Unions endorse SafeWork shift into standalone regulator, but more must be done

Unions NSW endorses a recommendation to transform SafeWork into a standalone regulator following a 12-month inquiry led by former judge Robert McDougall KC.

“We endorse the government’s ongoing efforts to reform and rebuild a broken system,” Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Morey said. “Transforming SafeWork into an independent statutory corporation is an important step. Workers need a robust regulator that will actively keep them safe at work.”

The report also calls for improvements in SafeWork’s incident triaging capabilities, the responsiveness of contact centre staff, and the consolidation of SafeWork staff. These reforms are essential to building a more efficient and effective regulator.

“The establishment of a dedicated SafeWork NSW investigations and enforcement team is a long overdue reform that will significantly benefit NSW workers,” Morey said.

However, Unions NSW believes important elements of SafeWork’s conduct and operations are overlooked in Justice McDougall’s report.

In the last two years SafeWork has been the subject of a series of concerning allegations about its slowness to act, failure to keep workplaces safe, and internal issues about bullying within SafeWork.

“Unions have been consistently unsupported by the regulator when advocating for safe workplaces,” Morey said. “If these cultural changes are not dealt with the regulator will continue to fail to live up to expectations no matter what the structure.”

Unions NSW now awaits the NSW Auditor General’s report into SafeWork so both reports can be used to ensure the effectiveness of the body responsible for ensuring workplaces are safe, prosecuting breaches of safety and investigating accidents or deaths.