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Implementation of the Australian Strategy 

Function 

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008—Item 1 

Contributing to

  • Corporate plan—strategy 1
  • Operational plan—activity 1

Highlights 

Six years after its launch, the Australian Strategy continues to inform the strategic WHS efforts of regulators, industry, unions, governments and key organisations. Stakeholder commitment to the vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives, as well as the identified outcomes and national targets is impacting WHS in Australia. We are seeing evidence of reductions in traumatic injury fatalities, the incidence rate of serious injuries and the incidence rate of musculoskeletal claims.

  • The Australian Strategy is in its sixth year of operation. 
  • A mid-term review into the Australian Strategy produced 14 key findings.
  • Based on the findings a revised Australian Strategy was published on 24 April 2018.
  • The Australian Strategy has contributed to reductions in traumatic injury fatalities, the incidence rate of serious injuries and the incidence rate of musculoskeletal claims.

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • WHS regulators
  • All levels of government
  • Academics
  • Community organisations
  • Educational institutes
  • Employer associations
  • WHS professionals
  • Unions 
The Australian Strategy continues to inform strategic WHS efforts across Australia.

Six years after its launch, the Australian Strategy continues to inform the strategic WHS efforts of regulators, industry, unions, governments and key organisations. Stakeholder commitment to the vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives, as well as the identified outcomes and national targets is impacting WHS in Australia.

We are seeing evidence of reductions in traumatic injury fatalities, the incidence rate of serious injuries and the incidence rate of musculoskeletal claims.

27% decrease in the number of traumatic injury fatalities
Decrease in the number of traumatic injury fatalities
25% decrease in the rate of serious injuries
Decrease in the rate of serious injuries
decrease in the incidence rate of serious musculoskeletal workers’ compensation claims
Decrease in the rate of musculoskeletal claims

Mid-term review

In March 2017 we conducted three months of public consultation for the mid-term review of the Australian Strategy. In August 2017 we presented a mid-term review report containing 14 key findings to Members. The report also lists stakeholders consulted during the process. On 5 November 2017 the mid-term review report was published on the Safe Work Australia website.

The review found that the Australian Strategy is being used as intended, it is flexible enough to meet the needs of stakeholders, and sufficiently robust to accommodate the changing employment and industrial landscape for the next five years.

Stakeholders indicated general support to keep the seven action areas, seven priority industries and six priority conditions detailed in the Australian Strategy.

Action areas

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

Priority industries

  • Agriculture
  • Road transport
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Public administration and safety
  • Health care and social assistance
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
  • Mental health conditions
  • Cancers (including skin cancer and asbestos-related cancers)
  • Occupational lung diseases
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Noise-induced hearing loss

Progress against all three national targets is on track to be achieved by 2022, including:

  • 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.

Overall, the review showed that most stakeholders consider the Australian Strategy is fulfilling its purpose and there is no need for significant change. However, it was identified that stakeholders supported some immediate action, which included an update to the language about priority disorders and the inclusion of occupational violence and at-risk workers as new areas for focus.

There was also support for deeper analysis of existing fatality and workers’ compensation data to help shape and target interventions for the priority industries and conditions, and for research into improved performance monitoring. 

Safe Work Australia Members’ response

Members formally responded to the review findings on 1 March 2018. The response outlined measures to ensure the Australian Strategy continues to guide WHS improvements and outcomes over the next five years.

Members agreed to minor amendments to the Australian Strategy, including:

  • change ‘priority disorders’ to ‘priority conditions’
  • change ‘mental disorders’ to ‘mental health conditions’
  • change ‘cancer (including skin cancer)’ to 'include asbestos-related cancers'
  • change ‘asthma’ to ‘occupational lung diseases’, and
  • change the ‘leadership and culture’ action area to explicitly reference ‘bullying, harassment and occupational violence’.

The Australian Strategy was updated to include these changes and a revised version was published on 24 April 2018.

Members agreed to strengthen efforts in those areas identified as requiring further attention. These efforts include: 

  • a deeper analysis of the causes and controls of work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses, with an initial focus on the agriculture industry and musculoskeletal disorders
  • exploring the feasibility of national lead indicators to support improved workplace performance measurement and reporting, and
  • developing effective information sharing and improved coordination of activities implemented under the Australian Strategy. 

Members also agreed that research to inform the next strategy be undertaken on ‘at-risk workers’ and occupational violence.

Annual progress report 

The Australian Strategy annual progress report, Appendix 3, Part 7–Appendices, details Safe Work Australia’s and other stakeholder progress against the national targets, along with work undertaken against the action areas, priority industries and priority conditions.

During 2017–18, we saw a focus on strengthening leadership and culture in workplaces and the recognition of championing, modelling and promoting WHS by managers. Some great leadership and culture initiatives led by the University of Queensland, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, University of Western Australia, WorkSafe Victoria and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Key projects developed by NT WorkSafe, SA Asbestos Coalition, SafeWork SA and WorkSafe Tasmania have been designed and implemented to help build health and safety capabilities in Australian workplaces. 

Conducting research and evaluation is needed to build a strong national evidence base. During 2017–18 the Centre for Work Health and Safety was launched, and there were also projects conducted by Comcare and Safe Work Australia.

A common theme throughout 2017–18 has been addressing mental health conditions in the workplace. Partnerships between community organisations and regulators have resulted in the development of useful programs and tools for managers and employees. Regulators have also been focused on the priority conditions of musculoskeletal disorders, and skin and asbestos-related cancers.

There has also been work in the areas of occupational violence, bullying and at-risk workers which were identified in the mid-term review as requiring attention.

The full annual progress report can be found at Appendix 3, Part 7–Appendices.

Model Work Health and Safety laws 

Function

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008—Items 1, 2 and 6 

Contributing to

  • Corporate plan—strategy 4
  • Operational plan—activity 5

Highlights

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • Council of Australian Governments
  • WHS Ministers
  • Independent laws reviewer
  • Government
  • WHS regulators
  • Workers’ compensation authorities
  • Employer associations
  • Unions
  • WHS professionals
  • Industry associations
  • Business
  • Occupational hygienists
  • Community organisations
  • WHS professionals
A single set of laws that provides a balanced and nationally consistent framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces.

In 2017–18, we continued our work on the model WHS laws. This involved developing supportive materials to help those who have a duty under the law to understand their responsibilities and how these responsibilities can be achieved and provide effective ways to identify and manage risks.

Implementation of the model WHS laws

The model WHS laws were first implemented in 2012 by the Commonwealth, NSW, Queensland, ACT and the NT governments. SA and Tasmania implemented the model WHS laws in 2013. Victoria and WA have not yet implemented the model WHS laws.

2018 review of model WHS laws

WHS ministers asked Safe Work Australia to review the model WHS laws by the end of 2018.

Safe Work Australia engaged an independent reviewer, Marie Boland, to conduct the review. Marie was formerly the Executive Director of SafeWork SA and played a key role in implementing the model WHS Act and Regulations in South Australia.

Marie completed her initial consultations in the first half of 2018, including the release of a discussion paper and call for written submissions. Marie travelled across Australia to meet with people about their practical experience with the laws.

Marie will present her findings to Members by the end of 2018. Further information on the Review is in the below feature story, Delivering on the objectives of the model WHS laws.

Evaluation of WHS laws

Over the past five years, we have conducted widespread research as part of our Evaluation Plan, which is now in its final year.

