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Overview of performance

The documents that outline the work of Safe Work Australia are:

  • Safe Work Australia Act—functions (s. 6)
  • Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) 2015–16
  • corporate plan, and
  • operational plan

Performance report

The achievements reported in this document are measured against the PBS, corporate plan and operational plan.

The following section provides Safe Work Australia’s Annual Performance Statement and performance against the eight strategies of the corporate plan.

The table below provides a summary of the interaction between the eight strategies and the other guiding documents.

Strategies under the Corporate Plan Function from the Act Strategy from the PBS Activity from the Operational Plan
Support the implementation of the Australian Strategy. 1, 9 1-2 1
Promote community awareness and knowledge of WHS and workers’ compensation. 10 6 2, 9
Support evidence informed policy, programs and practice through national WHS and workers’ compensation data, research and evaluation programs. 7-8 5 3-5
Improve and reform WHS laws in Australia to provide a consistent, equitable, effective and high level of protection to all workers. 1-6 3 5-6
Promote consistent approaches and improved knowledge, skills and capabilities for managing health and safety hazards and risks. 1, 4 7 5
Identify opportunities to improve workers’ compensation arrangements. 11 8 7
Develop nationally consistent explosives regulation. 14 4 8
Cooperate and share information, expertise and experience with international organisations. 13 6 9

Performance against Portfolio Budget Statement

The PBS 2015–16 outlines a single program structure with the outcome statement:

Healthier, safer and more productive workplaces through improvements to Australian WHS and workers’ compensation arrangements.

Performance against this outcome is measured by eight strategies and three key performance indicators (KPIs) outlined in the PBS.

The eight strategies are:

  • support the implementation of the Australian Strategy
  • promote community awareness and knowledge of WHS and workers’ compensation
  • support evidence-informed policy, programs and practice through national WHS and workers’ compensation data, research and evaluation programs
  • improve and reform WHS laws in Australia to provide a consistent, equitable and high level of protection to all workers, while ensuring practicability for small business and individual workers
  • promote consistent approaches and improved knowledge, skills and capabilities for managing health and safety hazards and risks
  • identify opportunities to improve workers’ compensation arrangements
  • develop nationally consistent explosives regulation, and
  • cooperate and share information, expertise and experience with international organisations.

The three KPIs described below measure Safe Work Australia’s progress in achieving its outcome.

  1. the WHS framework continues to be developed, implemented and reviewed in accordance with COAG requirements
  2. level of satisfaction of the Chair of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan, and
  3. level of satisfaction of the Members of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan

Performance against Corporate Plan

Safe Work Australia is required by the Act to prepare a corporate plan every four years that deals only with the outcomes to be achieved by Safe Work Australia and the strategies that will achieve those outcomes. The corporate plan sets out eight strategies to achieve the outcome listed in the PBS (see above) within those four years. The corporate plan is available on the Safe Work Australia website and at Appendix 1.

Operational Plan

Safe Work Australia is required to have an annual operational plan as outlined in Part 4 of the Act. The operational plan sets out the activities to achieve the outcomes for the year. The operational plan is available on the Safe Work Australia website and at Appendix 2.

Annual Performance Statement

I, Michelle Baxter, as the accountable authority of Safe Work Australia, present the 2015–16 annual performance statement of Safe Work Australia, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). In my opinion, the annual performance statement is based on properly maintained records, accurately reflects the performance of the entity and complies with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

Purpose

Healthier, safer and more productive workplaces through improvements to Australian work health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements.

Performance Criteria

Reform of and improvements to Australian work health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements.

Source

Programme 1.1, 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statement, page 219.

Note: The Safe Work Australia Corporate Plan 2015–2019 (the corporate plan) meets the requirements of the Safe Work Australia Act 2008. Performance criteria are not included in the corporate plan, however, a performance measurement framework is included in the Portfolio Budget Statement.

Result against performance criteria

The 2015–16 performance measurement framework includes three performance criteria. The table below outlines the targets set to meet the criteria along with the agency’s 2015–16 results.

Quality 2015–16 Target 2015–16 Result
The work health and safety framework continues to be developed, implemented and reviewed in accordance with COAG requirements COAG requirements are met Achieved
Level of satisfaction of the Chair of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan Chair rates the performance of the agency as very good or above Achieved
Level of satisfaction of the Members of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan 80% of Members agree the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan Achieved
  1. The WHS framework continues to be developed, implemented and reviewed in accordance with COAG requirements

    Key activities for 2015–16 are outlined below.

    • In 2015–16, the agency continued the evaluation studies outlined in the Evaluation Plan to measure the effectiveness of the work health and safety (WHS) Framework. The Evaluation Plan is concluding in 2017.
    • The report and Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) for reducing regulatory burden in the model WHS Regulations which identifies proposed amendments to the model WHS Regulations was finalised. The proposed amendments were provided to WHS ministers for consideration in mid-2016. If approved, the agency will progress drafting amendments to the model WHS Regulations.
    • Additional guidance material was developed and published to assist duty holders to meet their obligations under the model WHS laws. In April 2015, Safe Work Australia Members agreed to review published material every five years from its publication date, or sooner if there are changes in legislation or work practices. The agency will commence the review of the first stage of model Codes in 2017.
    • To support evidence based policy development, the agency funds a range of work including the development of surveys, research activities and data analysis. During 2015–16, a number of reports were published covering a wide range of workers’ compensation, WHS and emerging issues. Highlights include the National Return to Work Survey, the annual Comparative Performance Monitoring Report, a report on the cost of work-related injury and illness for Australian employers, workers and the community 2012–13, the Work-related traumatic injury fatalities Australia 2014 report and a series of Australian Work Exposures Study reports on carcinogen exposures in the Agriculture, Construction and Manufacturing industries.
  2. Level of satisfaction of the Chair of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan

    The agency conducted an annual survey with its current and previous Chair to measure the level of satisfaction during 2015–16. A five point rating scale was used where the Chairs made an assessment of the agency’s performance against three criteria — quality, effectiveness and timeliness. A final report on the Safe Work Australia Work Plan 2015–16 (which details deliverables against each activity under the operational plan) was enclosed to assist the Chairs to determine whether the agency had met its deliverables. Both Chairs rated the agency as ‘very good’ in achieving the overall outcomes of the operational plan.

  3. Level of satisfaction of the Members of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan

    The agency conducted an annual survey with its Members to measure the level of satisfaction during 2015–16. A four point rating scale was developed to assist Members to make an assessment of whether the agency had met the overall outcomes of the operational plan. A final report on the Safe Work Australia Work Plan 2015–16 (which details deliverables against each activity under the operational plan) was enclosed to assist in determining whether the Agency had met its deliverables. Members all agreed that the agency had met the relevant deliverables.

Analysis

In 2015–16, the agency announced a roadmap to navigate the next five years to ensure Safe Work Australia can continue to meet its strategic objective to become a world leader in WHS and workers’ compensation and contribute to the healthy, safe and productive working lives for all Australians.

The roadmap was developed to build on past performance and strengthen our organisational capability in all areas from corporate support, technical expertise, data, research, strategy and policy to stakeholder management and collaboration.

Highlights of strategies implemented to ensure the agency met its performance criteria are below.

  • The implementation of a new agency structure that recognises the key priorities and ensures the agency can perform to its optimal level.
  • A strategic discussion by Members about the future of Safe Work Australia, the work the agency does and the value the agency adds.
  • The development and launch of an agency specific vision and a set of values that:
    • underpin how we treat each other and work together
    • foster a culture that is collaborative, innovative, positive, solutions-driven, responsive and resilient
    • inform the image we project to our stakeholders and others outside the agency, and
    • assist people looking to join the agency understand what we stand for, expect and value.
  • The implementation of a robust internal planning process that focussed on:
    • allocating resources (both financial and non-financial) appropriately
    • identifying capability gaps and recruiting new staff to fill those gaps
    • reviewing governance processes to embed risk management, accountability and collaboration across the agency, and
    • the review of all projects to ensure relevancy to the Safe Work Australia strategic objectives.
  • Designing a new dashboard for Members which provides regular updates on the agency’s performance such as the status of projects including key milestones and important updates.
  • The review of the performance measurement framework resulting in new performance criteria being included in the 2016–17 Portfolio Budget Statement.

Strategy 1 - Support the implementation of the Australian Strategy

Highlights

  • Delivered the second Virtual Seminar Series, featuring the latest thinking, research, developments and best practice in WHS
  • Published the Principles of Good Work Design handbook
  • Developed a framework for considering WHS in policy development
  • Developed a Leadership Hub for large and small businesses

The Australian Strategy

The Australian Strategy’s vision is healthy, safe and productive working lives.

Underpinning this vision is that all workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to healthy, safe and well-designed work and that this in turn will allow Australian workers to have more productive working lives.

The Australian Strategy is in its fourth year and work continues towards achieving the outcomes: reduced incidence of work-related death, injury and illness by reducing exposure to hazards and risks by using improved hazard controls and supported by an improved WHS infrastructure.

Targets

The Australian Strategy sets three targets to be achieved by 2022:

  • a reduction in the number of worker fatalities due to injury of at least 20 per cent
  • a reduction in the incidence rate of claims resulting in one or more weeks off work of at least 30 per cent, and
  • a reduction in the incidence rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks off work of at least 30 per cent.

The fatality target is measured against an agreed base period from 2007 to 2010 when there was an annual average of 268 fatalities. The target is measured using a three year rolling average to smooth out annual volatility due to the relatively small number of injury fatalities.

The average annual number of fatalities fell 24 per cent between this base period and 2014. This is greater than the reduction required over the 10 years of the Australian Strategy.

