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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) 2014–15
  • Safe Work Australia Strategic Plan 2013–2016 (Strategic Plan), and
  • Safe Work Australia Operational Plan 2014–2015 (Operational Plan).

The achievements reported in this document are measured against the PBS, Strategic Plan and Operational Plan.
The following Part is structured around the six strategies of the Strategic Plan.

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

Strategies under the Strategic Plan Function from the Act Strategy form the PBS Activity from Operational Plan
Support the implementation of the Australian Strategy 1, 9 1-2 8
Promote community awareness and knowledge of work health and safety and workers’ compensation 10, 13 6 2, 11
Support evidence informed policy, programs and practice through national work health and safety and workers’ compensation data, research and evaluation programs 7-8 5 3, 6, 7
Improve work health and safety laws in Australia that provide a consistent, equitable and high level of protection to all workers, while ensuring practicability for small business and individual workers 1-6 3-4 1, 2, 4
Promote consistent approaches and improved knowledge, skills and capabilities for managing health and safety hazards and risks 1, 4 7 5
Identify opportunities and develop proposals for improvements in workers’ compensation arrangements 11 8 10

Performance against Portfolio Budget Statement

The Safe Work Australia PBS 2014–15 outlines a single programme structure with the outcome statement:

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

Performance against this outcome is measured by eight strategies and three Key Performance Indicators (KPI) outlined in the PBS.

The eight strategies are:

  • The Australian Strategy, which provides a national framework to drive improvements in work health and safety and facilitate collaboration,
    is implemented.
  • The Australian Strategy targets are to be achieved by 2022. Safe Work Australia measures and reports on progress towards these targets annually. The targets are:
    • a reduction of at least 20 per cent in the number of worker fatalities due to injury
    • a reduction of at least 30 per cent in the incidence rate of claims resulting in one or more weeks off work, and
    • a reduction of at least 30 per cent in the incidence rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks off work.
  • Australia has improved work health and safety laws providing a consistent, equitable and high level of protection to all workers, while ensuring practicability for small business and individual workers.
  • The consistency of explosives legislation across Australia is improved.
  • The national work health and safety research, evaluation and data programmes support evidence-informed policy and practice.
  • Community awareness and knowledge of work health and
    safety is increased.
  • Assistance is provided to other agencies to promote consistent and improved approaches to managing health and safety hazards and risks.
  • Opportunities for improvements in workers’ compensation arrangements are identified and proposals developed.

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

Key Performance Indicator from PBS 2014–15 target Actual performance
The work health and safety framework continues to be developed, implemented and reviewed in accordance with COAG requirements. COAG requirements are met. Achieved. Framework developed in COAG timelines. Review completed.
Safe Work Australia is meeting the expectations of the Chair of Safe Work Australia in terms of quality, effectiveness and timeliness in achieving the deliverables of its operational plan. Through a survey, the Chair rates the performance of the agency as very good or above in meeting expectations. Achieved.
Safe Work Australia is meeting the expectations of the Members in terms of quality, effectiveness and timeliness in achieving the deliverables of its operational plan. Through a survey, 80 per cent of Members agree the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan. Achieved. 92 per cent of Members agreed.

Level of satisfaction

For the sixth consecutive year, Safe Work Australia has met its KPIs.

For the fourth consecutive year, more
than 90 per cent of Safe Work Australia Members were satisfied with the agency’s overall performance in achieving the deliverables of the Operational Plan.

Performance against Strategic Plan

Safe Work Australia is required to have a three-yearly strategic plan and an annual operational plan as outlined in Part 4 of the Safe Work Australia Act. The Strategic Plan sets out six strategies to achieve the outcome listed in the PBS (see above) within those three years. The Operational Plan sets out the activities to achieve the outcomes for the year.

Corporate Plan 2015–2019

The PGPA Act amended the Safe Work Australia Act to require Safe Work Australia to have a four-yearly corporate plan, replacing the need for three-yearly strategic plans. The Safe Work Australia Corporate Plan 2015–19 is available on the Safe Work Australia website. Performance against this plan will be reported in the Safe Work Australia Annual Report 2015–16.

Strategy 1: Support the implementation of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022

The Australian Strategy

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 (the Australian Strategy) promotes the vision of 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 third year of implementation and work continues towards achieving the four main strategic outcomes relating to reduced incidence of work-related death, injury and illness achieved by reduced exposure to hazards, improved hazard controls and improved work health and safety 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 will be measured using a three-year rolling average to smooth
out year on year volatility. The average annual number of fatalities fell 21 per cent to 213 in the 2011–13 period from 268 in the base period (2007–10). The challenge will be to sustain reductions in fatalities with expected employment growth over the 10 years of the Australian Strategy.

The final base period rate and target rate on the number and incidence rate of claims and musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks off work will be determined once preliminary data is updated later in 2015.

Excerpt from Activity 8 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Australian Strategy, including the programme of activities to support specific industries and action areas and hosting a digital conference to encourage discussions on work health and safety.

Annual report on the Australian Strategy

The second Australian Strategy annual progress report, for the period 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014 showcases examples of how Safe Work Australia and its Members are supporting businesses and other organisations to help achieve the vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives. The report and case studies will be available on the Safe Work Australia website in mid–2015.

Virtual Seminar Series

Safe Work Australia piloted a free online programme—the Australian Strategy Virtual Seminar Series—during 2014 Safe Work Australia Month (Safety Month). It was designed to inform and promote discussion on selected themes of the Australian Strategy.

National and international industry experts, academics and business leaders shared their knowledge and insights in 39 items, including videos, live panel discussions, infographics and new publications. This material was viewed over 65 000 times (1 October 2014 –
30 June 2015) by people around Australia and overseas.

Since its release Australian and international universities, Registered Training Organisations and individual businesses have developed learning activities based on the content.

All sessions met the Australian Government accessibility requirements and Safe Work Australia’s video player met WCAG 2.0 AA standard—making Safe Work Australia one of the first small government agencies to do so.

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.

In 2014–15 Safe Work Australia Members continued work on national collaborative projects in the areas of Healthy and safe by design, Health and safety capabilities, and Leadership and culture. Projects also commenced in the action area of Supply chains and networks.

