Government to act on SafeWork SA review

The Government has publicly released an independent review into the practices and processes of SafeWork SA.

The root-and-branch review fulfils a key Government election commitment and was conducted by experienced work health and safety regulator Mr John Merritt, the former chair and Executive Director of WorkSafe Victoria.

During the review Mr Merritt received feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, including both businesses and workers. The review received 29 written submissions and involved 55 separate meetings with individuals and groups.

The review finds that SafeWork SA has undergone significant reform over the last 5 years as a result of previous reviews including the 2018 ICAC evaluation. Further, the review finds that the agency’s investigative processes are more professional and disciplined, and that injured workers and their families can be confident that future workplace tragedies will be properly investigated.

The review recommends that SafeWork SA work more closely with key organisations such as employer associations, trade unions, and health and safety representatives, and recommends the creation of a new stakeholder advisory committee to assist SafeWork SA in coordinating action to improve workplace safety.

The review also makes recommendations for changes to internal practices and procedures at SafeWork SA, including making it easier for inspectors to spend more time conducting inspections rather than administrative work.

The review endorses the recommendations of last year’s review into the death of outback nurse Gayle Woodford by retired Federal Court judge John Mansfield AO KC, including reforms to secrecy provisions which limit the information which can be provided to injured workers and their families.

The review also recommends that the Government consult on a small number of further legislative amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 to improve work health and safety.

The Government has published its preliminary response to the review recommendations alongside the release of the review which can be found here.

Of the 39 recommendations the Government has accepted (either wholly, in part or in principle) 25 recommendations, committed to further consultation with stakeholders on 10 recommendations, and not accepted 4 recommendations.

As part of its preliminary response the Government has committed to the immediate establishment of a stakeholder advisory committee to SafeWork SA, as well as to consult with the new Executive Director of SafeWork SA on changes to internal policies and procedures once recruitment is completed.

The Government has also re-committed to implementing the recommendations of last year’s review into the death of Gayle Woodford, and intends to introduce legislation to Parliament this year to give effect to those recommendations.

Other recommendations concerning legislative reforms to the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 will require detailed consultation with stakeholders, including the business community and trade unions, over the coming months.

The Government intends to publish its final response to the review recommendations by 30 June 2023 following further stakeholder consultation.


Attributable to Kyam Maher

Every worker has the right to come home safely to their families and loved ones at the end of each day.

This review, together with changes such as industrial manslaughter laws, reflects this Government’s commitment to improving work health and safety for the entire South Australian community.

I am pleased the review has found that SafeWork SA’s investigative processes have undergone significant reform and that injured workers and their families can be confident that future workplace tragedies will be properly investigated. This is a testament to the passion and professionalism of the SafeWork team.

The Government has accepted the vast majority of Mr Merritt’s recommendations, including the formation of a new advisory committee including both business and union representatives to help SafeWork SA improve workplace safety.

We are also finalising reforms to allow SafeWork to communicate more clearly with businesses, injured workers, and their families, about the progress of health and safety investigations.

An extensive recruitment process will commence shortly to locate a new Executive Director of SafeWork SA, and I look forward to working with them as we embark on this new chapter for the organisation.

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