The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) delivered a report on 29 November 2018 which critically evaluated the policies, practices and procedures of the regulatory arm of SafeWork SA. This report followed in the wake of complaints about the regulator and two high-profile prosecutions being dropped by SafeWork SA.
In his report, Commissioner Bruce Lander found the regulator was failing to meet community standards and described SafeWork SA as "lost in a sea of overly convoluted, unnecessary and ineffective policies". The lack of effective policies meant that the "real risks of corruption, misconduct and maladministration" were not addressed.
Commissioner Lander made 39 recommendations, many of which required rectifying defects in SafeWork SA's operations and administration.
The report also criticised what has been termed 'workarounds', where alternative and informal processes were designed and applied by staff when policies and procedures were not considered the best approach. The 'workarounds' SafeWork SA had implemented in their teams were labelled as 'inconsistencies and inefficiencies', with Commissioner Lander stating that "management should not condone 'workarounds' that effectively abandon agency policy in favour of a team approach".
It is anticipated SafeWork SA will increase its focus on implementing thorough investigations into workplace safety incidents and reported risks. Notably, South Australian Police have recently pleaded guilty to charges following the death of a worker in a faulty freezer. This shows that even law enforcement bodies are not above SafeWork SA's scrutiny.
Now is the time for employers to critically evaluate and update (or implement) their own policies and procedures - particularly those concerning complaint management, work health and safety, and incident reporting management - to make sure they are clear and effective. Even if your organisation has comprehensive safety processes in place, it is also a good time to ensure your employees are aware of them, have access to them, and have been appropriately trained.
Commissioner Lander's concerns about 'workarounds' is a useful reminder that employers should regularly update and review their policies, rather than filling perceived gaps with team based approaches.
If you need advice on your internal policies and procedures, please feel free to contact us.