Overview of performance
The documents that outline the work of Safe Work Australia are:
- Safe Work Australia Act–functions, in Part 2 Section 6
- Safe Work Australia Strategic Plan 2013-2016 (Strategic Plan)
- Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) 2013-2014
- Safe Work Australia Operational Plan 2013-2014 (Operational Plan)
The achievements reported in this document are measured against the 2013-14 PBS and Operational Plan. The Strategic Plan sets Safe Work Australia’s direction. The achievement of Safe Work Australia’s outcome is dependent on the achievement of its strategies and key performance indicators (KPIs).
The table below provides a summary of the work Safe Work Australia does and how its performance is measured.
|Work underway||Function from the Act||Strategy form the PBS||Strategy from Strategic Plan||Activity from Operational Plan|
|National policy on work health and safety and workers’ compensation||1||3||1 & 3||1,5 & 10|
|Monitor, review and revise model WHS laws, codes and guidance||2-6||4-5||2||1-3|
|Develop consistent explosives legislation||4||4||2||4|
and data analysis
|Promote community awareness||10||2||4-5||9|
|Improve workers’ compensation arrangements||11||6||6||10|
Performance against Portfolio Budget Statements
Safe Work Australia’s 2013-14 PBS outlines a single program 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 six strategies and three KPIs also outlined in the PBS.
The six strategies are:
- national work health and safety policy and practice is supported by the implementation of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022
- Australia has harmonised and improved WHS laws providing a consistent, equitable and high level of protection to all workers
- the national work health and safety research, evaluation and data programs support evidence informed policy, programs 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, and
- opportunities for improvements in workers’ compensation arrangements are identified and proposals developed.
The three KPIs measure Safe Work Australia’s progress in achieving its outcome.
|Key Performance Indicator from PBS||2013–14 target||Actual performance|
|The work health and safety legislative framework continues to be developed, implemented and reviewed in accordance with COAG requirements||COAG agreed timelines are met||Achieved. Framework developed in COAG timelines. Review commenced to meet end 2014 timeframe. Explosives framework commenced to meet COAG expectations.|
|Level of satisfaction of the Chair of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plans||Chair rates the performance of the agency as very good or above||Achieved|
|Level of satisfaction of the Members of Safe Work Australia with how the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan||80% of Members agree the agency is achieving the deliverables of its operational plan||Achieved. 92% of
Level of satisfaction
For the fifth consecutive year Safe Work Australia has met all its KPIs.
For the third consecutive year more than 90 percent of Safe Work Australia Members were satisfied with the agency’s overall performance in achieving the deliverables of the Operational Plan.
Performance against Operational Plan
Strategic and operational plans
Safe Work Australia is required to have a strategic plan and an operational plan as outlined in Part 4 of the Safe Work Australia Act. The Strategic Plan 2013-2016 sets out six strategic outcomes to be achieved in those three years. The Operational Plan 2013-2014 sets out the activities to achieve the outcomes for the year being reported. Both plans were endorsed by a majority of Work Health and Safety Ministers and are available on the Safe Work Australia website.
Throughout 2013-14 the Operational Plan specified that Safe Work Australia would focus on:
- continuing to support the implementation of the Australian Strategy
- completing codes of practice and guidance material to support the model WHS laws
- monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the model WHS laws across Australia
- reviewing the implementation of the model WHS laws and making changes to improve operational efficiency including opportunities to reduce red tape, particularly for small business without compromising safety standards
- developing, supporting and monitoring mechanisms to promote awareness of work health and safety obligations in small business
- working and collaborating with jurisdictions yet to adopt the model WHS laws
- supporting ongoing work health and safety reform to promote continuous improvements in performance
- undertaking a program of work to improve workers’ compensation arrangements including in the areas of Return to Work, deemed diseases, permanent impairment and developing minimum benchmarks for the National Injury Insurance Scheme, and
- implementing the Research, Evaluation and Data Strategy 2013-2017.
Outlook for 2014-15
The strategic outcomes for 2014-15 have been approved by Work Health and Safety Ministers in the Strategic Plan so will remain unchanged for 2014-15. These strategic outcomes will be updated in line with the new Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) for 1 July 2015.
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.
Strategy 1 of the Strategic Plan is Supporting the implementation of the Australian Strategy.
The Australian Strategy is in its second year of implementation and work continues towards achieving the four main strategic outcomes.
The first Australian Strategy annual progress report, for the period 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013 provides a snapshot of the diverse activities undertaken by Safe Work Australia and others and is available on the Safe Work Australia website.
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 percent
- a reduction in the incidence rate of claims resulting in one or more weeks off work of at least 30 percent, and
- a reduction in the incidence rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks off work of at least 30 percent.
Measurement of progress against targets in the Australian Strategy is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 1 of the Strategic Plan.
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 percent 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 strategy.
Safe Work Australia has received preliminary data on the number and incidence rate of claims and musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks off work. The final base period rate and target rate cannot be determined until preliminary data is updated in late 2014.
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.
During 2013-14, Safe Work Australia Members agreed to a range of national collaborative projects under three Action Areas: Healthy and safe by design; Health and safety capabilities; and Leadership and culture.
Healthy and safe by design
Good Work through Effective Design
In 2013 Safe Work Australia Members agreed to the collaborative project Good Work through Effective Design. This initiative, ld by Comcare and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland aims to develop principles of good work through effective design processes which consider the psychosocial, physical, cognitive and biomechanical aspects of work. The project will provide information for designers about what ‘good work’ looks like and key principles to enhance effective design processes. Stage one of this project, the principles, will be completed in late 2014.
Implementing projects for the action areas is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 1 of the Strategic Plan.
Working Together: Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work Guide
In collaboration with Comcare and the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), Safe Work Australia assisted in the development of the Working Together: Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work Guide. This provides practical advice for managers and supervisors when dealing with workers’ mental health and wellbeing at work. The publication is available on the Comcare website.
Sizing up Australia
Plant, equipment and personal protective clothing designs need to suit contemporary workers’ shapes and sizes. Previous research has shown Australia does not have suitable anthropometric data. To collect this would require an Australian body sizing survey with support and funding from across governments and industries.
To inform discussion, in 2013 Safe Work Australia commissioned the Sizing Up Australia–the next step report. This project focused on the existing evidence and proposed a method for developing and conducting a body sizing survey. The report has created international interest and is an important step towards collecting Australia specific body sizing information.
