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Regulatory priorities 2023-2024

For 2023-2024 Comcare has identified six regulatory priorities to deliver on through proactive programs of work.


The aim of Comcare’s proactive regulatory approach is intended to support and promote the conditions that enable duty holders to meet their duties and obligations under the WHS Act. Through our preventive approach to managing WHS risk, we aim to assist organisations in our jurisdiction to proactively reduce the potential for harm to occur by addressing those factors that directly or indirectly contribute to harm.

Comcare identifies regulatory priorities using a risk-based and evidence-led approach, including the review and analysis of our regulatory data, and a focus on the priorities within Comcare’s Prevention Strategy 2022-2025 (PDF, 4.8 MB) and Safe Work Australia’s Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033. The identification of priorities ensures additional focus is placed on specific WHS risks with a prevention focus to incorporate into the planning and delivery of national and regional engagement activities.

For 2023–2024, six regulatory priorities have been identified. Comcare will deliver on these priorities through proactive programs of work, including a series of webinars focusing on these topics and the provision of information and resources on our website.

1. WHS Management Systems

WHS Management Systems are an ongoing priority for Comcare. Well-implemented, effective WHS Management Systems are key to providing a framework to deliver improved WHS performance in an organisation.

Effective WHS management systems can have a large-scale positive impact on the health and safety of workers, and the Australian WHS Strategy recognises the important role that WHS systems have in embedding good WHS practices across workplaces.

Our first focus within this priority will be Incident Management Systems and Arrangements. Throughout 2023-2024, Comcare will conduct proactive inspections with organisations in our jurisdiction to assess whether Incident Management Systems and Arrangements are in place.

A webinar was held on 31 July 2023 with an overview of this program of work, explaining how it will be conducted by our inspectors, and key considerations for your organisation.

See information on work health and safety management systems as an integral part of an organisation’s broader management.

2. Psychosocial hazards

Psychosocial hazards are aspects of work which have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm. Prevention of the harms associated with psychosocial hazards is a key focus and priority for all WHS regulators.

The Australian WHS Strategy lists managing psychosocial risks as a persistent WHS challenge for Australia, and there is significant work underway nationally to provide support and guidance to PCBUs in relation to preventing psychological harm.

While Comcare will continue to respond to psychosocial incidents and complaints in accordance with our risk-based approach, our Psychosocial Regulation team will provide a specialist focus on proactive regulation and harm prevention within Comcare’s jurisdiction. Prevention is the primary focus for the team, through targeted intelligence driven stakeholder engagement, education, and inspection programs.

Throughout 2023-2024, the team will continue to work with the Commonwealth jurisdiction to assess and facilitate compliance with legislation focussing on psychosocial hazards, engage with stakeholders to identify and review psychosocial supports and resources, and work with other Commonwealth and state and territory WHS regulators to inform consistent approaches.

The team are in the process of implementing a Psychosocial Proactive Inspection Program to regulate psychosocial hazard and risk management in the Commonwealth WHS Jurisdiction.

See:

  • Psychosocial hazards guidance provides information and guidance on the identified aspects of work which have the potential to cause psychological or physical harm.
  • WHS Regulations Case Studies based on Comcare regulatory activity in response to incidents involving psychosocial hazards and risks at workplaces in the Commonwealth jurisdiction.

3. Silica

Silica is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in rocks, soils, and sand. It is also used to make a variety of products including composite stone used to fabricate kitchen and bathroom benchtops, bricks, tiles, concrete, mortar, and some plastics.

When workers cut, crush, drill, polish, saw or grind products that contains silica, dust particles are generated that are small enough to lodge deep in the lungs.  If these become airborne and are inhaled by a worker it is extremely dangerous and the rapid re-emergence of accelerated silicosis, particularly among those working with engineered stone, is well publicised and of significant concern.

While the manufacturing of engineered stone itself is not a key concern in the Commonwealth jurisdiction, exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust generated from work activities such as construction, tunnelling, stone masonry, brick, concrete, stone cutting and the use of engineered stone in construction fit outs is of significant concern.

