Page 1139 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 4 May 2022

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non-compliance. Strong penalties apply for those who continue to disregard safe work practices and breaches of work safety obligations. The government has always stood up for workers and their right to come home safe from work. These penalties reflect the extreme seriousness of the offence and give the families of those killed in the workplace better access to justice. Establishing industrial manslaughter as an offence was one of the key recommendations from the Boland review of Australian work health and safety laws.

We have also made strong progress on the recommendation to put a stronger focus on psychosocial risks and hazards in the workplace. This recommendation specifically addresses the lack of regulation in work health and safety laws for psychological health hazards in the workplace. It reminds us that work health and safety is not just about physical health and safety, but that work can promote, as well as present risks to, psychological health and safety. Bullying, stress, fatigue, harassment and sexual harassment are all examples of psychological health hazards that must be managed under work health and safety duties and obligations. Psychosocial injuries cause trauma and impact health and wellbeing. They have financial consequences and a negative impact on career progression for workers. They result in lost productivity, staff turnover and reputational damage for employers.

Poor psychological health and safety is bad for businesses. It costs Australian organisations an estimated $6 billion a year in lost productivity. And psychological injuries typically require three times more time off work than other injuries. Each year around 7,200 Australians are compensated for work-related mental health conditions, making up six per cent of all workers compensation claims. Approximately $543 million is paid in workers compensation for work-related mental health conditions annually.

In the ACT we are better supporting employers and business with new information, tools and other resources to support them in understanding their psychosocial health and safety obligations. WorkSafe ACT have launched their Strategy for Managing Work-Related Psychosocial Hazards 2021-2023, along with plans to manage work-related violence and aggression, and sexual harassment. WorkSafe ACT is a strong and effective regulator of workplace safety in our community. It upholds and enforces the laws and regulations that the government puts in place to keep workers safe, and we could not do it without that organisation.

The government, of course, have an ambitious legislative program to keep workers safe, and we are delivering on it. Earlier this month I was pleased to release the Silica Dust Reforms Action Plan for 2022. This is the latest initiative to progress the ACT government’s commitment to strengthen work health and safety legislation and regulation in the current term of government. Like many of us, I have been concerned about the frequency of silicosis being seen in workers whose work involves cutting engineered stone. It is a debilitating disease that severely reduces victims’ life expectancy. These reforms outlined in the action plan aim to improve protections for tradespeople exposed to silica dust. It provides a staged pathway for these new regulations and activities to educate tradespeople and provide clarity to workplaces about their obligations and responsibilities to ensure that the risk of silica dust exposure is prevented or minimised.

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