Executive leadership in the Public Sector
The public sector is Western Australia’s largest job provider, employing more than 150,000 people, and many of its occupations are hazardous. Each year over 5,000 public servants are injured at work.
Safety and injury management practices in the Western Australian public sector can only be improved with demonstrated commitment and action by Chief Executive Officers and their leadership teams.
An effective and efficient safety management system and injury management and return to work culture within an agency, sends a clear message to employees that they are:
- valued; and
- important to the success of that agency.
Developing a strong safety and injury management culture and protecting the health and safety of employees or members of the public who may be affected by your activities is an essential part of risk management, and relies on the commitment and leadership demonstrated by management. Leaders have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety.
Public sector leaders are safety leaders
Public sector agencies have the potential to champion change beyond their own agency by leading by example. In leading by example, public sector agencies can demonstrate the advantages of a strong safety and injury management culture, and encourage improvement of occupational safety, health and injury management performance in other industries.
In Western Australia, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are required to document their commitment to occupational safety, health and injury management and report against the performance targets in their annual reports as required in the Public Sector Commissioner's Circular 2012-05: Code of Practice: Occupational Safety and Health in the Western Australian Public Sector. CEOs also have the ability to plan and report on safety, health and injury management activities in annual CEO Performance Agreements.
Why is effective occupational safety, health and injury management important?
• It’s the smart thing to do – a good workplace safety and health and injury management system leads to reduced costs (workers’ compensation claim costs; premium costs) and reduced risks (employee absence and turnover rates are lower and accidents are fewer) and also increased productivity.
• It’s the right thing to do – the benefits of investing in occupational safety and health include improved workplace culture, attraction of talented workers and improved corporate reputation. Staff are happier, more motivated and feel valued.
• It’s the law – employers are required to take all reasonable measures to protect the safety and health of their employees, and to have an injury management system and return to work program in place. Penalties can apply where an employer does not properly fulfil their legal obligations.
How to demonstrate leadership in occupational safety and health and injury management – some recommendations for leaders
- Set the direction for effective health and safety management by setting long-term organisational improvement targets and develop positive performance indicators at both an organisational and business unit level.
- Add targets that drive improvements in areas of identified risk and return to work performance for the agency.
- Make OSH and injury management a standing item on executive meeting agendas.
- Consider OSH and injury management implications when developing organisational change and human resource management strategies.
- Develop a strategy to address the information and training needs of the agency’s managers
- Allocate resources to identify, assess and remedy areas of risk.
- Clearly specify management’s OSH and injury management responsibilities in agency-wide OSH and injury management policies and procedures.
- Develop and then undertake an improvement program for the agency.
- Apply adopted work health and safety policies and measures consistently throughout your agency, whether over time or in different operational areas within the agency.
- Identify agency improvement priorities based on achieving targets and controlling injury risks.
- Arrange for updates to be provided to the agency’s management group on emerging OSH and injury management issues relevant to the agency’s business.
- Ensure line managers report to executive management on workplace injuries, measures taken to prevent further injury and the rehabilitation support provided to injured employees.
- Allocate accountability for workers’ compensation costs to a divisional level.
- Set baseline data so that performance improvements can be measured.
- Regularly review OSH and injury management systems and audit tools.
- Engage suitably qualified professionals to conduct impartial in-house audits or reviews, with appropriate employee and employer involvement.
- Incorporate the scheduling of these reviews into agency corporate governance or audit plans.
- Report organisational OSH and injury management performance in the agency’s annual report, including the organisation’s performance against National Strategy targets.
- Reward excellence in OSH and injury management performance as part of organisational reward and recognition programs.
To learn more about safety, health and injury leadership, useful information can be found below:
- Government leaders, safety leaders (opens in new window) - Commonwealth: Safe Work Australia and Comcare
- Safe and Sound Discussion Paper (opens in new window) - Commonwealth: Safe Work Australia and Comcare
- CEO leadership, health and safety culture (opens in new window) - Commonwealth: Comcare
- Leading Health and Safety at Work (opens in new window) - Australian Capital Territory: WorkSafe
- Leading Well: The role of leadership in improving the prevention and management of psychological injury (opens in new window) - New South Wales: Department of the Premier and Cabinet
- Working Together: Public Sector Workplace Health and Safety and Injury Management Strategy 2010-2012 (opens in new window) - New South Wales Government
- Leading the way- Improving health, safety and return to work in government workplaces (opens in new window) - Victoria: WorkSafe
- The Skeleton Project (opens in new window) - Victoria: WorkSafe
- Quality leadership practices in work health and safety (opens in new window) - Queensland: WorkCover
- Zero Harm at Work Leadership Program (opens in new window) - Queensland: WorkCover
- Leading Health and Safety at Work (opens in new window) - United Kingdom: Institute of Directors and Health and Safety Executive