Healthy and safe by design
  • Activities under this action area aim to eliminate or minimise hazards and risks through the better design of work, structures, plant and substances. Evidence has shown that good work design is a critical factor in making workplaces healthier, safer and more productive.
  • The first stage of the Good Work Through Effective Design collaborative project has been completed with the development of the Good work design principles and the Principles of good work design—a work health and safety handbook. These describe why good work design is important, what should be considered and how it can be achieved.
  • These will assist those who have specific design duties under work health and safety laws and people with responsibility for designing work processes and systems.
  • Stage two to develop supporting resources for use by those designing work is underway. These will demonstrate the application of the principles in practice, for example during organisational restructuring and designing work to manage fatigue risks.
Health and safety capabilities
  • Activities under this action area aim to give workers the knowledge, skills and resources they need to fulfil their role in relation to work health and safety. National activities to support this are described under the Work Health and Safety Capabilities Activity Plan 2012–2015
Leadership and culture

Activities under this action area aim to encourage leaders in organisations and communities to promote a positive culture for work health and safety and to use community expectations to persuade business leaders to drive these changes.

In 2014–15, Safe Work Australia commenced developing tools for business leaders and managers to help them meet their legal obligations and to improve work health and safety in their workplaces. This national collaborative project will deliver an online resource incorporating a set of principles, and practical resources to support them. These are expected to be available in 2015–16.

Safe Work Australia has also continued its collaboration with Monash University to develop work health and safety indicators, including one which would measure organisational culture. These indicators will allow businesses to report consistently on their work health and safety outcomes, and meet the community’s interest in corporate social responsibility and transparency in business reporting. This report will be available later in 2015.

Supply chains and networks

Activities under this action area aim to improve the health and safety of those working within Australian supply chains. In 2014, Safe Work Australia undertook background research and consultation to inform targeted national activities. This work programme commenced with an examination of the work health and safety regulatory framework and gathering case studies to demonstrate better practice. Supply chains and networks will be a focus for the 2015 Virtual Seminar Series.

OHS Body of Knowledge

The OHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) provides important information which is required by work health and safety professionals. It also forms part of the accreditation of tertiary work health and safety education programmes. In 2014–15 Safe Work Australia co-funded and worked alongside noted experts to write four additional chapters for the BoK on organisational culture, safe design, work health and safety risk and decision-making and jurisprudence of work health and safety. The chapters were published during Safety Month in October 2014.

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. Both were themes of the 2014 Virtual Seminar Series to highlight innovative approaches to meeting specific safety challenges.

Agriculture

In 2014 the Agriculture industry fatality rate was more than eight times the national average. Work to reduce the number of people killed in this industry continued to build momentum in 2014–15.

Safe Work Australia Members
continued to undertake activities outlined in the National Agriculture Activity Plan 2014–19 to improve work health and safety outcomes in this sector.

In 2014 Safe Work Australia released a fact sheet detailing the fatality and serious industry profile in the Agriculture industry. Annual editions will give Safe Work Australia and others the evidence needed to inform future interventions in this industry.

To support duty holders meeting their regulatory responsibilities Safe Work Australia published guidance material to support those working in rural workplaces including the Guide on Working in the Vicinity of Overhead and Underground Electrical Lines.

Road transport

In 2014 the Road transport industry fatality rate was more than 10 times the national average. The Road transport industry makes up only two per cent of the Australian workforce but accounted for 21 per cent of those killed while at work.

Safe Work Australia is continuing to collaborate with its Members about research and interventions to improve the health and safety of truck drivers.

Outlook for 2015–16

In 2015–16 Safe Work Australia will continue to work with its Members to reduce the unacceptably high number and rates of fatalities and injuries in the priority industries.

Safe Work Australia will again host the Virtual Seminar Series throughout Safety Month in October 2015. A fully accessible and interactive programme is planned to enable viewers the opportunity to speak to the experts following their presentations through interactive blogs. The Virtual Seminar Series will showcase and encourage discussion on the latest work health and safety evidence, research and concepts relating to the Australian Strategy themes of Healthy and safe by design and Supply chains and networks. Small business initiatives and the priority industries of Construction and Manufacturing will feature throughout the programme.

Safe Work Australia will continue to implement activities relating to all action areas under the Australian Strategy.
It will also prepare the third progress report on the Australian Strategy, continuing to highlight through case studies innovative policies and initiatives undertaken by Safe Work Australia, Members and businesses.

Feature story: Australian Strategy Virtual Seminar Series

Cost effective and efficient information dissemination and community engagement is a common challenge for many public sector organisations.

The Virtual Seminar Series is Safe Work Australia’s innovative approach to delivering key business objectives including supporting the implementation of the Australian Strategy and promoting community awareness and knowledge of work health and safety.

Safe Work Australia hosted this free online event throughout Safety Month in October 2014. The Virtual Seminar Series showcased the latest work health and safety thinking, developments, innovations and research on the themes of Leadership and culture, Responsive and effective regulatory framework, the Agriculture and Road transport industries and responding to challenges for
small business.

Events used multiple formats including live panel discussions, pre-recorded video presentations, reports and infographics from work health and safety experts like Professor Patrick Hudson of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and work health and safety regulators, business leaders and workers.

Using multiple delivery platforms, the Virtual Seminar Series remains accessible to everyone, anytime, anywhere, with content streamed to mobile devices as well as workstations, and available on a dedicated YouTube channel.

Safe Work Australia’s Safety Month “App” was updated so people could get easy access to Virtual Seminar Series content on their mobile device.

Highlights of the 2014 Virtual Seminar Series included:

  • 39 contributions (videos, live panel discussions, reports and infographics) released over 23 days on the Safe Work Australia website
  • 11 500 participants during October 2014
  • over 65 000 views from October to June 2015
  • content reached remote and regional Australia through Aboriginal Broadcasting Australia
  • an international audience with participants from New Zealand, the United States of America, Japan, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Netherlands, France and China
  • academic institutions used Virtual Seminar Series materials as teaching aids
  • all sessions met the Australian Government accessibility requirements and Safe Work Australia’s video player met WCAG 2.0 AA standard—making Safe Work Australia one of the first small government agencies to do so, and
  • the transcripts allowed people with disability, people with language barriers and those with bandwidth issues or working in noisy environments to access, read and copy the material.

Participants commented positively on the innovative format and enjoyed the variety of presentations, including those given by known industry experts and academics.

The two live panel discussions were particularly popular with more than 640 people participating either via the live wall facility or as part of a small studio audience. Of note was that 25 international domains were identified for these two sessions alone. Participants were encouraged to tweet using the #virtualWHS or leave comments via the live wall. Over 100 comments and 40 questions were captured during the live discussions.

Photo of David Caple (facilitator), Ann Sherry, Diane Smith-Gander, Penny Bingham-Hall and Mark Goodsell who participated in the live panel discussion on Leadership and work health and safety in a challenging work environment.