Health and safety capabilities
This action area aims to ensure everyone has the capabilities–the knowledge, skills and resources–to fulfil their role in relation to work health and safety.
National Work Health and Safety Capabilities Activity Plan 2014-2019
This year the National Work Health and Safety Capabilities Activity Plan 2014-2019 was developed in consultation with all Safe Work Australia Members, and is published on the Safe Work Australia website. The Plan outlines key national activities to be undertaken by Safe Work Australia or by individual Members over the next five years.
OHS Body of Knowledge
The OHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) provides the key information which is required by work health and safety professionals to understand the causes and control of work-related fatality, injury and illness. Inclusion of this material into the curriculum forms part of the accreditation of tertiary work health and safety education programs. The original BoK was funded by the Victorian WorkCover Authority (formerly WorkSafe Victoria). This year Safe Work Australia co-funded and worked alongside noted experts to write four additional chapters:
- Organisational Culture
- User Centred and Safe Design
- Work Health and Safety Risk and Decision Making, and
- Jurisprudence of Work Health and Safety.
These chapters will be published during Safe Work Australia Month in October 2014 on the BoK website.
Leadership and culture
This action area aims to encourage leaders in communities and organisations to promote a positive culture for health and safety.
National Leadership Framework
Safe Work Australia commenced a collaborative project to create a National Leadership Framework, which would bring together agreed leadership principles, practical guidance and metrics.
A report on the links between work health and safety and business productivity was undertaken by the Centre for Workplace Leadership and is expected to be published later in 2014.
The Australian Strategy has seven priority industries:
- road transport
- accommodation and food services
- publication administration and safety, and
- health care and social assistance.
Throughout 2013-14 the focus has been on agriculture and road transport.
The agriculture industry is a major focus for prevention activities during the first five years of the Australian Strategy.
During this year the National Agriculture Activity Plan 2014-2019 was developed in consultation with Safe Work Australia
Members. The plan was published on the Safe Work Australia website in May 2014. The plan includes current activities being undertaken to improve work health and safety outcomes over the next five years.
Activities include developing guidance material to support rural workplaces including the management of plant and livestock. The Guide to Managing Risks when New and Inexperienced Persons Interact with Horses was published in June 2014. Other activities include research to examine the risks people working in agriculture are exposed to and engaging with key stakeholders in the agricultural sector to promote the benefits of safe and healthy workplaces.
Information sharing with the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety
In 2013-14 Safe Work Australia maintained links with the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety. Under a funding agreement with this Centre, Safe Work Australia was provided with regular data, advice and information on hazards in the agriculture industry including quad bikes, work health and safety inductions for new starters on farms and managing fatigue during times of peak work on farms
Australia’s road freight transport industry makes up 2 percent of the country’s workforce. This small industry sector recorded the second highest number of work-related fatalities of all industries. In 2013 road freight transport recorded a fatality rate ten times higher than the national rate. Because of the exceedingly high risk of injury and death to workers in this industry, the Australian Strategy has made road transport a priority focus for the first five years of the strategy.
In 2013-14 Safe Work Australia collected a number of transport industry case studies showing the diverse activities and programs being implemented under the Australian Strategy. The road transport case studies show the commitment of work health and safety regulators, business, industry, universities and the community to improve health and safety in the road transport industry. These case studies are available from the Safe Work Australia website.
During this year Safe Work Australia partnered with the National Transport Commission and PreventionXpress to provide health screenings to over 1000 truck drivers across four states. In addition to the health screenings, Safe Work Australia published two data reports about the industry, Work Health and Safety in the Road Freight Transport Industry report and the Work-Related Fatalities Involving Trucks report. For more information about these reports and the truckie health screening initiative see the feature story Driving Down Fatalities on page 19.
Outlook for 2014-15
In 2014-15 Safe Work Australia will continue to work with our Member organisations to improve work health and safety in specific industries such as the agriculture industry. Activities will continue to support the action areas Healthy and safe by design, Health and safety capabilities and Leadership and culture.
Safe Work Australia will host the Virtual Seminar Series (VSS) throughout Safe Work Australia Month in October 2014 to showcase work health and safety innovations and research, and encourage discussion on responsive regulation; leadership; small business; and health and safety in the agriculture and road transport industries.
Feature story: Road transport
Trucks are involved in 30 percent of work-related traumatic fatalities each year, equating to around 80 workers. Of these, 50 are truck drivers. This alarming statistic prompted Safe Work Australia to make truck-related deaths a focus of the Australian Strategy.
Safe Work Australia uses all available information including coroners’ and workers’ compensation data to identify work-related deaths to compile the Traumatic Injury Fatalities database. This database contains 11 years of data, which has enabled Safe Work Australia to analyse trends and identify areas for prevention efforts more effectively than in the past.
Safe Work Australia has recently released two reports relating to trucks. The first report, Work health and safety in the Road freight transport industry, focuses on the Road Freight sector.
It highlights how this sector has a fatality rate 10 times higher and an injury rate up to three times higher than the average rate of all other industries. Fatalities were usually found to be the result of a vehicle crash while injuries were commonly from handling cargo.
The second report, Work-related fatalities involving trucks looks at all truck-related fatalities. The report shows that 39 percent of truck-related fatalities involved single vehicle truck crashes. While speed was identified as the cause in around one-third of the incidents, half of them had no cause identified. These reports are available on the Safe Work Australia website.
Another concern identified is the number of workers being hit by trucks. This includes workers hit by their own truck when not applying the brakes appropriately when exiting the vehicle, as well as workers who are hit by trucks moving around their worksite.
Work health and safety regulators are undertaking a range of activities to highlight the dangers of working in and around trucks.
Truckie health screening
Safe Work Australia formed a partnership with the National Transport Commission and PreventionXpress (a private health screening company) to fund a voluntary health screening program. The program included 1000 voluntary health screenings of truck drivers working mainly along the eastern seaboard. The aim of the project was to:
- provide truck drivers with a free and confidential health screen and where necessary, encourage them to seek medical assistance for any results of concern, and
- gain an understanding of the current state of health of professional drivers in Australia.
BP Road Haven Cafes agreed to participate in the program and made their facilities available for the screening. Between December 2013 and late May 2014, 1041 truck drivers were screened in 12 truck stops in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for the following:
- cardiovascular risk factors: blood pressure, diabetes and obesity
- chronic lung disease
- prostate cancer risk and awareness
- risk of alcohol-related harm and depression
- sleep disorders, sleepiness and fatigue, and
- tobacco-related harm.
