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One-in-three NSW employees spot safety hazards at work

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One-in-three NSW workers (34 per cent) have witnessed unsafe practices at work, while one-in-six (16 per cent) have seen safety concerns being ignored, new research has revealed.

The research, commissioned by Slater and Gordon, surveyed more than 2,000 employed Australians.

The figures were slightly higher in Sydney, where 36 per cent of workers said they had witnessed unsafe practices at work – the highest proportion amongst Australian capital cities (followed by Perth, 35.5 per cent; Brisbane 34 per cent; Melbourne 32.5 per cent; and Adelaide 32 per cent).

Slater and Gordon Workers’ Compensation General Manager Stuart Barnett said employers have the ultimate responsibility to ensure proper safety procedures were in place, but it helps that workers and their unions have their eyes open as well.

“Our research showed how alert NSW workers were when identifying safety issues in the workplace, but we need to make sure these concerns are heard,” Mr Barnett said.

“It’s shocking to hear one in every six workers in NSW have actually witnessed a colleague being completely ignored when they trying to report a potential safety hazard."

“Appropriate policies, procedures and regular reviews are crucial for ensuring workplace safety, but most importantly, employers must ensure the correct procedures are then followed, to protect their employees.

Common concerns identified by the workers surveyed included:

  • Understaffing and high workloads
  • Lack of training
  • Broken or faulty equipment
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Trip or fall hazards
  • Inadequate personal protective equipment
  • Untested and untagged electrical equipment
  • Unsafe driving (speeding and fatigue)
  • Unlicensed forklift operation
  • Improper chemical management

Some of the NSW figures were also slightly higher than the national average (34 per cent of NSW workers said they had witnessed unsafe practices, compared to 33 per cent of Australian workers).

Mr Barnett said the findings are alarming, considering NSW has some of the strictest requirements for WorkCover eligibility in the country.

“Many workers have been left out-of-pocket and without medical assistance, following the state government’s legislative reforms in 2012,” Mr Barnett said.

“Since then, there have been many positive steps to restore benefits and support schemes, including this week’s regulation to allow those injured before the reforms to access one further ‘top-up’ lump-sum payment.

“However, this regulation does not apply to workers injured after the 2012 reforms, who are still completely barred from accessing top-up payments if their condition deteriorates."

“It is unfair that workers whose injuries have worsened over time, through no fault of their own, are left to foot the bill for the additional medical costs associated with clearly work-related injuries."

“It is therefore especially important that NSW workers are safe and healthy, because if they’re injured, the WorkCover safety net may not be there to catch them.