Photo from left to right: David Caple (facilitator), Ann Sherry (Chair Safe Work Australia), Diane Smith-Gander, Penny Bingham-Hall and Mark Goodsell who participated in the live panel discussion on Leadership and work health and safety in a challenging work environment

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

Communications and engagement

Safe Work Australia has maintained
a strong and active public presence to promote community awareness and knowledge about work health and safety and workers’ compensation. Safe Work Australia is focused on pursuing innovation and excellence in communication and stakeholder engagement to effectively utilise its position as a high level national
policy agency.

Communications and stakeholder engagement

Following a review in 2014 of Safe Work Australia’s stakeholder engagement and communication activities, a Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy was developed to guide activities in raising awareness of work health and safety and workers’ compensation and support collaboration among Safe Work Australia Member organisations.

The Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy has four strategic focus areas:

  • developing national key messages
  • recognising and promoting best practice
  • promoting national data, research and non-branded information products, and
  • working with key influencers.

A few of the key activities under the Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy were progressed in 2014–15 and are described below.

2014 Safe Work Australia Month—Work Safe. Home Safe

Safety Month was held in October 2014. Building on the previous year’s successes, Safety Month encouraged businesses and workers to get involved in and focus on health and safety in their workplaces.

The 2014 theme Work Safe. Home Safe served to remind workers that the most important reasons for making workplaces safe, were not at work at all.

Activities during Safety Month included:

  • the inaugural Virtual Seminar Series
  • the first Workplace Participation Reward
  • over 930 Safety Ambassadors registered, and
  • more than 360 events organised by work health and safety regulators, businesses and workers across Australia.

The Safety Month “App” for smart phones and mobile devices was a successful promotional tool during Safety Month. Free to download through the Apple iStore and Google PlayTM, the App promoted work health and safety statistics, information and events organised across Australia.

Another key initiative of Safety Month
was the Safety Ambassadors programme.
In 2014 Safety Ambassadors could enter the inaugural Workplace Participation Reward. More than 930 Ambassadors registered who exemplified and promoted the importance of health and safety in their workplaces.

Excerpt from Activity 9 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Promote consistent messages on work health and safety and workers’ compensation through the development and implementation
of an engagement and communications strategy.

Safety Month Workplace Participation Reward

Safe Work Australia awards were not held in 2014–15 as Safe Work Australia sought new ways to recognise excellence in work health and safety at the national level.

In 2014 Safe Work Australia held the inaugural Workplace Participation Reward which recognised and rewarded a workplace for its outstanding commitment, participation and creativity to raise the awareness of work health and safety. Howe Farming Enterprises was the inaugural winner of the Reward (refer Feature Story on page 27).

Safe Work Australia continues to recognise work health and safety excellence at a national level by:

  • promoting and supporting jurisdictional awards and events
  • exploring new ways to showcase jurisdictional winners, such as publishing case studies based on these winners on the Safe Work Australia website, and
  • introducing and sponsoring work health and safety awards into existing national industry or other relevant national awards.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day

Safe Work Australia again assisted national efforts to support World Day
for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2015. The 2015 theme Work Health and Safety. Remember. Prevention recognised the importance of taking action to prevent future work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses, and a day to remember those that have died from a work-related injury or illness. A poster, flyer and website banner were made available to interested organisations to download and use in their workplaces.

Safe Work Australia also recognised World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2014 by encouraging all Australians to focus on making a positive difference to mental health by creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Sponsorships

Safe Work Australia’s proactive Sponsorship Programme supports activities or initiatives aligned with the Australian Strategy or other key
activities of Safe Work Australia. Developed in 2015, the Sponsorship Programme aims to build relationships with key national bodies and to support or initiate national activities.

Safe Work Australia responsive website project

The Safe Work Australia website is the most important method for disseminating information. In 2014 the website had more than 1 192 000 unique visitors. Over the last three years the number of users accessing the website using a mobile device has doubled each year and this trend is expected to increase.

Safe Work Australia is currently developing a new and responsive website. It will allow website content to fit on multiple size screens and be accessed by computers and mobile devices including smartphones and tablets. It is anticipated that the new website will be launched in early 2016.

This work aligns with the Australian Public Service Mobile Roadmap designed to deliver a consistent, whole-of-government approach to adopting mobile technology.

Work health and safety reporting in annual reports

Safe Work Australia is continuing to work with the International Governance and Reporting Research Centre at Macquarie University to improve the reporting of work health and safety. The work is directed at improving both internal reporting to senior managers and boards to assist officers to meet their due diligence requirements under the model WHS laws and external reporting through company annual reports. The work is being co-funded by the Safety Institute of Australia and CPA Australia.

Guidelines are currently being refined following pilot testing in a number of companies. The guidelines are underpinned by five issues papers related to the role of accounting in work health and safety governance. Three of the five issues papers have been published on the Safe Work Australia website. These are:

  • Issues in the Assurance and Verification of WHS Information
  • Issues in the Measurement and Reporting of WHS Performance: A Review, and
  • The Business case for Safe Healthy and Productive Work.

The final report Performance Measurement, Incentives and Organisational Culture: Implications for Leading Safe and Healthy Work will be published later in 2015.

International liaison and engagement

During 2014–15 Safe Work Australia continued its dedication to strong engagement with the international community on work health and safety and workers’ compensation matters.

Michelle Baxter, Chief Executive Officer, attended the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Frankfurt, Germany on 24–27 August 2014. The Congress attracted almost 4000 work safety experts, politicians and scientists from 141 countries. Ms Baxter participated in a symposium on Occupational Safety and Health and Corporate Social Responsibility leadership as drivers for successful businesses.

Safe Work Australia continues to lead the Australian delegation to the United Nations (UN) Subcommittee of Experts on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), and is a member of the Australian Government delegations to the UN Subcommittee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and the Working Group on Explosives. Representatives from Safe Work Australia attended meetings in Geneva
in July 2014 and June 2015.

Safe Work Australia hosted a delegation from Korea’s Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service in October 2014.

Safe Work Australia continued to advise the New Zealand government on the implementation the model WHS laws, the implementation of the GHS and the development of a nationally consistent explosives framework.

Safe Work Australia continued its role as secretary for the Working Group on Occupational Safety and Health in Mining (MinOSH) with the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH). MinOSH has developed a work plan, a mining issues paper and a proposal to become an ICOH scientific committee. Safe Work Australia’s role with MinOSH finished in June 2015.

Excerpt from Activity 11 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Liaise with other countries or international organisations on matters relating to work health and safety and workers’ compensation activities, including representing Australia in relevant subgroups of the G20, United Nations and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Outlook for 2015–16

Safe Work Australia will continue the implementation of the Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy in 2015–16 and in particular enhance its online presence, including hosting a YouTube channel.

Safe Work Australia Members are also exploring other, more innovative ways
of communicating the key messages in the material developed to support the model WHS laws, including short videos, SMS messages and apps.