The challenge will be to sustain or improve this reduction with expected employment growth over the 10 years of the Australian Strategy.

The incidence rate of serious claims fell by 21 per cent from the base period (2009–10 to 2011–12) and 2013–14, with the incidence rate of musculoskeletal claims also dropping by 20 per cent.

Excerpt from Activity 1 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022.

Action areas

The Australian Strategy outlines seven action areas:

  • Healthy and safe by design
  • Supply chains and networks
  • Health and safety capabilities
  • Leadership and culture
  • Research and evaluation
  • Government, and
  • Responsive and effective regulatory framework.

Healthy and safe by design

This action area aims to eliminate hazards and risks during the design of jobs, work processes and systems of work and through the design of plant, structures and substances. In 2014, Safe Work Australia Members collaborated to develop 10 key principles of good work design based on evidence and expert advice. In August 2015, Safe Work Australia published the Principles of Good Work Design handbook, which provides information about how the 10 principles can be applied to any workplace, business or industry.

On 27 May 2016 the inaugural Safe Work Australia Award for Good Design was presented to Makinex Construction Products. Safe Work Australia’s involvement with the Good Design Australia awards raises awareness of how good design can support WHS (see Feature story - Rewarding good work health safety and design).

Leadership and culture

Activities under this action area aim to encourage leaders to promote a positive culture for WHS.

Safe Work Australia supports business and community leaders by creating a central point to find information and resources about leadership. The Leadership Hub, published on the Safe Work Australia website in March 2016, offers information and resources to large and small businesses, including how leadership can improve not only WHS but also business productivity and sustainability.

Government

Safe Work Australia worked with a range of Australian Government departments to develop a framework for embedding WHS considerations into the policy development cycle. The Government WHS policy framework was published on the Safe Work Australia website in March 2016.

The framework was specifically designed to be used by government agencies to practically promote and influence WHS through policy development and the programs and services they deliver.

Priority industries

The Australian Strategy has seven priority industries:

  • Agriculture
  • Road transport
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Public administration and safety, and
  • Health care and social assistance

The agriculture and road transport industries are the major focus for prevention activities during the first five years of the Australian Strategy.

Agriculture

While agriculture only accounts for 2.6 per cent of the Australian workforce, in 2010–14 the sector accounted for 24 per cent of worker fatalities. The fatality rate continues to be almost eight times higher than the national average for all industries. Agricultural workers also have the highest rate of serious claims in Australia.

In mid-2016 Safe Work Australia will publish an Agricultural Industry Profile which provides more information about the nature of fatalities and serious injuries in this sector.

Safe Work Australia and its Members have continued to focus on activities that will help reduce the number of people killed or injured at work. This includes awareness campaigns covering a number of issues including farm safety, farm vehicles, working with agricultural chemicals, working with livestock, child safety on farms, working outdoors, and mental health. The National Agriculture Activity Plan 2014–2019 includes a summary of current activities.

To help duty holders meet their regulatory responsibilities in the agriculture sector, Safe Work Australia published guidance material on:

  • managing risks of machinery used in rural workplaces
  • managing risks associated with quad bikes, and
  • cattle handling.

Road transport

Over the period 2003 to 2014, 549 workers in the road transport sector were killed while at work and in 2014, the road transport fatality rate was over 10 times the national average. Safe Work Australia continued to engage with whole-of-government activities to promote safety in the road transport sector, including through the National Transport Commission. For example, in its submission to the review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law, Safe Work Australia highlighted the importance of officers’ duties in controlling the hazards involved in heavy vehicle operations and noted the review provided a valuable opportunity to improve the legal infrastructure governing heavy vehicle operations.

Virtual Seminar Series

In 2015 Safe Work Australia broadcast the second Virtual Seminar Series, featuring the latest thinking, research, developments and best practice in WHS. The seminars are available on the Safe Work Australia website and YouTube channel and were broadcast throughout October 2015 to celebrate National Safe Work Month. Many seminars are also available as podcasts from Soundcloud and iTunes and proved very popular among participants.

The seminars increase community awareness and knowledge of WHS and themes are chosen to support the Australian Strategy. The 2015 series addressed supply chains and networks, good work design and the construction and manufacturing industries. Since the first broadcast in 2014, Australian and international universities, Registered Training Organisations and individual businesses have developed learning activities based on the seminars’ content.

Outlook for 2016–17

Safe Work Australia will continue to work with its Members to support the implementation of the Australian Strategy, leading to its scheduled mid-term review in 2017. Safe Work Australia will continue to drive a range of activities while facilitating national action.

Safe Work Australia will support the implementation of the Government WHS policy framework in Australian Government policy guidance documents, including through developing guides, tools and other user resources.

Safe Work Australia will promote the application of good work design to supply chains operations through the development of a handbook.

To support business leaders in understanding and reporting on how their organisation manages its risks, Safe Work Australia has been working with key experts to improve how businesses measure and report health and safety in internal documents and public company annual reports. This project will be completed in 2016–17 and practical information will be published.

Mental disorders remain a priority under the Australian Strategy. Safe Work Australia will continue to develop tools to assist businesses to prevent harm to workers’ mental health and to support those with mental disorders.

The Virtual Seminar Series will return in 2016 with a program featuring industry experts, academics and business leaders sharing their knowledge and insights through video presentations, podcasts, live broadcasts and research and data to showcase Australia’s most innovative and pioneering approaches to WHS.

Feature Story - Australian Strategy Progress Report

The Australian Strategy, launched in 2012, sets out a broad framework for improving WHS in Australia. Its seven Action Areas define the key areas where activities should be directed to have the greatest potential for reducing harm. The Australian Strategy also identifies priority industries and disorders to receive particular focus.

Annual reports on progress under the Australian Strategy were published in 2014 (covering the period 2012–2013) and 2015 (covering the period 2013–14).

Safe Work Australia Member organisations have undertaken more than 100 projects under the Australian Strategy. The following includes a small selection of projects, to illustrate the range and diversity of initiatives that have been undertaken since 2014.

The WHS regulators made particular efforts to improve WHS in three of the priority industries — agriculture, construction and road transport. Many of the projects targeting these industries focus on two of the Australian Strategy Action Areas of improving health and safety capabilities and healthy and safe by design.

Musculoskeletal disorders (which account for more than 40 per cent of compensation claims) and mental disorders, both priorities under the Australian Strategy, were also a particular focus.

Preventing Workers Falling From Trucks: Queensland

The transport industry has a high rate of injuries and fatalities due to falls. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) ran an advisory campaign to reduce the number of falls from working on, in or around trucks. The campaign involved consultation workshops, inspector led assessments and resources to assist industry and resulted in a number of industry initiatives. To minimise the need for workers to access trailers, Toll NQX Central Queensland introduced an Australian standard forklift mounted man-cage which provides workers with greater and safer access to hard to reach areas.

WHSQ is currently working with both the road freight and trailer manufacturing industries to increase knowledge and strive for improved safety through better truck and trailer design.

Construction industry plant: Queensland

WHSQ identified that to prevent injuries from mobile and operational plant in the Queensland construction industry, it was important to improve workers’ and managers’ knowledge of health and safety risks and how to manage them.

The WHSQ campaign included inspector visits to construction worksites to perform assessments on high risk work involving four types of commonly used plant: earthmoving equipment, personnel and materials hoists, elevating work platforms and mobile and tower cranes.

WHSQ developed audit tools which can be used as checklists when planning or coordinating mobile plant operations on construction sites.

Small business: Northern Territory

NT WorkSafe developed the ‘Small Business Safety Program’ to improve the capacity and capability of small businesses to manage their own health and safety systems.

Construction skills: New South Wales

SafeWork NSW focussed on four high-risk areas in the housing construction industry: preventing injuries from falls through voids, the movement of material and people on site, sun exposure, and improved recovery of injured workers at work.

The ‘Focus on Industry Program’ targeted small builders, sub-contractors and young and inexperienced workers with service visits, demonstration days and an industry-specific mentoring program. Short term indicators show improvement in safety awareness for each of the four high risk areas.

HSR training: Commonwealth

Comcare understood that Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) needed better information to help them understand their role under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth). Comcare’s HSR campaign set out to support the establishment of local HSR networks to assist HSRs in the exercise of their functions and powers.

Comcare held national forums with HSRs and partnered with a major public service union to deliver forums targeted specifically at HSRs. Participants learned some techniques for addressing workplace issues, shared their experiences and felt empowered to influence better health and safety outcomes.

Business to business support: Tasmania

Better Work Tasmania puts Tasmanian businesses in contact with their peers to share suggestions for improving WHS. Similar workplaces share similar issues, and the Better Work Tasmania website allows network members to talk directly to each other. WorkSafe Tasmania facilitates two meetings a year for the Better Work Tasmania network, and members are encouraged to organise their own meetings and catch ups — online or face-to-face.

Grain producers: South Australia

SafeWork SA is working with Grain Producers SA to provide farm managers with practical information about their legislative responsibilities. To date, activities have included talking with farmers about known WHS hazards and risks and potential solutions, visiting working properties to present walk-and-talks to owners and managers, revising the sector’s Farmer’s Guide and attending farm field days.

SafeWork SA will continue to work with Primary Producers SA and various commodity groups across the agricultural industry to improve cultural norms and WHS practice. Feedback and injury data will be used to fine-tune activities and guide progress.

