Union blasts safety laws delay

Renewed attack: UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat. Picture: John Mokrzycki/The West Australian

The number of serious work injuries has continued to climb in WA, with the increase in compensation claims for "severe incidences" sparking a renewed attack by UnionsWA on the State Government over its delay in adopting a national model of occupational health and safety laws.

The criticism from UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat came after the release of preliminary workers' compensation data that showed a rise in the number and rate of claims lodged for injuries in which workers were forced off work for 60 or more days.

According to the latest figures, which are for 2011-12 and include claims awaiting finalisation, 5350 compensation bids were made for injuries requiring 60 or more days off work, compared with 4569 in 2010-11. The proportion of all compensation claims that had been for 60 days or more had risen from 26 per cent to 28.8 per cent in 2011-12.

At the same time, the number of workplace fatalities was generally declining, along with the frequency of overall work-related lost-time injuries and diseases, putting WA below the national incidence and frequency rates.

Ms Hammat welcomed the declines but said more had to be done to address serious workplace injury.

"The number and rate of very serious work injuries . . . is now higher in WA than at any time in the past five years," she said.

"This is a cost to industry through workers' compensation, but more importantly people are often left with lifelong disability and a loss of livelihood."

Ms Hammat said the Government's delay in adopting a national model of OHS laws made it "hard to avoid the conclusion that the Barnett Government simply doesn't rate work safety as a priority".

The national regime of OHS legislation became a point of contention after the Government argued it placed unnecessary burdens on business and it delayed "harmonising" with the new legislation.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin hit back at UnionsWA, labelling as foolish suggestions that adopting "one-size-fits-all, lowest common denominator, tick-the-box-compliance" would reduce workplace injury.

He said workplace injury and illness had fallen considerably in WA's growing economy and the reason the Government was still conducting "comprehensive analysis" of the proposed regime was that no information had been provided about how it would affect WA.