Work Health & Safety

Sound and robust Work Health & Safety (WHS) and workers compensation practices are crucial for a successful business. It is important for business to have sustainable, productive workplaces for employers and employees, for their clients and customers. Furthermore, the community expects it.

The WHS legislative package provides laws with some consistency across Australia and give stakeholders confidence that the outcomes have been developed collaboratively. This confidence is important.

However, the development of WHS legislation is not the end of the story, as it is not solely able to deliver the necessary outcomes. The tendency for governments to adjust laws is a risk to consistency and public confidence. The growing need to respond to political or popular whims is a problem which will intensify without a strong, inclusive system.

Any review must assess whether the laws are achieving better or enhanced WHS outcomes, and whether improved WHS can be achieved through alternative non-regulatory pathways.

The creation of new industry-specific regulation, such as the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (now defunct) and the anti-bullying jurisdiction within the Fair Work Commission, has resulted in a significant level of regulatory overreach, given that a range of existing state and territory laws already regulate road safety and workplace bullying. This causes confusion and ultimately adds to the overall regulatory burden of industry.

Alternative policy tools should be considered before adding new regulation.

The Australian Chamber supports a tripartite structure of Safe Work Australia (SWA), which is the statutory authority providing a focus for national direction in WHS and in workers compensation.

Through SWA, leaders and regulators from around Australia collaborate and provide recommendations direct to Ministers.

Involving the social partners (workers and employers) directly in policy considerations and development of legislation is fundamental to ensuring practical outcomes. The Australian Chamber’s long standing engagement with Safe Work Australia and its predecessors reflects the commitment from the community and employers to safety in the workplace. Business supports regulatory and non-regulatory policy approaches that deliver tangible improvements.

Recommendations:
 
4.1 Use funding from employer Workers’ Compensation premiums for WHS outcomes rather than public health or environmental outcomes.
 
4.2 Establish small business advisers with experience in WHS matters to assist small businesses to implement any requirements of the model Work Health and Safety package or the SWA Australian Strategy.
 
4.3 Commit to non-regulatory approaches to improve WHS whilst reducing the overall regulatory and compliance burden on business, particularly small business and limit the over reach and cross agency duplication into WHS areas.
 
4.4 Actively support the tripartite structure under Safe Work Australia to further progress the national harmonisation of work health and safety laws and implementation across Australia.
 
4.5 Support industry liaison officer roles within the Department of Employment and Safe Work Australia to work with industry and all relevant state and territory jurisdictions on WHS issues to ensure that there is consistency in policy advice from an industry perspective.
 
4.6 Support Australian Chamber representation on tripartite forums. Consult with the Australian Chamber as the most representative employer association and partner with the Chamber and its members to ensure there is consistent messaging from regulators, advisors and industry.

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