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Australian WHS Strategy 2023-2033

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Safe Work Australia has released its Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) Strategy 2022-2032, a 10-year plan which outlines its national approach to improving work health and safety outcomes. The current state of WHS in Australia has shaped it, including factors such as persistent challenges in managing psychosocial risk, health and safety vulnerability (i.e. not considering the needs of all workers when designing safe systems of work) and small businesses needing additional support. 

This strategy has also identified some emerging challenges, such as the rise of AI automation and technologies, changing workforce demographics, hybrid work, climate-related risks and more complex supply chains. 

One consistent theme highlighted in the strategy is managing psychosocial risks. Psychosocial hazards, such as high work demands, low job support and bullying, can cause both physical and psychological harm. On average, work-related psychological injuries have longer recovery times and higher costs associated with them. Not to mention the impact they can have on staff turnover and absenteeism, addressing psychosocial hazards may also improve overall business performance and productivity levels.

The central vision of the new strategy is safe and healthy work for all, with the main goal of reducing worker fatalities, injuries and illnesses.


Key Objectives

To reach this goal, the WHS Strategy has four key objectives:

Healthy and safe by design: Focusing on the design of work and work environments to eliminate or minimise work-related hazards and risks.

Strengthened capability and culture: The aim is to build a culture of safety across all workplaces in Australia by improving the capability of workers, employers, and other stakeholders to identify and manage work-related risks.

Resilient and responsive regulatory frameworks: Ensure that regulatory frameworks are effective, efficient, and responsive to the changing needs of the Australian workforce.

Research and data to inform action: The development and use of research and data to inform policy and practice and to identify emerging risks and trends in workplace health and safety.

The report outlines the below key enablers and actions that they believe will drive systematic changes and produce a significant shift in the WHS system in Australia. Success is outlined as moving to a more mature system with a stronger WHS culture and dynamic mindset



1. Embedding good WHS practices in all work across all industries, cohorts, and hazards
2. Innovating and deepening knowledge of WHS risks to broaden understanding
3. Collaborate consistently and effectively to respond to WHS challenges

Key Actions 

1. Information and awareness raising
2. National coordination
3. Data and intelligence gathering 
4. Health and Safety Leadership
5. Compliance and enforcement 


Impact on Australian Businesses

So what does the new strategy mean for Australian businesses, and how can they ensure they meet all the regulatory requirements and work towards building safer workplaces for their employees?

Some key activities include businesses considering a more proactive rather than reactive approach to WHS. Having good systems in place for risk management, auditing, and incident reporting is a good start. 

From the get-go, having well-thought-out inductions can also highlight to new employees the company cares about their safety and is keenly invested in keeping employees safe. Employees will be empowered to follow and actively participate in health and safety practices by clearly communicating expectations and responsibilities. 

To improve their safety culture, businesses can encourage worker participation in health and safety processes by removing barriers and making it easy for employees to report hazards and near misses as they happen and, most importantly, with no repercussions. Controls must also be in place, and once reported, action must be taken to remedy the situation. Frequent training and reviews of systems will help employees understand their responsibilities and also ensure continuous improvement. 

For management teams, it's important to be open to feedback and to use any real-time data collected to identify improvement areas and gaps in current WHS processes. As mentioned earlier, creating psychologically safe work environments is increasingly important, and it’s imperative for businesses to understand their legal obligations, identify any psychosocial hazards, have controls in place and provide a confidential way for employees to report. 


What's next

Safe Work Australia will periodically report on the strategy's progress using a combination of lead, lag and activity-based metrics. The approach will be reviewed to ensure metrics capture new and emerging issues and can identify links between activities and outcomes.

All stakeholders in Australia’s WHS system can make a valuable contribution to creating safe and healthy work that promotes the social and economic wellbeing of workers in Australia.

For more information, see the full report.