A Message From the Federal Safety Commissioner - Exciting Times Ahead
Federal Safety Commissioner Alan Edwards
As the Federal Safety Commissioner I am pleased to welcome the recently announced improvements to the Australian Government Building and Construction WHS Accreditation Scheme (the Scheme).
These improvements are the result of a review undertaken over the past 12 months. I was a member of the Advisory Panel along with Master Builders Australia, Civil Contractors Federation, Australian Constructors Association, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Department of Defence (representing Government agencies), and the Australian Industry Group. It was pleasing to see the broad support there was both for the Scheme and the review report. The changes resulting from the review, and the Government’s response, are carefully balanced to not reduce the standards required for accreditation, while improving accessibility and targeting of our resources. The improvements will commence from 1 January 2015.
Increasing the number of accredited companies will increase safety, and so I welcome the improvements that will make it easier for companies to apply for and maintain their Scheme accreditation. For example, companies applying for accreditation will no longer be required to obtain the Australian/New Zealand Standard 4801:2001 as a prerequisite – the review found this requirement to be costly and duplicative. As accredited companies know, the Scheme’s criteria and auditing approach not only cover, but go well beyond, those required for AS4801.
Another key improvement to the Scheme will be the introduction of a new risk-based compliance model that will allow the accreditation period to be extended up to six years for companies that demonstrate consistently high safety performance over time.
I am particularly pleased that this approach will now mean that Scheme resources can be focused in the areas that matter the most – companies more at risk of non-compliance or that require additional assistance to ensure their safety systems meet the Scheme’s high standards.
Importantly, poor performance may still result in suspension or termination of accreditation and all companies will still be subject to regular on-site audits. In fact, there will be more frequent and regular audits of all companies in the future, further enhancing safety outcomes.
I will also be introducing an online application and accreditation management system to streamline the application process, and improve efficiencies in incident and project reporting. This new online system will be complemented by clear and constructive Scheme guidance material and enhanced educational activities. The online accreditation application form is expected to be available by around April 2015.
These enhancements are all consistent with my Office’s commitment to continuous improvement of the Scheme. The review found that the Scheme has improved safety for the industry as a whole and for individual businesses. These improvements will further enhance accessibility so more builders that are genuinely committed to a ‘whole of organisation’ safety culture become accredited. I believe that these improvements are critical to the ongoing process of making Australian building and construction sites safer for workers.
Federal Safety Commissioner