Enforceable Undertaking between Blue Mountains City Council and SafeWork NSW
Blue Mountains City Council has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with SafeWork NSW ("SafeWork").
Following the signing of the EU, SafeWork has withdrawn the prosecutions commenced against the Council in the Local Court, Sydney.
Under the EU (which will be published in full on the Council's website and on the SafeWork website) the Council makes a number of legally binding commitments to SafeWork. Among other commitments, the Council has agreed to implement five strategies to benefit the Council's workplace (3), the local government sector (1) and the community (1).
The five work health and safety strategies to be delivered by Council are outlined below:
• Providing communications technology to field teams – to allow employees to electronically access registers, records, policies and safe operating procedures and to complete and submit forms such as risk assessments, hazard reports and incident reports.
• Implementing workplace training – including online workplace training programs about asbestos awareness, Workplace Health and Safety and fair and just culture.
• Implementing a People at Work Survey across Council’s workforce – based on the model made available by the Queensland Government.
• Delivering an asbestos management toolkit for NSW councils – to integrate into their own workplace systems and procedures, and
• Delivering a Public Education Campaign – addressing and providing guidance on the appropriate disposal of household and business waste, including general solid waste and bulky waste and the correct and safe disposal of asbestos and hazardous substance waste.
As part of the EU, Blue Mountains City Council has also committed to ensuring that, within 2 years, its existing Workplace Health and Safety Management System will comply, with the principles of AS/NZS 4801: 2001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.
Chief Executive Officer Dr Rosemary Dillon said she welcomed the finalisation of the SafeWork investigations.
“Entering into the EU will generate prescribed and measurable work health and safety outcomes for the organisation and for our community. It will provide a legal framework within which Council can implement its continuous safety improvement program to improve safety within the Council's workplaces and within the Blue Mountains community, with benefits for local government organisations across NSW,” Dr Dillon said.
“I also want to say to our workforce that nothing matters more than your safety. I want this Council to be recognised as a leader in the field of workplace safety. We want you to work safely and return home safely.”
In May 2019, SafeWork commenced proceedings against the Council in the Local Court of New South Wales, alleging eight (8) breaches of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 in relation to the sites at 283 Great Western Highway, Lawson (4) and 2-6 Park Street, Lawson (4). In response to the proceedings, the Council applied to SafeWork for the assessment of the Council's eligibility to enter into an EU with SafeWork under Part 11 of the Work Health & Safety Act 2011. SafeWork determined that the Council was eligible to enter into an EU. The terms of that EU were subsequently finalised to the satisfaction of SafeWork and the EU was signed by SafeWork on 9 December 2019.
The acceptance of the EU by SafeWork marks the end of the investigations initiated by SafeWork and the Environment Protection Authority into Council’s historical management of asbestos.
In September 2019, the Environment Protection Authority discontinued its investigation into the management and disposal of asbestos waste by Blue Mountains City Council at a range of locations.
This followed notification from SafeWork, that it had completed its investigation relating to the Katoomba Resource Recovery and Waste Management Facility and decided that no action would be taken.
The Council has previously acknowledged that there were errors in its historical management of asbestos. Those acknowledgements were made after the issues were first identified in 2017. The EU records the Council's further acknowledgements in relation to these issues.
Since the events of 2017 the Council has been working to implement a fair and just work and safety culture, focused on supporting the empowerment of staff to raise safety issues and on ensuring any required improvements to safety systems, are implemented.
An EU is legally enforceable. The Council’s full undertaking and general information about enforceable undertakings is available at safework.nsw.gov.au/.