Safe Work Australia will continue to cooperate and share information, expertise and experience with international organisations. This includes consideration of international efforts on work health and safety in the G20 and the International Labour Organisation, as well as liaising with the Singaporean Government about its preparations for the XXI World Congress on Safety and Health in September 2017.

Feature story: Recognising and rewarding participation in Safety Month – October 2014

Howe Farming Enterprises won the inaugural Safe Work Australia Workplace Participation Reward held as part of Safety Month in October 2014.

The banana growers from Queensland received the reward for their outstanding commitment, participation and creativity in raising awareness of work health and safety throughout Safety Month.

Howe Farming Enterprises raised awareness of work health and safety by arranging different activities at its three banana farms each week, including:

  • Sun Safety – Wear a Hat—targeting skin cancer avoidance, sun safety and hydration
  • Work-readiness – Morning Stretches—targeting work fitness and avoidance of musculoskeletal injuries
  • Healthy Eating – Nutrition—targeting food, energy and nutrition, and
  • Emergency First Aid – Injury Impact—which focused on workplace policies and incident responses.

Howe Farming Enterprises also arranged for a Work Health and Safety Queensland inspector to talk to employees about the trauma and financial hardship experienced by families of injured workers.

For its efforts, Howe Farming Enterprises received a prize pack valued at up
to $5000 (GST inclusive) for an Australian work health and safety conference, expo or event in 2015.

Safe Work Australia received more than 60 entries for the award which was open to all 2014 registered Safety Ambassadors.

The Safety Month Workplace Participation Reward will be awarded again in October 2015 to illustrate and celebrate outstanding organisation and individual commitment to and participation in raising awareness of work health and safety in workplaces.

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

Evaluation of work health and safety laws

Under the Evaluation Plan for the Harmonisation of Work Health and Safety in Australia, Safe Work Australia has conducted several studies to evaluate the health and safety performance and regulatory burden objectives of the model WHS laws.

In 2014–15, Safe Work Australia undertook the Health and Safety at Work Survey involving over 2300 business owners and operators across Australia. Findings from this study have been reported to Safe Work Australia Members and incorporated into a number of research projects currently underway.

Other studies about the effectiveness
of the model WHS laws completed in 2014–15 included:

  • interviews with very large businesses (those with more than 2000 employees)
  • interviews with small and medium sized businesses and sole traders to investigate their experiences with work health and safety
  • a cost-benefit analysis of the effect of the model WHS laws on workers, business and government, and
  • a consolidated analysis of the findings from those surveys conducted between 2012 and 2014 examining costs or ‘regulatory burden’ of compliance with the model WHS laws.

Findings from these studies have been reported to Safe Work Australia Members.

Excerpt from Activity 3 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Continue the multi-year evaluation of the model WHS laws including a survey of the impacts and burden that the WHS laws place on Australian businesses of all sizes, a targeted study on small business, a study measuring the impact of the model WHS laws on government efficiency and studies focusing on the effectiveness of aspects of the model WHS laws.

Safe Work Australia partnered with the Australian National University and the Australian Research Council to learn more about businesses’ motivations, attitudes and actions undertaken to comply with work health and safety regulation. Data was collected from interviews with managers and workers in small and medium enterprises in Queensland and South Australia from the Health care and social assistance, Construction and Manufacturing industries. Data were also collected from regulators in these jurisdictions on how they seek to influence organisations to comply.

Safe Work Australia is partnering with the National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (a research centre within the Regulatory Institutions Network at the Australian National University) to undertake research examining the effectiveness of the model WHS laws. This research will be used to inform
Safe Work Australia’s policy direction.

Work health and safety research

Safe Work Australia undertook a wide array of research on work health and safety issues, consistent with the Research and Evaluation Work Plan 2014–15. Thirteen reports were published, with four more due to be published in mid-2015. Safe Work Australia’s research programme has both short-term projects and long-term projects of more than one year. Many projects are undertaken in collaboration with academic institutions and work health and safety 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 report on health and safety risk taking and rule breaking was published in late 2014. Reports on health and safety mindfulness and sources of work health and safety information will be published in mid–2015. A further tranche of reports based on this survey is planned for 2015–16.

Australian Strategy priority industries

In 2014–15 Safe Work Australia conducted several research projects focusing on priority industries under the Australian Strategy. These include examinations of hazard exposures and health and safety perceptions, attitudes and practices in the Manufacturing and Construction industries based on existing survey data held by Safe Work Australia. These reports were published in February 2015, with a further report on the Transport industry due in mid-2015. Further reports on the Health care, Agriculture and Accommodation and food services industries will be undertaken in 2015–16.

Australian Strategy priority disorders

Several research projects were undertaken in 2014–15 focusing on the priority disorders under the Australian Strategy. Reports for the following projects are expected to be published later in 2015.

The Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES), led by Dr Lin Fritschi at Curtin University, collected self-reported data on exposure to 38 carcinogens from a national sample of about 5000 workers. In 2014–15 AWES provided data for an examination of the type and prevalence of carcinogens in the Construction, Manufacturing and Agriculture industries.

A study was undertaken with Curtin University to examine the productivity loss in young workers due to musculoskeletal disorders; specifically, back or neck pain, based on the longitudinal Raine study of over 1000 people who have been tracked since birth.

Safe Work Australia continues to work with researchers at the Australian National University on the work-related causes and effects of depression. This includes a study of the role of depression and other health problems on the decision to leave the workforce early.

The Work Design and Health project is being undertaken by the University of Sydney to examine the relationship between specific work design factors, work health and safety knowledge and outcomes like poor mental or physical health and injury. The design factors
in this project include type of employment, job insecurity, job
control and working hours.

Excerpt from Activity 7 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Identify new priority issues and undertake and disseminate research, including emerging issues through the implementation of the Research and Evaluation Work Plan 2014–15 and the emerging issues surveillance programme.

Hazard surveillance

Safe Work Australia continues to undertake and support research aimed at improving understanding of hazard exposure, use of risk controls and attitudes towards work health and safety. For example, in 2013 Safe Work Australia commissioned a project to measure exposure to noise, dust, vibration and chemicals like phosphine on small mixed crop and livestock farms in Western Australia. These measurements and information about risk management are providing useful information about work health and safety in farming. A report on this project is expected later in 2015.

Safe Work Australia funded the analysis of AWES data to examine workplace exposures to lead, formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Reports on each of these hazards are available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Researchers from Curtin University have extended the AWES by collecting self-reported information on exposures to asthma-causing agents (asthmagens). The Extended Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES-2) is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Safe Work Australia, Cancer Council Australia and Cancer Council Western Australia as a NHMRC Partnership Project. Reports from this study are expected later in 2015.

