A WorkSafe Tasmania notice ordering the head of its department to improve court security has been withdrawn due to a paperwork issue, despite the ongoing risk to staff and the publc.
The improvement notice was issued in February to the secretary of the Department of Justice, Ginna Webster, who ultimately oversees the regulator.
The notice identified risks of “physical injury, assault and dangerous, disruptive or prohibited objects”, ordering a review of security screening arrangements at the state’s 11 magistrates courts.
The regulator ordered the department to comply with the notice by the end of the year, or face a fine of up to $250,000. But that order has since been withdrawn.
A Justice Department spokesman said there were “deficiencies” in the notice, stating it did not meet the requirements of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.
“The notice did not state how each of the provisions of the act specified in the notice are being, or have been, contravened, consequently, the regulator cancelled the improvement notice,” the spokesman said.
Arguing against the decision to withdraw the notice, Police Association of Tasmania president Colin Riley said there was a lack of transparency around internal government decisions.
“It is worrying that there seems to be a different standard for government agencies, than the private industry,” Mr Riley said.
“We are battling to get transparency and accountability around the decision to disregard the improvement notice.”
A copy of the notice provided to The Sunday Examiner showed Work Health and Safety Regulator Mark Cocker included a “description of how the provisions are being or have been contravened” in the notice.
“The requirements of the law indicate that such notices must briefly describe alleged contraventions not state them in the full detail,” Mr Riley said.
The police union had campaigned for changes to security within the court system for more than two decades before the notice was issued, with police, members of the public and staff exposed to physical assaults within the courts over the years.
“It is astonishing that the WorkSafe regulator can form a view to issue an improvement notice to their employer, then it is withdrawn without consultation and remediation of the hazards,” Mr Riley said.
“There are clear legal processes that must be followed when a secretary of a department responds to such notices. We are concerned that considerations outside the issue at hand have had an influence on this decision.”
The Justice Department said WorkSafe Tasmania had since initiated an investigation and inspections would be undertaken at each of the magistrate courts including Launceston, Burnie, Devonport, Hobart, Scottsdale, Smithton, St Helens, Whitemark, Huonville, Currie, and Queenstown.
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