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Healthy and safe by design

Hazards are eliminated or minimised by design

The most effective and durable means of creating a healthy and safe working environment is to eliminate hazards and risks during the design of new plant, structures, substances and technology and of jobs, processes and systems. This design process needs to take into account hazards and risks that may be present at all stages of the lifecycle of structures, plant, products and substances.

Good design can eliminate or minimise the major physical, biomechanical and psychosocial hazards and risks associated with work. Effective design of the overall system of work will take into account, for example, management practices, work processes, schedules, tasks and workstation design.

Sustainable return to work or remaining at work while recovering from injury or illness is facilitated by good job design and management. Managers have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to the design of the work and work processes to accommodate individuals’ differing capabilities.

Workers’ general health and wellbeing are strongly influenced by their health and safety at work. Well-designed work can improve worker health. Activities under the Australian Strategy build appropriate linkages with healthy worker programs to support improved general worker wellbeing as well as health and safety.

National activities support the following outcomes:

  • Structures, plant and substances are designed to eliminate or minimise hazards and risks before they are introduced into the workplace.
  • Work, work processes and systems of work are designed and managed to eliminate or minimise hazards and risks.

Supply chains and networks

Improved work health and safety through supply chains and networks

Supply chains and networks” refers to the often complex chain or web of commercial or business relationships designed to provide goods or services like moving agricultural produce to a supermarket or car components to vehicle manufacturers.

Supply chains and networks are usually established through formal or informal contractual arrangements. When people within a supply chain act cooperatively they can exert greater influence on health and safety than when acting alone.

Industry leaders within supply chains and networks need to be champions of health and safety. Safety practices often improve when one respected member of a group adopts new practices, influencing others’ perceptions, expectations and actions.

Relationships between parties within a supply chain or network can exert positive or negative pressure on work health and safety practices. This is especially the case for micro and small businesses which may have limited resources or bargaining power.

National activities support the following outcomes:

  • Supply chain and network participants understand their cumulative impact and actively improve the health and safety of the supply chain.
  • Commercial relationships within supply chains and networks are used to improve work health and safety.
  • Industry leaders champion work health and safety in supply chains and networks.

Health and safety capabilities

Improved work health and safety capabilities

Every person requires the capabilities— the knowledge, skills and resources—to fulfil their role in relation to work health and safety.

In the workplace those in control of work need to be able to make informed decisions. Managers need to be able to identify hazards and understand how to manage associated work health and safety risks, judge whether controls are effective and communicate with staff.

Where work is high risk, specialist skills and knowledge are required.

Work health and safety regulators provide support to duty holders to help them comply with the legislation. Inspectors and other staff need the skills, knowledge and resources to effectively perform their roles.

A key challenge for national activities under this Action Area is to both expand opportunities for learning and ensure continuous improvement of the standard and quality of training and education.

In a decade many existing workplace hazards will still be present and new ones will have appeared. It is particularly important that education and training enable those who provide professional or practical advice to competently deal with old and new hazards. Those who provide advice need to know when to refer the matter to others with appropriate expertise.

The data show that young people are at high risk of work-related injury. Effective work health and safety training should occur at school, during vocational and higher education, at the time of induction, and in the workplace.

This is an important part of providing young people with the knowledge, skills and experience to help protect themselves and their workmates.

National activities support the following outcomes:

  • Everyone in a workplace has the work health and safety capabilities they require.
  • Those providing work health and safety education, training and advice have the appropriate capabilities.
  • Inspectors and other staff of work health and safety regulators have the work health and safety capabilities to effectively perform their role.
  • Work health and safety skills development is integrated effectively into relevant education and training programs.

Leadership and culture

Leaders in communities and organisations promote a positive culture for health and safety

Within organisations, leaders promote positive cultures by demonstrating a commitment to:

  • systematic management of risks
  • role clarity, worker involvement and workgroup cohesion
  • consultation and clear two-way communication
  • compliance with procedures
  • organisational learning
  • appropriate training
  • organisational justice and an environment of dignity and respect
  • supervisor support, and
  • a positive leadership and management style.