In 2014–15 Safe Work Australia was one of eight partners in the People at Work project. This project aims to help organisations identify and manage psychosocial hazards that could contribute to the development of mental stress.
A final report is expected later in 2015.

Safe Work Australia also contributed funding to the Australian Workplace Barometer project, a nationally representative survey that monitors workplace psychosocial risk factors. It provides information on Australian work conditions and their relationships to health and productivity, thereby informing the development of psychosocial health and wellbeing policy. Three reports highlighting the prevalence and cost of workplace bullying and the commitment of management to prevent it will be available later in 2015.

Emerging issues pilot

In August 2014, Safe Work Australia began a 12 month pilot to systematically identify, prioritise and analyse emerging work health and safety issues. Emerging issues are those that are new or likely to be increasingly relevant, affecting a growing proportion of the workforce, and may not be adequately addressed by current systems or interventions. A reference group reflecting Safe Work Australia’s membership submits issues for consideration and helps to filter and prioritise issues. Two issues considered in 2014–15 were on ‘at risk’ migrant workers and sedentary work practices, with a view to gaining a better understanding of the current known extent of the issues, current interventions and possible focus areas for future action.

Data and analysis

Safe Work Australia undertook an expert data and analysis work programme consistent with the Data and Analysis Work Plan 2014–15. This included collecting statistics, maintaining and developing multiple databases, responding to statistical enquiries and producing numerous regular and
subject-based statistical reports.

Data collections

Safe Work Australia collects administrative data provided by jurisdictions and augments this with data from the National Coronial Information System, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Australian Mesothelioma Registry and other organisations. Together with its three main databases—the National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics (NDS), the Traumatic Injury Fatalities and the Notifiable Fatalities collections—form the basis of Safe Work Australia’s data and analysis capability.

The collective body of data compiled and maintained by Safe Work Australia provides a national picture of work-related injuries, fatalities and diseases to inform policy development, enable a statistical enquiry service and to maintain a statistical publications programme.

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 work health and safety performance and experience across all jurisdictions. The first edition of the NDS was established in 1987.

The NDS is compiled annually from workers’ compensation claims made under state, territory and the Commonwealth’s workers’ compensation laws. NDS data have approximately a two year lag time, due to the time needed to process claims and to code and compile a national data set.

Fatality Data Collections

Safe Work Australia collects work-related fatality data from the following sources:

  • the Fatality Media Collection, to obtain a real-time, albeit preliminary, number of work-related fatalities
  • the Notifiable Fatality Collection, based on notifications received from jurisdictions
  • the Traumatic Injury Fatalities collection, which integrates a number of fatality data sources to provide details on the number of people and the characteristics of those people who die in Australia from injuries sustained while working, including deaths of bystanders, and
  • the quadbike fatality data collection, a component of QuadWatch, which draws data from media reports and information from jurisdictions.

Reports based on these collections
are available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Comparative Performance Monitoring

Safe Work Australia maintains the Comparative Performance Monitoring (CPM) programme to compare the performance of work health and safety and workers’ compensation schemes in Australia and New Zealand. A review of the CPM programme is planned for 2015–16 following the substantial changes to work health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements across jurisdictions in recent years.

Statistical enquiries service

Through its statistical enquiries service, Safe Work Australia responds to approximately 400 enquiries per year from a range of stakeholders, the public and the media. Most enquiries are answered with customised responses within 48 to 72 hours. The service enables Safe Work Australia to make
its statistical assets and resources
freely available.

Key reports in 2014–15

Eleven major statistical reports were published during 2014–15 in addition to reports based on Safe Work Australia’s data collections. Publication formats range from extensive, in-depth analyses to concise two-page fact sheets.

Key reports published in 2014–15:

  • Australia Workers’ Compensation Statistics, 2012–13 provides a summary of statistics for non-fatal workers’ compensation claims by key employment and demographic characteristics.
  • Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2013 provides comprehensive statistics on work-related fatalities in Australia, including both workers and bystanders.
  • The 2014 Comparative Performance Monitoring Report provides a comparison of outcomes and performance across Australia and New Zealand in 2012–13. It also reports on the final measurements against the targets in the National Occupational Health and Safety Strategy 2002–2012.
  • The Comparison of Workers’ Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand report provides information on the operation of workers’ compensation schemes in each of the Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand and is a valuable resource and essential guide for anyone working in the workers’ compensation field.
  • The Work-related fatalities associated with unsafe design of machinery, plant and power tools, 2006–2011 report examines certain work-related fatalities and the extent to which unsafe design contributed to the fatal incident.
  • The Occupational Disease Indicators, 2014 report considers a number of diseases which are acknowledged as having a high correlation with hazards found in the work environment.
  • The Construction Industry Profile summarises the nature of work involved in this industry, the size of the workforce, incidence of work-related injuries and fatalities by occupation, nature, mechanism of injuries or fatalities.

Work-related injuries and fatalities reports in the Construction and Accommodation and food services industries (being two priority industries under the Australian Strategy) will be published in mid–2015.

Excerpt from Activity 6 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Collect, maintain, improve and report on national work health and safety and workers’ compensation data through the implementation of the Data and Analysis Work Plan 2014–15.

Australian Mesothelioma Registry

The fourth Mesothelioma in Australia report presenting data for the period 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014 was completed in May 2015. The report draws on data collected through the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR), which provides the latest information on the incidence of mesothelioma and describes the likely asbestos exposure scenarios for a subset of people diagnosed since 2010.

Key findings of the report include that
the AMR received 642 notifications of new mesothelioma diagnoses in 2014, up by 12 per cent from the previous year. This equates to 2.5 cases per 100 000 person-years.

Asbestos exposure has been assessed for 449 people diagnosed with mesothelioma since 1 July 2010. Sixty per cent of these survey respondents were found to have possible or probable occupational asbestos exposure and 84 per cent provided information suggesting non-occupational or mixed setting exposure to asbestos. Five per cent of respondents provided no information that would suggest they had asbestos exposure above background levels in either occupational or non-occupational contexts.

The Cancer Institute NSW maintains the AMR under a contract with Safe Work Australia. The Cancer Institute NSW receives funding from Safe Work Australia and Comcare to maintain the AMR. The Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (MonCOEH) plays a key role in collecting and analysing the asbestos exposure information. Safe Work Australia is represented on the AMR management committee along with representatives from state and territory cancer registries, the Cancer Institute NSW and MonCOEH.

National Return to Work Survey

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

In 2014 Safe Work Australia published the Headline Measures report as well as a full summary report based on the 2014 survey.

