Construction industry under fire for workplace safety breaches

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
3 Min Read

The NSW government is cracking down on the construction industry after a rise in businesses failing to report work-safety incidents.

Data from SafeWork NSW shows an upward trend in construction businesses failing to declare work safety incidents to the workplace regulator and disturbing incident scenes before their inspection.

So far this year, more than 46 construction businesses have received compliance notices and were fined a combined minimum of $20,000 for breaches of SafeWork NSW regulations.

That’s more than the industry saw in 2021 and 2022, respectively, despite two more months left in the year.

SafeWork NSW is now reminding businesses they will face fines and potential prosecution if they fail to report incidents of serious injury or illness, a death or a dangerous event, or disturb the incident scene before a SafeWork inspector’s approval.

Penalties of up to $50,000 for a corporate body and $10,000 for an individual apply for not notifying SafeWork of workplace safety incidents when they occur.

Incident reporting requirements

Head of SafeWork NSW Trent Curtin says the required obligations for the construction industry were clear.

“If there is a serious injury or illness, a death or a dangerous incident, you must report it to SafeWork NSW immediately,” he said.

“For SafeWork inspectors tasked to assess or investigate an incident where the scene has been disturbed due to a lack of notification represents an unjust treatment of the injured party and an unacceptable breach of legislation.”

The warning comes as construction businesses accounted for one in three compliance notices handed out by SafeWork NSW in 2023, with several serious workplace safety incidents still under investigation.

In April, a Sydney construction worker fell three metres on a construction site, suffering spinal injuries and nerve damage, while in June, an apprentice was seriously injured after a boundary wall collapsed on him and he was pinned to the ground.

In both instances, the events were reported to SafeWork several weeks late, and the incident scene was significantly disturbed, risking the investigation.

Mr Curtin encouraged construction workers who feel their workplace is unsafe to report the situation to SafeWork, which can be done anonymously.

“If you have seen an incident or unsafe work and if you are worried about raising it at work, SafeWork’s Speak Up Save Lives app lets you report an unsafe work situation while giving you the choice to remain anonymous,” he said.

Incidents can be notified 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 13 10 50. To report an incident, visit the SafeWork website.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.