Safe Work Australia eyes agriculture and transport
Road transport and agriculture are among the "problem" industries Safe Work Australia (SWA) plans to target to accelerate the reduction in injury rates. SWA chair Tom Phillips yesterday told Occupational Health News the agency's latest blueprint aimed at improving workplace safety over the next 10 years would sharpen its focus on high-risk industries, bullying and injury type. Phillips lamented a 40% reduction in injuries target had not been achieved in SWA's 2002-12 national strategy, despite the fact it had lifted workplace safety awareness. He estimated the injury rate reduction would be about 30% or a bit lower when calculated over the 10-year period. "Generally everyone accepts we could have done better," he said. "There have been differing results from different states. One of the areas we are focusing on … is the implementation of the strategy in every point along the chain. While we got a positive sign off from all parties and all jurisdictions in 2002, there probably wasn't enough follow through on a national basis." SWA has submitted its draft 2012-22 national strategy to the Federal Government and plans to launch it in October during Safe Work Week.
Phillips conceded "it hadn't been ideal" having such an uneven take-up of the model work health and safety (WHS) laws across Australia. "We would like to see the full implementation of the laws across Australia," he said. "I am getting feedback that … big businesses just want to get [harmonisation] done so they can get on with life." Phillips was surprised by Victoria's reluctance to embrace the WHS regime given its involvement in framing the laws (OHN 973). "Victoria is entitled to have its issues and opinion on this," he said. That most states had tweaked the laws in some way did not undermine their effectiveness, according to Phillips. "There has been progress made in this last six months. We're disappointed it hasn't been a national roll out but it will come." Phillips said national businesses would be the main beneficiaries of any efficiency gains. "We think we have a model that is going to really enhance workplace safety in coming years," he said.
Phillips told OHN the agency had lodged a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying federal workplace relations minister Bill Shorten established to examine bullying cultures and prevent them from developing (OHN 971). The House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee will assess whether existing regulatory frameworks provide a sufficient deterrent. "We are raising [bullying] as an issue through the next 10-year strategy," he said. "People are still reluctant to come forward sometimes and we want to create an environment where they feel free to come forward [with] no recrimination."