The new and independent WorkSafe Australian Capital Territory (WorkSafe ACT) has commenced operations with the launch of the new Office of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Commissioner and the release of a Statement of Expectations from the Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety. The ACT Government committed to establishing WorkSafe ACT as an independent regulator following the 2018 independent review. The new WorkSafe ACT will operate as an independent regulator and improve safety across the ACT.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and WorkSafe ACT has an integral role in driving an outstanding work safety culture in the ACT through its regulatory compliance and enforcement activities, as well as its advice to government, workers and employers,” Suzanne Orr, Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety, said. Orr stated that by establishing WorkSafe ACT as an independent organisation, the government is delivering on its commitment to improve WHS across the ACT and protect working people from workplace-related injuries.
“We are striving to become a respected regulatory body among stakeholders, and implementing the recommendations of the 2018 independent review is an important part of gaining stakeholders’ respect,” said Jacqueline Agius, ACT WHS Commissioner. Agius stated that the new WorkSafe ACT will be accountable, its compliance work data driven and evidence formed. It will also work closely with industry to achieve important safety outcomes.
“Two recent fatalities in the residential construction industry leave us in no doubt that this industry’s safety culture must change,” Agius said. “Everyone is affected by workplace fatalities — families, friends and co-workers — and every tragic fatality is one too many.” Agius highlighted the importance of securing sustainable compliance with WHS laws, to protect the health and safety of workers now and in the future. “This requires a contemporary regulator that strives for excellence and is innovative, flexible, respected and trusted,” Agius said. “The new WorkSafe will be such a regulator.”
Orr has also released a Statement of Expectations, developed in consultation with the ACT WHS Council, which will guide the operation of WorkSafe ACT for the next 12 months. The statement includes a focus on worker mental health, the impacts of climate change, risks associated with occupational violence and the need for improved safety in the construction sector. The Statement of Expectations includes many key priorities, such as: addressing present and emerging WHS risks arising from psychosocial hazards, occupational violence, climate change impacts such as extreme heat and smoke, worker exploitation and silica dust.
The statement prioritises improving the construction industry’s safety culture and performance, and improving the operations of WorkSafe ACT, through stronger compliance and enforcement activity. The statement also calls for the implementation of outstanding recommendations from the 2018 independent review of WorkSafe ACT. Commissioner Agius will have 60 days to deliver a response to the Statement of Expectations, which will outline WorkSafe ACT’s new operational plan.
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