As an employer, you should be aware that if a workplace fatality occurs and you don’t have measures to lower the risks, then you can be held liable. In Australia, there are dedicated agencies that help ensure workplaces are safe environments. One of these agencies is Safe Work Australia.
In this article, we’ll explain the role of Safe Work Australia in improving the safety of Australian employees. We also answer other frequently asked questions related to Safe Work Australia.
What is Safe Work Australia?
Safe Work Australia is a national policy body that represents the interests of the following:
- The Commonwealth
Essentially, SWA is a government body that delivers national strategies to prevent workplace death, injury, and disease. According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics(ABS) report relating to work-related injuries, 563,600 suffered from work-related injuries or illnesses during the reporting period. The report showed that 24.2% of these illnesses or injuries were caused by bending, pulling, pushing, or lifting something in the workplace.
There were 13.4 million individuals surveyed in the report, and workplace injuries affected both male and female workers of different ages. When workers experience workplace injuries, this has a negative impact on them as well as their employers. The report revealed that 60% of the workers who were injured had to take time off work.
Furthermore, 27% of the workers who obtained workplace injuries received workers’ compensation. Based on this report, it can be concluded that workplace injuries are more common than they should be. Therefore, employers should be aware of the importance of workplace safety to reduce the number of workplace injuries.
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What is the Safe Work Australia Act?
The Safe Work Australia Act 2008 is the legislative Act that established Safe Work Australia as a national policy body. There are many important aspects of SWA outlined in the Act.
- Section 6 of the SWA Act outlines the roles and responsibilities of SWA.
- Section 5A of the SWA Act outlines the object and purpose of creating the SWA.
What is the role of Safe Work Australia?
SWA’s primary role is to create national policies aimed at improving workers’ compensation arrangements and work health and safety (WHS) throughout the country. Through this, the SWA aims to create safer, healthier, and more productive working environments.
As part of its primary role, the SWA has eight main responsibilities, which relate to the following:
1: Creating National Strategies and Policies
The SWA is responsible for creating, assessing, and updating policies and strategies related to WHS and workers’ compensation. The following tasks are involved in this responsibility:
- Creating a national WHS strategy that must be approved by the ministers of WHS
- Creating a national compliance and enforcement policy that must be approved by the ministers of WHS for the model WHS legislative framework
2: Creating WHS material and the Model legislative framework for WHS
Through this responsibility, SWA is required to create, assess and update a model WHS legislative framework that must be approved by the ministers of WHS before it is adopted by territories, states, and the Commonwealth.
In addition, after the legislative framework has been adopted, the SWA is also required to monitor how the framework has been adopted by territories, states, and the Commonwealth.
Furthermore, the SWA is required to create other WHS-related material.
3: Creating Workers Compensation Proposals
The SWA is required to create proposals that will enhance arrangements relating to workers’ compensation and ensure consistency among arrangements on a national level.
4: Collecting evidence
The SWA is required to obtain, evaluate, and disclose relevant information to the public. Furthermore, they’re also required to conduct and publish research that informs the public in regard to the creation and assessment of policies and strategies related to WHS and workers’ compensation.
5: Creation of education and communication initiatives and strategies
The SWA is responsible for creating and conducting communication and education initiatives on a national scale. The purpose of this is to support improvements in WHS outcomes and workers’ compensation arrangements and to promote national consistency in these areas.
6: Collaborating with other bodies
The SWA is required to work with other bodies, including the following:
- Territory bodies
- State bodies
- Commonwealth bodies
- International bodies
- Other national bodies
The purpose of these collaborations is to discuss policy matters of national importance relating to workers’ compensation and WHS policies.
7: Providing advice to the WHS Ministers
The SWA is required to provide advice to the ministers of the WHS in relation to national policy matters and initiatives relating to WHS and workers’ compensation.
8: Additional assigned responsibilities
The SWA is also required to undertake any other tasks that have been delegated by the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 or other Commonwealth legislative Acts.
How does Safe Work Australia improve the safety of Australian workers?
A key goal of SWA is to improve the health and safety of workers. They also deal with workers’ compensation in Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth, states and territories – and their workers. As a government body, SWA has many responsibilities, including drafting legislation that may be adopted by each Australian state and territory.
Furthermore, another function of SWA is to create national policies relating to occupational health and safety. For the development of such policies, SWA uses and collects a mixture of data. Additionally, SWA monitors the enforcement of the policies if they are adopted. SWA works to help improve cooperation and also adherence to approved regulations.
However, while SWA provides useful information on work health and safety for Australian workers, it sometimes lacks the ability to address issues for the self-employed. To address this, SWA has funded the Australian Bureau of Statistics to collect and study the results of all work–related injuries.
How can you get involved with Safe Work Australia?
Are you thinking about getting involved and raising awareness of WHS issues in your workplace or community? Getting involved is simpler than you think.
There are three main ways to get on board:
- You can become an SWA volunteer and host activities in your workplace
- As an SWA volunteer, you can also undertake volunteer work for organisations across Australia and promote safe work practices and contribute to the community and workforces
- You can share your work health and safety ideas through the SWA Facebook page
- Register as a Safety Ambassador and hold an activity in your workplace
- You can attend events that are held by your local SWA WHS regulator
How else can I minimise risk in the workplace?
In addition to understanding the legal framework for workplace safety, you can do more at an individual level. One way is to have the right policies in place. Some of these policies you should have for your business to enhance its safety include the following:
- Work Health and Safety Policy
- Grievance Policy
- Discrimination Policy
- Drugs and Alcohol Policy
- Harassment and Bullying Policy
By implementing these policies, you will show your employees that you care about their safety. As a result, you will be able to follow a clear procedure in the event of an emergency. As an employer, you should place the safety of your employees at the top of your priority list.
Thankfully, there are national agencies such as the SWA that will make sure you’re following the right procedure.
What legal obligations do workers have under Safe Work Australia?
According to SWA, workers have three primary obligations in the workplace. These include the following:
- Workers are required to ensure their own safety and health
- Workers are required to protect other people’s health and safety
- Workers are required to comply with any reasonable policies, procedures or instructions provided by the controller of their workplace, business or employer
What role do Safe Work Regulators have?
WHS regulators have many responsibilities. These include the following:
- WHS regulators carry out workplace inspections
- Regulators can advise workplaces in regard to legislation related to WHS, and they can also enforce legislation
- Regulators can provide workers and employers with information and advice regarding their responsibilities, duties and rights
- Regulators can provide workers and employers with advice to assist them in complying with local legislation
- Regulators can help Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU’s), and workers deal with WHS issues
- Regulators can issue compliance notices
- Regulators can issue sanctions
Ultimately, Safe Work Australia plays a significant role in ensuring the safety of workers and employers in the workplace. They accomplish this through their numerous responsibilities and functions.
As an employer, if you’re still unsure about the role of Safe Work Australia or your legal obligations in accordance with SWA policies and related legislation, you should hire a lawyer. A lawyer can provide you with legal advice to ensure that you are meeting your legal obligations and that your employees are safe.
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