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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1629 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

that happen by the close of business tomorrow-will allow us to have the information publicly and to move forward.

MS GALLAGHER (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (12.12): The government will be supporting the motion put forward by Ms Dundas. WorkCover undertook inspections of cleaning contractors working in ACT government schools over a four-month period-from October 2002 to January 2003. Inspections were carried out in 29 schools and covered most cleaning contractors who have school cleaning contracts.

A WorkCover report was provided to the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services. Individual cleaning contractors and principals have received the part of the report that relates directly to their operations and sites. The investigations revealed a number of areas where improvements are required. These are mainly around monitoring and compliance with the contracts, particularly in relation to occupational health and safety requirements.

Contrary to Ms Dundas' claim that this report has been stuck in a bottom drawer, it has not. The report provided recommendations on the safe handling and use of chemicals, electrical safety, manual handling, the handling and disposal of infectious waste and sharps, and the provision of first aid facilities. Representatives of WorkCover and the department briefed all school principals concerning the report on 1 May this year. The briefing included information on the action that needed to take place to implement the WorkCover recommendations.

Before the end of this month, the department will be checking with schools that action has been taken to implement these recommendations. Also, the department will be meeting with all cleaning contractors at the end of May 2003 concerning the WorkCover recommendations and to outline the revised arrangements regarding cleaning in ACT schools.

Mr Speaker, I have another interest in this issue, that is, as Minister for Industrial Relations. I have asked the Occupational Health and Safety Commissioner, Ms Plovits, to provide me with advice from her perspective on the progress in addressing the findings of the report. To quote from the commissioner's letter to me:

The Department of Education has been in liaison with ACT WorkCover to develop a comprehensive implementation action plan and I am satisfied that these improvements are being made.

The commissioner then provided details of a nine-point implementation action plan and stated:

These are significant steps forward in achieving compliance with the Act.

The department and ACT WorkCover will continue to work closely in a cooperative manner. Furthermore, a schools facilities support unit has been established within the department to support schools in contract management generally and school cleaning contracts in particular. This unit will have responsibility for overseeing the implementation plan.

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