Travelling horticultural workers: Queensland

WHSQ is working with other government agencies which regulate farm safety, workplace rights and workers’ wellbeing to improve outcomes for travelling horticultural workers. This collaboration will reduce duplication of services and improve agencies’ understanding of each other’s priorities. Small teams, made up of agencies relevant to the issue being targeted, visit farms together, offering a holistic approach to farm safety and minimising the impact of the visit on farmers through having one visit rather than multiple visits from a number of agencies.

Getting Home Safely: Australian Capital Territory

In the year to September 2012, the ACT construction industry experienced three workplace fatalities. At the time, the ACT construction industry had one of the worst safety records of any Australian industry sector. In response to this, the ACT Government conducted the ‘Getting Home Safely Inquiry’ and WorkSafe ACT has responded to the recommendations from this inquiry.

The total number of WHS inspectors in the ACT has increased from 12 to 32. There have been targeted compliance, awareness, training and stakeholder engagement activities focusing on construction risks. New training resources have been developed in conjunction with the industry.

As a result, lost time injuries in the ACT construction industry have reduced by 34 percent in the two injury reporting years since the initiative began.

House construction: New South Wales

SafeWork NSW identified house construction as a high-risk industry. It conducted a workplace visit program including awareness-raising visits and engaging with businesses, and produced twelve short video clips covering key risks, such as ‘Voids in House Construction’, ‘Benefits of Planning and Scheduling’ and vox pop clips.

SafeWork NSW also held or participated in industry events and demonstration days and began an industry-specific Mentor Program tailored to the primary target audience: all participants made safety improvements in their workplace as a result of their participation.

Among key outcomes of this program was an increase in hazard awareness — for example, awareness of the dangers of voids in housing construction increased by 44% — from 48% to 92%.

Musculoskeletal disorders and mental health: Victoria

WorkSafe Victoria has set up the ‘WorkHealth Improvement Networks’ (WIN). This project integrates workers’ health, safety and wellbeing to combat the complex issues where individual and workplace factors intersect, specifically mental wellbeing and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as safety culture.

Under this project, WorkSafe Victoria has set up manufacturing and health networks in partnership with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services respectively. The WIN project uses indirect influence and networked learning to bring about change in these industries.

Musculoskeletal disorders: Western Australia

To help prevent musculoskeletal disorders, WorkSafe WA’s Industry and Ergonomics Inspectorate Teams have been working together on the Ergonomics/Industry Team Knowledge Sharing Initiative. By working together, industry inspectors learned from expert Ergonomics Inspectors and Scientific Officers, which improved their delivery of regulatory services. Inspectors who were not specialist ergonomists are now able to check workplaces for hazardous manual tasks and provide advice to workplaces on how to manage these. Feedback received from industry indicates that businesses have improved their practices following inspector visits.

What is Body Stressing?

Body stressing is muscular stress from manual handling: lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling objects; or stress from physical movements such as holding a posture or making repetitive movements.

Each year 72 040 claims are awarded for MSDs. Of these, 63 per cent are caused by body stressing and 23 per cent involved falls.

Body stressing: Tasmania

WorkSafe Tasmania’s body stressing injuries project was a state-wide project to reduce body stressing injuries in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry in Tasmania. It aimed to reduce body stressing injuries and subsequent claims for workers’ compensation in this industry by improving industry and stakeholder awareness of the risks associated with hazardous manual tasks. This project included interviewing injured workers, asking organisations about what they are doing to reduce body stressing injuries, providing information to the industry to help prevent body stressing injury, and analysing the issues faced by the industry and developing and implementing strategies to address those issues.

The project found that workplace culture and management attitude and behaviour have a major impact on the number of claims and on workers’ behaviour and response to body stressing injuries. In the health sector, the increase in obese patients with specialist needs presents challenges. The use of equipment (such as ceiling-mounted hoists) has been useful, but workers still need to be skilled and appropriately trained to deal with obese patients.

Mental health at work: Queensland

WHSQ’s Mental Health at Work Action Plan uses good work design to help industry to prevent work-related mental disorders and promote positive mental health.

Key activities include: raising awareness of mental health at work and the importance of good work design to prevent psychological hazards, targeted resources and tools to support businesses, information campaigns, websites and training for internal staff.

WHSQ’s People at Work project assists businesses conduct a risk assessment that measures how different workplace characteristics influence worker health and well-being, focusing particularly on risks to psychological health. This collaboration is now working on developing on-line delivery of the risk assessment tool, ensuring its sustainability in to the future.

Mental health: South Australia

SafeWork SA’s Mental health in the workplace project was a partnership with beyondblue and the Edwardstown Region Business Association, a local small business association, to engage South Australian businesses to learn about simple, practical actions to promote a mentally healthy workplace.

Feature story - Rewarding good work health and safety design

A focus on health and safety in design helps eliminate hazards and risks before they enter the workplace. Good work design relates to improving the design of products, structures, equipment and substances, work processes and systems.

The 2016 Safe Work Australia Award for Good Design was the result of a partnership between Safe Work Australia and Good Design Australia. The award highlights the importance of good work design in improving WHS practices and is strongly aligned with the vision of the Australian Strategy.

Makinex powered hand truck    Julia Colling and Rory Kennard

Image 1:The Makinex powered hand truck is a materials heandling solution enabling one person to safely lift and load items weighing up to 140kg.
Image 2: Safe Work Australia Branch Manager Julia Collins presents Makinex Construction Products Managing DirectorRory Kennard with the Safe Work Australia Award for Good Design at the 2016 Good Design Awards gala ceremony.

The annual Good Design Awards showcase examples of good design across a broad range of industries and design disciplines and promote the very best in design, innovation and creativity at a national and international level. From digital design to architecture, the awards aim to create a better world through design.

The winner of the inaugural Safe Work Australia Award for Good Design was Makinex Construction Products for their powered hand truck. Makinex Construction Products was selected from finalists across all award categories. Their powered hand truck was found to excel in the approach to safe work design and judged as best against criteria of safety in construction, use and maintenance, safety innovation, sustainability and health and safety impact.

Safe Work Australia Branch Manager, Ms Julia Collins, presented Makinex Construction Products with their award as part of the 2016 Good Design Awards gala ceremony in Sydney on 27 May 2016.

Strategy 2 - Promote community awareness and knowledge of work health and safety and workers’ compensation

Highlights

  • Supported World Day for Safety and Health at Work and International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2016
  • Encouraged businesses and workers to focus on health and safety in their workplaces through National Safe Work Month in October 2016
  • Promoted discussion of WHS by sponsoring key national bodies and national activities

Communication and stakeholder engagement strategy

As a policy agency with national influence, Safe Work Australia plans and delivers activities to build community awareness and knowledge about WHS and workers’ compensation across Australia. The Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy guides Safe Work Australia’s activities and supports collaboration among Safe Work Australia Member organisations.

Communication and stakeholder engagement activities

Communication and stakeholder engagement activities delivered included promotion of World Day for Safety and Health at Work and International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2016 and National Safe Work Month in October 2015.

During October 2015 the agency also delivered another successful Virtual Seminar Series.

Safe Work Australia entered into sponsorships with a number of key stakeholders to support initiatives aligned with the Australian Strategy and the corporate plan. Safe Work Australia provides sponsorships to meet the key strategic objective of elevating the importance of WHS and workers’ compensation in the community.

Safe Work Australia continued to engage with media to support the release of Safe Work Australia research reports, publications, consultation processes and national projects to build awareness of WHS and workers’ compensation. Social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were increasingly used to share and promote Safe Work Australia’s work and engage and collaborate with stakeholders and influencers. Social media analytics show that these platforms have been successful in increasing the reach of Safe Work Australia’s communication activities and informing the public about initiatives and guidance material.

The agency is redeveloping the Safe Work Australia website to ensure it has the functionality and content required to meet current and future business needs, including Australian Government accessibility requirements. A new website is due for release in early 2017.

We kept people informed:

We connected with our stakeholders and audiences through:

  • 25 media releases
  • 42 website news items
  • 2,200 general enquiry emails
  • 19,000 website subscribers

We connected on social media with:

  • 913 Twitter followers (569 tweets)
  • 5,056 LinkedIn followers (266 posts)
  • 9,573 Facebook likes (321 posts)

2015 National Safe Work Month

National Safe Work Month, was held throughout October 2015. Safe Work Australia promoted the month nationally and delivered a range of activities to drive awareness among employers and workers across Australia. WHS authorities also held various awareness raising and educational events during October 2015.

The tagline, Be safe. Be healthy. Because…, was deliberately left open so people could add their own reasons for being safe and healthy at work. Participants were encouraged to think about what is important to them with the question, “There are so many reasons for being safe and healthy at work— what are yours?”

National Safe Work Month included a number of activities that were highly successful in raising awareness of WHS:

  • creation of a digital information kit to help businesses and individuals promote WHS in their organisation, and
  • broadcast the Virtual Seminar Series.

As part of National Safe Work Month, Safe Work Australia invited businesses to participate in the Workplace Participation Reward Program. This was the second year of the Program following a successful take up in 2014. From more than 40 entries from small, medium and large businesses around Australia, Mars Petcare Australia (Wodonga Factory) was named the winner (see Feature story - Workplace participation reward).

Excerpt from Activity 2 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Promote consistent messages on WHS and workers’ compensation through the implementation of the Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy.

Outlook for 2016–17

Safe Work Australia will continue working with its Members and key stakeholders to promote community awareness and knowledge of WHS and workers’ compensation. The Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy will be reviewed to ensure it effectively guides Safe Work Australia’s strategic objectives.

The implementation of national awareness-raising activities such as National Safe Work Month and the Virtual Seminar Series will also continue.

Safe Work Australia will engage with national mainstream and industry media to support the release of Safe Work Australia research reports, publications, consultation processes and national projects and continue to promote Safe Work Australia messages and build engagement through social media channels.