In 2016–17, the final survey, Health and Safety at Work, was conducted. The survey was sent to a nationally representative sample of 10,000 businesses across Australia, with more than 2,450 businesses responding. The survey sought answers to questions including:

  • the cost of WHS activities undertaken in businesses
  • the broader impacts of WHS expenditure, and
  • businesses’ motivations for WHS expenditure.

A summary of the key findings from the survey will be finalised in late 2018.

WHS requirements for inorganic lead

In December 2016, based on the outcomes of a Decision RIS, WHS Ministers agreed to amendments to the model WHS Regulations for inorganic lead.

Amendments to the model WHS Regulations and the Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants were published on 27 April 2018 on the Safe Work Australia website. For these amendments to have effect in a jurisdiction they must be made in that jurisdiction.

Review of workplace exposure standards

Workplace exposure standards in Australia cover approximately 700 chemicals. A business must ensure that a worker is not exposed to airborne chemicals above the workplace exposure standard. We are currently reviewing the workplace exposure standards to ensure they are based on the highest quality evidence and supported by a rigorous, scientific approach. The aim of the review is to develop a list of health-based recommendations for WES in Australia. We have developed a methodology for the review of workplace exposure standards, which includes:

  • sourcing exposure standard information
  • evaluating individual workplace exposure standards including notations, and
  • revising the list of chemicals in the Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants.

This process will result in recommendations for the workplace exposure standard values, notations and the list of chemicals supported by evaluation reports for each chemical. The methodology was published on the Safe Work Australia website in June 2018.

Review of model codes of practice

Members agreed that the model codes of practice would be reviewed every five years. A review commenced in February 2017 on 23 model codes that were published in 2011–12. The review has a narrow scope—it is seeking to identify and address any technical errors or out-of-date information, and anything that makes information in the model codes difficult to access, understand or apply.

On 25 May 2018 we published the first 10 reviewed codes, including:

The review of the remaining 13 codes will be completed in 2018–19 and published once agreed by Members.

Psychological health and safety

Safe Work Australia recognised the need to develop a national guide about work-related psychological health and safety. The guide was developed through consultation with key stakeholders including WHS regulators, workers’ compensation authorities and social partners over an 18 month period. On 7 June 2018 the Guide for work-related psychological health and safety: a systematic approach to meeting your duties was published on the Safe Work Australia website.

The guide provides information and a systematic approach to managing work-related psychological health and safety for persons conducting a business or undertaking and employers to help them meet their duties under WHS and workers’ compensation laws.

The guide will be supported by resources for specific occupational groups and business sizes. These resources will be made available on the Safe Work Australia website during 2018–19.

Update on the implementation of the GHS

Australia’s five-year transition to the GHS ended on 31 December 2016. The GHS updates Australian requirements for chemical classification and hazard communication in line with international best practice. A significantly revised guide to help duty holders classify hazardous chemicals has been published and the model codes supporting the GHS have been reviewed to ensure they continue to provide accurate and up to date advice to duty holders.

On 9 May 2018 more than 750 chemicals were added to our online HCIS, and updates were made to 672 existing chemicals providing updated classification information for manufacturers, importers, suppliers and end users. HCIS provides information on chemicals that have been classified in accordance with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

Updates to guidance material

In November 2017 we published an updated version of the Quad bikes in rural workplaces information sheet. The information sheet was updated to include new examples of control measures and replace superseded terminology. The revision also included reducing and simplifying information to make it clearer and more accessible. In December 2017 we published a new Guide for managing the risks of working in heat. More information about this Guide is outlined in the case study, Protecting workers from the effects of heat.

Ongoing development

Guidance to improve the understanding of officers’ duties

The 2014 COAG report, Improving the model work health and safety laws, recommended additional guidance be developed to improve the understanding of officers’ duties and standards of due diligence.

We are developing national guidance on officers’ duties in response to the COAG recommendations. The guidance will be aimed at smaller business owners and operators, and comprise short fact sheets and videos with practical advice and information. This material is currently being developed and will be finalised in 2018–19 and published on the Safe Work Australia website.

Prefabricated concrete elements

In consultation with industry and technical specialists we are progressing work to finalise a guide providing best practice advice about how to work safely with prefabricated concrete elements in construction. The guide will be provided to Members for approval before it is published in late 2018.

Guidance for health monitoring

The suite of guidance material for health monitoring is undergoing review and update. This work will ensure that the information provided to duty holders, workers and medical practitioners is up-to-date with current medical knowledge and testing methods.

Feature story: Delivering on the objectives of the model WHS laws 

In 2011, we developed a single set of work health and safety (WHS) laws to be implemented across Australia. These are known as the ‘model’ laws and include the model WHS Act, model WHS Regulations and model codes of practice. As we are committed to providing guidance that is easy to understand, comprehensive and accessible, it is important that these laws are helping to ensure all workers in Australia lead productive working lives.

WHS regulators in the Commonwealth and in each state and territory are responsible for regulating and enforcing the laws in their jurisdictions. The model WHS laws have been implemented in the ACT, NSW, NT, Queensland, SA, Tasmania and the Commonwealth.

WHS Ministers asked us to conduct a review of the model WHS laws in 2018. The review will consider a range of issues to determine how the laws are operating in practice and whether they are achieving the objectives stated in the model WHS Act.

We engaged Marie Boland, an experienced WHS consultant and former Executive Director of SafeWork SA, to independently conduct the review, which will involve extensive consultation with key stakeholders including regulators, businesses, unions, academics and the general public.

Marie opened consultation for the review during the first half of 2018 with the publication of a discussion paper and call for written submissions. She particularly sought supporting material including case studies, research and data to help strengthen the case for change where it might be needed.

More than 130 submissions were received.

Marie also held face to face consultations in all capital cities and two regional centres: Tamworth, NSW and Cairns, Queensland. She met with a range of stakeholders including WHS regulators, unions, peak industry bodies, businesses, WHS practitioners and government agencies.

During this period, we also hosted six online discussion forums on issues relevant to the review, inviting the public to share their experiences and ideas for improvement.

Marie will present her findings to Members by the end of 2018, and Members will present Marie’s report to WHS Ministers for consideration in early 2019.

The overall aim of this review is to ensure the model WHS laws are operating as intended, and provide effective support and protection for employers and workers. 

134 submissions were received.
134 submissions were received.
Consultations were held in all capital cities and two regional centres – Tamworth, NSW and Cairns, Qld.
Consultations were held in all capital cities and two regional centres – Tamworth, NSW and Cairns, Qld.
During this period, we also hosted six online discussion forums
During this period, we also hosted six online discussion forums on issues relevant to the Review, inviting the public to share their experiences and ideas for improvement.

Marie met with stakeholders including: WHS regulators, unions, peak industry bodies, businesses, WHS practitioners and government agencies.
Marie met with stakeholders including: WHS regulators, unions, peak industry bodies, businesses, WHS practitioners and government agencies.

Feature story: Representing Australia on the classification and communication of hazardous chemicals

Paul Taylor in Geneva at the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts for the GHS.
Paul Taylor in Geneva at the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts for the GHS

At Safe Work Australia we work closely with a range of international work health and safety, labour and human rights agencies to share our research and experience.

Dr Paul Taylor, Director of Chemicals Policy, led the Australian Delegation to the 33rd and 34th sessions of the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) in Geneva, Switzerland in July 2017 and was accompanied by Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter in December 2017.

