Queensland worksites will be better protected and free of union abuse under work health and safety (WHS) reforms introduced in Parliament today.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie said the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Bill 2014 included much tougher penalties for electrical safety breaches and new rules to prevent union bullying.
“We are restoring balance to the system and protecting worksites from being hijacked and workers being held to ransom,” Mr Bleijie said.
“Under these reforms, construction unions will no longer be able to use loopholes in the system to force their way onto worksites and lock workers out.
“Under the current system, unions have been entering worksites without prior notice and then shutting them down using trumped up or suspected safety contraventions.”
Mr Bleijie said the reforms would help to grow construction as one of the four pillars of the economy, as promised at the election.
“Last year a major contractor and its employees lost 42 days of work due to illegal strike activity in the first year of their enterprise agreement,” he said.
“WHS inspectors have responded to 57 right of entry disputes since July 2011 and found the majority of the safety issues raised were not immediate or imminent risks to workers.
“While a Royal Commission into union governance and corruption recently announced by the Federal Government will shine a light on similar problems, our reforms put Queensland ahead of the game in tackling them.”
Reforms also include:
• Bringing right of entry rules into line with Commonwealth law by requiring at least 24 hours notice by WHS entry permit holders before entering a workplace to inquire into suspected contraventions.
• New and increased penalties for non-compliance of WHS entry regulations
Mr Bleijie said the maximum penalty would be increased for breaches of electrical safety regulations, bringing it into line with other work health safety laws.
“Queensland’s electricians perform important but potentially hazardous jobs and we want to ensure that safety is always at the forefront of everyone’s minds. That’s why we are increasing the maximum fine from $440 to $33,000.
“This will set a strong deterrent for any corner cutting or unsafe practices.
“Our reforms foster safety, fairness and productivity by providing legitimate avenues for safety issues to be raised and dealt with appropriately.
“As part of our commitment to making Queensland workplaces the safest in the nation, the safety regulator will become the first port of call for any suspected problems or contraventions.
“Recent figures show Queensland’s non-fatal injury and disease claim rate for the construction industry has decreased by 25 per cent, compared to the Australian average decrease of just 17 per
Mr Bleijie said the new laws would complement the Building Construction and Compliance Branch (BCCB) that the Government established to crackdown on militant union activity and ensure safety compliance on construction sites.
“The Bill is the first tranche of findings from the Queensland Government’s review of work health and safety law, which involved extensive consultation with employer associations, legal representatives and unions,” he said.