SafeWork withdraws prosecutions against Blue Mountains Council, ends asbestos investigation

SafeWork NSW has ended its investigations into Blue Mountains Council's handling of asbestos, withdrawing all prosecutions against council over the issue.

Instead, Blue Mountains City Council has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with SafeWork NSW which includes legally binding commitments on a number of matters.

The acceptance of the EU by SafeWork marks the end of the investigations by SafeWork and the Environment Protection Authority into council's historical management of asbestos.

Blue Mountains City Council CEO 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," she said.

"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.

"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."

Blue Mountains City Council has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with SafeWork NSW.

Blue Mountains City Council has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with SafeWork NSW.

Under the EU, council has agreed to implement five strategies to benefit the council's workplace, the local government sector and the community.

The five work health and safety strategies to be delivered by council are:

  • 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.

In May 2019, SafeWork commenced local court proceedings against council, alleging eight breaches of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 in relation to sites at 283 Great Western Highway, Lawson and 2-6 Park Street, Lawson.

The subsequent EU relating to these issues was signed by SafeWork on December 9, 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 in September 2019. This followed notification from SafeWork that it had completed its investigation relating to Katoomba tip and decided that no action would be taken.

Blue Mountains City 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.

Council's full undertaking and general information about enforceable undertakings is available at safework.nsw.gov.au/.