1 February 2020

WorkSafe ACT crackdown on building sites uncovers "general disregard" for safety

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Professional engineer

WorkSafe ACT says a number of residential building sites across Canberra showed remarkable disregard for health and safety. Photo: File.

More than 70 notices have been issued by WorkSafe ACT for a range of breaches described by Commissioner Greg Jones as disappointing in both their scale and seriousness.

The notices are the outcome of a city wide blitz undertaken by the agency with a focus on ensuring that builders and sub-contractors fulfil their legal health and safety obligations towards workers. Residential building sites in both north and south Canberra were targetted.

But inspectors found that in a substantial number of cases, the building sites demonstrated a lack of due care for their worker’s safety and wellbeing.

Mr Jones cited a “general disregard” for basic safety requirements on a number of sites, despite inspectors discovering “imminent risks” to workers.

A total of 28 different building sites across Canberra have been served with notices, some for multiple breaches after a 47-year-old construction worker died at Denman Prospect on January 11, prompting the crackdown.

Mr Jones said the lack of compliance WorkSafe found was all the more surprising, given that the man’s death should have drawn the industry’s attention to major safety issues.

19 of the notices were prohibitions, which require all work on the sites to stop until the breaches were dealt with to the satisfaction of WorkSafe.

“The level of compliance with the safety laws was poor,” Mr Jones said.

“There seemed to be a general disregard for work safety with basic protection systems not in place and little planning to ensure work was undertaken in a safe manner.”

Incomplete scaffolding, no protection to prevent falls from heights, electrical safety issues and inadequate security were all identified as major issues.

“WorkSafe inspections in this area will continue and inspectors will not hesitate to issue more notices, including closing sites that do not meet basic safety requirements,” Mr Jones said.

ACT Policing’s Criminal Investigation Team are conducting a joint investigation with WorkSafe ACT and will prepare a report for the coroner. Information obtained via a warrant on January 15 is currently being analysed and due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, WorkSafe is unwilling to comment further on the specifics of the case.

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And no regard for public safety either. How many construction fences are built on footpaths and in the road reserve? . How many sites have dangerous broken rusty wire mesh to gouge your eye out? How many roadwork signs are there to impale or slice bike riders? How many loads of rusty reinforcing bars are dumped on nature strips How many WorkSafe people are there who don’t care about what the public impact is of their incompetence, even when they are politely told about it?

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