Safe Work Australia will continue to pursue partnership opportunities that elevate the importance of WHS in the community.

Feature story - Workplace participation reward

Safe Work Australia held the second Workplace Participation Reward in 2015 awarded to Mars Petcare Australia. The Reward recognises and rewards a workplace for its outstanding commitment, participation and creativity to raise the awareness of WHS during National Safe Work Australia Month.

For the more than 300 workers who joined in National Safe Work Month activities, at the Wodonga factory their reason for staying safe and healthy at work was Because…’ ‘Mates make sure mates get home safe’, reflecting the close friendships shared among Mars Petcare colleagues. One of the core messages used during the month was “If I see something is unsafe, I’m going to speak up.” Workers participated in various workshops throughout the month and photos of workers were used creatively in posters, emails and newsletters to promote and personalise the tagline.

Wodonga factory visit

Image 3: Safe Work Australia Deputy Chief Executive Officer presents Mars Petcare Australia with their 2015 Workplace Participation Reward on location at the Wodonga factory.

Safe Work Australia Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Grey, travelled to Wodonga to present the Reward and meet workers involved with National Safe Work Month.

Mars Petcare Australia stood out from a strong field of over 40 entries from small, medium and large organisations across Australia. The Reward offers a prize valued at up to $5,000 to go towards an Australian WHS conference, expo or event.

Strategy 3 - Support evidence-informed policy, programs and practice through national work health and safety and workers’ compensation data, research and evaluation programs

Highlights

  • Published eight research reports and four statistical publications
  • Responded to over 400 requests for statistical information
  • Piloted the regulatory burden survey to understand business’ WHS costs
  • Published three reports about workers’ exposure to carcinogens
  • Undertook a review of the Comparative Performance Monitoring report and Australian Mesothelioma Registry

Evaluation of work health and safety laws

Under the Evaluation Plan for the Harmonisation of Work Health and Safety in Australia (Evaluation Plan), Safe Work Australia has conducted a wide range of research evaluating the health and safety performance and regulatory burden objectives of the model WHS laws.

In 2015–16, Safe Work Australia undertook a pilot study for the final regulatory burden survey included in the Evaluation Plan. This process has enabled Safe Work Australia to refine the survey tool to collect information on the cost of WHS activities undertaken in businesses and the perceptions of Chief Executive Officers and senior managers about complying with WHS laws.

The survey, which will be run in 2016–17, will also collect information on the broader impacts of WHS expenditure on the business and businesses’ motivation for WHS expenditure.

In 2013 Safe Work Australia partnered with the National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (a research centre within the Regulatory Institutions Network at the Australian National University) on a three-year project to undertake research examining the effectiveness of the model WHS laws. This work has continued throughout 2015–16 and it is expected all studies will be completed later in 2016. The findings will be used to inform the review of the model WHS laws and improve operational efficiency.

Safe Work Australia also partnered with the Australian National University and the Australian Research Council to undertake research aimed at understanding more about businesses’ motivations, attitudes and actions taken to comply with WHS regulation. The research has focused on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Queensland and South Australia in the health care and social assistance, construction and manufacturing industries, and on collecting information from jurisdictions on how they seek to influence organisations to comply with WHS laws. A report summarising the findings of this research for SMEs will be published on the Safe Work Australia website in 2016–17.

Excerpt from Activity 4 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Identify new priority issues and undertake and disseminate research including on emerging issues and through implementation of the Research and Evaluation Work Plan 2015–2016.

Work health and safety research

In 2015–16 Safe Work Australia undertook a broad range of research on WHS issues in accordance with the Research and Evaluation Work Plan 2015–16, with eight reports and four research briefs published on the Safe Work Australia website.

Safe Work Australia’s research program includes both short term and long term (greater than one year) projects. Many projects are undertaken in collaboration with academic institutions and WHS regulators.

Perceptions and attitudes

Safe Work Australia undertook a range of projects based on key findings of the Perceptions of Work Health and Safety Survey 2012. A number of reports have been published on the Safe Work Australia website including Mindfulness of work health and safety in the workplace and Sources of work health and safety information in Australian workplaces.

These reports contribute to understanding how WHS learning and information transmission is applied in practice in organisations and suggest ways in which these processes may be improved.

Workplace culture

Workplace culture is now recognised as a key influence on organisations’ WHS outcomes. In 2016, Safe Work Australia formed an expert working group to design a survey to assess and measure aspects of workplace safety culture and identify areas that may be targeted by policy in an effort to reduce the occurrence of work‑related injury and disease. It is anticipated that the survey design process will be completed in the second half of 2016. Subject to Safe Work Australia Members’ approval, the next step will be to pilot the survey.

Hazard exposure and controls

A long-held focus of Safe Work Australia’s research is to develop an understanding of how workers are exposed to hazards in their workplaces and how controls are used to eliminate or minimise the risks these hazards pose to worker health. This is critical evidence for WHS policy makers and practitioners because it is the timeliest information available for preventing the occurrence or exacerbation of disease, particularly diseases of long latency (time between disease-causing exposure and diagnosis of disease), like cancers. A variety of approaches have been taken with this research and a wide range of hazards have been studied including physical, chemical and psychosocial hazards.

In 2015–16 Safe Work Australia undertook a number of projects on hazard exposure and control:

  • National Occupational Hazard and Risk Management Surveillance: Noise, dust, vibration and chemical exposures in Agriculture project measures exposures, observing workers and surveying farmers about their exposure to noise, dust, vibration and phosphine during harvesting and seeding operations on small mixed grain and sheep farms in Western Australia. The results of this study identify areas of concern for WHS policy, particularly around safety inductions, exposure to loud noise and phosphine handling. A report on this project is expected to be published later in 2016. This project was undertaken with Curtin University of Technology.
  • Australian Work Exposure Study project estimates the number of workers who could potentially be exposed to carcinogens (agents that cause cancer) and asthmagens (agents that cause or aggravate asthma) at work (see Feature story - Australian work exposure studies). This project has been undertaken in collaboration with Curtin University of Technology.
  • People at Work project aims to develop a tool that can be used by organisations to identify and manage psychosocial hazards that contribute to the development of mental stress. A final report on the project was received in May 2016 and the tool is currently being developed so it functions as a standalone online resource. Safe Work Australia has been involved in this project for a number of years through an Australian Research Council linkage grant that has now concluded.
  • The Australian Workplace Barometer project monitors workplace psychosocial risk factors and aspects of safety climate that affect worker health and productivity. Two reports from this study will be published in 2016–17: one on the prevalence of workplace bullying and harassment; and one estimating productivity costs through absenteeism and presenteeism as a result of mental health conditions and poor psychosocial safety climate in organisations. Safe Work Australia partnered with a number of organisations to undertake this project including the University of Queensland, the Australian National University and the Queensland University of Technology.

Work health and safety reporting in annual reports

Currently there is a lack of standardised and accepted indicators to measure the WHS performance of organisations and businesses at the organisational level. WHS information can and is being reported on a voluntary basis, however reporting is often selective and inconsistent. This hinders comparisons of WHS performance and due diligence reporting over time and across organisations.

Safe Work Australia has continued to work with the International Governance and Reporting Research Centre at Macquarie University to improve the reporting of WHS.

Safe Work Australia has published a series of research papers that will inform the development of a standardised set of indicators businesses can use in annual reports.

Feature story - Australian Work Exposure Studies (AWES)

An important focus of the research undertaken by Safe Work Australia is developing our understanding of workers’ exposures to disease-causing hazards in workplaces especially those diseases that only show up decades later.

Collecting hazard exposure information by direct measurement in workplaces is very costly and has limited application generally. Instead, Safe Work Australia has sought to obtain a general understanding of hazard exposure through broader surveys of workers.

The Australian AWES uses tailored surveys that enable the researchers to explore how workers undertake specific jobs and tasks and then infer potential exposures using an expert assessment tool called OccIDEAS. The first AWES project began in 2011 and investigated self-reported work-related exposures to 38 known or suspected carcinogens among Australian workers. Through the tool researchers can investigate the types of controls being used in the workplace compared with those required by WHS laws or recommended in Codes of Practice or other guidance aimed at reducing exposure through eliminating some agents or work practices, substituting them with safer alternatives, or better use of engineering and lower order controls.

The research was led by Dr Lin Fritschi (now at the Curtin University of Technology) and was funded through a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) grant. A second AWES project commenced in 2014 to study exposure to agents that cause or aggravate asthma (asthmagens). This project was a NHRMC Partnership Project with co-funding from Safe Work Australia and others.

The AWES research has generated information to inform WHS policy. Much of the information has been published in peer-reviewed journals and includes carcinogen exposure prevalence estimates, exposures to specific carcinogens and exposures within specific groups of workers. The asthmagens research has helped to identify groups of asthmagens relevant to Australian workplaces.

Safe Work Australia has commissioned research that used the AWES data to examine exposures to specific carcinogens and exposures to carcinogens within the priority industries of agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. The focus of these studies has been on identifying the types of tasks or jobs where exposures have occurred, and describing the controls being used when those tasks are undertaken.

A further report examining the future burden of cancer and the impact WHS interventions might have on reducing future cancer cases is expected to be published later in 2016. This work will be extended in 2016–17 to develop a process to estimate the burden of work-related asthma.

Australian Strategy priority industries and disorders

The Australian Strategy identifies industries and disorders that require priority attention for prevention activities in order to achieve WHS outcome targets. Safe Work Australia’s research activities are heavily influenced by these priorities and are designed to identify issues and to inform and respond to policy needs in these areas.