The report on the results of the health screening will be available later in 2014.
Feature story: Mentally healthY Workplace Alliance
It is estimated that one in five Australian workers are experiencing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. The productivity, participation and compensation costs of both work and non-work-related mental disorders costs Australia $10.9 billion per year. This creates a compelling case to provide business with practical advice about the importance of mental health in the workplace and for them to take action.
Supporting projects in the area of Mentally healthy workplaces is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 1 of the Strategic Plan.
In 2012 the National Mental Health Commission established the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (the Alliance). The Alliance brings together key stakeholders committed to help businesses provide better mental health outcomes in their workplaces. Safe Work Australia Members agreed to support the Alliance projects as part of the Australian Strategy action area ‘Healthy and safe by design’.
The Alliance consists of representatives from:
- The National Mental Health Commission
- Safe Work Australia
- The Business Council of Australia
- The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- The Australian Industry Group
- Council of Small Business
- Organisations of Australia
- Australian Council of Trade Unions
- Black Dog Institute
- SANE Australia
- Mental Health Council of Australia
- University of New South Wales
- Australian Psychological Society Ltd
Several groups undertook activities supporting the Alliance over two years 2012-2014 including:
- Beyondblue commissioned a report – Creating a mentally healthy workplace–return on investment analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia.
- The University of New South Wales completed a literature review– Developing a mentally healthy workplace: a review of the literature.
- Safe Work Australia and Comcare completed a Targeted Call for Good Practice, interviewing 24 businesses to develop 22 case studies of small to very large businesses using good practice approaches to create mentally healthy workplaces.
- SANE Australia used these case studies to produce 18 video case studies for use by the business community. These videos can be viewed on the beyondblue Heads Up website.
- Safe Work Australia published two fact sheets:
- Preventing Psychological Injury under the Work Health and Safety Laws which provides information forbusinesses on how to prevent psychological harm under the work health and safety laws by using the risk management process.
- Workers’ Compensation Legislation and Psychological Injury provides businesses with an overview of the laws on compensation, rehabilitation, claims management and the safe return of workers to work following a work-related psychological injury.
In 2014 the Alliance published the information produced by its partners and continues to develop tools and guidance material to help businesses provide mentally healthy workplaces. More information is available on the Alliance Heads Up website.
Promote community awareness and knowledge of work health and safety and workers’ compensation
Safe Work Australia Month
Building on the success of previous years, for the first time Safe Work Australia Week was extended to the month of October. A safety month smart phone application (app) was developed to support Safe Work Australia Month and promote jurisdictional, industry, business and union safety awareness activities throughout the month. A record number of Safety Ambassadors registered to host activities and promote work health and safety in their workplace.
Supporting and conducting events that raise awareness of work health and safety is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 2 of the Strategic Plan.
Safe Work Australia Month encourages workers to get involved by holding activities at workplaces or participating in state, territory or industry run safety events. The 2013 theme Safety is a frame of mind. Get the picture urged all workers to think about their reason for staying safe at work.
Safe Work Australia’s safety month smart phone app was available for free download in the lead up to and during October. The app featured events happening across Australia in October, key work health and safety statistics and Take10@10 activity ideas which people could do in their workplace.
A key initiative during safety month was the Safety Ambassador program. Established in 2008, the Safety Ambassador program encourages workers to be safety leaders by promoting the importance of work health and safety in their organisation. With 891 workers registered as Safety Ambassadors in 2013, hundreds of activities were held in workplaces across Australia.
All registered Safety Ambassadors were eligible for the Safety Ambassador of the Year Award. On 24 October 2013, Jonathan Metcalfe, CEO of Transdev Australasia was awarded this honour for his commitment to keeping his workers and users of Transdev’s services safe. Due to the calibre of entries, a highly commended award was also presented.
The recipient was Jared Dwyer, OHS Coordinator with Port Hunter Conveyors. Both Jonathan and Jared were recognised for their achievements at a ceremony in Canberra.
Safe Work Australia Month will be held again in October 2014 to increase awareness of work health and safety
2014 Safety Ambassador of the Year highly commended recipient. Jared Dwyer, with Rex Hoy
9th annual Safe Work Australia Awards
Thirty-seven finalists from across Australia were recognised nationally for excellence in work health and safety at the 9th annual Safe Work Australia Awards. Hosted by Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment, the ceremony was held at Old Parliament House in Canberra. Individuals and organisations competed in four categories for national honour. The winners were:
|Category 1||Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System||VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd (Tasmania)|
|Category 2||Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue||Frasers Livestock Transport (Queensland)|
|Category 3||Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety- by an employee||
Winner: Zetco Valves Pty Ltd (New South Wales)
|Category 4a||Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety - by an employee||
Rodney Cook–Northcoast Institute of TAFE (New South Wales)
|Category 4b||Best Individual Contribution to WorkplaceHealth and Safety - by a Work Health and Safety Manager||Winner: Jennifer Bell–RSPCA QLD (Queensland)
Highly commended: Phyllip Bix–Department of
All finalists were winners of their respective category at their 2013 state or territory or Comcare work health and safety awards. In presenting the Awards, Minister Abetz congratulated the winners and finalists for their outstanding efforts.
Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment.
Work health and safety reporting in annual reports
Safe Work Australia is working with the International Governance and Reporting Research Centre at Macquarie University on two projects aimed at improving the reporting of work health and safety. The project is directed at improving both internal reporting to senior managers and boards to assist officers meet their due diligence requirements under the work health and safety legislation and external reporting through company annual reports. The work is being co-funded by the Safety Institute of Australia and CPA Australia.
Promote improved safety reporting is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 2 of the Strategic Plan.
The first project is examining the role of accounting in work health and safety reporting and specifically:
- the application of traditional accounting processes (resourcing, measuring, monitoring, assuring and reporting) to work health and safety governance and due diligence, and
- issues and opportunities arising from the relationship between accounting and work health and safety.
The second project is to develop and test a range of indicators for both internal and external reporting and guidelines for companies wanting to develop internal indicators relevant to the size and nature of their business.
Two discussion papers were published on the Safe Work Australia website during the financial year:
- Issues in the measurement and reporting of work health and safety: a review, and
- Issues in the assurance and verification of work health and safety information.
Draft guidelines for evaluating and reporting on work health and safety were also developed and tested in eight organisations and revised as a result of the feedback from the initial pilot testing and Safe Work Australia.
