The Hon Kyam Maher MLC, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector, announced the commencement of an independent review of SafeWork SA on 21 September 2022, as part of a commitment of the Labor Government prior to the 2022 state election.

John Merritt commenced his independent review in late September 2022 and the Review’s Terms of Reference were published.

These included a focus on:

  • The effectiveness of SafeWork SA’s compliance and enforcement functions including complaints, inspections, investigations, prosecutions, and witness and family support.
  • SafeWork SA’s implementation of recommendations arising from the 2017 review undertaken by a senior prosecutor from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, 2018 evaluation by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, internal audit recommendations, and coronial inquests into workplace deaths.
  • Appropriate measures to ensure that workers and their representatives (including Health and Safety Representatives), and the families of deceased workers, have a genuine voice in the complaints, investigation, and enforcement process.
  • Engagement between SafeWork SA and other government agencies to monitor and improve workplace safety.
  • Recommendations as to any other matters that may arise during the review.

The review included a four-week period of public consultation, which closed on Friday 21 October 2022.

During this time, businesses, workers, industry organisations, members of the public and SafeWork SA staff were invited to make submissions.

Mr Merritt received 29 written submissions and held 55 separate meetings with individuals and groups, including some current and former SafeWork SA.

The review was completed in December 2022.

The Government released its response and made the review public on 25 January 2023.

It also published its preliminary response to the review’s 39 recommendations.

Of those, the Government has accepted (either wholly, in part or in principle) 25 recommendations, committed to further consultation with stakeholders on 10 recommendations, and not accepted four recommendations.

The new Executive Director of SafeWork SA will play a key role in further shaping and implementing these recommendations when the position is filled.

The review found that SafeWork SA’s significant reform program over the past five years has resulted in more disciplined and professional investigative processes.

It also found that injured workers and their families can be confident that future workplace tragedies will be properly investigated.

As part of its preliminary response, the Government has committed to the immediate establishment of a stakeholder advisory committee to SafeWork SA, as well as to consult with the new Executive Director on changes to internal policies and procedures.

The review recommends that SafeWork SA work more closely with key organisations such as employer associations, trade unions, and health and safety representatives.

It also makes recommendations for changes to internal practices and procedures at SafeWork SA, including making it easier for inspectors to spend more time conducting inspections rather than administrative work.

The review endorses the recommendations of last year’s review into the death of outback nurse Gayle Woodford by retired Federal Court judge John Mansfield AO KC.

It further recommends that the Government consult on a small number of further legislative amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act (2012) to improve work health and safety.

The independent review’s finding that SafeWork SA has made significant improvements in recent years that have increased confidence in our investigative processes is pleasing.

This review now provides SafeWork SA with an opportunity for further improvements.

We look forward to working with the Government and our next Executive Director to implement the accepted recommendations arising from the review.

The agency acknowledges and thanks the individuals and organisations that participated in the public consultation.

SafeWork SA will continue to work closely with staff and external stakeholders to fulfil its role of South Australia’s workplace health and safety regulator.

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