Priority industry research in 2015–16 has included the publication of a report synthesising information from a variety of data sources in the transport industry. Work also commenced on a project examining factors affecting the selection and use of controls to prevent falls from height. This project is expected to be completed in 2017.

Research activities in 2015–16 have touched on nearly all the priority disorders identified in the Australian Strategy including musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, cancers and asthma. An example of research with a specific priority disorder focus in 2015–16 is a critical review of the effectiveness of interventions to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in non-office workers. A report on this research is expected to be available in 2016–17. The AWES research on carcinogens is also being used to estimate the burden of cancer associated with work-related carcinogen exposure (see see Feature story - Australian work exposure studies).

Evaluation of the emerging issues pilot program

Safe Work Australia continued its pilot program to identify, prioritise and analyse emerging WHS issues by formalising it into an ongoing program using a threephase methodology:

  • Identification: initial assessment and prioritisation against agreed criteria
  • Analysis: detailed analysis of the issue and recommendations
  • Action: Safe Work Australia Members consider report and recommendations and decide whether and what action is required.

The two issues considered in 2014–15 (‘at risk’ migrant workers and sedentary work practices) progressed to analysis and action, with the findings outlined below. Safe Work Australia is currently considering two new issues under the program: working in heat and older workers in physically demanding jobs. Further intelligence gathering on emerging WHS issues is planned via a foresight study to commence later in 2016.

‘At risk’ migrant workers

afe Work Australia developed an action plan to address concerns about reported exploitation of some categories of migrant workers, particularly those whose temporary visa status made them particularly vulnerable to unsafe working conditions. The first step was to provide migrant workers with information about their WHS and workers’ compensation rights. A short information sheet was published in May 2016. Safe Work Australia intends to work with community organisations, industry, employers, unions and other stakeholders to improve information for migrant workers and their employers. The agency will work with other Australian Government agencies with a connection with migrants to address information gaps and inform other compliance activities.

Sedentary work

Sedentary work (prolonged unbroken sitting time while at work) is a subset of sedentariness which is defined as ‘any waking behaviour characterised by an energy expenditure ≤1.5 metabolic equivalent of task (METs), i.e. the energy expended for an activity while in a sitting or reclining posture’. It is conceptually different from ‘physical inactivity’, which is the lack of sufficient moderate/ vigorous intensity physical activity. Safe Work Australia commissioned a literature review on sedentary work from Curtin University, the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and the University of Queensland. The report Sedentary work: Evidence on an emergent work health and safety issue was published on the Safe Work Australia website in March 2016 (see Feature story - Emerging work health and safety issue: sedentary work).

Outlook for 2016–17

Research and evaluation activities are outlined in the Safe Work Australia Evidence Work Plan. The agency will work with Safe Work Australia Members to redefine the framework for research and evaluation activities and set new priorities for future research.

Safe Work Australia will conduct, or be involved in, a range of research including: exploring the factors influencing the selection and use of controls to prevent falls from height in the Construction industry and WHS issues for the ageing workforce. Safe Work Australia will also explore existing longitudinal data sets to determine the impact of hazards and preexisting conditions on WHS outcomes, early retirement, productivity loss and return to work.

Feature story - Emerging work health and safety issue: sedentary work

Prolonged exposure to sedentariness is associated with significant negative health outcomes, such as musculoskeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, some cancers, and premature mortality.

While exposure to sedentariness can take place in transport, leisure and domestic domains, it is also common in Australian workplaces. The authors of the report Sedentary work: Evidence on an emergent work health and safety issue found the harm associated with occupational sedentariness is likely due to insufficient dynamic muscle activity, energy expenditure and movement, lack of postural variety and reduced gravitational resistance. While there is no clear definition of excessive occupational sedentariness, sitting for longer than 30 minutes without a mini-break, and sitting all day at work (i.e. being ‘too busy’ to take a break) are likely to be detrimental to health. The report was published on the Safe Work Australia website in March 2016.

Safe Work Australia’s Principles of Good Work Design handbook provides 10 useful principles to achieve good design of work and work processes to help reduce prolonged sedentariness. Multi-component interventions targeting multiple elements of work systems appear to have been most successful as assessed so far, albeit largely assessed in office work environments. In essence, employers and workers should aim for small and frequent changes from sitting as much as possible and less time sitting in total. There are many inexpensive design options that reduce prolonged sitting at work, providing opportunities to increase incidental exercise. Some suggestions include:

  • Encouraging staff to stand during meetings.
  • Providing reading rooms with lecterns so employees can stand to read their books or electronic devices.
  • Providing non-slip anti-fatigue flooring or mats to encourage standing.
  • Building lunch rooms with standing-height benches as well as more traditional options.
  • Making stairways between floors light and airy so employees are more likely to use them.
  • Providing well-lit lockable bike cages and cycling friendly premises, including showers, lockers and change facilities.

Safe Work Australia is now considering blue collar workers exposed to sedentary work, and is also engaging in further research to provide tools to help employers and employees to manage this complex hazard.

Data and analysis

Safe Work Australia plays a key role in developing evidence-informed policy through the compilation and analysis of three key national data collections: the National Data Set for Compensationbased Statistics (NDS); the Traumatic Injury Fatalities (TIF) collection and the Comparative Performance Monitoring (CPM) program. The collections have a variety of data sources including administrative data provided by jurisdictions, fatality data from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) and employment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In addition to the three main data collections, Safe Work Australia accesses other relevant data sources to supplement and augment current knowledge of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities. These data sources include disease and injury statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, information on mesothelioma from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry, and survey-based data on work-related injuries from the ABS.

Data and analysis activities were undertaken in accordance with the Data and Analysis Work Plan 2015–16 with key activities including the maintenance and progressive development of data collections, the delivery of a statistics enquiry service, and the production of a suite of statistical publications.

Excerpt from Activity 3 of the 2015–2016 Operational Plan

Collect, maintain, improve and report on national WHS and workers’ compensation data through implementation of the Data and Analysis Work Plan 2015–2016.

Data collections

The National Dataset for Compensation-based Statistics

The overall objective of the NDS is to assist in the prevention of occupational injury and disease by producing uniform national and nationally comparable indicators of WHS performance and experience. In 2017 the NDS data collection will have been in operation for 30 years and, despite two revisions to the data collection framework, provides an unparalleled time series of information on work-related injuries in Australia.

The NDS is compiled annually from administrative data associated with workers’ compensation claims made under workers’ compensation laws. NDS data have an approximate two‑year lag-time due to the time needed to process claims and code and compile a national data set. Therefore, in 2015–16, the latest available NDS data were for claims lodged in 2013–14.

Fatality data collections

Safe Work Australia collects information on work-related traumatic injury fatalities from the following sources:

  • The Fatality Media Collection (FMC), to obtain a current, although preliminary, count of work-related fatalities. Updates on media-reported work‑related fatalities are published regularly on the Safe Work Australia website.
  • The NDS, which holds information on compensated fatalities resulting from injuries.
  • The Notifiable Fatality Collection (NFC) based on fatality notifications from WHS jurisdictions. This data is published on a monthly basis in the Notifiable Fatality report.
  • The NCIS, which includes records of all unexpected fatalities in Australia.
  • The quad bike fatality data collection, a component of QuadWatch, which draws data from media reports and information from jurisdictions.

The data from the FMC, NDS, NFC and NCIS are integrated into one overarching data collection—the Traumatic Injury Fatalities (TIF) collection. Combining the data sets is critical as it ensures Safe Work Australia identifies uncompensated fatalities, those that occur on roads and those of bystanders to someone else’s work activity. As a result, the TIF collection is the most comprehensive and accurate source of work-related injury fatalities in Australia. Reports based on these collections are available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Comparative Performance Monitoring

Safe Work Australia maintains a data collection and reporting program that compares the performance of WHS and workers’ compensation schemes in Australia and New Zealand. The CPM program was established in 1998 and is supported by a Data Providers Network involving representatives from Australian jurisdictional authorities and New Zealand. The CPM collection is complemented by the NDS and TIF collections.

The CPM program produces an annual report containing the latest NDS data and jurisdictional performance against agreed indicators. The 17th edition of the CPM report was published in October 2015. This edition includes the first measurements of progress against the Australian Strategy.

In 2015–16 a review of the CPM program was completed and 19 recommendations were made. This review followed substantial changes to WHS and workers’ compensation arrangements across jurisdictions over recent years. The recommendations will be implemented between 2015–16 and 2018–19.

The CPM is complemented by two Safe Work Australia publications that provide important reference information. These are the Comparison of Workers’ Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand report and Measuring progress towards targets – reducing the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness. The former report provides information on the operation of workers’ compensation schemes in each of the Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand. This report is a valuable resource and essential guide for anyone working in the workers’ compensation field. The latter publication was produced to accompany the Australian Strategy and the CPM. It outlines how the Australian Strategy targets were determined and how the targets will be measured into the future.

Statistical enquiries service

Through its statistical enquiries service, Safe Work Australia responded to over 400 enquiries in 2015–16 from a range of stakeholders. Most enquiries are answered with customised responses within three days. The service enables Safe Work Australia to make its statistical assets and resources available to all with an interest in WHS and workers’ compensation.

