Every October during National Safe Work month, we renew our focus on safety at work. Your health and safety is always the highest priority for our union.

Every day CPSU Health and Safety Representatives and delegates work to keep their colleagues safe at work - Here are some reflections on the last 12 months. 

On 1 April 2023, amendments to the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 came into effect across the Commonwealth jurisdiction, providing improvements to employers' duties relating to psychosocial risks. The amendments require employers to apply the hierarchy of controls when assessing and minimising risk of psychological injury, and when determining ways to control risks have regard to all relevant matters, importantly including:

  • The duration, frequency and severity of the exposure to psychosocial hazards;
  • How the psychosocial hazards may interact or combine;
  • The design of work, including job demands and tasks;
  • The systems of work, including how work is managed, organised and supported; and
  • The design and layout of the workplace.

The CPSU is progressing improvements to psychosocial risk management frameworks across areas of our membership, and continues to work closely with Comcare ensuring up to date resources for HSRs, workers and employers.

Psychosocial risk management

The CPSU has been actively working in this space within a number of key areas, with each Agency and Department taking a slightly different approach.

The NIAA has taken an approach of engaging an external consultant (Deloitte) to undertake a review of the Agency’s systems and develop a risk management framework, and risk assessment for the Agency. CPSU and HSRs have been actively involved - meeting with both the Agency and Deloitte as the project progresses – and ensuring the Agency does not think that the engagement of a consultant negates their obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to genuinely consult with workers.

HSRs in the APO (DFAT) and ATO have triggered a review of controls in managing psychosocial hazards, focusing on workloads and the design of work. Each agency is slowly but surely engaging with HSRs and their representatives and reviewing the controls in place to mitigate the risk of psychological injury. Work is also underway in a number of other areas, including Home Affairs and the ABC.

Comcare proactive work relating to Psychosocial Risk Regulations

Comcare has established a team to regulate specifically relating to the Regulatory Amendments, and run a Proactive Pilot Inspection Program across the jurisdiction, engaging with the CPSU during and upon completion of each pilot, including the AFP. In July, the Regulator also published a number of case studies members may find of interest.

One of the case studies concerns an APS Agency where HSRs supported by the CPSU sought to engage with the employer to raise workload issues, following which an Improvement Notice was issued. Due to reasonable and unforeseen circumstances, the Agency has sought an extension of the compliance due date, and is now meeting their obligations to consult and confer with HSRs.

Services Australia safety and security

The extent of the risk of customer aggression Services Australia workers are exposed to was brought to the attention of the country in May 2023, with a horrific incident at Airport West, Victoria involving a worker being viciously attacked in front of customers and co-workers. In the following days Minister Shorten announced a review into the Safety and Security of Services Australia Service Centres, with Graeme Ashton undertaking this very important work.

Immediately following his appointment, Ashton reached out to the CPSU, meeting with officials and seeking to understand how he could best engage with CPSU delegates. In addition to the roundtable discussion set up for 25 CPSU delegates and HSRs, the CPSU provided three comprehensive submissions to the reviewer, including recommendations, based on direct worker feedback from around the country. One of the submissions provided was submitted on behalf of NDIA members who work in co-located Service Centres.

While the Minister and Agency are still working through the recommendations made by Mr Ashton, running concurrently to this work are two separate Comcare matters. One being an investigation, directly assessing the contributing factors and potential failures related to the Airport West incident, and the other being an open inspection into the previously raised compliance concerns raised by the CPSU relating to the National Refurbishment Program, incorporating the reduction and removal of Security Guards in a number of Service Centres in March this year. It is worth noting immediately following the Airport West incident, Services Australia reintroduced additional guards in a number of locations.

Varying work group and representative structures

Following years of workers raising concerns with the flawed work group structure across the Department of Home Affairs (including ABF), the Department has not only agreed to varying their work group structure based on workers' feedback and ensuring HSRs are accessible locally, but they have followed the guidance of the CPSU in how to genuinely consult with, negotiate and agree on proposed structures with workers and their representatives. While this work is ongoing, it is progressing in the right direction. All Departmental correspondence relating to work groups refers workers to their right to be represented in the process, and provides the CPSU Safety First email address. DAFF too is now progressing a national variation to their work groups, and will hopefully take learnings from Home Affairs.

Where can you get advice and support?

This Safe Work month sign in to your Member Portal and have a look at the Workplace Health and Safety resources.

Your Workplace Health and Safety (sign in for these member-only resources)

  • Your Health and Safety Representative/s.
  • Know your WHS rights factsheets.
  • Mindset Matters: Making workplace mental health a priority.
  • Workplace posters on WHS laws.
  • All our latest WHS news and media. 

For advice and support, you can also get in touch with your local CPSU delegate, HSR, or contact our Member Service Centre on 1300 137 636.

What’s next?

With hundreds of passionate HSRs and workplace delegates leading the way, we will continue to prioritise improving your health and safety at work – if you would like to get involved you can join the CPSU Safety First Network here.