Introduction

In 2012, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had the highest rate of workplace injury in all of Australia with 1 in 40 workers likely to sustain a serious workplace injury. Tragically, 4 workers lost their lives, prompting an industry inquiry into ACT construction safety.

In 2012, the ACT Government commissioned an independent inquiry into workplace health and safety (WHS) regarding the ACT construction industry (Inquiry). The Inquiry was established in September 2012 to investigate compliance with, and the application of, WHS laws in the ACT construction industry, following the fourth workplace death in less than a year.

The results of the Inquiry were released in the Getting Home Safely Report (Report) which found that a substantial overhaul of safety culture across the ACT construction industry was required to facilitate change and reduce workplace deaths and serious injury.

The Report, released on 26 November 2012 identified a number of factors contributing to the ACT’s distressing workplace safety statistics, including:

  • a culture of complacency – accepting of the incidence and inevitability of workplace injury;
  • the burden of additional safety compliance costs in an already competitive industry;
  • pressures to complete work within budget and time constraints;
  • lack of training and education and an overemphasis on paperwork; and
  • a fundamental misunderstanding of how to identify, assess and control risks.

The Report found that systemic reforms are required across the construction sector and industry bodies. The Report made 28 recommendations to improve workplace safety summarised as follows: 

Click here to see table.

Steps towards improvement

Despite the rejection of two key recommendations from lead industry player, MBA in March 2013 (concerning the development of safety frameworks on ACT construction sites, and provision of guidance on responsibility for oversighting safety, minimum training and competency requirements),momentum towards change is developing pace:

Click here to see table.