Here is something misleading I read the other day ….

I get lots of health and safety “alerts” and “bulletins” moving through my email in box. The following paragraphs in one of them caught my eye:

Safe Work Australia have set ambitious targets to reduce workplace injuries and fatalities – and they intend to meet them.

So while this means that penalties for safety breaches are higher than ever it also means improvement and infringement notices are being handed out far more often, regardless of whether or not an incident has occurred.

The article then goes on to suggest:

If you want to make sure you’re meeting all your workplace health and safety obligations you should consider subscribing to the [insert product here]

The implication here is that Safe Work Australia is somehow responsible for health and safety penalties and policing breaches of safety legislation, and that Safe Work Australia’s “ambitious targets” somehow drive the enforcement of safety legislation. This of course is nonsense.

Safe Work Australia, as described in it’s 2013-2016 Strategic Plan:

… is the body leading the development of national policy to improve work health and safety and workers’ compensation across Australia. The interests of the Commonwealth, states and territories as well as workers and employers in Australia are all represented.

It has no role in enforcing or prosecuting health and safety legislation.

Health and safety is “enforced” by individual State Government departments with responsibility for safety and health, and cases are prosecuted through the State or Federal Court systems, depending on the specific piece of health and safety legislation in question. Prosecutions are usually managed by Government prosecutors, such as the relevant State Solicitor’s office of the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Interestingly the 2013-2016 Strategic Plan goes on to say:

Together we will work to achieve:

  • Significant and continued reductions in the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness including through:
    • reduced exposure to work-related hazards causing injury and illness
    • improved quality of workplace controls, and
    • an improved work health and safety framework, increased work health and safety awareness and skills and an evidence base which informs policy and practice.
  • Improved outcomes for injured workers and their employers through more effective, efficient, clearly understood and sustainable workers’ compensation arrangements.

No mention of big fines or legal proceedings to achieve their objectives!

If companies are going to try and flog their safety solutions using “fear“, they should at least be accurate.


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