The GHS Sub-Committee is responsible for updating and maintaining the GHS, promoting its implementation and providing additional guidance as needs arise, while maintaining stability in the system to encourage its adoption.

The Sub-Committee meets twice annually to revise and update the GHS to reflect national, regional and international experiences in implementing its requirements into laws. 
Our model WHS Regulations currently implement the 3rd revised edition of the GHS for workplace chemicals, and we conducted a promotional campaign to support businesses transitioning to these requirements leading up to 31 December 2016.

Our model WHS Regulations aim to reduce compliance costs for business and improve efficiency for regulatory agencies. The GHS labelling requirements support this by ensuring that workplace hazardous chemicals are classified and labelled in line with international standards.

Revised editions of the GHS are published every two years. The Sub-Committee is currently developing the 8th revised edition of the GHS, which is expected to include refinements to precautionary statements, and revisions to the aerosols chapter. Some other updates already in development, including for explosives, will be finalised for the 9th revised edition.

We conducted stakeholder consultation ahead of the July and December 2017 meetings, including hosting stakeholder teleconferences to inform the Australian position on matters discussed at the meetings.

While in Geneva, Paul also participated in face to face meetings of working groups where revisions to criteria for skin corrosion and irritation, explosives and labelling were discussed.

The work being undertaken will ensure that the views of Australian stakeholders— regulators, chemicals policy agencies, industry and employer representatives—are considered in the development of future changes and improvements to the GHS.

Feature story: Protecting workers from the effects of heat

Whether working indoors or outdoors, heat can be hazardous and can cause harm to workers. Our data shows that between 2003 and 2016, 19 workers died from exposure to environmental heat.1

The risk extends beyond the summer months. Hospitality workers in kitchens, factory workers who use hot machinery, and construction workers who go into roof cavities with no air flow are just some examples of workers at risk.

If the body has to work too hard to keep cool, or starts to overheat, a worker begins to suffer from heat-related illness. How hot a worker feels will be different in every situation, depending on the individual worker, the work they are doing and the environment in which they are working.

To provide information on how to manage the risks associated with working in heat and what to do if a worker begins to suffer from a heat-related illness the agency published the Guide for managing the risks of working in heat in December 2017.

The guide covers a range of tactics for managing heat in the workplace, as well as information on recognising and treating the most common forms of heat-related illness.

It addresses key issues from several coronial inquests into heat-related fatalities around Australia, and emphasises eliminating hazards as the first priority for worker safety.

We aim to support workers with guidance material that is easy to follow and provides practical advice, in our efforts to reduce the incidence of work-related death, injury and disease, and exposure to hazards and risks in the workplace.

The guide has proved popular amongst our audience, with more than 16,500 downloads since its launch. We will continue to promote this resource throughout 2018 and beyond to ensure workers remain safe in hot working conditions. 

Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia (2016), Safe Work Australia

19 workers died between 2003 and 2016 from exposure to heat.
19 workers died between 2003 and 2016 from exposure to heat.

On average, between 2011–12 and 2015–16, there were:

46 compensated claims due to heat effects.
46 compensated claims due to heat effects.
160 compensated claims due to indirect heat effects.
160 compensated claims due to indirect heat effects.

 

The most dangerous industries for working in heat are:

Public administration and safety.
Public administration and safety.
Construction and transport.
Construction and transport.
Postal and warehousing.
Postal and warehousing.

 

The most dangerous occupations for working in heat are:

Freight handlers, deck and fishing hands, handypersons, recycling and rubbish collectors.
Freight handlers, deck and fishing hands, handypersons, recycling and rubbish collectors.
Protective services workers.
Protective service workers.
Construction and mining labourers.
Construction and mining labourers.

Workers’ compensation activities

Function

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008—Items 1, 3, 6 and 7

Contributing to

  • corporate plan—strategy 6
  • operational plan—activity 6

Highlights

  • A best practice framework for the management of psychological claims was launched.
  • A total of 4,600 injured workers across Australia were interviewed for the 2018 National Return to Work Survey.
  • Development of the National Return to Work Strategy commenced.
  • NT joined NSW, Queensland and WA in adopting the national template guidelines for the evaluation of permanent impairment.

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • SIG-Workers’ Compensation
  • Workers’ compensation authorities
  • Employers
  • Injured workers
  • National Permanent Impairment
  • Coordinating Committee
  • Insurers
  • Researchers
  • Government
  • Universities
  • Medical associations and peak bodies
  • Medical practitioners
  • Mental health organisations

We want to achieve consistency in workers’ compensation arrangements and influence positive return to work results.

We continue to work closely with stakeholders to identify projects that will improve consistency in workers’ compensation arrangements across Australia. Key projects in 2017–18 include the National Return to Work Strategy, the National Return to Work Survey and the launch of the best practice and evidence based Taking Action: a best practice framework for the management of psychological claims in the Australian workers’ compensation sector.

National Return to Work Strategy

In 2017–18 we started developing a National Return to Work Strategy. The aim of the strategy is to lead national action to improve return to work outcomes. The strategy will guide collaborative efforts between stakeholders to achieve a shared vision, national outcomes and targets.

The strategy will address factors like systemic barriers and enablers, which influence return to work outcomes. A set of agreed priorities will frame and measure national efforts and identify gaps in policy and practice. In addition to building on existing workers’ compensation initiatives, the strategy will help recognise the need for more targeted action in some areas.

The strategy will complement the existing Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022. Stakeholder consultation to develop the strategy will be conducted throughout 2018–19.

National Return to Work Survey

In early 2018, a redesigned questionnaire for the National Return to Work Survey was finalised with support and expertise from national and international injury researchers who assisted throughout. The updated questionnaire reflects the latest evidence in return to work and ensures the Survey remains a useful tool for workers’ compensation authorities to monitor their schemes’ performance, and to better understand how to improve recovery and return to work outcomes for injured workers.

Survey fieldwork for the 2018 National Return to Work Survey was completed in June 2018, with nearly 5,000 injured workers across Australia interviewed via telephone. Key results from this survey will be reported in Headline Measures and Summary Reports to be completed early in the 2018–19 financial year.

As an Australian Government agency we are committed to open data sets. To ensure the National Return to Work Survey data is accessible for researchers and the general public, we are working to deposit survey data in the Australian Data Archive early in 2018–19.

Compensation Policy and Return to Work Effectiveness project

Safe Work Australia, alongside WorkSafe Victoria, has co-funded the COMPARE project led by the Insurance Work and Health Group at Monash University. The project forms part of a larger international study including Canadian and European workers' compensation jurisdictions.

The objective of the project is to determine how workers’ compensation scheme policies can have a positive, negative and/or neutral impact on return to work outcomes. The project will be used to build an evidence base to support effective workers’ compensation and return to work policy in Australia, and inform the development of policy approaches in the National Return to Work Strategy.

The project involves the analysis of two Safe Work Australia data sets—the NDS and the National Return to Work Survey.

Throughout the project, Monash University has published several research reports, presentations and journal articles examining the impacts of legislative change on scheme outcomes, interactions between injured workers and employers, and return to work outcomes for high risk worker cohorts.

The COMPARE project started in 2015 and is due to finish in early 2018–19.

Managing psychological claims

In December 2017 Safe Work Australia published Taking Action: a best practice framework for the management of psychological claims in the Australian workers’ compensation sector.

