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Implementation of the Australian Strategy

Function

  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth) – Item 1

Contributing to

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

Highlights

  • The Australian Strategy is in its seventh year of operation.
  • The Australian Strategy has contributed to reductions in traumatic injury fatalities, the incidence rate of serious injuries and the incidence rate of musculoskeletal claims.
  • Members’ response to the mid-term review into the Australian Strategy has guided measures to drive ongoing improvements across the identified priority industries and conditions.
  • A wide range of activities have been undertaken to improve health and safety on the priorities that have been identified in the Australian Strategy.

Stakeholders

  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • WHS regulators
  • All levels of government
  • Academics
  • Community organisations
  • Educational institutions
  • Employer associations
  • WHS professionals
  • Unions

‘The Australian Strategy continues to inform strategic WHS efforts across Australia.’

Seven years after its launch, the Australian Strategy continues to inform the strategic efforts of WHS regulators, industry, unions, governments and other key organisations. Stakeholder commitment to the vision of supporting healthy, safe and productive working lives, along with working towards the identified outcomes and national targets, is having a clear positive impact on WHS in Australia.

The two key principles underpinning the Australian Strategy are:

  • All workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
  • Well-designed, healthy and safe work will allow workers in Australia to have more productive working lives.

The Australian Strategy has set national targets to be achieved by 2022, including:

  • a 20 per cent reduction in the number of traumatic injury fatalities
  • a 30 per cent reduction in the rate of serious injuries resulting in one or more weeks off work, and
  • a 30 per cent reduction in the rate of musculoskeletal claims resulting in one or more weeks off work.

Data compiled by Safe Work Australia indicates these targets have already been met, or are on track to be achieved by 2022. The latest data shows:

  • a 36 per cent decrease in the number of traumatic injury fatalities
  • a 26 per cent decrease in the incidence rate of serious injuries, and
  • a 32 per cent decrease in the incidence rate of musculoskeletal claims.

Annual progress report

The Australian Strategy annual progress report, Appendix 3 - Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 annual progress report: 2018–19, details the continued progress of Safe Work Australia, Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry, unions and other organisations in driving activities to improve health and safety, particularly in the action areas, priority industries and priority conditions. These activities collectively contribute to achieving national targets and the vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives.

During 2018–19, we saw a focus on strengthening leadership and culture in workplaces, as well as a focus on research and evaluation. Some important initiatives led by SafeWork NSW, the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority, SafeWork SA, the University of Sydney, NT WorkSafe and WorkSafe ACT are described in Appendix 3 - Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 annual progress report: 2018–19.

A strong national evidence base depends on conducting research and evaluation. During 2018–19, SafeWork NSW conducted research into enforcement tools and interventions in conjunction with the University of Sydney. More information about these activities is in Appendix 3 - Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 annual progress report: 2018–19.

In response to the findings of the mid-term review of the Australian Strategy, more work is being done in the areas of occupational violence, bullying and vulnerable workers. Workplace guidance material in relation to bullying has been published on the Safe Work Australia website, while initial research has been commenced relating to occupational violence and vulnerable workers. Further research, analysis and consultation relating to occupational violence and vulnerable workers will be undertaken during 2019–20, with an aim to identify and address gaps in information about these emerging issues. This work will also inform development of the next Australian Strategy.

Psychological health and safety

Work-related mental health conditions (or psychological injuries) are a major concern for Australian workplaces due to the negative impact on workers, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these injuries.

A common theme throughout 2018–19 has been addressing the impact of mental health conditions in the workplace. Partnerships between community organisations and regulators have resulted in the development of a range of practical and useful programs and tools for managers and workers.

Safe Work Australia participates in a number of national forums on workplace mental health. These include the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities working groups Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces and People at Work, the Common Policy Principles working group established by the former Department of Jobs and Small Business for support of small business owners dealing with mental health issues, as well as the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. Participation in these forums helps Safe Work Australia to identify sectors and industries that may need more targeted guidance for managing work-related psychological health.