Consultation: some practical advice

We have shown our commitment to helping businesses develop a better understanding of workplace consultation by hosting the inaugural Consultation @ Work conference.

Held at the Sydney Cricket Ground on October 25, the conference was part of national Safe Work Month.

Research has shown that NSW businesses are unsure of their consultation obligations, and are concerned it is expensive and time consuming.

The conference provided approximately 200 delegates with simple and practical ways to meet their obligations, and gave them a platform to share stories.

Keynote speakers included health, safety and security expert and lawyer Alena Titterton and safety organisational culture specialist Robert Sams.

Delegates also participated in an interactive theatre performance. The performance was based around the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and offered a unique way to learn important safety lessons gleaned from the tragedy.

The conference is just one element of our two-year Consultation @ Work program.

As part of this program, we will develop a ‘consultation toolkit’ to help businesses better understand their obligations, and learn practical and efficient ways to consult.

A short animation about the basics has already been produced, and case studies for the manufacturing and healthcare industries have been published.

With more than 55 sites around the state, the Cerebral Palsy Alliance has also shared tips on how their business consults. Watch their short video.

Do you have a story to share? Email


A strategy for workplace mental health

According to a survey of more than 2000 NSW businesses, less than one in 10 employers had an integrated approach to mental health.

Using a benchmarking tool, it was found that about one in five employers had a basic awareness of mental health issues but thought it was ultimately an individual’s responsibility.

The scientific, professional and technical sectors were the worst performing industries.

It is estimated that the cost of mental health issues to NSW employers is about $2.8 million a year. Research also suggests that businesses that invest in workplace mental health programs could reap more than $4 for every $1 invested as a result of improvements to productivity and reductions in absenteeism.

Mental illness is now the leading cause of long-term sickness among Australian workers, overtaking back pain as the most common cause of work incapacity.

Our six-year work health and safety roadmap includes a commitment to reduce serious injuries and illnesses by 30 per cent by 2022, with a focus on serious mental health disorders.

A Mentally Healthy Strategy of NSW incorporating initiatives designed to raise awareness and improve business capability to prevent and manage poor mental health in the workplace will be developed in consultation with stakeholders, along with
a range of compliance and enforcement measures.

In this short video, Sam Harvey, Associate Professor at the University of NSW and Professor Nick Glozier from the University of Sydney share their thoughts on the importance of creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Oil company completes more than $800,000 of safety improvements after workplace incident

The largest oil company retail network in Australia has completed more than $800,000 of work health and safety undertakings after two workers were treated in hospital following an incident at the company’s Banksmeadow fuel terminal.

Since the incident in July 2013, Caltex Australia Petroleum Pty Ltd has spent more than $200,000 on rectifications at its Banksmeadow terminal and on its national terminal network. This included improvements to isolation standards, work procedures and training for permit to work, as well as management of change, emergency management, and delivering improved hazard awareness training for all workers and contractors.

In addition to these rectifications, Caltex committed more than $600,000 on a number of strategies to deliver wider benefits to the industry and the community.

These strategies included development of a mobile contractor safety management app to help businesses manage the health and safety of their workforce. The free Onsite Safety app enables businesses to connect with their workforce remotely through a smartphone or tablet. It includes checklists for activities such as working at heights, working with chemicals, electrical work, confined spaces, using plant and using vehicles on construction sites.

A series of webinars has also been produced, with industry experts speaking on topics such as managing organisational change, implementing drug and alcohol programs, developing process safety KPIs, and adopting the Global Harmonisation System requirements for classifying and labelling chemicals.

Benefits to the community include funding seven fire-fighters from Fire & Rescue NSW to undertake advanced petrochemical fire response training in Texas, USA. Caltex has also helped FRNSW develop e-learning courses to teach fire-fighters how to respond to incidents in the petrochemical industry.

Read more about enforceable undertakings.

Hazardous chemicals: from mushroom farms to stonemasons

Between 2012 and 2015, there were more than 6000 injuries in NSW workplaces as a result of workers’ handling, storing or using hazardous chemicals unsafely.