Key reports in 2015–16

Four major statistical reports were published during 2015–16:

  • Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2013–14 provides a summary of statistics for non-fatal workers’ compensation claims by key employment and demographic characteristics. The report also included a special focus on serious claims that involved ladders and comparisons of serious claims between blue collar and white collar employees (see Feature story - Injuries and fatalities involving ladders).
  • Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2014 provides comprehensive statistics on workrelated traumatic injury fatalities in Australia, including both workers and bystanders. Information for this report was sourced from the TIF collection.
  • Work-related mental disorders profile 2015 provides a concise and factual statistical profile of mental disorders as compensated by Australian workers’ compensation schemes.
  • 2015 Comparative Performance Monitoring Report (CPM) (17th edition) provides a comparison of WHS outcomes and workers’ compensation scheme performance across jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand in 2013–14. It also reports on the first measurements against the targets in the Australian Strategy.
Australian Mesothelioma Registry

In 2015–16, Safe Work Australia continued its active role on the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) management committee. The AMR collects information on all new cases of mesothelioma and the occupational and environmental exposure to asbestos in individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma. The AMR is managed by the Cancer Institute NSW under a contract with Safe Work Australia. The Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (MonCOEH) plays a key role in collecting and analysing the asbestos exposure information.

The data collected by the AMR is reported in the annual Mesothelioma in Australia report. The 2015 report is expected to be published in September 2016.

In January 2016 Safe Work Australia commissioned an independent review designed to evaluate the AMR’s success in achieving its objectives and ensuring effectiveness, efficiency and value for money. The review was informed by extensive consultations with key stakeholders and the outcomes are expected to be presented to Safe Work Australia Members in August 2016.

National Return to Work Survey

Safe Work Australia manages the National Return to Work Survey which is conducted biennially. This survey collects information via interviews from over 4000 injured workers with a workers’ compensation claim from Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand (excluding the ACT). The survey is co-funded by Safe Work Australia and participating jurisdictions.

The third survey was conducted in April 2016. A high-level summary of previous survey results is available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Safe Work Australia is preparing a series of reports and factsheets examining the relationship between certain variables and return to work outcomes from the 2013 and 2014 survey results. Results from the third survey conducted in 2016 will be analysed and further reports may be produced.

Outlook for 2016–17

Safe Work Australia will continue to support policy development by developing and publishing themed, issues-based data and analysis reports which combine research and other evidence gathering. Safe Work Australia will also enhance its capability and capacity to disseminate evidence more effectively and efficiently by better engaging with audiences and by using contemporary technologies to make data more readily available.

Feature story - Injuries and fatalities involving ladders

During 2015–16, Safe Work Australia responded to a large number of enquiries regarding the involvement of ladders in workplace incidents. This interest is justified given that incidents involving ladders account for around 1.5 per cent of all serious workers’ compensation claims and five workers are killed as a result of falling from ladders every year. Workers’ compensation and fatalities data show no consistent improvement in ladder-related incidents over the past 10 years or more.

Ladders are used in a variety of work-related settings but the injuries and fatalities are concentrated in two main occupations and one main industry. Technicians and trades workers and labourers accounted for 68 per cent of ladder-related serious workers’ compensation claims over the five years to 2013–14. The frequency rates of their claims (29.5 and 28.8 claims per 100 million hours worked respectively) were about five times greater than the national average (5.9 serious claims per 100 million hours worked). Not surprisingly, between 2003 and 2014, over half (30) of the 54 workers whose death involved a ladder, worked in the construction industry.

Most injuries and fatalities associated with ladders occur due to falls, trips and slips of the worker. Workers tend to injure their knee, back or ankle and more than a quarter of all serious workers’ compensation claims involving ladders are for a fracture. Serious workers’ compensation claims involving ladders resulted in a median time lost from work of 7.2 working weeks—33 per cent higher than the median time lost associated with all serious workers’ compensation claims.

Older workers have higher rates of serious workers’ compensation claims for ladder-related incidents than younger workers. For example, over the five years to 2013–14, employees aged 60–64 years were twice as likely to make a serious workers’ compensation claim as 25–29 year olds (15.5 versus 7.5 serious claims per 100 million hours worked). This is an area of concern given that the proportion of Australian workers aged over 60 years has doubled from 3.9 per cent of the workforce in 2001 to 7.8 per cent in 2014.

Ladders are a longstanding workplace hazard and Safe Work Australia continues to take a variety of approaches to address it. In 2015 Safe Work Australia republished the Model Code of Practice Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces, which includes a chapter specifically on the use of ladders. Safe Work Australia is undertaking research on factors influencing the selection and use of controls to prevent falls from height in the construction industry This project is expected to be completed in mid-2017.

For more information see Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics, 2013–14 available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Strategy 4 - Improve and reform work health and safety laws in Australia to provide a consistent, equitable, effective and high level of protection to all workers

Highlights

  • Finalised the COAG report Improving the model Work Health and Safety Laws and published updated model WHS laws
  • Commenced a review of the model WHS Regulations for diving
  • Undertook public consultation on the role of workplace exposure standards in WHS laws
  • Undertook public consultation for proposed amendments to WHS requirements for inorganic lead

Implementation of the model work health and safety laws

The model WHS laws have now been in place for four and a half years in five jurisdictions and three and a half in a further two jurisdictions, with coverage of the majority of workers in Australia. Safe Work Australia has continued to monitor the implementation of model WHS laws and resolve interpretation issues and workability as they arise.

Western Australia is taking steps to align its WHS laws with the model WHS laws with some modifications to suit their jurisdiction. On 1 June 2016, the Western Australian government released a discussion paper to seek views on proposed variations to the model WHS Regulations for adoption in the state. Victoria has maintained its existing Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

Examination of the model work health and safety laws

In May 2014, COAG asked WHS ministers to examine ways to improve the model WHS laws with a particular focus on reducing regulatory burden. The agency assisted WHS ministers by drafting the COAG report Improving the model Work Health and Safety Laws (the COAG report) and an accompanying Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS). The COAG report and Decision RIS formed the basis for the amendments to the model WHS laws that were published in mid-2016.

In drafting the COAG report, WHS ministers tasked the agency with reviewing the model WHS Regulations separately to identify opportunities to reduce regulatory burden to businesses. In 2016, Safe Work Australia finalised the report and Decision RIS Reducing regulatory burden in the model Work Health and Safety Regulations which identifies proposed amendments to the model WHS Regulations. The proposed amendments have been provided to WHS ministers for consideration. The agency will progress drafting any approved amendments to the model WHS Regulations where agreed by WHS ministers.

Review of model WHS Regulations for diving work

In 2015, Safe Work Australia commenced a review of the model WHS Regulations for diving work. The review aims to ensure the model WHS laws for diving work improve safety outcomes without imposing unnecessary compliance burden on businesses working in this industry.

To help inform the review and the development of a RIS, Safe Work Australia sent a questionnaire to diving representatives in October 2015. Thirty responses were received from a range of recreational businesses as well as government, commercial, research and education organisations and associations.

Safe Work Australia has met with diving representatives and WHS regulators to consult on options to address the problems that have been identified with the current model WHS Regulations for diving work. These options will be included in a Consultation RIS which is expected to be released for public consultation in the second half of 2016.

Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants

In November 2015, Safe Work Australia published a discussion paper and sought public comment on the role of workplace exposure standards in WHS laws. Exposure standards are legal limits of airborne chemicals that must not be exceeded. Under the model WHS Regulations there are 644 exposure standards.

Forty-six submissions were received on the use of exposure standards, the impacts of compliance, their role in the regulatory framework and how they can best be reviewed and maintained. The agency has commenced a review of the mandated exposure standards to inform the preparation of a Consultation RIS for public comment in 2017.

Work health and safety requirements for inorganic lead

In December 2015 and January 2016 Safe Work Australia sought public comment on proposed amendments to WHS requirements for inorganic lead. Scientific evidence suggests that current legislated blood lead levels and workplace exposure standards for inorganic lead do not adequately protect worker health. Thirty submissions were received from industry, unions, WHS regulators and others. The submissions will inform possible changes to the legislation for blood lead levels and workplace exposure standards for inorganic lead (see Feature story - Managing the risks associated with lead in the workplace).

Submissions are available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Excerpt from Activity 5 of the 2015–6 Operational Plan

Monitor, evaluate and improve the model WHS laws to improve safety outcomes, address issues impeding the effective and efficient operation of the laws and remove unnecessary over-regulation.

Codes and guidance material

Safe Work Australia is working to ensure that supporting material for the model WHS laws is clear and practical and that all sectors of business including small business are considered, without compromising safety standards or imposing additional regulatory burden.

In April 2015, Safe Work Australia Members agreed to the ongoing development and review of material to support the model WHS laws. Published supporting material will be reviewed every five years from its publication date, or sooner if there are changes in legislation or work practices relevant to the materials.

Supporting small businesses to comply with WHS laws and assisting them to improve their WHS outcomes is progressing through many of Safe Work Australia’s activities and in the jurisdictions through Safe Work Australia Members. This includes developing practical guidance material and other resources and understanding small business perceptions of regulatory burden and costs through the research and evaluation work described under Strategy 3.

In order to comply with the Australian Government’s mandatory accessibility requirements accessible Word and PDF versions of all 23 model Codes of Practice have been re-published on the Safe Work Australia website.

Safe Work Australia developed an information sheet to assist with minimising any perceived misconceptions about the role and status of Australian or joint Australian/New Zealand Standards referenced in model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice. The information sheet provides general guidance on the role of Australian Standards and their relationship to the model WHS laws, in particular that only when standards are mandated in the law is compliance with them required. The information sheet will be published in mid-2016.

Safe Work Australia has also developed guidance on managing risks in the stevedoring industry. These guidelines have been submitted to WHS ministers to consider whether they should be a model Code of Practice.