A further two discussion papers and a final report on work health and safety and accounting will be published later in 2014:
- WHS implications of resourcing, contracting and infrastructure decisions
- Implications of performance management on safety culture, and
- Final report: Accounting for WHS governance: discharging due diligence under the Work Health and Safety Act.
A series of seminars will be undertaken throughout Australia on the revised guidelines for evaluating and reporting on work health and safety. Companies will be encouraged to test and evaluate the guidelines on a voluntary basis. Feedback from the testing will be used to further refine the guidelines before they are published in 2015.
Model Work Health and Safety Laws
Safe Work Australia continued to monitor implementation of the model WHS laws to identify and resolve any issues regarding interpretation and workability. Of the nine jurisdictions, seven have enacted and commenced the model WHS laws, with the majority of workers in Australia covered by them.
Assisting jurisdictions to implement the model WHS laws is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 4 of the Strategic Plan.
An Implementation Temporary Advisory Group (TAG) established to consider and provide advice on implementation issues met once in 2013-14.
This financial year, the majority of Safe Work Australia Members and Work Health and Safety Ministers agreed to a number of amendments to the model WHS laws to improve their workability. Changes included:
- removing the requirement for protective structures on earth moving equipment
- removing the requirement to register the design of pre-fabricated formwork
- simplifying the design verification requirements for other types of high risk plant, and
- clarifying that asbestos registers are not required for domestic purposes.
A revised version of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations was published on the Safe Work Australia website on 9 January 2014. Once adopted by jurisdictions, these changes will help reduce the regulatory burden for businesses in complying
with their work health and safety responsibilities without compromising safety standards.
On 11 April 2014 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Select Council of Workplace Relations (SCWR) at its final meeting, endorsed seven amendments to the model WHS laws proposed by Queensland and agreed by Safe Work Australia Members. Changes included increasing the penalty from 100 to 200 penalty units for a work health and safety permit holder contravening conditions of entry, requiring assistants to Health and Safety Representative (HSRs) to provide at least 24 hours’ notice before entering a workplace and allowing businesses to refuse entry to HSR assistants if requirements for notice are not met. Other amendments designed to reduce red tape and regulatory burden for businesses were also supported, such as no longer requiring certain information to be submitted in writing to the regulator. Safe Work Australia will progress these changes during 2014-15.
Codes of Practice and guidance material
Safe Work Australia has continued to develop material in support of the model WHS laws including a review of 12 draft model Codes of Practice to ensure they were practical for all sectors of business. In June 2014 Safe Work Australia agreed by majority to publish nine of the revised documents as national guidance material. Further information about the review is on page 29.
Six agreed model Codes of Practice for: confined spaces, construction work, managing risks in the workplace, demolition work, excavation work and spray painting and powder coating were reviewed and republished on the Safe Work Australia website. A range of guidance material including material for workplace bullying was also published.
A full list of material published during 2013-14 is at Appendix 1.
Safe Work Australia continued to work closely with industry, unions and work health and safety regulators on updated material for Stevedoring to address the high rates of death, serious injury and illness in the industry. Public comment on a draft Code of Practice: Managing Risks in Stevedoring and a consultation regulation impact statement closed on 29 November 2013. Eighteen submissions were received from individuals, unions, companies and industry representatives.
A Stevedoring TAG is advising Safe Work Australia on development of stevedoring material. TAG members include representatives from work health and safety regulators, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, stevedoring employers and unions. The TAG met
once in 2013-14 to consider submissions made during the public comment period.
Safe Work Australia Members agreed in November 2013 to convert the draft model Code of Practice for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying into guidance material. The Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying, and Dealing with Workplace Bullying–a Worker’s Guide, as well as a set of frequently asked questions were published on the Safe Work Australia website in late November 2013. A bullying working group established by SIG-WHS on 7 February 2014 will review the guidance material during 2014-15 to ensure they reflect any new developments in dealing with workplace bullying.
Safe Work Australia revised the model Code of Practice: Construction Work to include information relevant to the housing construction industry. As operators in the housing construction industry tend to be smaller organisations than in commercial or civil construction, specialised guidance was needed. Changes to the code included practical examples of how the regulatory requirements apply to housing construction situations.
In developing these changes, Safe Work Australia consulted with the Housing Industry Association and a working group consisting of other interested parties from the housing construction industry including the National Electrical Communications Association and Master Builders Association. A draft code was released for public comment in August 2013 and the revised code was published in November 2013.
Feature story: Small businesses assist in reviewing draft model Codes of Practice
In April 2014 Work Health and Safety Ministers asked Safe Work Australia to review 12 draft model Codes of Practice. The aim of the review was to identify unnecessary or inefficient regulation and, where appropriate, simplify or eliminate the codes without compromising safety standards. New regulation should only be imposed where absolutely necessary.
The revised Codes and guidance material provides practical assistance to aid understanding and compliance and support improved work health and safety outcomes.
The Agency conducted in-depth interviews with a number of relevant small businesses in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounding New South Wales regional areas to examine the suitability and effectiveness of three of the draft model Codes of Practice relating to traffic management, scaffolding and rural plant. Feedback found the codes didn’t allow for differences based on sector, industry, mind set and capacity.
Respondents felt the codes did not effectively engage the audience and made it difficult to identify the relevance to specific businesses.
The use of tables of contents, visuals, flow charts and checklists which provide information by minimising the use of words was considered important. Checklists were widely valued as it was felt they empowered businesses and would be directly adopted into safe work method systems.
Another important finding highlighted how the distribution and formatting of information needed to allow for the increased use of mobile technology including tablets and smart phones.
Based on the feedback provided, each draft code was revised to ensure essential elements were retained, including information to assist duty holders understand their obligations in relation to the model WHS laws. Information on hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control measures was reorganised. Duplication and repetitive content was removed to provide clearer, shorter and more focussed documents. A package of documents was created for each topic. These packages contained a revised draft Code of Practice and guidance material including information sheets for small businesses and workers providing
straightforward summaries on key topics.
The aim of these changes was to help businesses better understand their work health and safety obligations and provide workers with more accessible information about workplace hazards. Cross-references to all the revised documents were included so businesses and workers find it easier to access the information.
The revised material provides practical guidance to aid understanding and compliance and support improved work health and safety outcomes.
The review of the 12 draft model Codes of Practice was completed by 30 June 2014. Nine of the 12 draft model Codes of Practice and accompanying material were agreed by the majority of Safe Work Australia Members as national guidance material. The topics were:
- traffic management in workplaces
- safe design, manufacture, import and supply of plant
- formwork and falsework
- scaffolds and scaffolding work
- working in the vicinity of overhead and underground electrical lines
- managing cash-in-transit security risks
- managing risks in forestry operations
- industrial lift trucks, and
- amusement devices.
