In September 2012 the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) commissioned an inquiry into the construction industry’s compliance with work health and safety laws in the ACT. This inquiry was in response to three construction industry-related deaths and an increase in the number of serious safety incidents in twelve months.
The Getting Home Safely report produced by this inquiry made 28 recommendations to reverse the injury and fatality trends and improve work health and safety in the ACT’s construction industry. All these recommendations were accepted by the ACT Government.
Seven of the recommendations related to work safety culture, consultation and collaboration. These emphasised the importance of a collaborative approach to resolving safety issues on construction sites highlighting everyone has a role to play in ensuring safety outcomes are improved. The recommendations also emphasised the importance of industry and employee organisations taking responsibility for and leading change in the workplace.
The Construction Safety Advisory Committee was established to oversee, lead and deliver a number of these recommendations with representatives from:
- Master Builders Association
- Housing Industry Association
- Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union
- Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, and
- WorkSafe Australian Capital Territory.
The ACT Government also developed the Active Certification Policy demonstrating the government’s commitment to improve health and safety in the construction industry.
- This policy outlines how the ACT Government can help drive cultural change to improve work health and safety on construction sites through its investment and purchasing power.
- It provides a process for auditing work health and safety management systems (including implementation) of all prequalified contractors at various stages of ACT Government-funded construction projects.
- To prequalify, contractors must demonstrate they have effectively implemented systems to address work health and safety.
- Regular audits and a point demerit system are part of the policy to ensure safe working systems are developed and implemented effectively. Poor performance may impact on a prequalified contractor’s eligibility to tender for ACT Government contracts and potentially limiting the amount of government construction work they could be awarded.
Another recommendation from the Getting Home Safely report was that the ACT Government should increase the number of work health and safety matters for which infringement notices (on-the-spot-fines) can be issued on both employees and employers, including sub-contractors. Ten new infringement offences were agreed to by the Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations and have been in operation since 1 July 2013 with fines ranging from $720 for an individual to $3600 for a body corporate.