Understaffing at Ashley Youth Detention has resulted in an increase in major incidents, a health and safety representative at the facility said.
The representative, who did not want to be named, said the number of major situations at the centre had recently increased.
"We had a high-profile case where we had a youth worker in court, suspended and charged, and we hadn't had anything else like that in three years. In the last two weeks, we've had two [such incidents]," he said.
The representative said the centre had previously recruited youth workers annually, and used to have a casual pool of staff to cover when people were sick or on leave but the last time recruitment was done was two years ago despite a push for recruitment from centre staff for the past 12 months.
An ageing workforce, with many staff retiring, resigning or taking a Workplace Renewal Incentive Program payment, also contributed to a lack of staff, the representative said.
"We are operating at less than 70 per cent of our staffing," he said.
"Could you imagine if, where you work, 30 per cent of the people weren't there and they still wanted the same amount of work done?"
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The representative said the workforce was run-down, overtired, and demands were being made of them to do unrealistic overtime.
"Morale is shot," he said.
"People are being pressured not to take carer's days or sick days because we need them on the floor.
"There are a couple of people who probably enjoyed getting the overtime, because they love the money, but most people if they did enjoy that at the beginning are over it now.
"The pressure to do, for some people, 20 hours of overtime a week has been going on for nine months."
Labor's child safety spokesman Josh Willie said reports about unsafe conditions at the centre were deeply concerning.
"It's putting workers at risk, it's putting young people at risk," Mr Willie said.
Mr Willie said the failure of the government to fill the positions led him to question if vacancy control was already in place as part of the state's goal to meet a $450 million efficiency dividend.
Recruitment in progress
A Department of Communities spokesperson said it was anticipated the recruitment process for new staff at the centre would be completed in the near future.
"AYDC will be seeking to hire an appropriate number of casual employees to fill all current permanent youth worker vacancies," the spokesperson said.
"A number of these vacancies are currently filled by fixed-term employees."
The representative said, even if the Department showed up with 10 new recruits tomorrow, it would be at least two months before any of them had the capacity to work as they would need to attain a Police Check and a Working with Vulnerable People card, which could take up to six weeks, and complete a week-long induction plus a month of one-on-one training.
The Department spokesperson said the training period for new employees was approximately five weeks.
"The selection process for youth workers needs to be comprehensive and robust in order to identify skilled employees," the spokesperson said.
"It includes a range of separate assessment activities encompassing shortlisting, psychological testing, an interview, medical and fitness testing and the usual pre-employment and referee checks."
WorkSafe will intervene next week to investigate a Provisional Improvement Notice which was issued by the AYDC's health and safety representatives in late June as a result of their concerns about the adverse impacts of chronic understaffing.
"We have decided as health and safety representatives that the workplace is unsafe, not just for us but for the residents," the representative said.
"Part of the duty of care is having enough staff is not just to protect the staff but to protect the residents from each other."
The representative said night and weekend shifts were of particular concern because there were no non-operational staff, such as administrative staff or case management workers, there to intervene if there was an incident.
"They are the shifts that are quite often running short by up to 25 per cent," he said.
The Department of Communities said it was committed to participating constructively with WorkSafe's review.
"The time frame for completing the review is a matter for WorkSafe," a spokesperson said.