CouncilSafe advisory network group

Local government Work Health & Safety (WHS) professionals and their managers from across New South Wales have been invited to participate in the NSW CouncilSafe advisory network group.

CouncilSafe was launched in 2000 by WorkCover NSW, coinciding with the release of the 2000 NSW OHS Act which placed more emphasis on consultation and risk assessment and the modernised OHS Regulation 2001 which emphasised a systematic approach to the management of OHS in the workplace. The initial program ran for 16 months.

Of 56 expressions of interest received by WorkCover, 19 councils were selected to take part. The programís primary objective was to assist local government in building its capability to systematically manage OHS and injury management. Secondary objectives included building Local Government Industry and WorkCover partnerships, strengthening councilsí workplace safety culture and improving contractor safety management within councils and their local communities.

Among outcomes achieved by the participating councils in the 16 months were:
  • better consultation arrangements and increased levels of OHS awareness
  • improved Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) & Injury Management (IM) policies and procedures
  • improved functioning of OHS committees
  • improved capability in OHS & IM performance measurement
  • improved contractor safety management and purchasing procedures for participating councils
  • reductions in workers compensation claims and payable premiums
  • strengthening of industry partnerships and WorkCover-Industry relationships.
Since the official program ended, CouncilSafe has continued with the original methodology and actively sought to develop relationships with other stakeholders and work with them to achieve safer workplaces.

CouncilSafe Chairperson Mike Clement, of Eurobodalla Shire Council, said the network provides support to both metropolitan and regional safety networks through the dissemination of information.

Council membership has expanded to all Regional Organisation of Councils groups with the view to enable better consultation and information flow. Members are expected to bring information and questions from their regional group to CouncilSafe meetings, then take what they learn back to their regional group.

Current membership includes local government safety group representatives, self-insured councils network group, LGNSW, WorkCover Authority NSW, NSW Public Works, Roads and Maritime Services, United Services Union, Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia Limited, StateCover Mutual Limited, Development and Environmental Professionals Association, and Local Government Engineers Association.

CouncilSafeís vision for the future is to provide effective consultation and communication for local government and its partners in the development and review of WHS legislation, standards and industry best practice in NSW. CouncilSafe provides safety representation on industry reference groups and task forces; provides a coordinated voice for local government safety networks when legislation, codes, standards or guides are being developed or reviewed that affect the safety of local government personnel or council operations; provides a wider means for council safety network groups to discuss, obtain and exchange WHS, WC and IM advice to achieve compliance; and identifies the types of resources and the best methods for their delivery that will best meet the needs to manage WHS.