The department continued to lead the Commonwealth’s engagement on work health and safety priorities, including consideration of the final report of Safe Work Australia’s 2018 review of the model work health and safety laws and recommendations from the Senate inquiry into the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia. On 20 December 2018, the Government tabled its response to the Senate inquiry report on how investigation and prosecution processes in the existing framework can be improved.
The department provided policy advice on a range of significant workplace relations matters, including on maintaining nationally harmonised work health and safety laws while ensuring the regulatory framework meets the specific needs, operating environments and priorities of all jurisdictions.
The department and the Department of Home Affairs continued to co-lead whole-of-government coordination of asbestos policy issues, with a particular focus on import issues, including through co-chairing the Asbestos Interdepartmental Committee. A key achievement in 2018–19 was strengthening the asbestos imports and exports regulatory framework to support a nationally coordinated and consistent approach. The department also supported an independent review of the role and functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), as set out in the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Act 2013. The review findings will inform the Government’s considerations as to whether ASEA’s legislated role and functions enable it to continue to meet challenges in asbestos management.
The department worked with state and territory work health and safety regulators, industry and worker representatives to support a national response to the re-emergence of silicosis, including urgently increasing compliance with the exposure standard for silica dust and health monitoring requirements.
The department continued to lead national action to improve quad bike safety. It chaired the Inter-departmental Committee for Quad Bike Safety and supported the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with its investigation of the issue.
The department worked with state and territory governments and other Australian Government agencies to improve mental health in the workplace and manage work-related psychological risks such as sexual harassment, violence and bullying. It carried out this work through its membership of Safe Work Australia; input into a number of reviews, inquiries and related processes; and input into International Labour Organization and United Nations processes.
Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner
The Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) supports the Federal Safety Commissioner (FSC). The FSC promotes work health and safety in relation to building work; audits compliance with the National Construction Code (NCC) requirements for building materials; and promotes and administers the building and construction work health and safety accreditation scheme, which is established under the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016. Anyone who wishes to carry out building work funded by the Commonwealth or a corporate Commonwealth entity, above prescribed financial thresholds, must be accredited under the scheme.
In 2018–19, the FSC accredited 39 new construction companies and managed the ongoing accreditation of over 476 companies. Since the scheme began in 2005, over 1,964 Commonwealth-funded construction projects worth more than $122 billion have used workplace health and safety systems and practices accredited under it.
The FSC revised its risk framework to provide a more agile assessment of a company’s compliance with the requirements of the scheme. It will continue to focus on companies that require more vigilance, while providing companies that have strong records of compliance with the benefits of earned autonomy, including less frequent audits and streamlined reaccreditation processes.
The FSC released a discussion paper outlining the proposed implementation framework for auditing accredited companies against the NCC performance requirements in relation to building materials. This function extends the FSC’s existing scope of responsibilities, which have focused on worker safety and work health and safety cultural change, to also look at the building materials used on construction sites.
On 21 March 2019, the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) (Accreditation Scheme) Rules 2019 came into effect, replacing the Fair Work (Building Industry — Accreditation Scheme) Regulation 2016. They give effect to the FSC’s role in auditing compliance with NCC performance requirements for building materials, improve the administration and operation of the accreditation scheme and enable a minister responsible for an intelligence or security agency to exempt certain building works from the application of the scheme.