The Australian WHS Strategy aims to have no new cases of accelerated silicosis by 2033. Comcare will engage with relevant stakeholders and PCBUs across the jurisdiction with the aim of raising awareness of the exposure risks when working with silica containing products, and to ensure Commonwealth PCBUs consider these risks when contracting, managing, or undertaking construction activity.

Our Major Infrastructure Projects team will also work with PCBUs in our jurisdiction where this is a known risk. Their engagement will be to ensure PCBUs have a clear understanding of duties and workplace exposure standards, and to monitor the effectiveness of control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust in the workplace.

See Silica information for duty holders – explaining what it is, the new Code of Practice, employer and worker duties, workplace exposure standards and the hierarchy of controls.

4. Body stressing

Body stressing has been identified as a main cause of harm in the Comcare jurisdiction. Body stressing injuries have consistently remained the leading contributing factor to workplace harm across the Comcare scheme. 42% of all accepted injury claims in 2020-2021 related to body stressing.

Body stressing injuries are associated with repetitive and strenuous work, and commonly lead to musculoskeletal disorders and may also have negative psychosocial impacts. The leading causes for body stressing injuries are manual handling and computer work.

This regulatory priority is in alignment with our Comcare Prevention Strategy, which outlines the coordinated pathway to support workplaces to prevent harm and enable a culture of health and safety, compliance, and reporting. In January 2023, Safe Work Australia released their report on Key WHS statistics for Australia, highlighting that body stressing accounts for 37% of all claims in Australia in 2020-2021. This is an Australia-wide issue.

Throughout 2023-2024, we aim to better understand the causes of body stressing in our jurisdiction. We will identify ways to minimise these risks and, in consultation with PCBUs, share any identified best practice and initiatives.

The Body stressing sources of risk checklist (PDF, 184.4 KB) can assist managers, workplace health and safety staff and workers to identify and address risks of body stressing injury.

5. Contractor management

Comcare’s WHS incident data continues to show a high number of notifications involve contractors. In 2021 and 2022, approximately a quarter of notifiable incidents in Comcare’s jurisdiction involved a contractor. Comcare receives a number of requests for assistance relating to contractor management – including enquiries about incident notification requirements, risk management and controls, duty of care and consultation.

Contractor management is complex and often involves more than one duty holder and a co-regulated workplace. The Australian WHS Strategy also identifies complex contract management arrangements as a persistent WHS challenge. Particular working conditions, arrangements, and personal characteristics compound WHS risks for workers, putting them at greater risk of work-related illness, injury or death than others performing the same work, in the same environment.

Across Australia, the nature of work is also changing, along with the relationship between workers and PCBUs. Growing numbers of people now have multiple jobs and more frequently multiple PCBUs are involved in work at the same location or involved in the same undertaking, who share responsibilities under WHS laws. Supply chains are also becoming more complex and globalised with more participants. It is important to understand the WHS roles and responsibilities in these complex arrangements.

Through 2023-2024, we will continue our focus on contract management arrangements in the Commonwealth jurisdiction. We aim to focus on duty holders’ understanding of WHS roles and responsibilities in a contractual chain, and the effectiveness of contractor management arrangements – including monitoring by PCBUs.

See Contractor management (PDF, 306.8 KB) guidance to provide information for PCBU’s on topics such as what reasonably practicable means, how control is an implied element of determining what is reasonably practicable, relying on the expertise of others, consultation, incident notification and construction specific information.

6. Being hit by moving objects

The Australian WHS Strategy highlights that being hit by moving objects is one of the most common causes of workplace injuries in Australia, also accounting for a significant number of workplace fatalities. Comcare’s incident notification data confirms that this is a common hazard for our jurisdiction and is also one of the main causes of injury claims.

Our notification data shows the most common types of incident categories include being trapped by moving machinery or equipment, being trapped between stationary and moving objects, and exposure to mechanical vibration.

Through this priority, we will engage directly with the Transport and Logistics industry, focussing on the interaction between people and plant, and to raise awareness about the need for the effective implementation, review, and maintenance of traffic management plans.

Page last reviewed: 31 July 2023

Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 21 Apr 2024

https://www.comcare.gov.au/scheme-legislation/whs-act/reg-priorities