As a fascinating counterpoint to the introduction of the South
Australia Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) (SA
WHS Act) on 1 January 2013, a Parliamentary inquiry into
the effectiveness of Safework SA was commenced on 9 May 2012 by the
Parliamentary Committee on Occupational Safety, Rehabilitation and
The precise rationale for the inquiry is somewhat unclear but
appears likely to be connected to the political debate that
continued throughout 2012 in relation to the introduction of the
harmonised laws, and the stinging criticism levelled at SafeWork
SA's investigation practices by Coroner Mark Johns in his 2011
inquest into the death of Daniel Maddeley.
The terms of reference are to review:
the efficiency and effectiveness of SafeWork SA;
whether the responsibility for all occupational, health and
safety issues should remain with SafeWork SA or whether some or all
of that responsibility should be transferred to WorkCover; and
any other matter.
The broad terms of reference have provided a platform for a
range of peak industry bodies, (including SISA, the MBA and
Business SA) to speak their mind in relation to perceived
organisational deficiencies in SafeWork SA's operations, and
raise problems with the implementation of the SA WHS Act.
The consensus from industry appears to be that a transfer of
investigative and policy responsibility from SafeWork SA to
WorkCover is undesirable. However, there is clearly a concerted
push on the part of industry for reform to SafeWork SA as the
State's workplace health and safety regulator.
The criticisms raised have included that SafeWork SA:
was under-resourced in preparation for OHS harmonisation;
is not sufficiently consultative;
has inspectors that can be more adversarial than is
is lacking experienced inspectors, particularly those with
specific industry experience;
does not collaborate or engage with industry; and
has suffered from politicised leadership.
Representatives of SafeWork SA have already appeared before the
Committee, but will be provided with an opportunity to appear again
in order to provide a response to the submissions that have been
To be fair to SafeWork SA, in earlier evidence to the Committee
it was pointed out that since SafeWork SA's inception in 2006
there has been 'a demonstrated decline in the number of injury
claims' in SA, and that SafeWork SA also presents superior
performance to WorkCover New South Wales and WorkCover Victoria by
reference to national comparative performance reports.
However, industry clearly holds strong views in relation to how
improved safety outcomes might best be achieved in conjunction with
an active and effective regulator and has now been provided with a
forum to make those views heard. Victim interest group VOID (Voices
of Industrial Death) also made strong submissions about perceived
deficiencies in SafeWork SA's interaction and communication
with the families of workplace accident victims. For the time
being, it seems it is the 'regulator on trial'.
The inquiry is ongoing.
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