The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 is an ambitious plan that outlines a vision for safer and healthier workplaces across Australia over the next decade. The strategy released by Safework Australia this last week builds on the previous strategy’s (2012-2022) successes and aims to reduce further the incidence of work-related injury, illness, and death.
The strategy was developed in consultation with stakeholders across industry, government, and worker groups. The resulting document outlines a range of strategic priorities that will guide the work of all those involved in improving work health and safety outcomes in Australia over the next ten years.
On average each year just under 200 workers are fatally injured at work. In 2021 over 130,000 claims were accepted for work-related injury or illness. Body-stressing, falls, slips and trips, and being hit by moving objects are the cause of most workplace injuries in Australia. While vehicle incidents, being hit by moving objects and falls from a height continue to account for most fatalities. Musculoskeletal conditions still account for the vast majority (87%) of workers’ compensation claims for serious injuries. While their frequency has declined from 4.7 claims per million hours worked since 2007-08, to 3.4 claims per million hours worked in 2019-20, the reduction rate has slowed in recent years. (Safework Australia 2023)
Prevention of fatalities, injuries and illnesses
One strategic priority is to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses caused by hazardous work. This priority recognizes that many of the injuries and illnesses that occur in workplaces are preventable, and that employers have a responsibility to provide safe and healthy working conditions for their employees. The strategy calls for a focus on high-risk industries and activities, such as construction, agriculture, and mining, where the potential for serious injury or death is highest.
The stretgy outlines that the following high‐risk industries currently include:
• road transport,
• health care and social assistance, and
• public administration and safety.
One element of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 is to secure and improve the safety and health of vulnerable workers. This priority recognizes that certain groups of workers, such as young workers, migrant workers, and those in insecure employment, are at greater risk of injury or illness at work. The strategy calls for targeted interventions to support these workers, including education and training programs, improved access to health services, and stronger regulation and enforcement.
Better mental health outcomes at work
Additionally the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 seeks to promote and support better mental health outcomes for workers. This priority recognizes that work-related stress, anxiety, and depression are significant contributors to poor mental health outcomes for many Australians. The strategy calls for a focus on prevention, early intervention, and support for workers experiencing mental health challenges, as well as improved workplace culture and practices that support good mental health.
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Better data, research and evaluation
The strategy provides for improving safety and health outcomes through better data, research, and evaluation. This priority recognizes that data is critical to understanding the nature and extent of work-related injuries and illnesses, and that research and evaluation are essential to developing effective interventions. The strategy calls for better data collection and analysis, more investment in research and evaluation, and greater collaboration between researchers, industry, and government.
Strengthening leadership and culture
An additional element of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 is to strengthen leadership and culture for improved safety and health outcomes. This priority recognizes that leadership and culture are critical to creating safe and healthy workplaces. The strategy calls for a focus on leadership development and training, stronger partnerships between employers and workers, and greater recognition of the role that workplace culture plays in shaping safety and health outcomes.
These issues, while complex should result in positive work health and safety outcomes for Australians over the next decade. While the strategy is ambitious, it is also achievable. There are many examples of organizations and industries across Australia that are already taking action to improve work health and safety outcomes.
For example, the construction industry has made significant progress in reducing the incidence of serious injury and death on worksites by implementing a range of safety initiatives, including mandatory safety training, site inspections, and improved safety equipment and procedures. Similarly, the transport industry has taken a range of steps to improve the safety of its workers and the wider community, including the introduction of fatigue management programs, the use of advanced safety technologies, and the adoption of a safety culture that prioritizes the well-being of workers and the public.
A significant step forward in Australian work health and safety
Overall, the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 represents a significant step forward in the ongoing effort to create safer and healthier workplaces nationwide. While achieving the vision outlined in the strategy will require ongoing effort and investment from all stakeholders, the potential benefits for workers, businesses, and the wider community are clear. By working together and focusing on the priorities outlined in the strategy, there are significant opportunities to create a future where work-related injury, illness, and death are not a feature of the Australian working environment.
You can read the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 here (external link).
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Image: Safework Australia