This guidance material is available on the Safe Work Australia website. Safe Work Australia is working to finalise the remaining three packages of material for:
- tree trimming and removal work crane access method
- cranes, and
- managing risks of plant in rural workplaces.
Evaluation of model WHS laws
A consolidated analysis of existing survey data was completed, measuring the level of knowledge in business, their concerns, and the work health and safety related costs required to meet safety requirements. Separate reports highlighted the experiences of workers, as well as very large businesses, small businesses and sole traders. A further 106 interviews were completed to investigate the experience of sole traders and small and medium sized businesses with work health and safety and to identify areas for review and assistance.
Continued implementation of the evaluation plan for the harmonisation of work health and safety is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 3 of the Strategic Plan.
Data collection commenced for a detailed cost-benefit analysis of the effect of model WHS laws on workers, business and government. This data collection includes a large self- administered survey of a representative sample of Australian businesses, 85 interviews with businesses and 35 interviews with commonwealth, state and local government entities. Interviews will also be conducted with senior managers in all work health and safety regulatory agencies to measure efficiencies for government regulators in jurisdictions that have adopted the model WHS laws.
In partnership with the Australian National University (ANU) and the Australian Research Council (ARC), Safe Work Australia is undertaking interviews to learn more about business’ motivations, attitudes and perceptions and actions undertaken to comply
with work health and safety regulation and how regulators seek to influence organisations to comply. Data collection has nearly been finalised with the work health and safety regulators in Queensland and South Australia and with small and medium sized enterprises in three priority industries: health and social assistance, construction and manufacturing.
During 2013-14 Safe Work Australia continued to progress the development of draft model WHS (Mines) Regulations. The draft regulations do not form part of the model WHS Regulations but once finalised in 2014 the regulations will be provided to individual jurisdictions who may choose to implement them in their WHS laws.
In December 2012 COAG agreed that the harmonisation of explosives legislation would be progressed through the SCWR, where there are clear benefits to be derived. Workplace Relations Ministers asked Safe Work Australia to progress this work.
Safe Work Australia is currently developing policy proposals to inform the development of nationally consistent explosives legislation across Australia. A tripartite SIG-Explosives has been established to facilitate consultation with relevant stakeholders including the Australian Forum of Explosives Regulators (AFER) and to progress the policy development process.
The broad aim of the work is to achieve consistency and develop effective and efficient regulatory framework for explosives which provides for the protection of people, property and the environment from the effects of explosives. It also aims to provide a regulatory structure to ensure the security of explosives.
High Risk Plant
The model WHS Regulations identify the types of high risk plant that require registration and/or licensing for operation in a workplace. A number of schedules to the model WHS Regulations which deal with high risk plant are under review with the aim of identifying areas for improvement, reducing red-tape and updating definitions to clarify coverage.
There are 29 classes of high risk work (HRW) requiring a licence in Australia and these are listed in Schedule 3 of the model WHS Regulations. To ensure that workers are trained and competent to undertake HRW, Safe Work Australia endorses the units of competency against which candidates are trained and the national assessment instruments that must be used by accredited assessors to assess a candidate’s competency.
During 2013-14 Safe Work Australia redeveloped and released three new national assessment instruments for high risk plant, including boilers and reach stackers, and completed the development of a revised draft unit of competency for operating a concrete placing boom.
Review aspects of the regulatory framework is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 4 of the Strategic Plan.
There is a continuous improvement process for all national assessment instruments and expert groups and industry technical specialists are engaged in this Safe Work Australia process. This will assist work health and safety regulators, accredited assessors and Registered Training Organisations to achieve consistent assessment outcomes and levels of competency for candidates while maintaining a national approach across all jurisdictions.
Training tools and sessions
Safe Work Australia commissioned a further series of workshops to help businesses and workers better understand the model WHS Regulations for Hazardous Chemicals and the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). These workshops built on the success of the GHS training sessions held in June 2013. Workers, employers and regulators provided positive feedback on the provision of national training to assist in a consistent understanding of the GHS requirements.
To support the implementation of the model WHS Regulations, Safe Work Australia developed a new resource titled the Hazardous Chemical Information List. This list contains hazard classification information for over 4500 hazardous chemicals, each classified by an authoritative source and made available to the public.
Safe Work Australia delivered a continuing education session on measurement and risk assessment of nanomaterials to members of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists in December 2013.
Outlook for 2014-15
COAG has asked Work Health and Safety Ministers to examine ways to improve the model WHS laws, reduce regulatory burden and make it easier for businesses and workers to comply with their work health and safety requirements. The agency will assist Ministers with their examination. Ministers are required to submit their recommendations to COAG by the end of 2014.
In 2014-15 Safe Work Australia will:
- continue to develop and revise a range of national material in support of the model WHS laws with a focus on ensuring this material is accessible, effective and practical
- continue to be involved in the COAG Training Package Reform process
- conclude the review of plant and HRW licence class definitions
- continue to develop policy proposals for nationally consistent explosives legislation, and
- continue to develop training and other tools to help businesses with their duties under the model WHS Regulations.
This will include an online training tool to improve understanding of chemical labels and safety data sheets, and delivery of new GHS training targeted at small to medium businesses who are directly involved in the classification of chemicals and writing of safety data sheets.
Feature story: Workplace hazardous chemicals training
The implementation of work health and safety requirements for workplace hazardous chemicals is well underway in Australia. Businesses are actively working to classify and label their chemical products in accordance with the model WHS Regulations, which are based on the GHS.
To assist businesses, regulators and third parties specialising in classification, Safe Work Australia developed two training modules which were delivered to over 2500 people during 2013.
Further to these modules, businesses identified the need for specific training in chemical classification, particularly for chemical mixtures. Workers also identified the need to access easy to understand training on chemical labels and safety data sheets.
In response Safe Work Australia provided a training schedule for the second half of 2014, targeting small to medium chemical manufacturers and personnel specifically engaged to classify chemicals.
An online learning resource is also being developed for use by all workers, providing a basic understanding of labels and safety data sheets required by the model WHS laws.
Safe Work Australia will continue to work with jurisdictions to develop and deliver national training to assist employers and workers to better understand the requirements of the model WHS laws.
