Workplace Standards Tasmania (WST) is responsible for the administration of much of the legislation which regulates business in Tasmania, including occupational health and safety, workers compensation, long service leave, shop trading hours and statutory holidays. It conducts accident and incident investigations, undertakes audits for compliance with legislation, and assists industry by delivering educative programs. Other responsibilities include promotion of occupational health and safety and workers compensation matters, provision of assistance on complaints about underpayment of entitlements and other industrial relations matters, along with the processing of dangerous goods registration and licensing permits and other occupational regulation activities.
The Workplace Standards structure consists of the Inspectorate, the Information and Workers Compensation Branch, the Policy, Planning and Services Branch, and a small Executive Support Unit.
During the year, Workplace Standards developed a three-year strategic Divisional Plan which took into account the goals of Tasmania Together, the National OHS Improvement Framework (developed by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission), and the strategic directions of the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources.
The State Government's Legislation Review Program (LRP) continued to impose a substantial workload during the year. In addition, Parliament passed two significant pieces of legislation developed by Workplace Standards- the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Act 2000 and the Building Act 2000.
The Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Act 2000 adopted most of the amendments recommended in the 1998 report by the Joint Select Committee of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Workers Compensation System. The Act, which became effective on 1 July 2001, made significant amendments to the Tasmanian workers compensation scheme, in particular, changes to the benefits model, and established the new WorkCover Tasmania Board.
The Building Act 2000 will, among other matters, regulate the construction and maintenance of buildings and provide for proportionate liability, building practitioner accreditation and insurance, and private certification of compliance with the Building Codes of Australia. Implementation of this Act is continuing.
In December 2000, Parliament passed the Gas Act 2000 and the Gas Pipelines Act 2000. This legislation will have a significant impact on the operations of Workplace Standards, which will be responsible for gas safety and regulation. In addition, Workplace Standards has been assisting the Office of Energy Planning and Conservation with the development of regulations for the above two Acts.
"The Helpline", a telephone inquiry service for employers and employees, is often the first contact the public has with Workplace Standards. It provides information on wages and conditions under both State and Federal awards, workplace health and safety information (including receipt of accident reports), information on long service leave, public holidays, etc. and fields workers rehabilitation and compensation enquiries.
"The Helpline" provides support to the activities of the WorkCover Tasmania Board by being the initial contact point for Workplace Safe publications and information. This has resulted in an increasing awareness and understanding of workplace safety and injury management issues.
Following agreement between the State and Federal Ministers, WST delivers, under contract, Federal award advice. This agreement provides employers and employees with a one-stop shop for wages and conditions enquiries.
Sector statistics indicate that a downward trend in lost time injuries continued over the past twelve months. While the target of 10 per cent has been difficult to maintain, strategies have been developed and implemented to address this issue. Sprains, strains and manual handling injuries accounted for about 30 per cent of all claims and a major campaign aimed at reducing claims in these areas is planned for next financial year. Co-operative audit and educative programs have continued during the year with successful outcomes. In addition, Workplace Standards has entered into a Memorandum of Alliance to enhance existing arrangements between Aurora Services and the Electrical Standards and Safety (ESS) Section.
The focus of this Output Group is to improve the standard of Tasmanian workplaces. Outputs within this Group include:
workplace inspections and investigations, which contribute to the enforcement of health and safety standards;
ensuring the safe transportation and handling of dangerous goods;
effective administration of Tasmania's Workers Compensation scheme;
compliance with conditions of employment matters such as workers compensation, long-service leave and industrial awards and agreements;
management of codes, standards and legislation governing the building and plumbing industry in Tasmania through the Office of Building Standards and Regulation; and
improving electrical safety awareness and managing licensing functions.
In a rapidly changing industrial awards, trading and safety environment, the Workplace Standards Division is also active in the review and development of legislation, standards, codes of practice, licensing, registration and accreditation procedures. The Division also provided strategic policy advice to the Minister, the Government and the Workplace Safety Board.
Users of this Output Group include the Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, the Government, employers, employees, unions and employer organisations.
How this Output Group is delivered
This Output Group is delivered by departmental officers. There is also close liaison with other agencies, the Local Government Office, Local Government, relevant industry bodies and the broader community.
Achievements Against Strategies Identified For 2000-2001
Promotion Of Awareness With All Industry Parties On Legislative Obligations
Information sessions and publications were provided to insurers, self insurers, insurance brokers, employers and unions on the changes to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 which came into effect on 1 July 2001.
By attending and sponsoring workplace seminars, workshops and public forums, and through publications, face-to-face contact and the telephone service, WST imparts information to industry as well as hearing industry representatives' concerns on complying with legislation. As a result, industry awareness and motivation to comply with its obligations is enhanced and WST is able to further develop and improve the advice given.
Total review of all workers compensation pamphlets; a single and comprehensive information booklet incorporating all relevant workers compensation information; a pamphlet outlining changes to the legislation; and providing doctors with specific information about the changes to the legislation as it affects them.
Production of a number of Safety Alerts.
Updating of the Electricity Standards and Safety website.
Establishment of a fully independent electrical licensing database.
New strategies for dangerous goods licensing notifications.
Development of administrative arrangements for doctor accreditation.
Development of two web sites designed to provide contemporary information for all the legislation administered by the division.
A manual handling awareness program through all industries, including the publication of Body Strain Prevention Kit: Your guide to preventing manual handling injuries in the workplace.
Modified dangerous goods licensing notifications.
An industry awareness program for the registration of hazardous plant.
A safety campaign aimed at unlicensed work and worker safety.
Further work on the natural gas project.
First stage compliance program to determine the level of understanding of the amended legislation by employers and insurers.
A review and update of information kits and the development of new ones where necessary.
The introduction of a new dangerous goods registration database and information kit.
Working with end users to produce integrated solutions: Feedback from stakeholders and entrants in the 2000 Workplace Safe Awards showed evidence that Awards finalists wanted greater recognition in front of their peers. This was a major factor in the decision to make the 2001 Awards ceremony a gala evening affair open to all, instead of the previous function that was by invitation only. Further feedback on the Awards also led to award categories being revised. In 2000-2001, end users of WST's New Workers Kit were consulted, leading to substantial amendments to the kit which will be re-launched in late 2001.
Workplace Issues: Four regular issues of the quarterly magazine Workplace Issues were produced in 2000-2001, as well as a special issue following Workplace Safe Week and the Workplace Safe Awards. This issue focused on Award finalists and on activities that were held during the Week. Workplace Issues is distributed to 7,500 Tasmanian businesses.
Workplace Safe Education Campaign: The third phase of the Workplace Safe Education Campaign continued in 2000-2001, aimed at reducing the number of workplace accidents in Tasmania by attempting to break through complacency towards workplace health and safety. The campaign continued to use a broad mix of advertising, publications and public relations to reach its target audience.
Workplace Safe Week: The fifth annual Workplace Safe Week was held from 25-31 October 2000. The Week is designed to raise awareness of occupational health and safety in Tasmania and included the Workplace Safe Awards.