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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 7 October 2021) . . Page.. 2886 ..

Budget—work health and safety

MR PETTERSSON: My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety. How is the ACT government supporting safe workplaces with the ACT budget?

MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Mr Pettersson for his question and his interest in workplace safety across the ACT. The budget includes significant funding support for WorkSafe ACT. Since WorkSafe ACT became an independent agency in July 2020, the commissioner and her office have worked to create a regulatory body that is strong and fair. This year’s budget is delivering additional jobs, increasing WorkSafe’s operational capacity. This will allow for the engagement of additional inspectors to ensure improved compliance and enforcement across priority industries in the territory and facilitate increased engagement and education.

This is important and will ensure that WorkSafe ACT are able to respond to some of the ACT government’s key commitments under the parliamentary and governing agreement, including amending work health and safety laws and regulations. WorkSafe ACT will also play an important role in keeping the ACT government’s major infrastructure projects safe. This includes light rail stage 2 and the Canberra Hospital expansion. A massive increase in residential construction work in the coming year is expected, and, because of this, WorkSafe will be very busy. I am extremely pleased to be able to deliver increased funding for WorkSafe ACT in the budget.

MR PETTERSSON: Minister, what has WorkSafe ACT been doing during this COVID-19 outbreak to keep workplaces and the community safe?

MR GENTLEMAN: WorkSafe ACT has been working extremely hard to keep workplaces safe during the pandemic and the current lockdown. Since the return of construction on 3 September, WorkSafe has been conducting proactive compliance campaigns to ensure PCBUs meet their work health and safety obligations and to enforce COVID-19 requirements for working during the lockdown. The WorkSafe commissioner has reported that they are generally seeing a high level of compliance but that there have been some worrying instances of noncompliance with both COVID and general safety requirements in the residential construction sector.

WorkSafe ACT conducted two dedicated proactive campaigns in the residential construction sector—one in Taylor on Tuesday, 21 September, and one in Throsby on Thursday, 23 September. In Taylor, 43 sites were visited, with 81 notices issued. In Throsby, 38 sites were visited with 73 notices issued. Notices are issued for COVID-19 compliance breaches as well as for safety issues such as site security, trip hazards and risk of falls. Without the important work of WorkSafe, these behaviours could have contributed to a further spread of COVID-19 in the community, so I want to commend our WorkSafe commissioner for her agency’s response to the lockdown and acknowledge her excellent workforce capability management at the beginning of the lockdown. I am pleased that the government can support this excellent work through the 2021-22 budget.

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