Data and analysis
Thirteen major statistical reports were published during 2013-14 in addition to updating a variety of fact sheets and data tables on the Safe Work Australia website. The reports continue to be a valuable resource for jurisdictions, industries, employers and workers and they provide the latest available information on work health and safety outcomes to policy makers and the Australian community as a whole. The reports cover work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities in addition to jurisdiction performance and activities and workers’ compensation schemes. Many reports are focused on specific work health and safety themes or issues.
The information in the reports predominantly comes from three key data sets compiled and maintained by Safe Work Australia: the National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics (the NDS), the Traumatic Injury Fatalities (TIF) collection and the Notifiable Fatalities collection. Safe Work Australia also accesses other data sources, particularly when reporting on occupational diseases or industries where workers’ compensation coverage is relatively low, to ensure that a complete, accurate and robust as possible description of work health and safety outcomes is provided to the reader.
Safe Work Australia compiles a work-related fatality tally to provide an up to date estimate of work-related deaths in Australia. This information is published prominently on the Safe Work Australia website.
The Data and Analysis section also runs a statistical enquiries service. The team responds to a large number of enquiries from the public and the media each year, enabling Safe Work Australia to make its statistical resources available and accessible to all. Some of the reports published by Safe Work Australia in 2013-14 have attracted considerable media attention and a number of radio interviews about the data in the reports have been conducted.
are activities in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 3 of the Strategic Plan.
- Developing and disseminating data and statistical analysis reports, and
- Maintaining and making accessible national datasets for Work Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation statistics
Key reports in 2013-14
Safe Work Australia published a number of noteworthy reports in 2013-14 and some of these are profiled below. All statistical reports can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia website.
The Comparative Performance Monitoring Report, 15th edition provides a comparison of work health and safety outcomes and workers’ compensation scheme performance across jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand in 2011-12. It also reported on progress made against targets in the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012. The 2014 (16th) edition of this report will include the final measurements against these targets and future editions of the report will document progress against the new Australian Strategy targets.
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. This report is a valuable resource and essential guide for anyone working in the workers’ compensation field.
Measuring progress towards targets–reducing the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness–was produced to accompany the Australian Strategy and it outlines how the strategy targets were determined and will be measured into the future.
223 workers were killed in 2012, down 28% from 311 in 2007.
Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2012 provides the most accurate estimate of the number of
work-related injury fatalities that occur in Australia each year. The report covers all Australian workers and bystanders killed as a result of someone else’s work activity. Information for this report is sourced from workers’ compensation data (the NDS), notifiable fatalities and from the National Coronial Information System. In 2012, 223 workers were killed, which is a significant reduction from the 311 deaths recorded in 2007. The 2012 fatalities equate to a rate of 1.93 deaths per 100 000 workers. With the cooperation of the jurisdictions and improvements to the coverage of the Notifiable Fatality collection, Safe Work Australia has been able to reduce the publication lag for this report series from 11 months to 7 months in 2013-14. The 2013 report will be published in July 2014.
Work-related fatalities involving trucks,2003-2012 profiles one of the most common factors involved in work-related deaths in Australia–trucks. Over the 10 year period covered by the report, 787 workers were killed in truck-related incidents, amounting to 30 percent of all work-related fatalities over the period. The report identified some key areas where efforts could be made to prevent fatalities. Readers interested in this topic should also read Work health and safety in the road freight transport industry, which describes serious injuries and fatalities and their trends over time in this Australian Strategy priority industry.
Psychosocial Health and Safety and Bullying in Australian Workplaces: Indicators from Accepted Workers’ Compensation Claims was the first annual statement issued by Safe Work Australia in response to recommendation 18 of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment’s report Workplace Bullying: We Just Want it to Stop. The statement outlines key statistics about accepted workers’ compensation claims caused by mental stress and its subcategory, harassment and/or bullying. In future statements Safe Work Australia seeks to include other statistics relating to workplace bullying from jurisdictions.
Australian Mesothelioma Registry
2013-14 has seen the continuation of the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) and the completion of its third data report, which provides the latest information on the incidence of mesothelioma, mortality from mesothelioma and describes the likely asbestos exposure scenarios for a subset of people diagnosed since 2010. The third data report will be published on the AMR website in early 2014-15. Key findings of the report include that the AMR received 575 notifications of new mesothelioma diagnoses in 2013.
This equates to 2.2 cases per 100 000 person-years. Asbestos exposure has been assessed for 350 people diagnosed with mesothelioma since 1 July 2010. Of these 61 percent were found to have possible or probable occupational asbestos exposure. The remainder provided no information to suggest occupational exposure but 83 percent of these were found to have asbestos exposures in non-occupational contexts and 16 percent (or 7 percent of all assessed) provided no information that would suggest they had asbestos exposure above background levels in either occupational or non-occupational contexts.
The AMR is managed for Safe Work Australia by the Cancer Institute NSW and the current management contract is for the period 2013-14 to 2015-16. The Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (MonCOEH) plays a key role in collecting and analysing the asbestos exposure information. Safe Work Australia sits on the management committee along with other experts in the field and state and territory cancer registries, the Cancer Institute NSW and MonCOEH. The AMR is funded by Safe Work Australia but Comcare also contributed funding in 2013-14.
Outlook for 2014-15
Safe Work Australia will continue to publish a broad range of statistical reports and resources in 2014-15. In addition to regular statistical reports, there will be an ongoing focus on producing thematic reports that focus on key work health and safety issues as well as Australian Strategy priority industries and disorders. These will include reports on: emergency services, musculoskeletal disorders, the construction and accommodation and food services industries and a report assessing the role of design issues in work-related fatalities.
Safe Work Australia is always looking for ways to improve the data we hold. We will work closely with the jurisdictions to address issues or concerns with workers’ compensation and fatality data as well as scope and investigate new potential data sources that may add new information on work health and safety outcomes. One potential data source that will be investigated in 2014-15 is jurisdictional prosecutions data–publically available information but not currently published or analysed at a national level. This data may enable Safe Work Australia to publish a commentary or statistics on the types of work health and safety prosecutions made in Australia and the information may also be useful in establishing details about work-related injury fatalities that have otherwise been unclear. This will lead to an improvement in the accuracy of information in the TIF collection.
Research and evaluation
Australian Strategy priority disorders and industries
Several research projects were completed in 2013-14 focusing on priority disorders and industries and published on the Safe Work Australia website including:
- An investigation of the work related causes of contact dermatitis. This furthered research on irritants and allergens that cause contact dermatitis and explored the provision and use of control measures and awareness of managers and workers of the causes of contact dermatitis.
