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‘WeakSafe’: War of Words as Unions Clash With WorkSafe ACT

“The experiment to give work safety powers to the person in charge of parking fines, gaming, and pet registration has failed.” – UnionsACT secretary Alex White.

The ACT’s peak body of unions has called for an overhaul of Canberra’s workplace regulator, with claims the agency has softened its approach to workplace safety. UnionsACT secretary Alex White claims that merging WorkSafe ACT into Access Canberra in 2015 has left the state without a full-time independent work safety commissioner.

worksafe act

Unions will hold a rally in Canberra on October 26 to protest this and other major WorkSafe policy changes, which they say have led to a collapse in the number of prosecutions for breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act.

Mr. White accused Access Canberra head Dave Peffer of prioritising education over prosecution, and holds him personally responsible for the rising number of health and safety incidents within the state. “Mr. Peffer’s weak approach has seen workplace injuries increase, and employers who show a callous disregard for the law have been given a green light to keep putting their employees at risk.”

“Mr. Peffer must take responsibility for the more than 60 Canberrans who were injured last week at work and the 3000 people injured this year. He must explain to them why he is blocking our efforts to improve workplace safety.”

However, Mr. Peffer defended Access Canberra’s mantra of “engage, educate, enforce”. He said that Access Canberra wasn’t afraid to enforce the law if necessary, but that education was still the best way to achieve workplace safety compliance.

“Whenever you get a business that’s non-compliant, often it’s they simply didn’t understand rather than they’re being wilfully non-compliant. Whether it’s food-borne illnesses, workers’ safety on site or driver safety on the road, very few people deliberately set out to do people harm and providing them with tools and information is often the best way to get compliance.”

“If we’re engaging a business that continues to put people at risk then we can escalate our response to that and move to realm of enforcement, where we can issue anything from a small fine through to criminal prosecution.”

worksafe act Current work safety commissioner Greg Jones said neither he or his agency were “compromised” by sitting inside Access Canberra, and that his inspectors actually benefited from working alongside other regulators from different areas.

“WorkSafe is a government agency, it has to sit somewhere.”

Source: The Canberra Times

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