SafeWork NSW apologises to Blue Mountains City Council following Ombudsman report

SafeWork NSW has formally apologised to Blue Mountains City Council over the agency's handling of asbestos compliance following a damning report by the NSW Ombudsman.

"SafeWork NSW apologises that the compliance activity and some of its processes were not up to the standard expected of a best practice regulator," it posted on its website on September 15.

"SafeWork NSW acknowledges the substantial work being done by Blue Mountains City Council to manage asbestos safely in its workplaces and will continue to work with the council in pursuing a collaborative working relationship."

Acknowledged SafeWork NSW apology: Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill at the Lawson Mechanics Institute car park. The NSW Ombudsman found SafeWork notices at the site relating to asbestos compliance were issued unreasonably.

Acknowledged SafeWork NSW apology: Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill at the Lawson Mechanics Institute car park. The NSW Ombudsman found SafeWork notices at the site relating to asbestos compliance were issued unreasonably.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill acknowledged the apology from SafeWork NSW, saying he was "pleased that they have mentioned the constructive work council is doing to manage asbestos in our workplaces".

"Although I do note that the recommendation in the Ombudsman's Report stated that: 'SafeWork apologise to the Blue Mountains City Council for the way it conducted its compliance activities in 2017-2018 and acknowledge the detrimental impact on Council, staff and ratepayers from its actions.'

"The SafeWork NSW statement this week did not acknowledge that detrimental impact on our organisation, Council staff or the community, that was clearly outlined in the Ombudsman's report," he said.

A report by NSW Ombudsman Michael Barnes, released on August 21, found SafeWork NSW issued six notices to the council relating to asbestos compliance in 2017 and 2018 that were either unlawful or unreasonable.

The Ombudsman recommended SafeWork NSW make an ex-gratia payment to the council to compensate it "for the unnecessary expenses they incurred in conducting additional testing" at sites in Wentworth Falls and Lawson, as well as apologise to council.

READ MORE:

In the full statement on its website, SafeWork said it accepted all 11 recommendations in the Ombudsman's report.

"The Ombudsman has previously noted that the work undertaken by Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) in implementing the State's first State-Wide Asbestos Plan has resulted in NSW now being recognised in Australia as having a best practice approach to managing asbestos," the statement read.

"The findings and recommendations of the Ombudsman in this special report however identify areas where SafeWork can improve its performance as a regulator. SafeWork NSW welcomes these opportunities and has already commenced the following processes to implement them."