Other guidance materials published on the Safe Work Australia website were:

  • Handling isocyanates
  • Managing risks of exposure to solvents in the workplace
  • Workplace vibration
  • Incident notification
  • Split rims
  • High risk work licensing
  • Cranes
  • Managing the risks of machinery in rural workplaces
  • Managing the risks of diesel exhaust
  • Construction work – steel erection
  • Safe work on roofs
  • Labelling requirements for agricultural and veterinary (AgVet) chemicals
  • Managing risks associated with quad bikes
  • Managing risks when unpacking shipping containers
  • Managing risks associated with the use of compressed air in the workplace
  • Working safely in Australia
  • GHS requirements

Excerpt from Activity 6 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Facilitate the development of accessible, effective and practical material to aid understanding and compliance; minimise regulatory cost; and support improved WHS outcomes, particularly for small business and individuals.

Outlook for 2016–17

Safe Work Australia will continue to improve and reform the model WHS laws to provide a consistent, equitable, effective and high level of protection to all workers.

Safe Work Australia will amend the model WHS Regulations in line with decisions of WHS ministers following their consideration of the RIS Reducing regulatory burden in the model Work Health and Safety Regulations.

A comprehensive review of workplace exposure standards is underway with the outcome of the independent technical review of all 644 standards due by mid-2017. This will inform the development of a Consultation RIS for updating workplace exposure standards to ensure they are consistent with international best practice.

Safe Work Australia will commence a 5-year review of the model Codes of Practice.

New material developed will continue to be relevant, clear and practical. Consideration will also be given to the most appropriate communication products for the materials and the methods for disseminating them to target audiences.

Feature story - Managing the risks associated with lead in the workplace

The requirements for controlling exposure to lead in the workplace under the model WHS laws include general duties to identify hazards, apply the hierarchy of control and undertake air monitoring. Specific requirements include health monitoring, reporting removal from lead risk work and hygiene controls applied to lead risk work.

A Safe Work Australia commissioned report into the health effects of lead exposure found that the currently legislated blood lead level for lead and the workplace exposure level for airborne lead dusts and fumes may not adequately protect all workers. The report recommended that the model WHS Regulations be updated to ensure lead-risk workers are protected from the range of health hazards of lead.

As part of best practice regulation processes, Safe Work Australia conducted a public comment process via the release of a Consultation RIS and targeted interviews with key stakeholders in December 2015 to February 2016. The purpose of this consultation was to gauge accurately the extent of the problem and to identify the options for regulatory reform to be considered. Specifically, feedback was sought on proposed amendments to laws to improve WHS, including on the permitted levels of lead in workers’ blood and lead concentrations in the air; and the likely cost and impact on businesses any changes might have. Information was also sought on current practices, control measures and costs, primary sources and routes of exposure.

The Consultation RIS process received 30 submissions. Submissions ranged from individuals with experience in lead risk work and companies undertaking lead processes to regulators, jurisdictional health departments, union, industry and expert representatives and the Australian Government. Targeted interviews with key stakeholders were conducted to clarify data submitted and assist in developing a cost benefit analysis for changing the blood lead levels and workplace exposure standard for lead.

The overall consultation process was used to identify, inform and shape the preferred options for regulatory control of lead in the workplace using biological and air monitoring. Safe Work Australia is now using this information to draft a Decision RIS, which includes a cost benefit analysis, and outlines the preferred course of action for managing the risks associated with exposure to lead in the workplace. The Decision RIS is expected to be presented to WHS ministers for consideration in 2016–17.

Strategy 5 - Promote consistent approaches and improved knowledge, skills and capabilities for managing health and safety hazards and risks

Highlights

  • Published a hazardous chemical database that aligns with the implementation of the GHS in Australia
  • Continued to engage with key stakeholders to address issues identified with National Assessment Instruments
  • Translated high risk work units of competency into the new VETendorsed units of competency

Hazardous chemicals

Workplace hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures and articles used in the workplace that pose health or physicochemical hazards. They include poisons, carcinogens, flammable liquids and explosives. Under the model WHS Regulations, a new system of chemical classification and hazard communication called the GHS—the Globally Harmonised System for the classification and labelling of chemicals—will be mandatory from 1 January 2017.

Safe Work Australia has published a new hazardous chemical database that aligns with the implementation of the GHS in Australia. Safe Work Australia’s database of hazardous chemicals helps reduce costs for businesses implementing the GHS by making GHS-compatible hazard information for over 6,000 chemicals readily available.

Safe Work Australia has published a suite of comprehensive hazardous chemical frequently asked questions (FAQs) in partnership with WHS regulators. These FAQs provide practical guidance for all businesses handling hazardous chemicals, including importers, manufacturers, suppliers and end users and provide answers to commonly asked questions about:

  • preparing safety data sheets and labels
  • classifying hazardous chemicals
  • prohibited and restricted hazardous chemicals, and
  • managing the risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

High risk work licensing

The model WHS Regulations identify 29 types of high risk work (HRW) activities that require a licence. A risk based tool has been developed to assist policy makers assess whether a work activity is high risk and should be considered for a licensing regulatory intervention as part of controlling the risk of injury or death. To ensure that workers are trained and competent to undertake HRW in workplaces, Safe Work Australia endorses the units of competency against which candidates are trained and the national assessment instruments (NAIs) that must be used by accredited assessors to assess a candidate’s competency (see Feature story - Maintaining a national high risk work licensing system).

Safe Work Australia continued its ongoing management role of the NAIs by addressing issues raised about the application of the NAIs and clarifying intent through a collaborative consultation process with Safe Work Australia Members and engagement with Skills Service Organisations where necessary.

High risk plant

The model WHS Regulations include registration arrangements for high risk plant to ensure this type of equipment is designed to minimise the risk of injury or death. Manufacturers and suppliers of high risk plant register design details with WHS regulators.

As for HRW, a similar tool has been developed to assist policy makers determine whether an item of plant is sufficiently high risk to warrant design registration.

During 2015–16 Safe Work Australia developed and updated guidance material relating to cranes, split rim tyres, compressed air and plant used in rural workplaces including quad bikes.

Excerpt from Activity 5 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Monitor, evaluate and improve the model WHS laws to improve safety outcomes, address issues impeding the effective and efficient operation of the laws and remove unnecessary over-regulation.

Outlook for 2016–17

Safe Work Australia will continue to promote consistent approaches and improved knowledge, skills and capabilities for managing health and safety hazards and risks.

Safe Work Australia will continue to update the database of hazardous chemicals to reflect the outcomes of assessments undertaken by the National Industrial Chemicals and Assessment Scheme and the European Union.

Guidance material will continue to be developed and published to improve managing the risks of hazardous chemicals. A guide on storage of hazardous chemicals is being developed, as well as revisions to guidance for health monitoring.

Safe Work Australia will review the HRW NAI as part of a continuous improvement strategy to ensure they reflect contemporary safe work practices.

Feature story - Maintaining a national high risk work licensing system

Safe Work Australia plays an integral role in ensuring that HRW licensing arrangements remain nationally consistent and relevant to ensure that workers are competent to undertake HRW in workplaces, for example the operation of cranes, forklifts, material hoists, boiler operations, dogging and rigging. The requirement for a licence to perform HRW recognises there are specific industry hazards and conditions that should be considered when undertaking this type of work.

Under the model WHS Regulations there are 29 types of HRW activities for which workers need a licence before they are deemed competent to perform this work in their workplace. These licenses are issued by WHS regulators in each state and territory. Regulators rely on the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector for the delivery of training and then apply a further competency test, specific to HRW licensing activities. This competency test is undertaken using the NAI. All candidates must pass this test before being eligible for a HRW licence.

The use of NAIs ensures that a candidate is competent to perform the HRW activity in any state or territory in Australia through mutual recognition.

Ensuring that the NAIs remain current and reflect new practices is an ongoing process. While there is a scheduled formal review cycle (next review cycle is scheduled for 2016–17) Safe Work Australia continues to address identified issues and ensure the technical accuracy of the NAIs. This involves engaging with WHS regulators, industry associations and technical specialists.

In a further effort to streamline HRW licensing and assessment requirements into relevant training, Safe Work Australia continued to engage with the former Industry Skills Councils (up to 1 January 2016) to help translate the 29 HRW units of competency (UoC) into the new VET-endorsed UoC as a part of the COAG training package reforms. These were partially completed (16 of the 29 UoC completed) due to limitations of the Industry Skills Councils at the time. It is anticipated that the remaining UoC will be completed under the new VET sector arrangements by the end of 2016.

Strategy 6 - Identify opportunities to improve workers’ compensation arrangements

Highlights

  • Developed template National Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment
  • Commissioned the third National Return to Work Survey

In 2015–16, Safe Work Australia undertook a program of work to improve workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia including in the areas of permanent impairment and return to work.

Assessment of permanent impairment

Safe Work Australia has been working to implement nationally consistent arrangements for the assessment of permanent impairment resulting from an injury or disease within the context of workers’ compensation. This work was requested by WHS ministers and the scope was endorsed by Safe Work Australia Members.

Safe Work Australia developed template National Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment in December 2014. Since that time, Safe Work Australia has developed supporting materials for use by government workers’ compensation authorities which adopt the template National Guidelines, including the development of a training package for jurisdictions to use when training permanent impairment assessors (see Feature story - National consistency in the assessment of permanent impairment for workers’ compensation purposes).

Return to work

Safe Work Australia uses data from the National Return to Work survey to prepare reports and factsheets.

Safe Work Australia is examining the relationship between certain variables and return to work outcomes from the 2013 and 2014 survey results. Factsheets examining the return to work of people with a psychological injury claim will be published in 2016–17. A report will also be published in 2016–17 which examines how differences in age can impact the experiences of injured workers in the workers’ compensation claim process, their health and recovery and in returning to work.

