The head of the ACT's workplace compliance watchdog has been appalled at the lack of safety across residential construction sites in Canberra and fears another construction site death without a cultural change.
The ACT work health and safety commissioner Jacqueline Agius has likened the reckless attitude of some builders to those who speed or drink drive.
She has been particularly shocked by the number of repeat offenders.
WorkSafe ACT has issued 282 safety notices to residential building sites over the past five months.
The watchdog has conducted mass inspections across the territory's greenfield suburbs as part of a three-year campaign to crackdown and change the safety culture of Canberra's residential construction sites.
The Operation Safe Prospect campaign was prompted following the death of two workers in separate incidents at Denman Prospect construction sites in early 2020.
So far, there have been seven mass action inspections. There have been 64 prohibition notices, 15 infringements and 203 improvement notices.
Ms Agius has been shocked by the number of notices, in particular she was shocked there had been a rise in the number of notices issued on a second inspection in Denman Prospect.
"I didn't expect it to be as noncompliant as we've seen, the figures coming out are disappointing," she said.
Despite the number of notices, Ms Agius said she hadn't received much pushback from builders, instead most had known they were doing the wrong thing.
"Generally what we come across is people saying 'I know I shouldn't have done that'," she said.
She said builders would cut corners and do the quicker or cheaper option.
"It is quicker to jump up on a roof than put a harness on ... it's also cheaper to not have scaffolding in place rather than have scaffolding in place," Ms Agius said.
Among the most concerning issues for Ms Agius was a fall from heights, poorly erected scaffolding and site security. As well, another issue that had presented itself was unsanitary toilets.
One of the most shocking breaches for Ms Agius related to a poorly secured site.
"When we were out at a residential construction greenfield site a few weeks back I walked into a site, there were no workers present - the site was completely open at the back and at the front," she said.
"There were gaps in the fences - I had no problem going through the gaps in the fences.
"In the basement, which was accessible straight in from the fence, was a pool filled with water - an inground pool that was 1.5 metres deep.
"The water was filthy, there was plastic floating in the water.
"That's just unacceptable, that's a blatant disregard, not only for your own workers' safety, but for the community's safety - that's just appalling."
Ms Agius said the campaign would run for three years as they wanted to change the culture, which she said would take about two years. She said she feared another construction site death if the culture did not change.
"What we're trying to create in the residential construction sector is a strong safety culture and achieving cultural change is the hardest thing to achieve," she said.
"From what we have seen and the amount of fall from heights we are seeing in the residential construction sector the possibility of a fatality is real and that's what we want to prevent.
"But there is hope and the hope is because of the work we are doing we will achieve a strong safety culture."