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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.

International activities

GHS implementation

Safe Work Australia leads the GHS implementation in Australia and has completed work to move to GHS 7, which will align us with our international counterparts. We head the Australian delegation on the UNSCEGHS and we present the agreed Australian Government position on chemicals issues in Australia. The sub-committee meets twice annually to revise and update the GHS to reflect national, regional and international experiences in implementing its requirements into laws.

In 2019–20, Dr Paul Taylor, Director, Chemicals Policy, attended the 37th and 38th sessions of the sub-committee, in his role as Head of Australian Delegation. Dr Taylor chaired the 37th session of the Sub-committee meeting, as the sub-committee Chair, Ms Maureen Ruskin (USA), was unavailable. As Dr Taylor was chairing the meeting, the Australian delegation was represented by Ms Lana Barbour, Assistant Director (A/g) Chemicals Policy.

At the 38th session, Australia presented a proposal to amend the classification criteria for Category 2 eye irritants, specifically on the approach to sub-categorisation. While the changes were supported, the sub-committee agreed that a broader examination of sub-categorisation in the GHS would be valuable to ensure consistency. The Australian delegation will undertake this work in collaboration with delegates representing the USA and Germany.

G20 Occupational Safety and Health Expert Network

As part of the G20 Occupational Safety and Health Expert Network, Safe Work Australia is leading a project to develop and promote best practices and principles in the collection of occupational safety and health (OSH) data, including exploring opportunities to build data collection capabilities and to improve the comparability of international data. To date Safe Work Australia has established a network of member data experts and is currently completing a stocktake of international OSH data sources and data collection methodologies.