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Introduction

The Australian Strategy builds on the National Occupational Health and Safety Strategy 2002–2012 (the National OHS Strategy). In 2002 the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry endorsed the National OHS Strategy to provide a framework for a broad range of national activities to improve the health and safety of workers in Australia.

The National OHS Strategy was held in high regard internationally throughout its duration. It set ambitious targets and resulted in significant reductions in work-related traumatic fatalities and injuries. Governments, unions and industry worked in partnership to improve work health and safety awareness and skills and to develop nationally-consistent legislation.

Reviews of the National OHS Strategy identified the need to sustain consistent attention and effort on key areas in order to achieve improvement. The reviews also highlighted the importance of developing and monitoring the effectiveness of the implementation process. The reviews established the need to expand the scope of involvement in implementation beyond government regulators to include collaborative partnerships with all parties with an interest in work health and safety.

While improvements to work health and safety were made during the National OHS Strategy current data show that on average over 250 workers in Australia die from an injury sustained at work each year. It is estimated that over 2,000 workers die from a work-related illness each year. In 2009–10 640 000 workers reported experiencing a work-related injury or illness. In the same year 303,000 workers were compensated for an injury or illness.

Safe Work Australia has calculated that the total cost of workplace injury and illness to the Australian economy for the 2008–09 financial year was $60.6 billion. This represented 4.8 per cent of the Australian Gross Domestic Product. The significant economic costs of work-related injury, illness and death are borne by workers, their families, the broader community and employers.

Overview

The Australian Strategy promotes the vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives and sets four outcomes to be achieved by 2022 (2022 Outcomes). Seven action areas have been identified to collectively contribute to the delivery of these outcomes. These components are described in more detail in the following information.

Australian Strategy Vision diagram

Purpose

The purpose of the Australian Strategy is to drive key national activities to achieve improvement in work health and safety. It is aimed at regulators, industry, unions, other organisations and governments that in turn influence work and workplaces across Australia.

The Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and unions have strategies to support and improve work health and safety. The Australian Strategy has been designed to be sufficiently broad and high-level so that governments, industry, unions and other organisations can undertake activities that assist in meeting the desired outcomes.

Those responsible for regulating work health and safety, public health, energy and transport will need to work collaboratively to achieve the vision and outcomes of the Australian Strategy.

Individual organisations and workplaces, professional associations and interest groups are encouraged to undertake supporting strategic activities.

Around half of all workers in Australia are employed in small businesses. It is important that national strategic activities support improvement in the capability of small businesses to successfully manage health and safety risks.

Throughout the life of the Australian Strategy, evidence on work health and safety issues will be collected and analysed to inform and evaluate national and organisational policies, programs and practice.

Principles

The Australian Strategy is underpinned by two key principles. Firstly all workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment; and secondly well-designed, healthy and safe work will allow workers in Australia to have more productive working lives.

This is consistent with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is reflected in duties of care established in all Australian work health and safety legislation.

These duties flow from the philosophy that workers should be given the highest practical level of protection against harm to their health and safety from hazards and risks arising from work.

Individual organisations and workplaces, professional associations and interest groups are encouraged to undertake supporting strategic activities.

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