New work health and safety legislation has been introduced, requiring more worker training and consultation on major construction projects in the ACT.

The Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2018 will apply to major construction projects with a contract price over $5 million.

The new bill requires employers to:

  • Establish work groups in consultation with eligible unions
  • Facilitate the election of Health and Safety Representatives
  • Provide training to those elected Health and Safety Representatives
  • Establish a Health and Safety Committee
  • Ensure Health and Safety Committee members received appropriate training.

The changes recognise that the effectiveness of WHS legislation depends on ability to be dynamic and responsive to the experience of workers and their representatives.

The ACT Government knows that a workplace where workers are supported by union representatives is a safer workplace and will continue to support initiatives that strengthen unions’ critical role in workplace health and safety.

The ACT Government is committed to continual improvement to ensure the highest possible standards of workplace health and safety. Workers should be given the highest level of protection against harm to their health, safety and welfare from hazards and risks arising from work.

The amendments go above and beyond what is provided for in the national harmonised WHS laws to raise the standard of communication and consultation on health and safety in the construction industry.

The new legislation was developed following a review into the ACT construction industry’s work health and safety culture, conducted by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in 2017, which suggested that health and safety culture could be improved with more meaningful consultation with workers on workplace safety.

Empowering workers and their representatives to have a stronger say on workplace health and safety issues and providing more training to health and safety representatives and committees will help drive improvements in the culture of safety on ACT construction sites.

The legislation that has been introduced today will be debated in the coming months and is anticipated to come into force on 1 January 2019.

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