How serious is the ACT government about worker safety?

How serious is the ACT government about worker safety?

How serious is the ACT government about worker safety? by The Canberra Times.  Available from <> [

ACT residents have every right to ask if their government is truly committed to safety on building sites given the delays in the investigation of the 2010 Barton Highway overpass collapse that put nine workers in hospital.

A further six suffered lesser injuries when the half-built Gungahlin Drive Extension Bridge collapsed on August 14 that year.

An interim report documented a long list of alleged planning and structural fails.

One expert noted that while such "accidents" were relatively common in developing countries they were rare here.

Canberrans could be forgiven for assuming investigations would have been completed and, if warranted, prosecutions initiated long ago.

That hasn't happened. A government spokeswoman said last week no prosecutions had been launched and, furthermore, no prosecutions would be launched.

Why? WorkSafe ACT's investigation dragged on for so long the window for taking action had closed.

As a result the ACT government has missed an excellent opportunity to send a very strong message to construction companies operating in Canberra that safety standards on building sites must be strictly adhered to.

Canberra's unions have said the merger of WorkSafe ACT with Access Canberra compromised the safety watchdog's ability to do its job.

The Barton Highway bridge collapse was just one of many safety fails that resulted in deaths and serious injuries across Canberra in recent years.

The Getting Home Safely report, the result of an inquiry into compliance with work health and safety requirements in the ACT's construction industry and published in November 2012, noted that in the previous year there had been four workplace-related deaths.

Three had been on construction sites. A fourth occurred in property and building services.

The report also found Canberra had the highest number of construction related serious injuries of any jurisdiction in the nation, regardless of population.

This peaked in 2008-09 when 33 workers were hurt so badly they were off the job for 12 weeks or more. With a serious injury rate running at 31 per cent above the national average, the ACT had the most dangerous workplaces in the nation.

In its response to the report, published in June 2013, the Barr government agreed to set a goal to reduce the serious injury claim rate by 35 per cent by June 2016; to fund 12 additional inspector positions for WorkSafe ACT; and to appoint a specialist industrial magistrate.

It also committed to a stocktake of the construction industry's work health and safety performance as at June 30, 2016 to identify what had been achieved.

While all of these actions are commendable, and the overall number of building related work injuries has fallen from more than 1000 in 2011-12 to about 400 in 2015-16, it appears the unions' claim that the WorkSafe ACT-Access Canberra merger has had a negative impact on the watchdog's performance warrants further investigation.

How serious is the ACT government about worker safety? by The Canberra Times.  Available from <> [

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

You must be Logged in to post a comment.