25 February 2019

Master Builders Australia welcomes the release of the Report of the review of model WHS laws conducted by Marie Boland which has examined model WHS Laws to ensure they are working effectively.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said, “Master Builders supports WHS laws that delivers real and tangible improvements to overall industry safety outcomes and avoids ineffective 'paper-based' compliance red-tape.”

“Australian safety law is founded on the notion of sharing responsibility for safety and preventing workplace injury and illness before it happens,” she said.

“The evidence confirms this works. For example, while the building and construction industry has experienced considerable growth since 2003, serious injuries have reduced by 43% and fatalities have reduced by 42% over that same time,” Denita Wawn said.

“The Report contains a series of recommendations that will need to be carefully considered by Government in consultation with industry before adoption. Many of the recommendations are sensible however others will simply make it harder for workers and business to ensure work is safe,” she said.

“Master Builders is pleased to see a greater focus on providing practical and helpful guidance to SMEs, increased clarity on who holds WHS duties, a better approach to Safe Work Method Statements and moves to help safety regulators adopt better approaches to compliance and enforcement,” Denita Wawn said.

“However, recommended changes to union right of entry, penalty levels, and the proposed introduction of an industrial manslaughter offence and regulations dealing with psychological health have missed the point and will not improve safety outcomes. A decision of the High Court just last year, along with multiple Federal Court judgements, is evidence that safety laws are often exploited by unions for unrelated purposes. Watering down existing rules only risks undermining the importance of safety on building and construction sites,” she said.

“Government must ensure it only adopts recommendations that consolidates and cements the existing approach, and rejects those that which undermines the system we know works well,” Denita Wawn said.

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