There is strong evidence that performance is improved when organisations address work health and safety risks along with other important business risks.

Organisational cultures can be influenced by broader community values and attitudes. Community expectations can be powerful drivers of change and collectively influence the nation’s health and safety culture. When the Australian community expects and demands that work be free from harm any failure to do so generates community pressure and action.

The existence of bullying, harassment and occupational violence is identified as a hazard and requires organisational and community leadership to reduce incidence and impact.

It is important to:

  • lead and influence community debate on work health and safety through media and other public forums and mechanisms
  • counteract inaccurate media reporting about work health and safety
  • create more accurate injury and illness risk perceptions, and
  • generate community confidence that workplace risks can be managed.

If these messages are delivered by opinion leaders they are more likely to be believed and acted upon.

National activities support the following outcomes:

  • Communities and their leaders drive improved work health and safety.
  • Organisational leaders foster a culture of consultation and collaboration which actively improves work health and safety.
  • Health and safety is given priority in all work processes and decisions.

Research and evaluation

Evidence-informed policy, programs and practice

Work health and safety policy, programs and practice need to be informed by robust evidence. Continuing to improve national data is essential to developing the evidence base. Evidence helps the ongoing identification of national priorities and measurement of our progress towards achieving the vision and the outcomes.

A nationally-coordinated and cooperative approach is required to promote the efficient and effective use of Australia’s research resources. Australia’s research infrastructure and capability must be developed by using innovative approaches to increase research funding and resources in both the public and private sectors. Research should lead to practical results to strengthen risk controls in workplaces.

Effective recruitment, training and support of the next generation of research professionals ensures that in 2022 Australia’s research capacity equals the best in the world.

National activities support the following outcomes:

  • Research and evaluation are targeted to provide the evidence to prioritise and progress areas of national interest.
  • Australia has an effective research and evaluation infrastructure and capacity.
  • Evidence is translated to assist practical application.
  • The results of research and evaluation are disseminated and implemented.

What are Australia’s national work health and safety research priorities?

  • Build a national picture of work health and safety performance.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and cost of work health and safety legislative changes.
  • Better understand current hazard exposures, the effectiveness of controls, and attitudes towards health and safety.


Governments improve work health and safety

Governments have a range of tools they can use to change behaviours including regulation and information, education, awareness and compliance campaigns.

Governments can promote and influence work health and safety within Australian organisations and in the community through policy development and in the programs and services they deliver.

Governments are also major purchasers of products and services. By incorporating work health and safety and safe design requirements into government investment, procurement arrangements and contracts, governments can actively encourage suppliers to improve products and their health and safety practices and performance.

In meeting their obligations as employers, governments have the opportunity to set an example by ensuring the highest level of protection of their workers.

National activities support the following outcomes:

  • Work health and safety is actively considered in the development, implementation and evaluation of government policy.
  • Governments use their investment and purchasing power to improve work health and safety.
  • Governments exemplify good work health and safety.

Responsive and effective regulatory framework

The regulatory framework improves effectiveness by responding and adapting to changing circumstances

An effective regulatory framework provides for a flexible response taking into account the particular circumstances, available evidence, community expectations and the environment in which organisations operate.

Legislation, policies and practice are reviewed, monitored and updated regularly to continue progress towards national consistency and regulatory effectiveness. Regulators are encouraged to work collaboratively. There is also a need to reduce costs and improve efficiency by removing unnecessary red tape around compliance costs.

Businesses, unions, employer associations, the community and governments need to work together to improve work health and safety outcomes. At the highest level these relationships involve formal tripartite consultation.

National activities support the following outcomes:

  • Legislation, policies and regulatory practice are reviewed and monitored to ensure they are responsive and effective.
  • Relationships between regulators and all who have a stake in work health and safety are effective, constructive, transparent and accountable.

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