Outlook for 2015–16

A key objective throughout 2015–16 is for Safe Work Australia to continue its role as a key source of high quality nationally significant work health and safety and workers’ compensation research, evaluation and data in Australia. This is a fundamental element of its objective to be a model for the innovative development of multi-stakeholder policy.

The research and evaluation programme will continue short-term and multi-year projects that are directed towards the four focus areas under the Research, Evaluation and Data Strategy 2013–2017: hazard surveillance and risk management; occupational disease; attitudes to work health and safety; and evaluation of interventions. Projects continuing include the ongoing evaluation of the model WHS laws, focusing on due diligence obligations and regulatory burden for businesses of all sizes and the identification of organisational risk factors associated with workplace bullying and psychosocial hazards. A key new project will be to develop a new work health and safety survey to be conducted in 2016 examining cost of compliance and regulatory burden of the model WHS laws.

Safe Work Australia will continue to publish a broad range of statistical reports and resources. While well-established and respected by stakeholders and statistics consumers, Safe Work Australia is reviewing the way it makes statistics available to users through publications and its enquiries service. This includes being innovative in the way it provides statistics to better engage audiences, such as the use of infographics and through Safe Work Australia’s responsive website project.

Safe Work Australia is preparing a series of reports examining the relationship between certain variables and return to work outcomes from the 2013 and 2014 survey results. The third National Return to Work Survey will be conducted in
April 2016.

Feature story: Exposure to multiple hazards in the workplace

Understanding hazard exposures in the workplace is a research priority set out in the Australian Strategy. Yet little is known about Australian workers’ exposure to multiple occupational hazards.

To support this research priority, Safe Work Australia examined self-reported exposure to occupational hazards from 4500 workers who participated in the 2008 National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Survey. Self-reported exposures are commonly used to obtain information on exposure in large surveys, as occupational hygiene measurements are often not feasible at a large scale.

The nine hazards covered in this study were biomechanical demands, noise, vibration, airborne hazards, chemicals (skin contact), wet work, biological materials, job demands and sun exposure. These hazards are most associated with the Australian Strategy priority work-related disorders.

Over 60 per cent of workers reported exposure to two or more of these hazards in their workplaces. Workers aged 15–24 years or those working more than 45 hours a week were more likely to report exposure to multiple hazards than other categories of workers.

About one in five workers reported exposure to both noise and vibration. Males, younger workers and those working longer hours were more likely to report exposure to these hazards. Technicians and trades workers and workers in Mining and Construction were more likely to report exposure to these two hazards compared to workers overall.

One in four workers reported exposure to both airborne hazards and chemicals (skin contact). About twice as many males reported exposure to these hazards than females and a high proportion of construction workers, workers in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industry and Technicians and trades workers reported exposure to these hazards.

This study shows that self-reported exposure to multiple hazards was common among workers in the survey. While the findings need to be validated with workplace exposure measurements, they highlight the need to consider the whole range of potential hazards in the workplace. The full report from this
study is available on Safe Work Australia’s website.

Feature story: Falls from a height – work-related injuries and fatalities

In May 2015 Safe Work Australia published the Construction Industry Profile (the Profile) the first in a series of profiles for the seven priority industries under the Australian Strategy.

The Profile presents an overview of the main causes of workers’ injuries and fatalities in the Construction industry and highlights falls from a height as an ongoing concern.

The Profile highlights that falls from a height is the main cause of fatalities in the Construction industry, accounting for 28 per cent of deaths. Of the 117 fatalities from falls from a height over 11 years (2002–03 to 2013–14) in Construction, 59 fatalities were from a height of four metres or less. Falls from roofs and ladders combined accounted for 58 per cent of the 117 fatalities.

In fact, falling from a height is the third leading cause of worker fatalities across all industries, accounting for 11 per cent of worker fatalities between 2003 and 2013. Falls, trips and slips was the second leading cause of worker injury responsible for 21 per cent of serious workers’ compensation claims (claims involving an absence from work of at least one week) between 2000–01 and 2011–12. This is highlighted in the report Work-related injuries and fatalities involving a fall from a height available on Safe Work Australia’s website.

This report shows that, in the period from 2003–04 to 2010–11, across all industries the most common origin of the fall were ladders (37 fatalities),
vehicles (26), roofs (25) and horses (21). Falls can also happen when work is associated with steps and stairways (3 fatalities) or adjacent to holes, trenches or service pits (12 fatalities).

Further, workers’ compensation data shows the occupations which are most
at risk of serious injury from falls from a height are truck drivers, carpenters
and joiners, electricians and building and plumbing labourers.

In recognition of the prevailing risk to workers from falls, in 2011 Safe Work Australia developed the model Code of Practice: Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces, which recognises the diverse causes of falls from heights across all industries and recommends ways to control them.

Strategy 4: Improve work health and safety laws in Australia that provide a consistent, equitable and high level of protection to all workers, while ensuring practicability for small business and individual workers

Implementation of the model Work Health and Safety laws

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

In October 2014, Western Australia introduced the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 (WA) and sought public comment on this draft legislation.
This bill is Western Australia’s version of the model WHS Act and contains the core provisions of the model WHS Act with some modifications.

Examination of the model Work Health and Safety laws

In May 2014 COAG asked state and territory ministers responsible for work health and safety, to examine ways to improve the model WHS laws with a particular focus on reducing regulatory burden.

Safe Work Australia assisted ministers by drafting a report and accompanying RIS identifying options for their consideration.

Excerpt from Activity 2 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Monitor and review 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

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.

A range of national material was published during the year. The published material is listed in Appendix 3. Nine of the revised 12 draft model Codes of Practice that Safe Work Australia Members had previously agreed to were published as national guidance material in July 2014. Of the three remaining topics, Safe Work Australia agreed to publish two packages of national guidance material for cranes and managing risks of plant in rural workplaces in December 2014. Safe Work Australia Members did not agree to national material for tree trimming and removal work—crane access method.

In response to feedback on published material, Safe Work Australia agreed to amend seven model Codes of Practice. The revised model Codes of Practice for demolition work, excavation work, first-aid in the workplace, spray painting and powder coating, labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals, managing electrical risks in the workplace and managing the risk of falls at workplaces were republished in March 2015.

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 publication.

New material will continue to be relevant, clear and practical. Consideration will also be given to the most appropriate methods for disseminating supporting material.

Supporting small businesses to comply with work health and safety laws and assisting them to improve their work health and safety 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.

Workplace bullying

Safe Work Australia commenced a review of its workplace bullying guidance material in late 2014 to ensure it reflects any new developments since publication. This included a stocktake of published guidance material and gap analysis. The review is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2015.

