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Project Harmony

Seamless transition to new work health and safety laws

On 3 July 2008, the Council of Australian Governments signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety. The fundamental objective of the reform is to produce the optimal model for a national approach to OHS regulation and operation that will:

  • enable the development of uniform, equitable and effective safety standards and protections for all Australian workers
  • address the compliance and regulatory burdens for employers with operations in more than one jurisdiction
  • create efficiencies for governments in the provision of OHS regulatory and support services
  • achieve significant and continual reductions in the incidence of death, injury and disease in the workplace.

In response, Comcare established the Project Harmony Group (Project Harmony) to ensure we meet our strategic objectives, including:

  • transitioning to national model workplace health and safety laws
  • supporting Safe Work Australia (SWA) in developing model work health and safety laws, regulations and codes of practice
  • working with state and territory regulators to ensure a nationally consistent approach to implementing model work health and safety laws Project Harmony
  • ensuring a seamless transition for the federal jurisdiction to new workplace health and safety arrangements.

The role of Project Harmony

Project Harmony was established to ensure Comcare meets its mandated objective to seamlessly transition to the national model work health and safety laws. Project Harmony supports SWA and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) in the development of model laws, regulations and codes of practice and is working in collaboration with state and territory regulators to reinforce national consistency in their application.

Project Harmony is taking steps to ensure all interested parties are informed and up-to-date on all harmonisation matters. Opportunity exists for collaboration with stakeholders to ensure Comcare’s vision is represented and that stakeholder involvement is capitalised on, during and beyond the life of the project.

A key role of Project Harmony is to raise awareness of the impending changes to work health and safety legislation and provide guidance on the best practice approach to transition. This will be achieved through dedicated workshops, seminars and campaigns targeted at both internal and external stakeholders.

Key external stakeholders

Comcare is working with key external stakeholders including:

  • SWA
  • Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) and associated working groups
  • Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
  • ACTU
  • Health and Safety Representatives
  • Agency Heads
  • APS 200
  • Senior Executive Staff
  • Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Fair Work Australia
  • Comcare jurisdiction
  • Self-Insurers Association
  • Commonwealth Safety Management Forum
  • Australian Public Service Commission.

Comcare’s 2011 national seminars

The 2011 National Seminars were designed to help individuals and organisations prepare for the new work health and safety (WHS) laws coming into effect in January 2012. We called the seminar series ‘Journey to a seamless transition’—this is Project Harmony’s tagline.

Comcare provided delegates with:

  • an update about key priorities and current news/ campaigns with regional updates tailored to specific issues for that area
  • information about Comcare’s Regulation Policy — explaining how it will be delivered and enforced once the new laws are introduced
  • information about Comcare’s WHS website and the resources available to help organisations prepare for the new laws.

The 2011 National Seminars series was an effective way to communicate information about the new WHS laws to our many stakeholders. Delegate feedback was positive with the majority agreeing the information will help them prepare for the new WHS laws. This feedback means we can be fairly confident the seminar series achieved our goal of providing our key audience with a useful update on the new WHS laws.

A total of 1186 delegates registered for the series with Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney the best attended respectively.

We continue to update Comcare’s new WHS website with information for individuals and organisations in preparation for the new WHS laws.