- An examination of the work characteristics, health and retirement plans of middle-aged workers in Canberra and Queanbeyan conducted in collaboration with the ANU. This fourth wave of data from the middle-aged cohort of the Personality and Total Health (PATH) Through Life Project is being used to examine the impact of psychosocial hazards in the workplace on health including the development of cardiovascular disease.
- Analysis of the effects of worker health, work characteristics and demographic factors on productivity. This also evaluated a prototype assessment tool for use in interventions by consultants, regulators and businesses.
- A report detailing the factors influencing safe work procedures and risk management practices in the structural metal product manufacturing industry, aiming to inform evidence- based prevention activities.
Develop and disseminate research is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 3 of the Strategic Plan.
Safe Work Australia is continuing an examination of the effects of musculoskeletal disorders on the productivity of young workers.
A preliminary analysis from the first 520 workers was completed in May 2014 and is expected to conclude in late 2014 after the collection of more data.
Analysis of work health and safety in the manufacturing industry will also continue to investigate safety practices, hazard exposures as well as underlying attitudes and perceptions of work health and safety. A report will be completed in late 2014. Similar reports for the road transport and construction industries are nearing completion.
Safe Work Australia participated in a call for good practice as part of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (the Alliance). The Alliance is a national approach by business, community and government to encourage Australian workplaces to become mentally healthy for the benefit of the community and businesses. Safe Work Australia took the lead in the production of 22 case studies. In-depth interviews were conducted in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia with an opportunistic sample of employers. The research aim was to identify exemplars of mental health initiatives that have made a positive impact for Australian workplaces across industries. These case studies were published on the Alliance Heads Up website in July 2014.
Safe Work Australia continues to undertake and support research to better understand current hazard exposures, the use of controls and attitudes towards work health and safety.
Exposures to noise, dust, vibration and chemicals, particularly phosphine, are being measured on small mixed crop and livestock farms in Western Australia. Exposure measurements and surveys about risk management practices are providing useful information about farming work practices. A report on findings is expected in mid-2015.
Dr Lin Fritschi led a research team at the University of Western Australia to collect self-reported information on exposures to
38 carcinogens from a national sample of 5023 workers in 2011-12. This work known as the Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES), was supported by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding. Safe Work Australia funded the analysis of AWES data to examine exposures to lead, formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Reports will be published on the Safe Work Australia website in late 2014.
A team from Curtin University are also collecting self-reported information on exposures to several asthmagens from a national sample of about 5000 workers in 2014-15. The Extended Australian Work Exposure Study (AWES-2) is supported by NHMRC, Safe Work Australia, Cancer Council Australia and Cancer Council Western Australia as a NHMRC Partnership Project. Reports will be available in 2015-16.
Safe Work Australia continued as a research partner in the People at Work project aiming to help organisations identify and manage the hazards in the workplace that could contribute to the development of mental stress. The project is a collaboration between the Queensland University of Technology, the ANU, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, the Victorian WorkCover Authority, Safe Work Australia, Comcare, WorkCover NSW and beyondblue. The project is funded by the partner organisations and the ARC and will continue into 2015.
Outlook for 2014-15
The Research, Evaluation and Data Strategy 2013-2017 highlights the focus of the Research and Evaluation Program in four areas: hazard surveillance and risk management; occupational disease; attitudes to work health and safety; and evaluation of interventions. Projects through to 2015-16 will include:
- ongoing evaluation of work health and safety laws focussing on due diligence obligations and regulatory burden for businesses of all sizes
- examination of workplace exposures to asthmagens and controls used to reduce exposures, and
- identification of organisational risk factors associated with workplace bullying to develop prevention strategies.
Feature story: Reducing red tape in work health and safety
In May-June 2014, 89 businesses were interviewed on what they consider to be red tape in work health and safety requirements and their suggestions for reducing it. These businesses included sole traders (non-employing businesses) and owners of small (1-19 employees) and medium (20-199 employees) businesses.
These businesses comprise 99.8% of the total 2,079,666 actively trading businesses in Australia (ABS Counts of Australian Businesses June 2013, Cat. No. 8165.0). There are about 1.3 million sole traders, 760 824 small businesses and nearly 55 000 medium businesses.
Businesses identified some positive impacts of work health and safety reform as well as several problem areas. Developing or updating procedures and training and certification were reported as significant burdens. Businesses that provide services to other businesses or government reported additional burdens arising from a one-size-fits-all approach by their clients. A major issue was the different requirements and expectations of clients/work health and safety officers, inspectors and consultants. Other main findings included:
- the different volumes of documentation for work health and safety activities are often seen as exceeding requirements and what is ‘reasonably practicable’
- the cost and time of developing safe work method statements was significant and was viewed as a major burden
- certification and competencies involving client requests for irrelevant forms and certifications including letters from course assessors for each job rather than accepting tickets and certificates
- lack of industry-specific information, and
- difficulty in finding user-friendly materials and forms.
The participants suggested red tape could be reduced by:
- improving consistent interpretation of WHS laws and regulations
- providing information and templates specific to their industries
- providing detailed guidance which would help them to know what is ‘reasonable’, what is ‘practical’ and what is the ‘minimum standard’ for their industry, and
- standardising licenses and competencies across Australia.
Safe Work Australia will use this valuable information and work with work health and safety regulators to develop easier and more personalised ways of complying with the model WHS laws.
Safe Work Australia continued its involvement with international organisations like the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the GHS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Party for Manufactured Nanomaterials, and the International Labour Organisation.
Safe Work Australia also hosted a number of overseas delegations. The delegations were interested in learning about Australia’s work health and safety and workers’ compensation systems and work health and safety in Australian mines.
Representing Australia in international fora on relevant matters is an activity in the 2013-14 Operational Plan and supports Strategy 2 of the Strategic Plan.
During 2013-14 Safe Work Australia hosted:
- a visit by Dr Jaseema Begum, Deputy Director of Occupational Health in Malaysia’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health in October 2013
- a delegation of 15 health experts from the Chinese Anhui Province Health System in November 2013, and
- a delegation from the Chinese State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) in November 2013. Safe Work Australia attended a meeting with another SAWS delegation at the Department of Industry in December 2013. Both SAWS meetings focused on work health and safety in mining.
