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Agency overview

Role and functions

Safe Work Australia is responsible for delivering national WHS and workers’ compensation policy, evidence and communication initiatives. We were established as a statutory agency on 1 November 2009 by the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth).

Since then, we have worked hard to deliver Australia’s first single set of WHS laws. We have collected, analysed and shared data to create a national dialogue about work-related injuries, fatalities and diseases and we have used this evidence to inform our policy development.

Our commitment to excellence has positioned us as a leading and trusted source of WHS and workers’ compensation information, both nationally and internationally. We are a small agency of around 100 people, but our work plays a significant role in the lives of 12.5 million working Australians.

Our functions are set out in section 6 of the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth), and include:

  • developing, evaluating and revising national WHS and workers’ compensation policies and strategies
  • monitoring and improving the model WHS legislative framework and developing supportive WHS materials
  • improving consistency in national workers’ compensation arrangements
  • collecting, analysing and publishing national data
  • conducting and publishing research
  • developing national education, communication strategies and initiatives
  • working collaboratively with other Commonwealth, state and territories, and national and international bodies, and
  • advising WHS ministers on national WHS and workers’ compensation policy matters.

We perform these functions in accordance with our corporate plan and operational plan. These plans are agreed annually by WHS ministers and published on the Safe Work Australia website.

Safe Work Australia does not regulate WHS laws or workers’ compensation arrangements. The Commonwealth, states and territories have responsibility for regulating and enforcing WHS laws and administering workers’ compensation schemes in their respective jurisdictions.


Safe Work Australia is a non-corporate entity under the PGPA Act. The CEO is appointed under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth) and performs her functions in accordance with this Act. Staff who support Safe Work Australia are engaged under the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth).

Organisational structure

As at 30 June 2019, the agency had 13 teams split among four branches. The structure of the organisation helps to balance and distribute strategic WHS and workers’ compensation policy work, and evidence and data collection, while service delivery sections provide the agency with legal, communication and corporate support. Our organisational structure is in Organisational structure.


As at 30 June 2019, the agency employed 106 employees, of which 103 were engaged on an ongoing basis, one was engaged on a non-ongoing basis and two were statutory appointments. Information about our employees is in Agency employees.


Effective policy development requires robust stakeholder consultation. To deliver strategies that provide the highest level of protection for all working Australians we consult broadly to understand the health and safety risks and challenges faced by workers and by workplaces. We rely on the valuable contributions and expertise of Commonwealth, state and territory governments, unions, industry, employer associations, peak bodies, WHS regulators, workers’ compensation authorities, medical and health practitioners, educators, academics, researchers, businesses and workers, and in doing so we enable a truly multilateral consultation approach.

We also lead bilateral consultation with industry representatives to create sector-specific WHS guidance. We specifically target at-risk industries experiencing high rates of workplace death and injury. These priority industries include agriculture, road transport, manufacturing, construction, accommodation and food services, public administration and safety, health care and social assistance. We also ensure we engage with the international WHS community.

Engaging with stakeholders to develop proposals to improve workers’ compensation arrangements and strengthen the connection with health and safety outcomes is also a priority. Our diverse stakeholders play a vital role in promoting a nationally consistent approach to workers’ compensation arrangements where appropriate, and informing guidance to help workers with an injury or illness achieve optimal recovery and return to suitable work.


When working with our stakeholders and the community, the agency upholds the Australian Public Service Values of impartiality, commitment to service, accountability, respectfulness and ethical conduct. The following agency-specific values and behaviours underpin how staff in the agency work together to create an inclusive workplace culture.

Summary of the SWA Agency Values. Excellence   We take pride in our work   We are innovative and look to work smarter   We are positive and resilient   We strive to be subject matter experts People   We treat each other with respect and support one another   We are empowered to learn and develop professionally   We are effective leaders and celebrate our success   We promote wellbeing and work-life balance   We promote a participative, model healthy and safe workplace Communication   We know and value each other   We effectively consult and communicate   We collaborate and work as one team   We strive to raise the profile and impact of Safe Work Australia Service   We build quality relationships   We respect the knowledge, expertise and views of our stakeholders   We deliver effective and workable outcomes   We seek opportunities to improve our service