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Building Construction, Government NSW

Serious injures up, regulator action down: SafeWork NSW’s casual attitude exposed

CFMEU NSW 2 mins read

The NSW Auditor General has exposed SafeWork NSW as becoming increasingly slack about safety, as serious injuries rise in construction.

Complaints received by SafeWork NSW about potential work health and safety breaches are triaged into five categories of seriousness.

The Auditor General’s alarming report found that there had been a steady reduction over the past decade in the risk rating applied by SafeWork NSW to complaints received, despite “data published by Safe Work Australia that shows there has been an increase in the incident rate of serious injuries in the workplace over this period.” For example:

- Between 2013 and 2023 the proportion of complaints assessed as triage category 2 (a serious injury or illness though not posing an immediate risk to life) decreased from 29% to 14% of all complaints
- Between 2013 and 2023 the proportion of complaints assessed as triage category 4 (warranting only an administrative response, such as a letter) increased from 25% to 38% of all complaints

“This shocking report confirms exactly what our union has been saying for a decade now – SafeWork NSW is taking an incredibly lazy and hands-off approach to workplace safety,” said CFMEU NSW State Secretary Darren Greenfield.

“I don’t think it’s any coincidence at all that SafeWork’s increasingly casual attitude to safety has corresponded with a rise in serious injuries.

“The Auditor General’s report finds SafeWork is basically asleep at the wheel most of the time, with less than 10 per cent of letters getting a follow up.

“I note that SafeWork NSW took eight years to respond to the emerging risk of silica dust in manufactured stone despite abundant reports about the dangers. It was only our union’s heavy media push that appeared to provide impetus to SafeWork NSW’s regulatory actions.

“The state government needs to put a broom through SafeWork and make sure it starts doing its job.

“In the meantime our union won’t be taking a backward step when it comes to protecting worker safety on site. Given the regulator has been found to be incompetent our union has to be extra vigilant on workplace health and safety.”

Contact details:

Matt Coughlan 0400 561 480 /

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