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Legislative context 

Safe Work Australia was established under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth) (the Act). In accordance with the Act, this operational plan details the activities to be undertaken by Safe Work Australia and the planned expenditure for the year. 

This plan will be consistent with the relevant year of the Corporate Plan 2020–2024 when it is published in late 2020. This plan does not deal with the allocation of resources for the performance of Safe Work Australia’s functions.

Our purpose

Safe Work Australia has an important national role to achieve significant and continual reductions in the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness and to improve outcomes for injured workers and their employers. It is an inclusive tripartite forum representing the interests of the Commonwealth, states and territories, as well as workers and employers in Australia to: 

  • collaborate on national work health and safety (WHS) and workers’ compensation policy matters 
  • lead the development of evidence-based policy and supporting education and strategies, and 
  • promote consistency in WHS and workers’ compensation arrangements. 

This collaborative model recognises that national WHS and workers’ compensation outcomes are improved when all relevant views and interests are considered. 

This plan describes the activities to be undertaken by Safe Work Australia in performing its statutory functions during 2020–2021, within the total operating budget of $21.5m.

The activities we will undertake in 2020–2021

In early 2020, with the unanimous support of Members, Safe Work Australia shifted its focus to respond to the unprecedented situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Central to this response was the development of a hub of WHS guidance and tools for Australian workplaces to help them manage the health and safety risks posed by COVID-19. Our response to COVID-19 will remain our focus until the pandemic is resolved, including throughout 2020–2021.

The next phase of our COVID-19 response will focus on identifying further opportunities for guidance material and tools, developing additional materials and refining the work completed to date. Collectively, this work will contribute to Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic by helping to ensure safe workplaces and providing assurance to Australians that they are able to return to their usual activities.

Notwithstanding the importance and priority of the COVID-19 response, we will also continue, wherever possible, to progress existing key deliverables that were paused due to the COVID-19 emergency response, including:

  • implementing the agreed recommendations of the independent review of the model WHS laws 
  • finalising the review of the workplace exposure standards 
  • finalising the agreed strategy to address occupational lung disease, including silicosis 
  • continuing the implementation of a national WHS prosecutions database and an enforceable undertakings database 
  • finalising the phase two review of the National Assessment Instruments for high risk work licensing 
  • facilitating the national transition to GHS Revision 7 including the provision of guidance and information 
  • undertaking high-quality research on priority WHS and workers’ compensation issues 
  • implementing the relevant recommendations from the Senate Committee report, They never came home – the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia, relating to improving support for families impacted by a workplace death, and to report on achievements 
  • progressing national initiatives under the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030, and 
  • continuing the development of a new Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy.

In addition to these identified deliverables, Safe Work Australia will continue to undertake its core work in support of the current Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 and the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030 by:

  • developing accessible, effective and practical material to support the model WHS legislative framework to aid understanding and compliance, particularly for small business
  • collecting, analysing and disseminating high quality evidence 
  • collaborating with our national and international counterparts, and 
  • increasing awareness and education through the Virtual Seminar Series and National Safe Work Month.

How we will measure our performance

The effectiveness of these activities in assisting to reduce death, injury and disease and meet the outcome of healthier, safer and more productive workplaces will be measured through systematic review and evaluation. 

Performance will be measured against the Key Performance Indicators included in the 2020–2021 Safe Work Australia Budget Statements and reported in the Safe Work Australia Annual Report.

Download the operational plan.

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