Safe Work Australia also convened
a Workplace Bullying Working Group to assist with work on preventing and dealing with workplace bullying.
The Working Group’s role includes providing advice in the review of Safe Work Australia’s workplace bullying guidance material as well as sharing knowledge and resources among jurisdictions and social partners.

Excerpt from Activity 1 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

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

Nationally consistent explosives framework

Safe Work Australia continued to develop policies to underpin a nationally consistent explosives framework. 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 noted the business case submitted by Safe Work Australia for this work and policy development is underway. Safe Work Australia is undertaking this work on behalf of work health and safety ministers. Legislation giving effect to the framework developed by Safe Work Australia and approved by ministers would be enacted by each jurisdiction.

Explosives are currently regulated across their lifecycle, including import, export, manufacture, transport, use, sale, storage and disposal. Developing a nationally consistent explosives framework may deliver benefits such as reduced duplication, compliance costs and regulatory burden, while maintaining security and the safety and protection of people, property and the environment.

A discussion paper and consultation
RIS will be released by Safe Work Australia in mid-2015 for public comment. This process provides stakeholders and the public with the opportunity to provide information on issues that differences in state and territory explosives legislation may raise for participants in the explosives industry and members of the public. Bilateral, tripartite and workshop discussions through Safe Work Australia’s governance arrangements will also be held to inform this work, including the Strategic Issues Group on Explosives.

Safe Work Australia continued to provide secretariat services and a central contact point for the Australian Forum of Explosives Regulators (AFER) during 2014–15.

Excerpt from Activity 4 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Continue to develop policy proposals to improve the consistency of explosives legislation across Australia.              

Mining Regulations

Safe Work Australia completed development of the model WHS Regulations for mines. While these regulations did not achieve the necessary consensus for inclusion in the model WHS Regulations, they have been provided to individual jurisdictions to implement them in their work health and safety laws. To date, South Australia and New South Wales have adopted the model Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulations. New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia will continue to regulate mine safety under separate industry-specific legislation.

Outlook for 2015–16

In 2015–16, 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 work to implement any decisions made by state and territory work health and safety ministers on amendments to the model WHS Regulations.

In April 2015 Safe Work Australia Members agreed to the following supporting material to be completed during 2015–16:

  • construction related material for steel erection and roof work
  • prefabricated (tilt-up and pre-cast) concrete in building construction
  • tree trimming and removal work for the arboriculture industry
  • livestock management
  • high risk work licensing material
    for the vocational education and training sector
  • storage of chemicals
  • managing risks associated with
    diving work
  • technical guidance on classification
    of chemical mixtures
  • additional material for fatigue management
  • additional material for incident notification, and
  • diesel exhaust emissions.

A review of existing safe design material will also be completed. The draft model Code of Practice Managing Risk in Stevedoring will also be provided to ministers responsible for work health and safety for final approval later in 2015.

Safe Work Australia will continue to lead one of the most significant reforms to the explosives sector and develop a nationally consistent explosives framework, with a view to completing a Decision RIS during 2015–16.

Feature story: The power of explosives

What is an explosive in Australia? Blasting explosives are commonly used in mining, quarrying and rock breaking, construction, demolition and defence activities. Other common
but less known explosives include air bag inflators, fireworks, distress flares and even rail track signals.

During the year Safe Work Australia staff attended an event at Canberra’s Majura Firing Range to gain first-hand knowledge of explosives and their use. Staff witnessed how common household items could be used as explosives or used to make explosives, as well as the use of the most frequently used blasting explosives. Demonstrations were staged using vehicles, mannequins and everyday objects to illustrate the destructive effects explosives can have on people, property and the environment. Lessons learned on the day have informed Safe Work Australia’s policy development to underpin a nationally consistent explosives framework, being progressed in accordance with COAG’s request that greater consistency in explosives regulation be pursued where there are clear benefits to be derived.

Currently explosives are separately regulated by each of the Commonwealth, states and territories. The development of different regulatory frameworks has produced systems which address similar activities, such as licensing, transporting, selling, importing, exporting, manufacturing and using explosives, but can impose different requirements for each activity. These regulatory differences may raise issues for business and members of the public; however, the nature and extent of the impact of issues, if any, is currently unknown.

Safe Work Australia will release the Explosives regulation in Australia: Discussion paper and consultation Regulation Impact Statement in mid–2015 to gather information about issues the differences in state and territory explosives legislation may raise, and discover from respondents how issues can be best resolved.

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

Hazardous chemicals

Hazardous Substances Information System

Workplace hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures and articles used in the workplace that can be classified according to their health and physicochemical hazards. Physicochemical hazards generally result from the physical or chemical properties, like flammable, corrosive, oxidising or explosive substances.

Under the model WHS Regulations, a new system of chemical classification and hazard communication on labels and Safety Data Sheets, based on the GHS will be mandatory from 1 January 2017.

Safe Work Australia has continued to improve its online hazardous chemical databases. The Hazardous Substances Information System is being upgraded to align with the implementation of the GHS in Australia. Safe Work Australia’s database of hazardous chemicals helps reduce costs for anyone implementing the GHS at their workplace by making GHS-compatible information about a large number of chemicals readily available to the Australian community.

Website usage statistics show the Hazardous Substances Information System is widely used, and was accessed over 93 000 times by more than 42 000 unique users during the 2014–15 financial year.

Workplace hazardous chemicals training

Training modules developed by Safe Work Australia to support businesses, regulators and third parties specialising in classification and labelling of hazardous chemicals based on the GHS were delivered again during 2014–15. Online learning resources about labelling, Safety Data Sheets and other aspects of the model WHS Regulations relating to hazardous chemicals were made available on the Safe Work Australia website.

High risk work licensing

The model WHS Regulations identify 29 types of high risk work (HRW) activities that require a licence. 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 (NAI) that must be used by accredited assessors to assess a candidate’s competency.

Safe Work Australia finalised a redeveloped unit of competency and
NAI for operating a concrete placing boom incorporating both mobile and static boom operations, and developed and agreed to publish three HRW licensing guidance information sheets.

Safe Work Australia continued its ongoing management role of the NAI by completing a revision of all 29 HRW NAI. Safe Work Australia also continued its engagement with Industry Skills Councils, assisting with the translation of the 29 HRW units of competency into the new Vocational Education and Training (VET) endorsed units of competency template. This is part of the COAG training package reforms that are anticipated
to be completed in 2015–16.

High risk plant

The model WHS Regulations include registration arrangements for high risk plant to ensure equipment involving a high risk operation is designed to minimise the risk of injury or death. Manufacturers and suppliers of high risk plant register design details with Commonwealth, state and territory work health and safety regulators.