To develop the framework we undertook in-depth consultation with injured workers, insurers and employers to understand their situation and needs. We partnered with SuperFriend, a national mental health organisation, to adapt the TAKING ACTION Framework—developed for the life insurance industry—for the Australian workers’ compensation sector. We also worked closely with an expert advisory group who provided guidance.

The framework provides practical and evidence-based guidance to assist workers’ compensation insurers and claims managers to better support workers experiencing psychological illness or who are at risk of developing one. Read the feature story about the framework.

Assessment of permanent impairment

Since the agency’s development of the template National Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment and the supporting training package, NSW, Queensland, WA and NT have adopted the template National Guidelines.

The National Permanent Impairment Coordinating Committee continues to oversee the maintenance of the national approach to permanent impairment assessment and training.

Throughout 2018 we will assist the Coordinating Committee to review and refine the training package to ensure it continues to promote the training of permanent impairment assessors in accurate and consistent medical assessments under the National Guidelines.

Outlook for 2018–19

In 2018–19, we will scope further opportunities to improve return to work outcomes by analysing results from the revised National Return to Work Survey and finalising the National Return to Work Strategy. We will also:

  • make available the National Return to Work Survey data through the Australian Data Archive, and publish the headline measures and summary reports based on the survey
  • promote Taking Action: a best practice framework for the management of psychological claims in the Australian workers’ compensation sector and provide a communication toolkit to key stakeholders to support their promotional activities, and
  • assist the National Permanent Impairment Coordinating Committee to maintain the template National Guidelines for the Evaluation of the Permanent Impairment, and review the national training package.

Feature story: Guidance for employers managing psychological claims

Cover of the 'Taking Action: a best practice framework for the management of psychological claims for the Australian workers’ compensation sector' report.
Cover of the 'Taking Action: a best practice framework for the management of psychological claims for the Australian workers’ compensation sector' report.

In 2016, Safe Work Australia partnered with SuperFriend to develop Taking Action: a best practice framework for the management of psychological claims for the Australian workers’ compensation sector.

The framework builds on SuperFriend’s life insurance TAKING ACTION Framework by customising it to the Australian workers’ compensation sector. The framework focuses on the important role of the insurer and employer in a person-centred claims management process.

We worked closely with SuperFriend and an expert advisory group to develop the framework. In-depth consultations were held with injured workers, insurers and employers to ensure the framework would be suitable for their needs and also consider the unique complexities associated with psychological injury claims.

The framework provides practical and evidence-based guidance to assist workers’ compensation insurers and claims managers to better support workers experiencing psychological injury or who are at risk of developing injury. Six action areas guide the claims management process and highlight key areas for improvement to promote a positive recovery and return to work experience.

The framework was made available on Safe Work Australia’s website in December 2017 and was formally launched at the 19th Annual National Workers’ Compensation Summit in February 2018.

Throughout 2018, we will focus on promoting the framework and consulting with key stakeholders to identify priorities that will support claims managers and insurers to use the framework in practice.

Evidence activities

Function

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008—Item 4

Contributing to

  • corporate plan—strategy 3
  • operational plan—activities 3 and 4

Highlights

  • We responded to over 500 requests for statistical information.
  • We published five major statistical reports.
  • We commenced user research to develop an online Evidence Portal.

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • Evidence Reference Group
  • Government
  • Researchers
  • Academics
  • Universities and educational institutes
  • WHS regulators
  • Research institutions
  • Workers’ compensation authorities
  • Journalists

We provide a reliable evidence base to inform WHS and workers’ compensation policy and practice.

Our 2017–18 evidence activities focused on releasing a range of evidence products providing quantitative and qualitative insights into national WHS and workers’ compensation. Our most popular evidence product was our Key work health and safety statistics Australia booklet with over 17,500 views and downloads.

During the year we worked closely with stakeholders to improve the structure and formatting of our key evidence reports. We also commenced a project to develop an online Evidence Portal to improve the accessibility and openness of our research and data.

Our newly formed ERG met for the first time in Canberra in March 2018. The group was established to reflect the merge of data and research functions within the agency.

Our research

Our 2017–18 research on WHS and workers’ compensation issues was conducted in line with the Agency Work Plan.

Agriculture industry

In 2018, Safe Work Australia engaged ThinkPlace Pty Ltd to undertake exploratory research to gain insights into the behavioural and cultural factors and barriers which impact on the WHS practices of farmers. The research involved an in-depth ethnographic study of nine farms in southern NSW and the key findings are contained in the report titled Exploring the experience of family farmers. This report is due to published in July 2018.

The small scale of the study and its focus on a specific sub-sector of the agriculture industry means the key insights outlined in the report may not necessarily be reflective of the broader industry. Nonetheless, the research adds to the body of WHS evidence in the industry and aligns with the findings of other research.

As the research uses an in-depth approach, it offers detailed information about farmer attitudes and behaviours; helping to increase our understanding of the barriers to reducing the high rates of injuries and fatalities in the agriculture industry. This report is intended to inform and stimulate a broader conversation around WHS in the agriculture industry and initiate further evidence and policy work to improve WHS outcomes for the industry.

Health and Safety at Work, 2016-17 Survey

In 2017–18, Safe Work Australia undertook analysis of the data from the 2016–17 Health and Safety at Work Survey. This survey was the third regulatory burden/WHS cost survey undertaken by the agency and involved a nation-wide postal and online questionnaire survey among a stratified random sample of 10,000 businesses, of which approximately 2,500 responded.

The survey collected information about the drivers of WHS expenditure, such as financial cost, business reputation and fear of penalties. Although not as extensive as previous surveys, the survey also collected information on perceptions about the burden and benefits of complying with WHS laws, including improvements in productivity, absenteeism and workers’ compensation costs.

Results from the analysis of the survey data were provided to Marie Boland, the independent reviewer for the review of the model WHS laws (see the feature story, Delivering on the objectives of the model WHS laws), and a summary of the results will be published in late 2018.

Australian Research Council linkage grant: working longer, staying healthy

In 2017–18, Safe Work Australia continued to provide in-kind support to this project as a partner organisation and through participation on the project reference group.

This project comprises a number of sub-studies aimed at providing the evidence needed to design policy and workplace interventions to accommodate older workers.

Centre of Excellence on Population Ageing Research

In late 2017, the Centre of Excellence on Population Ageing Research relaunched with new funding from the Australian Research Council. The Centre will examine the challenges in creating good work for mature workers, and seek to identify the kinds of work that preserve physical and mental capacity among mature workers.

Safe Work Australia is a partner organisation of the Centre and is providing in-kind support for the first three years, including participation on relevant stakeholder reference groups. In addition, Safe Work Australia CEO, Michelle Baxter, is a member of the Centre’s Advisory Board.

Be Upstanding: Train the Champion Toolkit

In recent years, Safe Work Australia actively contributed to the development of the University of Queensland’s Be Upstanding toolkit. This world-first resource is designed to reduce sitting time by providing workplaces with best practice guidance using multimedia materials.

In 2017–18, the University of Queensland received additional grant funding to conduct a national implementation trial of the toolkit. Safe Work Australia has committed to contribute funding and in-kind support to this project for its three year duration.

Personality and Total Health through Life

The PATH project is a large, ongoing community survey of residents of Canberra and Queanbeyan, with participants from three cohorts aged in their early 20s, 40s and 60s at baseline. We have worked in conjunction with ANU on the PATH project for a number of years.

