Construction industry groups have called on the state government to scrap new laws forcing thousands of excavator operators to obtain costly new qualifications.
Construction industry groups have called on the state government to scrap new laws forcing thousands of excavator operators to obtain new qualifications and costing struggling builders time and money.
When the state government’s new Workplace Health and Safety laws were unveiled, much of the discussion centred around the contentious industrial manslaughter rules and recognition of psychosocial risks, including sexual harrassment.
But buried in the new legislation, which came into effect on March 31, were fresh compliance rules for excavator operators.
Under the new laws, those operating earthmoving machinery which is being used as a crane are required to obtain the same licence as a mobile crane operator.
Western Australia is now understood to be the only state in the country to require the licensing for lifting and shifting loads.
The stringent new rules have allegedly blindsided industry, with various lobby groups claiming the government failed to undertake consultation before enforcing the new licensing.
As a result, thousands of excavator operators and their employees are now in technical breach of the new laws and industry says the effects in cost and loss of productivity are now becoming apparent.
Though WorkSafe WA has agreed to take a measured approach to compliance, The Civil Contractors Federation WA, Construction Contractors Association of WA, Hire and Rental Industry Association and the Urban Development Institute have called for the laws to be deferred pending consultation.
CCF WA chief executive Andy Graham said the new “ill-considered” laws were expected to affect more than 3,000 workers across construction sites across WA.
He stressed the industry was not opposed to improving on-site safety, but said mobile crane licencing for the operators was inappropriate.
“Hundreds of excavators are used every day around WA for safe, straightforward lifting tasks, such as placing pipe into a trench,” he said.
“The crane operator licence training mandated by Worksafe is not even suitable for operators of earthmoving equipment – this is clearly stated in the training materials.
“If industry had been consulted on this change, we could have worked with the government to help it understand the issues.
“Of course, it’s not too late for that to happen – but the first step must be deferring this ill-considered regulation.”
With the new regulation having been in place for more than a month, Master Plumbers and Gasfitters Association of WA chief executive Murray Thomas said concern in the industry was growing daily.
“Every extra day this pointless regulation is in place will mean more lost time and money for Western Australian businesses already struggling with escalating costs,” he said.
A state government spokesperson told Business News the new regulations had been subject to considerable public consultation and that it wasn't until after the regulations were formally published in March that the CCF contacted them.
“The Worksafe Commissioner has met with key industry stakeholders to discuss the issue and is providing advice on resolving this," the spokesperson said.
“We will, in the very near future, be setting out a way forward that we hope will resolve these concerns.”
National regulatory body Safe Work Australia is also in the process of reviewing high risk work licensing for cranes, releasing a discussion paper on the impact of licensing agreements on workers and businesses.