Diane Smith-Gander AO, Chair, Safe Work Australia
This year will mark Safe Work Australia’s first decade in operation. As we pass this milestone we can be proud of our contribution to safer and healthier Australian workplaces knowing that statistics have shown a steady decline in workplace injuries and fatalities.
This is a big achievement in 10 years and highlights our influence at the front line of WHS and workers’ compensation policy development. The work we do to monitor and improve the model WHS laws impacts individuals and organisations throughout our country.
We strive to be a collaborative leader for WHS. Working in a federated system is a challenge. However, it is a challenge we embrace to reach clarity and harmony in regulation. We are proud to have built a unique ecosystem across multiple jurisdictions including regulators, industry, employee representatives, academics and service providers. Together, we work towards a common goal—to make Australian workplaces safer.
It is timely, in our 10th year to have released the Review of the model WHS laws: final report led by independent reviewer Marie Boland. The review found the model WHS laws are largely operating as intended. The 34 recommendations are with WHS ministers for consideration and I look forward working with Safe Work Australia Members and the agency to action their collective response. We are committed to reviewing the model WHS laws regularly to ensure they continue to work in practice and enhance the WHS framework.
One of our core functions is to develop and maintain national datasets, providing a strong evidence base to develop and inform WHS and workers’ compensation policy and practice.
This evidence base was central to the development of the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030. With a national focus, the Strategy sets out a 10-year plan to minimise the impact of work-related injury and illness and to optimise a worker’s return to work. Workers are at the heart of the Strategy, they are the focus of its vision, outcomes and guiding principles.
Over the past year, we commenced a review into workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants to ensure the benchmark for exposure limits in Australia reflects the latest scientific knowledge and evidence. The feedback received from extensive consultation and peer review, and a strong evidence base will ensure the standards we set and maintain protect workers and meet the needs of contemporary Australian workplaces.
We are focusing on the future of WHS as much as we are leading safety today. We know the way we work in the coming years will be very different to the way we have worked in the past. In 2018, we collaborated with the CSIRO on the Workplace safety futures report. Over the next 20 years, we will see increased digitisation and automation, fluidity in employment patterns and structures, an ageing workforce with rising levels of stress and chronic disease. To meet these trends, it is important we are innovative and embrace new technologies, ways of thinking and working.
As we celebrate this milestone year, I honour the contributions of those who have helped instil and embed WHS culture into the Australian community.
We will continue to lead the Australian community as a strong, reliable authority on WHS and workers’ compensation into the next decade and beyond and I am proud to continue on this journey of making working lives safer and healthier for all Australians.
Diane Smith-Gander AO
Safe Work Australia