Neil Bartholomaeus

WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner


WorkSafe Western Australia considers its key public service role is to protect people from hazards at work and thus reduce the State’s work-related fatalities and injuries. Accordingly, since 1989, the department has adopted a strategic management approach aimed at measurable reduction in the State’s rate of work-related fatalities and lost time injury and disease. The current strategic management objective is the WorkSafe WA 2000 Vision, set in April 1995.


The WorkSafe WA 2000 Vision is that by the year 2000:

*   Western Australian enterprises achieve world best practice in occupational safety and health;

*   Western Australia achieves the lowest work-related injury, disease and fatality rates in Australia; and

*   Western Australian injury, disease and fatality rates be at least 50 per cent lower than they were in June 1995.

To achieve the Vision, the Government has a four part WorkSafe WA 2000 Plan:

*   implementation of the ThinkSafe cultural change program;

*   promotion of occupational safety and health management systems;

*   firm and fair enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act; and

*   provision of information to workplaces, the education system and homes.

Since the WorkSafe WA 2000 Vision and Plan was launched in 1995, the State Government has also launched a Productivity WA 2000 Vision and Plan where the objective for occupational safety and health, as a component of the productivity improvement agenda, has been distilled to "Western Australia’s workplaces will be the safest in the world" by the year 2000.


Western Australian enterprises achieve world best practice in occupational safety and health

Three areas of measurement are being tracked here. Firstly, an objective has been set that at least 80% of Western Australian large and medium enterprises (approximately 500) operate at Gold certificate level under the WorkSafe Plan occupational safety and health management assessment system by the year 2000. In June 1998, 27 enterprises held Gold certificates of achievement and 53 held Silver certificates of achievement issued under the WorkSafe Plan.

The second area of measurement is achievement of best practice in safety and health in the Western Australian operations of national and multi-national companies. We actively encourage these companies to achieve the best performance of their national and world-wide operations here in Western Australia. These achievements are being recorded as best practice case studies and shared with other Western Australian enterprises.

The third area of measurement is the quality of occupational safety and health services being provided to Western Australian enterprises. Clearly, to achieve world best practice at the enterprise level, we should strive for world best practice in occupational safety and health services, both in private services and Government services. Part of our rationale of encouraging Western Australian service providers to also market internationally is that if service providers can successfully compete in global markets, then we have greater confidence that their services being delivered in Western Australia are world class. WorkSafe Western Australia, in providing its services, believes it has achieved world best practice with delivery of occupational safety and health information, education and training via the Internet, and with the unique ThinkSafe behavioural and cultural change campaign.

Western Australia achieves the lowest work-related injury, disease and fatality rates in Australia

The National Data Set published by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission enables interstate comparisons of work-related injury, disease and fatality rates. The most recent data is for 1995/96 which shows Western Australia had the second lowest frequency rate of work-related injury and disease of Australian states (second to Tasmania). Western Australia shared with South Australia the equal lowest fatality rates in Australia in 1995/96. This is a pleasing improvement on the previous year 1994/95 where Western Australia was second to South Australia. Taking these two measurements together suggests Western Australia has the best occupational safety and health performance of all the states.

Western Australian injury, disease and fatality rates be at least 50 per cent lower by July 2000 than they were in June 1995

The WorkSafe WA 2000 Vision was launched in April 1995, thus the benchmark year for this performance indicator is 1994/95. During 1997/98 workers’ compensation claims data became available which indicated there was a 7.8% reduction in lost time injury and disease rates per million hours worked in 1996/97 relative to 1994/95. There were 27 fatalities during 1997/98 (13 of which were in the mining industry – outside the jurisdiction of WorkSafe Western Australia). The all-industry outcome for 1997/98 represents an 18% reduction in fatality rates per million workers when compared to the 31 fatalities in 1994/95. In relation to non-mining fatalities within WorkSafe Western Australia’s jurisdiction, there has been a 40% reduction in the rate of work-related fatalities per million workers in 1997/98 (14 fatalities) compared to 1994/95 (21fatalities).

While these trends are pleasing, every fatality and serious injury is a great disappointment to our department. Our staff have extensive contact with the family and friends of people killed at work and experience the personal tragedy of each death. We also see first hand the devastating effect that serious injury has on peoples lives. Our bitter experiences strengthen our resolve to do all we can to prevent more deaths and injuries. The WorkSafe WA 2000 Plan below is our considered, structured and balanced prevention strategy.


The ThinkSafe cultural change program

The ThinkSafe cultural change program launched by the Premier in January1996 was again promoted strongly over the past year. The aim of the ThinkSafe program is to develop a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week safety culture, at work, at home and on the roads. The ThinkSafe theme is - "where there’s risk pause and think" put into action using the "ThinkSafe steps" of:

*   Spot the hazard;

*   Assess the risk; and

*   Make the changes.

From a work safety perspective, the simple logic is that if people apply the ThinkSafe Steps outside the workplace, at home and on the roads, then they are more likely to apply them at work. Similarly, the ThinkSafe Steps, based on the work safety risk management methodology of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control, offer much to safety beyond the workplace.