Participants have been reinterviewed every four years since 1999. The survey contains a wealth of information, including data enabling investigation of the intersection between work and health such as measures of work-related issues like bullying, injury, psychosocial environment, sedentary behaviour, shift work, days out of role and early retirement.

In 2017–18, Safe Work Australia published a report, The role of psychosocial work factors in the decision to retire early, co-authored with researchers at the University of Melbourne and the ANU. Using data from the PATH survey, the report investigates the predictors of early retirement among middle-aged workers, with particular interest in the influence of unfavourable psychosocial working conditions like high job demands, low job control and high perceived job insecurity.

See the feature article, How psychosocial work factors influence the decision to retire early, for further information on the findings of this report.

Workplace safety futures

The unprecedented level of change in the nature of work and the rapid growth of disruptive technology is likely to have implications for WHS and workers’ compensation. Safe Work Australia partnered with the CSIRO’s Data61 team and the authors of Tomorrow’s digitally enabled workforce to revisit the report to help identify possible WHS and workers’ compensation implications. The project focused on:

  • rising screen time, sedentary behaviour and chronic illness
  • automated systems and robotics
  • rising issues of workplace stress and mental health issues
  • blurring the boundaries between work and home
  • the gig and entrepreneurial economy, and
  • an ageing workforce.

In April 2018, the Workplace Safety Futures: The impact of emerging technologies and platforms on work health and safety and workers’ compensation over the next 20 years report was published on the CSIRO Data61 website.

Data and analysis

Safe Work Australia plays a key role in developing evidence-informed policy through the compilation and analysis of three national data collections:

  • the National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics (NDS)
  • the work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities (TIF) collection, and
  • the Comparative Performance Monitoring (CPM) program.

The collections draw on a variety of data sources including administrative data provided by jurisdictions, fatality data from the National Coronial Information System and employment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

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

Our data and analysis activities were undertaken in accordance with the Agency Work Plan. Key activities included maintenance and progressive development of data collections, delivery of a statistics enquiry service, and production of a suite of statistical publications.

National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics

The NDS provides uniform and nationally comparable indicators of WHS performance and experience. The NDS data collection has operated for over 30 years and despite two revisions to the data collection framework, provides an unparalleled time series of information on work-related injuries in Australia.

The NDS is compiled annually from administrative data associated with workers’ compensation claims made under workers’ compensation laws. NDS data has an approximate two year lag time due to the time needed to process claims, and code and compile a national data set. Therefore, in 2017–18, the latest available NDS data was for claims lodged in 2015–16.

Fatality data collections

We collect information on work-related injury fatalities from a number of different sources, including:

  • notified fatalities from WHS jurisdictions—this data is published monthly in the Notifiable Fatality report
  • the NDS, which holds information on compensated fatalities resulting from injuries
  • the National Coronial Information System, which includes records of all unexpected fatalities in Australia, and
  • media reporting.

This data is combined to compile the Traumatic Injury Fatalities (TIF) data set. It is the most comprehensive and accurate source of work-related injury fatalities data in Australia.

We also compile data on fatalities associated with the use of quad bikes, which is published on the QuadWatch page on the Safe Work Australia website.

Comparative performance monitoring

We maintain a data collection and reporting program that compares the performance of WHS and workers’ compensation schemes in Australia and New Zealand. The comparative performance monitoring (CPM) program was established in 1998 and is supported by a data providers network involving representatives from Australian jurisdictional authorities and New Zealand. The CPM collection is complemented by the NDS and TIF collections.

Key reports

Five major statistical reports were published during 2017–18:

  • Key work health and safety statistics, Australia 2017, is a new publication that will be published annually and provides an overview of the latest national work-related injury, disease and fatality statistics.
  • Australian workers’ compensation statistics 2015–16 summarises statistics from the NDS for non-fatal workers’ compensation claims by key employment and demographic characteristics.
  • Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2016 provides comprehensive statistics on work-related traumatic injury fatalities in Australia, including both workers and bystanders. Information for this report was sourced from the TIF collection.
  • Comparative performance monitoring report (19th edition), Parts 1–3 contain the latest NDS data and jurisdictional performance against agreed indicators. The 19th edition of this annual report was split into three parts to assist in the timely publication of the information and to make the report more accessible to different stakeholders.
  • Comparison of workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand complements the CPM report. It is an annual report on the operation of workers’ compensation schemes in each of the Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand. It is a valuable resource and essential guide for those in the workers’ compensation field.

Other statistical publications in 2017–18

We published seven priority snapshots for agriculture, road transport, construction, manufacturing, health care and social assistance, public administration and safety and accommodation and food services.

This collection of snapshots provides WHS insights into each industry identified as priority in the Australian Strategy.

Statistical enquiries service

We responded to over 500 statistical enquiries during 2017–18. Most enquiries require a bespoke response and are provided within three days. The service enables us to make our statistical assets and resources available to stakeholders who have a particular WHS and workers’ compensation enquiry. The development of an Evidence Portal will help address the volume of enquiries we receive, making it easier for stakeholders to generate their own data queries online.

Outlook for 2018–19

The merging of the agency’s research and data functions better positions us to lead national evidence efforts. Over the next 12 months we will continue to deliver our core evidence functions, but will also provide targeted evidence work to support Safe Work Australia’s policy agenda.

This will include:

  • conducting data analysis and research that supports the Australian Strategy including:
    • synthesised research and products related to priority industries and conditions, and
    • collecting reliable national data to measure Australia’s work health and safety performance
  • conducting in-depth user research and testing to inform the development of an online Evidence Portal
  • working collaboratively with the newly formed Evidence Reference Group, and
  • sharing relevant evidence work undertaken by jurisdictions and social partners with our stakeholders.

Feature story: How psychosocial work factors influence the decision to retire early

Cover of 'The role of psychosocial work factors in the decision to retire early'

Cover of 'The role of psychosocial work factors in the decision to retire early'

All workers have the right to a healthy and safe working environment. We believe the effective design of work and work systems will allow workers to lead productive working lives.

With an increasing proportion of aged workers, there are economic and societal advantages to keeping older people engaged in the workforce. However, a substantial proportion of older workers retire well before the age at which they are eligible for the age pension. Common reasons for early retirement range from taking advantage of good health and economic circumstances to being forced to retire (partly or completely) due to poor health or working conditions.

We worked with researchers from the University of Melbourne and the ANU to investigate the predictors of early retirement among middle-aged workers in the Canberra and Queanbeyan region with a particular focus on the influence of unfavourable psychosocial working conditions like high job demands, low job control and high perceived job insecurity.

While the study was limited to a high representation of employees in the government sector and based mostly on self-reports, we found that the main reasons for deciding to retire completely were a perception of having reached an appropriate age to retire, or limitations of one’s own health and functioning. In contrast, partial retirement was driven more by external circumstances such as the experience of job loss, lack of satisfaction with work, and caregiving responsibilities or family illness.

Of particular interest, none of the measured psychosocial work factors (job demands, job control, or perceived job insecurity) predicted retirement after other factors were taken into account. However, high demands, low control and high insecurity were associated with poorer mental health and physical functioning, which in certain circumstances predicted retirement. These findings add to the mixed evidence for the role of psychosocial factors in older persons’ participation in the workforce.

These findings support existing literature which shows that there is no single path to early retirement. This implies that designing ways to keep older people engaged in the workforce may not be straightforward. For work health and safety policy, focusing on psychosocial work factors in order to keep older people at work longer may not have a significant impact, at least in the short term.

