An independent workplace safety watchdog will be created in the ACT, under a major overhaul triggered by a damning review of the regulator.
Employment Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith presented new laws into the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday to establish an independent Office of the Work Health and Safety Commissioner.
The government foreshadowed the restructure last October in the wake of an external review of WorkSafe ACT, which found the watchdog lacked independence.
WorkSafe ACT sits within Access Canberra, meaning its commissioner, Greg Jones, does not have ultimate authority of workplace safety regulation in the territory.
That structure created confusion about Mr Jones role, the review found.
We've had the ludicrous situation where the dog licensing and motorboat licensing regulator is also responsible for workplace safetyUnionsACT secretary Alex White
Workplace inspectors were also found to be confused about the agency's approach to regulation, which heavily prioritised "engagement" and education over enforcement.
The review noted that the number of improvement notices handed out by inspectors had dropped by 75 per cent since the workplace watchdog was folded into Access Canberra in 2015.
The regulator had earlier sat within the Office of Regulatory Services.
UnionsACT in 2017 called for an overhaul of the regulator, which it said had softened its approach to work safety since the amalgamation with Access Canberra.
The government announced an external review of WorkSafe ACT in May 2018.
On Thursday, UnionsACT secretary Alex White welcomed moves to create an independent regulator.
"Since 2015, we've had the ludicrous situation where the dog licensing and motorboat licensing regulator is also responsible for the workplace safety of hundreds of thousands of working people," Mr White said.
"The establishment of a fully independent work safety regulator should see immediate improvements in WorkSafe ACT's ability to enforce the law and reduce workplace injuries."
Master Builders Association of the ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins said his organisation had long advocated for a "strong, independent and well-funded regulator".
"The recent efforts of WorkSafe and industry has resulted in ACT construction sites being safer," Mr Hopkins said.
"With greater independence for WorkSafe our expectation is that this collaborative approach will continue."
The laws, which aren't likely to be debated until next month, would establish the role of an independent Work Health and Safety Commissioner, who would act as the regulator.
The restructure was designed to "ensure the clarity of roles and independence of the regulator", as well as "increase transparency, accountability and scrutiny".
Ms Stephen-Smith said the new model would ensure the regulator was best placed to "support the safety of workers now and into the future".
"This bill creates a governance structure for the regulator that will deliver a clear, independent and well-informed strategic approach to the activities of the office with appropriate oversight and accountability," she said.