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Agency overview

Role and functions

Safe Work Australia is a statutory agency established under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth), and a non-corporate entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth) (PGPA Act).

We have an important national role to achieve significant and continual reductions in the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness and to improve outcomes for injured workers. Our functions, as set out in section 6 of the Safe Work Australia Act, 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 the Commonwealth, states and territories, and other 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 tripartite body representing the interests of the Commonwealth, states and territories, as well as those of workers and employers. This collaborative model brings together and recognises varying views and interests to ensure effective national policy and strategies to improve WHS and workers’ compensation outcomes.

Safe Work Australia has 15 Members:

  • an independent Chair
  • Members representing the Commonwealth and each state and territory
  • Members representing the interests of workers
  • Members representing the interests of employers, and
  • the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Safe Work Australia.

Part 2 of this report contains more information about Safe Work Australia Members.

Our Members are supported by around 100 Australian Public Service (APS) employees. Our office is located at level 7, Nishi Building, 2 Phillip Law Street, Canberra ACT.

Part 2 of this report contains more information about our agency.

Outcome administered by the agency

Healthier, safer and more productive workplaces through improvements to Australian work health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements.

Authority

Safe Work Australia is a non-corporate Commonwealth entity under the PGPA Act. The Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Baxter, was the Accountable Authority of the entity for the period. She 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).

Funding

In 2019–20, Safe Work Australia received $21.041 million in funding. We are jointly funded by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments through the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety.

Performance

We perform our functions in accordance with our corporate and operational plans, which are agreed annually by WHS ministers. Our performance against these targets is described in the Annual Performance Statement (Part 3 of this report).

Progress on our key projects

Timeline of the Australian strategy project, on track due to be completed in 2022.

Timeline of the review of the model WHS laws project, completed in December 2019.

Timeline of the review of the workplace exposure standards project, as of Oct 2020 on hold due to COVID-19.

Timeline of the strategy to address occupational lung disease, including silicosis project. On track, due to be completed April 2021.

Timeline of the globally harmonized system of classification and labelling of chemicals, on track due to be completed January 2021.

Timeline of the National Return to Work Strategy, on track.

Timeline of the review of the national assessment instruments for high risk work licensing, on track due to come into effect September 2021.

Timeline of improving support for families impacted by a workplace death, and reporting on achievements project, on track due to be completed November 2020.