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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 7 June 2018) . . Page.. 2170 ..

This bill is a signal to the construction industry that the way safety is being communicated between employers and their workers needs to be improved. Indeed the government views consultation and worker representation so highly that it is willing to make amendments to the law to facilitate improved communication. We know that collaboration and meaningful consultation between employers and workers play a critical role in improving safety outcomes. We also know they contribute to the safety culture, which is critical to ensuring our workers remain healthy and safe. Workers must be able to participate in the identification of safety problems and the development of solutions. There needs to be a joint effort by all parties in ensuring that workplaces are safe and people are protected.

The amendments made by the bill I present today will raise the bar in terms of the expected level of communication and consultation regarding workers’ health and safety matters in the construction industry. These amendments will impose additional obligations on a person conducting a business or undertaking who is the principal contractor for a major construction project. The bill will mandate a new consultation step in the establishment of work groups, mandate the election and training of health and safety representatives and mandate the election and training of health and safety committees.

The government acknowledges that mandating training is a big step, but it is an important one. Ensuring training of health and safety representatives and committee members on major construction projects in the ACT will build lasting capability in work health and safety.

As noted, the amendments will only apply to major construction projects, which are defined as construction projects with a contract price of $5 million or more, and do not apply to single residential dwelling construction projects.

The bill requires a principal contractor to consult with eligible unions when establishing work groups. Currently, the legislation only requires consultation with unions in forming a work group if requested by a worker. Work groups are an important means of establishing a pool of workers who are likely to have common safety concerns and issues from which a health and safety representative can be elected. The workers in the work group can then readily access a health and safety representative to discuss health and safety matters.

Health and safety representatives facilitate the flow of information about health and safety between workers and their employers. They also monitor safety actions taken by their employer, investigate workers’ complaints and look into anything that might be a risk to the health and safety of the workers they represent. Trained health and safety representatives can also direct unsafe work to stop if they have a reasonable concern that carrying out the work would expose a worker to serious risk, and can issue provisional improvement notices.

This bill also makes it compulsory for the principal contractor for a major construction project to facilitate the conduct of an election of one or more health and safety representatives. The principal contractor must also ensure that health and safety

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