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New safety code has been launched to protect workers

23 August, 2007

Australia’s first safety code aimed to protect workers in the Public Sector has been launched by the Western Australian Government.

“The Code of Practice on Occupational Safety and Health in the Public Sector is a way to bring about significant cultural change in the Public Sector,” Department of Consumer and Employment Protection chief Brian Bradley said.

“The new Code allows the State Government to demonstrate its commitment to the safety and welfare of all its employees,” Bradley added.

“It sets the standards for safety and health management across the entire sector so the Government can lead the way in building a culture of safety in the workplace.

“It is vital that all Public Sector workers are aware of their rights and responsibilities with regard to occupational safety and health,” Bradley, the Director General of DOCEP, told an audience of about 200, including CEOs, senior officers and occupational safety and health and injury management practitioners from across the Public Sector.

“This new Code will promote comprehensive preventative strategies for Chief Executive Officers, managers and employees to ensure they comply with all the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and Regulations.”

The code applies to all agencies, including departments, trading concerns, instrumentalities and statutory bodies.

Bradley launched the Code on behalf of the Premier, who is Minister for Public Sector Management.

“Initiatives include a wealth of new information to assist you to raise health and safety levels. Among these initiatives is the development of a new Public Sector website,” he said.

“The code has been developed for and endorsed by the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health and it is a significant milestone.”

The new website at www.publicsectorsafety.wa.gov.au is an information gateway, which will offer assistance to employees, management, coordinators, and safety, health and injury management practitioners working within the Public Sector.

Bradley said that excellent work had been done in WA over the past 18 years to reduce the tragic toll of workplace illness and injury.

“Even so, one death is one too many, and most incidents are indeed avoidable. Every 30 minutes a Western Australian is injured at work, and every 19 days a Western Australian dies from injuries sustained while earning a living. Sobering statistics indeed.

“The Public Sector is Western Australia’s biggest employer with more than 120,000 people. It has a wide range of occupations in a large number of industries, many of which expose employees to safety and health risks or are downright dangerous.

“Public Sector workers get killed at work. Nobody wants to be faced with the tragedy of even one death or serious injury resulting from a failure of management.”

Bradley said worker’s compensation costs were a concern for Government agencies. Last year more than 146,000 days were lost to illness and injury in the Public Sector -- equivalent to every employee being absent for a whole year in an agency with 562 employees.

“The direct cost of compensation claims in our Public Sector in 2006 was $54 million – equivalent to the cost of six new primary schools or 326 extra front-line police officers.

“If we take into account lost production, medical costs, administration costs and the cost in taxation dollars of injured and sick people leaving the workforce, we’d be looking at around $273 million. This would pay for 31 primary schools or 1629 front-line police officers.

“As for the most common worker’s compensation claims in the Public Sector, 47 per cent of claims and 54 per cent of benefits paid were for ‘sprains, strains and dislocations’.

Bradley said workplace culture and safety culture were influenced by senior management. Research indicates the importance of leadership, and employees’ perceptions of their leaders, in the formation of a more positive safety culture and reduction in accidents.

“The compelling reason for raising standards in occupational safety and health, and injury management, is the humane reason.

“We are also faced with an ageing workforce and with skills shortages – all the more reason to retain the staff we have in a safe and healthy environment.

“At the national level, a 10-year strategy for reducing work-related injury, illness and death has been implemented to cover the period 2002 to 2012. Its target is to reduce work-related fatalities by 20 per cent and work-related injuries by 40 per cent over the 10-year period.

“This code is part of ‘Government Leading the Way’, announced by this Government in 2004. The strategy is designed to ensure this State meets its national commitments.”

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