However, improving psychosocial work conditions may prevent the development or worsening of physical and mental health problems in the long term, and this may contribute to better work ability and person-job fit for older workers.

The findings of this study are outlined in more detail in the report The role of psychosocial work factors in the decision to retire early which is available on the Safe Work Australia website.

Work health and safety statistics

Traumatic injury fatalities for 2017:

190 workers 1.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

190 workers, 1.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

41% reduction in rate of fatalities since 2008.

41% reduction in rate of fatalities since 2008.

Highest fatality industries for 2017:

Transport, Postal and Warehousing:

54 fatalities 8.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

54 fatalities, 8.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

32% reduction in rate since 2008.

32% reduction in rate since 2008.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing:

52 fatalities 16.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

52 fatalities, 16.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

18% reduction in rate since 2008.

18% reduction in rate since 2008.

Construction:

30 fatalities 2.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

30 fatalities, 2.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

31% reduction in rate since 2008.

31% reduction in rate since 2008.

Serious claims in 2016-17*:

106,260 serious claims.

106,260 serious claims.

9.3 serious claims per 1,000 employees.

9.3 serious claims per 1,000 employees.

Change in serious claims between 2006–07 and 2015–16:

17% reduction in number of serious claims.

17% reduction in number of serious claims.

30% reduction in incidence rate (claims per 1,000 employees).

30% reduction in incidence rate (claims per 1,000 employees).

All priority industries under the Australian Strategy have witnessed reductions in the incidence rate of serious claims per 1,000 employees between 2006–07 and 2015–16:

25% reduction agriculture, forestry and fishing.

25% agriculture, forestry and fishing.

39% reduction transport, postal and warehousing.

39% transport, postal and warehousing.

38% reduction manufacturing.

38% manufacturing.

19% reduction construction.

19% construction.

27% reduction health care and social assistance.

27% health care and social assistance.

33% reduction public administration and safety.

33% public administration and safety.

26% reduction accommodation and food services.

26% accommodation and food services.

Estimated to be $61.8 billion (4.1% of GDP) for the 2012-13 reference year.

*preliminary data subject to revision in subsequent years as further claims are finalised.

Feature story: Ensuring that the right messages are reaching the right people

We conducted research to learn more about our key audiences and their information needs and preferences so we could find out how to improve our WHS communications.

We engaged ORIMA Research to collect information from more than 2,000 members of our audience using a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Participants included our ‘publics’—those who have an interest in WHS or who recently sought WHS information—and ‘influencers’, such as WHS leaders, regulators, employers, unions and employee representatives.

Our research explored the participants’ awareness and understanding of WHS and the role of Safe Work Australia, their information needs, their experiences accessing WHS information, and their perceptions of, and engagement with our communications.

We learnt that just over half of our publics (57 per cent) knew where to find WHS information, while influencers had a better knowledge of where the information is available on our website (72 per cent). It became clear that our website is an important communication tool, while our social media accounts aren’t a particularly trusted or known channel. Some highlights of the research are shown below.

We will use insights from this research to tailor important WHS information and ensure that the right messages are reaching the right people at the right time.

Publics

57% reported that they knew where to get WHS information if needed.

57% reported that they knew where to get WHS information if needed.

78% prefer to obtain WHS information via a website.

78% prefer to obtain WHS information via a website.

44% would like to know more about national workrelated injury & fatality statistics.

44% would like to know more about national work-related injury & fatality statistics.

Influencers

71% who used the Virtual Seminar Series rated it as ‘extremely useful’ or ‘very useful’.

71% who used the Virtual Seminar Series rated it as ‘extremely useful’ or ‘very useful’.

72% could easily access the right information on our website when needed.

72% could easily access the right information on our website when needed.

81% did not follow us on social media.

81% did not follow us on social media.

92% prefer receiving WHS information via email.

92% prefer receiving WHS information via email.

74% frequently share our information with their networks.

74% frequently share our information with their networks.

 

Education and communication activities

Function

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008—Item 5 and 6

Contributing to

  • corporate plan—strategies 2 and 8
  • operational plan—activities 2 and 8

Highlights

  • There were over 47,000 views and downloads of 2017 National Safe Work Month campaign materials.
  • A total of 78 high-quality entries were received for the Workplace Reward competition.
  • A total of 28 seminars were broadcast during 2017–18 for the Virtual Seminar Series.
  • Over 2,000 stakeholders participated in our research about their information needs and preferences.

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • Communications Reference Group
  • WHS regulators
  • International Labour Organization
  • Journalists
  • Media organisations
  • Academics
  • Researchers
  • Small business
  • WHS leaders
  • WHS professionals
  • Employers
  • Workers
  • Industry associations

Safe Work Australia is a preferred source of WHS information due to: trustworthiness, expertise and the delivery of a national perspective.

During 2017–18 we delivered a variety of national communication and engagement activities to educate and raise community awareness.

We continued our focus on developing informative content for use across the multiple communication channels we manage, including for web, press, video, speeches and social media. Our main communication channel, the Safe Work Australia website, received over 6.6 million page views, an increase of 3 per cent from last financial year. While managing multiple communication and engagement activities we also delivered seven national campaigns, including:

  • National Safe Work Month
  • National Farm Safety Week
  • National Tradies Health Month
  • World Day for Safety and Health at Work
  • Workers’ Memorial Day
  • Road Safety Week, and
  • Asbestos Awareness Month.

2017 National Safe Work Month

Each year in October, we hold the National Safe Work Month campaign to improve the wider community’s awareness and knowledge of WHS.

We prepared for October using various methods of consultation such as the CRG, our stakeholder engagement platform, and internal staff, to develop the approaches, themes and strategic imperatives. The states and territories implement their own, grass-roots style campaigns featuring celebrity ambassadors, advertising and engagement through television, radio, print and social media.

In 2017, we developed resources to support businesses to run their own National Safe Work Month initiative, hosted the Workplace Reward competition, produced a series of short videos featuring real workers’ safety stories, shared case studies and national statistics about WHS and ran an effective social media campaign. Compared to previous years, the 2017 campaign achieved a broad and significant increase in audience awareness. An increased audience engagement of 87 per cent from 2016 exceeded the campaign’s expectations. The campaign website and campaign kit materials proved exceptionally popular with over 47,000 views and downloads.

The agency’s distinctive National Safe Work Month brand was adopted by businesses around Australia, including SafeWork SA who adapted the brand for their own campaign. The brand was used across social media channels, print and online media.

The Workplace Reward competition encourages businesses to think of new and creative ways to build awareness of WHS in their workplace, and has been a highlight of the campaign since 2014. The 2017 program received a total of 78 high-quality entries, including entries from small, medium and large businesses around Australia. Comdain Infrastructure was the 2017 winner; see the feature story about the winner. Runner up places were jointly awarded to Taronga Conservation Society Australia and Coca-Cola Amatil (Northmead site), and the Highly Commended entry was awarded to the University of Western Australia’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

Preparation for the 2018 National Safe Work Month is underway with CEO, Michelle Baxter announcing this year’s theme, ‘A moment is all it takes’. The 2018 campaign encourages workers to take a moment to consider what workplace safety means to them.

2018 World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day

We recognise World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28 each year. The day raises awareness about the importance of WHS and honours those who have died from work related injury or illness. This year we joined with the ILO in promoting Generation Safe and Healthy, a focus on WHS for young workers (age 15–24) and improving health and safety for future generations.

