Top safety professionals say WHS harmonisation over emphasised

by 21 Feb 2012

As corporate Australia, regulators and the government have struggled to agree on when and how all states will fully implement harmonised WHS laws, a new report has indicated that harmonisation is not the top-rated concern it was thought to be.

According to the findings of the safesearch remuneration survey, the new regulations are not a top agenda item at the boardroom table. More than 80 of Australia’s top organisations participated in the report, and the majority of respondents said the biggest issue facing their organisation was the difficulty in driving the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) message across all levels of the business, and how to promote safety culture and leadership commitment to HSE.

Julie Honore, managing director of recruitment firm safesearch, said the survey results were somewhat surprising. “During the past year, we have observed a big emphasis on preparing for [WHS] across the country,” she said. “While many corporates were disappointed with the news that some states are now delaying this, clearly it is business as usual for safety leaders. Their efforts are not going into simply meeting their legal obligations but rather ensuring their CEO and executive are driving a safe culture and ‘walking the talk’.”

Honore said the message is that while regulatory compliance is important, to make a significant difference, business leaders have to put the effort into capturing the hearts and minds of the organisation – and the survey certainly confirms this.

Key findings from the report included:

  • More than 50% of heads of safety report to the CEO or Head of HR in equal proportions.

  • Over 66% of respondents published safety as part of their annual report

  • Over 50% of respondents formally measure safety culture: 43% use regular staff surveys and 13% measuring a combination of lead and lag indicators

  • Over half of the respondents said it would be harder to attract quality safety talent in the future - reasons varied from increased competition and higher salaries from the mining and resources sector to increased demand due to harmonisation

Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are yet to harmonise their laws, and Honore said a key business concern was knowing an organisation may be audited in one state against one set of criteria, and then in another state against different criteria again.


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