During 2014–15 Safe Work Australia developed a draft Plant Registration Decision Making Framework to help determine whether certain plant should be considered high risk and require a design registration intervention. This will assist in reviewing the schedules of the model WHS Regulations to identify areas for improvement and reducing red tape.

Excerpt from Activity 5 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Maintain and improve the framework for workplace hazardous chemicals including improving the effectiveness of workplace exposure standards and health reporting, identify issues for priority chemicals and providing up to date hazard information online.

Outlook for 2015–16

In 2015–16, Safe Work Australia will continue to promote consistent approaches and improved knowledge, skills and capabilities for managing health and safety hazards and risks.

Extensive updates to Safe Work Australia’s chemical databases are expected in 2015–16. These changes will reflect the outcomes of the National Industrial Chemical Notification and Assessment Scheme’s Inventory Multi-tiered Assessment and Prioritisation programme. Over 1000 new hazard classifications are expected to be published or updated.

Safe Work Australia will continue to develop means to clarify and improve arrangements relating to high risk plant and equipment.

Feature story: High risk licensing review

Safe Work Australia plays an integral role in ensuring that high risk work (HRW) licensing arrangements remain nationally consistent and relevant to ensure that workers are trained and competent to undertake HRW in workplaces.

Under the model WHS Regulations there are 29 types of HRW activities for which workers need a licence before they are allowed to perform this work in their workplace. HRW includes scaffolding, dogging and rigging work. It also involves using cranes, forklifts, reach stackers, boilers and boom-type elevating work platforms. 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. To obtain a licence, workers must meet certain competency requirements specific to each type of HRW licence. State and territory work health and safety regulators are responsible for issuing licences and assessing workers’ competency.

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 (NAI) that must be used by accredited assessors to assess candidates.

During 2014–15 Safe Work Australia revised all 29 HRW NAI. A crucial aspect of the NAI revision process was to engage state and territory regulators, industry associations and technical specialists, VET sector stakeholders such as Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and accredited assessors.

In completing this work Safe Work Australia achieved the review’s primary objective to improve the overall safety and technical assessment outcomes for workers wishing to obtain a HRW licence. Safe Work Australia also focused on improving the readability and useability of the NAI to help RTOs and accredited assessors deliver training and undertake assessments.

In a further effort to streamline HRW licensing and assessment requirements into relevant training, Safe Work Australia has continued to engage with Industry Skills Councils to help translate the 29 HRW units of competency into the new VET-endorsed unit of competency template as a part of the COAG training package reforms. These are anticipated to be completed by the end of 2015.

Strategy 6: Identify opportunities and develop proposals for improvements in workers’ compensation arrangements

In 2014–15, Safe Work Australia undertook a programme of work to improve workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia including in the areas of deemed diseases, permanent impairment and return to work.

Deemed diseases

In August 2013 Safe Work Australia Members agreed to a work plan to develop an up-to-date Australian list of deemed diseases based on the most recent scientific evidence on the causal link between disorders and occupational exposure. The aim of the project was to develop a list of deemed diseases which if adopted by Commonwealth, state and territory workers’ compensation authorities would streamline access to workers’ compensation for those with a disease caused by their work, while reducing the likelihood of disputation for disease claims. The Deemed diseases in Australia report will be published in mid-2015 and will be available for the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to adopt the deemed diseases list as part of their workers’ compensation laws.

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 Commonwealth,
state and territory ministers responsible for work health and safety and the
scope was endorsed by Safe Work Australia Members.

As a first step, Safe Work Australia developed the Template National Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Safe Work Australia is currently developing supporting materials for use by Commonwealth, state and territory workers’ compensation authorities which adopt the Template National Guidelines. This includes a consultancy undertaken by industry experts to develop a training package for jurisdictions to use when training permanent impairment assessors. The training package is expected to be completed in 2015–16.

Excerpt from Activity 10 of the 2014–15 Operational Plan.

Improve consistency in workers’ compensation arrangements by developing an up-to-date Australian list of deemed work-related diseases, conducting the annual return to work survey, developing return to work principles and supporting national permanent impairments assessment arrangements.

Return to work

A series of case studies of organisations with exemplary early intervention, rehabilitation and return to work practices were developed in 2014. The five organisations that took part in the project were selected from finalists and winners of jurisdictional return to work awards. A variety of organisations were selected to ensure the case studies had a diversity of sectors, practices and organisation types.

The case studies highlight that good work health and safety and good return to work practices are intrinsically linked. The published case studies are available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Safe Work Australia is preparing a series of reports examining the relationship between certain variables and return to work outcomes from the 2013 and 2014 National Return to Work Survey results.

Outlook for 2015–16

In 2015–16, Safe Work Australia will work on a series of projects aimed at improving return to work outcomes, including those based on the National Return to Work surveys.

Safe Work Australia will also investigate best practice approaches aimed at ensuring effective involvement of general practitioners and other health practitioners in the return to work process, and also best practice in return to work processes for people with psychological injuries.

Safe Work Australia will 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.

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.

Feature story: Profiling excellence in return to work

Five organisations were selected from finalists of recent jurisdictional return to work awards to help highlight exemplary organisational approaches to early intervention and return to work practices.

Safe Work Australia interviewed managers, rehabilitation coordinators and workers about workplace initiatives to improve return to work practices and outcomes for staff injured at work.

Catholic Homes

Following a spike in workers’ compensation claims in the late 2000s, Catholic Homes’ Executive made a decision to strengthen their commitment to work health and safety and return to work practices by making it their key business driver and placed dedicated people into key health and safety roles.

Toowoomba Council

Toowoomba Council regards immediate intervention as the most important influence on achieving positive return to work outcomes. If a worker reports an injury that requires medical attention, a rehabilitation coordinator from the ‘safety team’ will accompany the worker to the medical centre or hospital to support them through the process.

Union Hydraulics

Management and staff at Union Hydraulics agree that a commitment to health and safety and positive return to work outcomes has become ingrained in the workplace. The development of the ‘We Care We Prepare’ toolkit is an example of this commitment.

Williams Seafoods

Williams Seafoods describes its primary focus as the wellbeing and safety of its staff, having consciously decided to invest in this area 20 years ago, and attributes this focus to savings in claims costs, the retention of a stable workforce and a steady growth rate in a competitive market.

Pernod Ricard Winemakers

Robust management systems to eliminate the risk of injury, together with timely treatment and effective rehabilitation for those who have sustained an injury, are essential elements of Pernod Ricard Winemakers’ injury management programme.

Good prevention, early intervention and return to work were key business drivers for these organisations and resulted in significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums. The organisations suggest that changing workplace culture, having strong leadership, valuing the wellbeing of workers and having effective systems in place are the integral things to get right.

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Last modified on Tuesday 11 April 2017 [7881|38426]