Ombudsman findings in SafeWork investigation 'shocking and alarming'

NSW Labor's local government spokesman Greg Warren has described as "shocking and alarming" the findings of a NSW Ombudsman report into SafeWork's asbestos investigations in the Blue Mountains.

File photo.

File photo.

The report found the regulator issued six asbestos notices to the council in 2017 and 2018 that were either unlawful or unreasonable. Ombudsman Michael Barnes recommended SafeWork apologise to the council and pay compensation.

Labor's local government spokesman said SafeWork NSW "must own up to its mistakes, follow the NSW Ombudsman's recommendations and apologise and compensate the council and community".

"The damage and pain inflicted on the council staff - both current and former - as well as the councillors and community was completely unnecessary," said Mr Warren.

SafeWork has already stated it is reviewing the Ombudsman's report's recommendations.

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle said: "The amount of damage that has been done to Blue Mountains City Council by this politically motivated and outrageous witch-hunt is immeasurable and will take years to repair.

"The NSW Government, via SafeWork NSW, should apologise and compensate both the council and community as a matter of priority," she said.

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said he was disgusted by the attack on the council and community.

"Blue Mountains City Council has been the victim of a politically motivated and prolonged attack in which the state's safety regulator was weaponised for political ends," he said.

But Ward 1 Greens Cr Kerry Brown said despite the findings against the six compliance notices, 37 other notices issued to Blue Mountains council by SafeWork were "left intact" - a statement labelled a "patently false contention" by the mayor.

"The Ombudsman did not leave 37 notices 'intact', nor uphold those notices in any way. Rather, as the report makes clear on page 1, the Ombudsman 'ultimately focused on four key sites' and found that each of the statutory notices issued that were referred to in the complaint, in respect of those four sites, was either unlawful or unreasonable," he said.

The four sites were: Wentworth Falls Preschool; Heatherbrae House; Springwood council depot and the Lawson Mechanics Institute car park.

Cr Brown said the mayor's "insistence that the council 'has been the victim of a politically motivated and prolonged attack' diminished the role and achievements of SafeWork staff as well as the United Services Union and council workers" over the asbestos issue.

"Rather than complain about political victimhood, perhaps it is time to acknowledge that the fourth estate played an essential role along with the workers, the union, and Safework. As a result the council is a cleaner and safer workplace," she said.