Safe Work Australia is representing Australia on the G20 Task Force on the Employment Sub-Group on Safer Workplaces. Ms Michelle Baxter travelled to Istanbul, Turkey to attend a meeting of the G20 Sub-Group in May 2014. The Sub-Group provided recommendations on how the G20 might contribute to reducing the number of fatalities, illnesses and injuries caused by unsafe workplaces. The recommendations will be considered at the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers meeting on 10-11 September 2014 in Melbourne.
Mr Drew Wagner, Branch Manager, Work Health and Safety travelled to Geneva in June 2014 to attend meetings of the UN sub-committee of Experts on the GHS and UN Sub-Committee for the Transport of Dangerous Goods.
Ms Julia Collins, acting Branch Manager, Review and Engagement provided advice to the New Zealand government on the model WHS laws to assist New Zealand in the development and introduction of its Health and Safety Reform Bill. This bill is part of the New Zealand Government Working Safer package of reforms that followed the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety in 2013.
Safe Work Australia continued its role as secretary with the Knowledge Network in Occupational Health in Mining (KNOHMi) for the World Health Organisation Global Network of Collaborating Centres. Safe Work Australia has participated in KNOHMi’s transition to become the Working Group on Occupational Safety and Health in Mining (MinOSH) with the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH).
In June 2014, economist and data analyst Mr Richard Webster from Safe Work Australia was invited by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work to attend and present at an expert meeting in Bilbao, Spain, on setting up a model for determining the costs of incidents and ill-health at work. Mr Webster was invited because of his involvement in developing Safe Work Australia’s cost estimate model. Early in 2013, Mr Webster attended a similar meeting in Singapore with the Work Safety and Health Institute and since then has provided advice on the development of their model. These invitations indicate the level of regard held for Safe Work Australia’s model and reports on the Cost of Work-Related Injury and Illness to the Australian Economy by the international work health and safety community. Safe Work Australia’s report is due to be updated during 2014-15 and it is expected that a more up to date estimate of the cost of work-related injury and illness to the Australian economy will be published in 2015.
Outlook for 2014-15
Safe Work Australia’s role as secretary of the ICOH Working Group MinOSH will continue until June 2015.
Safe Work Australia undertakes a program of work to improve workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia including in the areas of Return to Work, deemed diseases, permanent impairment and developing minimum benchmarks for the National Injury Insurance Scheme.
Activities in the 2013-14 Operational Plan to support Strategy 6 of the Strategic Plan include:
- Manage and conduct National Return To Work survey
- Develop Australian specific list of scheduled diseases
- Support National Guidelines for Permanent Impairment, and
- Develop minimum benchmarks for the National Injury Insurance Scheme.
Return to Work
Safe Work Australia manages the National Return to Work Survey which collects information via interview from over 4000 injured workers with a workers’ compensation claim from Australian jurisdictions and from New Zealand. The survey is co-funded by Safe Work Australia and participating jurisdictions. In 2014 Safe Work Australia published a number of reports based on the 2013 survey which covered New Zealand and all Australian jurisdictions except the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Reports included Headline Measures, a full summary of results and a report examining the employer and workplace factors impacting on return to work.
The national survey was run again in May 2014 with the Northern Territory taking part for the first time. Headline results were provided to jurisdictions in June 2014.
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 is to develop an agreed list of deemed diseases which if adopted would streamline access to workers’ compensation for those with a disease caused by their work, improve fairness and clarity and to reduce the likelihood of disputation.
Assessment of permanent impairment
In February 2014 Work Health and Safety Ministers agreed by majority for Safe Work Australia to implement nationally consistent arrangements for the assessment of permanent impairment. Safe Work Australia Members agreed to the scope of the work in May 2014.
National Injury Insurance Scheme
The Productivity Commission inquiry into Disability Care and Support in 2011 recommended the establishment of two schemes: the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the National Injury Insurance Scheme. The National Injury Insurance Scheme is envisaged as a federated model of separate state- based, nofault schemes providing lifetime care and support to people who newly acquire a catastrophic injury related to motor vehicle, work-related, medical and general accidents.
Safe Work Australia completed the technical work including recommended minimum benchmarks for injuries requiring lifetime care and support resulting from workplace accidents in March 2014. This work was referred to the National Injury Insurance Scheme Senior Officials Group comprising government officials from Commonwealth, State and Territories. This group will develop options for consideration by the Standing Council for Federal Financial Relations. In December 2013, COAG requested that policy development for the workplace accident stream of the National Injury Insurance Scheme be completed by 1 December 2014.
Outlook for 2014-15
A series of reports using data from the 2014 National Return to Work survey examining specific topics of interest will be published in late 2014. The 2015 Survey will be undertaken in May 2015. Safe Work Australia will develop the national guide for the assessment of permanent impairment and a process for maintaining the guide by late 2014. A national training package for assessors will be developed by June 2015.
Feature story: Employer support and return to work
Findings from the 2013 Return to Work Survey
One of the principal aims of workers’ compensation schemes is to achieve the rehabilitation and return to work of injured workers as early as is suitable, taking into account the nature and severity of the injury and a return to work that is sustainable.
Return to work that is timely, safe and sustainable has financial, social, psychological and physical benefits for workers as well as benefits for employers and the schemes themselves.
Research published by Safe Work Australia in May 2014 highlights the important role employers play in supporting a worker to return to work following an injury. The study found that for the most part, the relationship between employers and workers in Australian workplaces is a good one. Most workers had positive perceptions of their workplace prior to their injury and most reported they received support from their employer following their injury and on their return to work.
Employer contact and support at the time the worker was injured and during recovery led to better return to work outcomes. Workers who felt supported by their employer to a great extent were substantially more likely to have returned to work at the time of the survey compared to those who felt they were not supported at all.
The research findings support earlier research conducted in Australia and overseas and summarised by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational Medicine as ‘workers who are valued, treated with respect and have their concerns addressed quickly are significantly more likely to return to work.’
Factors that were positively associated with better return to work outcomes included:
- management commitment to workplace safety
- early contact and ongoing support of the injured worker
- provision of information on rights and responsibilities in relation to returning to work
- perception by the worker of being treated fairly during and after the claims process, and
- making an effort to find suitable employment.
The report The National Return to Work Survey 2013: the Role of the Employer and Workplace, along with other reports from the survey are available on the Safe Work Australia website. The survey collected information from 4698 injured workers in Australia and New Zealand. All Australian jurisdictions took part except for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
A second Return to Work Survey was conducted in May 2014 with the Northern Territory taking part for the first time. Survey results and other topic reports will be published in late 2014.