Market research conducted in late 1997 and early 1998 shows a very high level of recognition of the ThinkSafe campaign and understanding of the ThinkSafe Steps. National market research conducted by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission in 1998 has shown that awareness on work safety has increased more in Western Australia over the past five years than any other Australian state, due to the ThinkSafe campaign.

The "ThinkSafe Club" was launched in primary schools in February 1998 delivering interactive training on the ThinkSafe Steps via the Internet to primary school students. The students learn the application of the ThinkSafe Steps to safety at home, on the roads and at schools. While the program doesn’t directly relate to the workplace, our strategy is that by the time young Western Australians enter the workplace, they will be very familiar with a simple but powerful safety methodology. Young persons have a higher injury rate than more experienced workers, with too many learning about the hazards at work through the painful experience of personal injury. The ThinkSafe Club will help.

The WorkSafe Plan to promote occupational safety and health management systems

The WorkSafe Plan assessment system assists enterprises to measure the extent to which the employers’ general duty under the Occupational Safety and Health Act is being implemented. The WorkSafe Plan measures five key elements:

*   management commitment;

*   occupational safety and health planning;

*   consultation;

*   hazard management; and

*   training.

The WorkSafe Plan was introduced in 1994. Currently there are 27 enterprises holding Gold certificates of achievement and 53 holding Silver certificates of achievement.

There are now 63 accredited WorkSafe Plan assessors servicing the needs of industry. The independent accredited WorkSafe Plan assessors have undergone training in the WorkSafe Plan and have been assessed in their ability to apply it to industry before accreditation. The encouraging numbers of WorkSafe Plan certificates of achievement awarded to date are the "tip of the iceberg" of activity amongst Western Australian enterprises with WorkSafe Plan, with hundreds of enterprises utilising the WorkSafe Plan system to organise and improve their occupational safety and health management. While a number of Australian jurisdictions have assessment systems equivalent to WorkSafe Plan, only in Western Australia are the assessments done at arm’s length from Government by independent accredited assessors. This approach enables a high degree of confidentiality between the assessor and the customer enterprise.

Firm and fair enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act

WorkSafe Western Australia has responsibility for enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and adopts a firm but fair enforcement approach. Overall, enforcement activity increased during 1997/98 compared to 1995/96. There were 109 prosecutions, 7,794 improvement notices and 992 prohibition notices in 1997/98, compared to 127 prosecutions, 5,502 improvement notices and 725 prohibition notices in 1996/97. The reduction in prosecutions during 1997/98 was more than offset by substantial increases in field enforcement activity through improvement notices and prohibition notices.

The cost efficiency of enforcement activity further increased during 1997/98, with a cost per enforcement action of $858 compared to $1,103 in 1996/97. The number of investigations resulting in more than one notice in 1997/98 was 3,558 compared to 2,071 in 1996/97. Both the efficiency and effectiveness indicators reflect the improved operational impact through industry-focussed self-managed teams and attention to priority workplace hazards.

Following controversy surrounding the prosecution of a farmer in 1997 for a breach of the Act associated with the death of his daughter in a silo, the department issued a revised Prosecution Policy incorporating an extensive public interest test. It is too early to establish whether the revised public interest test will lead to a substantial reduction in prosecution proceedings.

Provision of information to workplaces, the education system and homes

While the primary role of WorkSafe Western Australia is enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, both industry and the community expect the Government agency to provide information that can assist in addressing safety problems in the workplace. WorkSafe Western Australia enjoys providing information and has developed a highly efficient service on the Internet called "SafetyLine" ( as the main information delivery medium. SafetyLine continues to grow in both content and utilisation, with now more than 18,000 pages of information accessed over 3.2 million times during 1997/98. SafetyLine is widely regarded as the leading service of its kind in the world.

A unique aspect of SafetyLine’s world leadership is its interactive training and education programs. The "WorkSafe Smart Move" program for secondary school students undertaking work experience now has more than 20,000 graduates in Western Australia through the Internet and the program has been also adopted by South Australia and Queensland. With the ThinkSafe Club, WorkSafe Smart Move, and the recently introduced "SafetyLine Institute" ( , interactive programs are now provided for primary, secondary and tertiary education in occupational safety and health.

While the Internet service SafetyLine is proving very effective, the department continues to also publish the printed magazine "SafetyLine" which is mailed quarterly to approximately 12,000 subscribers free of charge. A feature of the "SafetyLine" magazine during 1997/98 has been the complete reproduction of approved codes of practice for manual handling and the prevention of falls as special editions of the magazine. This practice will continue with reproduction of further codes during the next year.


Thus the WorkSafe WA 2000 Plan is a comprehensive and a balanced strategic approach embodying regulatory, industry and community awareness, and best practice programs directed at ensuring "Western Australia’s workplaces will be the safest in the world" by the year 2000. The WorkSafe WA 2000 Vision and Plan have also engendered a robustness at WorkSafe Western Australia which is essential to delivering a high level of service to the public in a sometimes difficult industrial-political environment.

Our team at WorkSafe Western Australia is enthusiastically committed towards achieving the WorkSafe WA 2000 Vision.

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