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Improving Canberra’s woeful workplace safety record

By 26 November 2012 4

simon corbell

Simon Corbell has announced the release of the Briggs report into workplace safety in the ACT construction industry.

“The Government commits to providing a detailed response to each recommendation of the inquiry by the end of February 2013. In the interim, I can announce today that the Government will immediately take action on the report’s findings and recommendations as follows.

“First and foremost the Government agrees to increasing the number of inspectors in the Worksafe ACT Inspectorate ( recommendations 20 and 21) to enforce work health and safety laws on worksites as part of the development of the 2013-14 ACT Budget.”

The Government has also decided to adopt the following recommendations:

– Recommendation 4 – to establish a target of a 35% improvement in the serious injury claim rate;

– Recommendation 20 – to increase the number of work health and safety matters for which infringement notices (on the spot fines) can be issued to both employees and employers, including sub-contractors;

– Recommendation 22 – to appoint an Industrial Magistrates Court;

– Recommendation 23 – to implement better coordination of 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;

– Recommendation 25 and 26 – to implement, by June 2013, the ‘active certification’ approach into government procurement and establish comparative assessment of contractor’s safety records when competing for government projects; and,

– Recommendation 12 – To work with other jurisdictions to establish a national registration scheme for engineers as soon as practicable, and to require engineers engaged on ACT Government projects to demonstrate their current registration on the Professional Engineers Register wherever applicable.

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.

[Photo courtesy Simon Corbell's office: Lynelle Briggs, Simon Corbell and Mark McCabe]


UPDATE 26/11/12 13:48: Mayor Shane is claiming the report vindicates Green policies:

“This is a critical report for a jurisdiction with an unacceptable rate of injuries and deaths on worksites. This report should mark a turning point in the ACT’s attitude and efforts on worksite safety.

“The Report reflects many of the key issues the Greens campaigned for in the last Assembly, and before the last election, as part of a pledge to make Canberra into Australia’s ‘work safety capital’.

“The Report backs up the Greens’ campaign for a new approach to Government tendering. It recommends that the Government ‘uses its purchasing power to ensure through its tendering process that only contractors with good health and safety records are allocated government work.’

“The Report makes important recommendations for reform of construction industry training- an issue the Greens took to the election, and which we reflected in our Parliamentary Agreement with the Labor Party.

“It is important that the Government implements the Report’s recommendations with priority. I want to see the ACT begin a new era of worksite safety, and this is the concern of the Government, the industry, and the ACT community,” Mr Rattenbury said.

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4 Responses to Improving Canberra’s woeful workplace safety record
#1
Mr Evil11:10 pm, 26 Nov 12

Why don’t they set up a union slush fund to solve the problem – they seem to be all the rage, you know!

#2
TP 30008:32 am, 27 Nov 12

It may sound politically incorrect, but why can’t we enforce that everyone on work sites has a 90-100% understanding of the English language. As someone who goes on different worksites all day long I try to ask non-white Australians & most don’t know what I’ve said. So we have all these warning & safety signs in English, but not all the people who these are for understand them.
Also why can’t we make the White Card test a lot harder, so that you’ve got to know all aspects of the safety in the building industry. I recently completed the white card test & there was no need to read the text before the test as they practically give you the answers if you get the question wrong. In other words you can not even bother reading all the safety text. With most of the questions being common sense rather then in depth text.

#3
devils_advocate10:57 am, 27 Nov 12

TP 3000 said :

It may sound politically incorrect, but why can’t we enforce that everyone on work sites has a 90-100% understanding of the English language. As someone who goes on different worksites all day long I try to ask non-white Australians & most don’t know what I’ve said. So we have all these warning & safety signs in English, but not all the people who these are for understand them.
Also why can’t we make the White Card test a lot harder, so that you’ve got to know all aspects of the safety in the building industry. I recently completed the white card test & there was no need to read the text before the test as they practically give you the answers if you get the question wrong. In other words you can not even bother reading all the safety text. With most of the questions being common sense rather then in depth text.

Having been on a range of selection panels, I find that Australian-born applicants often have the most woeful English skills out of all the applicants.

Further, many people probably work in the construction industry due to a lack of other alternatives. If the English skills (particularly written english) test is too difficult, it would further restrict entry into the industry and construction would grind to a halt.

There is such a thing as an efficient level of risk.

#4
Dacquiri8:56 pm, 28 Nov 12

Don’t know about a new approach to tendering, but how about a new approach to major inquiries? The inquiry panel consisted of a public sector management specialist and the head of the agency responsible for investigating and enforcing worksite safety (and which stands to benefit from recommendations that it receive increased resources). Does anyone find this a little strange? And if not, why not?? Not so long ago, you would be expected to recruit someone with specialist knowledge of what you were investigating, and make sure that no one directly involved in the inquiry had a conflict of interest.
And also, I am astonished that an investigation of something as pervasive and as sensitive as construction worksite safety seemed to rely on written submissions, when there would have been any number of other ways to generate relevant information. Exceptionally revealing information could have been provided, for example, if confidential discussions had been arranged with workers and their families, with guarantees to protect their identities.

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