Safe Work Australia will consider preparing additional reports examining the relationship between certain variables and return to work outcomes from the 2013, 2014 and 2016 survey results.

Excerpt from Activity 7 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Improve consistency in workers’ compensation arrangements through implementation of the Workers’ Compensation Work Plan 2015–16.

Outlook for 2016–17

Safe Work Australia will work on a series of projects aimed at improving return to work outcomes of injured workers. Safe Work Australia will continue developing a best practice framework for claims management of psychological injuries. It will also complete a project on supporting general practitioners to achieve better health and return to work outcomes.

Safe Work Australia will investigate making de-identified data from the National Return to Work Survey available through the Australian Data Archive.

Safe Work Australia will continue to co‑fund an Institute of Safety Compensation and Recovery Research study with WorkSafe Victoria over three years, to examine the impact of workers’ compensation system policy and practice on return to work in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Compensation Policy and Return to Work Effectiveness (ComPARE) Project is scheduled to finish in early 2018.

Safe Work Australia will have an ongoing role in relation to permanent impairment to ensure the Template National Guidelines and the National Permanent Impairment Assessor’s Training Package are maintained and updated. This process will be facilitated by the National Permanent Impairment Co-ordinating Committee, which will be convened in 2016–17.

Feature story - National consistency in the assessment of permanent impairment for workers’ compensation purposes

When a person sustains an injury they may not always completely recover, resulting in a permanent impairment.

In late-2014, Safe Work Australia Members endorsed template National Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. These Guidelines are used to assess the degree of permanent impairment arising from an injury or disease within the context of workers’ compensation.

The Guidelines were developed through a national process facilitated by Safe Work Australia. The Guidelines are available for adoption and use by government workers’ compensation authorities. To date, New South Wales and Queensland have adopted the Guidelines and other workers’ compensation authorities have indicated their intention to adopt the Guidelines in the near future.

In November 2015, Safe Work Australia completed a project to develop a National Permanent Impairment Assessor Training Package for use by governments that adopt the Guidelines. The aim is to provide an accepted standard of training and competency based assessment to ensure that assessors are competent in conducting accurate and consistent permanent impairment assessments of injured workers. The Queensland workers’ compensation authority is conducting a pilot of the training package in mid-2016. Necessary revisions will be made to the training package following the pilot.

Safe Work Australia plans to convene the National Permanent Impairment Coordinating Committee in late-2016. This is a new Committee established to provide a national approach to maintaining and updating the Guidelines and the training package. Under the national approach, Safe Work Australia will maintain a register of medical, legal and other issues raised by its members and provide a national forum to periodically review and update the Guidelines and training package.

Strategy 7 - Develop nationally consistent explosives regulation

Highlights

  • Released the Explosives Regulation in Australia: Discussion Paper and Consultation RIS for public consultation

Nationally consistent explosives framework

Each jurisdiction has its own system for regulating the lawful use, manufacture, supply, storage, import/export and transport of commercial explosives in Australia. The need for a nationally consistent explosives framework where there are clear benefits to be derived was recognised and approved by COAG. In March 2015 COAG senior officials agreed WHS ministers take forward work on nationally consistent explosives regulation. Ministers asked Safe Work Australia to undertake this work on their behalf.

In July 2015, Safe Work Australia released for public comment the Explosives Regulation in Australia: Discussion paper and Consultation Regulation Impact Statement. The purpose of the public comment process was to gather information about any issues that differences in state and territory explosives legislation may raise for businesses in the explosives industry and members of the public. As part of this information gathering, Safe Work Australia also consulted specifically with businesses and jurisdictional explosives regulators on their experience of explosives legislation.

Further, Safe Work Australia conducted a targeted consultation process with businesses, industry groups and regulators to gather information on possible implementation options for reforms to explosives regulations. The information and evidence gathered through these consultation activities has informed the development of the Explosives Regulation in Australia: Decision Regulation Impact Statement (Decision RIS).

The Decision RIS explores the potential options, costs and benefits of pursuing national consistency in explosives regulation and will present the preferred option which delivers the greatest net benefit to the community. Reforms to explosives regulation may deliver benefits to the explosives industry such as lower compliance costs and reduced regulatory burden. The Decision RIS is expected to be provided to WHS ministers for consideration in mid-2016.

Safe Work Australia provided secretariat services and a central contact point for the Australian Forum of Explosives Regulators during 2015–16.

Outlook for 2016–17

Pending a decision by WHS ministers, Safe Work Australia will continue to lead the development of reforms to explosives regulation.

Excerpt from Activity 8 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Develop policy proposals that will lead to nationally consistent explosives regulation.

Strategy 8 - Cooperate and share information, expertise and experience with international organisations

Highlights

  • Participated on Singapore’s International Advisory Panel on Workplace Safety and Health
  • Represented Australia on the G20 Occupational Safety and Health Experts Network
  • Hosted two delegations from Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Council
  • Attended the 8th International Conference on OSH in Istanbul

International liaison and engagement

Safe Work Australia liaises with other countries and international organisations on WHS and workers’ compensation matters, including representing Australia as appropriate.

In September 2015, Safe Work Australia strengthened its relationship in the Asia- Pacific, with Ms Michelle Baxter, Chief Executive Officer, becoming a member of Singapore’s International Advisory Panel on Workplace Safety and Health (IAP). As a member of the IAP, Ms Baxter shares expertise and approaches to managing WHS challenges.

Ms Baxter is also Australia’s representative on the G20 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Experts Network which contributes to the improvement of communication, coordination and information sharing between G20 countries on OSH in line with Ministerial Declaration and Leader expectations.

Safe Work Australia continues to lead the Australian delegation to the United Nations (UN) Subcommittee of Experts on the GHS, and a representative from Safe Work Australia attended GHS discussions in Geneva in December 2015.

Safe Work Australia hosted two delegations from Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Council in October 2015 and February 2016.

Ms Baxter attended the 8th International Conference on OSH held in Istanbul, Turkey from 8–10 May 2016. Ms Baxter participated in a side event round table meeting with her colleagues on the G20 OSH Experts Network. The meeting focused on OSH sustainability in a changing world of work, the efficacy of the G20 OSH Experts Network itself, and progress in promoting OSH in line with the commitments made by G20 Leaders (see Feature story - G20 statement on safe and healthy workplaces).

International comparison

The corporate plan states that Australia seeks to become a world leader in the delivery of improved safety and compensation claims.

Safe Work Australia has commenced a construction industry pilot project to trial a methodology to identify potential best practice international WHS approaches with possible application in Australia. Once the pilot is complete it is expected the methodology will be applied to the remaining priority industries. The ultimate targeted deliverable will be an overview of strategies and initiatives that have been successful in other countries that can be used to inform Australian WHS authorities in designing appropriate WHS measures and interventions for their jurisdiction.

Outlook for 2016–17

Safe Work Australia will continue to liaise and collaborate with other countries and international organisations on WHS and workers’ compensation matters.

This includes contributing to the ILO’s OSH Global Action for Prevention through Safe Work Australia’s membership on the G20 OSH Experts Network and contributing to the improvement of communication, coordination and information sharing between G20 countries on OSH.

Australia will host the 33rd International Congress on Occupational Health (ICOH) in Melbourne in 2021. Safe Work Australia is actively contributing in planning the Congress through representation on the Organising and Scientific Committees.

In August 2016, Ms Baxter will travel to Singapore to attend a meeting of Singapore’s IAP. Ms Baxter will moderate a symposium on ‘Work Ability and Fitness for Work—the way forward’ at the Workplace Safety and Health Conference 2016 which runs concurrently with the IAP meeting.

Excerpt from Activity 9 of the 2015–16 Operational Plan

Liaise with other countries or international organisations on WHS and workers’ compensation matters, including representing Australia as appropriate.

Feature story - G20 statement on safe and healthy workplaces

In 2014, G20 Labour and Employment Ministers adopted the G20 statement on safe and healthy workplaces, in which the leaders committed to take measures in 10 areas to improve occupational safety and health (OSH) in G20 member countries and to collaborate on initiatives to improve OSH more broadly.

Australia is a signatory to the G20 Statement on Safer and Healthier Workplaces. The 10 areas of improvement relate to:

  • ensuring safety and health agencies are responsive to the needs of workers and employers
  • strengthening legislation, resourcing, prevention, training, compliance and enforcement efforts
  • improving data collection
  • supporting vulnerable workers and those in high-risk sectors
  • awareness-raising
  • sharing best practice internationally
  • sharing technologies and coordinating technical cooperation
  • partnering with the ILO to improve global efforts
  • engaging closely with social partners, and
  • promoting responsible business practices.

In 2014, Ms Baxter represented Australia at meetings of the G20 Employment Working Group in Istanbul and was again asked to participate as Australia’s representative at this group’s meeting in May 2016. This meeting was held in conjunction with the 8th International Conference on Occupational Safety and Hazards in Istanbul on May 8–11, 2016.

The topic of the meeting was ‘Sustainable Occupational Health and Safety’ and the meeting provided the opportunity for countries to share experiences about the sustainability of WHS. The meeting also examined how to improve the coordination of G20 countries through the active and efficient use of the G20 Network on WHS.

Ms Baxter discussed Australia’s approach to ensuring OHS sustainability in a changing world of work which includes a strong legal framework that is broad enough in scope to cover new forms of work, complemented by a responsive approach to compliance and enforcement that includes a mix of support, education and enforcement.

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Last modified on Monday 11 December 2017 [7596|66936]