safety requirements in the ACT's Construction Industry on Monday.

Minister for workplace safety and industrial relations Simon Corbell, joined by Inquiry Chairperson Lynelle Briggs, right, and ACT Worksafe Commissioner Mark McCabe, left, to release a report into compliance with Work Health and Safety requirements in the ACT's Construction Industry on Monday. Photo: Colleen Petch

Up to 12 new safety inspectors will be employed as a matter of urgency, dodgy builders will be named and shamed and on-the-spot fines will be introduced in an attempt to urgently rebuild a safety culture across Canberra's construction industry.

In the longer term, industry performance across all aspects of health and safety will be considered as part of a builder's construction record when tendering for new jobs and more emphasis will be placed on training and practical safety culture rather than paperwork.

In an immediately response to the ACT's inquiry into work and health safety, the government has also committed to working with industry and unions to achieve a 35 per cent reduction in the serious injury rate by 2016 to bring it from almost double the national average to the national average or better.

Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Simon Corbell on Monday issued the 95-page report ''Getting Home Safely'' containing 28 recommendations which call for a complete overhaul of safety training, enforcement and culture.

The inquiry was called by Mr Corbell in July, following the fourth workplace death in the ACT in under a year - and a record number of serious construction accidents.

He said the government would issue a full response to the report in February, but given the urgent need for action, would commit immediately to seven of the 28 recommendations including spending up to $2 million in the next ACT budget hiring up to 12 new ACT Work Safety inspectors to help enforce health and safety laws on worksites.

The government would also increase the number of work health and safety matters for which on-the-spot fines could be issued to both construction companies and their employees.

In line with Labor's election promise, it would appoint an Industrial Magistrates Court.

It would better co-ordinate ACT Planning and Land Authority building inspectors and WorkSafe inspectors in the field to target specific concerns on worksites and to link their enforcement and demerit point systems.

An ''active certification'' approach in government procurement would mean a contractor's safety records would be investigated when it was competing for government projects. The ACT would work with other jurisdictions to establish a national registration scheme for engineers and for engineers working on ACT government projects to demonstrate their current registration.

Mr Corbell said he would also convene a meeting of the ACT Work Safety Council to discuss the findings of the report and agree on steps for implementation.

''It is crucial, now we have this report, that we bring all relevant parties together, to get industry, union and government agreement on how to implement the inquiries recommendations and a strong commitment to build a safer workplace,'' he said.

Other recommendations include beefing up industry training, site induction, safety mentoring, the eradication of sham contracting.

ACT WorkSafe should have one or two qualified legal staff to work solely on prosecutions as part of its increased workforce and tendering processes should include appropriate safety preparation timeframes and checks.

The inquiry's chairwoman, Lynelle Briggs, said there was no single reason contributing to the ACT's shocking and distressing safety history but there was no arguing it was the worst performer in the nation.

''The industry itself is surprisingly accepting of workplace injuries with health and safety sometimes regarded as an add-on cost in a competitive industry where there is enormous pressure to complete work according to the program quickly, on time and on budget,'' Ms Briggs said.

''The ACT's Work Safety regulator is under-resourced for the enforcement task that it has to do and until recently has worked under a soft penalty regime which has not been sufficient to frighten the cowboys out of this industry''.

The construction industry needed to ''own'' the problem.

''It has the power to fix the situation but it needs to change its practices if the serious injury rate is to go down. It needs to take the lead in the reforms that we propose and to drive them forward rather than to see accidents as a by-product of a dangerous industry'' Ms Briggs said

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