Barnett work safety legacy: High deaths, poor compensation, weak penalties & inspection cuts

In the lead-up to the WA State election, UnionsWA have released a report card on Occupational Health and Safety in WA under the Barnett Government. 

Meredith Hammat, Secretary, UnionsWA said:

“The work health and safety legacy of the Barnett Government is one of indecision, high fatalities, poor compensation, weak penalties and cuts to WorkSafe inspectors.

“The long-term trend for work fatalities in WA is not improving as it is elsewhere across Australia.

“Money cannot replace a loved one, but the loss of a wage for a grieving family compounds tragedy with crisis. 

“In WA, the limit for compensation for a family of someone killed at work is the poorest in Australia.

“Government is responsible for the laws that set maximum penalties – these signal to workplaces and communities how seriously we should treat work health and safety.

“This government has spent two terms in government and after years of empty talk they are still unable to articulate any improvements to WA’s occupational health and safety system.

“In WA, the penalties for corporate work health and safety offenders are the weakest in Australia.

“Corporations that break WA safety laws only face a maximum penalty of $625,000 compared with $3 million in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

“Those who are criminally negligent in WA face a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years compared with 5 years in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

“WorkSafe monitors proactive safety workplace visits by relevant authorities and between 2009/10 and 2013/14, there had been a 20% fall in the number of workplace safety inspections in WA. 

“Nationally, over the same period, there had been a 10% increase in proactive safety workplace visits.

“Since that data was released, in the 2015 WA Budget, the Barnett Government reduced the number of WorkSafe Inspectors funded positions down by ten to a new low of ninety-three.

“Further studies by Safe Work Australia have measured the full economic impact of work injuries to employers and working people. 

“Those studies show that costs to WA employers of injuries have risen by 12.9% between the 2008/09 and 2012/13, while nationally the costs have fallen by 16.8%.

“Over the same period, the cost to working people in WA of injuries has increased by almost 60%, nationally the costs have risen by 4.3%.

“The West Australian economy relies on industries that are inherently dangerous – construction, mining, transportation and agriculture being among these.

“Everyone – working people, unions, employers and governments - have a role in preventing work fatalities.

“There is an urgent need to ensure that the WA Government does more to prevent work fatalities.”

“There have been many consultations, with as yet no law reform that will prevent work deaths or injuries.”

Full sources and reference are available here. 


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