SafeWork NSW to become an independent WHS regulator

The NSW Government recently announced that SafeWork NSW will become a standalone, independent regulator following a 12-month inquiry.

An independent report commissioned by the government and conducted by former judge Robert McDougall KC made a significant number of reform recommendations for creating a more modern, stronger and fit-for-purpose WHS regulator.

Many of the recommended reforms started after March last year, including reviewing SafeWork’s capabilities in triaging of incidents, improving the responsiveness of contact centre staff and pulling together SafeWork staff previously spread across the Department of Customer Service.

The government has endorsed the report’s recommendations, with further work underway to determine specific implementation details.

Other critical recommendations include:

  •  Requiring SafeWork to keep those affected by workplace incidents, including families of deceased workers and those seriously injured at work, informed of the progress of investigations and prosecutions,
  • Training more inspectors in dealing with psychosocial hazards in the workplace, such as extreme workload and bullying,
  • Reviewing complaints handling policies,
  • Formalising data collection and analysis to make better compliance and enforcement decisions.

The independent review was informed by public consultation, including submissions by former and current SafeWork staff, families of injured and deceased workers, unions and peak bodies, employer groups and SafeWork itself.

“Worker safety is not red tape; it is not a tick-a-box function, it is not a cost of doing business. It is a fundamental right for every worker to go to their job and come home safely,” said NSW Minister for Work Health and Safety, Sophie Cotsis.

“We are committing to ensuring for family members that SafeWork will create improved processes to ensure they are informed at all steps of an investigation. We are committing to SafeWork’s inspectors that they will get the support they need to do their vital work.”

Trent Curtin, head of SafeWork NSW, said the regulator is entering a new era.

“With work already underway, SafeWork NSW will take all steps necessary to analyse our regulatory approaches and support systems to ensure best-practise work health and safety regulation for NSW workers,” he said.