Results of RMIT university-led research on Canberra construction industry’s safety and health culture released

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An independent research into the safety culture of Canberra’s construction industry conducted by RMIT University shows an improvement in safety and health culture and awareness since the 2012 Getting Home Safely Report. It, however, identified several areas where further work is required.

The research involved a survey of workers, employers, and unions to understand what more can be done to improve safety in the industry.

The Getting Home Safely report recommended that the ACT Government conduct a stocktake of the construction industry’s health and safety performance as at 30 June 2016. The review addressed the recommendation and included face-to-face surveys on construction sites, online survey, and focus groups with key construction industry stakeholders.

“I have referred the report to the Construction Safety Advisory Committee and the ACT Work Safety Council, to inform the development of a new construction industry safety strategy,” said ACT Labor Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.

“While I was pleased to see more support for worker safety in the industry than previously recognised, the results show that support for workers’ health has not kept pace with improvements in safety. In particular, work-family balance and mental health are identified as being significant problems for construction workers in the ACT.

“I was also concerned by the differences in safety climate perceptions between participants. Upper-level managers were the most positive and lower level managers were more positive than frontline workers. This points to a concerning ‘disconnect’ between workers on the ground and management.

“There were similar disconnects depending on the trade, with work pressure ‘to get the job done’ often cited as a key detrimental factor in both health and safety. This attitude is unacceptable in a sector where the cost of a mistake could be death or serious injury.

I was disappointed to see there may be an overestimation of safety and health culture in the residential construction industry. As shown by the recent scaffolding audit, attitudes to safety in this sector are not what they should be. Residential construction will continue to be a key focus for WorkSafe ACT.”

Ms. Stephen-Smith reminded employers that “no deadline is worth the life or wellbeing of a worker”.

“If WorkSafe has concerns about safety issues on a worksite, an improvement or prohibition notice will have bigger impact on your deadline then doing it right and safely the first time,” she said.

“The Government is committed to seeing the safety and health culture in the ACT construction industry improve. This report provides a set of baseline measures that can be used for future trend analysis and evaluation.”

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