14 April 2020

ACT's workplace safety chief announces retirement

| Ian Bushnell
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Greg Jones

Retiring Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones. Photo: Supplied.

Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones is leaving the position after overseeing a major crackdown in the booming construction sector that has seen a ramping up of on-the-ground inspections, the shutting down of work sites and the handing out of penalities.

Mr Jones leaves the role as WorkSafe ACT becomes a separate entity, after an independent review called for a major shake-up of the workplace safety watchdog after a fall-off in enforcement during its time within Access Canberra.

Announcing his retirement today, Mr Jones said the past four years in the role had been a challenge but he was proud of the ongoing focus of government on industrial work, health and safety and the enhanced awareness of employers of their responsibilities through the Work Health and Safety Act.

Mr Jones has had to respond to ongoing safety incidents in the construction industry amid complaints from Unions ACT that WorkSafe was a toothless tiger.

In January two men died on Canberra work sites, prompting Mr Jones to unleash safety blitzes across the sector.

Mr Jones has also used his office to stress the need for adequate penalties for safety breaches.

Last year he took the ACT Industrial Court to task for a ”disappointing” $180,000 penalty for Nikias Diamond Property Development Pty Ltd over a site fall in which a 16-year-old work experience student suffered significant injuries.

Mr Jones also brought mental health issues to employers’ awareness.

“I am delighted that more employers were now focusing on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace as well as on the more traditional physical health,” he said.

”I am proud to have introduced a strong focus on mental health as well as providing a range of measures to assist and support this important health and safety issue.”

Mr Jones said his team had worked tirelessly to prevent work health and safety incidents, educate employers and workers, and hold employers and workers to account through legislation, as well as providing support to all parties when incidents occurred.

He also thanked industry representatives and unions for their support.

“It is testament to their work, determination and compassion, that I retire knowing that the ACT is safer for workers,” he said

Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety Suzanne Orr thanked Mr Jones for his tireless service to improve the health and safety of working people across the ACT.

“In my time as Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety, it has been a pleasure to work with Mr Jones and I have had absolute confidence in his leadership of the entire WorkSafe ACT team,” she said.

“I’d like to once again thank Mr Jones for his service to the people of the ACT and wish him all the best for the future”.

Prior to becoming Work Safety Commissioner, Mr Jones held a number of senior leadership positions in the ACT public service, including as the head of the former Casino Surveillance Authority and Chief Executive Officer of the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. He has a total 40 years’ service of which 30 has been in various regulatory roles.

Ms Orr said an announcement on Mr Jones’ a replacement would be made in coming weeks.

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Just walk around Canberra suburbs and negotiate the building site rubbish and dangerous materials and half built fences spilling onto nature strips and footpaths and you’ll see what a complete failure ACT Worksafe is.

No wonder inside is often a death trap.

Gungahlin shop site next to the primary school is a monument to a total failure of planning and public/worker safety. And not a whisper, not even a whimper of expert regulation

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