Eight people died and more than 250 are now permanently disabled.

These fatalities and injuries are 100 per cent preventable when the workplace is safe and the simplest of control measures are used, like ventilators, respirators, gloves and goggles.

After consultation and negotiation with key stakeholders, we have identified the top 10 ‘priority chemicals’ used in NSW workplaces.

Over the next five years, inspectors will contact more than 10,000 workplaces to help businesses use these chemicals safely.

Initially, the focus will be on the top two chemicals – formaldehyde and crystalline silica – which can cause anything from allergic skin reactions to lung disease.

Inspectors will visit workplaces where formaldehyde is likely to be found, such as hospitals, laboratories, manufacturers of wood-pressed products (such as MDF board), poultry and mushroom farms, and funeral homes.

They will also visit workplaces where crystalline silica is present, workplaces where tunnels and roads are constructed, as well as stonemasons and manufacturers of polished stone benches.

A recent NSW parliamentary inquiry into the Dust Diseases Scheme was told that silicosis had become a huge problem in the manufactured stone industry, particularly in small businesses.

For crystalline silica workplaces, air monitoring records will be reviewed to ensure that workers are working below the limits required by the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard and that health monitoring is being undertaken.

And we will work closely with SafeWork Australia to review these standards, to ensure they meet international best practice exposure limits for crystalline silica.

We will also review current health monitoring tests, to ensure they are still the most adequate tests available for the early detection of any changes to health.

We will work in collaboration with iCare and Dust Diseases Care to make the lung bus available in regional areas and large workplaces for health monitoring tests, and will work with other government agencies and stakeholders to influence the introduction of a mandatory reporting program for occupational respiratory diseases.

By 2022, not only will serious injuries and illnesses have fallen by 30 per cent, but NSW businesses will have implemented best practice controls to eliminate or significantly reduce hazardous chemical exposures in their workplaces and exposure standards will be in line with international best practice.

Also, the testing of silicosis will be the most accurate and efficient available worldwide, a respiratory disease register will hopefully be legislated, and at-risk workers will receive and understand key safety messaging.

And the 2017 winners are…

Ball gowns and black ties were the order of the evening when more than 250 guests from Kiama Downs to Chinderah and all points in between attended a gala dinner at Doltone House, Hyde Park in Sydney to celebrate the 2017 SafeWork NSW Awards.

Since the inauguration of these awards in 2004, about 80 individuals and businesses from across NSW have received a SafeWork NSW award for their contribution to workplace health and safety.

Indeed, this year we had 160 applications to the SafeWork NSW Awards. Each and every application demonstrated leadership and commitment to workplace health and safety. It is this attitude that will increase the competitiveness and confidence of NSW businesses. And with this attitude, we will make NSW the easiest state in which to start and grow a business.

By celebrating these achievements, we strengthen our relationship with industry partners and engage with the wider community. We begin a conversation around the myriad benefits of embracing health and safety, and recovery at work, in every workplace.

Together with our Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022, these awards highlight the vital role of health and safety in every workplace.

From 160 entries and 29 finalists, nine winners were selected…

Sailfish Catamarans – Excellence in workplace health and safety culture (small business)


Port Stephens Council – Excellence in workplace health and safety culture (big business)


The Lacket Company – Best solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue (small business)


D&D Traffic Management – Best solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue (big business)


John Pearce, Coffs Harbour City Council – Best individual contribution to workplace health and safety – (no formal WHS responsibility)

web - Wrap - JOHN PEARCE

Glenn Stewart, Calvary Health Care – Best individual contribution to workplace health and safety (someone with WHS responsibility)

web - wrap - GLENN STEWART

Specialty Fashion Group – Excellence in recovery at work for business


David Nugent, Rehab Co – Recovery at work achievement award for injured workers

web - wrap - DAVID NUGENT

Paul Lyndon, Diona – SafeWork NSW leadership in safety award

web - wrap - PAUL LYNDON