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Best Practice Review of Workplace Health & Safety

April 18, 2019

Earlier this month the final report into Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety in the NT was released.

HIA has a number of significant concerns regarding the impact of these proposals on the residential building industry.

Of most concern is the recommendation that would see the introduction of an offence of industrial manslaughter. Manslaughter (whether the death occurs in the workplace or in a non-industrial context) is a matter that should be dealt with within the existing criminal law framework. Existing workplace health and safety laws that focus on the duties of employers and employees in the workplace provide appropriate recourse in the unfortunate event of a workplace death.

Under the NT Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act, significant penalties, including imprisonment for up to 5 years already apply for ‘gross negligence’ resulting in death or serious harm.

Also of concern are recommendations to increase penalties, a shift to a ‘hard compliance’ approach and the creation of duplication in terms of the investigation and prosecution of safety matters. In HIA’s view, this approach would have little tangible positive effect on safety outcomes on residential construction sites.

The construction sector already attracts a significant amount of attention from NT Worksafe, with the Report indicating that over 2000 workplace visits are carried out each year. Any further focus, without additional justification would seem unwarranted.

A better approach is to enhance the role of the WHS regulator in educating and supporting industry compliance. Developing industry specific guidance material, engaging with industry and industry/membership bodies and the ability to get advice on compliance from the WHS regulator should be the priority.

Not all of the recommendations in the Report have a negative impact on the sector. HIA agrees that there is a need to upskill existing NT WorkSafe Inspectors to ensure inspectors can provide advice on safety matters and for Worksafe to have a greater presence in remote communities. HIA would also support moves that would see Worksafe notifying and communicating to industry serious incidents and the regulatory response.

HIA has written to Minister Fyles to outline our concerns in relation to the Report and we hope that the minister will agree to meet with the HIA NT Regional Executive Director to discuss the recommendations in more detail. For more information please call 1300 650 620