Our campaign encouraged audiences to participate by sharing promotional material, including animated images for social media, posters, infographics and web banners that were located on our World Day web page. To complement the campaign, we also launched a new web page dedicated to young workers. This page provides resources for young workers, employers, supervisors and managers.

The World Day web page was viewed 8,453 times over April which is an increase of 138 per cent compared to the 2017 campaign. Social media played a role in raising awareness about the day. For the first time we used paid social media to boost awareness and target specific audiences. As a result our promotional material reached 561,227 people across social media channels.

Virtual Seminar Series

The Virtual Seminar Series is in its fourth year of operation and continues to be a popular channel to showcase the latest thinking, research, developments and best practice in WHS.

The purpose of the Virtual Seminar Series is to share ideas, experiences, skills and knowledge relating to the action areas and priority industries identified in the Australian Strategy. The seminars are designed to educate those who influence good WHS practice, demonstrate best practice, present robust evidence, data and research, and showcase innovation. From live panel discussions to videos, webinars, podcasts, reports and infographics, the seminars feature business leaders, academics, employer associations WHS regulators and experts.

The Virtual Seminar Series became so popular with our stakeholders that in October 2016 we moved from broadcasting during the month of October to a year-round schedule.

During 2017–18, we broadcast a total of 28 seminars, some highlights from the year include:

Community engagement

We implemented an online engagement system, Engage, in April 2017. We use Engage to dynamically facilitate public and closed consultations on WHS and workers’ compensation matters. Featuring a sophisticated array of easy-to-use engagement methods, the platform enables us to capture community-driven ideas, insights and evidence to inform the development and implementation of WHS and workers’ compensation policies, guidance material, codes of practice and legislation.

Since implementation the Engage platform has received 15,031 site visits, and has 1,084 registered members with 951 highly active participants. We have held 35 consultations both public and private, including the 2018 review of the model WHS laws, the agency’s first large-scale public consultation. The platform offered a variety of ways for people to get involved in the review, for example fostering debate through six discussion forums. The review Engage page received 8,600 page views, over 354 discussion forum contributions and 134 submissions.

Sponsorship program

Our sponsorship program provides financial support and subject matter expertise to events and initiatives led by the wider community, bolstering the capacity of the community to actively engage with and promote WHS and workers’ compensation. Involving speaking engagements, conference events and partnerships, the sponsorship program helps us engage with key WHS influencers.

High-profile sponsorships from 2017–18 included:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders Symposium

    Held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in July, we funded the delivery of several keynote presentations, case studies, breakout sessions and workshops to reduce the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. Delegates received practical tools and resources from international and national speakers and the program also featured interactive workshops focused on good work design, physical, psychosocial and chronic disease risk management and integration into business.

  • Building awareness through annual reports

    We continued our sponsorship of the Work Health and Safety Reporting Award for the Australasian Reporting Association. Good work health and safety performance is an indicator that your business manages its risks effectively and is likely to be more productive. This year’s winner, Woodside Petroleum, is leading the way in prioritising work health and safety as an integral part of their business processes and decisions.

  • The importance of a mentally healthy workplace

    Our mental health expert Dr Peta Miller was a keynote speaker at the Safety Institute of Australia’s national conference in May 2018, speaking in detail about Safe Work Australia’s guidance on psychological health and safety in the workplace. Fielding a range of questions from a fascinated audience, this presentation was filmed and broadcast for our Virtual Seminar Series and received significant media attention.

Media and stakeholder engagement

Through a combination of media releases, paid media placement and subscriber mail outs, our 2017 National Safe Work Month campaign received excellent national coverage, with the number of media reports reaching 123 in total.

Coverage was broad and reached an influential and engaged audience directly interested in WHS, and national general media. In particular, the campaign was broadcast in-language across the SBS community radio network and syndicated across the ABC Local Radio network.

Safe Work Australia experts also featured in a range of media interviews, including a radio interview with RN Drive on mental health in the workplace, an interview on ABC Radio Current Affairs regarding employee reporting of WHS concerns, and interviews in OHS Professional and National Safety magazines. We also provided input into an array of trade and industry publications and magazines regarding WHS issues specific to the construction industry, lighting, electricity, chemicals, safe work method statements and sun exposure.

During 2017–18 we received and responded to 120 media enquiries.

Social media

We manage a comprehensive social media presence, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Soundcloud.

With an ever-increasing audience, these platforms have effectively increased the reach of our communication and engagement activities. In September 2017 we also launched an Instagram account.

Some of the communications from 2017–18 included:

  • A tweet promoting new guidance on our website, which reached 36,000 people.
  • Facebook posts for National Safe Work Month had great engagement, and reached over 89,000 people.
  • Facebook was also used to promote initiatives from other organisations with posts such as: ‘A mentally healthy workplace protects workers from psychological harm #ruok?’ and ‘Be a great work mate and ask the question - are you OK? #RUOK @ruokday’.
  • Our post on LinkedIn: ‘Women & Leadership Australia is providing grants to support development opportunities for women in the WHS sector’ had great levels of engagement.
A tweet promoting new guidance on our website, which reached 36,000 people.
Facebook posts for National Safe Work Month had great engagement, and reached over 89,000 people.
Our post on LinkedIn had great levels of engagement.

Our Instagram account was setup to support the National Safe Work Month campaign. There was some engagement with the 10 videos we uploaded for the month and animations posted for World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day. However, we did not get as much audience engagement as we anticipated. The poor performance of our Instagram account demonstrated that our audience is more engaged with and has a preference for LinkedIn and Facebook.

Outlook for 2018–19

During 2017–18 we saw a slight decrease in the number of our email subscribers. As our audience prefers to receive new WHS and workers’ compensation information via email we will review our email communication approach and improve our email service. We will also review our use of segmentation, so we can continue to provide more relevant content to our audiences.

The Safe Work Australia website will undergo some modifications to include a media centre in the next 12 months. The new media centre will help to centrally locate all video content, news, community engagement, speeches and sponsorships, making it easy to access our multimedia products.

The Virtual Seminar Series will continue regular broadcasting and will feature:

  • six leading experts sharing their insights into controlling WHS risks when working with silica on major infrastructure projects
  • three presentations from experts exploring the topic of injury prevention and return to work
  • a panel discussion about work-related cancer
  • findings from the working well and working wisely research project conducted by the ANU
  • findings from the heat and work injury project conducted by the University of Adelaide
  • a panel discussion about quad bikes, and
  • a panel discussion about work-related psychological health and safety.

We will conduct stakeholder consultations on our online consultation platform Engage, including:

  • the review of the workplace exposure standards, and
  • entries for the 2018 National Safe Work Month competition.

Feature story: Rewarding workplace safety education efforts

As part of National Safe Work Month we run a national competition to encourage and reward workplaces around Australia that demonstrate outstanding safety initiatives. The Workplace Reward competition encourages organisations to think of new and creative ways to build awareness of work health and safety and make their workplace safer.

Comdain Infrastructure, a construction and maintenance services business specialising in the gas, irrigation and water sectors, won the Workplace Reward for their 2017 National Safe Work Month initiative which demonstrated an approach aimed at sharing safety knowledge, empowering staff at all levels, and a commitment to long-term work health and safety in their organisation.

