Improved work injury numbers shows importance of workplace inspections and compliance

Improved safety figures from Safe Work Australia show the importance of union safety visits and heightened inspection regime, said UnionsACT secretary Alex White.

The Comparative Performance Monitoring Report, released on 28 October, showed that the incidence of serious workplace injury claims has dropped in the ACT from 11.9 per 1000 employees to 9.6.

The Safe Work Australia October comparative performance report shows that in the ACT last year, proactive workplace visits increased by 150 percent compared to the previous year, with 490 workplace visits. The number of reactive visits was up 26 percent, to 2,384 visits. The number of active field inspectors increased by over 36 percent

Notices, where an inspector identified a breach under the work health and safety legislation, increased substantially in the ACT, up by 43 percent last year compared to 2013. The total value of fines issued against employers by courts increased by 21 percent to $58,000, due to the doubling of convictions.

These improved safety results are not simply luck. They are due to the vigilance of unions and the increased inspection regime from Work Safe that resulted from the Getting Them Home Safely report.

In 2013, following a series of workplace fatalities, the ACT Government commissioned the Getting Them Home Safely report, which criticised the culture of disregard and complacency amongst employers. The report noted that ‘there is a strong view [by employers] that safety is just another cost add-on’.

Following the report, the ACT Government accepted all 28 recommendations. Unions have been instrumental in driving the safety agenda across the ACT, especially in the construction industry.

The following statements can be attributed to Alex White, secretary of UnionsACT:

“The improvements in safety outcomes for the ACT are due to the strong focus on compliance and inspections.

“The doubling of convictions and the increase in fines is sending a strong message to employers that the ‘cowboy’ attitude towards safety will not be tolerated.

“Every working person has the right to go to work and get home safely. That’s why officials conduct safety visits and walks in workplaces and construction sites.

“Unions will never back down or compromise on safety.

“Sadly, some business lobby groups have spent the past twelve months making unfounded claims that safety concerns are a ‘myth’. These groups must put aside their ideological opposition to unions and work constructively with us to embed a safety culture.

“Frankly, recent media statements by some from the business lobby are dangerous and utterly counter to improving safety at work.

“The health and safety of working people is not red tape, it’s not a cost burden, and it’s not ‘crying wolf’. To suggest these things is insulting, and it’s wrong.”