SA Government to act on SafeWork SA review

Tuesday, 31 January, 2023

SA Government to act on SafeWork SA review

The South Australian Government has released an independent review into the practices and processes of SafeWork SA. The root-and-branch review was conducted by work health and safety regulator John Merritt, the former chair and executive director of WorkSafe Victoria. During the review, Merritt received feedback from a range of stakeholders, including both businesses and workers. The review received 29 written submissions and involved 55 separate meetings with individuals and groups.

The review found that SafeWork SA has undergone significant reform over the last five years as a result of previous reviews, including the 2018 ICAC evaluation. The review also found that the agency’s investigative processes are more professional and disciplined, and that injured workers and their families can be confident that future workplace tragedies will be properly investigated. The review recommends that the agency work more closely with organisations such as employer associations, trade unions, and health and safety representatives. The review also recommends the creation of a new stakeholder advisory committee to assist with coordinating action to improve workplace safety.

The review also makes recommendations for changes to internal practices and procedures, including making it easier for inspectors to spend more time conducting inspections rather than administrative work. The review recommends that the government consult on a small number of further legislative amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 to improve work health and safety.

The SA Government also published its preliminary response to the review alongside the release of the review. Of the 39 recommendations, the government has accepted (either wholly, in part or in principle) 25 recommendations, committed to further consultation with stakeholders on 10 recommendations, and not accepted four recommendations. As part of its preliminary response, the government has committed to the establishment of a stakeholder advisory committee to SafeWork SA, as well as a consultation with the new executive director of SafeWork SA on changes to internal policies and procedures once recruitment is completed.

The government also recommitted to implementing the recommendations of last year’s review into the death of Gayle Woodford and intends to introduce legislation to parliament later this year to give effect to those recommendations. Other recommendations about legislative reforms to the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 will require detailed consultation with stakeholders, including the business community and trade unions, over the coming months. The government will publish its final response to the review recommendations by 30 June 2023, following stakeholder consultation.

“I am pleased the review has found that SafeWork SA’s investigative processes have undergone significant reform and that injured workers and their families can be confident that future workplace tragedies will be properly investigated. This is a testament to the passion and professionalism of the SafeWork team. We are also finalising reforms to allow SafeWork to communicate more clearly with businesses, injured workers and their families about the progress of health and safety investigations. An extensive recruitment process will commence shortly to locate a new executive director of SafeWork SA, and I look forward to working with them as we embark on this new chapter for the organisation,” said Kyam Maher, SA Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector.

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