Page 411 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

the Access Canberra initiative, WorkSafe ACT is adopting a more effective, holistic compliance model. In the future all inspectors will be trained to conduct both workers compensation and work health and safety activities.

By aligning inspector right-of-entry powers for workers compensation with work safety arrangements, the bill will allow integrated safety and injury management education, awareness, compliance and enforcement activities to be rolled out across the territory. This will significantly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of regulatory operations. It will also assist employers by providing a single source of expertise on workers compensation and workplace safety matters.

For this model to be successful, inspectors require the same powers of entry under both regimes. The entry powers in this bill will ensure that inspectors will be able to check that employers’ workers compensation policies are correct and that their workers are properly covered in the unfortunate event of a workplace injury. It will also allow them to investigate whether employers and employees are meeting their return-to-work responsibilities effectively.

There are other benefits to inspector right-of-entry powers that are often overlooked. Inspectors are trained to follow the Access Canberra approach of engage, educate and enforce. This approach involves engaging with the employer and others involved in a particular issue at the work site and providing advice and education where appropriate. If necessary, they have the authority to apply more punitive enforcement tools.

Some employers avoid seeking assistance from WorkSafe because they have been unnecessarily frightened by urban myths and colourful stories about the powers and activities of inspectors. Yet inspector visits provide a positive opportunity to meet employers and educate them about the inspectors’ broad roles. Visits can also be used to advise employers about work safety and workers compensation responsibilities.

At present the system dictates that inspectors performing inspections under the workers compensation scheme must ask permission on each occasion they enter a work site, allowing the employer the opportunity to refuse access. This is in contrast to the work health and safety laws where an inspector can enter a workplace without employer permission. This means that our law-abiding employers who consent to inspector visits may ultimately bear the cost of others’ non-compliance. Less honest contemporaries may refuse entry and be inadvertently supported in their efforts to evade their legal obligations. As such, inspectors are consequently limited in their ability to engage with the recalcitrant employers.

Madam Speaker, as you are aware, businesses are facing ever-increasing pressures to reduce costs and may choose to either under-insure or not insure their business for the purposes of workers compensation. With the current restrictions on inspector powers of entry, employers can avoid being accountable, with the employees at risk of not being insured should they be injured at work. This can provide an unfair competitive advantage for employers and engage in sham contracting and other premium evasion practices. So by aligning these powers of entry in relation to workers comp with work health and safety, this bill will empower WorkSafe to address those practices, if they are occurring, to the benefit of all honest employers and workers.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video