Red tape or safety protections cuts?

A range of cuts to our work health and safety laws were proposed during the summer break by the Baird and Abbott Liberal/National Governments.

On the eve of the Christmas break, Unions NSW received from NSW WorkCover proposals to cut a range of safety protections with consultation finishing in mid-January.

The governments claimed the cuts were to reduce ‘red tape’ but they produce real safety concerns for IEU members.

Unions NSW Assistant Secretary Mark Morey said: “We fear that this will be the first of many planned cuts to safety by these governments who seem intent on cutting the word count of safety regulations regardless of the benefit reduced injury provides”.

“We have seen proposals in the last year, not yet passed through parliament, to cut a range of protections in the WHS Act.

“The proposed changes in the federal parliament will see the entire 315 strong NSW safety inspectorate taken over by the federal government, with less than 10 inspectors for all of NSW’s four million workers.”

Most of the cuts are focussed on the WHS regulations as the Minister can change these without parliamentary approval, with a focus on the construction industry (demolition, asbestos and high risk work). However, a number of the cuts will affect everyone, not only construction workers.

These cuts include:

First Aid

In what may appears one of the more backward steps the government is making it optional for your employer to provide first aid to workers by introducing a qualifier or excuses to not provide first aid.

Safety issue resolution

The government is proposing to remove the default safety issue resolution procedure that allows for all workplace issues to be resolved in a timely manner with your employer.

Worker Representation

The government has planned to cut your access to a range of provisions that assist you negotiate how you will consult at work about health and safety issues. The government also proposes to modify the WHS training so that your employer may be able make health and safety representatives do the training in their own time, shifting the cost for workplace safety to the worker, and reducing the quality of the training.

With the Productivity Commission stating that less than 5% of the cost of workplace injuries is borne by the employer, the rest borne by the worker, their family and the community, protecting our preventative safety laws is essential.

Unions NSW has developed an online petition to the NSW Minister to ask them not introduce these cuts to our workplace safety.

For any WHS concerns or enquiries please contact Natasha Flores on

Shay Deguara
Unions NSW