Their ‘Safety Leaders’ initiative demonstrated a long-term commitment to WHS by sharing safety knowledge throughout the organisation and empowering staff at all levels to make good safety choices.

In an effort to raise awareness and improve safety outcomes, they used the slogan ‘Take the lead. Everyone. Every day’ and focused on the high-risk activities specific to their business.

Comdain’s safety initiative was deployed across all sites in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, and focused on change management and a different high-risk activity each week. Printed posters and placards were placed at headquarters and messaging was printed on uniforms to further ingrain the message into workplace culture.

The Safety Leaders initiative was so well received by the organisation of 450 staff that the education program will continue monthly.

We want to see workplaces coming up with creative ways to address their health and safety concerns, employees getting involved and a commitment to long term change. Comdain’s program demonstrated all of these aspects with a commendable education program designed specifically to address WHS concerns in their business.

As the Workplace Reward competition winner, Comdain received a reward worth $5,000 to be spent on an Australian work health and safety conference, expo or event in 2018, and the opportunity to showcase their safety story nationally on our website.

Peter Coen, CEO, Comdain Infrastructure and Kevin Morrison, National and HSEQ Manager, Comdain Infrastructure with Amanda Grey, Deputy CEO, Safe Work Australia
From left to right: Peter Coen, CEO, Comdain Infrastructure and Kevin Morrison, National and HSEQ Manager, Comdain Infrastructure with Amanda Grey, Deputy CEO, Safe Work Australia.

International activities

Function

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008—Item 6

Contributing to

  • corporate plan—strategy 8
  • operational plan—activity 8

Highlights

  • The work plan developed for the G20 Occupational Safety and Health Network Experts is to be adopted for the October 2018 China meeting.
  • The Virtual Seminar Series was recognised as a finalist at the International Media Festival for Prevention.

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • World Congress on Safety and Health at Work
  • International Labour Organization
  • G20 Occupational Safety and Health Network Experts
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Asia–Pacific Economic Co-operation
  • Cochrane Work Review Group
  • International Commission on Occupational Health

We collaborate with international bodies to share research and knowledge and to study international achievements potentially of benefit to Australia.

Our work this year

In September 2017, we attended the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore, including the Global Leaders Forum and facilitated a symposium on the diversity dimension of WHS.

Also at the Congress, two employees attended the SafeYouth@Work congress while our renowned Virtual Seminar Series was recognised as a finalist at the International Media Festival for Prevention.

In December, Fiji’s Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations liaised with us to learn more about Australia’s workers’ compensation schemes and January 2018 was a busy month as our advice and guidance was sought by three countries.

Israel’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs sought our experience as they prepare to write their new WHS laws. A delegation from Japan’s Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting and the Department of Asbestos-Related Health Damage Relief, Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency met with Safe Work Australia to discuss asbestos regulation and workers’ compensation in Australia. The Department of Labour and Advanced Education in Nova Scotia, Canada, consulted us on our processes when developing policy decisions.

Our CEO attended the 3rd G20 Occupational Safety and Health Network Experts consultative meeting in Turkey in May 2018. The Network functions through an online platform to share best practice and research, discuss priorities, and coordinate technical cooperation and outreach. During the meeting, Ms Baxter exchanged knowledge and experience with a range of countries including Argentina, United States, China and India. Ms Baxter also volunteered to serve on a taskforce to establish a work plan for the Network; the work plan will be adopted by the network at its next meeting in October 2018 in China.

Our seminars a finalist in international competition

In September 2017, our renowned Virtual Seminar Series, was announced as a finalist in the International Media Festival for Prevention.

Held in conjunction with the XXI World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2017, the Festival featured an array of internationally-produced films and multimedia about safety and health at work, ranging from instructional videos to address specific hazards, to emotional films, games and apps.

Feature story: Sharing best practice on workers’ compensation policy

As a world leader in work health and safety and workers’ compensation policy, we share best practice and knowledge in Australian WHS policy by facilitating dialogue and hosting international visits.

In December 2017, we hosted two representatives from Fiji’s Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations for an information-sharing discussion on workers’ compensation arrangements at the federal, state and territories level.

Safe Work Australia’s Jackii Shepherd, Director, Occupational Hygiene Policy and Anthea Raven, Director, Workers’ Compensation Policy outlined the Australian arrangements for worker’s compensation and provided further information to inform Fiji’s policy, including Safe Work Australia’s Comparison of workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand (2017).

Fiji’s Tomasi Kama, Director of National Occupational Health and Safety Service, and Lui Mario, Manager, Workers’ Compensation Services, participated in the study visit to further inform Fiji’s workers’ compensation policies and legislation.

By working collaboratively with our international counterparts, we can help others achieve a worldwide reduction in the occurrence and impact of work-related injury, illness, death and disease.

Representing Safe Work Australia, Jackii Shepherd, Anthea Raven and Janet Markey meet with Tomasi Kama and Lui Mario from Fiji’s Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations.
Representing Safe Work Australia, Jackii Shepherd, Anthea Raven and Janet Markey meet with Tomasi Kama and Lui Mario from Fiji's Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations.

Explosives

Function

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008—Item 7 and 8

Contributing to

  • corporate plan—strategy 7
  • operational plan—activity 7

Highlights

  • We finalised nationally consistent explosive policies and accompanying example provisions.
  • A majority of Safe Work Australia Members agreed to the explosive policy proposals and example provisions.

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • SIG-Explosives
  • Council of Australian Governments
  • WHS Ministers
  • WHS regulators
  • Explosives industry
  • Importers and exporters of explosives
  • Manufacturing industry
  • Transport, postal and warehouse industry

Explosives regulation affects everyone who imports, manufactures, transports, stores, supplies, uses and exports explosives in Australia.

In 2017–18 we finalised nationally consistent policies and accompanying example provisions in four key areas of explosives legislation:

  • definition of explosives
  • licensing framework
  • notification processes, and
  • explosives authorisation process.

These four reform areas were agreed by WHS Ministers in the Explosives Regulation in Australia Decision Regulation Impact Statement in October 2016.

Members agreed to progress the policies and accompanying example provisions to WHS Ministers for agreement to consider implementing in their jurisdictions.

Explosive regulation in Australia

Each jurisdiction in Australia has its own system of explosives regulation. The need for a nationally consistent explosives framework was recognised and in 2012 COAG asked WHS Ministers to progress national consistency in explosives regulation. Following this decision, WHS Ministers asked Safe Work Australia to undertake this work on their behalf.

Developing the explosive policies and provisions

During 2017–18, Safe Work Australia, through its Strategic Issues Group on Explosives (SIG-Explosives), progressed reforms to provide greater national consistency in explosives laws across Australia. This work builds on key achievements of previous years to progress these reforms, including the development of the Explosives Regulation in Australia Decision Regulation Impact Statement (Decision RIS) which was agreed by WHS Ministers in October 2016.

The outcome of this work is a package of policy proposals which make recommendations to achieve national consistency in four key areas of explosives regulation. Example provisions have also been developed to illustrate how the recommendations could be given effect in jurisdictional explosives laws.

SIG-Explosives met on 31 July and 1 August 2017 to finalise the policy proposals for the four reform areas. Agreement was reached at this meeting to provide the package of policy proposals to Members for their consideration.

Members agreement

At their meeting in December 2017, a majority of Members agreed to the policy proposals and example provisions being progressed to WHS Ministers. This was a significant milestone which demonstrates the work and collaboration achieved through our tripartite process.

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