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WorkSafe inquiry to boost State’s safety laws, says MLC

Stuart HortonSound Telegraph
Construction workers Glenn Hawkins and Ron Wilcox with South Metropolitan MLC Kate Doust who welcomes new laws to help keep workers safe.
Camera IconConstruction workers Glenn Hawkins and Ron Wilcox with South Metropolitan MLC Kate Doust who welcomes new laws to help keep workers safe. Credit: Supplied

South Metropolitan MLC Kate Doust has welcomed an inquiry and raft of new laws passed in Parliament to tackle a high rate of workplace deaths, and offer better compensation to loved ones left behind.

An inquiry by the Public Administration Committee into WorkSafe Western Australia has started after almost 20 deaths were recorded each year from 2006 to 2016.

Ms Doust said there had been 315 work-related deaths in WA since 2001, including the death of a scaffolder who fell 10m while working at the Alcoa refinery in Kwinana in November 2015.

Three workplace fatalities happened in Kwinana in 2013, 2014 and 2015 plus one death in Rockingham in 2017.

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The PAC is reviewing existing laws and will investigate Worksafe’s performance against the objectives of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Ms Doust said the WorkSafe inquiry launched in June last year, with several submissions made and hearings now taking place.

She said the strengthening of safety laws, including bigger fines and longer jail terms, would put WA more in line with other States in Australia.

“This is a significant inquiry looking at how WorkSafe functions and its delivery of services to workplaces in WA,” Ms Doust said.

“I am looking forward to the committee’s report being tabled in the Legislative Council in the near future.”

Ms Doust has also welcomed better compensation for de facto partners in an amendment to the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act.

She said the new laws increased lump sum payments to dependents.

“These payments will increase –— up to a maximum of $308,339 — and a de facto partner will have the same entitlements as a married spouse. This will provide some financial relief and comfort to a number of families and partners of workers who have died in workplace incidents,” she said.

Ms Doust said the change in penalties and better support for families were two “significant pieces of legislation”.

She said the State Govern-ment was also reviewing industrial relations legislation.

Kwinana Industries Council director Chris Oughton said industry took worker and public safety very seriously and supported legislative clarification.

“There is a great deal of legislation and regulation related to safety, and as often is the case, the various State and Federal jurisdictions have their own laws and standards. It’s a bit of a mess really,” he said.

“Industry is a supporter of legislative simplification (clarity), and this means standardising laws and, very importantly, definitions.

“Having a lot of complexity in any field of regulatory law drives industry and regulator resources into side issues often based on process and definition arguments when it would be far better to focus those resources into work that delivers even further improved worker and public safety outcomes.”

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