Unions "crying wolf" on workplace safety heightens the risk of businesses not taking action when they should, a major employer group warns.
Australian Industry Group's NSW head Mark Goodsell on Tuesday told a Senate inquiry into workplace deaths that unions had a legitimate and important role in health and safety.
However, at their worst, union officials could engage in "cry wolf syndrome", which could result in people not taking safety issues seriously when they should, he said.
"The same union official has cried wolf on five occasions so on the sixth occasion when they may be saying something real no one believes them. That is the real risk," Mr Goodsell said.
Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi asked Mr Goodsell how unions' abuse of right-to-entry provisions undermined health and safety outcomes.
He insisted employers were not trying to marginalise unions, but said it couldn't be assumed their role was solely positive on workplace safety.
"We should say 'no, their role is important enough for us to actually have an eye on how they conduct themselves'," he said.
The inquiry also heard Australian workplace deaths had fallen from 310 in 2007 to 182 in 2016.
The death rate per 100,000 workers was two in 2011, but that figure dropped to 1.5 in 2016.